Friday, May 27, 2016

Currently reading...

Yep, I'm back in Murakami's strange and surreal world and I am LOVING it!  I'm finally reading the fourth and final book in his Rat trilogy.  Or is it a tretralogy? Hmm...either way, I'm reunited with this kooky cast of characters that intrigue and mystify me. I say kooky, because that Sheep Man is most definitely bizarre.  I'm excited to find out more about the woman with the ears - what happened to her?  And apparently another trip to the Dolphin Hotel is in order - which I'm looking forward to.  Seems like Dance Dance Dance is going to be one trippy reading experience.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I'm planning to read, relax, and read some more. Happy reading!!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Summer Guest: A Novel by Alison Anderson

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

What if Anton Chekhov, undisputed master of the short story, secretly wrote a novel—a manuscript hidden long ago that might have survived?

This tantalizing possibility drives The Summer Guest, a spellbinding story that draws together, across two centuries, the lives of three women through a moving, mysterious diary.

During the long, hot summer of 1888, an extraordinary friendship blossoms between Anton Chekhov and a young doctor named Zinaida Lintvaryova. Recently blinded by illness, Zinaida has retreated to her family’s estate in the lush countryside of eastern Ukraine, where she is keeping a diary to record her memories of her earlier life. But when the Chekhov family arrives to spend the summer at a dacha on the estate, and she meets the middle son, Anton Pavlovich, her quiet existence is transformed by the connection they share. What begins as a journal kept simply to pass the time becomes an intimate, introspective narrative of Zinaida’s singular relationship with this writer of growing fame.

More than a century later, in 2014, the publication of Zinaida’s diary represents Katya Kendall’s last chance to save her struggling London publishing house. Zinaida’s description of a gifted young man still coming to terms with his talent offers profound insight into a literary legend, but it also raises a tantalizing question: Did Chekhov, known only as a short-story writer and dramatist, write a novel that has since disappeared? The answer could change history, and finding the manuscript proves an irresistible challenge for Ana Harding, the translator Katya hires. Increasingly drawn into Zinaida and Chekhov’s world, Ana is consumed by her desire to find the “lost” book. As she delves deeper into the moving account of two lives changed by a meeting on a warm May night, she discovers that the manuscript is not the only mystery contained within the diary’s pages.

Inspired by the real-life friendship between Chekhov and the Lintvaryov family, The Summer Guest is a masterful and utterly compelling novel that breathes life into a vanished world while exploring the transformative power of art and the complexities of love and friendship.

my thoughts:

Literary historical fiction at its best!  The Summer Guest is based on a nugget of truth - Anton Chekhov was friends with the Lintvaryov family and he did stay at their guest house in the Ukraine in 1888 and 1889.  And with that bit of information, Anderson has woven together an excellent tale perfect for a summer read.  I absolutely loved this book and here's why:
  • The writing was elegant, rich, and thoughtful.  
  • It had the perfect combination of history, fiction, literature, and mystery.
  • I loved the history that Anderson created between Zinaida and Chekhov.
  • The idea of a lost novel by Chekhov - how exciting and fun!
  • Dual time periods and narratives are a new favorite of mine. I loved the back and forth via Zinaida's diary.
  • Getting to know the characters as a result of the diary was just perfect.  It really connected everyone and allowed for us to see Chekhov as a friend (not just a writer).   
  • Smart and strong female characters are the best!
  • I love short stories and I love Anton Chekhov's short stories, so reading this book was a MUST for me. 
  • Plus, I had just finished reading Willful Disregard which mentioned The Lady with the Dog by Chekhov - talk about fate!  Chekhov was now on my mind and just in time for The Summer Guest.
Talk about a terrific read! I absolutely enjoyed The Summer Guest - it was fun, intriguing, and unputdownable! I would happily recommend it to fans of historical fiction with a literary bent - you will LOVE this book! 

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: The Summer Guest
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Willful Disregard: A Novel About Love by Lena Andersson and translated by Sarah Death

(Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Winner of the August Prize, Sweden’s most prestigious literary award: a novel about a perfectly reasonable woman’s descent into the delusions of unrequited love

Ester Nilsson is a sensible person in a sensible relationship. Until the day she is asked to give a lecture on famous artist Hugo Rask. The man himself is in the audience, intrigued and clearly delighted by her fascination with him. When the two meet afterward, she is spellbound.

Ester’s life is then intrinsically linked to this meeting and the chain of events that unfolds. She leaves her boyfriend and throws herself into an imaginary relationship with Hugo. She falls deeply in love, and he consumes her thoughts. Indeed, in her own mind she’s sure that she and Hugo are a couple.

Slowly and painfully Ester comes to realize that her perception of the relationship is different from his. She’s a woman who prides herself on having a rational and analytical mind, but in the face of her overpowering feelings for Hugo, she is too clever and too honest for her own good. Bitingly funny and darkly fascinating, Willful Disregard is a story about total and desperate devotion, and how willingly we betray ourselves in the pursuit of love.

my thoughts:

I had a friend in grad school who was the type of gal who would obsess over a guy.  She would try to bump into him on campus or in town.  She would playback their conversations over and over and over again.  She would imagine their happily ever after.  She would basically become devoted to this guy and their "relationship" all on her own.  And in the end she would wind up heartbroken.  You see, the guys never viewed their "relationship" in the same way and as a result they tended to flee ASAP.   I could never understand why she would behave this way, especially, as she was such a smart and savvy woman in every other area of her life.  This sad (and pathetic) behavior confounded me...until now.  Turns out she couldn't help herself.  Or at least that is what I surmised after reading Lena Andersson's superb novel, Willful Disregard.

Ester is a poet.  She writes for various media outlets and lives with her partner, Per.  Her life is pretty ho-hum, but she's okay with that.  She receives a writing assignment involving a famous artist named Hugo.  From the moment they meet, Ester is smitten.  She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him and even finagles another writing assignment that will involve interviewing him.  Her mind is consumed by thoughts of him.  Per notices Ester drifting away from him and confronts her.  They wind up breaking up, but Ester doesn't seem to care - she's too busy pursuing Hugo.  She is convinced they have a connection and finds herself waiting around his block so that she can accidentally bump into him.  She relishes any look or word he throws her way.  She imagines him thinking of her with hearts in his eyes.  Ester is in LOVE.  And after they sleep together, she is convinced that Hugo feels the same.  Except, he's not acting like a man in love.  In fact, if Ester would be honest with herself, she would notice that he doesn't really seem to like her all that much.  Of course, even when Ester is aware of his snubs, his snobbery, and his discomfort she brushes it all aside and makes excuses for him.  She refuses to face facts.  She even ignores the "girlfriend chorus", because they are of the opinion that "He's just not that into you."   Ester is the epitome of lovesick.  Its sad, infuriating, and frustrating to witness.  And, I loved it.  I absolutely enjoyed reading about Ester and her pursuit of love.  She was real, brave, and relatable.  A smart, rational woman upended by her emotional response to someone - who hasn't experienced that?  Not only did I see my friend from grad school in Ester, but I could see bits of myself in her as well.  I may not have created whole relationships based on one conversation with someone, but I have imagined a future with someone that I've dated.  Its human nature to love and to want to be loved.  So, I suppose for some people, they just can't help how much they love. 

Willful Disregard is a sharp, intelligent novel about obsession.  The writing is sparse, witty, and precise - I fell in love with it!  The characters are flawed and authentic.  The story explores unrequited love in all its raw glory; which was both fascinating and cringe-worthy.  Its truly a brilliant book and I absolutely LOVED it!  I would happily recommend Willful Disregard to anyone and everyone looking for their next great read - you will not be disappointed!

Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this excellent book!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

June: A Novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet comes a novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake made sixty years ago that threatens to change a modern family forever. 

Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

my thoughts:

Talk about the perfect book to settle down with on a rainy weekend.  I grabbed a cuppa, something sweet, and June.  As the thunder howled and the raindrops poured, I found myself surrounded by the perfect atmosphere for this story that has a bit of a Gothic feel to it.

Set in St. Jude, Ohio, this book takes place in 1955 and 2015. The past introduces us to best friends, June and Lindie, and tells the story of what happened when Hollywood paid their small town a visit.  In 2015, we have Cassie, June's granddaughter, who is now living in the crumbling, old mansion she inherited after learning her grandmother had been battling cancer.  Grief-stricken, she finds herself trying to figure out what to do with her new house and dreaming about her grandmother.  And then, a knock at the door presents itself as the answer to her dreams (or her house's dreams).  Turns out she's the granddaughter of a famous actor (Jack Montgomery) and has just inherited millions of dollars. Say what? Yep, looks like her grandmother and Jack may have had quite a history together all those years ago when he visited St. Jude.  Hmm....except her good fortune comes with one big problem - Jack's daughter Tate is contesting his will.  She wants DNA proof that Cassie is related to her dad.  And that is where the DRAMA begins.  Mysteries unravel, the past is uncovered, and secrets are revealed. Talk about one fascinating book!  I just loved getting to know June and Lindie ( my favorite character ), along with Cassie.  I loved going back and forth between the past and present - especially, the past.  Oh, and the house - lets just say that these walls can talk.

June is a terrific historical fiction novel filled with mystery, intrigue, and romance.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. Its truly an unputdownable read. And I would happily recommend it to fans of women's fiction and anyone looking for a great new read - you will LOVE this book!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: June
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

(Thank you to Quirk Books for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Nick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown: A Mystery with Sun-Powered Gadgets You Can Build Yourself (Quirk Books; May 10, 2016; Ages 8–12; $12.95) tackles the all-too-timely topic of clean energy, as the twin sleuths set out to rescue their scientist parents, who were kidnapped while working on a top-secret solar power research project.
To outwit the kidnapper who wants to turn solar power into a weapon, Nick and Tesla need more than just the help of their eccentric Uncle Newt. They have to create their own gadgets by harnessing the most potent power of all—brain power. Young makers can become part of the story by creating their very own versions of Nick and Tesla’s inventions. Full building instructions for these solar-powered projects are peppered between chapters:
·      Ping-Pong Ball Signal Cannon that Uncle Newt uses to signal to Nick and Tesla while sneaking around a suspicious office building
·      Solar Spy Birdhouse that Nick and Tesla build to gather intel on their parents from the government agents who claim to be protecting them
·      Solar-Powered Long-Range Rover, which Nick and Tesla send out with an SOS when the spies hold them hostage
·      Guaranteed-Not-to-Explode Frankfurter Heater-Upper because, in the words of Uncle Newt, “You can’t bust an international spy ring on an empty stomach!”
A spirited hands-on adventure, Nick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown will mesmerize readers by bridging science and literature.

my thoughts:

Talk about perfect timing.  Just as I was about to write this blog post, I found out that "Science Bob" was going to be on Live with Kelly - how cool is that?!  I grabbed a cuppa and sat down to watch what he had to share with the audience.  He talked about the Science Fairs that President Obama hosts at the White House.  Apparently, one hundred kids are invited to showcase their latest experiments and inventions.  Suffice it to say, these kids are SMART.  Think underwater moving rovers and keeping medicine chilled without electricity.  Pretty awesome, eh?  "Science Bob" performed experiments with Kelly and her co-host Daniel Dae Kim (Jin from Lost).  It was a pretty fun episode to watch.  And at the end, she reminded everyone to go out and pick up a copy of "Science Bob's" latest collaboration with Steve Hockensmith -  Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown.  As a huge fan of the series, I was excited when she mentioned the book.  Its the sixth in the series and my new favorite. Chock-full of danger, drama, intrigue, and inventions - how could it not be?

In Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown, Nick and Tesla have decided that its FINALLY time to find their parents. They've been kept in the dark long enough and now they want answers. Plus, they know that their parents are in danger, so time is of the essence. Their only resource happens to be the two agents sent to keep an eye on them.  Except, these two agents are dead set against telling Nick and Tesla anything.  Hmmm...what to do?  How about invent an eavesdropping machine in the form of a birdhouse? Pretty nifty, eh?  With the help of their Uncle Newt, Silas, and DeMarco the dynamic duo set out with their plan.  The only problem being that they severely underestimated just how DANGEROUS the people involved with their parents' disappearance really are. YIKES!  They all wind up kidnapped and taken to a deserted building out in the middle of nowhere.  The kids get locked in a room and have no way to communicate for help.  Ack!  Of course, this being Nick and Tesla, you just know that a plan is a brewing. Think Solar-Powered Long Range Rover - how awesome is that?! I swear, MacGyver has nothing on Nick and Tesla - the King and Queen of Inventions! And that is all I will say about the actual plot of the story.  Its just too good to give away all the details.

I will tell you that this book kept me on the edge of my seat! I couldn't stop reading Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown until I turned the very last page. I just had to know if these kids would escape from these crazy villains and whether or not they would finally be reunited with their mom and dad.  Let me just say, I was not disappointed.  This book was action-packed and I loved it!  The story was fantastic - it was exciting, thrilling, and unputdownable. This book was truly a perfect addition to the series. In fact, this whole series is great for kids (middle school-aged) who love science, mystery, and intrigue - they will love these books!  I can't wait to tell my friends to pick up a copy for their kids.