Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review: "The Virgin's Daughter" by Laura Andersen

The Virgin's Daughter Laura Andersen
Published: May 26, 2015
ISBN: 9780804179362
Genre: Alternate Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley
Recommended for those who have read Andersen's Boleyn Trilogy

Summary: 
What if Elizabeth the First, the celebrated Virgin Queen, had a daughter? For those who just can’t get enough of the scandalous Tudors, the author of the wildly popular Boleyn King series offers an enthralling new saga of the royal family, set in Elizabethan England. Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir.


Andersen explores the thrilling possibility of a Tudor heir, the daughter of Elizabeth I, in her new trilogy, a captivating continuation of the alternate history of the Tudors launched in the award-winning Boleyn King trilogy. With her originality and imagination, Andersen breathes fresh life into this ever-fascinating epoch. Peppered with realistic period-details and genuine historical figures to add dimension and texture to her captivating story, Andersen brings the seduction and glamour of the Tudor court to life in this spellbinding new novel. 

My Thoughts:
When I heard that Laura Andersen was coming out with a new trilogy, I jumped at it.  I loved her Boleyn Trilogy (The Boleyn King, The Boleyn Deceit, and The Boleyn Reckoning) and couldn't wait to see what she had in store next.  The answer: more of the same.

Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing--after all, I truly enjoyed her first trilogy.  However, this book is like the 4th book in a trilogy.  The 3 books of the Boleyn Trilogy read like a trilogy--they worked together as a whole and came to a satisfying ending.  Now, we have a continuation of the story with Dominic and Minuette's children and Elizabeth's daughter (in Andersen's alternate universe, Elizabeth was married to Philip of Spain).  Is this a problem?  Not really, except that you really need to read the original trilogy before starting this book.  Seriously.  I can't see how anyone who had not read the first 3 books would have any clue what is going on here.

On a petty side note, I feel like I have to mention the cover art.  The first three books had very nicely designed covers and I wish the designers had carried that through to this book.  Frankly, I find the cover of this book a bit tawdry.

Okay, back to the bones.  So, this book is called The Virgin's Daughter but, it isn't about Elizabeth's daughter.  Princess Anne Isabel (called Anabel), who is the daughter of Elizabeth and Philip of Spain, is a character in the book, but she is secondary at best. Instead, this book is about the oldest daughter of Dominic and Minuette, Lucette, who was born in the last book of the previous trilogy.

Lucette was a fun, if not realistic, character.  Elizabeth basically uses her as a spy, which would never have happened in the "real" Elizabethan England, but in this one--sure, why not?  Lucette is, of course, smart and beautiful--but not too smart, and I think that is what I liked most about her.  She made mistakes and she misread things.  Basically, she wasn't perfect.  She is sent to visit (er, spy) the home of her family's friend, Renaud LeClerc (a character in the first trilogy) to sniff out a possible conspiracy to assassinate Queen Elizabeth.  There she meets up with the two LeClerc brothers, who themselves are estranged.

There are a cast of supporting characters, both historical and fictional.  In this book, Andersen uses more fictional than historical characters, which is change from her first trilogy.  Among the "real" people, we have Elizabeth I, Philip of Spain, Sir Francis Walsingham, Dr. John Dee, and Mary, Queen of Scots.  The rest of the characters are of Andersen's creation, which makes this one more step removed from fact.  I say this only because some people (okay, I am one of them) are sort of sticklers for historical accuracy, so they need to keep in the forefront of their mind that this is "alternate" history.

I hope that the next two books more deeply explore the younger set in these books.  This is Lucette's book, but will the next be Anabel's or Pippa's (Lucette's younger sister, who I found very interesting)? We can only wait and see, but Andersen has set up some interesting possibilities for the coming books.

I found the plot of this book to be fast moving and fun, but Andersen's writing didn't seem quite as tight as it did in her first trilogy.  I'm willing to forgive that because I do think she has an interesting story here.  While I'm still trying to figure out if I'm reading a new trilogy or an installment of a series, I would recommend Andersen's books.  I would strongly, strongly urge any reader to start with The Boleyn King and go from there but, if you've already read her Boleyn "trilogy" and enjoyed it, this would be a "must read" for you.

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



Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: "Pieces of My Mother" by Melissa Cistaro

Pieces of My Mother Melissa Cistaro
Published: 5/1/2015
ISBN: 9781492615385
Genre: Memoir
Source: Netgalley
Recommended for readers looking for memoirs dealing with mother/daughter issues

Summary:
This provocative, poignant memoir of a daughter whose mother left her behind by choice begs the question: Are we destined to make the same mistakes as our parents?

One summer, Melissa Cistaro's mother drove off without explanation Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them?

Thirty-five years later, with children of her own, Melissa finds herself in Olympia, Washington, as her mother is dying. After decades of hiding her painful memories, she has just days to find out what happened that summer and confront the fear she could do the same to her kids. But Melissa never expects to stumble across a cache of letters her mother wrote to her but never sent, which could hold the answers she seeks.


Haunting yet ultimately uplifting, Pieces of My Mother chronicles one woman's quest to discover what drives a mother to walk away from the children she loves. Alternating between Melissa's tumultuous coming-of-age and her mother's final days, this captivating memoir reveals how our parents' choices impact our own and how we can survive those to forge our own paths. 

My Thoughts:
Oh my, where to start.  Anyone can tell from reading the summary of this book that it is going to be heart-wrenching.  I am lucky in that I can't personally relate to Cistaro's story, yet I was still deeply affected by this book.  I can only imagine how someone who can relate to Cistaro's story would experience this.

I enjoyed Cistaro's writing quite a bit and she wasn't afraid to go all in.  I suspect it can be hard to articulate the feelings that Cistaro had to go through in her life and I applaud her for that.  In fact, this book reminds me of another well-known memoir of a woman coming to terms with her mother's death and I think readers of that novel (you know what book I'm talking about!) may be interested in this book.

I will admit, though, that I did have some problems with the pacing of this book  I felt that Cistaro did a fabulous job of digging deep and explaining her feelings, but I also felt that most of this book was stuck in neutral.  I never felt that Cistaro was getting closer to making peace with her feelings about her mother until, well, she had made peace. I wish that there had been more of a forward-motion in the narrative throughout the book.

Would I recommend this book to others?  Yes, although not universally.  I don't think this is a book for just anyone and a reader needs to be in a certain "head space" for it.  But, for some, this is an excellent memoir.

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



Pieces of My Mother: A Memoir
by Melissa Cistaro
Powells.com

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Audiobook Review: "No Land's Man" by Aasif Mandvi

No Land's Man Aasif Mandvi, read by Aasif Mandvi
Published: November 4, 2014
ISBN: 9781452107912
Genre: Memoir / Humor
Source: Audible
Highly Recommended

Summary:
If you're an Indo-Muslim-British-American actor who has spent more time in bars than mosques over the past few decades, turns out it's a little tough to explain who you are or where you are from. In No Land's Man Aasif Mandvi explores this and other conundrums through stories about his family, ambition, desire, and culture that range from dealing with his brunch-obsessed father, to being a high-school-age Michael Jackson impersonator, to joining a Bible study group in order to seduce a nice Christian girl, to improbably becoming America's favorite Muslim/Indian/Arab/Brown/Doctor correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.


This is a book filled with passion, discovery, and humor. Mandvi hilariously and poignantly describes a journey that will resonate with anyone who has had to navigate his or her way in the murky space between lands. Or anyone who really loves brunch.

My Thoughts:
The Humorous Memoir genre is my favorite when it comes to audio books and I have almost universal good luck with them.  So, I went into No Land's Man expecting to really enjoy it.  After all, it promised to be funny and I've always enjoyed Aasif Mandvi on The Daily Show (for the record, Mandvi was my vote to replace Jon Stewart).

What I didn't expect is how profound this book could be.  Yes, there are some purely fun moments and it dips now and then into potty humor (which I am not against!), but there are also essays on identity and belonging and family that are far more deeply written than anything I have ever read in other (more highly-hyped) books in this vein.

This book is not just a collection of funny stories--it is Mandvi's quest to define himself. He doesn't fit into any of the niches we have - he was born in India, but isn't "Indian" as we know it; he was raised in England, but doesn't look English; he was raised Muslim, but doesn't act like any Muslim most Americans would recognize.  He battles the expectations put on him by his family and by society and, in the midst of this, blazes his own trail.

This memoir differs from other such memoirs (for example, Yes, Please and Bossypants) because very little of it deals with his life once he "makes it." He doesn't talk about The Daily Show until the last chapter of the book.  There are a few chapters talking about his days before making it big, but most of the book is about his experiences growing up as an East Asian immigrant, first in the north of England and then in Tampa, Florida.

I will say this is probably the best written book in this genre that I've read.  His essay dealing with profanity is one of the best I've read on the subject (strangely, I have read more than a few essays on profanity).  There is also an essay in the middle of the book--because I listened to this book, I can't go back and find the title--that is just beautiful.  It talks about his parents coming to Bradford and settling--both with each other and in this new land.  If I had any complaints about this book, it would only be that that this particular essay would have been more effective as a closing essay than buried in the middle of the book.

I really can't recommend this book highly enough.  I could barely stop listening to it (which meant that I was hitting the gym whenever possible--that alone is pretty impressing) and it made me both laugh and think.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.


No Land's Man
by Aasif Mandvi
Powells.com

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: "Under the Same Blue Sky" by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Under the Same Blue Sky Pamela Schoenewaldt
Published: May 5, 2015
ISBN: 9780062326638
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Recommended for readers looking for WWI stories from the American side

Summary:
A shopkeeper's daughter, Hazel Renner lives in the shadows of the Pittsburgh steel mills. She dreams of adventure, even as her immigrant parents push her toward a staid career. But in 1914, war seizes Europe and all their ambitions crumble. German-Americans are suddenly the enemy, "the Huns." Hazel herself is an outsider in her own home when she learns the truth of her birth.

Desperate for escape, Hazel takes a teaching job in a seemingly tranquil farming community. But the idyll is cracked when she acquires a mysterious healing power--a gift that becomes a curse as the locals' relentless demand for "miracles" leads to tragedy.


Hazel, determined to find answers, traces her own history back to a modern-day castle that could hold the truth about her past. There Hazel befriends the exiled, enigmatic German baron and forges a bond with the young gardener, Tom. But as America is shattered by war and Tom returns battered by shell-shock, Hazel's healing talents alone will not be enough to protect those close to her, or to safeguard her dreams of love and belonging. She must reach inside to discover that sometimes the truth is not so far away, that the simplest of things can lead to the extraordinary.

My Thoughts:
Folks, I'm scratching my head over this one.  There are definitely some wonderful things about this book, and I enjoyed the experience of reading it, but there were issues that I just can't overlook.

I'll start with the positive.  This is my second book by Pamela Schoenewaldt (Swimming in the Moon was the first) and, once again, I was drawn in by the language in this book.  It is not overly verbose, but the prose is still lovely and completely readable.

I was immediately attracted to Hazel as a character.  She is a young woman very much at a crossroads in her life.  As is typical among young people of that age, she is restless and then she discovers a family secret that leads her to question her life as she knows it.  I liked that while Hazel was a proactive character, Shoenewaldt still gave her time to process these things that go on in her life.

The real draw for me with this book is how well Schoenewaldt draws America during World War I.  I've read a fair amount of WWI fiction, but I think it was all from a European viewpoint.  The United States had a unique experience with the war--while we didn't join in until late in the game, the war was fought by citizens on the streets of America.  Schoenewaldt captures this expertly and, for that alone, I would recommend this book.

But, as I said, there were things that just didn't work.  My biggest problem is that it seemed like Schoenewaldt took 3 passes at this before settling on a plot, but the first 2 possible plots are still included, but never finished.  The first of these is Hazel's family secret, which is introduced, ignored for a bit, and then brought up briefly before being dropped for the rest of the book.  The second story line involves some magic realism.  It is not that I don't like magic realism--I actually quite like it when done well--but I do believe that it is something that an author needs to commit to and carry through the entire work.  Schoenewaldt does not do this.  It happens in only one part of the book and then is dropped again.  Throughout the rest of this book, I kept hoping I'd see a return, or at least an explanation, of the magic realism, but it never happened.  Because of this, I felt like I was reading 3 distinct stories (or 2 beginnings of stories and one complete story) instead of one cohesive novel.

I really think that a but more editing and the removal of "story stumps" would have greatly improved this novel.  But, I cannot discount the beautiful language and Schoenewaldt's description of WWI-era America.  Even with its flaws, I would still recommend this book.

About the Author:
Pamela Schoenewaldt lived for ten years in a small town outside Naples, Italy. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy, and the United States. She now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her husband, Maurizio Conti, a physicist, and Jesse, their dog.

Find out more about Pamela at her website, keep up with her on her blog, and connect with her on Facebook.

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


Want to read more?  Please check out some of the other stops on this book tour (links go to the blogs, not the specific reviews):

Wednesday, May 6th: Staircase Wit
Wednesday, May 13th: Kritters Ramblings
Friday, May 15th: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, May 18th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, May 19th: Raven Haired Girl
Wednesday, May 20th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, May 21st: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Thursday, May 28th: Seaside Book Nook
Thursday, May 28th: Silver’s Reviews
Monday, June 1st: Lavish Bookshelf
Monday, June 8th: Mom’s Small Victories


  
Under the Same Blue Sky
by Pamela Schoenewaldt
Powells.com

Sunday, May 24, 2015

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (5/25)

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!  We are a little past the midpoint of the holiday weekend right now and it has been quite nice.  My brother-in-law is visiting, which the kids are LOVING, and we've been out and about.  Yesterday, we went down for a walk a state park that I had not visited in quite some time (and my husband had never visited), which was fun.  It was surprisingly uncrowded and peaceful.  I'll have pictures out in next week's Saturday Snapshot post.

Today, we had planned a hike in the Gorge but, well, things did not go quite as planned.  We made a change of plans and took the kids to the Fish Hatchery near Bonneville Dam instead, and they had a great time.  Yes, pictures of that will be coming soon as well.

Anyway, onto the business at hand....



Last week on the blog, I posted:
Tuesday, May 19 - Book Review: It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane
Thursday, May 21 - Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir
Saturdsay, May 23 - Saturday Snapshot

Right now, I'm reading:
The Main Book:
The Virgin's Daughter by Laura Andersen
When I saw this book was coming out, I jumped over to Netgalley and requested a copy.  I loved Andersen's Boleyn "trilogy."  I put that in quotes, because this is kind of like the 4th book in the trilogy.  I'm enjoying getting to know the new characters (historical and fictional!) in this book.

The "Phone" Book:
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Usually, my "phone" books are ones I read just for fun, but this one is for next month's book club.  I love that it is set in Oregon, but I wish Forman would just bite the bullet and say that Mia is from Salem so I can count it as my "A book that is set in your hometown" in my PopSugar challenge.

The Short Story Collection
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman
For a long time, the only way I could check eBooks out of the library was through overdrive, which was about as fun as having a lobster perform your pelvic exam.  Recently, our library added the 3M Cloud service, which is about 100,000,000 times better. Plus, not many people use it, so the hold lists are much, much shorter. This was the first title I checked out that way and it is working great.  I have to read 3M books either on my iPad or my phone, neither of which are really my choice (I already read light kindle books on my phone and my iPad is big and bulky) so, when the time comes that my Kindle paperwhite dies (and they always do), I think I'm going to upgrade to a Kindle Fire so I can load the app up on that.

The Audiobook:
The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet by Dara-Lynn Weiss
I technically haven't started this yet, but I will at my next workout session.  I've had good luck with my past 2 books when I used them as gym-bait, so I'm hoping the extra dose of a health-related a topic will make it 3 for 3.

The "Daughter" Book:
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Sigh, yes.  Still.  I guess I'd better take over the bedtime duties again because, obviously, we aren't making any progress the way we're going now.










Last week, I finished reading:
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Audiobook)
Well, what is there to say about this?  I'm one of those people who doesn't do especially well listening to novels in audio form but, since I had previously read this one (numerous times), audio was a good choice.  Sissy Spacek was the perfect narrator for this book.  If you are planning to reread To Kill a Mockingbird before Go Set a Watchman, but don't know how to fit it into your schedule, this is a good option.

Under the Same Blue Sky by Pamela Schoenewaldt (review to be posted 5/26)
For some reason, the publishers sent me 2 ARCs for this book.  I'm not quite sure why that happened but, once I give the copy I did read to my mother, I'll still have another one hanging  around.  I may do a used ARC giveaway later in the summer and, if I do, this title will be included.

The Sweet Spot by Laura Drake
This was part of my romance experiment.  I still can't say that I enjoy romance novels, but I did enjoy this one.  It was better written than most, it didn't have any of the usual tropes, and it did not contain what my mother would call "a biology lesson."  I'm not going to review it,  mostly because I felt I needed to excuse myself from reviewing romance novels in order to read them with a less-critical eye.

No Land's Man by Aasif Mandvi (Audiobook) (review to be posted 5/27)
I don't want to say to much about this book here because I won't be able to stop gushing about it and I still have to write the review.  I expected to really enjoy this book.  I did not expect to love it....









So, that's what is going on in this corner of the world.  What are you reading?



Friday, May 22, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - May 23

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.

Last week, I had "before" pictures for you....this week, I have an "after" picture and a "before" picture.

Lets start with the AFTER pic....our neighbor found the key to our gate, so my husband was able to get the lawnmower back there.  I spent the most of last Sunday pulling weeds (and I'm still feeling it).  It's not an English Garden, but it is a heck of a lot better than it was a week ago.


Now, the BEFORE pic.  This is our side yard...as you can see, the raspberries have taken over and the garden boxes are in need of some work.  My husband needs to cut the berries way back anyway as we have to have our house painted this year.  We're only planning on putting pumpkins in this year, but we need to get rid of the massive mint plant--my husband is very proud of that plant, but we NEVER use mint in anything. The composter isn't going anywhere, but we probably should do something with its contents as it is full to the brim!


I won't have an after pic of this area for a while, but it is at least a glimpse of our upcoming yard work projects.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: "The Martian" by Andy Weir

The Martian Andy Weir
Published: February 11, 2014
ISBN: 9780804139021
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Personal Copy (Book Club Selection)
Highly Recommended

Summary:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him? 

My Thoughts:
Once again, I'm probably the last person around to read this.  However, this time at least, there is a good reason for it.  It was the selection for my book club this month and I try to read the selections within a month of the meeting.  So, I've owned a copy of this book for months but had to wait (well, made myself wait) until just recently to read it.

The big question is: does it live up to the hype?  Yes, yes it does.  I was actually a little wary of this book going in.  From what I had heard about it, I was afraid it would be a Castaway scenario where it would be one character talking to himself (or to an inanimate object).  Thankfully, that is not the case.  Yes, the bulk of the book is Mark Watney trying to survive on Mars, but there are also scenes with NASA and with Watney's crew as they travel away from him.  And Mark never talks to a soccer ball, or personifies any other non-living thing, so that is a plus.

There is a a staggering amount of science in this book, but don't let that scare you off.  I do not have a scientific mind at all and I was able to get through it.  I will say I did better when Mark was going through the science than when the people from NASA or the Hermes crew were relaying it.  Weir created a great voice with Mark, which is necessary since the bulk of the book is in his voice. He has a great sense of humor and even the driest science monologue was entertaining when it was coming from him.  However, I am kind of amazed at how much chemical engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering he knows as a botanist (yes, I know everyone had multiple roles but...wow....)

The movie version will be out later this year and I am in no way making a dig at the book when I say I think it will make a great movie.  It does have a very linear plot which translates well to film but doesn't always work on the page.  Here, however, is an exception.  The fact that Weir has directed everything in this book to one point is truly effective and I think that, if he had deviated at all from that, the whole narrative may have fallen apart.

I read this book in one day, which I am rarely able to do these days.  Once I picked it up, I just couldn't put it down and I'm pretty sure that most people would have the same experience.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.



The Martian
by Andy Weir
Powells.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Review: "It's Not Me, It's You" by Mhairi McFarlane

It's Not Me, It's You Mhairi McFarlane
Published: May 19, 2015
ISBN: 9780008116217
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours

Summary:
Delia Moss isn't quite sure where she went wrong. Everything was going smoothly. Ok, she had a slightly rubbish job working for the council and she hadn t seen her best friend Emma in god knows how long, but she'd been working up to proposing to Paul for months. This. Was. It.

But with one annoying little beep beep, Delia's life is turned upside down and rather than stick around and commit GBH by punching her cheating scumbag boyfriend (who still wants to be with her) in the chops, she decides the best thing to do would be get some head space and leave for London.


But a new city is never going to be the answer, and with a dodgy new job in media PR, where a suspicious yet devastatingly handsome journalist seems to be sniffing around and endangering her job, Delia can't run forever. Where did the old Delia go? And can she get her back? 

My Thoughts:
There are books you read because they widen your horizons or make you think of things in a new light. Then, there are books you read because you want something dependable--you know how things are going to turn out and that's just a-okay.  It's Not Me, It's You definitely falls into the latter group.

The basis of this book is not unusual: Young woman's life is turned upside down (by a cheatin' boyfriend, of course) and heads off to the big city where her world is opened up and she realizes her own strength.  Obviously, this formula works as it is a common trope in Contemporary Fiction.

Because of that, I can't fault this book for being predictable.  I think I would have been disappointed if the book did not follow the expected path.  There is something comfortable about reading a book where you know what is going to happen--I don't want that for every book that I read, but it is nice from time to time.

I say all this because a predictable plot is not my issue with this book.

Frankly, this book was a good 100-150 pages too long and with 1 or 2 too many plots.  We have 3 major arcs here--Delia and her cheating boyfriend, Delia and her amoral boss and the journalist who wants to bring him down, and Delia and her internet Troll who becomes her friend.  Any one of these plots on their own could have been a book, but McFarlane tries to weave all three into one narrative.

The problem is that she doesn't really do so in a way that three plots work together.  Instead, it seems like she deals with plot A for a few chapters and then drops it for plot B, drops plot B for a nod towards plot C, and then back to plot B until it is time to go to plot A. Because of this, I found it hard to get tied into any of the arcs she has going.

I also felt that she dragged things on too long.  There was a point in this book, about 3/4 of the way through, where McFarlane should have ended it.  Yes, there was some character resolution in the last 1/4 of the book, but that could have been addressed earlier.  By the time that I got to that last part of the book, I just didn't care any more.

I also felt that one of the plots mentioned above (no spoiler...) should either have been elevated or eliminated.  At the start of the book, it was by far the most interesting plot, but McFarlane never develops it from its initial burst and it left me feeling confused as to why, if she wasn't going to follow it through, why she would bother to include it.

I was hoping for a fun, frivolous read with this book, but instead, I was left scratching my head and wishing the author had done a few more rounds of editing and re-writing before publishing this.

About the Author:
Mhairi McFarlane was born in Scotland in 1976, and has been explaining how to pronounce her name ever since (MH=V sound!). She is the author of You Had Me At Hello, and is based in Nottingham where she’s a freelance writer and blogger. You can follow her on Twitter: @MhairiMcF.

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




Want to read more about this book?  Check out the other stops on this tour!




Monday, May 18, 2015

Its Monday...What Are You Reading? (5/18)

I'm a little behind on this post--I try to have them go up Sunday night, but yesterday (Sunday) was busy, busy, busy here! The kids sang at church--my daughter more so than my son.  My daughter, who is six, got really into it--we were sitting in the last row and we could hear her over everyone else.  My son, who is four and a half, is not yet a fan of public performance. Oh well.  After church, the hubs and I worked in the yard (there is still a lot to do, but I'm hoping for "after" pictures to post for this week's Saturday Snapshot!) and then we went out for my Mother's Day dinner.  I was sick last Sunday, so we celebrated yesterday.

With all that, I didn't get a chance to write this up last night, so here we go....



Last week on the blog, I posted:
Wednesday, May 13 - Book Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland
Friday, May 15 - Audiobook Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Saturday, May 16 - Saturday Snapshot

Right now, I'm reading:
The Main Book:
Under the Same Blue Sky by Pamela Schoenewaldt
I've started leaving little notes on my goodreads updates for books (well, this book) as I go along in an effort to remember what I was feeling when I read the book when it comes time to review it.  If you want to know exactly what I think so far, you can check over there.  For here, there, I'll just say that I'm hoping that this is a book where everything ties up at the end.

The "Phone Book":
The Sweet Spot by Laura Drake
This is another foray into romance and my attempt to understand--and respect--the genre a bit more.  On the up side, this book doesn't have any of the usual things that really annoy me in romance novels (at least not yet).  On the down side, we have a valium-addicted bitter ex-wife and a mid-life crisis ex-husband, both of which are dealing with the death of a child.  Add to that a father with Alzheimers.  Folks, this book is anything but a walk in the park.  Because it is part of my romance experiment, I most likely won't do a full review of it once I finish.

My Audiobook
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Like Bad Feminist, I'm mostly listening to this at the gym.  I mean, I've already read the book multiple times, but this is my pre-Go Set a Watchman re-read.  I will say that I do find something new in this book every time I read (or listen) to it.  Oh, and Sissy Spacek is a fabulous narrator.  I'm not planning to review this when I'm done because who hasn't yet read To Kill a Mockingbird?

With My Daughter:
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Okay, this is getting ridiculous!  We're just going to have to buckle down and get this one done.  One the issues holding this up is that my daughter loves to read on her own, which is great, but this book is a little advanced for her.  Lately, given the choice, she'd much rather read to me than me read to her.  Still, we just need to get this one done.




Last week, I finished reading:
It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane (finished 5/11, review to be posted  5/19)
This one was for a TLC book tour, so you should be seeing this title on a lot of blogs soon (I think my review is the first stop).

Pieces of My Mother by Melissa Cistaro (finished 5/11, review to be posted 5/28)
From Netgalley-this review probably should have come out a little sooner--the book was published at the beginning of this month--but I ended up reading this one on my phone.  I over-booked (ha ha, get it?) myself in May and reading this one on my phone was the only way I was going to be able to read it.

The Martian by Andy Weir (finished 5/12, review to be posted 5/21)
I've been waiting forever to read this one!  It is the selection for one of my book clubs this month and I try to read those books no more a month before the meeting.  If you look at the dates of these books, you can see I finished this one in about a day.








So, there you go!  I'm looking to finish 1-2 books this week, so we'll see how that goes.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - May 16

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.

First off, sorry this post is going up a bit later than usual.  For some reason, I had trouble getting this ONE picture off my phone and over here on the post.  Then I had to watch the season finale of Grimm.  Yes, I have my priorities straight.

Anyway, may I present our backyard....


My guess that, weather permitting, we'll be doing a lot of yard work this weekend!

I don't want to give you the wrong idea...my husband is actually quite good at keeping our yard in shape, but we usually don't mess with it much during the winter.  Then, we discovered that the key to the lock we have on our gate is missing, so we can't get the lawn mower back there!

Hopefully, next week I can post some yard "after" pictures!