Saturday, October 25, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (59)

The Kennedy Wives by Amber Hunt and David Batcher - Thanks to Lyons Press and Netgalley
The Bargaining by Carly Anne West - Thanks to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss


Frozen (Heart of Dread #1) by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston - Thanks to Penguin
Stolen (Heart of Dread #2) by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston - Thanks to Penguin

So what do you guys think? Have you read any of these books? Let me know! This meme is hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Visit to Jane Austen's House

Jane Austen's House Musuem - Chawton, England
When I recently traveled to England with my husband's work and found out that the hotel we were staying at was in Hampshire, the countryside, I immediately started to plan our day trip to the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton.  I'm so glad visited and wanted to re-cap a few highlights with you guys.

Chawton village
Jane lived in this beautiful country home for the last eight years of her life. The quaint town of Chawton is absolutely adorable. I could have spent a whole afternoon just wandering the town. 

While living at Chawton, Jane edited Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey as well as Pride and Prejudice while living there. She wrote Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion while living there.  

The museum houses many Austen artifacts, such as her writing table, her much talked about turquoise ring, various pieces of Austen furniture, her books, and you can even view pieces written in Jane's own handwriting.  Also, on display was The Watsons, a manuscript, which was never finished. It was incredible to see Jane's writing and her editing with my own eyes.

Various displays at the Jane Austen House Museum - Chawton, England
I also really enjoyed seeing the original bakehouse, the Austen donkey carriage, as well as what Jane's bedroom would have looked like. She apparently she shared it with her beloved sister Cassandra; I had no idea they were so close.  Also on display were various costumes from Austen films, such as Mansfield Park.

Jane Austen's Writing Table - Chawton, England
What really struck me the most after visiting was the size of Jane's writing table. I, for one, would have definitely needed more space, but obviously this worked for Jane. I was very impressed. Could you guys function on a table that small?

I had a great time touring Jane Austen's House Museum. The Chawton "cottage" was beautiful and I loved seeing artifacts as well as personal items that were once Jane's.  The gift shop was a Jane Austen fan's heaven and straight up out of Austenland. I had to refrain from buying all the "I love Mr. Darcy" souvenirs which were affixed with Colin Firth's picture. Not sure I've seen that in the US! 

Me visiting the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, England
If you are a Janeite and ever find yourself in the English countryside, I recommend visiting this interesting house.  Let me know what you guys think of my trip to Jane Austen's House Museum and let me know what's your favorite Austen novel? (Mine is Pride and Prejudice, naturally, with Persuasion being my second favorite!)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Pages: 448
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: October 28, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions. Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead."
Barrie Watson has hit a rock bottom. Her mother has died and her caretaker, Mark, is now dying from cancer. Mark sends her off to her mother's sister, Aunt Pru, to ensure she has a stable family home.  Her Aunt Pru lives on a Southern plantation in South Carolina, which is very different than the life she is used to in San Francisco.  Barrie is interested in her family's past though and she is hoping her aunt can answer some questions about the fire that took her fathers life and led to her mother's disfiguring facial scars.  But getting answers is tougher than she thought and there are many secrets on South Carolina's Watsons Island, especially when it comes to the founding families, the Watsons, the Beauforts, and the Colesworth. The three founding family's history is entwined along with a very old curse.  Due to this curse, Barrie has the ability to find lost items and this "gift" has become even stronger now that she has moved to Watson's Island.  To add to the drama, she met family friend, Eight Beaufort, who simultaneously drives her nuts and charms her.  Barrie is also dying to meet her cousin, Cassie Colesworth, even if her aunt and Eight say not to trust her.  Martina Boone's debut, Compulsion, is the kind of Southern Gothic I love. There's a beautiful setting, family feuds, a slow burning romance, curses and a touch of paranormal. Highly recommended for fans of romance, Southern gothic, and the paranormal genre.

How could I not instantly feel for Barrie in Compulsion? Her mother has died and her mother's best friend and godfather is in hospice. So, now she finds herself living on a historic plantation with an aunt she has never met. To make matters worse, her mother never really told her about her life at Watson Island, so she has no clue what to expect.  

Thankfully, Barrie has Eight Beaufort to clue her in on things, but getting him to answer a question completely and honestly is going to be harder than she thought.  Eight is the kind of boy I love in a young adult novel. He's a genuinely good guy and their romance is a slow burn, which really worked in Compulsion.  Plus, Eight has his own "special power" due to the family curse, which I thought was a nice touch. All in all, I am definitely a fan of Barrie and Eight.

The setting was to-die-for in Compulsion. Seriously. Can I live there? I absolutely loved Watson Island and Boone did a wonderful job bringing a southern summer to life. I was completely enthralled with the huge plantation Barrie lived on filled with dusty rooms, locked drawers, hidden tunnels, and sprawling balconies. Plus, there's the eerie Fire Carrier who visits the plantation every night and the yunwi (spirits) who watch over the plantation.  It was so atmospheric and creepy! I can't say enough about the lush plantation, the decaying mansions, and the spirits that lurk every corner…it was right up my alley.

As I mentioned before, there are many paranormal elements in Compulsion and while I found a few things to be a little over the top (some of the scenes with the Fire Carrier); overall, it was done very well.  I liked how Barrie had a special power of finding lost items and it reminded me a bit of The Body Finder in that sense. Ultimately, Barrie has to figure out her family secrets and I loved how the spirits were trying to communicate the truth to her.  It definitely kept me in suspense.

Simply put, I am a fan of Compulsion and can't wait to continue with the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy.  I love all things Southern Gothic and Boone didn't disappoint.  In fact, this book will find its way on my "Best of 2014 list" for sure.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Sophomore Year is Greek to Me

This is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  "Waiting on Wednesday" spotlights upcoming releases that I'm eagerly anticipating.

Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin
Pub. Date: April 21, 2015

Goodreads says, "High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she's devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona's mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks... but no thanks.  In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary."
Doesn't this sound like a fantastic read for next spring? I love a fish-out-of-water story and if it is in the same vein as Anna and the French Kiss, then it's the perfect read for me!  What do you guys think?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Giveaway: Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant

Halloween is almost upon us and what is better than a spooky read this time of year?  Today I am giving away a hardback copy of Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant. Doesn't it seem like the perfect read for this month? I think it may be just a little too spooky for me, so I am passing it along to one lucky reader.

Goodreads says, "I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself. And then the games began. The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear.  But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out . . "

This giveaway is open to US readers only and the deadline is October 28th.  Please refer to my giveaway rules.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

Pages: 368
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: October 14, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne’s at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about the former senator’s daughter. Most people do... or think they do. Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than-life-new girl’s world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia’s handsome older brother, Sebastian. But behind her self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden … until now."
St. Anne's boarding school is filled with teenagers from wealthy and prominent American families, unless you are a scholarship student. And that is the case for Charlotte Ryder, an aspiring artist and sort of social wallflower.  Everything changes for Charlotte one night when she helps out intoxicated Julia Buchanan, a popular and wealthy girl at school.  Julia appreciates Charlotte's help and takes her under her wing, even renaming her Charlie.  Julia bringing her into her fast-pace world of money, parities, and mansions   The two become attached at the hip and Charlotte even spends time with the Buchanan family at their summer home.  Except there are many layers to the Buchanan family that Charlie must peel back slowly in order to figure out the truth as their family history has been paved in secrets and tragedy.  Plus, Charlie is starting to have feelings for Julia's brother, Sabastian, and finds herself intertwined into their family even more than before.  Chelsey Philpot's debut, Even in Paradise, is a sad sort of novel and one that reminded me of The Great Gatsby meets Gossip Girl.  Readers who like stories about privileged families and secrets will enjoy this deep novel.

Once Charlotte met Julia her world changed immensely in Even in Paradise. She started sneaking out of her dorm, going by the name Charlie and living a bit more dangerously. She would even visit the Buchanans at their summer house on Nantucket, which is very much different than the world she is accustomed to as a scholarship student.  She learns that the Buchanan family has some secrets, especially surrounding the untimely death of Julia's sister.  Julia and Charlie's relationship becomes a little too close to the point where I felt it was unhealthy. She was too immersed into the family, even dating Sebastian, Julia's brother.  I sort of knew where this was going.

Julia had that Jay Gatsby vibe in Even in Paradise. She was charismatic, rich, and sometimes unreliable. She threw caution to the wind on many occasions, drank too much and harbors many secrets. Ultimately, she wasn't over the death of her sister, Gus, and there was definitely a cloud of sadness that followed her.  I could definitely pick up on the Gatsby vibe regarding the character of Julia.  But the problem with Even in Paradise is I didn't care enough about the characters; I was merely along for the ride.  

I liked the whole aspect of a Kennedy-esque family taking in a working class girl and Charlie sort of becoming one of them, but I could see where this was headed in Even in Paradise.  Even though the twist was a tad predictable, I found the writing and the overall story to be somewhat compelling.  It didn't "wow" me and wasn't my favorite debut, but I could appreciate this quiet story focusing on families, power, love, and secrets.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stacking the Shelves and Giveaway Winner (58)

This Shattered World (Broken Stars #2) by Amie Kaufmann and Meagan Spooner - Thanks to Disney and Netgalley
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray - Thanks to Harper Teen
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio - Thanks to Plume and Netgalley

Penguin Christmas Classics - including A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann, A Merry Christmas by Louisa May Alcott, Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope and The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol

The winner of The Darkest Minds series and the book light is …..Gabriela A.   Congrats! I hope you enjoy all the books and your book light!

So what do you guys think? Have you read any of these books? Let me know! This meme is hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews.

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