Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall TBR List

This week we are sharing our fall reading lists. I always love cozying up with a good story in the fall; I hope these books don't disappoint! As always, I think I have a nice mix of adult fiction and YA fiction. This meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

For Review:
1.  The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore - I love historical fiction, especially when it takes place in Ireland. 

2.  The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies - I love the exotic setting of this novel and many people are saying fans of Gothic romances will enjoy this one. I will be hosting a giveaway for this novel as well.

3.  Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz - Although de la Cruz has been hit or miss for me in the past, I am intrigued by the focus on immigration and the issues that many people face. This one feels like a timely read for sure.

4.  A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray - Gray is actually a pseudonym for Beatriz Williams and I will read anything she writes. 

5.  Yesternight by Cat Winters - Winters's novels have been hit or miss for me in the past, but I love the sound of this mystery. It seems perfect for the fall. 

6.  This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills - I loved First & Then, Mills's debut novel, so I am excited to check out this contemporary read. 

7.  The Amateurs by Sara Shepard - You can't go wrong with Shepard and I am always in the mood for a good mystery, especially in the fall. 

For Pleasure:
1.  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - I really, really need to read this one.  I was disappointed by Moriarty's latest novel that was just published this summer and everyone said to read this novel next as it won't disappoint. 

2.  The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon - Her novels take me forever to read, but I really want read another book in the Outlander series before the year is over.  

3.  An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - I feel like I am the last person on the planet to have read this novel. I hope to finally bite the bullet! 

And if I am ahead of my reading schedule, which I seriously doubt, (but If I am!), I would love to get caught up on the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer and The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. 

So, what books do you guys plan to read this fall? Have you read any of the book on my list? Let me know your thoughts.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Pages: 388
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Putnam
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.  Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?  Inspired by A Thousand and One NightsThe Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end."
Shahrzad, or Shazi, is out for revenge. Her cousin ends up being one of the king's latest victims. You see Khalid, the king, is known to take a new bride and then kill them after one night together, which is what happened to Shazi's cousin.  So, Shazi is set on revenge and sacrifices herself as the king's next bride.  She even ends the safe betrothal that she had with her childhood friend.  Shazi is determined to stay alive and in order to do so, she tells tales to her "husband" to keep him interested and not kill her off in the morning. Surprisingly, it is working and she comes to realize that there's more to Khalid than she originally thought. Maybe he isn't the monster everyone painted him to be? Could she actually be harboring feelings for him? What is really going on Khalid's palace? Renee Ahdieh's The Wrath and the Dawn is inspired by the classic tale, A Thousand and One Nights. Although it was slow to start, it's a dark, edge-of-your-seat read with a luscious setting.

Shazi is an intriguing character.  She is completely reckless though, but I guess that is what makes her entirely interesting in The Wrath and the Dawn.  She understands how to navigate in a dangerous court and how to keep the king interested, which in turn, saves her life.  Khalid, on the other hand, took me sometime to warm up to, but I think that's the point.  I liked how Shazi tried to figure him out slowly and readers know that there's more to him than just his reputation.  

Even though this novel is being billed as a YA fantasy, I definitely felt it was light on the "magic" side and I wish there was more of it in The Wrath and the Dawn.  However,  my favorite aspect of the novel was Ahdieh's ability to paint a vivid tale. Her descriptions were beautiful. The silks, the jewels, and the gorgeous Middle Eastern setting all added to my enjoyment of the novel.  So, needless to say, the world building was fantastic despite the fact that it was light on fantasy elements.

My only issue with The Wrath and the Dawn was the fact that I recently read A Thousand Nights, another A Thousand and One Nights retelling, which sort of took away from my experience with this novel as they were very similar. Although I feel this version is better and has well done cliffhangers, it still felt a little too familiar for me. I wish I had read this version first!  Nonetheless, Ahdieh leaves us with an epic cliffhanger, and thankfully book two, The Rose and the Dagger, just came out this year!

Friday, September 23, 2016

When I'm Not Reading YA: Children's Book Edition (10)

Now that my son is four, we are branching out to some more mature reads and I'm absolutely loving that! There are so many awesome children's books out there. My other son is just starting to be interested in books and loves to look at the pictures. Here are our some of our latest favorites:


Pete the Cat: Pete's Big Lunch by James Dean - Who doesn't love Pete? Recently, we have started reading the beginning reader books and Pete the Cat is a great place to start. We enjoy all of the books in this series, especially this one since it focuses on sharing with friends.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson - This rhyming tale is one of our recent favorites.  My little guy loves this made-up monster. We have even watched the Gruffalo cartoon which is the a fun companion to the book.

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry - You can't go wrong with this classic book. We love checking out all the fun cars and searching for Goldbug on every page.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff - This books is one of the most read in my house.  The mouse is too cute and we love all the crazy things he does. The other books in this series, If You Give a Pig a Pancake and If You Give a Moose a Muffin, are just as cute.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss - There really isn't a plot to this classic book, but we love the rhyming words and the nonsense creatures.

Look Inside My Body by Louie Stowell - We love Usborne books in our house and this one is a favorite. If you know a child that is curious about how the body works, they will love this book. The flaps with questions and answers only add to the enjoyment.

Animal Stories for Bedtime by Susanna Davidson - This is another Usborne book and it's perfect for shared reading. Many of the stories are from Aesop's Fables and as well as folklore.  It's perfect for bedtime.

C is For Castle: A Medieval Alphabet by Greg Paprocki - My son is really into castles, dragons, and knights.  This book is so much fun as it not only reviews the alphabet, which is important for pre-schoolers, but it identifies so many interesting things from the time period.

Board Books:

Baby's Very First Noisy Book: Farm by Stella Baggott - My five month old loves the pictures and the sounds that go along with this book.  It's definitely a favorite and my oldest likes to "read" it to him.

Duck and Goose, How Are You Feeling? By Tad Hills - We have a few of the "older" Duck and Goose books, but this adorable board book is perfect for babies and preschoolers alike. It identifies feelings, which is so important.

A Christmas Carol: A Baby Lit Colors Primer by Jennifer Adams - A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite novels, so I love that this board book incorporates famous characters from the classic while reviewing colors.

Tickle Time! by Sandra Boynton - This is my littlest's favorite book. It's not only super cute, but it get him laughing every time.  Boynton's books are the best.

What are some of your favorite books to share with babies as well as pre-schoolers? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Hachette
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Meet Abbey Lahey . . .   Overworked mom. Underappreciated publicist. Frazzled wife of an out-of-work landscaper. A woman desperately in need of a vacation from life--and who is about to get one, thanks to an unexpected tumble down a Nordstrom escalator.  Meet Abbey van Holt . . .   The woman whose life Abbey suddenly finds herself inhabiting when she wakes up. Married to handsome congressional candidate Alex van Holt. Living in a lavish penthouse. Wearing ball gowns and being feted by the crème of Philadelphia society. Luxuriating in the kind of fourteen-karat lifestyle she's only read about in the pages of Town & Country.  The woman Abbey might have been . . . if she had said yes to a date with Alex van Holt all those years ago.   In the tradition of the romantic comedy Sliding Doors and Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World, Leigh Himes's irresistible debut novel tells the funny and touching story of an ordinary woman offered an extraordinary opportunity to reboot her life, explore the road not taken, and ultimately, find her true self--whoever that may be."

Abbey Lahey lives in a quaint suburban town outside of Philadelphia.  She's overworked and under appreciated as many working mothers are and her husband, Jimmy, is a landscaper who is barely getting by. So their homelife can be a bit stressful at times, especially with two young kids in the mix.  While at Nordstrom, she decides to buy a really expensive purse as a treat for herself, but she Jimmy insists she take it back as they could really use that money.  So while returning it, she tumbles off of the escalator and takes a pretty hard fall.  When she "wakes" up, she is Abbey van Holt, wife to congressional candidate Alex van Holt and member of an old Main Line family. Abbey was asked out by Alex many years ago and she turned him down, which sometimes she regrets.  Now she is married to him and living a life that is drastically different than what she is used to.  As Abbey spends more time rubbing elbows with Philadelphia high society, she realizes that living her dream life isn't exactly everything she thought it would be despite the fact that there's glittering diamonds, a perfect penthouse, loads of money, and even a fit version of herself.  The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes is a fun debut novel that questions the paths we take in life and begs us to say, "what if?"

Abbey Lahey is the type of mom we can all relate to in The One That Got Away. She carries an extra ten pounds, she is a bit frazzled, and is spread too thin between her job and taking care of her two kids. Her husband, while he has the best intentions, is pre-occupied with his landscaping company and unfortunately, the company is struggling. This all adds extra stress to their lives.  When Abbey cracks open the latest edition of Town and Country and sees Alex on its glossy pages looking perfect, she can't help but ask herself what if?  What if she took that date with him many years ago? What would her life look like now?

The concept of living your life as yourself, but in an alternate version of reality is a fun concept that is explored in The One That Got Away.  When Abbey wakes up after her accident as a van Holt and is catapulted into a luxurious Main Line life, I was definitely intrigued. I mean who hasn't thought about life as someone that has a ton of money and the best of everything? I'm sure we all have, but I know things aren't always as they seem, which is what Abbey comes to realize.

My favorite aspect of The One That Got Away was the setting. I live near the suburban town that Himes describes and the local landmarks she incorporated are all familiar to me. I love when that happens in a novel!  Her descriptions of the Main Line outside of Philadelphia and its wealthy inhabitants are all on point. Himes truly gets both sides of the spectrum and illustrates to readers both the good aspects as well as the bad from both sides.

Obviously, readers are able to predict the ending of The One That Got Away, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the journey getting there.  It was a fun beach read that I loved being lost in and found myself thinking about Abbey even when I wasn't reading the novel.  I love when that happens and I look forward to reading more of Himes's work in the future.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Hunted

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

Hunted by Meagan Spooner
Pub. Date: March 14, 2017

Goodreads says, "Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.   So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.   Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?"

I love Beauty and the Beast, so I have high hopes for this retelling. What do you guys think?


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It's Not You, It's Me (19)

It's not you, it's me."  Some books just don't work for me, whereas other readers may have really enjoyed them.  This feature will be showcasing books that I never finished or reviewed; you know…...the dreaded DNF.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Goodreads says, "Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Bloodwill devour her latest novel, a dark and inventive fantasy about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen.   In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.  But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose...it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.  The last queen standing gets the crown."

My Thoughts:
Guys, I know there have been some awesome reviews for this novel, but I couldn't handle the first fifty pages. It just seemed a bit too dark for me.  A bit too violent. I don't read the horror genre at all, so I definitely wasn't in the mood for this novel. I hear that there's a strong female protagonist and I love that, so I am a bit bummed this novel didn't work for me.

The Graces by Laure Eve 

My Thoughts: 
I read about fifty pages of this novel and I hate to be mean, but it felt like Twilight fan fiction.  There's this family that people think are witches and they are so cool.  The main character is essentially obsessed with them and wants to be accepted by them.  Honestly, I was expecting Edward Cullen, as a wizard, to walk through the pages.  Unfortunately, this book just wasn't for me.

What do you guys think? Have you read these books? Let me know your thoughts. What's the latest book that you added to your did-not-finish pile?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book Review: The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen

Pages: 368
Genre: YA Reastlic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Liz Grant is about to have the summer of her life. She and her friend MacKenzie are getting invited to all the best parties, and with any luck, Innis Taylor, the most gorgeous guy in Bonneville, will be her boyfriend before the Fourth of July.   Local teen convict released early.  Jason Sullivan wasn’t supposed to come back from juvie. A million years ago, he was her best friend, but that was before he ditched her for a different crowd. Before he attacked Innis’s older brother, leaving Skip’s face burned and their town in shock.   “Everything is not what you think.”  Liz always found it hard to believe what they said about Jason, but all of Bonneville thinks he’s dangerous. If word gets out she’s seeing him, she could lose everything. But what if there’s more to that horrible night than she knows? And how many more people will get hurt when the truth finally comes out?  “You’re the one person who believes in me.”  Leah Konen’s southern romance swelters with passion as it explores the devastating crush of lies, the delicate balance of power and perception, and one girl’s journey to find herself while uncovering the secrets of so many others." 

Liz and Jason grew up next door to each other and were best friends.  They did everything together, but as they grew up, Jason became popular and Liz, well, wasn't.  He ended up going to juvie for committing a crime and since then, she has forgotten all about her former best friend.  Now Liz is what you would call a "cool girl" at school. She is even dating Innis, the hottest guy at school, and  the only time she thinks of Jason is when she looks next door at his abandoned house.  This all changes when Jason is let out of juvie early and shows up back in her life.  He wants to be friends again, but how could Liz be friends with him after all he did? Plus, her parents despise him and so does her older sister.  But no one can deny all the memories they share together as former best friends. She wants to forget about him, but she can't.  Leah Konen's The Last Time We Were Us is an entertaining beach read for young adults. Although it has its flaws, I was genuinely interested in Liz's journey.

I enjoyed the main character of Liz in The Last Time We Were Us; I could definitely empathize with her. She wants to be a popular girl for once and fit in much like her older sister.  But when Jason returns, it throws her for a loop.  Plus, Innis is showing her some attention and she wonders if she is actually dating him? It's hard for her to navigate their relationship, especially when she has her mother pressuring her.  Then there's the pressure from her older sister who is planning her wedding. Liz is the maid of honor and things start to get a little bumpy between the two when her sister hears that she is hanging out with Jason again, which her sister is completely against.  I could sympathize with Liz in that everyone is telling her what to do and has these expectations for her, but no one is asking her what she truly wants.

The southern setting of The Last Time We Were Us was one of my favorite aspects of this novel. Konen depicts a small southern town very well and she illustrates how news travels quickly in town.  People in her community are expected to behave a certain way and Liz has to deal with this as well as her mother's expectations.  But what is interesting about this is what's truly behind the "perfect" southern community and the facade.  There is more to Jason's story than meets the eye. Also, Innis appears to be the perfect southern gentleman, but he isn't what he seems, along with the rest of his family.

I felt the romance was lacking a bit in The Last Time We Were Us. I didn't feel the chemistry like I wanted to, but overall, I thought it was an entertaining read. I enjoy coming-of-age tales and although the ending was a bit rushed, I needed to find out how things were going to end up for Liz as well as Jason.

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