Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pretty Little Liars + Princess Diaries - Reviews

I listen to a Podcast called Super Serials and every week they have a discussion about a Middle Grade or Young Adult book.  Generally they're books like Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley Twins, or Animorphs but lately they've been mixing in a few more Young Adult books.  Back in December they did Pretty Little Liars and The Princess Diaries which are two books I've been thinking about reading.  I thought it'd be fun to give them a read and see what I thought.

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shephard -
My library had an audio copy and I ended up going that way.  The book is read by Cassandra Morris who does a fantastic job of making the teenage girls sound like teenage girls without going over to caricature.  The basic premise of the story is that you have a group of 5 popular 7th grade girls and 1 goes missing.  Three years later the 4 remaining girls start getting texts or emails signed with the initial "A" (the missing girl's name was Allison) and whoever is sending them knows all their secrets.  From the beginning I kind of felt like the book was written to be a TV show.  I can't exactly say why but something about the way the scenes are set and the dialogue feels like a TV show.  I really loved the premise and the way it unraveled and I wanted to know what all was going to happen.  BUT - I'm definitely way older than the target market for this book and it was very apparent to me.  I felt like the middle of the book took way to long and there was too much time of the girls kind of spinning their wheels and worrying about life decisions, what was going on, what people were going to think, etc and I just wanted stuff to happen!  Overall, I enjoyed this though it was never something I was super excited to start back up and get back into the story.  I'm not sure if I'll continue with the series but I do want to find out what happens and how everything wraps up so I might.  This doesn't end of a cliffhanger necessarily but there are a lot of questions at the end.  I watched the first couple of episodes of the show to see how it differed and it was pretty similar.  The main difference is in the book 3 years have passed since Allison disappeared and in the show only 1 year had passed.
My Rating: Just Okay though I am glad I listened.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot -
Mia Thermopolis is an awkward fourteen year old high school freshman who doesn't feel like she fits in anywhere.  It doesn't help when her mother starts dating Mia's algebra teach (whose class she is failing) or when her father comes to town to hell her that not only is he a prince but she is the heir to the throne of the principality Genovia.  Lots of angst and fretting follows this announcement and the middle got really slow and Mia fretted and worried and got horribly embarrassed or incredibly self-righteous.  Mia's friend Lily drove me CRAZY!  Up until the end I really had no idea why Mia was friends with her other than the fact that she didn't have anyone else.  Lily is really awful to Mia but doesn't spend much time looking at her own actions.  I did really enjoy the last quarter of the book when Mia really started figuring things out and stopped wringing her hands and the last 20 pages or so had me smiling.  Grand-mere is definitely much more formidable than the Julie Andrews version but by the end I kind of liked her.  This wasn't my favorite read but it was entertaining and I loved the authenticity Cabot brings to the character.  They sound and act like teenagers which at times is great and at other times not so much.
My Rating: Good though that's mostly on the strength of the 2nd half of the book

While both books involve high school students the characters couldn't be more different.  The PLL girls are definitely on the popular side whereas Mia is definitely on the outside.  There's sex, lots of alcohol and a dash of drugs in Pretty Little Liars where Mia hasn't been kissed and only drinks wine at dinner in France and isn't a big fan of it.  I'm not a big YA reader so I don't have much to compare these too but I found the stories both really interesting.  While I won't be dashing out to pick up the next book for both series right away I do plan on continuing with them both.  I want to find out what happens!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Linkups: Beauty, Beast and Belladonna

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Can you read in the car?

My Answer: 
I can but I have to be careful or I get queasy.  I used to not be able to read in a moving car at all but I've found if I sit perfectly straight and hold the book/Kindle in front of me so that I'm looking forward and not down I can read pretty well.

I'm really excited about this week's book.  I read a cozy by Maia Chance set in the 1920s that was so much fun and I've been wanting to read her Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series since the first book came out.  I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to review her newest book in the series, Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna

The Beginning:
The day had arrived, Miss Ophelia Flax's last day in Paris, her last day in Artemis Stunt's gilt-edged apartment choked with woody perfume and cigarette haze.

My Thoughts:
I love how visually descriptive that first sentence is.  I can just picture that haze-y ornate apartment!

The 56:
Abel seemed to think that he was going to assist Ophelia in all further inquiries into the vicar's death.

My Thoughts:
It does not sound like Ophelia is eager to have Abel's assistance.  I do love a vicar murder though.  It's so wonderfully classic British mystery.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

I'm not very far into this one but so far I'm enjoying it.  I'm planning on doing not much tomorrow except read because the review is due Monday!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beyond the Books: Do People In Real Life Know You Blog

This week I'm linking up with KissinBlueKaren for Beyond the Books.  This is a meme where we all answer a non-bookish question.  It's always so fun to see everyone's answers and get a peak at the blogger beyond the books.  This week's topic is - Do people in real life know you blog?

When I first started blogging I told absolutely no one because I wasn't sure what I was doing or if I was going to stick with it or anything.  It wasn't something I was even doing very regularly so it seemed kind of silly to mention it. As I became more regular in my posting I did tell a few people - mostly a friend who was already blogging and then my husband.

Now, the people I'm really close to know about the blog but it's not something I talk about all the time.  I like to keep somethings private and reading and blog stuff falls into that category for some reason.

How about you?  Do  you talk about blogging with people in real life?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Missed Chances - Review

Missed Chances: Short Love Stories with a Hint of What Might Have Been Edited by M.R. Nelson
Rating: Good
Source: Publisher
Description:  Classic love stories... with a twist.  A collection of classic love stories featuring "the one that got away": lighthearted, with undertones of tragedy and a lingering comic finish.  The flight includes Aunt Philippa and the Men by L.M. Montgomery, The Kiss by Kate Chopin, The Victory by Rabindranath Tagore, the Mystery of Wilhelm Rutter by Helen Hunt Jackson, and A Florentine Experiment by Constance Fenimore Woolson. (from Goodreads)

Genre: Short Story

Why I Picked This Book: I love short story collections and I liked the over all theme of this one so I couldn't resist it.

My Impression:  Looking over this collection only 2 of the authors were familiar to me.  I know that Montgomery's short stories are wonderful and I haven't read Chopin since "The Awakening" in college and I wanted to read more.  The other three were new to me and short stories are a great way to get acquainted with a new author so I was curious to see what awaited me.
Aunt Philippa and the Men by L.M. Montgomery - I wasn't surprised that I loved this story.  It wasn't completely new to me though I can't remember the last time I read it and I couldn't remember how it all worked out.  Montgomery is amazing at short stories and this has a nice touch of humor.  It made me want to gather up all the short story collections I have from her and sit down for a big reread. Loved it
The Kiss by Kate Chopin - I love Chopin's sparse writing style.  It always leaves me wanting more and that is definitely the case with this shortest of short stories.  I loved the scene she set and the characters were vivid but I wanted more!  Liked it
The Victory by Rabindranath Tagore - This was my least favorite of the collection.  The writing was beautiful but it was so lyrical that I had a hard time really connecting with the story.  The interaction between the poets and the King was interesting but the story as a whole didn't click with me.  Not for me
The Mystery of Wilhelm Rutter by Helen Hunt Jackson - This is a new author to me though the name does sound familiar.  I loved this story about a German farmer, his family, and the mysterious stranger that showed up to help with harvest.  This is an author I definitely need to look into.  Really liked it
A Florentine Experiment by Constance Fenimore Woolson - This was the longest story and really enjoyable.  I loved Margaret Stowe and thought Woolson did a great job of making Florence really come alive.  This is another author I want to find out more about.  Really liked it

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I really enjoyed this collection of short stories.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Yes, if you enjoy short stories this is a really lovely collection.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Signs in You're in a Contemporary Romance

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from the Broke and the Bookish is a Valentine's Day freebie and what's more Valentine's Day-ish then figuring out if you're the main character in a contemporary romance?  This is one of my absolute favorite genres so I mean this in the absolute kindest of ways.  I've also done Top Ten Signs You're in a Cozy Mystery and Top Ten Signs You're the Main Character in a Historical Romance

1.  You have just inherited a large house in a somewhat dilapidated condition.  This can play out 2 ways:
A.  You have just lost you boyfriend and job simultaneously and are looking for a place to start over.  Bonus points if you were also evicted.
B.  You are incredibly career driven and are just going down to check out the house, hire what needs to be done, sell it for as quickly as possible, and return home to your workaholic but somewhat lonely life.

2. You have always wanted to own a small shop of some kind.  Bakeries also count.  Bonus points if it's a bookstore

3.  You have a large, very expressive family who never shuts up and is always trying to fix you up with someone or meddle in your love life or lack there of.  Bonus points if you have 2 or 3 sisters or cousins who are also unmarried.

4.  You have 2 (or sometimes 3 but usually just 2) very close friends who have suddenly fallen deeply in love with 2 guys who are also very close friends and there happens to be a 3rd guy friend who is still single and vowing not to get caught up in the insanity that has captured his besties.

5.  You live in a small town - you can be either a life long resident of the small town and know absolutely everyone or you can be brand new looking for a fresh start though usually in this case you're a single parent.

6.  You're on a mystical quest where you're looking for keys, statues, diamonds, or something else that will keep evil from taking over the world and happen to be in a group that insists of an even number of males and females.  The chances are pretty good that you're in a Nora Roberts book - especially if there's an Irish guy wandering around or you're actually in Ireland.

7.  You have vowed that you are never ever going to get married because you believe that either love doesn't exist period or that it just doesn't work for you.

8.  You live next door to a quiet guy of mysterious origins who also happens to be very very hot but in a way that means you know he has secrets

9.  You are snowed in, flooded in, or in some other way trapped in a location with a guy that has always gotten on your nerves.

10.  Your sister/best friend/cousin who has always had no problem in relationships is getting married and you somehow, either through said sister/best friend/cousin's manipulation or you own desperation end up going to the wedding with a date who isn't really your date but agrees to act as your boyfriend for whatever reason.  Most likely you have some secret history with him that no one other than the two of you know about.

So what did I miss?  What tropes have you noticed?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Death and the Brewmaster's Widow - Review

Death and the Brewmaster's Widow (Auction Block Mystery)
Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  They call it "the Brewmaster's Widow"; the abandoned brewery where Death Bogart's brother died in an arson fire.  With his girlfriend, Wren Morgan, Death goes home to St. Louis to take on a deeply personal mystery.  When Randy Bogart went into the Einstadt Brewery, he left his broken badge behind at the firehouse.  So why did the coroner find one on his body?  Every answer leads to more questions.  Why did the phony badge have the wrong number?  Who set the brewery fire?  What is the connection between Randy's death and the mysterious Cherokee Caves, where the opulent playground of the 19th century beer baron falls into slow decay?  Not understanding how and why he lost his brother is breaking the ex-Marine's heart.  But the Brewmaster's Widow is jealous of her secrets.  Prising them loose could cost Death and Wren both their lives.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I absolutely loved the first book in the series and couldn't wait to find out just what exactly had happened to Death's (rhymes with teeth) brother.

My Impression: 
What I Liked:
Wren and Death's relationship is so great.  He respects her, listens to her and stands up for her and she takes care of him while encouraging him to try and do more for himself.  I especially liked how they dealt with Madeline.  Normally I'm not a fan of ex-wives in a book, especially ones as manipulative as Madeline but both Death and Wren were great in dealing with her and I actually enjoyed those parts.
It was wonderful to get more of a sense of Death's background and learn more about his family.  You've got to be curious about a family where naming your child Death because of a fairly obscure literary reference is considered okay.
I was dying to find out what the deal with the badges was.  Why did Randy have a badge on him when his was at the fire station?  Why was the number different?  How on earth is this going to resolve itself in a way that makes sense?
I liked getting to know Randy's friends and spending time in St. Louis.  I've enjoyed the city when I've visited it and I was fascinated with the caves under the breweries.
The pacing was really good and I just flew through this book.
I realized where the plot was going about 2/3 of the way in and I wasn't sure I was going to like it but I ended up being really happy with how Ross ended this one.
I'm really excited to see what happens in the next book!

What I Didn't Like:
While I really liked the way this wrapped up there were a few things that I found hard to believe or that didn't quite make sense.
I really wanted to find out more about the caves.  It didn't feel like they were used quite enough.

This was a great mystery with characters I really enjoy.  This one felt more about character development than the mystery itself but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I'm already waiting impatiently for book 3!

Would I Recommend this Book?: Absolutely!  This is a great series - especially if you like a little history mixed in with your mystery.  I do recommend reading the series in order.  I think this would be better after reading the 1st one.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

This Week in Reading - February 7

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase - Daphne du Maurier and the world Gothic were mentioned in the blurb for this one.  Plus there's dual time lines and an old rambling house!  (Publisher)

Once a Rancher by Linda Lael Miller - I read my first book by Miller before Christmas and really enjoyed it.  It was a novella and I'm really excited to see what she can do with a full length novel (Publisher)

Death by Cashmere by Sally Goldenbaum - This is the first book in the Seaside Knitters Mystery series.  There's knitting, a little town by the coast and an unlikable murder victim.  I'm definitely looking forward to this one!  (Paperbackswap)

Untraceable by Laura Griffin - This is the first book in the Tracers series and this is an author I've heard really good things about.  Plus I'm in the mood for some suspense.  (Paperbackswap)


Reading: Beauty, Beast, and Belladona by Maia Chance for a blog tour next week and Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O'Connor

Listen: I just finished Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling (review coming in a couple of weeks) and am on hold for my next audio book.  Until then I'm listening to podcasts -  I've been binge listening to The History Chicks and have been really enjoying those.

Watching:  We've got one more episode of War and Peace to watch and I'm looking forward to seeing how everything wraps up.  It almost has me wanting to read the book!

Off the Blog:

We were planning on going out of town next weekend but the Tornado woke up with a fever on Friday so that may change things.  Strep is going around so I'm crossing my fingers that it's not that and that whatever it is no one else gets it.   Friday and Saturday have been kind of quiet days because when he is actually sick he wants me sitting right next to him.  I've gotten some reading done and it's been nice to lie around with him.  It doesn't happen much anymore!

It's been a fairly quiet month.  I think we're all still recovering from the holiday madness followed by the getting back to school rush.  I've actually been cooking regularly which I'm enjoying.  I've been using my Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinner and so far I've loved every recipe.  I have done some Pinterest baking but didn't find anything I loved and actually deleted a few pins.  I got the first 52 Pins in 52 Weeks pin for February done and that was a success!

This coming week will mostly be getting ready to go out of town.  Since we don't have quite as many people as we used to it isn't quite as involved but I never miss an opportunity for a detailed to do list.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Death and the Brewmaster's Widow - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Valentine's Day Freebie
Wednesday: Missed Chances - Short Story Collection Review
Thursday: Beyond the Books - Do People In Real Life Know You Blog
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!