Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: DaVinci's Tiger

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

DaVinci's Tiger by Laura Malone Elliott
Pub. Date: November 10, 2015


Goodreads says, "Young, beautiful, and witty, Ginevra de’ Benci longs to take part in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence. But as the daughter of a wealthy family in a society dictated by men, she is trapped in an arranged marriage, expected to limit her creativity to domestic duties. Her poetry reveals her deepest feelings, and she aches to share her work, to meet painters and sculptors mentored by the famed Lorenzo de Medici, and to find love. When the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, arrives in Florence, he introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers—a world of thought and conversation she has yearned for. She is instantly attracted to the handsome newcomer, who admires her mind as well as her beauty. Yet Ginevra remains conflicted about his attentions. Choosing her as his Platonic muse, Bembo commissions a portrait by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them—one Ginevra can only begin to understand. In a rich and enthralling world of exquisite art, elaborate feasts, and exhilarating jousts, she faces many temptations to discover her voice, artistic companionship, and a love that defies categorization. In the end, she and Leonardo are caught up in a dangerous and deadly battle between powerful families. "
Guys, I will read anything that takes place in Florence, Italy, especially during the Renaissance.  What do you guys think?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

This week's Top Ten Tuesday focuses on characters who are fellow book nerds.  Here are my favorites: 


1.  Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - Anne is my all-time favorite bookworm and will probably always be.  If you have read the novels, you know her love for books is hard-core.




2.  Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I also really love Elizabeth Bennet. She can always be found with her nose in a good book. She's a smart protagonist with opinions and I like that!




3.  Hermione Granger from Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - I dressed up as Hermione one year for Halloween...that's how much I love her!  She's the quintessential bookworm. 




4.  Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Jo is an aspiring writer, so her love of books knows no bounds. 




5.  Paige Hancock from The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord - Paige is one of my "new" favorite characters. I found her easy to relate to. She likes books (makes a ton of literary references!), TV, and is a loyal friend.




6.  Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - Some of my favorite quotes about reading come from this book.  Betty Smith knows what's up.  




7.  Belle from Beauty and The Beast by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont - Ok, so this is probably cheating since in my mind I am referring to Belle from the Disney movie, but how could I not include her? She dances and sings in bookstores! Truly a girl after my own heart.




8.  Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl - I remember when I read this many, many years ago, I LOVED Matilda. Her to-be-read pile is just as big as mine! 




9.  Lara Jean Song from To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han - Jenny Han created a memorable character for me. She's a bit of a homebody and would rather hangout with her sisters than go gallivanting throughout the town. She likes books and writing, so she gets a spot on my list.




10.  Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Scout is one of my favorite literary characters ever. In fact, I named my dog after Scout! I love that she asks the tough questions.


So what literary characters are your favorite bookworms? Let me know what you think in the comments below! This meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

Pages: 304
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: July 21, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Ashford Affair and
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Raised in a poor yet genteel household, Rachel Woodley is working in France as a governess when she receives news that her mother has died, suddenly. Grief-stricken, she returns to the small town in England where she was raised to clear out the cottage...and finds a cutting from a London society magazine, with a photograph of her supposedly deceased father dated all of three month before. He's an earl, respected and influential, and he is standing with another daughter-his legitimate daughter. Which makes Rachel...not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past-even her very name-is a lie. Still reeling from the death of her mother, and furious at this betrayal, Rachel sets herself up in London under a new identity. There she insinuates herself into the party-going crowd of Bright Young Things, with a steely determination to unveil her father's perfidy and bring his-and her half-sister's-charmed world crashing down. Very soon, however, Rachel faces two unexpected snags: she finds she genuinely likes her half-sister, Olivia, whose situation isn't as simple it appears; and she might just be falling for her sister's fiancĂ©... From Lauren Willig, author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Ashford Affair, comes The Other Daughter, a page-turner full of deceit, passion, and revenge.
The year is 1927 and Rachel Woodley is a governess to three spoiled children.  She gets word that her mother is gravely ill and by the time she reaches her side, it's too late. Her mother has passed away and Rachel has even missed the funeral.  While she is cleaning out her mother's house, she finds a photograph of a man that looks exactly like her deceased father.  This sends her for a tailspin, obviously, as she has always been told her father is dead.  After more digging, she finds out her father isn't dead; in fact, he is a earl with children of his own.  With the help of Simon Montfort, a journalist who has many connections, she plans on meeting the people who are her family except she'll be posing as someone else. She is not only curious about her new family, but she also wants revenge in a sense as she feels extremely betrayed. Lauren Willig's The Other Daughter is an entertaining historical read that brings the 1920s to life.

I felt for Rachel right off the bat in The Other Daughter. To rush home to help her ailing mother and then to find out she already passed away is a tough break. The only thing that I didn't quite understand was Rachel's reaction to it. It seemed sort of brushed over. I expected her to be way more devastated, but I guess she becomes distracted by the possibility that her father is still alive and is not only alive, but is an Earl.  

Needless to say, The Other Daughter is chock full of family drama and secrets. As Rachel assumes a new identity and enters the world of the Bright Young Things, she learns more and more about her new family. Some of it's good, but some of it's bad as she is starting to have feelings for her sister's fiance.  Cue the awkward tension.

Willig does a fantastic job bringing the time period to life. It felt very authentic.  From the slang, to the descriptions, to the British aristocracy's rules...it was all very well done. 

Willig's The Other Daughter is a very character driven historical read that I think fans of Willig's previous novels will enjoy. Although I liked The Ashford Affair  a bit better, I still recommend this one to fans who like quiet historical reads with a touch of romance.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Pages: 281
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 1, 1998
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Truth About Forever, Saint Anything
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The world is a terrible place not to have a best friend. Scarlett was always the strong one.  Halley was always content to follow in her wake. Then Scarlett's boyfriend died, and Scarlett learned that she was pregnant. Now Halley has to find the strength to take the lead and help Scarlett get through it. Because true friendship is a promise you keep forever."

Halley has always been a "good girl." You know the kind. The kind of girl that who doesn't do anything rebellious, the kind that hangs out with her mother and tells her everything. Well, as she gets older, this is changing.  Halley is starting to hangout more with her best friend, Scarlett, and popular cheerleader Ginny.  She even dumps her nerdy boyfriend, which has become awkward since it's the son of her mom's best friend.  Her mother starts to worry about her, especially when she starts hanging around Macon, a well-known bad boy.  To complicate matters further, Scarlett's boyfriend Michael is killed in a motorcycle accident, which really sends everyone for a loop, especially when Scarlett finds out something else. She is pregnant. With Michael's baby. Scarlett is going to need Halley more than ever now.  Sarah Dessen's Someone Like You is a coming of age tale that fans of Dessen will enjoy and is a great addition to your beach bag this summer.

I really loved Halley in Someone Like You. Dessen has a knack for creating characters that seem so real. She has always followed the rules and done the right things, but she is starting to sow her wild oats a bit.  I think this is only natural for a teenager and instead of her mother understanding this, she tries to hold onto her tighter, which only backfires. I thought the relationship between Halley and her mother was a very, very realistic glimpse into the mother-daughter struggle most of us have experienced in high school.  Halley needs to learn things for herself without her mother hovering over her every move. 

Scarlett and Halley are best friends in Someone Like You and they truly turn to each other for support during this challenging year.  I loved their true friendship and the portrayal of what it's like to grow up....to be sort of in between adolescence and adulthood. Since Scarlett is pregnant, this pushes her to grow up even more than before and both girls examine the consequences of unprotected sex.

I read Someone Like You many, many years ago, so I was excited to dive back into it for The Summer of Sarah Dessen. What is so interesting about re-reading this novel are the different things I noticed from last time. For example, Halley's relationship and her mother's relationship with their aging Grandmother really struck me this time. I could personally connect to this at this point in my life and Dessen really did a fantastic job depicting how an aging family member can impact a family.

Although Someone Like You isn't my favorite of Dessen's novels, I still thoroughly enjoyed it; in fact, I think I liked it more the second time around.  Dessen truly captures family dynamics and what it's like to be a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood.  




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Edgewater

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

Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel
Pub. Date: September 8, 2015



Goodreads says, "Lorrie Hollander used to be a rich girl, but now she's lost everything because of the secrets and lies of the people around her. It's been 12 years since Lorrie's mother skipped town and left Lorrie in the care of her unstable aunt Gigi. Together they live in a neglected, decrepit mansion called Edgewater, the eyesore in a town of extraordinary wealth and privilege. Then Charlie, the son of an esteemed senator, takes an interest in Lorrie, her shame for her family and lifestyle runs deep. But what she doesn't know is that Charlie's family is hiding something, too, and that their secrets are inextricably tied. Now Lorrie must confront the truth about her family--and everything she ever thought she knew about herself. "

Doesn't this sound intriguing? Everyone is saying it's a YA Grey Gardens, which I just love. I can't wait to check this one out. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

If You Love Jane Austen.....


I love, love Jane Austen. When I visited her house in England last year, it was a dream come true for me. Over the years, I have read some really great novels inspired by Jane Austen or in the same vein. So, if you love Jane Austen, here are some of my recommendations for some read-alikes:




Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James - This is an adorable glimpse into young Jane Austen's teenage years.

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham - Although this has a lot more adventure than some of Austen's novels, it was very reminiscent of Austen.  I thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel and did I mention there is a PBS show based on it? It's fantastic!

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen - This book reads like a Jane Austen novel and other Regency works. It's quiet, slow in all the right areas, and the romance is sweet. 






Austenland by Shannon Hale - This book had me laughing out loud. A Jane Austen fan goes to an Austen-themed resort with the hopes of finding a Mr. Darcy. You have to see the movie, too!

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler - I read this one many years ago (before I had this blog) and I loved the concept of falling into another time period, such as Regency England. 

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler - This is a continuation of the above story...very entertaining!



 

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler - A book club solely dedicated to Jane Austen? Sign me up.  It examines how Austen's themes are timeless.

Jane Austen in Scarsdale: Or Love, Death and the SATs by Paula Marantz Cohen - This book deals with a high school counselor and an old love reentering her life.  It is inspired by Persuasion.

Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg - An adorable YA modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice



 

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison - This is one of my favorite Austen inspired young adult novels. I wish more people could read this novel! I adored it and I want to read the sequel, Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend. 

The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret Sullivan  - This is the perfect companion to Jane Austen's novels. It's chock full of interesting tidbits.

I also became obsessed with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube. If you haven't seen it and you are a Jane fan, you MUST! Warning: it's highly addictive!


But there are so many other novels that I am dying to read. Here's my personal to-read list of Jane-inspired/similar novels:

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James
My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones
What Matters in Jane Austen by John Mullan
Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Becoming Jane Austen by John Spence
Jane Austen Made Me Do It by various authors


Janeites, do you have any other recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below. I am always on the look out for a good Jane Austen-esque novel.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

Pages: 320
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: July 7, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When high school senior Kelsey's identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. The only person who doesn't know about the tragedy is Michelle's boyfriend, Peter, recently deployed to Afghanistan. But when Kelsey finally connects with Peter online, she can't bear to tell him the truth. Active duty has taken its toll, and Peter, thinking that Kelsey is Michelle, says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey has no choice: She lets Peter believe that she is her sister. As Kelsey keeps up the act, she crosses the line from pretend to real. Soon, Kelsey can't deny that she's falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn't want."

Kelsey and Michelle are twins and although they look exactly alike, they are very different from each other. Kelsey is a dancer, whereas Michelle is an artist and lives a more bohemian lifestyle.  Kelsey has been with the same boyfriend for years and Michelle dates around, that is until she meets Peter.  Peter is about to be deployed to Afghanistan and after their goodbyes, Michelle is tragically killed in a car accident, but Peter doesn't know this.  Obviously, this rocks Kelsey's family's world.  After some time passes, Kelsey is reminded of Peter when she encounters him trying to Skype with Michelle.  Planning to Skype with him and tell him what happened to Michelle, Kelsey starts the Skype session; however, things don't go as planned. Kelsey doesn't gain the courage to tell him the truth, because he says all of these things that make her feel guilty and that Michelle is his rock and lifeline in the unpredictable world of Afghanistan.  As more time goes by, Kelsey continues to "pretend" she is her sister and true feelings start to develop. Now she is in over her head and Peter doesn't know the truth yet.  Fans of young adult romance will enjoy A Million Miles Away. Although I didn't agree with Kelsey's actions throughout the novel and it was a tad predictable, I still found it to be a compelling read.

I'm going to be honest. I wasn't a big fan of Kelsey in A Million Miles Away. I just couldn't get past the fact that she hid the truth from Peter. As more time goes by, she is just digging a deeper hole for herself.  Readers may expect Peter to figure it out, especially when they meet in person, but Kelsey and Michelle were identical twins, so it was a plausible situation. Despite the fact that I wasn't a big fan of Kelsey, Avery made me care about her future, so I was dying to learn how Peter would find out the truth, because we all know the truth always comes out.  

I like that Avery demonstrates what life must be like when loved ones are deployed overseas. The constant worrying, the unpredictable events that occur, the lack of communication from time to time...it was all portrayed well. My heart went out to Peter, especially when things got very dangerous for him and his men.

A Million Miles Away also deals with grief. Kelsey deals with it very differently than her parents. It was an all-consuming type of grief and I really felt for Kelsey's family. My only issue with her parents is their lack of control over their own children. I know both Michelle and Kelsey were seniors, but they seem to be really relaxed about a lot of things and not truly present.

The ending was a bit too tidy for me and a bit too good to be true, but I expected that as A Million Miles Away is very similar to a Nicholas Sparks novel. Many people have made comparisons to Sparks and I would definitely agree. So, if you are looking for young adult romance this summer, check out A Million Miles Away.


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