Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (1-31-12)

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 I Think Would Make Great Book Club Picks

1) Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah - such an amazing book, one that had me laughing and crying. Hannah examines the relationship between two friends, following them from childhood through adulthood. I just think it would make an interesting book to discuss.

2) Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan - this story follows four friends after they graduate from college. While not the most intense novel that I've ever read, I think that it would be great to read this for a book club because everyone would have their own experiences to draw from for the discussion.

3) The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - a book about Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley. A great book about one of the most famous authors. I could see some interesting conversations coming up about this book!

4) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - a classic that deserves to be revisted as an adult. Every person that I've ever talked to about this book has taken away something different.

5) Testimony by Anita Shreve - one of my favorite books! With each chapter told by a different character, you are able to see how a scandal rocks a prep school and affects not only the students and teachers, but parents, custodians, and townspeople.

6) Faith by Jennifer Haigh - this novel centers around a Catholic family in Boston that is rocked by a sex abuse claim against one of the brothers, who happens to be a priest. A great book club choice, one that everyone in the group would have an opinion on.

7) The Help by Kathryn Stockett - I think this one is pretty obvious for a book club choice, but it's still something that I think deserves a spot on this list. Everyone has something to say on this novel and everyone takes away something different.

8) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - another classic that everyone should revisit at least once. I love Jane and feel like she was a character far ahead of her time, but I've heard lots of other opinions on this book. Would make for a great books discussion.

Well, that's all that I could come up with for this week. What books would you like to have a book group choice? Let me know!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster

If You Were Here
Author: Jen Lancaster
Published: May 3, 2011
Genre: chick lit
Hardcover: 306 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Told in the uproariously entertaining voice readers have come to expect from Jen Lancaster, If You Were Here follows Amish-zombie-teen- romance author Mia and her husband Mac (and their pets) through the alternately frustrating, exciting, terrifying-but always funny-process of buying and renovating their first home in the Chicago suburbs that John hughes's movies made famous. Along their harrowing renovation journey, Mia and Mac get caught up in various wars with the homeowners' association, meet some less-than-friendly neighbors, and are joined by a hilarious cast of supporting characters, including a celebutard ex- landlady. As they struggle to adapt to their new surroundings- with Mac taking on the renovations himself- Mia and Mac will discover if their marriage is strong enough to survive months of DIY renovations.

My Thoughts: This was my first foray into the world of Jen Lancaster after reading so many rave reviews about her and her work on so many blogs. Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical when I checked this book out of the library. Would it live up to the hype that everyone was putting out there? Would it really be funny? Lucky for me, it lived up to the hype and was not only funny, but hilarious! Following a couple on their DIY home renovation nightmare, Lancaster tells a great story of a couple who wanted to create their dream home, and since they watched HGTV quite a bit, they figured it would be easy. What follows is a hilarious story of remodeling and relationships (not only marriage, but relationships with friends and family).

This is chick lit, but it's also something that I would categorize as a humor book. With every page, Lancaster had me cracking up. And while it was a work of fiction, I sometimes found it hard to believe. Lancaster writes so clearly, that at times I thought I was reading one of her memoirs. The only downside to this book was the length; I felt that it could get a bit repetitive at times and that some pages could have been edited out. Also, the ending was a bit disappointing for me. Not that it was bad and ruined the whole book for me, but just not what I wanted.

I will definitely be reading more of Jen Lancaster in the future and would recommend her to anyone who is in need of a laugh or a pick-me-up!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: The First Husband by Laura Dave

The First Husband
Author: Laura Dave
Published: May 12, 2011
Genre: chick lit
Hardcover: 256 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Annie Adams is days away from her thirty-second birthday and thinks she has finally found some happiness. She visits the world's most interesting places for her syndicated travel column and she's happily cohabiting with her movie director boyfriend Nick in Los Angeles. But when Nick comes home from a meeting with his therapist (aka "futures counselor") and announces that he's taking a break from their relationship so he can pursue a woman from his past, the place Annie had come to call home is shattered. Reeling, Annie stumbles into her neighborhood bar and finds Griffin-a grounded, charming chef who seems to be everything Annie didn't know she was looking for. Within three months, Griffin is Annie's husband and Annie finds herself trying to restart her life in rural Massachusetts. 

My Thoughts:  I picked up this book not because I was looking for something to make me view things differently, but because I was looking for an easy chick-lit book. However, Laura Dave's third novel is unlike anything that I have ever read before from this genre. It's not all sunshine and rainbows for the heroine, Annie, as she navigates through a break-up, meeting someone new and getting married, all within the span of a few months. And while there were some comical points throughout the novel, there are far more serious moments. Dave explores how people who fall in love quickly and marry navigate their first few months of marriage together. And while that alone would be enough to tackle! Just through in a set of twins, a new restaurant opening, and losing a job, and you have a great story.

The best thing about this book were the characters. Annie is a great main character, one who is real and authentic. She is flawed, but not overdone. I thought she was well-written and a realistic person, someone who I could imagine knowing in real life. Griffin, Annie's husband, was another great part of this book. While a typical leading man-type, he is also flawed, but he loves Annie. Nick, Annie's ex, is another great character. While he is supposed to come across as the villian of the novel, I didn't find him to be evil. I found him to be another flawed human being, just trying to figure out his life.

The characters are great, the plot interesting, and the writing superb. I cannot wait to read more of Dave's work in the future.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Follow Friday and TGIF (1-27-12)

Happy Friday everybody! I hope that you are enjoying this last week of January (my goodnes, that went by quickly!) I have lost track of time this month and keep on thinking that there are a few weeks left for me to squeeze in a few more books. But nope, January is just about over. Well, here's hoping I can still squeeze in another book or two in these last few days of the month. Now, onto the Friday fun ...

Parajunkee asks:

Which book genre do you avoid at all costs and why?

There are quite a few genres that I stay away from, but I will limit myself to just one. I avoid YA at all costs. I'm sorry, but I feel like since I am no longer a young adult, it's time for me to move on and read books that are more my own age. I know lots of you disagree with what I just said, but that's what I think!

GReads asks:

Buy or Borrow: Where do your books that you read come from? The bookstore? The library? Do you prefer to own a book, or have it on loan?

Great question! Most of the books that I read come from the library. I love to buy books, but that can get expensive. I do hit up the used book sale that my library has once a year and buy TONS of books then. I do prefer to own a book, but borrowing from the library will just have to do for now!

So, what genre do you avoid? Do you buy or borrow your books? Let me know, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (1-25-12)

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: Where We Belong by Emily Giffin (expected publication date: July 31, 2012).

From Barnes & NobleMarian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her.

For the precocious and determined Kirby, the encounter will spur a process of discovery that ushers her across the threshold of adulthood, forcing her to re-evaluate her family and future in a wise and bittersweet light. As the two women embark on a journey to find the one thing missing in their lives, each will come to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves—a place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever.

I cannot wait for this book! I'm a huge Emily Giffin fan and have been waiting for her newest book for quite sometime now! So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (1-24-12)

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 is a freebie, meaning that I can create my own topic or choose an old one. Since I'm not too creative or original, I decided that I would choose a topic that was previously listed but that I didn't participate it. So, this week's topic:

Favorite Book Characters

1) Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) - I don't know if it's possible to pinpoint what a great character Scout is, so I won't even try to. I do know that experiencing what is happening around her provides for one of the greatest novels ever written.

2) Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre) - bucking every norm for a female character that was written before this book, Charlotte Bronte created one of the most iconic leading ladies ever written. I loved Jane's determination in everything that she did. She was truly ahead of her time.

3) Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series) - I could make a list of my favorite Harry Potter characters, but will only highlight Hermione on this list. She is an example for girls everywhere that it isn't about beauty and looks and that you can be smart, intelligent, and courageous, and still be an amazing person.

4) Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) - what girl hasn't read this book and fallen in love with Mr. Darcy? For centuries, women have been swooning over this brooding, handsome gentleman. Kudos to Jane Austen for creating such a man who has women from different time periods falling in love with this man.

5) Aibileen Clark (The Help) - such a strong woman. Everytime one of her chapters came up in the book, I became so excited because she told what was happening around her with such clarity, it was almost as if I was there.

6) Andrea Sachs (The Devil Wears Prada) - one of my favorite chick lit books with a great main character, Andrea tells her story with hilarity and wit. Her background provides her with the best vantage point to witness the absurdity that is a fashion magazine.

7) Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) - such a badass character! Honestly, I was sucked into these novels because of Lisbeth and trying to figure out what she would do next. 

8) Robert Langdon (The DaVinci Code) - some of you may roll your eyes at this choice, but there's a reason why people are drawn to Dan Brown's books, and it's mostly because of this character. A silent, intelligent man who solves international mysteries. What's not to love about that?!?

9) Barry Laverty (An Irish County Doctor) - a charming young man who is trying to figure out his way in the world and where he belongs. I may not be a doctor in a rural Irish village, but I can identify with so much of what Laverty experiences that it's hard not to fall in love with him.

10) Enzo (The Art of Racing In the Rain) - he may be a dog, but Enzo is one of the best characters that I have ever encountered in all my years of reading. Sweet, charming, caring, curious ... he's everything that you need in a dog, and so much more. As I was reading this story, I couldn't help but cry. It also made me wonder what our pets think of us and how they intuit things (pain, anger, sadness), and are there for us through those rough patches.

So, what's your list this week? Leave a comment and let me know! Can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

Alice Bliss
Author: Laura Harrington
Published: June 2, 2011
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 320 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): When Alice Bliss learns that her father, Matt, is being deployed to Iraq, she's heartbroken. Alice idolizes her father, loves working beside him in their garden, accompanying him on the occasional roofing job, playing baseball. When he ships out, Alice is faced with finding a way to fill the emptiness he has left behind. Matt will miss seeing his daughter blossom from a tomboy into a full- blown teenager. Alice will learn to drive, join the track team, go to her first dance, and fall in love, all while trying to be strong for her mother, Angie, and take care of her precocious little sister, Ellie. But the smell of Matt is starting to fade from his blue shirt that Alice wears everyday, and the phone calls are never long enough. Alice Bliss is a profoundly moving coming-of-age novel about love and its many variations--the support of a small town looking after its own; love between an absent father and his daughter; the complicated love between an adolescent girl and her mother; and an exploration of new love with the boy-next- door. These characters' struggles amidst uncertain times echo our own, lending the novel an immediacy and poignancy that is both relevant and real. At once universal and very personal, Alice Bliss is a transforming story about those who are left at home during wartime, and a teenage girl bravely facing the future.

My Thoughts: I tend to shy away from coming of age novels, not because I don't like the age range of the characters (most are typically in their teens), but because it's such a different experience for everyone. I find that it can be difficult for an author to truly capture that moment in a person's life because it's so unique that if it's not done correctly, it's just too unreal. In Alice Bliss, Laura Harrington crafts a coming of age novel that is near perfection. Following the title character, we are taken into the small town world of the Bliss family that is turned upside down when the patriarch of the family, Matt, is deployed to Iraq. Not only does Alice have to navigate through her early teens without her dad at home, but she has to do it with my halfway around the world, in a war zone.

The best thing about this story is that nothing is over the top. Nothing is drawn out or unrealistic. I felt like I was reading someone's memoirs about their childhood in a small town. Harrington writes with such clarity and conviction; it's clear that she knows where she is taking her story and every detail adds to the story. There is nothing extraneous added to the story, nothing that is cluttering up Alice's tale. To me, this was just a great novel of a teen growing up with a father who is in the military. And although I never had a parent deployed, I felt like I could identify with Alice at points. There are so many things that she is experiencing that I could remember myself dealing with, too.

I look forward to reading more of Harrington's work in the future and seeing what her future topics will be. If you are looking fora story about military families or a young girl coming of age, then this book is a must read.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Look Again
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Published: April 14, 2009
Genre: thriller
Hardcover: 337 pages
Source: borrowed from library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops—the child in the photo is identical to her adopted son, Will. Her every instinct tells her to deny the similarity between the boys, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth. And she can’t shake the question: if Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up? She investigates, uncovering clues no one was meant to discover, and when she digs too deep, she risks losing her own life—and that of the son she loves. 

My Thoughts: I found this book to be a great read and perfect for someone who is a bit of a wuss like me. I like a good thriller/mystery, but nothing too scary. This book was perfect in that it had me guessing what was going to happen next and never wanting to stop reading. Focusing a woman, Ellen, who has adopted a young boy only to believe that he was kidnapped, Lisa Scottoline takes the reader on a great adventure to get to the bottom of this mystery.

For me, the best thing about this book was the premise. I'm sure that we all have seen those "Have You Seen This Child?" fliers, posted at local stores and sometimes in the mail. But have you ever wondered if those kids are ever found? And where do they go? Scottoline explores this idea, following Ellen as she comes to the realization that her adopted son may have been kidnapped from his loving family. Ellen is determined to get to the bottom of the matter. The plot twists and turns and had me guessing throughout. I was surprised by the ending and glad that it wasn't what I thought it was going to be.

If you are looking for a good thriller, then I would definitely check this one out. Scottline has crafted a great novel around such an interesting premise. I can't wait to read another one of her novels.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Follow Friday and TGIF (1-20-12)

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope that you are having a great January and if you are somewhere cold or snowy, that you are staying warm. We just got some snow last night, but it's supposed to be back up in the 40s sometime next week, so it won't be here for very long. Now, onto the Friday fun ...

Parajunkee asks:

What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get your hands on any particular book?

Um, I guess waiting for the newest Harry Potter books is the craziest thing I have ever done. Other than that, I just wait for the books to come out.

GReads asks:

Recommend It: Which book from the last 10 you've read 
would you recommend to a friend?

Out of the last ten, I would recommend Alice Bliss (my review will be up in a few weeks). I typically stay away from coming-of-age novels, but this one grabbed me and I couldn't put it down. A very moving book.

So, what's the craziest thing you have ever done to get a book? Which book would you recommend? Let me know, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (1-18-11)

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: 150 Pounds by Kate Rockland (expected publication date: January 17, 2012).

Synopsis (from Amazon): Full time bloggers Alexis Allbright, of Skinny Chick fame, and Shoshana Weiner, of Fat and Fabulous stand out in the blogosphere like diamonds. Both have over five million loyal readers. Both are hungry for success. But their similarities end there as they send out directly opposing messages about women, weight and what is healthy. After being invited as guests on Oprah Winfrey, Shoshana and Alexis are forced into each other's lives but hope never to see each other again. However the result of two exciting life events means a drastic weight change for both of them, and they are forced to confront the real issue at hand:  What is the best message to give women about their weight? Should they try and shed it, or learn to love their own skin? These two writers living across the Hudson River from one another in Manhattan, NYC and Hoboken, New Jersey must put their differences aside as they realize there is no perfect number on the scale.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: It's Classified by Nicolle Wallace

It's Classified
Author: Nicolle Wallace
Published: September 20, 2011
Genre: political fiction
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): President Charlotte Kramer, the nation’s first female president, returns for her second term after re-election and Tara Meyers is now Vice President of the United States. For Tara, making the transition from the New York Attorney General’s office to working on the national level by President Kramer’s side creates issues that blur the line between personal and professional. After botching a live television interview that gets everyone in D.C. clamoring for her resignation, she attempts to redeem herself by wading headlong into a sensational terror investigation. Unfortunately, Tara’s leading role in the case puts her in the crosshairs of an edgy public with questions about the White House’s role in the plot—and what the administration did or didn’t do to keep the country clear from danger.

My Thoughts: I usually stay away from politcal or legal fiction/thrillers, mostly because there is enough craziness out there in the real-world of politics that I don't want to read about it as well. However, I read Eighteen Acres (my review) earlier this year and really liked it. Nicolle Wallace draws upon her experience as a White House communications director and politcal contributor for CBS News to craft a story of four women who are all working in the federal government at some level. There is President Charlotte Kramer, Vice President Tara Meyers, communications director for the VP Dale Smith, and Defense secretary Melanie Kingston. Each chapter is told from one of their points of view, so you are able to have a well-rounded opinion on how four women view one situation.

The plot was very interesting and I found myself wondering what would actually happen if this were to happen to our president or vice president (don't worry, no spoilers here). With each chapter being told from a different woman's perspective, you are able to not only understand the situation fully, but see how the president views a situation versus a communications staffer. Wallace knows what she writes about, which is evident as you read this book. Her understanding of how the White House complex is laid out is great, and at times I felt as if I knew where everything was, too (not really, but I had a pretty good idea). My only complaint for this book was that Melanie wasn't featured quite as much as she was in Eighteen Acres, but I'm hoping that Wallace continues with this series and Melanie will be a bit more prominent in her next book.

While I tend to stay away from series, this is one that I will continue to keep up with. And if you haven't read Eighteen Acres and want to read this one, it shouldn't be too difficult for you. Wallace is able to go over the major points of what happened in that book without dragging on (something that I really like!) If you are looking for a good political novel, then you should definitely add this to your TBR list.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Audiobook Review: Shoe Addicts Annonymous

Shoe Addicts Anonymous
Author: Beth Harbison
Published: June 12, 2007
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 7 CDs
Narrator: Orlagh Cassidy
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 1.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Four different women. One common shoe size. And a shared lust for fabulous footwear. In this sparkling novel, the wife of a controlling politician, a debt-ridden eBay addict, an agoraphobic phone sex operator, and a nanny for the family from hell (who barely knows a sole from a heel but who will do anything to get out of the house) meet Tuesday nights to trade shoes, and, in the process, form friendships that will help them each triumph over their problems--from secret pasts to blackmail, bankruptcy, and dating.  Funny, emotional, and powerful, Shoe Addicts Anonymous is the perfect summer listen.

My Thoughts: After listening to Beth Harbison's Always Something There to Remind Me (my review) and thoroughly enjoying it, I thought that I should give another one of her audiobooks a try. Unfortunately, this book just didn't meet any of my expectations going into it. First off, I found this book on the GoodReads recommendation program (who else loves that feature?!? I could sit there for days finding new things to read). I read the description (posted above), and figured that I would love this book. Besides that I liked Harbison's work, I also have a thing for shoes (some might call it an addiction, but I can stop buying shoes whenever I want!). Based on all those things, I thought that I would really enjoy this book. WRONG!!! There wasn't much to do with shoes (imagine my disappointment). Actually, nothing written in the description actually happens in the book! 

If I would have to write a summary for the book, it would be this: three women lose themselves in the crazy world that is Las Vegas and lose thousands of dollars (each), so in order to repay their debts, they become phone sex operators. Yeah, that description is not like anything that they have posted on the website (I compared this to the description on GoodReads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble). 

The characters are lackluster, the plot was a bit boring, and I found it all very predictable. The worst thing about it is that the description is nothing like the book (I found myself checking the case and CDs several times to make sure that this was the right book). If there had been a more accurate description, I probably wouldn't have read this book. I just feel let down that the title and synopsis relate to the story in no way whatsoever.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (1-11-12)

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: The Odds by Stewart O'Nan (expected publication date: January 19, 2012).

Synopsis (from Amazon): Stewart O'Nan's thirteenth novel is another wildly original, bittersweet gem like his celebrated Last Night at the Lobster. Valentine's weekend, Art and Marion Fowler flee their Cleveland suburb for Niagara Falls, desperate to recoup their losses. Jobless, with their home approaching foreclosure and their marriage on the brink of collapse, Art and Marion liquidate their savings account and book a bridal suite at the Falls' ritziest casino for a second honeymoon. While they sightsee like tourists during the day, at night they risk it all at the roulette wheel to fix their finances-and save their marriage. A tender yet honest exploration of faith, forgiveness and last chances, The Odds is a reminder that love, like life, is always a gamble.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (1-10-12)

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:

Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book

1) Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird) - since she only wrote one book, which happens to be one the greatest books ever written, I wish she would have written another book (and I'm sure many people feel the same way)

2) Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights) - this was her only published novel, which happens to be one of the greatest love stories ever written.

3) David Nicholls (One Day) - Nicholls has written three novels, but I wish that he would write more! I love his writing style so much.

4) Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus) - I'm not a big fan of the fantasy genre, but Morgenstern's first novel was so beautifully written that I was swept away to the night cirucs. I'm looking forward to reading more of her work in the future.

5) David Sedaris - seriously, I think we all need some more Sedaris in our lives! Here's hoping that he will release a new book soon!

6) Kathryn Stockett (The Help) - such a great, powerful debut novel. I hope that she has another story up her sleeve!

7) JK Rowling (Harry Potter) - in actuality, I just want more Harry Potter books.

8) Paula McLain (The Paris Wife) - such a beautifully written novel about Ernest Hemingway's first wife. I hope that she continues to write historical novels.

Well, that's all I could come up with this week. So, which authors do you wish would write another book?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

22 Britannia Road
Author: Amanda Hodgkinson
Published: April 28, 2011
Genre: historical fiction
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): "Housekeeper or housewife?" the soldier asks Silvana as she and eight- year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England at the end of World War II. There her husband, Janusz, is already waiting for them at the little house at 22 Britannia Road. But the war has changed them all so utterly that they'll barely recognize one another when they are reunited. "Survivor," she answers. 

Silvana and Aurek spent the war hiding in the forests of Poland. Wild, almost feral Aurek doesn't know how to tie his own shoes or sleep in a bed. Janusz is an Englishman now-determined to forget Poland, forget his own ghosts from the way, and begin a new life as a proper English family. But for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility. 

One of the most searing debuts to come along in years, 22 Britannia Roadis the wrenching chronicle of how these damaged people try to become, once again, a true family. An unforgettable novel that cries out for discussion, it is a powerful story of primal maternal love, overcoming hardship, and, ultimately, acceptance-one that will pierce your heart.

My Thoughts: 22 Brittania Road is not your typical World War II novel. It follows a young couple from Poland and their separate experiences during the war and Silvania's experiences following the war. The chapters alternate between the past (the war) and the present (immediately following the war), but you aren't quite sure what is happening during the war sections to feel like you have a grasp on what you are reading. Amanda Hodgkinson is a clear writer, but you can tell that there is something more brewing beneath the surface of this young family.

I found the story to be very interesting. The plot isn't driven so much by the war as by Silvania and Janusz (husband and wife). Their thoughts and actions are what drive the story, and it feels as if the war is something that is just happening in the background. The war did determine their living situation, but their individual stories of survival had little to do with the fighting and conflict going on around them. Silvania and Janusz both grow as characters throughout the story, as you witness them from young people falling in love to people who are thrown across Europe at the whim of the war, to reconnecting several years later. Hodgkinson expertly develops both of them, struggling with and without one another and maturing into adults right before your eyes.

For me, my biggest complaint about this novel was that it seemed rather stagnant until the last half of the book. I had heard so many good things about this book that I pushed myself through that first half, and I'm glad that I did. However, it did seem to drag at times and I felt as though I was waiting for the story to begin. If you enjoy WWII novels, then this is a book that you might be interested in reading. While not dealing specifically with the war, this novel deals with the affects that it has on a young couple and their fledgling relationship.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Review: The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

The American Heiress
Author: Daisy Goodwin
Published: June 21, 2011
Genre: historical romance
Hardcover: 468 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

My Thoughts: I have been wanting to read this book for months (my Waiting on Wednesday pick way back in April!), so when I was finally able to get my hands on a copy at the library, I grabbed it. First off, that cover is gorgeous. Second, I love historical fiction, and I find the gilded era to be such an interesting time in American history. Third, it seemed like something that I would love. And for me, it wasn't worth the wait. It was a good book, I might pick up one of Daisy Goodwin's books in the future, but I wouldn't be anxiously awaiting her next release.

For me, the book was just too long. There were so many times in the book where I was bored with what was going on. About 75-100 pages could have been edited out and wouldn't have affected the plot. On the other hand, the last 100 pages of the book were fantastic. I didn't know what would happen, what Cora would decide, what Ivo would do, and what her mother and mother-in-law would say! It had me guessing and kept me on the edge of my seat.

There are many characters in the book, which could be confusing at times. Once again, I felt like some of the people that are mentioned in the story could have been edited out without the plot suffering. I found Cora to be very interesting. She knows who she is and what she wants, and she also realizes why men would be interested in her (she's the heir to the biggest fortune in America). She doesn't shy away from this and knows that it's her money that will bring her a husband. Ivo, Cora's husband and an English duke, definitely uses her for her family's wealth but he is such a slimeball that you don't care that he used her for the money. There could have been more character development with these two, but it wasn't a huge downside for me.

If you enjoy long, historical novels, then check this book out. However, if you aren't looking to invest a long period of time into reading a novel that seems repetitive at times, then it's best to look for something else.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Follow Friday and TGIF! (1-6-12)

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope that everyone is having a great first Friday of the new year and staying warm if it's cold where you are (it's finally warming up here, thank goodness!) If this is your first time to my blog, welcome! Go ahead and look around! If you are an old follower, welcome back! Now, onto the Friday fun ...

Parajunkee asks:

Go count the number of unread books sitting on your shelf. How many?

I counted my books a few months ago and it was at 40-something, and since I haven't bought any, it's about the same amount.

GReads asks:

Reading Resolutions: What are some of your reading goals for the new year?

- Read 100 books this year. I read 95 books this year, so I definitely think this is an attainable goal.

- Read more classics. I joined the Back to the Classics challenge, so I hope this encourages me to read some more of this timeless books this year.

- Relax more. I think I sometimes get a little too caught up in the numbers or reading this book, instead of just enjoying the reading experience. So I plan on relaxing a little more and not focusing on the numbers.

So, what are your reading resolutions for 2012? How books do you have waiting for you on your bookshelf? Let me know, and have a great Friday!