Saturday, May 25, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts

The Perfect Hope
Author: Nora Roberts
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Published: November 6, 2012
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 9 discs (approx. 11 hours)
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Ryder is the hardest Montgomery brother to figure out—with a tough-as-nails outside and possibly nothing too soft underneath. He’s surly and unsociable, but when he straps on a tool belt, no woman can resist his sexy swagger. Except apparently Hope Beaumont, the innkeeper of his own Inn BoonsBoro…

As the former manager of a D.C. hotel, Hope is used to excitement and glamour, but that doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate the joys of small-town living. She’s where she wants to be—except for in her love life. Her only interaction with the opposite sex has been sparring with the infuriating Ryder, who always seems to get under her skin. Still, no one can deny the electricity that crackles between them…a spark that ignited with a New Year’s Eve kiss.

While the Inn is running smoothly, thanks to Hope’s experience and unerring instincts, her big-city past is about to make an unwelcome—and embarrassing—appearance. Seeing Hope vulnerable stirs up Ryder’s emotions and makes him realize that while Hope may not be perfect, she just might be perfect for him…

My Thoughts: This is the last book in the BoonsBoro trilogy and I was sad for it to have ended so quickly. I really enjoyed the small town setting for this book and some of the characters are enjoyable to read about, so having it come to an end after three books seems like a bit of a let down. Like the previous two books, this book focuses on one of the Montgomery brothers (this time it's Ryder), and a female that he obviously will fall in love with and want to marry (which is Hope). This is a Nora Roberts book, so it's pretty formulaic in what you are getting. That's why I don't think it's a spoiler to tell you that Ryder and Hope fall in love ... you know it will happen when you read the description, and if you've read the other two books in this series, then you know that it's definitely going to happen! That's one of the blessings and curses about a Roberts novel ... you know exactly what you are getting.

The characters in this novel are the same ones that we've seen throughout the series, so not much changes there. No one really changes or grows, they all just keep on living their small-town lives in bliss. For me, the thing that prevented me from really enjoying this book is the ghost factor. I like the fact that there is a ghost that inhabits the inn, but the fact that they can see her and they talk back and forth like she is an actual person at times ... it was just a little too weird. And the weirdest part of all? Not on character freaked out at the fact that they were seeing a ghost! Call me crazy, but I feel like in a room full of people, at least one person should have had a reaction to seeing a ghost.

Am I sad to have this familiar group of characters wrap up their stories and end the series? A bit ... but it just means that I'm off to explore some non-Roberts audiobooks in hte future. She is a go-to for me in audiobooks, but I feel like it's time that I listen to some other books, something that isn't as predictable and easy-going.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ending a Chapter (or some other cheesy title)

Well, it's taken me awhile to come to this decision, and even longer to sit down and write it out, but I have decided to stop blogging for the time being.

Since the beginning of the year, blogging has been feeling like this awful chore that I have to do instead of something that I want to do. I no longer look forward to writing reviews or participating in weekly memes. I would finish a book and think, "Oh God, now I have to write a review about it." That's a feeling that I don't ever want to feel in terms of books and reading, and this is the main reason why I feel like I need to step away from blogging right now.

I don't know if this is a forever break or just a temporary one, but I know that this what I need to do right now. I still enjoy reading and getting lost in a good book, but the blogging end of things has really just gotten me down lately, so I feel it is best to step away and focus on what does make me happy.

I continue to read book blogs and read other's reviews, so it's not like I'm disengaging from the blogging community entirely. I have learned so much from bloggers and I've been introduced to so many wonderful books because of bloggers. I'm grateful to have been a part of this wonderful community and to have interacted with so many of you. 

For anyone who has taken the time to visit my blog, to read one of my reviews, or to leave a comment on one of my posts, I just want to thank you for taking the time to stop into my small corner of the Internet and read my thoughts. I look forward to reading more great book reviews and reading great books, even if I will no longer post about them.

So, for now, this is good-bye!


PS - I still have a few reviews that I've already written that are schedule to go up, so if you see one of those pop up, just know that it was written some time ago.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reivew: Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train
Author: William Kuhn
Published: October 16, 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 374 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): After decades of service and years of watching her family's troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain's Queen is beginning to feel her age. She needs some proper cheering up. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories--the former royal yacht, Britannia, now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace into the freedom of a rainy London day and heads for King's Cross to catch a train to Scotland. But a characterful cast of royal attendants has discovered her missing. In uneasy alliance a lady-in-waiting, a butler, an equerry, a girl from the stables, a dresser, and a clerk from the shop that supplies Her Majesty's cheese set out to find her and bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.

Mrs Queen Takes the Train is a clever novel, offering a fresh look at a woman who wonders if she, like Britannia herself, has, too, become a relic of the past. William Kuhn paints a charming yet biting portrait of British social, political, and generational rivalries--between upstairs and downstairs, the monarchy and the government, the old and the young. Comic and poignant, fast paced and clever, this delightful debut tweaks the pomp of the monarchy, going beneath its rigid formality to reveal the human heart of the woman at its center.

My Thoughts: I am a royal watcher. There, I said it and I have no shame in admitting it. There is something about the British royal family that is so intriguing and interesting, especially since as an American, we don't have a family like that which we can look up to (the first family changes every four to eight years). And at the head of that family is the Queen, a private woman who does her duty wonderfully. William Kuhn explores what would happen if the Queen just decided to leave one day. I'm sure it's something that everyone has wondered about ("Do royals wish they were us?" and questions like that), so he went ahead and wrote a novel focused on the Queen leaving Buckingham Palace one day and journeying to Scotland. Now, the only royal who makes an appearance in this novel is the Queen, so if you were expecting some interaction among the royal family, then you are out of luck. But there is quite the cast of characters, mostly comprised of the household staff. So, if you are a fan of Downton Abbey, then this is a book that you would probably love because it reminded me so much of that show.

Kuhn is a nonfiction writer and this is his first foray into the world of fiction. I think that his topic for his first novel was a great one and something that he was able to write knowledgably about. He knows quite a bit about the royal family, and that comes across in his writing. It's also great how he structures the Queen's staff. There is a cast of people working for the Queen and in the palace, but he selects just a few to join the story, ensuring that you are never overwhelmed with the amount of people moving around or their relationship to the Queen. I do think that his writing was a bit stiff, which is a reflection of his background. I hope that if he continues with fiction in the future that the stiffness will lessen, but who knows?!

If you enjoy Downton Abbey, then you will definitely like this book. If you were a fan of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, then you will probably like this book. It's a cute and simple read and one that really engaged my imagination. It's not too rushed, never overwhelming, and a very cute story to get wrapped up in.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts

The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro #2)
Author: Nora Roberts
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Published: January 1, 2012
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 9 discs (approx. 10.5 hours)
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Owen is the organizer of the Montgomery clan, running the family's construction business with an iron fist - and an even less flexible spreadsheet. And though his brothers bust on his compulsive list-making, the Inn BoonsBoro is about to open right on schedule. The only thing Owen didn't plan for was Avery McTavish

Avery's popular pizza place is right across the street from the inn, giving her a first-hand look at its amazing renovation - and a newfound appreciation for Owen. Since he was her first boyfriend when they were kids, Owen has never been far from Avery's thoughts. But the attraction she's feeling for him now is far from innocent.

As Avery and Owen cautiously take their relationship to another level, the opening of the inn gives the whole town of Boonsboro a reason to celebrate. But Owen's hard work has only begun. Getting Avery to let down her guard is going to take longer than he expected - and so will getting her to realize that her first boyfriend is going to be her last...

My Thoughts: After reading the first book in this trilogy last summer, I figure that it was time I come back around to it and finish it off. However, I decided to listen to it rather than read it, and I hoped that it would be as good in audiobook form as it is printed. This is narrated by a man, so it was a little weird having him narrate for some of the female voices (call me biased, but I don't think men can mimic women's voices as well as women do men's.) But since the majority of the story is told from Owen's point of view, it works well (for the most part ... some of the female voices were a bit too shrill). This is a typical Nora Roberts novel, with two people falling in love with one another in this romantic setting. I choose to listen to her books because I know what I am getting, so it can be easier to listen to them than to another book, where I really have to keep track of what is going on in the story.

Owen might be the most likeable brother of the Montgomery clan because he's the one who is most down to earth. Not to say that the other boys are way out there, but Ryder is a playboy (or I guess he is supposed to be, which must be difficult to do in a small town), and Beckett was lusting after the same girl for years, which leaves Owen, over there running the business and taking care of his family. He is methodical, which Roberts repeatedly drives home throughout the story. There is his love interest, Avery, who is a little zany and out there, so of course, she falls in love with the man who is super organized. For me, Roberts was pushing a little too hard when it came to creating Avery's personality. She really wanted you to get that she's out there, but she just tried to hard to make that come across. Also, I work in the restaurant industry as a manager, and I love reading books that are set in a restaurant because it's so unrealisitic! Sorry, but if this woman owns her own restaurant, she's not getting days off and the time to run around and help them set up in the inn. Also, something that really irks me is when authors comment on the cute shoes that people wear in a kitchen, which Roberts does by constantly mentioning the Converse that Avery wears to work. Once again, sorry! Those aren't slip proof and wouldn't hold up all day. Next time you are in a restaurant, look at the server/bartender/manager's shoes .... do they look cute? No, but they are highly functional and they never fall or slip once during their shift (there is water/oil/food everywhere in a restaurant ... believe, the chance to slipping everyday is really high!) Sorry, that was my random rant that I just had to take out on this poor book.

Overall, it was an easy, predictable read and something that I was able to enjoy on my commutes to and from work. If you are interested in starting to listen to audiobooks, I would recommend that you start with someone like Nora Roberts. They are easy to follow along and usually a good way to get lost for a little while.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (5-15-13)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly anticipating. This week, I'm looking forward to Memories of a Marriage by Louis Begley (release date: July 9, 2013).

Synopsis (from Amazon): In the unforgiving class system of the 1950s, Lucy de Bourgh, daughter of one of Rhode Island's first families and beneficiary of an ample trust fund, was married to Thomas Snow, son of a Newport garage owner and his bookkeeper wife. It hardly mattered that Thomas was a graduate of Harvard Business School, or that he went to work for a great Wall Street firm and succeeded beyond expectations. In Lucy's eyes, he remained irremediably a "townie." Decades later, a chance meeting brings Lucy together with Philip, our narrator. They'd known each other earlier, and he remembers her as a ravishing, funny, ready-for-anything hellion with a well-earned reputation for generosity with sexual favors. He also remembers Thomas, killed in a freak accident years after his and Lucy's divorce, and is shocked to hear Lucy refer to Thomas insistently as "that monster." How is he to reconcile that unexpected and overflowing reservoir of bitterness and resentments with his own memories? Almost against his will, Philip sets out on a quest that soon becomes an obsession to discover who exactly these friends were whom he had understood so incompletely, and what happened in their marriage. Through Philip's patient probing, a brilliant portrait emerges of Begley's heroine: infinitely complex, irresistible as well as insufferable, capable of extremes of arrogance and submission, and driven by sexual appetites she cannot control. Lucy de Bourgh is without doubt one of Begley's strongest and most outrageous creations.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (5-14-13)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, 
they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. So, this week's 
topic is:

Books Dealing With Tough Subjects

1) Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington - a coming-of-age novel where a teenage girl must deal with the deployment of her father to Iraq. I tend to shy away from coming-of-age novels, but this one was fantasticly written.

2) Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah - this was such a well-written novel and it touches on a variety of tough subjects. The one that really hit home for me was the death of Tully's grandmother.

3) The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg - this novel touches on how personal choices not only affect us as individuals, but also those closest to us. Focusing on how Edie's obesity affects the whole family is a harrowing tale not only of personal choices, but the obesity epidemic here in America.

4) The Help by Kathryn Stockett - I loved this novel for so many reasons, but the chapters told from Aibileen's perspective are so moving. Definitely a fresh take on the civil rights movement.

5) Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi - her personal memoir detailing her struggle with anorexia and bulemia, de Rossi takes you inside her illness to see what it's like for someone struggling with these issues. This was a tough book to read, and while I'm glad that I did, it's something that really stuck with me.

6) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - a fantastic piece of literature that tackles prejudice and how it affects people. I could talk for hours on this book, but I'll leave it alone and just say that if you haven't read it, you must.

7) Night by Elie Wiesel - I read this book in high school and it has stuck with me since then (I read it over 10 years ago!) Wiesel recounts his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. While difficult to read, I think it's necessary for everyone to do so and gain some understanding of thise awful event.

8) The Pact by Jodi Picoult - dealing with teenage suicide (in a Romeo and Juliet way), Picoult details how the death can affect everyone differntly, from the boyfriend to the neighbors to the parents.

9) Faith by Jennifer Haigh - this novel tackles the tough subject of child molestation, using the Catholic church sex scandals that were occurring in the 2000s. This was a great study in how far people will go when they are pushed.

I can only think of nine, but I know that there are so many books that handle tough subjects. These are the ones that popped in my mind first. So, which books made your list? Let me know!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Invisible by Carla Buckley

Author: Carla Buckley
Published: September 25, 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction
eBook: approx. 400 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Growing up, Dana Carlson and her older sister, Julie, are inseparable—Dana the impulsive one, Julie calmer and more nurturing. But then a devastating secret compels Dana to flee from home, not to see or speak to her sister for sixteen years.

When she receives the news that Julie is seriously ill, Dana knows that she must return to their hometown of Black Bear, Minnesota, to try and save her sister. Yet she arrives too late, only to discover that Black Bear has changed, and so have the people in it. Julie has left behind a shattered teenage daughter, Peyton, and a mystery—what killed Julie may be killing others, too. Why is no one talking about it? Dana struggles to uncover the truth, but no one wants to hear it, including Peyton, who can’t forgive her aunt’s years-long absence. Dana had left to protect her own secrets, but Black Bear has a secret of its own—one that could tear apart Dana’s life, her family, and the whole town.

My Thoughts: The description of this novel is what really pulled me in (the cover does nothing for me) and I thought that it would be a really good thriller to read. Afterall, doesn't it intrigue you as to why Dana left and what is this secret that could tear apart the whole town? Carla Buckley explores what happens to a woman who returns home after being away for years and years, only to discover that not only have people changed, but something is changing people. There is a higher occurence of kidney failure in this area that is thought to be normal. Julie has just passed because of renal failure, and while she started to investigate, it's now up to her sister Dana to figure out what is hurting the town. The chapters alternate between Dana, who returns home to find that her sister has died and left behind a husband and teenage daughter; and Peyton, Julie's daughter and someone who is now motherless and dealing with an aunt who she just met a few days ago.

I really liked the character of Dana and thought that the chapters told from her persepctive were the best. As an outsider in the town, she does see things differently than the people that never left, and she does find it odd that there is such a high occurence of kidney-related diseases in the area, even when the doctors don't seem to be concerned. Peyton's chapters were sometimes boring and I think it was because she wasn't contributing to solving the mystery of what is affecting this town. I loved her little ocean-facts at the beginning of each chapter, because they definitely played out with humans and it was interesting to see the connections between the way of life in the ocean and that on land.

My biggest problem with this book was that it sounded like it would be more of a thriller than it actually was. Except for about five pages, it wasn't all that gripping. Sure, there was a mystery going on, but it played second fiddle to the return of Dana to Black Bear and all the stress that she must deal with. I just wish that there had been more of a thriller aspect to it, because then I think that this book could have been phenomenal. On that note, I would like to read more of Carla Buckey's work in the future because this was an interesting read, especially with her research into environmental issues.