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Friday, February 23, 2018

Review: Flight Season by Marie Marquardt

Title: Flight Season
Author: Marie Marquardt 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publish Date: February 20, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way."

My Two Cents:

"Flight Season" is the story of three very different people: Vivi, TJ, and Angel. Vivi is trying to fix her life after losing her beloved father. Every turn seems to throw more difficulty at her: failing grades, a mother who seems too lost in grief and flakiness to take care of things, and a general uneasy feeling about her future life path. TJ seems stuck in his family business while trying to make something of himself outside of his job at the family restaurant. Angel wanted a better life in the United States but finds himself in the hospital hanging on to his life after fate deals a cruel hand. All of these people are very different but will come together in some surprising ways.

Marie Marquardt is becoming a must-read author for me. Her previous books have been smart with a message behind them. The message always feels baked in and never didactic, which I think is important for any book but particularly young adult books. Because I had enjoyed her previous two books so much, I knew that I needed to jump on reading this one. I was not disappointed!

The characters in this book are great. Vivi is floundering in the beginning of this book. She's done trying to keep up with the social life that took her down a dark path. She is in college at Yale, pre-med but while this seems like something she should do, she isn't sure if she is doing this for herself or for another reason. TJ is confident in his own skin most of the time and seems to know what he wants. Angel was the most touching character. Seeking a new life in the United States, he never was worried about getting hurt; he thought getting over to the U.S. would be the hard part. Because of his status and trying to please his terrible uncle, he has to take any job he can get even if it is dangerous and ends up working on a turkey farm with some insidious practices. These characters come together in such an amazing way. Their bond was really special throughout the whole book.

The book was well-written. Each of the characters had a very different and unique voice. The author has a really good way of pulling together a really interesting story line with characters that will stick with me long after I shut the book.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Review: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Title: Sourdough
Author: Robin Sloan
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Farar, Straus, and Giroux
Publish Date: September 5, 2017
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.
Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive.  Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer's market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show.
When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?"

My Two Cents:

"Sourdough" is the story of Lois, a computer engineer, who lives a relatively boring life. She goes to work, she goes home. She is so busy at work and so pushed by peer pressure that her sustenance consists of this weird protein that is terribly boring but fills her hunger. One day, she decides to order some spicy soup in and it comes with the most wonderful sourdough bread. This simple deviation from her normal life will change everything for Lois.

This book is soooo quirky and I really enjoyed it. It's a strange little story but I really liked that it was so off the beaten path. Filled with good food, people learning to become friends, and a good message of embracing the unknown, this was a good read for me. It also has a good dose of magical realism, which is always one of my favorite elements that a book can have!

Lois is such an interesting character. She finds a lot of comfort in routine, even if it doesn't make her life that exciting. When the two brothers that make the spicy soup and bread are forced to leave the country and they leave her the mystical sourdough starter, Lois's life changes for the better. She isn't so afraid to shake up her routine and do something different. I thought this was a really good message that sometimes you do have to make yourself a little uncomfortable in order to make things better!


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton

Title: Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy
Author: Andrew Morton
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: February 13, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From ""You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance." -Wallis Simpson
Everyone has heard of Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom Edward VIII so infamously abdicated his throne and birthright. But although her life has constantly been the subject of much fascination, gossip, and speculation, her whole story has yet to be told. Now historical biographer Andrew Morton uses diary entries, letters, and other never-before-seen records to offer a fresh portrait of Wallis Simpson in all her vibrancy and brazenness as she climbed the social ladder, transforming from a hard-nosed gold digger to charming chatelaine.

Morton takes us through the cacophonous Jazz Age, a period of casual sex, cocaine, and screeching trombones; Wallis's romantic adventures in Washington and friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt; her exploits in China and beyond; to her entrance into the strange wonderland that is London Society. During her journey, we meet an extraordinary array of characters, many of whom smoothed the way for her dalliance with the king of England, Edward VIII, and we gain insights into the personality and motivations of a complex, domineering woman striving to determine her own fate in a harsh, turbulent world."

My Two Cents:

"Wallis in Love" explores the life of Wallis Simpson, the woman who changed the course of the British Monarchy. Twice divorced, she charmed Edward VIII who ended up abdicating the throne. It was supposed to be a great love story but in many ways, it seemed only to imprison Wallis and Edward. Fairy tales are not always what they seem!

I love all things related to royalty so when I heard that Andrew Morton was coming out with this book, I jumped at the chance to read it! I knew about Wallis meeting Edward and I knew about the abdication debacle but I didn't realize until I dove into this book how little I knew about Wallis. This book traces all the way back to when she was a little girl and it was fascinating to see the transformation from the girl from Baltimore to one of the most controversial women in history with regard to the British monarchy.

Morton both lays out who Wallis was and who she wasn't. People all across the world were very concerned when Edward abdicated. I was interested especially in the way that politicians worldwide were concerned about what the abdication might do in shaking up the political order of the world even with the monarch being perhaps the spiritual leader of the country but not the political leader.

Morton also squashes some of the rumors that were spread about Wallis at the height of abdication mania. Like many women in the public eye, she had a lot of pretty hurtful rumors spread about her. Some seemed to bother her more than others. I liked seeing what was true and untrue and why certain rumors seemed to shake the public's psyche, while others were put to rest rather quickly.

Overall, this was a good look at Wallis and will interest my fellow royal watchers!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: The French Girl by Lexie Elliott

Title: The French Girl
Author: Lexie Elliott 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: February 20, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "They were six university students from Oxford--friends and sometimes more than friends--spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway--until they met Severine, the girl next door.

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group's loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can't forgive, and there are some people you can't forget, like Severine, who was never seen again.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine's body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she's worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free."

My Two Cents:

In "The French Girl," once upon a time, Kate and her group of friends from Oxford vacationed in France. They had a hanger-on in the form of Severine, a mysterious French girl who threatens to topple the sort of balance that the group has found. When Severine ends up dead, the friends are questioned. Nothing turns up at first and the friends go their separate ways. They never expect that Severine will continue to haunt them all.

This is a thriller but it's much more quiet and there is a very slow build throughout the book. I did find myself wishing that things would move a little bit faster throughout the book. The story line is also very much focused on the present and I wanted to know more about how the group of friends was when they were actually friends. When we meet them in present day, it was hard to see what made them work as a group - they seem so different.

I also found myself wanting to know more about the characters. We see how they interact with each other but it felt like readers are held at arms length throughout the book. We get to know Kate a little bit better as we see the action through her eyes.

Overall, I did like that this book keeps you guessing but I was looking for something to invest in more!


Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Title: As Bright as Heaven
Author: Susan Meissner 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "n 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it."

My Two Cents:

"As Bright as Heaven" follows the story of the Bright family as they leave the countryside for Philadelphia where the father of the family plans to take over a funeral business for a family member. Even though it is hard, and sometimes sad, work, it promises to give the Bright family a more successful future. Fate has a way of intervening though. It is the late 1910s and the world is ravaged by the Spanish flu and World War I has taken many young men far away from home where they may be hurt irreparably. This is a story of a family standing together even when things are difficult.

While this is a story about a whole family, the mother and daughter relationship is especially important in this book. When Pauline's husband goes away, she becomes the full caretaker for her three daughters. They live in a brand new place and are trying to get used to a brand new business. Pauline puts everything on the line for her daughters until she can't anymore. Being a mother (and of daughters at that), I found a lot of common ground with Pauline throughout the story. It makes the turn of events even more painful!

I loved the characters in this book. We get to see the Bright daughters as they grow up. They are three very different people but all brave in different ways. At first, I didn't understand why the author chooses to show the Bright family both in 1918 and then a little bit later but as you see (and I don't want to give anything away), it was necessary in order to show the full progression of their characters, which I really liked.

This was a difficult read. This flu season has been bad so it was interesting comparing the differences between the flu in this book and the flu currently going around. It was so crazy to me how widespread the flu was then and how deadly it proved to be. I thought the author did a really good job of showing how devastating this flu was and how worried people were. There's one part of the book where the grandparents of the family refuse to let the family come back to the countryside to escape the flu because they believe the Bright family already has it. It was very sad to read how the flu tore families apart both in life and death.

Overall, this was a hard read in a lot of ways but I enjoyed how thought provoking it was and the writing was great!


Friday, February 16, 2018

Help a Book Lover Out!

This week has really gotten away from me. It has been such a crazy few weeks and I am woefully behind on book reviews!

So I want to know what you're reading right now? And if you aren't digging it, tell me what the last great book you've read is!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Giveaway Winner!

Another giveaway is over and I have another winner to announce!

The winner of "The Secret Life of  Mrs. London" is Terry M.!

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