Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Boy Who Refused to Say, "I Can't!" My Journey. My Dreams. by Jesse L. Bradford - Review


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Jesse Bradford left a poor situation at home in North Carolina at the age of 15 to make his own way in the world. Even though he faced many obstacles on a daily basis, he was still able to make something of his life that he wouldn't have had the opportunity to even consider before. A combination of hard work, determination, and perseverance has allowed him to live out a dream.

A friend of mine recommended The Boy Who Refused to Say, "I Can't!" My Journey. My Dreams. by Jesse L. Bradford and she even let me borrow her copy. Mr. Bradford's story is an incredibly powerful read and it's also very inspirational to follow his journey through life. The story telling employed here conversational - I can practically hear Jesse speaking these words aloud while I read them.

The only reason I'm giving this memoir four stars is because there are a few typos that took me out of the story, and it does jump about a little (but that may have something to do with the conversational style) making it a little jarring at times. I also would have liked to heard about some events in more detail, especially when he was a young man just as he's arriving in Washington, D.C.

Overall, Jesse Bradford's story of success in the face of adversity is not one to be missed.

A favorite quote:

"I still live by the motto: If you don't have a plan, you plan to fail. Saying 'I can' comes with a plan. Those who believe they can't or won't try never intend to look beyond their circumstances. Which side will you choose?" -Page 54


I read this on January 30, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

The Girl from Felony Bay (Felony Bay #1) by J. E. Thompson - Review


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The past year has been hard for Abbey Force and her father. Her father was framed for a crime he didn't commit after he had an accident and ended up in a coma. To pay off debts, their home, Reward Plantation, was sold off and now Abbey has to live with her Uncle Charlie and Aunt Ruth. To say the least, both are despicably poor parental figures. The new family that's moved into Reward has a daughter named Bee right around Abbey's age, and she is just as curious about the no trespassing signs and holes down by Felony Bay, an area that should be part of the plantation, as Abbey is. It appears that someone has been investigating a mystery that goes all the way back to the Civil War, and it looks like it might be the same person that framed Abbey's dad.

The Girl from Felony Bay by J. E. Thompson was a very lucky find at a local thrift shop. I hadn't heard of it before, but the summary was intriguing, it was in perfect condition, and signed by the author. It's a fantastic middle-grade mystery novel and I think more people should give it a chance. The mystery is compelling and well-paced, and I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen. I guessed it before the end, but it was great fun seeing it all play out.

The characters and dialog here are really the big selling points for me, Abbey especially. She's smart, curious, and tough - a truly admirable heroine. She also has a great friendship with her new neighbor, Bee. The Raleigh, North Carolina setting also feels incredibly real with lots of local color and history presented in the novel. By the way, the cover art is by Brett Helquist, the illustrator behind Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

I can't wait to read the next Felony Bay mystery, Disappearance at Hangman's Bluff! If you like Nancy Drew, you will love Abbey Force in The Girl From Felony Bay!


I read this from January 28 - 29, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell - Review



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Georgie McCool's (and yes, that is her real name) marriage has been troubled for quite awhile now. Both she and her husband, Neal, still love each other deeply, but that's beside the point. Just before they're due to leave L.A. to visit Neal's family in Omaha, Georgie realizes she can't go. Georgie is a tv writer and learns at the last minute that she'll have to work over Christmas. She expects Neal and their daughters to be upset, but she doesn't expect him and the girls to go to Omaha without her. Now she wonders if she's really done it, if the marriage is over. Georgie tries to call Neal's cell, but he's not answering. Later, when Georgie visits her family in L.A., she uses her old yellow landline to call Neal's parents' home phone in hopes someone will pick up. She is able to get a hold of Neal, but something's different about him. He's not her Neal, not yet. She's realizes she's talking to a past version of Neal, from an incredibly important time of their relationship. Time travel, magic phone? Georgie's not sure, but she has a feeling she has as an opportunity to fix their marriage before it even begins. But, what if that means Georgie and Neal would have been better off if they never married?

This is the second book by Rainbow Rowell I've read, but I can honestly say I love her writing style. Landline focuses on both Neal and Georgie's relationship in the present, flashbacks to early on in their relationship as they are beginning to get to know each other, plus the crossroads each is at on that landline phone. I really enjoyed the glimpses we are allowed of the characters from the beginning of their relationship while they were in college to their present day married life with children. The characters are all well-drawn and are quite realistic. That said there were a few times I found myself wanting to slap or shake them to get them to see sense, but, you know, that's sometimes how life is in the real world.

Even though this book isn't exactly action-packed, it is quite compelling and well-paced to keep me turning the pages. The mysterious phone at the center of the story is an interesting part of the plot. If this were a sci-fi or fantasy book, I would probably want to know more about the phone and how it works, but here I like that that aspect is kept to a minimum in this novel as it works to the story's advantage. Another aspect, I also particularly enjoyed is Rowell's sense of humor,and all of the geeky references. Like with Fangirl, I would like to friends with some of her characters.

(view spoiler) cameo made my day!

Did anyone else have the Twilight Zone episode called "Long Distance Call" in the back of their mind while reading Landline, or was that just me?


Favorite quotes:

“The future was going to happen, even if he wasn’t ready for it. Even if he was never ready for it. At least he could make sure he was with the right person. Wasn’t that the point of life? To find someone to share it with? And if you got that part right, how far wrong could you go? If you were standing next to the person you loved more than everything else, wasn’t everything else just scenery?”

“Nobody's lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It's something you make happen - because you love each other.”

“I love you more than I hate everything else.”


I read this book from January 22 - 28, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

ttfn (Internet Girls #2) by Lauren Myracle - Review


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During their junior year, the winsome threesome (zoegirl, mad maddie, and SnowAngel) face more challenges that threaten to drive them apart such as first boyfriends, drugs, and a cross country move.

Just as ttyl, ttfn is told completely in IM format making it something like a modern epistolary novel, I suppose. The language feels very authentic to the characters and target audience (especially if this were 2006). The characters do face real issues, but here they tend to come off as cliché. The characters are pretty obnoxious and annoying, but at the same time, they still seem like real high school girls (I swear, I knew people just like them). Although the format is refreshing - and a little jarring at first - and the story goes very quickly, it is a bit dated now. It makes me feel old and I would have been high school junior when this was originally released. There are of references to A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray, a movie I've never seen. There is a lot of crushing on Mr. Murray's character...I remember when he was quite popular back in those days and you couldn't even look at a magazine without seeing his face plastered all over the cover. I'm pretty sure I've only ever seen him in Freaky Friday as Jake and most recently in Agent Carter as Agent Jack Thompson (great show, but his character is a jerk).

Anyways, before I get too off-track, I would recommend reading this sequel if you really enjoyed the first book in this series. Otherwise, it just seems like more of the same old thing.


I read this on January 29, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Friday 56: Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow


Welcome to The Friday 56, a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

These are the rules:
1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post.

This week I am spotlighting Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow.  It was recommended to me as a read alike for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural.  When I realized my local library had a hardback copy, I thought I'd pick it up - I just can't say no to Buffy and Sam and Dean.  I'm just about to begin, so let's hope it lives up to its potential!  I'm not sure about this cover though...



"How much?" I had some money - usually there was no shortage of cash where Dad was concerned; liquid resources were critical to our type of lifestyle.  But if Dad was really, truly gone, I had to take careful stock of what I had and make sure I could get more before I started spending like a maniac.

Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson - Review


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John Percival Hackworth has just broken a strict moral code of his tribe, the powerful neo-Victorians. He's illegally copied a top-of-the-line interactive device called A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (think Kindle on steroids) for his daughter, which was originally intended for the granddaughter of a duke. The Primer is to educate (and essentially raise) a girl so she will be able to stand on her own two feet. Unfortunately, Hackworth's illegal copy gets stolen and ends up in the wrong hands. After leaving his tribe, he looks for a mysterious figure called the Alchemist. This leads Hackworth to a woman who is also tied to the Primer - a woman who could potentially change humanity as we know it.

Now I know this summary makes the book sound like it's all about Hackworth, but it's not. This is just a very good way to set up a major story line in this book. The story is primarily about Nell, the little girl who ends up using the illegal copy of the Primer. Diamond Age is really her coming-of-age story. The novel also delves into themes on the technology divide, the nature of A.I., and individual and cultural connections.

Stephenson's characters and world are fully realized. The level of detail in this story is simply fantastic. Of all the characters, Nell is easily my favorite. I enjoyed following her journey over the course of all eighteen cassette tapes comprising the audiobook. Dinosaur (one of Princess Nell's toy friends from the Primer) and Miranda, the Primer's ractor, are other favorites. On this note, I just thought I would mention how great of a performance our narrator, Jennifer Wiltsie gives. She really helps make the story all the more memorable.

Overall, Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson is a brilliantly complex sci-fi novel and it comes highly recommended from me. I also recommend that you check out Snow Crash, which is set somewhere around 70ish years prior. Y.T., one of my favorites from Snow Crash, even has a cameo here!

To conclude, here is a great drawing entitled "Hackworth's Folly" by Deviant Artist IzzyMedrano featuring John Percival Hackworth, his chevaline, and the Primer.


I listened to this audiobook from January 6 - 28, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Love To Read With My Book Club


The theme for this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Books I'd Love To Read With My Book Club.  This is a pretty easy one for me.  So far, the book club I participate in has mostly read cozy mysteries, historical fiction, and romance - not usually my cup of tea.  I haven't yet picked the book for the month, but here are some fantastic titles I'm really looking forward to that I would suggest to shake things up and get some of the others to read out of their comfort zone.

The Martian by Andy Weir


Red Rising by Pierce Brown


The Walled City by Ryan Graudin


Revival by Stephen King


Timebound by Rysa Walker


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


The Rook by Daniel O'Malley


Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers


Empire State by Adam Christopher


Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett



I'd say this sounds like a pretty compelling list!  When we vote on our next reads, I'm hoping one of these books may be selected.  What do you think of my selection?  Do you think these fun titles could promote interesting discussion during book club?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lauren's ARC Giveaway

Like I've said before, I love a good giveaway - free books are the best - so I've decided to host my second book giveaway!

This time I'm giving away four ARC's to two lucky winners (each winner will receive two titles of their choice - In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (April 2013), Fan Art by Sarah Tregay (June 2014), Undertown by Melvin Jules Bukiet (March 2013), and Noughties by Ben Masters (October 2012).


The giveaway begins now and expires at 12 A.M., Saturday, January 31st!  Get your entries in now to win some of these awesome free books!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 23, 2015

Greywalker by Kat Richardson - Review


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Harper Blaine's a regular P.I. up until an attack left her dead for two minutes. When she comes to in the hospital, she sees what can be best described as coming from a gray fog. She's not crazy. Her momentary death has made her a Greywalker - she's able to see and move around in the Grey (a ghostly world). Her incredibly rare gift is going to pull her into the supernatural world, whether she wants to be or not.

I've had Greywalker on my shelf for a while, so when I finally picked it up I really wanted to like it. The premise sounds pretty interesting and I've always liked a good urban-fantasy novel. I also really like Christian McGrath's cover art style. The opening is super intense and promising, but afterward it just really drags. I struggled to get through the seventy pages I did. Maybe I'll come back to this series in the future, but then again, I may not.


I attempted this from January 14 - 23, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Friday 56: Landline by Rainbow Rowell


Welcome to The Friday 56, a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

These are the rules:
1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post.

This week I'm spotlighting Rainbow Rowell's newest novel Landline.  I was so happy when this finally came back in for me at the library!  The only other novel I've read by Rowell is Fangirl and I was pretty impressed by it.  Let's hope this is just as good!


Georgie wrote the horoscopes. (In character, sort of.  It was hard to explain.)  Neal knew she wrote the horoscopes.  He knew her name.  His hands were small, and they moved with complete surety across the paper, leaving a thick, straight line.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pegasus by Danielle Steel - Review


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Nick and Alex are titled members of the German aristocracy and have been best friends since childhood as they have grown into men with families of their own. They are accustomed to lives of luxury on their Bavarian estates. Everything Nick knows changes after the Nuremberg Laws are passed and as Hitler's ideals take greater sway over the German people. A secret that his father has kept from him his entire life forces him to take his sons and flee to America to save themselves from labor camps. To get there, he takes a job with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus based in Sarasota, Florida with a horse act. Alex generously allows Nick to take some of his famous Lipizzaner and Arabian horses and teaches him the basics of training them for show. Eventually, under the name Nick Bing, Nick and his star Lipizzaner, Pegasus, become a star attraction at the circus. Nick also finds love with a tight-rope walker named Christianna who is half his age.

Pegasus is the second novel I've read by Danielle Steel. I wasn't planning on reading another, but a book club I'm in is reading the novel, so, of course, I had to check it out. Honestly, I preferred Echoes, the first book I read. Her newest novel just feels too over-arching and I would have liked to read a more focused story on Nick himself during wartime (at least once he gets to America, that is). If the story were more focused, I believe it could also be much more interesting as a whole. I didn't actually begin to get interested in the story until about twenty pages in when Nick learns the truth about his mother. I would have actually liked to get a full book on that - that could have been a very interesting Downton Abbey-esque story of scandal and coercion. I would have liked to see a more detailed account of the circus, as well.

As for the characters of Nick and Christianna and the rest of the cast, they're alright (if a bit one-dimensional), but none of really stood out to me. I just wasn't invested in them. The romance between Nick and Christianna was sweet, but it seems like every ten seconds he's telling her what she can and cannot do in regards to her act, and that got old fast. And, the 22 year age gap is just a little too much for me, especially when Nick has children just slightly younger than his love interest. The ending of the novel is rushed to tie things up too neatly by condensing approximately sixty years of family history in the final chapter or so.

Overall, I found Pegasus to be boring and predictable, suffering from far to much telling rather than showing. But, hey, it does have a beautiful horse on the cover! If Pegasus were a shorter, more tightly woven, character-driven novel that could show me the struggles the characters face and actually make me care, then I probably would have rated it much higher. Even a book that focused on the history (fictional or real) of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus would have received a better rating. If you generally enjoy the formula that has made Danielle Steel famous, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, or like horses, you may also like Pegasus. My suggestion: Skip Pegasus altogether and read Water For Elephants instead, or even watch the movie because it's actually pretty good.


Note: Is it just me or did anyone else think of Shadowfax, the lord of all horses, when they saw the cover for the first time?


I read this hardcover from January 16 - 19, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Music Groups and Solo Acts


This week the theme for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is a freebie, so I decided to take the opportunity to talk about something a little different - my favorite music.  In this case, I will be spotlighting ten of my favorite artists and some of their best (in my opinion) tracks.  They won't all necessarily be new, or all that well known, but they definitely deserve to be heard if you haven't given them a listen already.  Here they are in alphabetical order:



Bastille
- Pompeii
- Bad Blood
- Flaws




Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
- New San Antonio Rose
- Roly-Poly
- Steel Guitar Rag
- Time Changes Everything






Buddy Holly
- Peggy Sue
- Every Day
- Words of Love










Fall Out Boy
- Dance, Dance
- A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me
- 20 Dollar Nose Bleed
-Dead On Arrival





Florence + the Machine
- Dog Days Are Over
- Shake It Out
- Seven Devils
- Heartlines








Johnny Horton
- The Battle of New Orleans
- Sink the Bismark
- North To Alaska
- When It's Springtime In Alaska (It's 40 Below)









Jo Stafford
-Some Enchanted Evening
- The Stanley Steamer
- Ragtime Cowboy Joe








Kate Rusby
- The Goodman
- Sir Eglamore
- I Am Stretched On Your Grave
- The Blind Harper










Panic! at the Disco
- Nails For Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks
- Better If You Do
- I Write Sins Not Tragedies
-This Is Gospel










Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra
- On the Sunny Side of the Street
- Blue Skies
- Stardust
- The Sheik of Araby
- East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)




Bonus:


Dave "Baby" Cortez
- The Happy Organ





The G-Clefs
- Ka Ding Dong




The above is just a minor selection of some of my favorites and I highly recommend you give them a listen.  Maybe you'll find one you like!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Noughties by Ben Masters - Review




I attempted to read an ARC of Noughties that I picked up at a local thrift shop.

I wanted to try this book because the premise sounds relatively interesting, but I gave up after about 30 pages. The story felt like it went nowhere at all. It was also difficult to make sense of what little story we got during Eliot's drunken ruminations on what to do after college.

No, just no.


I attempted to get into this ARC on January 14, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Undertown by Melvin Jules Bukiet - Review




I read an ARC copy I found at my local bookstore.

I gave it one chapter before I gave up. I didn't particularly care for the tone of this novel at all. It's disconcerting to have a thirteen-year-old leading what initially comes across as an innocent middle-grade adventure novel who actually sounds like he may grow up to be Patrick Bateman from American Pyscho. I gave Undertown a shot, but it just wasn't for me.


I gave this ARC a shot on January 14, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay - Review


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I read an ARC edition picked up from a used book sale.

Rounded up from 3.5 stars.


Jamie, a senior in high school, has a problem. He's fallen for his best friend, Mason. He knows that if he were to reveal his feelings, chances are very high that the whole situation would end in heartbreak. Also, he hasn't come out to anyone at school yet, only his mom, but it seems like a lot of the girls in art class have already figured it out and want to help set them up. Jamie's worried that when he does come out to Mason that it will ruin their great friendship, and Jamie isn't willing to risk everything. Jamie is also involved in the Gumshoe, the school magazine, and there's a graphic short that features material some worry may cause controversy. If Jamie wants the submission to appear, he's going to have to stand up and fight for what he believes in before it's too late.

Overall, I enjoyed the plot and found the characters to be quite relatable and realistic. Jamie and his friends sound very much people I went to school with. I can only imagine that Jamie's story parallels what real teens face on a regular basis. It's one of those stories that needs to be told. It's also great to see Jamie's fantastic support system along the way; his mom is brilliant.

My main issue with the story is that the conflict at the heart of the story relies heavily on Jamie's indecision to come out to his best friend. At times, it could honestly get exhausting listening to his waffling internal monologue for pages on end, and then by the end of the story (view spoiler) although the ending is pretty sweet (view spoiler). The author also uses stereotypes throughout for pretty much all of the characters.

Regardless, I still think the story at the heart of Fan Art is definitely worth your time, especially if you liked Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

By the way, Mason looks like Darren Criss with black plastic glasses.




I read this ARC from January 10 - 14, 2015 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Friday 56: Pegasus by Danielle Steel


Welcome to The Friday 56, a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

These are the rules:
1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post.

This week I am spotlighting Pegasus by Danielle Steel.  This will be my second book by this author, the first being Echoes, which I actually enjoyed more than I expected, although my bar was set incredibly low.  I didn't really expect to come back to this author - just not my style - but a book club I'm in has selected this book for our next meeting.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the white stallion named Pegasus will not be capable of flight.  At least I have the Ringling Brothers Circus, if nothing more, to look forward to in this new novel.



"I met your little boy today, she said, when they stopped outside her door. "He's adorable."

"Yes, he is, thank you," Nick agreed warmly. "I think he met everyone on the ship today, including all the sailors. He's having fun."

"So am I," she said, looking wistfully at Nick. "I loved dancing with you tonight. I haven't been dancing in months."