Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife
Author: David Ebershoff
Published: August 5, 2008
Genre: fiction
eBook: approx. 514 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’sThe 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense. It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.
Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death. And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.

My Thoughts: I've been wanting to read this book for sometime, interested in how an author could combine two books, two different stories into one, and create a cohesive and interesting read. David Ebershoff opens his book with a young man who was kicked out of his home as a teenager for holding hands with a girl. While this may not seem radical to you, the young man, named Jordan, lives in a compound of the First Latter-Day Saints, the people who still practice polygamy out in the desert of Utah. There are so many rules that govern this group of people that it's hard for an outsider to understand and difficult for an insider to explain. Ebershoff attempts to do so in this book by giving you a history of how the FLDS came to be. They are associated with the Mormon church, but few people understand how it came to be. What follows is a long history of how the church was founded, their pilgrammage across the country to settle in current-day Salt Lake City, and the book written by Brigham Young's 19th wife (Young was the second prophet for the church and grew the church in a number of ways). 
This is a hard book to categorize because it defies many genres and writing styles. It's a mystery in terms of Jordan trying to help his mother, who is in jail for allegedly killing her husband. There is Jordan's struggle with the church and the prophet and the people who allow them to continue this religion. There is the back story of the Mormon church, with chapters alternating between present day and the past, then the chapters told from Ann Eliza Young's point of view. There's a lot going on in this novel and it can be hard to keep up with, but it is riveting to read about. Ebershoff could have used a bot of editing in this book because it was so long and there were some parts that I felt didn't really add to Jordan's story or the storyline of the Mormon church.
I don't know if I would ever want to read another novel by Eberhoff, but this novel was very interesting to read. Ann Eliza Young was a revolutionary in her day in her attempt to outlaw polygamy in the United States and doing her lecture circuit to spread her story. While this book is a work of fiction, it was still amazing to read about the founding of the church and the early years of it's existence.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (3-29-13)

Happy Friday everyone! Are you ready for spring? I know I am ... I'm hoping the last of the cold weather is over by this weekend (I'd even give it til Monday ... I'm just that generous) and that spring will finally show up! I'm so tired of putting on my winter coat every single day, bundling up to go outside. I'm ready for something warmer! Well, let's get onto the Friday fun ...

What are your thoughts on the verification codes?

They are annoying, but I understand why people use them.

Parajunkee asks:

Tell us about the most emotional scene you’ve ever read in a book – and how did you react?

Probably the scene in Harry Potter when Dumbledore dies. You know that it's going to happen, but it's still so shocking and you are left wondering how the wizarding world will go on and if Harry will be able to defeat Voldemort without Dumbledore there to offer help. Obviously, I cried during this scene.

So, what's the most emotional scene you've ever read? What do you think of verification codes? Let me know and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (3-27-13)

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 All That Is by James Salter (release date: April 2, 2013).

Synopsis (from Amazon): From his experiences as a young naval officer in battles off Okinawa, Philip Bowman returns to America and finds a position as a book editor. It is a time when publishing is still largely a private affair—a scattered family of small houses here and in Europe—a time of gatherings in fabled apartments and conversations that continue long into the night. In this world of dinners, deals, and literary careers, Bowman finds that he fits in perfectly. But despite his success, what eludes him is love. His first marriage goes bad, another fails to happen, and finally he meets a woman who enthralls him—before setting him on a course he could never have imagined for himself.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday? 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (3-26-13)

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 I Recommend the Most
1) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - I think this is one of the greatest stories ever told and it's nonfiction! It's so great that it's easy to get lost in and marvel at how amazing Louis is. I recommend this book to women, men, young, old, people who hate to read, people who don't like nonfiction ... it just breaks boundaries in terms of genres and it's something that I think anyone will enjoy.
2) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - another book that just defies genres and is easy for anyone to read and take something away from it. I also love talking to people about this book because everyone takes away something different from it.
3) The Help by Kathryn Stockett - so many people read this book because of the movie, but I still recommend it to people. It's a fascinating story and Stockett is able to convey a message without ever getting on a soapbox. A moving novel, that's for sure.
4) Bossypants by Tina Fey - I recommend this book to every woman that I know because Tina just gets women and what it takes to get through in this world. She doesn't preach, she doesn't make it sound like it's super easy or super hard, she just tells it like it is. And she's so down to earth that you feel as if you are best friends with her by the time you finish the book.
5) Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn - I just finished this one a few weeks ago (the review is scheduled to go up soon!) but I cannot stop talking about this book! It had me on the edge of my seat, trying to guess what was going to happen next. I was disturbed yet totally enthralled with the story. I've been recommending it to people who like grusome or scary things!
6) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - I absolutely loved this book, which is odd because I normally don't like fantasy, but I was so enraptured by this book that I read it very fast. If someone is looking for something out of their comfort zone, I recommend this one.
7) The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach - I consider this book a modern day classic because it has so many themes that it touches upon, making up this sweeping narrative. I often recommend this to people who don't like sports, because even though I don't like baseball, this novel gives you an appreciation of what it takes to be an athlete.
There are a lot of books that I tell people about, but these are the ones that I recommend the most. Which books do you recommend to people? Let me know!     

Monday, March 25, 2013

Audiobook Review: Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Happy Ever After (Bride Quartet #4)
Author: Nora Roberts
Narrator: Angela Dawe
Published: January 1, 2010
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 8 discs (approx. 9 hours)
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Parker Brown turned the quartet's childhood game of Wedding Day into their dream jobs. And now she's the face of Vows—the one who meets every bride's demands; keeps every event on schedule; and brings Emma's romantic flowers, Laurel's delicious treats, and Mac's stunning photgraphy together in one glorious package. She knows how to make dreams come true...

Mechanic Malcom Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker Brown—with her mile-long legs—is no exception. But as a good friend to Parker's brother, Mal knows that moving from minor flirtation to major hookup is a serious step. No man has rattled Parker in a long time, but the motorcycle-riding, raven-haired Mal seems to have a knack for it. His passionate kisses always catch her of guard, much like her growing feelings for him. Parker's business risks have always paid off, but now she'll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart.

My Thoughts: I've enjoyed listening to this series and was sad to see it end after listening to it for the entire month of February (and the first few days of March). I was looking forward to this book, though, because Parker is the leader of the group and the business, but you learned so little about her from the first three books that she didn't seem to have miuch of a personality (besides that of someone who is super organized and probably has OCD). I jumped right into the one, anxious to learn about Parker and what makes her tick. The story follows the rest of the series in plot, except that the man that Parker falls for is not someone from their social circle, someone who didn't grow up with them and understands her background and what it means to come from a prominent family. Obviously, love blossoms and they end up ... happy ever after (I know, it's cheesy).

I felt like there was so much potential with this book in terms of Parker and Malcolm's relationship but Roberts just didn't let it go there. They both come from such distinct backgrounds and different worlds that it would be have been refreshing to see their relationship progress into what it ended up being. It felt like we were starting to get there when they had their fight, but it was short-lived. Roberts just followed her formula of jumping into love and marriage, both within a few minutes of one another in this series. It's typical yet the stories are still enjoyable and easy to listen to.

I did enjoy listening to this series and am sad to see it end, because I did enjoy the friendship between the four women and the amazing business that they set up together. While not literature and something that will last over the years, it is something easy to listen to and get lost in during my commute.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Audiobook Review: Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

Savor the Moment (Bride Quartet #3)
Author: Nora Roberts
Narrator: Angela Dawe
Published: April 27, 2010
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 8 discs (approx. 9 hours)
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts cordially invites you to meet childhood friends Parker, Emma, Laurel, and Mac — the founders of Vows, one of Connecticut’s premier wedding planning companies. Laurel McBane has always relied on her friends for support, especially when her dream of attending culinary school was almost ruined by her parents’ financial problems. Now Laurel is repaying the kindness of her friends by creating extravagantly luscious tiers of cakes and other confectionary delights that add the perfect touch to their clients’ weddings. As for romance, Laurel believes in it — in theory. But she’s too low-key to appreciate all the luxuries that other women seem to long for. What she does appreciate is a strong, intelligent man, a man just like Parker’s older brother, Delaney Brown, on whom Laurel has had a mega crush since childhood. But some infatuations last longer than others, and Laurel is convinced that the Ivy League lawyer is still out of her reach. Plus, Del is too protective of Laurel to ever cross the line with her, or so she thinks. When Laurel’s quick- silver moods get the better of her — leading to an angry, hot, altogether mind-blowing kiss with Del — she’ll have to quiet the doubts in her mind to turn a moment of passion into forever…

My Thoughts: I'm really into this series now, which is a good sign since there's only one more book left after this one! In this book, we are back at Vows, a premiere wedding and event venue in Connecticut, run by four best friends. This book focuses on Laurel, the pastry chef at this venue. She has had a rough childhood with parents divorcing and leaving her to choose sides. As an adult, Laurel has always had feelings for Del, Parker's older brother and one of their business partners, but she refused to act on those feelings because of how her parent's divorce affected her. She also realizes that starting something with Del could affect their business and her friendship with Parker, so she leaves him alone, content to see him as an older brother. But one day, she decides to act on her feelings, and the two become an item and grow closer together.

I really loved Laurel and wish that her book had been longer than the others. Mac and Emma (who were featured in the first two books) were nice, but you had no real connection to them. Laurel is a real person, someone who you could imagine knowing in your own life. You understand why she is the way that she is, and you don't fault her for it. Instead, you accept her as she is and hope that she is able to find happiness, whether it be with or without Del. The relationship that they have together is real, too, and didn't feel as forced as it did in the first two books.

My only complaint with this novel (besides wishing it was a little bit longer) was how quickly everything progressed. Sure, the beginning of their relationship dragged out for a bit, but all of a sudden, they are saying "I love you" and Del proposes. Excuse me, but isn't that a bit quick? Call me old fashioned, but I would like a guy to say "I love you" awhile before he pops the question. The ending was just too rushed and left me shaking my head. I knew it was going to happen, because that's how it played out in the first two books, but changing it up a little might have been nice.

There's only one more book left in this series, and although I'm pretty certain I know how it's going to end, I still have to listen to it! This is a good series to pop in the CD player and get lost in for awhile, so I would recommend it if you just want to something to zone out to.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (3-22-13)

What are the top 5 books you would grab in an emergency?

1) The Harry Potter series (I couldn't just choose one or two books out of the series! And I also think of them as one book, so it works)

2) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

3) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

4) Bossypants by Tina Fey

5) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (this one just popped in my head out of nowhere!)

Parajunkee asks:

What is your guilty pleasure as far as reading? Is it a genre, or is it a certain type of book?

Definitely chick lit. I know that there is nothing but air inside those books, but sometimes, that what a girl needs! They are nice and light and easy to get through when I need a little reading pick-me-up!

So, what books would you grab in an emergency? What's your guilty reading pleasure? Let me know and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (3-20-13)

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 Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (release date: March 26, 2013).

Synopsis (from Amazon): New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.
Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.
Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (3-19-13)

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 I HAD to Buy ... And Are Still Sitting on my Shelf, Unread
1) The Weird Sisters - okay, I have been trying to get around to reading this book for a few years now, because I just had to buy it when it first came out. And every few months, I promise myself that I will read it, but I just forget about it. I feel so guilty for letting this one sit there!
2) A Fierce Radience - I found this one at a used book sale a few years ago and figured that I would dive right into it, since it's based during WWII, which is one of my favorite time periods. And I have yet to dive right into it.
3) Anna Karenina - I have wanted to read this book since I was in high school, but I read the first few pages and just give up. I have a feeling that this one might never be finished.
4) Great Expectations - now, I have read this book, but I was 13 at the time, and I think rereading it now would give me a newfound appreciation for the books. So I bought this nice copy of it, which is just chilling in my TBR pile, untouched.
5) Before Ever After - funny story about this one .... I just had to have this book, so I went ahead and bought it, putting it at the top of my TBR pile. Fast forward a few months, and I check this same book out from the library and devour it in less than two days. So I have this brand new, never opened copy just sitting there now. Grr.
6) Several Kristin Hannah books - I bought most of her work at a Borders closing sale, so I rationalized that because I love her work so much, it would be worth the price of buying so much because I would read them all so quickly. So far, I've only read one book out of the six or seven that I bought.
There are many more books just lounging in my TBR pile, waiting to be read, but these are the ones that I always jump to the front of my mind when I think about my huge stack of books. So, which books are just lounging on your shelf unread? Let me know!      

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

The Good Father
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Published: April 24, 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction
eBook: approx. 368 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Four years ago, nineteen-year-old Travis Brown made a choice: to raise his newborn daughter on his own. While most of his friends were out partying and meeting girls, Travis was at home, changing diapers and worrying about keeping food on the table. But he's never regretted his decision. Bella is the light of his life. The reason behind every move he makes. And so far, she is fed. Cared for. Safe.

But when Travis loses his construction job and his home, the security he's worked so hard to create for Bella begins to crumble...….

Then a miracle. A job in Raleigh has the power to turn their fortunes around. It has to. But when Travis arrives in Raleigh, there is no job, only an offer to participate in a onetime criminal act that promises quick money and no repercussions. With nowhere else to turn, Travis must make another choice for his daughter's sake.Even if it means he might lose her.

My Thoughts: I've been wanting to read Diane Chamberlain for sometime now, but never got around to picking up one of her books. When I saw that this was available for immediate checkout on the OverDrive site (a library lending site), I went ahead and checked it out. The premise sounded promising and like something I would enjoy. As I started reading the book, I wasn't immediately drawn in. It took me about 100 pages to be fully engaged in the book, but once I was, it was hard to put down.

The story is told by three characters: Travis (Bella's father and a man who is down on his luck), Robin (a woman with a secret who is about to be married to a strong political family in North Carolina), and Erin (a woman who has recently lost a child and is finding it hard to cope with her life). Each chapter is told from a different point of view, and it's because of that reason that it takes a little time to get into the story. I love books that are written with multiple narrators, but it wasn't clear how all these people related to one another and how their stories would contribute to the overall plot.

It was an engrossing read once the action started and you didn't know what Travis was going to do in order to provide for his daughter. As the title states, Travis is a good father who has fallen on hard times and doesn't have a way to provide for his child. While I have no children, I could instantly relate to Travis and his struggles. Chamberlain has you rooting for him from the get-go and she really pulls you into the story with Travis and Bella.

The characters were engaging, the story engrossing, and the overall effect was wonderful. I could only give this book 3.5 stars thought because of the beginning (I hate when it takes a long time for me to get into a book), and the end (I just thought it was awkward). I will definitely read more of Diane Chamberlain's work in the future and hope that they are all as riveting as this story.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

A Duty to the Dead (Bess Crawford #1)
Author: Charles Todd
Published: August 25, 2009
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
eBook: approx. 336 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): The daughter of a distinguished soldier, Bess Crawford follows in his footsteps and signs up to go overseas as a nurse during the Great War, helping to deal with the many wounded. There, serving on a hospital ship, she makes a promise to a dying young lieutenant to take a message to his brother, Jonathan Graham: "Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother′s sake. But it has to be set right." Later, when her ship is sunk by a mine and she′s sidelined by a broken arm, Bess returns home to England, determined to fulfill her promise.

It′s not so easy, however. She travels to the village in Kent where the Grahams live and passes on to Jonathan his brother′s plea. Oddly, neither Jonathan, his mother, nor his younger brother admit to knowing what the message means. Then Bess learns that there′s another brother, incarcerated in a lunatic asylum since the age of 14 when he was accused of brutally murdering a housemaid. Bess rightly guesses that the dying soldier′s last words had something to do with the fourth brother. Because the family seems unwilling to do anything, she decides that she will investigate. It′s her own duty to the dead.

My Thoughts: Since I'm such a fan of the Maisie Dobbs series, this series of books was something that many people recommended to me. They figured that since I enjoyed Maisie so much, it would be logical for me to enjoy Bess Crawford and her mysteries just as much. And while this is not on-par with a Maisie Dobbs novel, there was something very enjoyable about it. Centering around a wounded World War I nurse who must return home to await her orders, she communicates with the family of a soldier that she nursed who had passed. He gives her a message to pass along to his family and she feels a responsibilty to carry that message, in person, to the family and let them know about the last moments of their son's life. What follows is a family mystery that Bess must unravel in order to make sure that justice is served to those who commit crimes.

I won't give anything away in my review, so you don't need to worry that I might ruin it for you. I will tell you that this was not what I expected in terms of a mystery. Bess has never solved a crime before, so there is a bit of blundering that goes on, in terms of aimlessly wondering about to try and find something related to the case. There was a lot in this novel that could have been edited out because it did nothing to add to the story and just made me lose interest. There were so many times where I had to put the book down because I had read ten pages and couldn't even tell you what had happened, beyond Bess continuing to wonder about a conversation she had with someone.

It was a well-written novel, very much historically accurate, but with some editing, I feel like it could have been much better. The ending was well-done and it is because of that that I was able to give this book three stars. I might check out Bess Crawford again, but it won't be for sometime. If you are a fan of Maisie Dobbs, you might be interested in this series, but be prepared to know that Bess is nothing like Maisie. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (3-15-13)

Happy Friday, everyone! Are you ready for St. Patty's Day weekend? Hopefully you don't drink too much green beer! I get to work all weekend, so I'm hoping that people don't get too rowdy (adding food coloring to beer makes people do funny things). And can I just say how ready I am for spring?!? We got a little tease last weekend when the temperatures were up in the mid-60s! Then, two days later, it was snowing again. I love you winter, but it's time to say good-bye until next year. Well, let's get onto the Friday fun ...

Time to take a seat on the director's chair! If you could turn one of your favorite books into a film, who would you cast?

Well, I would probably say that I would like to see the Valentine's trilogy by Adriana Trigiani turned into a movie, because it would be a great chick flick focused on food, family, love, and most importantly, shoes! As to who I would cast as Valentine, I would have to go with Selma Blair. I think she has the looks to pull it off and she, while she is beautiful, she would look like a normal, everyday person, so the movie would be more believable.

Parajunkee asks:

Hopefully warm weather for most of us is here soon…so tell us about your favorite outdoor reading spot. Or take a picture.

Well, I don't have a picture of it, but I love just sitting on the deck, either in one of the cushiony chairs or in a rocker, reading. The sun doesn't hit directly on the deck until the late afternoon, so you can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine with it bearing down on you.

So, who would you cast in your movie? What's your fave outdoor place to read? Let me know and have a great weekend!