Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Review: "Ana of California" by Andi Teran + GIVEAWAY!

Ana of California Andi Teran
Published: June 30, 2015
ISBN: 9780143126492
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Netgalley
Highly Recommended (with conditions...)

In the grand tradition of Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Andi Teran’s captivating debut novel offers a contemporary twist on a beloved classic. Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California.

When she first arrives, Ana can’t tell a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, and Emmett Garber is skeptical that this slight city girl can be any help on his farm. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might be just what they need. Ana comes to love Garber Farm, and even Emmett has to admit that her hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she might have ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong. 

My Thoughts:
I'll come out and say it: whether or not you enjoy this book is dependent completely on your expectations going into it.

This is a modern re-telling of Anne of Green Gables.  Anne-with-an-e, the spunky turn of the century orphan, has been replaced by Ana-rhymes-with-fauna, a Mexican-American foster child who was orphaned when her parents were killed in gang violence.

There, I said it.

I love Anne of Green Gables, but I also recognized going into this that I could not, and should not, expect the whimsy of Anne Shirley and her life in Avonlea to be transferred to Ana's life.  If you do expect that to happen, this book probably won't work for you.

Now, after that dire warning, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I actually loved that Teran took the framework of such a beloved classic and brought it forth into the reality of the current day.  There are some very clear parallels--Ana goes to live with a brother and sister on a farm, (although the brother is more like Marilla and the sister is more like Matthew), "the boy" insults her hair, there is a hair incident, and there is a "bosom friend". And then there are other elements that are turned a bit--and I won't go into those because I think you should read the book to find them!

There are some really dark elements in this book, which is not surprising given Ana's backstory, that have no equal in the source material.  Also, while Anne of Green Gables is sort of an age-less classic, in that it appeals to everyone from children to adults, Ana of California is very firmly in the Young Adult Genre.  Ana is a high school student and Teran brings up issues that kids today face in high school.

Ana is a dreamy and spunky girl, but not in the same way that Anne is. Ana is a fighter--she's scrappy and scared. While Anne has wonder for the world, Ana is just trying to get through the world.  But, again, Ana with Anne's wonder just would not work and would not believable for the reader.

The cast of supporting characters were interesting.  There were a few that were pretty direct translations--such as the Rachel Lynde and Josie Pye characters.  Others, however, are more of a jump.  As I've mentioned, there seemed to be a bit of a gender swap with the Matthew and Marilla characters (which probably works better here).  Rye, who is the "Diana" character, still fills the role of the BFF, but her relationship with Ana is a bit more problematic.

On a final note, I also would not go into this thinking that, since you've read Anne of Green Gables, you will know how this book goes.  Trust me, it is a bit more complicated than that. But, that is really what makes it interesting.  Teran doesn't re-tell Anne of Green Gables, she recreates it.

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

The publisher, Penguin Books, has generously offered a paperback copy of Ana of California to one of my readers.  To enter this giveaway, just fill out the Rafflecopter form.  The giveaway will end at 11:59pm on 7/10 and is only open to US readers (sorry!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Book Review: "The Little Paris Bookshop" by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop Nina George
Published: June 23, 2015
ISBN: 9780553418774
Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Translation)
Source: Netgalley
Highly Recommended

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

My Thoughts:
First off, I now need to take a vacation cruising the canals of France.  There are a few different ways you can take this book and one is a travel novel--and it is quite successful in that.  Trust me, you'll feel like you are cruising along with Monsieur Perdu and his friends.

Tben, of course, there is the food.  One of the characters is a chef and the dishes he whips up will make your mouth water (and recipes are included if you want to try them yourself!).  I appreciated that the recipes were in an appendix to the book instead of sprinkled throughout, which seems to the be the style in so many books these days.

Of course, the heart of this book is not travel or food, but literature.  Like The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (a book I was reading when I started this one), this is a truly bookish book.  While I think anyone would enjoy this book, book lovers would truly "get it."  We bookish folk understand that books can be a salve for what ails us, that can treat conditions that medicine can't touch.  In short, we get Monsieur Perdu.

I loved the writing style--I'm assuming a translator was involved, but I couldn't find who that might be with my electronic copy.  However, it could be that the author translated her own work--I really don't know and haven't been able to figure out.  In any case, I will say that this book does not read like a translation.  The prose is poetic and flows nicely.  There is also (and unsurprisingly) what I would consider a "European flair" about it.  By that, I mean that it is a little more dramatic and emotional than I recall ever reading in a North American author, but I have read similar prose from European authors.  This is not a bad thing by any means--it simply adds to flavor of this novel.

The plot moves fairly steadily, although there are a few times when George seems to get stuck on one point or another.  I'm more forgiving about this in translations because, unless you read the work in its original language, you can't really be sure if this is due to the author or the translator.  Still, the book kept me interested from the first page to the last.

Another minor--and I do mean minor--gripe I have is that the title of the book doesn't represent the actual story.  Monsieur Perdu's "bookshop" is never called as such--it is referred to as a barge or as the Literary Apothecary--and it spends very little of the book in Paris and doesn't really have any ties to the city.  I can't knock George for this as the publisher frequently assigns the title (especially in translations), but the title just isn't the best.

While I would recommend this book to anyone, I would especially recommend it to my book loving friends.  And my France-loving friends.  And my travel-loving friends.  And my food-loving friends.

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June Wrap Up

Phew!  Welcome to July!

As promised, I posted very little in June.  I did do a Saturday Snapshot every week and a "It's Monday...What Are You Reading" post once or twice.  I am glad that I opted not to post reviews in June, because the month was just crazy!

For this post, I'm just going to list what I read in June and when (or if) you'll see the review.  I won't go into much more detail than that because I am planning to pick up the Monday posts again next week.

So, in June, I read:

The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison (finished 6/3, review to be posted 7/17)
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (finished 6/10, review to be posted 7/21)
Ms. Marvel #1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (finished 6/11, no review)
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (finished 6/12, review to be posted 7/23)
Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie (finished 6/13, no review but a quick recap of my thoughts can be found here)
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (FINALLY finished 6/15, no review)
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (finished 6/19, review 7/2)
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal (finished 6/25, review 7/31)
Ana of California by Andi Teran (finished 6/25, review AND GIVEAWAY 7/3)
Liberty by Garrison Keillo [audiobook] (finished 6/27, no review)
Daisy Dawson Is On Her Way by Steve Voake (finished 6/29, no review)

So, 11 books--which isn't too shabby considering how crazy June ended up being for me.

Now, a warning, July will be as busy and June was be prepared for loads of posts!  And, with that I leave you with this thought....

Friday, June 26, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - June 27

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

SO....last weekend, we went on a fun little hike and I took a bunch of pictures.  However, this week was so crazy (VBS every day and swim lessons every night) that I haven't yet had a chance to finish editing them.  This means, of course, that Alice is making yet another appearance.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - June 20

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Only one picture this week, but I simply LOVE it!  This past Wednesday was the annual family picnic for my husband's "cluster" at work.  The kids always have a fabulous time at it--I mean, there are BOUNCE HOUSES and there is nothing my son loves more than a bounce house!  In the past, the kids have always gotten elaborate face-painting done, but they had to skip that this year as they had swimming lessons that weekend.  But, they did bounce...and they did get balloon animals (well, my daughter got a balloon animal and my son got a balloon bow and arrow) and, of course, we ate...a lot.  My daughter loves cotton candy and that is one of those things she gets once, maybe twice, a she was in 7th heaven!

In other exciting news from the picnic, they always have a raffle and I have terrible luck with raffles.  BUT! This year, I won!  And, not only did I win, but I won the grand prize--a new Samsung Tablet (as of the writing of this post, I don't actually have it yet--my husband is supposed to bring it home tonight).  I was actually looking at tablets because I want to replace my kindle with one--we have an iPad, but it is more of a family tablet as they kids (and my husband) use it far more than I do and it has a keyboard case, which makes it a bit too heavy and bulky for reading.  But, THIS tablet will be my tablet--my husband is putting up a little fight on that front.  But, it is Father's Day this weekend and I'm still waiting for my Mother's Day gift, so......

Monday, June 15, 2015

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (6/15)

I didn't do a Monday post last week, simply because I had read very little that week. While this week was more successful when it came to reading, it was still crazy busy.  I keep thinking that things will calm down next week--but it never happens.  I was looking at our calendar and, MAYBE, in late July I'll have a quite week!

I did want to share this pic as I found it incredibly true...although I'm sure my husband and his 2 big screen TV's might disagree....

You know, just a little something to think about!

Now, onto my recap for the past 2 weeks...

Right Now, I'm Reading:
The Main Book:
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
This one started on my phone but earned the "main" status once I finished The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.  I loved that book and I think I'll enjoy this--but let me say this...those two books should NOT be read at the same time.  The premise of both is similar, Perdu is very much like A.J. Fikry, and their bookstore--despite one being on a small Island off Cape Cod and the other being on a barge in the Seine--sound identical.  There are a few things I read that took place in the early pages of one of those books, but I can't remember which!

The "Phone" Book:
Paper Woman by Suzanne Adair
I don't have much to say about this book right now as I just loaded it up.  I've been wanting a novel set during the Revolutionary War and it had been a while since I read a mystery, and this meets both criteria.  It's the first in a series, so I'll probably continue with it if I like this one.

The Audiobook:
Liberty by Garrison Keillor
I ended up returning the book I was listening too--it just wasn't working in audio form.  I knew that Garrison Keillor was a safe audio bet, but I wasn't sure about this story.  I'm over half way through it and I'm still not sure about it.  At this point, I'll definitely finish it, but I might just have to write it off as not his best once I'm done.

With my daughter:
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
TWO MORE CHAPTERS!  Seriously, folks, I promise you that this one will be listed as COMPLETE next week!  This book should not have taken as long as it has...the only real reason is that my husband does the bedtime routine more often than I do and we only read this when I'm on duty.

In the past 2 weeks, I finished reading:
The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison (finished 6/3, review 7/17)
This was one of those cases where the book had my attention all the way through, but I still found it problematic.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (finished 6/10, review 7/21)
This is one where fate stepped in.  This book has been near the top of my TBR list for over a year.  Yet, every time I would get ready to read it, something would come up and it would get pushed down again.  Then it showed up through one of my postal book groups so I had to read it, and I was so glad I did!

Ms. Marvel #1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (finished 6/11, no review)
Okay, here' s the thing. I know that graphic novels and comics are having a renaissance right now and I think that is great!  The problem is that I just don't enjoy reading them.  I'll admit it is all me--it's just not my style.  I liked the story with this one, but I just found it a chore to read.  Sigh.  At least I could cross another item off my challenge lists.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (finished 6/12, reveiw 7/23)
This is another one I've been wanting to read forever...and it was worth it, even with the confusion I mentioned above with The Little Paris Bookshop.  So good!

Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie (finished 6/13, no review)
This was such a fun read!  I'm really becoming a Sherman Alexie fan, but I'm going to have to pace myself with his books.  I'm not going to review this one, simply for logistical reasons.  I took my time reading it and I finished it right before it was going to be automatically returned to the library (it was a 3M download).  I tried to check it out again, but someone had had it on I couldn't refer back to it to write my review.  So here is what I thought in a nutshell: a fantastic short story collection!

So, there you I need to format this post so I can get to bed.  'Night, y'all!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - June 13

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Just a couple of pictures this week...

On Thursday, I took my kids to a local park for a play date with one of my daughter's friends.  This is a great playground, but we don't go very often as it is usually so crowded.  However, the public schools were still in session (Friday was their last day), so it was perfect.

I wish I had taken a picture of all the equipment, as it really does have some fun stuff.  As it was, my kids gravitated to anything they could climb up on....  Well, better the park than my furniture!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Talking about books on my phone--Book and Bookish Podcasts

I'll admit it...I'm a podcast addict.  I guess it stems from the fact that I need to be constantly entertained.  If I'm not reading something, I want to be watching or listening to something. And, if I'm not reading a book, I want to listen to people talking about books.  Thankfully, there is no shortage of book and bookish podcasts out there to keep my Overcast App (which I much prefer to the Apple/iTunes app....) full and happy.

I'm not going to do a "best of" post here because, well, if I don't like a podcast, I won't listen to it. So, instead, here are all the book and bookish podcasts I subscribe to...and I enjoy them all (although I will note my top 3).  If you are looking for a podcast, I would recommend any of these.

Book Podcasts
These are the shows that are directly about books and reading.

Books on the Nightstand (TOP 3!)
Hosted by Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, this is just a wonderful all-around podcast.  Both hosts work in the publishing industry, so they have insight many hosts don't.  After listening to this for a few episodes, you will start to feel that Michael and Ann are your friends..really!  It is also very nicely situated in the middle of the road as far as tone goes and it is something you can listen to in the car with your kids and not worry about anything objectionable showing up.

Overdue (TOP 3!)
This is another podcast of two people talking to each other, but with an interesting twist.  Hosted by Andrew Cunningham and Craig Getting, the hook of this show is that one of them reads a book--usually a book that is well known (the last 2 episodes were The Tenant and Wildfell Hall, followed by Outlander)--and explains it to the other.  It is kind of like English Majors in a frat house--you know, a little thought-provoking, but mostly hilarious.

The Readers
This is another one of those two people talking to each other things (if you want to start a podcast, this is apparently a good format!). This time, it is done across the Atlantic Ocean.  Simon Savidge is in England (and is appropriately opinionated) and Thomas Otto is stateside in DC.  They tend towards more serious literature, although that is not to say that they themselves are more serious.  And there are ACCENTS--well, one accent.  But, listening to a British accent will make you feel much smarter.

The Book Riot Podcasts
Okay, so people are mixed about Book Riot and I get it.  I even share in those sentiments--and those things about BR that rub people the wrong way do show up in their podcast.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, here is how I'd put it: Book Riot has an aroma of arrogance, tinged with a whiff of immaturity.  I'm not going to get deeper that that in this post, but I'd be more than happy discuss it in the comments.

But, that being said, I do listen to 3 of their podcasts (I recently removed Dear Book Nerd from my playlist--I didn't feel that the host had a great "radio voice" and I there really wasn't anything that made this show "special" for me).  I did hear that a new one was coming, hosted by Amanda Nelson, and I'm sure that one will be added to this list.  I decided to group the 3 of them together here:

All the Books
This is their newest and is hosted by Liberty Hardy and Rebecca Joines Schinsky and, basically, they spend 30 minutes a week talking about new releases.  I do like that they bring up books that are just a little off the mainstream--books that I probably would not hear about otherwise.  That being said, I'm a little wary of their recommendations.  In my experience, Book Riot recommendations that aren't widely recommended from other sources (such as The Martian or Station Eleven) tend not to work for me.  Still, I like hearing about what is hitting the shelves.

The Book Riot Podcast
So, if you want to know what is going on in the greater world of  books and publishing, this is the one for you.  Hosted by two people out of the three people pool of Jeff O'Neal, Rebecca Joines Schinsky, and Amanda Nelson (although once or twice all 3 were on...) and it covers, well, pretty much everything.  The hosts do sometimes get on their soap boxes, which is fine, and then stay there a bit too long, which is less fine, but you really won't find a better trove of information on any other podcast.

Reading Lives (TOP 3!)
Here is the gist: Jeff O'Neal talks to people about how much they like to read.  I know, that doesn't sound especially entertaining, but it is actually fascinating.  O'Neal does a fabulous job hosting this one--he asks the right questions to get the guests talking and he doesn't interject himself too much in the podcast.  Past guests include Andy Weir, Josh Hanagarne, and Celeste Ng.

Bookish Podcasts
These aren't specifically about books, or not always about books.  But, if you like books, you may like these.

A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment
Yet another podcast of two people talking to each other, but these two people happen to be Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter (two of my new faves!)  Sometimes it is about books and sometimes it is about basketball or something else.  Both of these guys are great fun, which you would know from reading either of their books (I'm currently reading books by both of them).

The News from Lake Wobegon
So, if you don't want to spend 2 hours of your weekend listening to A Prairie Home Companion just to keep up with what is going in Lake Wobegon, this one is for you.  Just the news, folks....

Stuff You Missed in History Class
This is probably the least write-ish or book-ish podcast included here, although they have had a few author interviews (most recently David McCullough) and author profiles.  But, if you are interested at all in historical fiction (or history....obviously), you'll love this podcast.  They cover some of the lesser known, but more interesting, episodes in history (this podcast has been around for a long time, and if you are looking for episodes on more famous topics, you can probably find it in the archives).

The Writer's Almanac
This is a daily podcast, which isn't that common.  However, it is only 5 minutes an episode, so it is easy to keep up with.  About half of it is a "this day in history" thing with a strong literary leaning and the other half is a poem for the day.  And it is hosted by Garrison Keillor, who has probably the best radio voice out there....

So, that is what is on my podcast playlist.  Thoughts? Suggestions? Book Riot debates?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


The hubs and I rarely go to the movie theater these days.  Between the cost of movies and the cost of a babysitter, it just isn't worth it to us (especially since we have 2 large screen TV's on which we can watch movies if we're just a little patient.)

That being said, I can tell you now where I'll be the night before Thanksgiving this year...

Friday, June 5, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - June 6

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

We had planned to do a hike in the Columbia River Gorge over Memorial Day weekend.  Unfortunately, everyone else in Oregon and Southwest Washington had the same idea.  To compound matters, we decided to take a scenic route--which meant we spent the bulk of the afternoon stuck in traffic.

Once we got to the trail head, we found that the parking lot was full.  We could have parked on the side of the road, but decided to head over to the fish hatchery instead.  The kids had a great time--by that time, they were NOT in the mood to hike, so I think we made the right decision!

My daughter is trying to spot one of the sturgeon

The trout pond

Checking out the trout

I think even I could catch something in this pond!

The drinking fountain--fish style

My kids LOVED this fountain

The Columbia River Gorge, with Beacon Rock in the background