Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Wrap-Up

Well, 2011 is over. I can't even believe it! Honestly, I don't think that this year happened. Everytime I looked at the calendar, another month had passed. I started my blog back in February, and I'm shocked at how it has grown in that time. When I started it, I thought that no one would care or read my blog. Now, I have well over 100 followers (139 to be exact), have read books that I never thought I would read, and met so many wonderful people. I'm excited to see what the 2012 brings, not only in terms of my blog, but in my professional and personal life as well. So, first up, my reading stats for 2011:

Books Read: 95 (might hit 97 before the year is over)
Reviews Done: 93 (I need to play catch up!)
Pages Read: 32,624 pages (WOW!)

Now, my favorite books for 2011:

Seriously, one of the funniest things I have ever read. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone, because I can't imagine anyone not loving this book.

Such a decadent and wonderful book to get lost in. I typically stay away from the fantasy genre, but this book was so much more than just a journey into a different world.

Probably the best book I have ever read. If you haven't read this book, then you need to. 

Now, I do have some blogging resolutions for 2012 (here's hoping I can stick to them!):

~ Do my reviews in a more timely manner (I sometimes wait weeks to write a review)

~ Get better at commenting back (I always want to, but since I normally just read ths email notifications of what was written, I always forget to go back and respond to people)

~ Focus on writing better reviews (I think I do a pretty good job most of the time, but I always feel like there is room for improvement!)

So, that's 2011 in a nutshell! How was your year?

Review: Tabloid City by Pete Hamill

Tabloid City
Author: Pete Hamill
Published: May 5, 2011
Genre: fiction
Hardcover: 288 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): If a budding Hollywood director were searching for the archetypal New York City journalist, he or she could find no better model than Pete Hamill. A veteran beat writer and columnist, a former editor-in-chief of both The New York Post and The New York Daily News, Hamill knows what it means to chase down a front-page story or to confront a stop-the-presses editorial decision. In the case of his new Tabloid City, the headline grabber is the murder of a socialite and her personal secretary at a stylish Manhattan town house. This ambitious ensemble novel takes us into late night city newsroom deadlines and the nest of a terrorist plotting destruction.

My Thoughts: Pete Hamill is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and this novel is another reason why I love his writing so much. While unlike his other books that I have read (Snow in August and Forever), which are set in the past and focus on one person's experience with this magnificent city, Tabloid City is set in the present day, with cell phones, online news companies, and terrorism, and is also told from the perspective of many different people, all ranging in ages and stages in life. The story follows a day in the life of different New Yorkers, from a tabloid editor, an antiterrorism officer, a terrorist, and many others. Each chronicles their lives in short little chapters, but each voice is so distinctive that you can easily tell which character is talking without reading the heading at the beginning of each chapter. 

Hamill's writing is quick and to the point, much like that of newspaper stories. He tunes into each characters' emotions with little build-up. Hamill pulls you into the story immediately and uses his experience as a news reporter, newspaper editor, and New Yorker to craft an engaging story. To me, this story felt like it was told in all one breathe because it's so fast-paced. When I finished the novel, it felt as if I had been holding my breathe, as I took in so many different parts of a typical New York day.

If you haven't read any of Hamill's work, then what are you waiting for?!? He is such a gifted writer and I feel like his writing can appeal to a wide audience. Whether you are looking for a work of fiction, a story about New York, or how one event can affect so many people, then this novel will appeal to you.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Review: The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

The Lantern
Author: Deborah Lawrenson
Published: August 9, 2011
Genre: mystery
Hardcover: 400 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Meeting Dom was the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom in Switzerland, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les GenÉvriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the South of France. Each enchanting day delivers happy discoveries: hidden chambers, secret vaults, a beautiful wrought-iron lantern. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive.
But with autumn’s arrival the days begin to cool, and so, too, does Dom. Though Eve knows he bears the emotional scars of a failed marriage—one he refuses to talk about—his silence arouses suspicion and uncertainty. The more reticent Dom is to explain, the more Eve becomes obsessed with finding answers—and with unraveling the mystery of his absent, beautiful ex-wife, Rachel.
Like its owner, Les Genevriers is also changing. Bright, warm rooms have turned cold and uninviting; shadows now fall unexpectedly; and Eve senses a presence moving through the garden. Is it a ghost from the past or a manifestation of her current troubles with Dom? Can she trust Dom, or could her life be in danger?
Eve does not know that Les Genevriers has been haunted before. Benedicte Lincel, the house’s former owner, thrived as a young girl within the rich elements of the landscape: the violets hidden in the woodland, the warm wind through the almond trees. She knew the bitter taste of heartbreak and tragedy—long-buried family secrets and evil deeds that, once unearthed, will hold shocking and unexpected consequences for Eve.
My Thoughts: I was so anxious to read this book (my Waiting on Wednesday pick back in July), that I couldn't wait to read it when I finally got my hands on a copy. It sounded like a great spooky book, one that would make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up from the decades of mystery surrounding this estate in France. Unfortunately, there wasn't much hair raising here and I was left feeling a little disappointed. I felt like Lawrenson had a great idea for a story, but just held herself back from putting it down on paper. 

The writing is phenomenal and is so lush that I found myself wanting to pack my bags to go and visit this estate for myself. Lawrenson shows her mastery of words in this novel, with beautiful descriptions of the landscape, Eve's feelings and emotions, the actions that are occuring around her. There is very little dialogue in this novel, with the characters' perceptions moving the story along. The novel is told by two characters: Eve, in the present, who just bought this estate with her boyfriend, and Benedicte narrating how the estate came to fall into the state that it is currently in and who is haunting it. I felt like the characters were a bit stagnant and there wasn't much growth. They were all very much one dimensional. I wish that there had been a little more put into the characters.

While not my favorite book, this was a great autumn read. I loved reading the beautiful descriptions while sipping on a pumpkin spice latte and seeing the leaves blowing about. It helped to get me in the autum spirit and had me looking forward to Halloween.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Audiobook Review: Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee

Emily and Einstein
Author: Linda Francis Lee
Published: March 1, 2011
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 9 CDs
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Emily and her husband Sandy Portman seemed to live a gracious if busy life in an old-world, Upper West Side apartment in the famous Dakota building.  But one night on the way to meet Emily, Sandy dies in a tragic accident.  The funeral isn't even over before Emily learns she is on the verge of being evicted from their apartment.  But worse than the possibility of losing her home, Emily is stunned when she discovers that her marriage was made up of lies. Suddenly Emily is forced on a journey to find out who her husband really was . . . all the while feeling that somehow he isn't really gone.  Angry, hurt, and sometimes betrayed by loving memories of the man she lost, Emily finds comfort in a scruffy dog named Einstein.  But is Einstein's seemingly odd determination that she save herself enough to make Emily confront her own past?  Can he help her find a future—even after she meets a new man? 

My Thoughts: After reading so many reviews of this book on other blogs, I had to read (well, listen to) it for myself. After Sandy Portman dies, he is reincarnated as a dog and will only be allowed to rest in peace if he can help her find happiness. It's a cute idea and one that is partially developed over the course of this story. The plot is a unique one and one that I don't think I have ever heard of before. Yes, I've read The Art of Racing In the Rain by Garth Stein, but this book takes you not only inside Einstein (Sandy's perspective), but also Emily. It was very interesting going between their two different viewpoints. While Sandy/Einstein isn't the best person, and someone that I still didn't really like at the end of the book, you do see growth throughout the story. Emily felt a little stagnant to me, but finding things out about her deceased husband and how she deals with the aftermath of his death was fascinating. I'm not sure what my response would have been if I had read Sandy's journals, but Emily is a kind person who doesn't dwell on those negative things about Sandy.

While I did like how Sandy inhabited the body of a dog, I didn't get the whole "old man" part of the story. The old man is the person who places him in the dog's body and tells him what he must do in order to truly die. Instead of it being some magical part of the story, it was something that would appear and then disappear for awhile, making me forget about him. I just wish that there was a little more depth there. 

I really liked the narration of this book, with Sandy's chapters being narrated by a man and Emily's by a woman. It made it very enjoyable to read and created two distinct characters in my mind. It was very easy to listen to and I found myself wanting to keep on listening to this story instead of reading my books that were waiting for me!

This is one of the better chick lit books that I have read. It has more substance to it than other novels in this genre and it isn't so much about finding a man as it is about learning who you are and how to be a better person. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys chick lit, even if you aren't a dog person.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (12-21-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly awaiting. This week, my pick is: Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand (expected publication date: June 26, 2012).

Synopsis (from It's June 15th, the night of Nantucket High School graduation. Four juniors are driving home from a party when something goes horribly wrong and there is a crash. The driver of the car, Penny Alistair, is killed, and her twin brother, Hobby Alistair, is left in a coma. Penny's boyfriend, Jake Randolph, and Penny's friend Demeter Castle are unhurt—but suffer tremendous emotional damage. Jake and his family move to the other side of the globe—to the west coast of Australia—in order to escape the horrors of the accident. Demeter falls prey to alcohol abuse and other self-destructive behaviors that nearly lead to her destroying her own life.
SUMMERLAND delves into the circumstances surrounding this accident, the roots of which lie deep in the past, with the first interactions between these four friends and their parents. It's a novel about how tragedy affects individuals, families, and the island community as a whole, and how healing can happen, in even the most devastating circumstances.

Just reading this description has me looking forward to summertime and some good summer novels! So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (12-20-11)

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. This week's topic:

Books I Hope Santa Brings

1) The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides - I specifically wrote this one down for Santa, so I'm pretty optimistic that I will find it under the tree!

2) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling - I nearly bought this for myself the other day but decided it would be better to wait and see if I get a B&N giftcard.

3) A Dublin Student Doctor by Patrick Taylor - one of my favorite series! I hope Santa remembers!

4) The Submission by Amy Waldman - this book seems so intriguing that I am drawn to it everytime I am in a bookstore. I really hope that I get this one for Christmas.

5) A Barnes & Noble or Amazon giftcard - yeah, this isn't an actual book. But I love going and spending hours in a bookstore, getting lost among all of the novels. To me, that is a wonderful present. So I hope that I get a giftcard (or two) so that I can go in later this year for some me time.

Not a very extensive list, but there are so many things that I asked for this year, and for once, it wasn't all that many books! What books do you hope to find under the tree this year? Let me know!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Published: July 26, 2011
Genre: historical fiction
Hardcover: 424 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): She was only two-foot eight-inches tall, but her legend reaches out to us more than a century later. As a child, Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to the immortal impresario P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and transformed into the world’s most unexpected celebrity.

Here, in Vinnie’s singular and spirited voice, is her amazing adventure—from a showboat “freak” revue where she endured jeering mobs to her fateful meeting with the two men who would change her life: P. T. Barnum and Charles Stratton, AKA Tom Thumb. Their wedding would captivate the nation, preempt coverage of the Civil War, and usher them into the White House and the company of presidents and queens. But Vinnie’s fame would also endanger the person she prized most: her similarly-sized sister, Minnie, a gentle soul unable to escape the glare of Vinnie’s spotlight.

A barnstorming novel of the Gilded Age, and of a woman’s public triumphs and personal tragedies, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is the irresistible epic of a heroine who conquered the country with a heart as big as her dreams—and whose story will surely win over yours.

My Thoughts: This is just a delightful book. As I was reading this novel, that's all I kept on thinking to myself. Melanie Benjamin weaves a tale of Vinnie Bump, a woman from Massachusetts who realizes that she is different from everyone else that she has ever met, and it's these differences that allow her to travel the globe, meet queens and presidents and see the world all from the height of 2 feet, 8 inches. It would be easy for Benjamin to focus on how hard Vinnie's life is, how difficult it is for her to leave in a world that is so much bigger than she is; however, Benjamin focuses on Vinnie's spirit of can-do and how where there is a will (no matter how small), there's a way. 

For me, the best part of this story was the characters. From Vinnie to her equally-sized sister Minnie, her husband, the famous General Tom Thumb, Sylvia the giantess, and Mr. P.T. Barnum, the man who launched Vinnie to stardom so that she became a household name. Each character has growth and is three dimensional. Vinnie is headstrong and determined to not let her size define her as some sideshow act. Her husband struggles with his size and his import. Mr. Barnum isn't a central character but he is so intriguing. How he built his empire and legacy is very interesting. He arranged Vinnie and Tom's marriage and made it into such a huge event that for weeks, news of their wedding overshadowed that of the Civil War! There's no doubt in my mind that Barnum is one of the best promoters that has ever lived. Vinnie, the main character of this novel, experiences growth that is hard to find in many pieces of historical fiction. Her growth from a young woman working on a riverboat to writing Mr. Barnum to let her join his museum to leaving through a hotel fire in her later years. Through each experience, I saw Vinnie growing as a character. And the growth wasn't based on her aging or her circumstances, but on things that she learned over the course of time.

If you enjoyed Water for Elephants, then I would definitely check out this book. It's showing you all the aspects of circus life while told from a strong narrator with a diverse cast of characters who all grow in some way. This is one of the better books that I have read this year and I will definitely be reading more of Melanie Benjamin's books.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review: Girls In White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Girls In White Dresses
Author: Jennifer Close
Published: August 9, 2011
Genre: chick lit
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Isabella, Mary, and Lauren feel like everyone they know is getting married. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, collect ribbons and wrapping paper, eat minuscule sandwiches and doll-sized cakes. They wear pastel dresses and drink champagne by the case, but amid the celebration these women have their own lives to contend with: Isabella is working at a mailing-list company, dizzy with the mixed signals of a boss who claims she’s on a diet but has Isabella file all morning if she forgets to bring her a chocolate muffin. Mary thinks she might cry with happiness when she finally meets a nice guy who loves his mother, only to realize he’ll never love Mary quite as much. And Lauren, a waitress at a Midtown bar, swears up and down she won’t fall for the sleazy bartender—a promise that his dirty blond curls and perfect vodka sodas make hard to keep. With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering, what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life years of early adulthood. These are the years when everyone else seems to have a plan, a great job, and an appropriate boyfriend, while Isabella has a blind date with a gay man, Mary has a crush on her boss, and Lauren has a goldfish named Willard. Through boozy family holidays and disastrous ski vacations, relationships lost to politics and relationships found in pet stores, Girls in White Dresses pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.

My Thoughts: When I first heard about this book, it sounded like something that was right up my alley. I'm in my mid-twenties and see everyone around me getting married and having kids. It's scary to see all of this and realize that a few years ago, we were just having a good time at college without a care in the world. This book sounded like it was something that I could definitely relate to, and while the writing was interesting, I did find myself laughing outloud at these three girls as they graduate college and grow-up. Jennifer Close is a great writer, pulling you into Isabella, Mary, and Laurens' worlds. This isn't so much a novel as a series of short stories. Each chapter highlights a different part of one of these girls' lives and Close details those important moments in a young woman's life with humor, wit, and the knowledge of someone who has been there. For example, the chapter about Mary graduating from law school and promising that she would give up smoking, only to realize that it's easier said than done. She also highlights how Mary is concerned that all the is doing is eating absurd amounts of food and not working out. Now, minus the smoking, this was something that I could totally relate to! I remember those first few months after graduation, where I just started at my job and wasn't walking as much as I did in college. I definitely gained a few pounds those first six months after college! 

Each chapter is a vignette into a 20something girls' world. From finding a job, finding another job after the first one doesn't work out, college boyfriends, real boyfriends, weight gain, bridal showers, weddings, births, and everything else that you may experience during this time period. While told from the perspective of the three main girls, I didn't feel like there was much character development. Each girl seems a bit stagnant. That was the only negative thing that I could say about this book. If you are a 20something girl, then this is a book that you should definitely read. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Follow Friday and TGIF (12-16-11)

Happy Friday, everybody! I missed last Friday since I was enjoying my vacation and driving up to New York City (will have to post some pics on here this weekend). I went back to work today, which is always tough after nine days off. But I didn't forget about the Friday fun! So, without futher ado ...

Parajunkee asks:

When you've read a book, what do you do with it? (Keep it, give it away, donate it, sell it, swap it?)

Great question! The answer is a little complicated. Most of the books I read are from the library, so they go back once I have finished them. For those books that I own, it depends how much I liked the book. If I loved it, I save it (and I have a ton of books saved). If I think it's something that someone I know will truly enjoy, then I give it to them. If I didn't like it at all and don't know anyone who would enjoy it, then I donate it or sell it.

GReads asks:

Most Popular: What blog post has gotten the most comments/activity on your blog this year?

Another great question!

For the memes, the post popular post this year was ...

(I always wonder why people like this post so much!)

For the review, the most popular post this year was ...

(I'm glad that so many people liked this review, because I loved this book so much!)

So, what were your most popular posts this year? What do you do with your finished books? Let me know, and have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (12-13-11)

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. This week's topic:

Books I Want to Give As Gifts (and to who ... even if you won't actually give them!)

1) The Harry Potter series - one of my oldest friends has never read these books (and she's a 7th grade English teacher!). I always encourage her to read them, but she hasn't done so yet. Maybe this would be a push in the right direction!

2) Save Me by Lisa Scottoline - I enjoyed this book and think my mom would, too. I keep on telling her to read it, but she doesn't!

3) Style by Lauren Conrad - I think my sister would really like this book (we both loved watching Laguna Beach and The Hills). Plus, I could borrow it from her to get some great ideas for my own style!

4) Bossypants by Tina Fey - I would give this to everyone who hasn't read this book yet! So funny, and one of my favorite books of the year!

5) Faith by Jennifer Haigh - this is such an amazing book. Taking a look inside the Catholic Church sex scandals from a unique perspective, it's a book that will definitely make you think. There are several people who I would love to give this book as a gift.

6) In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson - the story of William Dodd, the American ambassador to Germany in the mid-1930s. For any history lover, this is a must-read. I would definitely gift this to my dad!

That's all that I can think of this week! Oh well ... what books would you gift to people? Let me know, and have a great Tuesday!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Audiobook Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Confessions of a Shopaholic
Author: Sophie Kinsella (Madeline Wickham)
Published: November 4, 2001
Genre: chick lit
Narrator: Emily Grey
Audiobook: 10 discs
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): If you've ever paid off one credit card with another, thrown out a bill before opening it, or convinced yourself that buying at a two-for-one sale is like making money, then this silly, appealing novel is for you. In the opening pages of Confessions of a Shopaholic, recent college graduate Rebecca Bloomwood is offered a hefty line of credit by a London bank. Within a few months, Sophie Kinsella's heroine has exceeded the limits of this generous offer, and begins furtively to scan her credit-card bills at work, certain that she couldn't have spent the reported sums. In theory anyway, the world of finance shouldn't be a mystery to Rebecca, since she writes for a magazine called Successful Saving. Struggling with her spendthrift impulses, she tries to heed the advice of an expert and appreciate life's cheaper pleasures: parks, museums, and so forth. Yet her first Saturday at the Victoria and Albert Museum strikes her as a waste. Why? There's not a price tag in sight. Eventually, Rebecca's uncontrollable shopping and her "imaginative" solutions to her debt attract the attention not only of her bank manager but of handsome Luke Brandon--a multimillionaire PR representative for a finance group frequently covered in Successful Saving. Unlike her opposite number in Bridget Jones's Diary, however, Rebecca actually seems too scattered and spacey to reel in such a successful man. Maybe it's her Denny and George scarf. In any case, Kinsella's debut makes excellent fantasy reading for the long stretches between white sales and appliance specials.

My Thoughts: I originally borrowed this book since it seemed like a meaningless chick lit book that I could zone out to while reading. After getting through the first few chapters, though, I found myself really enjoying Becky Bloomwood's story. Told with lots of humor and lots of heart, Sophie Kinsella tells a story about a charming, if financially aloof, girl who is tackling her shopping addictions and coming to grips with her reality. It's not the most meaningful book that I have ever read, but it does show how easy it is to get caught up in today's world where stores and banks make it so easy to get credit cards to spend money that lots of us don't have. Becky is one such person who is swept up in the many credit card offers that she receives after graduating from university and ends up spending way more than she makes. And Kinsella makes the situation even better by having Becky work as a financial journalist. It provides for many funny moments in the book.

Becky is a very likeable character, even though she may not always be the smartest. She does try to do what's right and I could definitely identify with her in certain scenarios. She did seem to be a bit over the top at times, but it didn't ruin my experience of the book. I also loved the narrator, Emily Grey. She told the story PERFECTLY! She was so dead on and I didn't feel like I lost anything listening to the book instead of reading it. In fact, I feel like I got more out of it by listening to it.

Now, I have a question for all of you. I'm not that big into series, but I do look for audiobooks that are typically chick lit. I really enjoyed listening to this book, but I don't know if I should read the next book in this series or try another book by this author. If you have read the series, I would love to hear from you! I want to know if this is a series worth reading, or if the rest of the books are basically just the same story as this first book. Please let me know your feelings!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What's In a Name Challenge 2012

This is a challenge that I saw a few bloggers participating in this past year and it seemed like a lot of fun. Lucky for me, Beth at Beth Fish Reads is hosting this challenge again this year! It's pretty simple: from January 1 to December 31, 2012, just read one book in each of the following categories:

  1. A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title
  2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title
  3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title
  4. A book with a type of house in the title
  5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title
  6. A book with a something you'd find on a calendar in the title
Books can be in any form (audio, e-book, or old-fashioned), you can overlap with other challenges but can't use the same book multiple times for this challenge.

I'm really excited for this challenge and think that this will be a fun one! Are you participating? Let me know, especially if you have some ideas for any books that may fit these categories. I already have a few in mind but would love to hear what you have to say!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Review: The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman

The Lost Wife
Author: Alyson Richman
Published: September 6, 2011
Genre: historical fiction
Paperback: 352 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there's an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.

My Thoughts: Following the lives of two young Jewish people in Prague, Alyson Richman weaves a beautiful tale of love, heartache, loss, survival, and redemption. Lenka and Josef fall in love as their country is about to fall into the hands of the Germans. They marry, believing that they will be able to escape to America and live together, far away from Hitler and his war. But when Josef is unable to secure traveling papers for Lenka's family, she stays behind, believing that she will be able to go to America very soon. A serious of unfortunate circumstances follows, leaving Josef and Lenka to believe that the other one has died. Richman wrote this book in a very interesting manner, with Lenka's chapters being told as she experiences them in the 1940s. Josef's chapters are told as he looks back on his life. I had never read a book written this way before, where chapters were jumping between different periods of time and perspective, but it made for a whole story. I was able to see how Lenka was experiencing everything as it happened and how Josef thought things should have gone, with hindsight serving as his viewpoint of how everything could have turned out differently.

I loved Richman's writing. It was so simple and inviting and I found it difficult to put down. Reading about Lenka's time in Auschwitz is heartbreaking, but Richman tells it so simply. There are no superflous words. It is very straightforward. There was also a clear difference between the narrator's voices, which is something that many authors struggle with when writing from different characters perspectives. I just loved this story and I was crying by the time I finished it. I think this is more of a historical romance novel, but the romance is nearly secondary to the travesties of war that are happening. If you enjoy historical fiction, especially World War II, then this is something that you would really enjoy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (12-7-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly awaiting. This week, my pick is: I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (expected publication date: February 14, 2012).

Synopsis (from Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!
 Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life. What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.

I really enjoy Kinsella's novels and cannot wait for this one to come out? So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (12-6-11)

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. This week's topic:

Childhood Favorites
(I did this one a few months ago when it was a freebie week, but I will repost what my original choices are)

1) Berenstein Bears - I LOVED these bears! Each picture book focused on a topic that I could relate to as a child (jealousy of a sibling, wanting candy from the grocery store, helping your elders) and made it so easy to understand the moral without being preachy. They were wonderful and I usually always had one with me when I was little.

2) Amelia Bedelia - another great series. I always liked seeing how Amelia would do things in that story. I also wondered how she still had a job (I was pretty smart for a 5 year old). But they were always funny and made you realize how silly somethings in the grown-up world sound.

3) The Babysitters Club - Such well-written, easy chapter books that were also so addictive! I remember that I would check out one from the school library, read it that nite at home, and return it the next day so I could get the next one! The girls were real and well-written ... I just wish that there weren't so many books in that series so that I could have finished it!

4) Goosebumps series - another easy chapter book that was so great to read! I love that they were scary (at least they were to me, way back then!) and made me feel like a grown-up reading such a scary book. It was also great because it was something that boys and girls would read, and so few books can do that!

5) Goodnight Moon - I remember reading this book before bed (as I'm sure many people do). Such a simple book but one that was comforting. I look forward to the day when I have children and read this to them.

6) Nancy Drew series - really my first introduction into the world of mysteries, Nancy Drew was a series that I could dive right into and not put down. I remember reading these books and having my heart race at the excitement and tension (looking back at them now, they are really tame). But they ignited my passion for reading and always had me looking forward to getting the next one from the library.

7) The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - my mom bought me this book when I was younger and I thought that it looked lame. However, after reading it, I learned one of life's most important lessons: never judge a book by it's cover (or title). I remember reading it and then thinking how I could have a similar adventure with my sister. Luckily for my mother, we never ran off.

8) American Girl books - now, I realize that there are different girls in these books, but I read them all when I was growing up. My favorites were probably Molly (my love for WWII started young) and Felicity (American Revolution). They were a great way to introduce me to historical fiction and it made history seem so much more interesting.

9) Dear America series - another historical fiction series, these books were all written from the point of view of a young woman during a certain time in America's history and published as if they were a young girl's diary with a bookmark ribbon included in the book to make it really seem like this was a diary that you stumbled upon. I loved reading about these girls' adventures through some of the most dangerous times in our nation's history.

10) Santa Mouse - this was a Christmas tradition in my house growing up. Every year when we dragged out the tree and ornaments, out came Santa Mouse. Mom would read it to us before bed and each year, at the end of the Christmas season, we were sad to put the book away until the next year. It's a cute little board book and something that I still like to look at during the holiday season.

So, what were your childhood favorites? Let me know!