Book Review: Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

Book Review: Mind of Winter by Laura KasischkeMind of Winter by Laura Kasischke
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-03-25
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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three-stars
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Laura Kasischke, the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling poet and author of The Raising, returns Mind of Winter, a dark and chilling thriller that combines domestic drama with elements of psychological suspense and horror—an addictive tale of denial and guilt that is part Joyce Carol Oates and part Chris Bohjalian.On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens with the fragments of a nightmare floating on the edge of her consciousness. Something followed them from Russia. Thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric adopted baby Tatty, their pretty, black-haired Rapunzel, from the Pokrovka Orphanage #2. Now, at fifteen, Tatiana is more beautiful than ever—and disturbingly erratic.As a blizzard rages outside, Holly and Tatiana are alone. With each passing hour, Tatiana’s mood darkens, and her behavior becomes increasingly frightening . . . until Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Well, this was quite the psychological thriller.  I mean, when people say they are reading a psychological thriller you don’t think that they are really reading from the point of view of someone who, in the first few pages alone, comes off as really struggling to get a grasp on reality, but that’s definitely how Laura Kasischke starts off Mind of Winter.  There is a serious bang – I could almost hear the shot, and the book was off.

I don’t want my three-star rating to fool you, I did enjoy Mind of Winter.  There were parts of it that just kept me from giving it one more star and, since I struggled, it was obvious it wasn’t a choice between a four and five star rating.  My issue was that, at times, it seemed Kasischke was going overboard with the repetition – and there is repetition in this book for a reason, I understand that, it just felt really overdone at certain points.  Additionally the switching back and forth… oy, it felt like I was on a merry-go-round and the speed was jacked up to about 350%.  I kept losing my place and having to re-start certain pages which doesn’t make for a very enjoyable read, unfortunately.

Still, all that aside, the premise and the blow-away ending were enough to keep me moving.  I knew that the book was going to be interesting based on a few key ingredients: strange repetition (yes, that’s one of my negative points, but in other places it still worked well), and the isolation of two key characters.  Nothing good can come of those two ingredients placed in the same environment for any length of time.

Mind of Winter was something I fully expected to be unable to put down, in spite of any faults it may have had.  I enjoyed Kasischke’s book, The Raising, and name recognition drew me to this story more than anything else.  If you enjoy a good psychological thriller, then I would suggest checking it out.  Just…pay close attention so the constant switching from past to present and back again doesn’t throw you like it did me.

Check out these reviews!

  • “I would categorize Mind of Winter as a contemporary tragedy, but with nothing otherworldly bordering on the paranormal.” – Bitsy Bling
  • “This is a very haunting book and I think people who enjoy heavily character-driven stories with unreliable narrators will enjoy this book.”  -Now is Gone

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fantastic meme hosted and created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Taking a step back from actual book covers, I’ve been looking forward to this list for some time.  Still, I haven’t managed to come up with a full ten items because, well, many of the things on my bucket list have been crossed off.  So I may just fill up the remaining numbers with the authors I would love to meet – just a fair warning!

1. BookExpo America

My desire to attend BookExpo America was born about four years ago.  I participated in Armchair BEA but it wasn’t the same.  In fact, in 2011, I actually was IN New York at the same time that BEA was being held, but unfortunately, I did not have the means to be there.  It’s a dream of mine that, in the future, I will actually be able to be present and fully participate.

2. Work in a Library

This is pretty cliche, but it’s been a dream of mine to be a librarian since I was a little girl.  This dream may actually be coming true soon, as I interviewed for a job at the Mililani Public Library here on O’ahu a few weeks ago!

3.  Meet Sharon Kay Penman

As much as I love fantasy, Sharon Kay Penman holds a very dear place in my heart.  I would absolutely love to meet her, but unfortunately all of the events and cons that I go to veer more toward the fantasy/sci-fi area and less toward the historical fiction genre.

4.  Visit Parnassus Books

I would just love to visit Nashville in general, but especially this.  Especially if there’s a reading or signing going on with an author I’ve read and loved.

5. Read Every Book on my Shelves

This is never going to happen, but I still hope that some day I will have finally picked up every dusty volume and at least read a bit of it.  I think they all deserve to be loved (and to think, in 2007, I started with one small little bookshelf).

6. Talk Books with Felicia Day

I’ve been a fan of Felicia Day’s since the early days of The Guild.  I would absolutely love to join in on one of her Vaginal Fantasy chats, and I adore reading her recommendations and watching the episodes.

7. Own First Edition Tolkien books.

Yeah so, I’m a Tolkien girl. I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy since I was a pre-teen.  I would absolutely love to showcase those books in the way they deserve to be showcased, but for now I’ll have to stick to my collectors copies.

8. Have Lunch with Frank Delaney

If you haven’t listened to his podcasts (ReJoyce) or read his books, then I suggest you do so as soon as possible.

9. Meet Suzanne Collins

..and beg her to sign my copies of The Hunger Games books.

10. Spend a month (or nine) just reading The Wheel of Time

They are all out now.  I have no excuse except for the mere fact that it is one of the most giant timesinks I can even think up of.

What are some of your bookish things on your bucket list?

Book Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Book Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahonThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 2014-02-11
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Ghost, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thrillers, Women Sleuths
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Knopf Doubleday Publishing
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four-stars
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West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara's farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara's fate, she discovers that she's not the only person who's desperately looking for someone that they've lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

I received this book for free from Knopf Doubleday Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’m going to admit that I’m pretty much over the narration style that involves shifting back to a time in history then jumping forward into the present to connect things.  Jennifer McMahon manages to make it a bit better in The Winter People by making some of the historical narrative present itself as diary entries.  Still, there was a lot of dates happening at the beginning of various sections in The Winter People and it never fails to confuse me.  Not once.  I mean, who really pays attention to dates – years even, let alone the actual month and day?  How do you do that if you do? I always, inevitably, have to flip back and remind myself… very inconvenient in an ebook format too, by the way.

Thankfully, the dates were not the only thing in The Winter People helping keep this reader on track.  McMahon offers up a compromise by putting various character names at the start of each change in narrative and this I could handle.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been like that, I may not have pushed forward and allowed myself to get hooked by the book, that’s how much I hate dates.  I’m glad the names were there, I’m glad I pushed forward because folks, this ghost story had me keeping my lights on last night.

If you pick up The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, be prepared for some pretty gnarly superstitious stuff to be going on.  This book has it all – historical events that involve blood and gore, spells, myth and folklore, mystery, strangers connected via unseen forces… it’s all there.  And it’ll have you guessing because, if you are anything like me, you’ll be thinking you have it all figured out but nope, McMahon comes through again with one of her books and throws a wrench into what seems to be a carefully crafted story around an event that you start to think was never a mystery in the first place.

The Winter People is unlike the other books of McMahon’s I’ve read, but I knew when I picked it up that I was in for a white-knuckled read.  She’s consistently been an author who has been my go-to when I’m having issues with a reading slump and I think The Winter People is a great addition to her repertoire.

Check out these reviews!

  • “Fans of both literary fiction and ghost stories would do well to seek out this well-written and creepy tale.” – S. Krishna’s Books
  • “Fans of ghost stories and paranormal suspense should add this to their reading list.”  - Caffeinated Book Reviewer
  • “After bumpy start, book hooks you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat” - Misbehavin’ Librarian

Book Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Book Review: The Enchanted by Rene DenfeldThe Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-03-04
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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five-stars
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A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.

"This is an enchanted place. Others don't see it, but I do."

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners' pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

The Enchanted simply blew me away.  Seriously, folks, since when does a book about death row completely knock someone down, because that’s what happened to me with this one.  I went into it thinking there would be a whole Green Mile vibe and walked away feeling as if I’d been suckerpunched.  Not only did this book completely absorb me, it made me reconsider everything I thought I knew about pre-judging a person.

The Enchanted  is part real-life and part-fairytale, but a fairytale of the darker variety.  We are introduced to a nameless narrator, a man who is in a cell waiting for his death.  He is a voracious reader and, as the story unfolds, while he doesn’t reveal all of what he’s done there, it gets to the point where it doesn’t even matter anymore.  Who we do get to really know, though, are several other characters whose lives unfold in front of that one prisoner, in a sense.

The Enchanted  is a place where strange things happen.  There is a lot of symbolism in this book and it’s impossible to catch it and understand it all on the first read-through.  But it doesn’t matter, because the stories being told about the lives of those in the book are enough to carry momentum until the end of the book comes – and it does come quite suddenly.

I think that this is a book that would touch anyone who decided to pick it up and give it a shot.  It’s unusual, but not so strange that it would put off a casual reader.  If anything, it’ll make that casual reader more interested in the fate of the narrator and the other prison guards, inmates, priests, and investigators.  The Enchanted is a very profound, elegant look at a life that isn’t really a life at all.  And whose fault is that?

Check out these reviews!

  • “Though this turned out to be something so different from what I expected, I ended up being completely drawn in and totally enjoying it in the end.” – It’s All About Books…
  • “I’d say read it with caution, but definitely give it a try if you can handle the content and like lit fic.”  - Book Hooked
  • “While it’s not the type of book that I could read often, The Enchanted made me think.  ” -Books Without Any Pictures

Book Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Book Review: Two Boys Kissing by David LevithanTwo Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Published by Random House LLC on 2013
Genres: Emotions & Feelings, Homosexuality, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 200
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Named to the 2013 National Book Award Longlist A 2014 Stonewall Honor Book In his follow-up to the New York Times bestselling Every Day, David Levithan, co-author of bestsellers Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record--all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites--all while the kissing (former) couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other. The Los Angeles Times called Two Boys Kissing

I also recommend:

My Review:

If you would have told super conservative 17 year old me that I’d be reading a book titled Two Boys Kissing in 20 years, I would have thought you were not only lying, but you were going to hell for it.  Thank goodness I am not that 17 year old girl anymore.  One of the biggest areas of growth for me in the last decade has been a broadening of my worldview and an awareness of my own privilege.  While I understand that, as a woman, I still face some struggles, I need to also remember that there are others out there who are still being denied legal rights.  I don’t often speak out politically on this blog, but I wanted to start this review with a reminder to my 17 year old self – a reminder that I was, and still am, in no place to be judge and jury and that I am here to promote peace and love, in a non-cliche way.  And this book by David Levithan, is an excellent reminder of the struggles that a portion of the population of this world faces every day.

What I really enjoyed about Two Boys Kissing was the idea that the story was built on something that actually happened.  I mean, think about it, can you imagine locking lips with someone, anyone, for 32 hours and some odd minutes/seconds – still standing, mind you, unable to take a break for any reason at all?  The stamina that would take.  Now, why would you want to do something?  To merely break a world record?  That doesn’t seem noble or even something that I’d be interested in cheering on. Yet the boys in this story take on an entirely different issue – they do this in spite of the fact that they have broken up, in spite of the fact that one of them has yet to come out to his family.  They do it for friends who have been abused and beaten because of their sexual orientation.  They do it to take a stance and say that no matter how much people want to brush them under a rug, they aren’t going anywhere.

It’s a heartbreaking story as well.  Connor’s story had me in tears.  I’ve been in a place in my life where something happened to me and I was unable to talk to anyone about it.  It about broke me.  I wanted to just crawl away somewhere and never be found.  Why do we, as human beings, make others feel judged like this?  Can you imagine making someone so afraid of what you will think of them that they don’t tell you something and would choose to die instead?  That is what Connor struggles with and, again with Connors story, inspiration is drawn from a real life story.

David Levithan blew me away with Every Day and with Two Boys Kissing, he once again made me think about being in someone else’s shoes.  While I struggled a bit with the format of the book, I understand why he chose the narration style he did, but I think the story was strong enough that it didn’t need that type of narration and, in parts, it almost seemed a bit gimmicky to me.  Still, this short book packs a powerful punch and I was thrilled to see it sitting in the featured section of my library.

Check out these reviews!

  • “I thoroughly recommend this book to all readers, you’ll be a changed person afterwards.” – Happy Indulgence
  • “This is definitely a book with a message, a very loud and very unapologetic message.”  -  Dear Author
  • Two Boys Kissing is honestly one of the most profound and powerful books I have ever read. ” -Rather Be Reading

Book Review: Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

Book Review: Clever Girl by Tessa HadleyClever Girl by Tessa Hadley
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-03-04
Genres: Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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three-stars
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Clever Girl is an indelible story of one woman’s life, unfolded in a series of beautifully sculpted episodes that illuminate an era, moving from the 1960s to today, from one of Britain’s leading literary lights—Tessa Hadley—the author of the New York Times Notable Books Married Love and The London Train.Like Alice Munro and Colm Tóibin, Tessa Hadley brilliantly captures the beauty, innocence, and irony of ordinary lives—an ability to transform the mundane into the sublime that elevates domestic fiction to literary art.

Written with the celebrated precision, intensity, and complexity that have marked her previous works, Clever Girl is a powerful exploration of family relationships and class in modern life, witnessed through the experiences of an English woman named Stella. Unfolding in a series of snapshots, Tessa Hadley’s moving novel follows Stella from the shallows of childhood, growing up with a single mother in a Bristol bedsit in the 1960s, into the murky waters of middle age.Clever Girl is a story vivid in its immediacy and rich in drama—violent deaths, failed affairs, broken dreams, missed chances. Yet it is Hadley’s observations of everyday life, her keen skill at capturing the ways men and women think and feel and relate to one another, that dazzles.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I really struggled with Clever Girl, I’m going to put that right out there first.  I seriously flirted with putting it down about five times, all before my usual minimum pages to be read before doing just that (63 pages, by the way).  But I pushed through and forced myself to pick up that book and .. around page 60, I finally was caught.  It’s not often that I struggle like that for a book I end up rather enjoying by the end, but still.. my experience was tainted by those first 59 pages and, frankly, for a book this size (only 212 pages on my e-reader) that’s a bit of an ouchie.

So, Clever Girl did not merit a four or five stars from me.  The ending of the book was a solid three and a half stars to four stars, so it wasn’t all lost, it was just that damned beginning.  I just didn’t care about Stella and I was so confused by the cast of characters surrounding here (I still don’t remember who a few at the end were) that I just kinda shrugged and pushed forward, hoping it would all work itself out.  It did, kind of.  But still, there were things left up in the air for me … I wouldn’t say resolved, because I’d have to know who some of the people were to resolve their parts.

Where this book really shone was the writing.  It was downright beautiful.  I could be totally cliche and pull out all of the adjectives used to describe writing like this: lyrical, musical, flowing – but let me just say that the writing far outshone the story being told.  Unfortunately, I don’t read books to read beautiful writing, I read them for a story.  That took second place here and it was far enough behind in the race that it almost didn’t finish as a result.  There needs to be a good balance and Hadley didn’t find it, in my opinion.

I was sad that I didn’t fall in love with Hadley’s writing in Clever Girl.  I know she has other titles out and I was hoping that I would be compelled to seek them out.  Unfortunately, that won’t be happening – however, if you would enjoy an extremely leisurely paced novel about a girl growing up in England from the 60′s on, then check out Clever Girl.  It might just work well for you.

Check out these reviews!

  • “If you love literary fiction and character studies, Clever Girl is a fantastic novel that provokes questions of love and purpose through life’s dips and turns. ” – Write Meg!
  • “As much as I loved Hadley’s Married Love, set in similar situations to those that Stella finds herself in, I just didn’t feel the same tug of recognition and emotional truth that was present in that collection. ”  - BookNAround
  • “The story flows well, with not too many moments of shock or surprise. ” - Books in the Burbs

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR List

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fantastic meme hosted and created by The Broke and the Bookish.

I love lists.  Love them. That’s why the Top Ten Tuesday meme is one of my favorites.  But, realistically, while I have here ten books I would love to read this Spring…my reading time is fairly limited these days.  So here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m making this list out of my next ten reads.  Here’s hoping I get them done by the time Spring is through!

1. Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

I love novels that begin with a story set in the 1960′s and add into that a new place to read about for me (Bristol) and the praise for Hadley’s previous novel and this one has me very, very interested.

2. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Alice Sebold combined with Stephen King?  The cover alone had me interested but when I read that bit of the blub, combined with the story promised here, I knew this was a book I needed to check out.

3.  Beauty by Frederick Dillen

I love underdog stories and this one appealed to me.  My hometown is recently recovering from a major natural disaster and I love reading stories of small towns overcoming great odds.

4.  Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

I’m always on the lookout for a good psychological thriller so here is hoping this one pans out!

5. The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim

I’m trying to be intentional this year in reading books that expose me to ideas and places and things that I’ve never really been exposed to.  I think this book fits well into that category and I’m looking forward to it.

6. Cambridge by Susanna Kaysen

While I’ve never read Girl, Interrupted, I did love the movie so I’m excited to read a book by the author and I’ve always been fascinated by Cambridge and anything connected to it.

7. The Detainee by Peter Liney

The synopsis on this one reminded me of Lost.  So I picked it up.

8. The Antiquarian by Julian Sanchez

Another thriller for the list – and this one involves mythical objects!

9. Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman

Interesting that I have two books connected to Iraq, one from each side on this list.  Still, I’m interested in this one because family portraits after a member has been to war have always interested me.

10. Providence by Lisa Colozza Cocca

As the eldest of nine children, the following line from the summary here made me want to pick up this book: “The eldest of ten children on a dirt-poor farm, Becky trudges through life as a full-time babysitter…”

What books are you looking forward to getting to read this Spring?

Book Review: The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott

Book Review: The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate AlcottThe Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott
Published by Random House LLC on 2014-02-25
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Literary, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Random House
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three-stars
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From the best-selling author of The Dressmaker comes the warm-hearted and enthralling saga of a bold young woman caught between two worlds-the vibrant camaraderie of factory life and the opulence that a budding romance with the mill owner's son affords-as the murder of her best friend sends shock waves throughout the town.

Determined to forge her own destiny, Alice Barrow joins the legions of spirited young women better known as the Mill Girls. From dawn until dusk, these ladies work the looms, but the thrill of independence, change in their pockets, and friendships formed along the way mostly make the backbreaking labor worthwhile. In fact, Hiram Fiske, the steely-eyed titan of industry, has banked on that. But the working conditions are becoming increasingly dangerous and after one too many accidents, Alice finds herself unexpectedly acting as an emissary to address the factory workers' mounting list of grievances.

After traveling to the Fiske family's Beacon Hill mansion, Alice enters a world she's never even dared to dream about: exquisite silk gowns, sumptuous dinners, grand sitting parlors, and uniformed maids operating with an invisible efficiency. Of course, there's also a chilliness in the air as Alice presents her case. But with her wide, intelligent eyes and rosy-hued cheeks, Alice manages to capture the attention of Hiram's eldest son, the handsome and reserved Samuel Fiske.

Their chemistry is undeniable, soon progressing from mutual respect and shy flirtation into an unforgettable romance. But when Alice's best friend, Lovey, is found strangled in a field, Alice and Samuel are torn between loyalty to "their kind" and a chance for true love.

I received this book for free from Random House in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I had high hopes for The Daring Ladies of Lowell.  I love historical fiction that centers around women’s rights, especially when it surrounds the working class.  When I saw that this book was about mill girls I really, really wanted it to blow me away.  I know a little bit about the working condition of cotton mills so I was hoping to get even more of an education about the experience in addition to reading a story about the girls themselves.  What I got was a mediocre history lesson wrapped up in a somewhat cliche, and definitely predictable, romance.

I wish that wasn’t the case, I really do.  When I saw the direction being taken by Alcott I literally rolled my eyes.  It’s predictable folks, from the first visit of a certain prominent family to the mill.  And not only is it predictable, but in a book about a valid part of our country’s history, it’s also really, really unreal.  Like, for the life of me, I couldn’t see it happening.  I kept protesting, first inside, then actually in an audible way, as I worked my way through the book but no dice. The story had to go exactly where I was hoping it wouldn’t.

You see, romances like the one in The Daring Ladies of Lowell cheapen the story for me.  When I pick up a historical fiction about a serious subject, I want to see that subject treated seriously.  When the romance emerges and takes center stage it gives me this horrible feeling like it was merely being used as a prop to get the reader all swoony over some type of Romeo and Juliet situation.  That, folks, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

There are other historical fiction novels that deal with serious subjects in a more serious way…but if romance is your thing, Alcott’s The Daring Ladies of Lowell isn’t a bad read.  I finished it after all, it just wasn’t for me.

Check out these reviews!

  • “Social reform! Romance! Murder! This book has so much awesomeness. It’s probably for a somewhat patient reader, given that there’s a lot of mill stuff and a trial covered and it’s not the fastest pace, but I think The Daring Ladies of Lowell is fabulous.” – A Reader of Fictions
  • “In the end though, The Daring Ladies of Lowell is really nothing more than a coming-of-age romance disguised as historical fiction.”  - That’s What She Read
  • “Alcott is an excellent storyteller, and her next novel is definitely one to read. ” – Scribbles and Wanderlust

Book Review: Great by Sara Benincasa

Book Review: Great by Sara BenincasaGreat by Sara Benincasa
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-04-08
Genres: 21st Century, Friendship, Girls & Women, Historical, Social Issues, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
Add to Goodreads
four-stars
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In this contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, seventeen-year-old Naomi Rye becomes entangled in the drama of a Hamptons social circle and a tragedy that shakes the summer community.

Everyone loves a good scandal.

Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta's carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape.

Based on a beloved classic and steeped in Sara Benincasa's darkly comic voice, Great has all the drama, glitz, and romance with a terrific modern (and scandalous) twist to enthrall readers.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time favorite “classic” reads.  I know it’s totally cliche, but such a small book packs such a punch, every time I read it I get something new and fresh and different from the story.  It embodies everything about the 20′s that I love and tacks on some other scintillating topics as well: lust, secrets, murder, lavishness, drama…you name it, it’s in the story.  That’s why, when I saw that Sara Benincasa was doing a 21st century retelling of the story of Gatsby with Great, I jumped at the opportunity to read it.  I’ve had some luck recently with classic re-tellings and figured this might just continue my streak.

I’m happy to report that I was completely obsessed with Great.  It’s not that it was a perfect re-telling … it’s hard to write something as perfect as the original, but it definitely grabbed my attention in a very Gossip Girl/Pretty Little Liars way.  I couldn’t put it down.  I was completely caught up in the story of Naomi Rye – child of divorced parents, her father a blue-collar worker in Chicago and her mother a self-made millionaire through her own line of recipes and a cooking show. Naomi starts the story on her way out to visit her mother in the Hamptons and, of course, hooks up with the elite set, helicopters and all.  She settles in for yet another boring summer but notices something happening next door…and from there the story takes over.

Benincasa uses all of the tools of the 21st century to bring the story to life.  From blogging to self-made millionaires, fashion to mixing of the classes (in a modern day setting), and even throwing in a twist on the sexuality of one of the primary characters, it all works.  My only big gripe is Naomi’s best friend back in Chicago.  Benincasa really puts her in a box, giving her all the stereotypical characteristics of a lesbian teenager.  I was disappointed by the portrayal and wish that Benincasa would have treated the friend back in Chicago (for the life of me, I cannot remember her name right now but I remember hating it too) much like she treated some of the other characters in the book.

Still, Great is a worthy retelling of a classic.  It’ll be interesting to go back and re-read The Great Gatsby now that I’ve seen it through another set of eyes.

Check out these reviews!

  • “GREAT is fab.  Even when I loathed the characters, I still really liked them, because Benincasa writes them so well.” – The Bawdy Book Blog
  • “I would have liked to see a little more in the ending of this book, but it was good enough.”  - Mommabears Book Blog
  • “Overall, though, I was kind of disappointed with this book. I expected so much more from it, mostly because it’s based on such an amazing novel.” - City of Books

Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow RowellAttachments by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Dutton on 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 323
Format: eARC
Source: Dutton
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"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?

I received this book for free from Dutton in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been a Rainbow Rowell fangirl for about a year and I just finished reading a book by her.  As in, I’ve been drooling and eyeing my copy of Eleanor and Park since March 2013 but never dove in, never picked it up even.  I wanted to read it.  I was dying to read it. But I was afraid to.  So, instead, I semi-stalked Rainbow Rowell.  It wasn’t until Attachments landed in my hands (and, coincidentally, it being her first novel published, I couldn’t resist starting there) that I finally made the leap to establish contact with her writing.

I don’t normally review authors.  I think that there is a difference between an author and what they write.  I would never judge an author by a horrible character they put to paper, and so I would never judge an author by a perfect one either.  But there’s just something about Rainbow Rowell.  First, her name is Rainbow and she also has that alliteration thing going for her.  Second, she lives in Omaha, NE – the place where I spent the first 17 years of my life (54th and Farnam, heck yeah).  Third, she has an active Twitter account where I have engaged with her several times.  I read about her in interviews, on Wikipedia, on blurbs and other blogs… so basically, right now I’m the Lincoln of our “relationship.”

And now, I’ve reached out and said hello with a book that reminds me so much of this “relationship” that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at it.  (Please, Ms. Rowell, if you are reading this I’m really not creepy.  I just really enjoy the above-mentioned things and the relationship is totally a not-creepy-at-all thing.  Still, if you ever come to Hawai’i I’d love to meet up for pupus!)

So let’s talk Attachments.  Part e-mail exchange between two co-workers (Jennifer and Beth) and part the story of Lincoln, an IT guy who reads those emails because they keep getting flagged and showing up on his computer as a result, this is probably one of the most quirky, true-to-life, adorable romance contemporary stories I’ve read.  I know gals like Jennifer and Beth and I am, as I stated earlier, remarkably similar to Lincoln (computer geek, loves D&D, adored the references to the 90′s and I worked with computers during the Y2K “crisis”).  I completely sympathized with the guy and loved getting to know Jennifer and Beth right along with him.

Rowell writes with a very real voice.  Every character had such personality they leaped off the page for me.  Yet, there were tender moments too that had me choking back a bit of tears and appreciating the tact and delicate touch the situations were treated with.  I’m glad to know that my faith in an author I had yet to read paid off like this and I definitely think starting with Attachments was the right way to go for me.  Check it out – you won’t be disappointed.

Check out these reviews!

  • Attachments is one of those books that I only come across every once in a while. It’s is a slow burning, heart warming, justplainincredible book. ” – Pure Imagination
  • “It’s a clever book, with enough geek in it to appease the geeks (D&D, Clark Kent references, movie trivia) without off putting non-geeks”  - Writer, Reader, Dreamer
  • “Above all, Attachments just made me so happy. It made me love reading again (not enjoying the last few books I’ve started put me in a bit of a slump), and it just made me feel like everything in life will work out. ” – NoseGraze
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