Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Red Queen

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

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Pub. Date: March 26, 2015

Goodreads says, "Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army, she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a superhuman ability she didn’t know she had. Except . . . her blood is Red. To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a budding Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and Mare against her own heart."
I know this book's pub. date is far off, but I really love this book's premise. I am a huge fan of high fantasy and this one sounds pretty captivating. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When I'm Not Reading YA: Children's Book Edition (5)

Dylan, my little guy, is almost two now and is still a big fan of books. This delights me to no end, which I'm sure doesn't surprise you.  I thought I would give you an update on what we have been reading and enjoying together.  If you are interested in learning more about a book that I am showcasing, click the book's title and it will take you to its Amazon page.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker - My little guy is currently obsessed with cars and trucks.  This book is his absolute favorite. In this book, there's a bulldozer, cement truck, crane truck, excavator, and more. They all get ready for bed and it's absolutely adorable. I love the rhyming and the repetition of "Sshhhhh goodnight" which my little guy likes saying with me.

The Diggers by Margaret Wise Brown- This book isn't my favorite by any means (it's sort of strange), but my little guy loves the digger in this story since he comes to the rescue.  It's definitely fun to read a loud.

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow - This is a cute retelling of the classic song. I like the repetition and the silly pictures. My little guy laughs hysterically at the monkeys and when we get to the "No more monkeys jumping on the bed" part of the story, he shakes his little pointed finger at the monkeys scolding them.

Good Night Beach by Adam Gamble- My little guy loves to read this book after a long day at the beach. Readers say goodnight to the ocean, the sand, the sailboats, the crabs, you name it. It's a lot of fun and captures a wonderful day at the beach with your family.

Baby Penguins Everywhere! by Melissa Guion - This book is one of my favorites because adults can really appreciate the story when reading it with their little ones. It's about a mama penguin who realizes taking care of all the baby penguins is hard work and sometimes she needs some alone time to recharge, which is true of everyone, not just moms! In the end, she realizes that being together is the most fun of all though.

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss - Who doesn't love animal sounds and hearing your little one saying them? This book cracks me up, because my guy will end up participating by saying back all the sounds and noises. No one is as much fun as as Dr. Seuss.

The Fuzzy Duckling by Jane Werner Watson - This Golden book was mine when I was little and I am so glad my little guy loves it.  The little duckling is lost and explores the farm as well as the farm animals. It involves counting, which is a bonus and of course, it ends happily.  This is one of my little guy's favorites!

Starlight Sailor by James Mayhew - My little guy loves the paper boat that a little boy and his dog travel in. They explore dream lands and there are even dragons in the story! The illustrations are gorgeous and it is so imaginative. 

Sleepyhead by Karma Wilson - I feel like every kid is a fan of Karma Wilson's books. This one in particular is whimsical! It's about someone who isn't ready for bed and wants one more teddy, one more snuggle, etc. I think many toddlers can relate to this read!

Let me know what you think of the books we have been reading. Are you familiar with any of these? Do you have any recommendations for me? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

Pages: 406
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 18, 2013
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole's coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees. But what both women don't know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own."
Nicole hasn't seen her former best friend, Charlotte, in ten years.  When Nicole, a food blogger, has an opportunity to write a cook book about the local food from her beloved island off of Maine, she asks for Charlotte's help. This is because Charlotte also loves the island and she is a writer herself, jet setting off to various magazine assignments throughout the year.  They are staying at Nicole's parents' summer house and are hoping it will be like summers of the past, but Charlotte has distanced herself from Nicole over the years, not just because of her job assignments, but because of a deep secret.  A secret that she is hoping won't come out this summer.  Both girls are busy with writing their cook book, interviewing locals, and catching up.  Nicole has left her husband back in Philadelphia, as he is busy with his work, but he's also battling MS. She is hoping the time away from each other will do them good as things have been less than stellar.  Charlotte also meets a local, Leo, who captures her interest and reminds her of the protagonist of Salt, a novel both girls are reading and discussing.  Secrets unravel bit by bit in Sweet Salt Air and as both girls spend more time together, these secrets slowly float to the surface.  Sweet Salt Air is a thoughtful beach read; one that is slow moving and gentle, much like a warm tropical breeze.  

Nicole was my least favorite character in Sweet Salt Air, which surprised me since I thought a food blogger would pique my interest.  That wasn't the case. She wallowed in self-pity and claimed she wanted to work on things with her husband, but I never fully got that vibe from her.  I mean they didn't even spend the majority of the summer together and she often didn't say what she needed to say to him.  Nonetheless, I felt for her as she dealt with the secret of Julian's MS; plus, she finds out a secret about his past, one that will directly impact her world.

On the other hand, Charlotte was a fun character in Sweet Salt Air. I was drawn to her storyline a bit more as she is adventurous and fun. She's intrigued by local bad boy, Leo, and finds herself visiting his house quite often with the hopes of learning more about him as well as his mother who cultivated the island's best herb farm.  She learns more about Leo and perhaps he isn't just a bad boy…perhaps there's more to him than the townspeople think.  Charlotte and Leo's blossoming relationship was the best part of the story for me.

Delinsky does a good job of capturing what life is like when you are dealing with someone who is battling a disease. Julian has many doctor appointments and many important decisions to face. It played a bigger role in Sweet Salt Air than I initially thought it would. Plus, there's the fact that he hides his MS from co-workers and family members, including his own kids.  Nicole has to deal with this on a daily basis, which is very tough for her.  Things get even more complicated when Julian wants to pursue experimental procedures, which also sends Nicole for a tailspin.   

I had a few issues with Sweet Salt Air in that it was a s-l-o-w read at times and the characters, especially Nicole, marinated in the same problem or feeling for quite awhile.  She definitely fixated on things.  So, you have to be patient when reading Sweet Salt Air as the drama takes time to unravel.

If you are looking for a thoughtful beach read that focuses on friendship, secrets, and the importance of forgiveness, give Sweet Salt Air a try this summer, but if you are looking for a fast-paced beach read, I urge you to look elsewhere.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stacking the Shelves and Giveaway Winners (52)

Made For You by Melissa Marr - Thanks to HarperCollins
Island Girls by Nancy Thayer - Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Since Last Summer by Joanna Philbin - Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers

What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo by Grace Millsaps and Ryan Murphy - Thanks to Novel Novice, I won a signed copy! My little guy is going to love this book.
A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young - Thank you Novel Novice for the signed copy!
A Want So Wicked by Suzanne Young - Thanks to Novel Novice, I also won a signed copy!

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Winners of My Gently Used ARC Giveaway:

Jen B. - One Hundred Names and The Falconer
Monica R.  -  Empire Girls
Tamara  - The Killing Woods and Foreplay
Christianna - Summer on the Short Bus and The Deepest Night
Congrats! I hope you guys enjoy your books and thanks for entering my giveaway!

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, July 18, 2014

Friday Five (4)

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.  Dust Off the Shelves- Last week, I wrote about how I am epically failing my pledge to read allllll the books on my shelf in 2014.  I decided that I would aim to read one or two by the end of this summer and you guys voted that Just Listen by Sarah Dessen should be my next "oldie-but-goodie" read. I love Dessen and have read most of her books, so I am excited to pick up Just Listen soon.  Thanks for the feedback!

Source - This is the set I bought. They are perfect!
2. More Etsy Finds - I love photography and I came across this local-to-me photographer, CT Costa Photography. I have been on the hunt for black and white photographs of shore birds for almost a year, specifically sand pipers. (My bathroom has a shore bird vibe to it.)  I can never seem to capture the birds just the way I want to, but Chris Costa definitely did. Check out his gorgeous photography here. I love all of his beach scenes, too!

3.  Across the Way - I am obsessed with this store in Cape May and Stone Harbor, New Jersey. I have been going to the Cape May location for a few years now and have found really great artwork for my son's room, our kitchen, and even a few unique pieces for our house (antique-ish large skeleton keys!). I just love their stuff. You can even order some of their items online. Check it out, especially if you like one-of-a-kind pieces.

I go crazy for cherries in the summer. Obsessed.
4.  Farmers Market - I have been trying to eat more locally grown fruit and veggies this summer. We usually hit up a lot of the farms down the shore, but I recently tried out the Farmers Market that is walking distance from my house (duh, why didn't I go sooner?) and I loved it.  There's nothing better than fresh fruit in the summer. 

5. Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs- Guys, why am I just seeing this now? I knew these two fabulous authors got married, but I somehow missed the pictures they posted. Their bookish wedding is stunning. I had to wipe the drool from my mouth. Perfection, right?

Happy Friday,

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Q&A with Katherine Longshore and Courted Giveaway

Guys, I am SO, SO excited to have Katherine Longshore on the blog today. She is absolutely one of my favorite young adult authors and I am a huge fan of her books Gilt, Tarnish and Brazen. I have reviewed all of them here on the blog and LOVED all three! If you enjoy historical reads, you must pick up her books.  Thanks to Penguin, I was able to ask Katherine a few questions and participate in the Midsummer Romance Blog Tour. Plus, I am hosting a giveaway for the recently published Courted, which includes both her novels Gilt and Tarnish.

Mary Howard was such a compelling protagonist in Brazen. What initially sparked your interest in her?
Katherine Longshore
I think I’m attracted to tragedy.  Romeo & Juliet was never my favorite Shakespeare play, but there is something about the star-crossed lovers narrative that I still find fascinating.  What cemented it for me was that historically, Mary didn’t let tragedy destroy her.  She fought to have her own title, her own money, her own life, which was virtually unheard of for a woman in the Tudor age.  You can believe that she lived that life sad and alone, or you can believe that she relished every minute of it, but no matter what you believe, she accomplished it, which in its own right is worthy of celebrating.  I just chose to celebrate it in fiction.

You bring such a fresh perspective to the Tudors.  What do you think makes the Tudors so captivating after all of these years?
I wonder if it’s because there’s something about Tudor history that appeals to an infinite variety of popular story genres.  Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard wrote poetry firmly rooted in Henry’s court, Shakespeare wrote one of his history plays (Henry VIII) based on the king’s early relationships, Donizetti penned an opera about Anne Boleyn in 1830 (and Mary, Queen of Scots in 1834), the craze for historical biography seized the Tudors in the late Victorian era.  And the Tudor themes are similar to those of soap opera, tragic drama and romantic comedy, all of which have been popular on TV and at the movies for the past fifty years.  There’s also something very much like reality TV about them—if Henry was around today, I’m sure his wives would be starring in The Real Housewives of the Tudor Court and gracing the covers of the magazines at the grocery store checkout counter.

I find Anne Boleyn to be an extremely interesting person in history and I loved how you portrayed her in Brazen. If you could sit down with her, what would you ask her?

I would love to know if she really loved Henry, but that’s a very personal question to ask someone you’ve just met.  So I suppose, if I had the chance to chat, I’d like to know what and how she thinks—about the court, about the political and religious atmosphere of the day, and about the people around her in her daily life.  I’d love to ask her about her sister-in-law, Jane Boleyn, and watch her carefully when she answered.  And it would be fun to ask her about her interests and hobbies—the things that aren’t necessarily written down in contemporary documents.  What was her favorite song, what foods did she crave, what did she think about when she daydreamed?  And if someone were to write a book about her, what did she think her character would be like?
Madge was one of my favorite characters in Brazen. She seemed like so much fun! Like any friendship, Mary and Madge had their ups and downs and I felt that you portrayed their friendship realistically. What can you tell me about her? Was she based on a real person?
Madge is absolutely based on a real person (or possibly people)—a cousin of Anne Boleyn.  Some of my research for Brazen revolved around an actual document called the Devonshire Manuscript—a book bound in leather stamped with the initials M.F. (Mary Fitzroy) and containing poetry and notes written by several different hands, including Mary (Madge) Shelton and Margaret Douglas.  Inspired by this idea of a literary brat pack in the Tudor court, I made these three girls fast friends.  

Madge is the most ambiguous, historically.  Because documentation is patchy, historians disagree about whether there were two sisters (Mary and Margaret Shelton) or just one girl (a composite Mary/Madge/Margaret), but they all agree that a Shelton contributed to the Devonshire Manuscript and many give credence to the idea that one Madge had an affair with the king.  I devoured all the stories I could find so I could pick and choose the personality traits and rumors I wanted to apply to my character.  I love her, too.
Which of Henry VIII’s wives is your favorite and why?
Anne of Cleves.  At first glance, her story could be the most tragic—wrenched away from her home and family to marry a balding, aging, ulcer-infested fat man who turns around and tells her she’s repellant.  But taking the long view, Anne’s life could actually be inspiring, and is the least tragic of all of the wives.  She raised no objection to the divorce and was rewarded with her own land, her own money, and her own status, living out her days in peace and luxury with no one telling her what to do (or calling her ugly).  A definite win.
You're having a dinner party and you can invite five people from history.  Who would they be?
This question is always so difficult for me to answer!  I tend to shy away from conflict, so I don’t want to invite anyone who would incite a riot, but I do enjoy lively discussion.  Today, I think I’d like to chat with Galileo (at the age of 13, I wanted to be an astronomer), Joan of Arc (woman warrior, activist, possibly insane), Clarence Darrow (razor-sharp mind and quick wit), Nellie Bly (adventurer, journalist and traveler who really did go around the world in eighty days) and I always want Dorothy Parker at my fantasy dinner table because I have a feeling she’d be able to liven things up and defuse any potential animosity with a well-timed quip.

Can you tell us anything about your next project? 
I’m currently writing a contemporary novel set in the US.  It’s fascinating to write about teenagers in a country and century where they have so much more freedom and education and privilege than they would have in the past, but still suffer from the constraints and preconceived notions of their society.  And it is so much fun to write about their travels and relationships, unrestricted by Tudor dress, marriages or modes of transportation.  I still had to do a lot of research for this book, but of a completely different sort (Google maps and YouTube, mostly!).  It’s been a real challenge, and definitely one that has kept me on my toes and helped me stretch as a writer.

I absolutely love Katherine's answers. Can we please make Real Housewives of the Tudor Court a reality?! That is a show I would definitely watch.  To learn more about Katherine Longshore, visit her website or follow her on Twitter

Thanks to Penguin, I am hosting a giveaway for Courted by Katherine Longshore, which includes Gilt and Tarnish--both fabulous books and two that I recommend.  This giveaway is open to US only, please refer to my giveaway rules and the deadline is July 27th.  Good luck!

Be sure to follow along with the rest of the blog tour for interviews with Katherine Longshore and more historical hotties!

Midsummer Romance Blog Tour Schedule:
Tuesday, July 8 – Good Books & Good Wine
Thursday, July 10 –Perpetual Page Turner
Tuesday, July 15 –Alice Marvels
Thursday, July 17 – Confessions of a Book Addict
Tuesday, July 22 – Novel Sounds
Thursday, July 24 – Starry-Eyed Revue
Tuesday, July 29 – The Midnight Garden
Thursday, July 31 – Novel Thoughts

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: On the Fence by Kasie West

Pages: 304
Genre:  YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: July 1, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "She's a tomboy. He's the boy next door… Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she's got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she's falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high. Fun, original, and endearing, On the Fence is a romantic comedy about finding yourself and finding love where you least expect."
Charlie, a self-proclaimed tom boy, lives with her police-man father and three brothers. She never turns down a pick up game and spends most of her time playing or training for sports.  That is until one day Charlie gets one too many speeding tickets and her dad decides she needs to get a summer job in order to pay them off.  While at the mall, she finds a job at a clothing store which really requires her to be outside of her comfort zone clad in fancy clothes and makeup.  As the summer progresses, Charlie finds herself talking to her neighbor, Braden, through the fence in their yard. Braden has always been like a fourth brother to her, but what if these talks lead to something more? Plus, Charlie is harboring many secrets this summer and what if they start to unravel as well? Kasie West's On the Fence is a smart young adult read that fans of contemporary romance will enjoy.

Charlie is a fun protagonist in On the Fence. I loved that she was a tom boy, but I am not going to lie, it took me awhile to warm up to her. She can be really abrasive and although I love me some brutal honesty from time to time, sometimes Charlie took it too far. Instead of being honest, she was being too mean or even socially inappropriate.  As the story continued, I warmed to her, but my initial impression of her wasn't good.

The best part of On the Fence is the relationship between Braden and Charlie. I loved their "Fence Chats" at night and I think West captured a summertime romance quite well. Both Braden and Charlie rely on their talks for more than just friendship though as both characters are dealing with so much more than just trivial teenage concerns. Also, there's something magical about talking to someone at night outside under the stars and I truly enjoyed their slowly evolving relationship and building chemistry.

On the Fence is so much more than a fluffy summertime read. It deals with the consequences of lying, familial relationships and grieving.  I will admit that I was surprised by its depth and even though I didn't connect with Charlie as much as I had hoped, I definitely plan on checking out West's novels in the future.

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