Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reading in 2015

Happy New Year!  Its 2015 and that means new books, new authors, and new reading experiences - hurrah!  Of course, it also means new blog posts (something I haven't been too keen on lately.)  So, I've been reading everyone else's blog posts about their recent new reads and their 2015 blogging goals - all of which have been rather inspiring.  I was hoping they'd help me get back on track with my own blogging, but I started thinking about the resolutions I made in 2014 and didn't stick to and realized what the main problem was.  Instead of reading by whim (like I had declared in 2014), I read by schedule.  Yep, I over-scheduled myself with way too many review books and found my reading experiences rather lacking.  I felt like I was in school forced to read books that I just didn't want to read.  I can't let that happen again in 2015.  So, I've decided that  I will read all of the books I have already agreed to review, but then I'm going to stop accepting review books. The only exception will be if the book is by an author I am OBSESSED with.  No more accepting books just because I love the cover or it sounds fairly interesting - those books always tends to disappoint more often than not.  I feel like I sort of fell out of love with reading last year and I want to rectify that this year.  I want 2015 to be a very fulfilling and happy bookish year.  I want to rediscover my love and passion for books.  So, here's to "Happy Reading" for us all. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Upcoming NetGalley Reads...

NetGalley has become my latest vice (again!).  I've been requesting books like crazy and as soon as I get approved I'm kindling them like there's no tomorrow.  My kindle is bursting with NetGalley reads!  And, I love it!  Here are a few of the books I've recently added to my TBR list:

about book:
In Reconstruction-era America, vampire Henry Sturges is searching for renewed purpose in the wake of his friend Abraham Lincoln's shocking death. It will be an expansive journey that will first send him to England for an unexpected encounter with Jack the Ripper, then to New York City for the birth of a new American century, the dawn of the electric era of Tesla and Edison, and the blazing disaster of the 1937 Hindenburg crash. Along the way, Henry goes on the road in a Kerouac-influenced trip as Seth Grahame-Smith ingeniously weaves vampire history through Russia's October Revolution, the First and Second World Wars, and the JFK assassination.

about book:
Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.
about book:
Everyone knows the date of the Battle of Hastings. Far fewer people know what happened next...

Set in the three years after the Norman invasion, The Wake tells the story of a fractured band of guerilla fighters who take up arms against the invaders. Carefully hung on the known historical facts about the almost forgotten war of resistance that spread across England in the decade after 1066, it is a story of the brutal shattering of lives, a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world.

Written in what the author describes as 'a shadow tongue' - a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader - The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction. To enter Buccmaster's world is to feel powerfully the sheer strangeness of the past.

about book:
The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Rosie Project, starring the same extraordinary couple now living in New York and unexpectedly expecting their first child. Get ready to fall in love all over again.

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they’re about to face a new challenge because— surprise!—Rosie is pregnant.

Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he’s left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie.

As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business, and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most.

about book:
Paul Chowder is a poet, but he's fallen out of love with writing poems. He hasn't fallen out of love with his ex-girlfriend Roz, though. In fact he misses her desperately.

As he struggles to come to terms with Roz's new relationship with a doctor, Paul turns to his acoustic guitar for comfort and inspiration, and fills his days writing protest songs, going to Quaker meetings, struggling through Planet Fitness workouts, wondering if he could become a techno DJ, and experimenting with cigar smoking.

about book:
A beautifully tragic and thought-provoking tale that perfectly reflects the elegance and style of Murakami and the skill and plotting of Julian Barnes, Bilodo lives a solitary daily life, routinely completing his postal rounds every day and returning to his empty Montreal apartment. But he has found a way to break the cycle—Bilodo has taken to stealing people's mail, steaming open the envelopes, and reading the letters inside. And so it is he comes across Ségolène's letters. She is corresponding with Gaston, a master poet, and their letters are each composed of only three lines. They are writing each other haikus. The simplicity and elegance of their poems move Bilado and he begins to fall in love with her. But one day, out on his round, he witnesses a terrible and tragic accident. Just as Gaston is walking up to the post-box to mail his next haiku to Ségolène, he is hit by a car and dies on the side of the road. And so Bilodo makes an extraordinary decision—he will impersonate Gaston and continue to write to Ségolène under this guise. But how long can the deception continue for? Denis Thériault weaves a passionate and elegant tale, comic and tragic with a love story at its heart.

about book:
Sometimes your only chance to survive, and what you most fear… is to be INKED.
Tattoos once were an act of rebellion. Now they decide your destiny the moment the magical Ink settles under your skin.

And in a world where Ink controls your fate, Caenum can't escape soon enough. He is ready to run from his family, and his best friend Dreya, and the home he has known, just to have a chance at a choice.

But when he upsets the very Scribe scheduled to give him his Ink on his eighteenth birthday, he unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that sends the corrupt, magic-fearing government, The Citadel, after him and those he loves.

Now Caenum, Dreya, and their reluctant companion Kenzi must find their way to the Sanctuary, a secret town where those with the gift of magic are safe. Along the way, they learn the truth behind Ink, its dark origins, and why they are the only ones who can stop the Citadel.

about book:
Mid-life mom, Colleen Gallagher would do anything to protect her children from harm. When her daughter's husband falls ill with ALS, Colleen rolls up her sleeves and moves in, juggling the multiple roles of grandma, cook, and caregiver, only to discover that even her superhuman efforts can't fix what's wrong.
What do you think?  Not a bad bunch, eh?  Any suggestions on which one to read first?  I'm leaning toward The Last American Vampire - its different from what I've been reading lately, which is what I want.  Hope you all are immersed in some great reads as well.  Happy reading!!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Currently reading...

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)

I've just started reading Okey Ndibe's debut novel, Arrows of Rain.  I'm only a few chapters in, but can already tell that this is going to be a great read.  The story is described as a "powerful fable about the colonial legacy of corruption and the power of story to overcome injustice. It is silence that is the true villain of in this novel."  How incredible does that sound?  As for the plot of the story itself:  "In the fictional country of Madia (based in part on Ndibe's native Nigeria) a young prostitute runs into the sea and drowns. The last man who spoke to her, the "madman" Bukuru, is asked to account for her last moments. When his testimony implicates the Madian armed forces, Bukuru is arrested and charged with her murder. At the first day of trial, Bukuru, acting as his own attorney, counters these charges with allegations of his own, speaking not only of government complicity in a series of violent assaults and killings, but telling the court that the president of Madia himself is guilty of rape and murder. The incident is hushed up and Bukuru is sent back to prison. But a young journalist manages to visit him, and together they journey through decades of history that illuminate Bukuru's life, and that of the entire nation."

I've read the part where the body is discovered and a crowd surrounds it until the police arrive.  The lifeguard tells his version of what happened repeatedly, playing up to the large crowd.  A journalist stands by and says nothing, but takes note of everything happening.  Its his first assignment and his editor had dispatched him to the beach on New Year's Day to get reactions from people regarding the "latest farce" in government.  Armed with pen and paper, he stumbled upon the murder of a prostitute instead. From the beginning we can tell that the police take no real interest in investigating this woman's death and would rather be anywhere but at work.  They arrest a man who claims to have attempted to help the woman and soon we are in the courtroom where he is representing himself before the court.  As the dialogue continues it is rather apparent that he will be sentenced as guilty - the judge and prosecuting attorneys get riled up when the accused brings up the name of the president and declares the vice squad guilty of rape.  The crowd in the courtroom love the drama and "ooh' and "ahh" throughout the short trial.  After holding the accused in contempt, the judge decides to postpone the trial until later.  And now the reporter who wrote about the murder on the beach and attended the trial has just received a mysterious phone call telling him to dress appropriately and meet someone the next day.  Worried that it could be a ruse to arrest him or kill him for writing about the murder on the beach, he decides to attend the meeting and leaves a note in his desk for someone at work to find in case he goes missing.  Talk about covering his bases.  Anyhow, the meeting winds up being a ruse to get the reporter to meet with Bukuru (the accused).  Apparently, the president wants to poison Bukuru, so he fears for his life.  He wants Femi (the reporter) to write his story - he will jot down what he remembers and smuggle it to Femi, who will in turn write about it in the paper.  He calls himself an underdog and Femi is taken with that term and agrees to help Bukuru.  And now I'm about to read what Bukuru remembers.

Talk about a riveting read.  I am hooked.  I can't wait to read what Bukuru has written to Femi, especially as he plans on sharing about his past (which I'm sure will be interesting).  As for Femi, I'm hoping he can handle the task of telling Bukuru's story.  The idea of a story as a defense mechanism is exciting to me - words do have power and I am thrilled to see how they will work out in Bukuru's case and defense.  I can't wait to get back to this book later today.

Hope you all are enjoying some great reads this holiday season!  Happy reading!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

More Mini Reviews...

I just finished reading another book last night.  It had been days since I last read a book, so I picked it up on a whim and wound up staying awake til the wee hours finishing it.  With all the holiday fun (baking, shopping, tree trimming, visiting, wrapping, etc.) I've only read a few bits and bobs.  I'm hoping to get another book in this week.  As for my reviews, they have been placed on the back burner for now.  So, I figured a few mini reviews would tide me over until I can get back on track with my blogging.  Here goes:

 Tom Bettany finds out that his son is dead - he was stoned and fell from the balcony.  Shocked by the tragic news, he returns to London to find out the truth about his son's death.  The more facts he uncovers, the more likely it seems that his son was murdered.  Talk about drama, mystery, thriller, and espionage all rolled into one.  Nobody Walks by Mick Herron packs quite a wallop with its quick-pace, suspense-filled scenes, and grittiness.  I loved getting to know Bettany and following him on his mission to uncover the truth - he was a force to be reckoned with.  Definitely a must-read for fans of Herron's works and fans of crime-thriller novels.  This is one book you won't want to miss!

Happy (belated) Birthday, Jane Austen!!  To celebrate Austen, Quirk Books published a wonderful book filled with the beautiful covers from her six novels - 200 years worth of covers!  Alongside the covers are wonderful and insightful commentaries about the history and details surrounding the covers, quotes, and essays regarding Austen-related topics.  This book is a MUST-HAVE for any fan of Austen.  I know that I absolutely loved flipping through the pages and taking in the colorful designs and artwork.  The images were fantastic!  And the essays about Austen were fascinating.  Love. Love. Love!!!
By the Book is about authors sharing their love of books.  "65 of the world's leading writers open up about the books and authors that have meant the most to them" - how delicious does that sound?!  How could I not want to read this book and find out what some of my favorite writers have loved reading.  Plus, we get to know these authors a little better as they share with us their writing habits, inspirations, and pet peeves.  This book is touted as "a book party not to be missed" - how fun!?!  I LOVED dipping in and out of this book over the past few weeks.  Getting to know each and every one of the authors was fascinating and rather captivating.  There were times when I just couldn't stop reading and wound up befriending ten authors in one sitting.  I would most definitely recommend By the Book to every book lover I know - you will most definitely fall in LOVE with this book!!
The Final Silence is the fourth book featuring Jack Lennon and it is terrific!  Filled with dark, gritty details and lots of action, this novel will have you turning pages faster than you can say "crime thriller".  Jack Lennon is a detective whose job is pretty much on the fence - what with his lust for drugs and alcohol.  This man is on a downward spiral and the only thing keeping him afloat is his daughter, Ellen.  When Jack gets a call from an old girlfriend his life gets turned inside-out and upside-down pretty quickly.  Fast-paced, lots of twists and turns, this is one crime-thriller/noir-ish novel you don't want to miss!!  I enjoyed getting lost in Northern Ireland and meeting Jack Lennon via Stuart Neville - this book was riveting!!
What an interesting book about George III and his family.  I enjoyed getting to know more about his personal life and through Hadlow's impeccable research we are able to do so.  She shares with us about George's "royal experiment", which is to create a royal family that would function happily and rather smoothly.  He wanted his "royal experiment" to succeed and become a model that his subjects would be able to follow and create in their own families.  Talk about wishful thinking!  However, Hadlow does show that George did sort of succeed with his "royal experiment" and I found the whole story absolutely fascinating. I'm not usually one for a historical biography, but this book read like a novel (which made it a rather compelling read).  I would definitely recommend this one to history buffs - you will love it!!

 As a love of Greek mythology and literature, I was excited to read Adam Nicolson's book, Why Homer Matters.  Nicolson explores Homer's Illiad and Odyssey, as a means for examining life, nature, and humanity.  This is truly a book written by a man whose love for Homer shines through and through.  His explanation of the poems and their meanings is thought-provoking.  Nicolson tackles a subject rich in history and brings it to the present by relating it to modern day.  He writes an incredibly interesting book that will have fans of Homer excited and inspired.  Definitely a must-read!
A fantasy-lite romance novel.  Talk about a genre I wouldn't normally read.  Yet, I found myself staying up all night just to finish it.  What can I say?  I wanted to read more about the romance.  In Moth and Spark, we have Prince Corin and Tam, young lovers struggling to figure out whether they should or shouldn't be together.  There are class issues to deal with, alongside the impending war of their country - too much drama!  And there are dragons, quests, danger, prophecies, and so much more.  Oh, and love.  Yep, Corin and Tam are infatuated with each other - more like, obsessed.  I loved reading all about their passions for their country, their powers and each other.  Anne Leonard has written one heck of a debut novel - chock full of bewitching scenes in a fascinating world.  I can't wait to read more of her work!
And there you have it, a few of my recent reads.  Talk about an eclectic mix, eh?  Now, I'm off to finish writing out Christmas cards and bake some banana bread.  Happy reading!!

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with copies of these wonderful tomes!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories by Hilary Mantel

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)

Love. Love. Love.  I absolutely LOVED The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel.  It is now one of my favorite short story books.  I can't believe I waited so long to read her work - what was I thinking?!  I suppose it doesn't really matter since I am now officially hooked on Mantel.  I plan on reading her highly praised novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies next year.  I can't wait!!

As for this book of stories - Whoa, Nelly! I don't even know where to begin.  I just know that I thought it was fan-bloody-tastic!!  The stories are absolutely terrific - they are well written, chock full of relatable characters, and completely unforgettable.  I found them all to be thoroughly engaging, thought-provoking, and unputdownable.  I stayed up all night reading this book and enjoyed every minute of it.   These were just such great stories to get lost in.  I keep thinking about the couple in the taxi - the horror!  Oh, and the two little girls who spend their time sneaking up to the 'rich' people's home and peeking in the windows - they are consumed by this idea that something or someone is being hidden in that house.  There's also the title story about a woman who decides to help the man set on assassinating Thatcher - secret door, anyone?  And then there's the story about the woman who finally decides to ask her husband to help her get rid of a visitor who can't seem to stay away from her - this one was my favorite short in the book.  All of these wonderful stories are connected by Mantel's exploration of disconnection, displacement, and isolation - she manages to show the ugly, raw reality of people struggling with feelings of discord, loneliness, unhappiness, and general dislocation.  Her stories are sad, funny, horrific, satirical, and amusing.  They keep you on your toes - which I loved!  Mantel's writing is truly amazing.