Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Five and Beach Reads Giveaway (8)

So I thought it might be fun this summer to try writing a more personal post every Friday highlighting some things going on in my life that aren't necessarily book related.  Let me know what you think!

1.  Ben Affleck and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - Did you guys see Ben Affeck's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video? Could Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner be any cuter? Probably not. How adorable is this video? And the laughing of their kids in the background is priceless.

2.  Paying it Forward - With so much depressing news in the world right now, this article about people paying it forward at a Starbucks in Florida put a smile on my face.

3.  Outlander series - Are you guys hooked on the TV show yet? What is even more mind-blowing to me is the fact that the book, over twenty years old, is now back on the New York Times Bestseller List.  Incredible! Diana Gabaldon must be in a state of disbelief.

4.  YA Books on the Big Screen - There are so many awesome books being made into movies: The Giver, If I Stay, The Fault in Our StarsMaze Runner, etc.  I also have had my eye on Lauren Kate's Fallen, which will be in theaters in 2015. Have you guys read the book? What do you think of the casting? I hope it doesn't disappoint much like Vampire Academy did.

5.  Beach Reads Giveaway- I am in complete denial that my favorite season is coming to a close soon. So, I am hosting a beach reads giveaway! I have a few gently used novels that need a good home. The books include a hardback copy of Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer, a paperback of Island Girls by Nancy Thayer, a hardback of Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook, and a paperback copy of Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky.  There will be two winners - each winner gets to pick two books and the giveaway is open to US only.  The deadline is September 1 and please refer to my giveaway rules.

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Happy Friday,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James

Pages: 400
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: August 5, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Inspired by Actual Events.  Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor—a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race—and he seems to return her interest. Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention. Unsure of her budding relationship, Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions. The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed. And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart?"
Jane Austen is a precocious fifteen year old and a very talented writer, but just like any fifteen year old, she wants to meet someone special.  The one problem is that her mother won't let her "come out" for a few more years, which really limits the possibility of meeting a young gentleman.  That is until her older brother, Edward, becomes engaged to marry a wealthy young woman from Kent named Elizabeth Bridges.  You see, Edward, although an Austen, isn't part of a their class; in fact, he is well-off and has been "adopted" by a wealthy relative and set to inherit a fortune.  When the Austen family goes to Edward's engagement celebration, which spans many weeks, Jane meets Edward Taylor whom she is not only impressed by, but she can't stop thinking about him.  While visiting the Bridges, Jane tries her hand at matchmaking as well and all the while trying to catch Edward Taylor's eye.  But can someone as wealthy and worldly as Edward fall for someone as common as Jane?  Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James is a quiet, but delightful read about young Jane Austen and her first love.  Fans of Jane Austen will be charmed by this adorable read.

I immediately liked young Jane in Jane Austen's First Love. She reminded me a bit of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice in that she was smart, outspoken, daring, and was looking for real love.  She didn't have a problem speaking her mind and had lofty goals to become a writer, although she doubted her talents.  Jane, while at Kent, tried her hand at matchmaking, which reminded me so much of Emma Woodhouse from Emma. This whole matchmaking debacle brought a smile to my face, because Austen fans know how that will turn out. Jane's relationship with her sister, Cassandra, was also heartwarming and made me think of Elizabeth and Jane from Pride and Prejudice.   Needless to say, fans of Austen will be able to make many connections to various characters and situations from the classic novels and I very much enjoyed being able to do that.

Her love interest, Edward Taylor, is a captivating character in Jane Austen's First Love.  I liked how well spoken, well traveled, and all-around talented young man he was. I could see why she was enamored with him and wouldn't expect anything less for Jane Austen.  All the while, she was wondering if he would ever "settle" for someone like her; after all, he is well-off and she doesn't have much money to offer for a dowry.  Plus, there's another young girl  (who is wealthy!) and has her eye on Edward.  Nonetheless, I was rooting for Jane and Edward from the get-go.

One aspect of Jane Austen's First Love that I struggled with was its pace. At times it was slow moving, which, I suppose, happens when it comes to the time period. James focused on various frivolous things that modern people might struggle with. What can I say? The lifestyle of Austen's time was slow and overly formal at times.  I mean it must be nice to dedicate two/three weeks to an engagement celebration!

However, being the Jane Austen fan that I am, I was glad to get over some of the slower parts and enjoy this story of young Jane. After all, Jane Austen's First Love is based on real events and I wanted SO badly for Jane to get her happy ending.  But we all know she died at a young age and as a single woman. Oh, how I wish it were different, but at least we will always have Mr. Darcy. So, if you are a fan of all things Austen, definitely check out this book to get a glimpse into young Jane's life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: This Shattered World

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

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Pub. Date: December 23, 2014

Goodreads says, " Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents. Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion. Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war. The stunning second novel in the Starbound trilogy is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war."

I absolutely loved These Broken Stars when I read it last year. It was one of my favorite books of 2013, so I am excited to check out this companion novel.   What do you guys think?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin

Pages: 352
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date:  June 4, 2013
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When seventeen-year-old Rory McShane steps off the bus in East Hampton, it's as if she's entered another universe, one populated by impossibly beautiful people wearing pressed khakis and driving expensive cars. She's signed on to be a summer errand girl for the Rules -- a wealthy family with an enormous beachfront mansion. Upon arrival, she's warned by other staff members to avoid socializing with the family, but Rory soon learns that may be easier said than done. Stifled by her friends and her family's country club scene, seventeen-year-old Isabel Rule, the youngest of the family, embarks on a breathless romance with a guy whom her parents would never approve of. It's the summer for taking chances, and Isabel is bringing Rory along for the ride. But will Rory's own summer romance jeopardize her friendship with Isabel? And, after long-hidden family secrets surface, will the Rules' picture-perfect world ever be the same?"
Rory McShane decides to spend the summer at the Hamptons working for a wealthy family; it's the same wealthy family her Aunt Fee is a housekeeper for. The Hamptons is a welcome escape from her needy mother and her string of bad boyfriends that somehow find their way into their apartment.  All Rory has to do is run errands for the Rule family and in turn she gets to live in this gorgeous beach front mansion.  Rory assumes it will be smooth sailing until she meets the youngest Rule, Isabel, who is bratty, conniving and all around horrible.  However, Isabel grows as a person as the story progresses, especially when she starts a romance with a local surfer boy who shockingly isn't wealthy. Also, Rory finds herself attracted to Connor Rule, Isabel's brother, who seems, surprisingly, like a decent guy, but she knows a romance with him would be forbidden on many levels.  One thing is for sure, this summer is proving to be a crazy one for both Isabel and Rory.  Joanna Philbin's Rules of Summer is not a mind-blowing, life-altering book by any means, but it's a fun summertime escape.

Rory is the type of character that always tries to do the right thing in Rules of Summer.  I really admired her at times, especially when she was dealing with her crazy mother who depends on her way more than she should. Rory not only does well at school, but she also takes care of her deadbeat mom, pays the bills, etc.  I don't blame Rory for wanting to escape to The Hamptons and branch out a bit.  

On the other hand, Isabel was a tough character to warm up to in Rules of Summer. She's the quintessential rich brat and totally out of the set of Gossip Girl.  As she spent more time with Mike, the local surfer boy, I found myself being less irritated by her, but nonetheless, she wasn't my favorite character, even when she was nice to Rory. 

Philbin does a good job portraying the Hamptons and the lifestyle of the wealthy. It seemed like the author knew what she was talking about and then I realized she is the daughter of Regis Philbin, so perhaps she is writing from experience.  All in all, I think Philbin captured a summer in the Hamptons very well including the many shallow rich people that one may encounter especially when you are the housekeeper's niece.  

If you are looking for a summertime read that's a fun escape and has an Upstairs Downstairs vibe, check out Joanna Philbin's Rules of Summer. Even though I found it to be mostly predictable, I still enjoyed the diversion and plan to check out book two, Since Last Summer, which follows the characters to the next summer. Who can say no to another leisurely summer in the Hamptons?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Five (7)

So I thought it might be fun this summer to try writing a more personal post every Friday highlighting some things going on in my life that aren't necessarily book related.  Let me know what you think!

1.  Summer Reading Goal Update - I set a goal to read 15 particular books this summer and I have read all but three, which I think is pretty good as I tend to be a random reader. I hope to read two more from the list before summer is over. How have you guys done with your summer reading goals?

2.  Robin Williams - There are no words that will do Robin Williams or my feelings towards him justice, but I know this scene from Dead Poets Society (one of my favorite movies!) has made a big impact on my life. He was so very talented and will be sorely missed.

3.  Autumn, already? - I was at the supermarket this past Sunday and noticed something that stopped me in my tracks: fall leaves and pumpkin decorations.  Yes, that's right. It was barely mid-August and the store was decorated for fall. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some pumpkin and football, but seriously? Why must we rush through every season? It's not even Labor Day yet! The summer girl within me was sobbing.  Are they going to decorate for Christmas in October? I am tired of rushing through life. Ridiculous.

4.  The Giver movie - Anyone planning to see this movie? I love The Giver and am excited to see it being made into a movie.  I hope that the movie does this book justice. I remember when I student taught this book eleven years ago. Boys and girls alike were completely engrossed. It's such a great novel!

 Avalon, NJ - Source
5.  Beachin' It- I normally head to the beach most weekends, but it has been almost a month since I have been there (cue all the tears), thanks to being sick a lot this summer and some stormy weather. I am FINALLY going back down to the shore this weekend and I couldn't be happier. Let's hope some sun, a good book, and my little guy playing in the ocean is in the equation this weekend.

Thanks for visiting and Happy Friday,

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Island Girls by Nancy Thayer

Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 18, 2013
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Charming ladies’ man Rory Randall dies with one last trick up his sleeve: His will includes a calculating clause mandating a summer-long reunion for his daughters, all from different marriages—that is, if they hope to inherit his posh Nantucket house. Relations among the three sisters are sour thanks to long-festering jealousies, resentments, and misunderstandings. Arden, a successful television host in Boston, hasn’t been back to the island since her teenage years, when accusations of serious misbehavior led to her banishment. College professor Meg hopes to use her summer to finish a literary biography and avoid an amorous colleague. And secretive Jenny, an IT specialist, faces troubling questions about her identity while longing for her sisters’ acceptance.  To their surprise, the three young women find their newfound sisterhood easier to trust than the men who show up to complicate their lives. And if that weren’t problematic enough, their mothers descend on the island. When yet another visitor drops by the house with shocking news, the past comes screaming back with a vengeance. Having all the women from his life under his seaside roof—and overseeing the subsequent drama of that perfect storm—Rory Randall might just be enjoying a hearty laugh from above."
Rory Randall is a bit of bit of a womanizer; he has married three times and has two daughters from different wives and an adopted daughter.  He died unexpectedly and in his will he states that he will give his Nantucket home to his three daughters under one condition: they must live there together for one summer.  The problem is the three sisters don't necessarily get along, thanks to some drama that occurred there as children involving Rory's third wife.  Rory's first daughter, Arden, was a bit of a wild child back in the day, but is now a semi-famous local TV show host.  Arden's half-sister, Meg, is bookish and teaches at the local community college.  The last daughter, Jenny, whom Rory adopted, lives on Nantucket as a computer specialist and is especially nervous about a summer together with her stepsisters since it's her mother who made it so Arden and Meg couldn't visit their father on Nantucket anymore. All three girls are thirty-something now and should be able to get along; however, it proves to be a life-changing summer for the sisters in Nancy Thayer's Island Girls.

When you read a book with three main characters, you can't help but be interested in one woman's story more than another and that was most definitely the case in Island Girls.  I liked how Arden was ambitious and even though she has been dealt a bad hand at work, she still tries to prove herself. Even when she is "vacationing" in Nantucket, she is still thinking of her job and researching for future shows.  The character I connected the most with was bookish, Meg, obviously. I wasn't a big fan of her lack of confidence, but I liked that she was overall a decent person and was writing a book.  Lastly, Jenny was an overall interesting character, especially when it came to understanding her backstory as Jenny doesn't know who her biological father is.

While on Nantucket, all three women learn more about themselves, about their sisters, and about love.  All three girls are involved in a romantic relationship by the novel's end and of course, there are some family secrets that rise to the surface in Island Girls.  Plus, things get even more complicated when all three women's mothers come to the island for the night. Cue the drama.

Thayer did a great job of capturing summer on the beautiful island of Nantucket. I loved reading about their cocktails outside on the patio, the fancy dinners, their gorgeous beach house and warm summer nights under the stars.  There's no doubt in my mind that Thayer really knows her sense of place in Island Girls.

My only complaint about this beach read was the fact that important events, such as their father's untimely death, were sort of glossed over except for one scene involving a little bit of mourning.  But I guess that is what readers come to expect in a beach read….not a lot of depth or character development and more summertime fun.  There were also some coincidences that I had a hard time swallowing, but all in all, I had fun following the three sisters' summer in Island Girls.  

So, if you are looking for a fluffy beach read with not a lot of depth (and sometimes that is what you need on vacation!), Nancy Thayer's Island Girls fits the bill.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Start of Me and You

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

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Pub. Date: March 31, 2015

Goodreads says, "It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live? Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances."

Guys, I loved Open Road Summer  (one of my favorite books of the year!) and am excited to get my hands on a copy of her next book. Plus, that cover is perfection. What do you guys think?

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