Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I've Met

This week's Top Ten Tuesday focuses on authors that we have met and let me tell you, I have met many, many authors in my day, but here are my top ten favorite.


 
  
1.  Jenny Han - This was by far one of my favorite bookish moments ever. I had the incredible opportunity of interviewing Jenny live at a local book signing.  It was hands down one of my favorite bookish moments ever.  Plus, Jenny is one of the nicest authors--she's so stylish, smart, kind, and she was a pleasure to talk to.



2.  Richelle Mead - Many, many years ago I binged read the entire Vampire Academy series and fell in love with it.  Meeting Richelle Mead was a big moment for me.



3.  Fiona Carnarvon - I actually met Lady Carnarvon when I visited Highclere Castle (also known as Downtown Abbey!) a few years ago.  I panicked talking to her, because here I was meeting a ROYAL. Me, in my JCrew sweater drinking champagne at Downton Abbey making small talk with a Countess.  It was surreal. I was half expecting Lady Mary to walk in and give me side eye.



4.  Sara Shepard - She is one of the nicest authors around. She grew up not far from where I live and she based the setting of Pretty Little Liars on a town that I live near, so it's always fun when that happens. I enjoyed listening to her talk about her book being made into a TV show--definitely fascinating stuff.



5.  Sarah Dessen - This was also a very exciting moment for me, because Sarah Dessen has been a favorite of mine for so, so many years. I actually got really nervous to meet her, but she is so down to earth and easy to talk to despite the fact that I was starstruck.



6.  Jeri Smith-Ready - I loved the Shade series and thoroughly enjoyed meeting her many years ago.



7.  Adele Griffin - I also met Adele many years ago as well and apparently she grew up in my area, which is also neat to meet local authors. I loved talking with her. She's so stylish and cool!



8.  Emily Giffin - It was so much fun to meet her in person. I loved hearing her talk, especially about the experience of her book being made into a movie with such incredible actors, like Kate Hudson. And yes, Emily Giffin is as stylish and beautiful in person as she appears on her book jacket or on the Internet.



9.  Melissa Marr - I loved hearing Melissa speak; she is definitely fascinating and very, very nice. I met her many years ago when she was working on the Wicked Lovely series, so it was interesting to hear where she got her ideas and what inspires her.




10.  Cassandra Clare  (and Holly Black!) - At the time I was a huge Mortal Instruments fan, so this was a surreal moment for me.  It was also a pleasure meeting Holly Black. 



And last but not least, I'm throwing it way back to PAYA Festival.  Here I am with authors Cyn Balog, Jennifer Murgia, and Shelena Shorts along with Jamie from the Perpetual Page Turner.  


This post has completely reminded me how much I love meeting authors and attending book signings.  I wish I had more time to do so.  Have you been to a book signing lately? Let me know in the comments below. This meme is hosted by  The Broke and The Bookish.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: Unearthly Things by Michelle Gagnon

Pages: 288
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Soho Teen
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "After losing her parents in a tragic accident, surfer girl Janie Mason is forced to trade the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the cold fog of San Francisco. She’s never even met her new guardians, the Rochesters—an old money family who relish being pillars of high society. Janie feels hopelessly out of place in their world of Napa weekends, fancy prep schools, and cotillions. Nicholas is the only Rochester who treats her with anything resembling kindness—but he’s only six. When she strikes up a friendship with Daniel, a fellow surfer, it feels like things might finally be improving.  But something isn’t right in the Rochester mansion. There are noises—screams—coming from the attic nearly every night. Noises everyone else claims they can’t hear. Then John, the black sheep of the family, returns after getting kicked out of yet another boarding school. Soon Janie finds herself torn between this new “brother” and Daniel, who has secrets of his own. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any worse, she learns the truth about the Rochesters: what they’re hiding, what they want from Janie, and how far they’ll go to get it."


Janie Mason, a Hawaiian surfer girl, was living the perfect life with her parents, but all that comes crashing down after her parents' untimely death.  She comes to find out that her parents' will has stated that her legal guardians would be the Rochester family who live in San Francisco.  Janie has never met this family and they didn't even show up to her parents funeral. So how close could her parents possibly be to them? What were her parents thinking? Upon her arrival to the Rochester's sprawling estate, Janie meets their housekeeper, who barely speaks to her and isn't even greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Rochester themselves.  However, Janie does meet Nicholas, the youngest son, who does actually talk to her, but is super strange.  He keeps referring to his twin sister, who Janie comes to find out is actually dead.  Once Janie does meet Mr. and Mrs. Rochester, she isn't impressed by Marian Rochester, who is the ultimate mean girl/Real Housewife, and Richard Rochester seems to genuinely care as he was best friends with Janie's dad, but something is off about him.  To complicate matters further, they have a daughter who is around Janie's age and she pretty much despises Janie and the fact that she has come to live with them.  Combine all of this with the fact that Janie is hearing strange things at night in the part of the attic above her room and the realization that she hasn't surfed in so long makes for a depressing time.  Michelle Gagnon's Unearthly Things is an edge-of-your-seat suspenseful retelling of Jane Eyre. It definitely had my heart pumping.

I really enjoyed the character of Janie in Unearthly Things. She's born and raised in Hawaii and loves the surfer lifestyle. Her parents are happy, their house is idyllic, and she is living a good life until her parents' accident.  Janie's flashbacks to her parents happy marriage, their lazy weekend mornings, and different memories she shared with her father really tugged on my heartstrings.  It made it that much worse that she has to start over in San Francisco and in such a cold environment.  The Rochesters are the polar opposites of her parents.

The Rochesters, inspired by the characters from Jane Eyre, are truly chilling.  Marion is controlling and delusional, Richard seems nice, but we know he's hiding something, and the kids at Janie's new private school aren't very welcoming.  Things are pretty depressing for Janie in San Francisco until her surfboard finally arrives from Hawaii and she finds a cold, but surf-able beach.  There she meets a good looking guy from her school and they hit it off.  So maybe things are looking up for Janie?  No. Not really.

There are strange noises coming from the attic and despite investigating what it could be, she can't quite figure it out.  Nicholas, the youngest Rochester son, also creeps her out with talk of his dead twin and his strange behavior.  Things are straight up creepy at the Rochesters.

As more time goes by, Janie realizes there may be more to her will than she realized in Unearthly Things.  What could the Rochesters be hiding?  What happened to Nicholas's twin?  And the arrival of the eldest Rochester son, John, who is expelled from his most recent school, also throws the family into a bigger mess than Richard Rochester can handle.

As Janie starts to put together the pieces, the suspense increases in Unearthly Things and the Gothic elements of the novel really start to come together.  This book truly had me on the edge of my seat. It seemed that Janie couldn't catch a break and was constantly being thrown into one crazy situation after another and although it seems unlikely that would happen, it does make for an entertaining read.

My only issue was the romance in Unearthly Things. I wasn't feeling it as much as I hoped, but because I focused so much on the mystery part of the novel, I didn't mind.

As far as retellings go, I really liked this version of Jane Eyre.   It was surprisingly entertaining!


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Post and Giveaway Winners (24)


Spotlight on Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko 
Waiting on Wednesday: Breathless
Book Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer




This coming week I'll be sharing my thoughts on Unearthly Things by Michelle Gagnon. It's a YA Jane Eyre retelling and it, surprisingly, kept me on the edge of my seat.  I'm also going to be blogging about authors I have met and some of my favorite book signings that I have attended. 






Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz - Thanks to Putnam
Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts - Thanks to Disney-Hyperion




The winner of the Disney Press Prize Package goes to....

Sara 

Congrats! I hope you enjoy all of the books!


Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for visiting. This meme is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Friday, March 24, 2017

If You Love Armchair Traveling


I absolutely love to travel. Before I had two little ones, I made it a point to travel as much as I could.  Obviously things have slowed down a bit for me and now most of my "traveling" is done while sitting on my favorite armchair or comfy sofa.  So, if you are like me and you love books that take you away somewhere tropical or to a beautiful European city, then check out my favorite books that feature some fantastic armchair traveling. Also, if you are interested in checking out my reviews for these books, most can be found here.


If You are Looking For A European Escapade:
(*= An absolute favorite!)


Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - Paris, France*
Wanderlost by Jen Malone - All over Europe
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch - Tuscany and Florence, Italy
The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore - Ireland*
Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts - Ireland
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - Scotland*
Ross Poldark by Winston Graham - Cornwall, England
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan - England*
Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin - Greece
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley - Scotland
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - Italian Coast*
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - Suffolk, England
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - Italy, India, and Bali
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway - Paris, France
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - England
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly - Paris, France*


An Asian Adventure:
Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse - Tokyo, Japan
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See - Shanghai, China
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden - Japan
The Tea Planter's Daughter by Dinah Jefferies - Sri Lanka


That Old Hollywood Glamour:
The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott
All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani
A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott



Somewhere Tropical and/or Beachy:
(*= An absolute favorite!)


Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm - Key West, Florida*
The Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider - Hawaii
Villa America by Liza Klaussmann - French Riviera*
Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye - Key West, Florida
A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke - Tasmania, Australia
A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn - Africa
On the Island by Tracy Garvis-Graves - Maldives*
Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck - Key West, Florida
Wanderlove by Kristin Hubbard - Various spots in Central America
Sweet Life by Mia King - Hawaii



A Fun Road Trip:
(*=An absolute favorite!)
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord - Road Trip*
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - Road Trip*

So, what are some of your favorite books that feature some excellent armchair traveling? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spotlight on Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko

Illustrated by Dan Santat
Genre: Children's Book
Pub. Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Putnam
Source: Publisher for review


Goodreads says, "Nicholas was afraid of the dark outside his door, the bushes where the giant bugs live, and the underside of manhole covers.   His dad was not afraid of anything.  Nicholas wants to be as brave as his dad, but he needs help. That s why he needs a dinosaur. After all, dinosaurs like the dark, bugs are nothing to them, and they eat manhole covers for lunch (and everything under them for dinner).  With his toy dinosaur, Nicholas can scale tall walls, swim in deep water, even score a goal against the huge goalie everyone calls Gorilla. But when the dinosaur goes missing, everything is scary again.  Luckily, his dad knows that even the bravest people can get scared, and it s okay to ask for help facing your fears. It s just guy stuff.  A family classic in the making from the dream team of Newbery Honor-winner Gennifer Choldenko and Caldecott Medal-winner Dan Santat."




In case you somehow missed it, I have a dinosaur loving preschooler, so when this book showed up on my doorstep for review, he was thrilled.  We read a lot of dinosaur books, which I have mentioned before, but Dad and the Dinosaur one is one of our favorites. 

What makes it stand out? The fact that it's so, so relatable.  It's about a young boy named Nicholas, who, like a lot of other young children, is afraid of many things.  But he doesn't let these fears stop him as he has a plastic dinosaur that he keeps in his pocket to help him be brave when tackling those big and not-so-big moments in life.  For example, Nicholas keeps his dinosaur in his pocket during all of his soccer games.  Throughout the book, we see Nicholas going through the daily motions of his life along with his dinosaur, both the plastic toy and the "bigger" dinosaur that follow him around boosting his confidence.  

But things go awry in Dad and the Dinosaur when Nicholas loses his precious dinosaur during his soccer game and he tells his dad, Big Nick, about it. They decide to go back to the soccer field to look for it and thankfully, they find his lucky dinosaur and everything is ok with the world.

I love so much about Dad and the Dinosaur. One being that the dad is a larger than life presence in his son's life, just like his lucky dinosaur. Their relationship really made me happy as his dad is there for him.  Secondly, I love that this story not only addresses fears that many young children have, but also teaches them how to overcome them and be brave.  But Nick's dad reassures his son that it's ok to be afraid and it's a natural part of life.

My son not only loved this story since it's so relatable, but I really enjoyed reading Dad and the Dinosaur to him too. It's nice to read a dinosaur story that isn't just about dinosaurs eating each other or being disruptive.  Dad and the Dinosaur is a like a fresh breath of air and not your traditional dinosaur tale, which I really appreciated.

If you have a little one in your life that is a big dinosaur fan or would appreciate a story about overcoming your fears, I encourage you to check out Dad and the Dinosaur this spring. It's one of our favorite children's books of the year.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Breathless

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

Breathless by Tara Goedjen
Pub. Date: October 10, 2017


Goodreads says, "No one knows what really happened on the beach where Roxanne Cole’s body was found, but her boyfriend, Cage, took off that night and hasn’t been seen since. Until now. One year—almost to the day—from Ro’s death, when he knocks on the door of Blue Gate Manor and asks where she is.  Cage has no memory of the past twelve months. According to him, Ro was alive only the day before. Ro’s sister Mae wouldn’t believe him, except that something’s not right. Nothing’s been right in the house since Ro died.  And then Mae finds the little green book. The one hidden in Ro’s room. It’s filled with secrets—dangerous secrets—about her family, and about Ro. And if what it says is true, then maybe, just maybe, Ro isn’t lost forever.  And maybe there are secrets better left to the dead."
I know Halloween reads are a far way off, but this one will definitely have to be part of my fall TBR list. It sounds like an edge-of-your seat Gothic and I LOVE that cover. What do you guys think?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Pages: 400
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.  Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.  When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart."





Juliet's mother is a photojournalist who spends most of the year traveling to dangerous places and taking awe-inspiring photos.  She is due to return from a trip and en route is involved in a fatal car accident leaving behind Juliet and her father.  Juliet's world, obviously, is turned upside down and instead of continuing with her hobby of taking photographs (which reminds her of her mother) and hanging out with friends, she has isolated herself and spends most of her time at her mother's grave writing her letters.  Enough time has passed and now her friends, as well as teachers, are starting to be concerned.  Enter Declan Murphy.  He's the town bad boy who has got caught driving drunk and in turn has to do community service at the cemetery mowing the lawn.  While working at the cemetery, he finds a letter on a grave and reads it.  That letter is Juliet's and he writes a short reply.  This starts an unlikely correspondence between the two and even though they don't know who is actually writing, they realize they both have a lot in common with each other.  Juliet knows that this person is from her hometown and goes to her school, so she could be passing him in the hallway everyday.  The problem is that Juliet does know Declan in real life and let's just say they did not hit it off.  Brigid Kemmerer's Letters to the Lost is one of my favorite books of the year and tugged on my heartstrings.

I really liked the character of Juliet in Letters to the Lost. My heart went out to her as she has so much to deal with at such a young age.  Her mother left a huge hole in her life and she was struggling to fill that void, especially with her dad being in his own little world.  Once Juliet starts communicating with Declan and their notes turn into emails, it started to give her a place to talk and work through her grief.  I absolutely adored Juliet and Declan's emails as it was very reminiscent of You've Got Mail, one of my favorite movies.

The dramatic irony here is that readers know the person writing to Juliet is none-other than troubled Declan Murphy.  She doesn't know this, but we do, which adds a special element to Letters to the Lost. Declan has his own issues.  He is dealing with a death in his life as well and things aren't always as they seem with him.  His home life is really hard and his mother as well as his stepfather are pretty horrible.  Writing to Juliet really helped him cope with his issues as well, but Declan slowly figures out it is Juliet he is writing to and the dynamics in their real relationship shift a bit with this new information.

But what happens when these two star-crossed lovers finally want to meet in real life?  Will Juliet be horrified to know that the person writing her is Declan, who she knows from school and really doesn't like?  But as she starts to get to know Declan in real life a bit more and realizes there is more to him than being the resident bad boy.  Declan starts to wonder if maybe he should tell her that he is the one writing her.  I love that this novel explores the fact that people are more than just their reputations and it's ok to branch out. You may surprise yourself with how much you have in common with someone even though they aren't from your normal social circle and essentially, that is what happened with Juliet.

The writing is so heartfelt in Letters to the Lost. The characters are so wonderful.  Even the secondary characters, such as Rev, are so memorable. Rev was my favorite; he is Declan's best friend and I adored him. Also, I am thrilled that he will be getting his own spin-off novel.

If you are looking for a heartfelt book to read this spring, I urge you to pick up Letters to the Lost. It may make you a bit melancholy from time to time as Juliet and Declan have to deal with so much, but ultimately, it's about hope and finding friendship and maybe even love in unexpected places.


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