Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (4-30-13)

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:

Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Pick Up a Book

1) World War II - I love novels set during this time period! If it has anything to do with WWII, you can bet that I will pick it up!

2) New York City - I love this town and how diverse it is. You never know what can happen here!

3) Shoes - I am obsessed with shoes! If the word shoes is in the title, then you can bet that I will read it!

4) Art - I don't know why I am pulled towards books dealing with art/the art world, but I am. I might pick the book up, but the odds that I will actually read it are small.

5) Weight - I am on a journey to living a healthier lifestyle, so reading books that deal with characters who are also facing similar issues really resonates with me.

6) Any form of technology - I love with authors embrace technology and make it a part of their books. I feel like it adds another dimension to the story when they use something like blogging or Twitter to enhance the story (and it also makes it more realistic).

7) Travel - I love traveling so if a book has anything to do with getting away from it all, then I need to read it!

8) Paris - I am obsessed with Paris! I have never been but if I see anything related to Paris on that cover, then I have to pick it up and read it!

9) London - I don't love London as much as a do Paris (at least in terms of book settings), but books set here are just something that I gravitate towards.

I could only think of nine things this week! It was hard to pinpoint what exactly draws me towards a book! So, what pulls you in? Let me know!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Villa by Nora Roberts

The Villa
Author: Nora Roberts
Narrator: Laural Merlington
Published: January 5, 2002
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 14 discs (approx. 15.5 hours)
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Sophia Giambelli has never worried about competition. For three generations, the Giambelli wines have been renowned for their quality-- from Napa Valley to Italy, and throughout the world. The pride of the Giambelli family and a top PR executive, Sophia loves her job-- and excels at it. But things are about to change at Villa Giambelli. Tereza, the matriarch, has announced a merger with the MacMillan family's winery-- and Sophia will be assuming a new role. As a savvy businesswoman, she knows she must be prepared for anything . . . but she isn't prepared for Tyler MacMillan. They've been ordered to work together very closely, to facilitate the merger. Sophia must teach Ty the finer points of marketing-- and Ty, in turn, shows her how to get down and dirty, to use the sun, rain, and earth to coax the sweetest grapes from the vineyard.

As they toil together, both in and out of the fields, Sophia is torn between a powerful attraction and a professional rivalry. At the end of the season, the course of the company's future-- and the legacy of the villa-- may take an entirely new direction. And when acts of sabotage threaten both the family business and the family itself, Sophia's quest will be not only for dominance, but also for survival.

My Thoughts: I tend to enjoy listening to Nora Roberts in audiobook form because they are something light and easy that I can have playing in the car while I drive around. So, I read the description for this one and thought, "That sounds intriguing, I'll give it a try." But this was not a typical Roberts for me. This novel just dragged on and on and felt like it might never end! Usually, the relationships between the characters is what pulls you in, and while there were some great relationships in the book, Roberts didn't focus enough on those. Instead of focusing on the relationship between the three Giambellli women, he focused on the relationship that (literally) came out of nowhere between Sophia and Tyler. It was a very confusing novel, one that had me mostly shaking my head because it was so tedious to get through.

The beginning of the book was hard to get into and I thought about turning it off and returning it for another book, but I wanted to stick it out. It did get better by the end, but it wasn't enough to make up for the lackluster beginning. There were so many characters introduced all at once, which can be hard to keep track of when you are listening to a book. And there wasn't a since of family immediately, and since this is a book about family, you expect to have a sense of it from the characters. But they all seemed to be living seperate lives from one another and they didn't mesh entirely. Overall, this was a lousy audiobook listen, but it maybe one of those things that better in the printed form than CD form. While it wasn't my favorite Roberts novel, I will still be listening to her books in the future.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Author: Rosamund Lupton
Published: June 7, 2011
Genre: mystery, thriller
eBook: approx. 368 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): When her mom calls to tell her that Tess, her younger sister, is missing, Bee returns home to London on the first flight. She expects to find Tess and give her the usual lecture, the bossy big sister scolding her flighty baby sister for taking off without letting anyone know her plans. Tess has always been a free spirit, an artist who takes risks, while conservative Bee couldn’t be more different. Bee is used to watching out for her wayward sibling and is fiercely protective of Tess (and has always been a little stern about her antics). But then Tess is found dead, apparently by her own hand.

Bee is certain that Tess didn’t commit suicide. Their family and the police accept the sad reality, but Bee feels sure that Tess has been murdered.  Single-minded in her search for a killer, Bee moves into Tess's apartment and throws herself headlong into her sister's life--and all its secrets. 

Though her family and the police see a grieving sister in denial, unwilling to accept the facts, Bee uncovers the affair Tess was having with a married man and the pregnancy that resulted, and her difficultly with a stalker who may have crossed the line when Tess refused his advances. Tess was also participating in an experimental medical trial that might have gone very wrong.  As a determined Bee gives her statement to the lead investigator, her story reveals a predator who got away with murder--and an obsession that may cost Bee her own life.

My Thoughts: Wow. Let me start this review with that one word: wow. This book is probably one of the best that I will read this year (I'm willing to make that statement pretty early on in the year!) and something that I will be talking about to everybody that I know. Beatrice has just lost her sister and nephew (who was stillborn), so she returns to London to deal with the funeral and burial. When she arrives and learns the circumstances around her sisters death, Beatrice realizes that her sister was murdered, although everyone else believes that she committed suicide following the death of her baby. Beatrice decides to solve this crime on her own since everyone believes that Tess was not murdered but just a girl going through a very hard time. 

Beatrice is the narrator for this story and she tells it in the most interesting way. She is talking to a prosecutor, telling him how she went about solving the mystery and talking to her dead sister at the sametime. It's the most interesting viewpoint that I've ever seen used to write a book and it was so engaging! When she talks to the prosecutor, you are driven to anxiousness because she has already solved the crime! You are on the edge of your seat, wanting it to  go faster! When she's talking to Tess, telling her how she figures everything out and uses the language that is common to sisters, you learn more about Beatrice and Tess, both as individuals and as siblings.

Rosamund Lupton is a gifted writer and it shows when she is talking about the sisters. As an older sister myself, I could totally identify with Beatrice and her madness to solve this crime. Afterall, we may not always get along with our sisters, but we know each other better than anyone else. That's what happens when you grow up together and share those common experiences that shape your personality and who you are a person. You forge a bond with one another that cannot be severed. And you also have an innate understanding of each other, which can never be broken. Lupton explores the relationship between sisters so wonderfully and it made me better understand my own sisters and the relationships that we have together. 

The plot is gripping and engaging and the end of the novel (don't worry, I won't give anything away) had me (literally!) on the edge of my seat, wondering if this was how the novel was going to end. I did think that it ended a little abruptly, which is why I gave this 4.5 stars. But at the end of the day, I walk away having read a fantastic book written by a gifted writer, one who I'm sure will be around for quite sometime. If you like mysteries or thrillers, or if you have a sister, then you must read this book. I promise you, you will not be disappointed!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (4-26-13)

Happy Friday everyone! Are you ready for the weekend? I know I am .... Unfortunately, I had a mini-vacation from work this week, so I don't get to have the weekend off. Oh well, that just means that I get to look forward to next weekend, when I am off and running in my first 5k! I am anxious for next weekend to finally roll around, so here's hope that this weekend flies by (and that the nice weather stays around!) Let's get onto the Friday fun ...

What was the last book you read that made you laugh out loud?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I listened to this one on a six hour car ride and was busting up laughing the whole time. If you haven't read it, then hurry up and get your hands on a copy! Kaling does not disappoint!

Parajunkee asks:

Is there a song that reminds you of a book? Or vice versa? What is the song & the book?

I can't say that there is! My brain doesn't typically think like that, in terms of combining two things that I don't associate with one another. But a good question! I will be thinking about it while reading this week!

So what's the last book that made you laugh out loud? Do you think of songs that go with books? Let me know and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (4-24-13)

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 Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews (release date: June 4, 2013).

Synopsis (from Amazon): Grace Stanton’s life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating and torpedoes his pricey sports car straight into the family swimming pool.  Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even the blog she has worked so hard to develop in her signature style.  Moving in with her widowed mother, who owns and lives above a rundown beach bar called The Sandbox, is less than ideal.  So is attending court-mandated weekly "divorce recovery" therapy sessions with three other women and one man for whom betrayal seems to be the only commonality.  When their “divorce coach” starts to act suspiciously, they decide to start having their own Wednesday "Ladies' Night" sessions at The Sandbox, and the unanticipated bonds that develop lead the members of the group to try and find closure in ways they never imagined.  Can Grace figure out a new way home and discover how strong she needs to be to get there?

I love Andrews' novels because they are so nice to read during a sunny summer afternoon! So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (4-23-13)

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 Thought I'd Like Less Than I Did

1) The Art of Fielding - this one totally caught me off guard and I wasn't expecting it! I read it because I read so many rave reviews and figured I would give it a chance, totally not expecting it to blow me away like it did!

2) The Night Circus - I'm not a huge fan of the fantasy genre, but this book is a wonderful work of fiction. It's so realistic that it doesn't seem like a fantasy world at times, and it's so easy to get sucked into and forget what time it is.

3) Jane Eyre - I didn't think I would like this one as much because it was a darker novel, but I fell in love with Jane and she is now one of my favorite heroines!

4) Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Childs - I didn't think I would learn to love Julia Childs so much and what she did not only for women, but for food in America! She truly revolutionized how American cook and prepare food and this novel gave me a newfound apprciation for her.

5) More Than You Know - I picked this book up at the library, not quite sure what to expect, but the more I read of this book, the more I was blown away by Penny Vincenzi's gift as a writer to write about relationships and the bonds that people share.

6) A Good American - another book that I stumbled upon the library that knocked my socks off. A great piece of writing that chronicles one family's pursuit of the American dream.

7) The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost - I love a travelogue but this one resonated on a different level from others that I've read. If you are a woman in your 20s, then you need to read this book!

8) Twenties Girl - I thought this was going to be another piece of chick lit fluff, but it wasn't that at all! It was a great novel about a young woman, wanting to make her way into the world, but needing a little help to make it all happen. The fact that a romance doesn't factor into this story is even better!

9) Firefly Lane - another one that I thought was going to be an easy piece of fluff, this novel blew me away with it's relationships and the span of the novel. A great work that had me laughing and crying.

10) She's Come Undone - the depth with which Wally Lamb writes is phenomenal and blows me away everytime I read one of his books. This one was no different, but it was a departure from his other books that I've read, so it was a bit unexpected.

Don't you just love that feeling when you weren't expecting to love a book as much as you do? Let me know which books really blew you away, unexpectedly!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (4-19-13)

Happy Friday everyone! Enjoying April so far? It's hard to believe that it's almost May ... the time is just flying by this month! Hopefully it slows down a little so that we can enjoy the summer weather, but I doubt that it will. Well, let's get onto the Friday fun ...

What was last book you read that made you cry?

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. (I read it awhile ago, but it takes a lot for a book to make me cry).

If you could hang out with any author (living) who would it be and what would you want to do?

That's a toughie! There are so many authors that I would love to meet, but I don't know if hanging out is the right word for just wanting to meet and ask a few questions! If I had to choose someone, I would say Kristin Hannah (I guess it's her week!) because she has homes in Seattle (which I've been wanting to visit for sometime now) and Hawaii, so we could just chill at her places and relax. I'm pretty boring, as you can tell!

So, which was the last book that made you cry? Which author would hang out with? Let me know and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday (4-17-13)

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 The Time Between by Karen White (release date: June 4, 2013).

Synopsis (from Amazon): Eleanor Murray will always remember her childhood on Edisto Island, where her late father, a local shrimper, shared her passion for music. Now her memories of him are all that tempers the guilt she feels over the accident that put her sister in a wheelchair—and the feelings she harbors for her sister’s husband.

To help support her sister, Eleanor works at a Charleston investment firm during the day, but she escapes into her music, playing piano at a neighborhood bar. Until the night her enigmatic boss walks in and offers her a part-time job caring for his elderly aunt, Helena, back on Edisto. For Eleanor, it’s a chance to revisit the place where she was her happiest—and to share her love of music with grieving Helena, whose sister recently died under mysterious circumstances.An island lush with sweetgrass and salt marshes, Edisto has been a peaceful refuge for Helena, who escaped with her sister from war-torn Hungary in 1944. The sisters were well-known on the island, where they volunteered in their church and community. But now Eleanor will finally learn the truth about their past: secrets that will help heal her relationship with her own sister—and set Eleanor free....

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (4-16-13)

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 Thought I'd Like MORE Than I Did

1) The New Yorkers - I love NYC and love books that are set here because there is so much that can happen. But this book was awful. I kept on listening because so many people on GoodReads raved about it, but it never got any better. I wish I had listened to my gut and stopped listening to it!

2) Shoe Addicts Anonymous - another book that I listened to. For this one, I had just finished another Beth Harbison audiobook and really liked it, so I decided to try another one of her books. This was one of the strangest books that I've ever read and it was so awkward (and not in a funny way!)

3) The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. - I read this after hearing so many bloggers write rave reviews of this book, but it just didn't click for me. I was really disappointed that I didn't like it more.

4) Summer Breeze - I feel like I should like Nancy Thayer's work, but I just don't like her writing. This was the second book of hers that I read and I was so upset with myself by the end of it because it was just like the first book, but the characters names had changed.

5) 150 Pounds - I thought that I would really like this novel because it focuses on two bloggers living very different lifestyles. But it was too preachy for me and it felt like Kate Rockland was trying to push a message home.

6) Midnight in Austenland - I love Jane Austen. I love England. So this should be something that I would love, right? Wrong! I didn't like it one bit!

7) The Lantern - with everyone comparing this book to Rebecca, I hurried to get myself a copy. But this novel is nowhere like Rebecca and I was left feeling bitter and disappointed that I read a book that wasn't at all what I would like.

8) In Her Shoes - I enjoy Jennifer Weiner's work and figured that I should try out some of her earlier books, but I was so disappointed with this one. I'm glad that I didn't read this book first because I might not have read any of her others books!

9) Joy for Beginners - the premise of this book is great but the writing and follow-through were awful. It was also very formulaic, and I always hate that in novels.

10) Big Stone Gap - I had read a few Adriana Trigiani novels so far and people raved about this one, her first book. So, I checked out the audiobook from the library but had a hard time connecting to it. 

I'm always disappointed when a book doesn't live up the expectations that I had for it. So, what topic did you rewind to this week? Let me know!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: The Memory Thief by Emily Colin

The Memory Thief
Author: Emily Colin
Published: August 21, 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction
eBook: approx. 432 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): When Madeleine Kimble’s husband Aiden dies in a mountain climbing accident, Maddie can only think of his earnest promise to return to her and their young son. Aiden’s best friend J.C. feels great remorse over his inability to save him, but J.C.’s grief is also seasoned with the guilt of loving Maddie through the years. Meanwhile, across the country another young man wakes up in a hospital and finds that his memories have been wiped clean, and replaced with haunting dreams of a beautiful woman and a five year old boy whom he feels driven to find. What Nicholas Sullivan discovers upon his journey is utterly unexpected—and it will change all of their lives, especially Maddie’s.

My Thoughts: I was really intrigued by the description of this novel and when comparisons were made between Emily Colin's novel and the work of Kristin Hannah, I decided to give it a try since I love Hannah's work so much. Colin writes a story of loss and grieving, between a husband and wife, father and child, two best friends, and a complete stranger. It's a really good story but something that is hard to describe (this is proving a hard review for me to write because I feel like summarizing the book would give everything away!) The chapters are told from three characters' points of view, alternating between them so that you are able to fully understand what is happening. There is Aidan, the mountain climber who tragically falls to death during an avalanche. There is Maddie, his wife who didn't want to him to go on the trip because she had a feeling that something bad might happen. Then there is Nicholas, a man who lives in North Carolina, has no idea who Aidan or Maddie are, yet has all of Aidan's memories following a horrible motorcycle accident (you keeping up yet?)

There is a lot going on, but Colin doesn't make it seem that way. It would be easy to become bogged down with the details of what is happening, how Nicholas can see Aidan's memories and communicate with him in this weird way. But Colin doesn't let that happen, and instead let's everything unfold naturally. If there is a complaint with this novel, it's that following Aidan's death, everything seems rushed between Maddie and JC. Their relationship goes from 0 to 60 in about three seconds, and all of a sudden, Colin has you focusing on their relationship instead of the loss of Aidan. I didn't like how it played out, but it didn't take away from the novel too much.

Overall, this was a great first novel from a writer and I understand why Colin drew comparisons to Hannah. Both are great writers who understand females and the connections that they form with other people. The relationships were the basis of this novel, not the coming-back-from-the-dead stuff, which is a huge feat for a first time novelist. I cannot wait to read more of Colin's work in the future and see where she goes as a writer.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster

Here I Go Again
Author: Jen Lancaster
Published: January 29, 2013
Genre: chick lit
Hardcover: 320 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Twenty years after ruling the halls of her suburban Chicago high school, Lissy Ryder doesn't understand why her glory days ended. Back then, she was worshipped...beloved...feared. Present day, not so much. She's been pink-slipped from her high-paying job, dumped by her husband, and kicked out of her condo. Now, at thirty-seven, she's struggling to start a business out of her parents' garage and sleeping under the hair-band posters in her old bedroom. Lissy finally realizes karma is the only bitch bigger than she was. Her present is miserable because of her past. But it's not like she can go back in time and change who she was...or can she?

My Thoughts: I really loved Jen Lancaster's first foray into fiction, If You Were Here, so I was anxious to see if she could keep the ball rolling with her second work of fiction. Lucky for us, not only does she write another great piece of chick lit, but she gets even better! This time, Lancaster explores the world of the privileged, specifically one girl who was the most popular girl in high school but whose world is falling apart in the present day. When Lissy is given the chance to go back in time and possibly change her ways, she realizes how it will affect her future. This is a great book, filled with great characters, an engaging story, and enough humor to keep you laughing.

Lissy Ryder is the quintessiential mean girl, that one girl who ruled the school with an iron fist and got everything she ever wanted. But now, she's 37 and she's lost her job, has no money, and her husband is leaving her and dating someone that they went to high school with together. Lissy gets the chance to travel back in time to fix her errors, but as she finds out, changing her past will also change her, and everyone else's, futures. Lissy is a great character. You are laughing at her within the first few pages but half way through the book, you really care for her and are hoping that she is able to fix everything for the better. I don't want to give anything away, but you will be rooting for this former mean girl and hoping that she is able to change everything for the better. It's rare that you cheer for someone as mean as Lissy, but Lancaster manages to have you loving/hating her from the very beginning.

Lancaster's writing has also improved from her first novel. I think her first book was still a bit memoir with a few fun tidbits thrown in to make it a work of fiction. This one is pure fiction and it's wonderful. She still employs the stream of conscious writing that I've grown to love from her books, but it's Lissy's voice that it talking, not Lancaster. It shows a huge growth on Lancaster's end as a writer and storyteller to remove herself from the character's voice and let them stand on their own.

If you are looking for a wonderful chick lit novel to get lost in and laugh at, I would highly recommend this one. If there is anything that I could improve upon, it's that I wish I had read it during the summer because reading this outside with the sun shining would have been the only thing to have made it better.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (4-12-13)

Happy Friday everyone! It looks like we finally received some April showers this morning here ... hopefully it won't last all weekend! We've been spoiled here in western Pennsylvania this past week ... it's been above 70 everyday! And if it has rained, it's been late at night, so it never had to affect the rest of your day! Well, let's get onto the Friday fun ...

What was the last book you read from a genre you don't normally read?

I just finished Sister by Rosamund Lupton a few days ago and it was fantastic! It's this mystery/thriller ... and not that I don't enjoy those books, but I try to read fewer of them so that I don't burn out on all that suspense!

Parajunkee asks:

We are about to see a lot of posts & tweets about reader conventions, RT, BEA, ALA and many more are starting soon. Which one would you love to attend? Where and why?


Anything that would involve a break from my job for a few days is the one for me! Haha, but seriously, I've been so busy with work lately that my reading has been falling behind. 


So, what's the last book you read from a genre that you typically shy away from? Let me know and have a great weekend! 



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday (4-10-13)

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 Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand (release date: June 25, 2013).

Synopsis (from Amazon): The Carmichaels and the Grahams have gathered on Nantucket for a wedding. Plans are being made according to the wishes of the bride's late mother, who left behind The Notebook: specific instructions for every detail of her youngest daughter's future nuptials. Everything should be falling into place for the beautiful event--but in reality, things are far from perfect.

While the couple-to-be are quite happy, their loved ones find their own lives crumbling. In the days leading up to the wedding, love will be questioned, scandals will arise, and hearts will be broken and healed. Elin Hilderbrand takes readers on a touching journey in BEAUTIFUL DAY--into the heart of marriage, what it means to be faithful, and how we choose to honor our commitments.

I'm a big fan of Elin Hilderbrand novels because they are the perfect summertime read! I really can't wait to read this one? So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (4-9-13)

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:

Favorite Books I Read Before I Was a Blogger

1) To Kill a Mockingbird - I actually did reread this one once I started blogging, but this is my favorite book ever, and I loved it way before I started blogging.

2) Harry Potter series - I've been reading this series for years now, and while I do tend to reread it every once in awhile, I haven't done so since I've started blogging.

3) Pride & Prejudice - I love Jane Austen and fell in love with this book while I was in high school.

4) An Irish Country Doctor series - I stumbled upon this book in Borders one day, purchased the first book, and became hooked. I still love it to this day.

5) Roots - I read this one summer during high school and fell in love with Kinte's story.

6) First Family - this is a work of nonfiction, chronicling the lives of John Adams and his wife, Abigail. It's based mostly on their letters, and it's amazing to see how they influenced one another and the formation of our country.

7) The Devil in the White City - this was my first foray into narrative nonfiction and I loved it! I have since reviewed quite a few narrative nonfiction books on my blog.

8) Tale of Two Cities - I read this back in high school for class and really enjoyed it. I have a copy that I keep on meaning to reread because I feel like I would have a new appreciation for it now that I am older, but it just keeps on waiting for me in my TBR pile.

9) Night - another book that I read during high school that I absolutely loved. It's a harrowing retelling of Elie Wiesel's time spent in a Nazi concentration camp.

10) Testimony - I read this during college, in one sitting. I was so absorbed in the story that I couldn't put it down, even to go and eat! 

There are so many books that it was hard to choose just ten! So, what books did you read before blogging that you loved? Let me know!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Audiobook Review: Mini-Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Mini Shopaholic
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Published: September 2, 2010
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 11 discs (approx. 12.5 hours)
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Becky Brandon thought motherhood would be a breeze and that having a daughter was a dream come true: a shopping friend for life! But it’s trickier than she thought. Two-year-old Minnie has a quite different approach to shopping. Minnie creates havoc everywhere she goes, from Harrods to her own christening. Her favorite word is “Mine!” and she’s even trying to get into eBay! On top of everything else, Becky and Luke are still living with her parents (the deal on house #4 has fallen through), when suddenly there’s a huge financial crisis. 

With people having to “cut back,” Becky decides to throw a surprise party for Luke to cheer everyone up. But when costs start to spiral out of control, she must decide whether to accept help from an unexpected source—and therefore run the risk of hurting the person she loves. Will Becky be able to pull off the celebration of the year? Will she and Luke ever find a home of their own? Will Minnie ever learn to behave? And . . . most important . . . will Becky’s secret wishes ever come true?

My Thoughts: I was unsure if I wanted to read this last book in the Shopaholic series, since it seemed like each book just got a little worse than the one before. But, I didn't want to leave the series unfinished, so I went ahead and picked this one up from the library. I should have followed my instinct and left this one alone because this might be one of the worst books that I have ever read. The book is pretty much divided into two sections (which is unintentional by the author), with the first part mostly being about how awful Minnie, Becky's daughter, is and how her parents are unable to properly rear a child. The second part of the book, it's has if Minnie doesn't exist anymore and Becky throws a surprise party for Luke. It was very disjointed and odd because I really disliked the beginning of the book, but enjoyed hearing Becky plan this huge surprise bash for Luke. So, that's why it was given the rating that it was. I loved hearing about the party and all the planning that went into it. Having to read about Becky's inability to raise a child? Not as humorous and definitely dragged on for way too long.

I enjoy Kinsella's writing and it typically has me laughing, but I am glad that this series is finished. Becky Bloomwood started the series as a girl who wants to change her ways and is all about being a good person. By the end of the series, her materialism is rather sickening and it's awful how she actually never changes and continues to blow money as if there is no tomorrow. I don't know if I would recommend the Shopaholic series to anyone, but her standalone books are very good and will have you entertained.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

The Middlesteins
Author: Jami Attenberg
Published: October 23, 2012
Genre: fiction
Hardcover: 273 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But now things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie's enormous girth. She's obsessed with food--thinking about it, eating it--and if she doesn't stop, she won't have much longer to live. 

When Richard abandons his wife, it is up to the next generation to take control. Robin, their schoolteacher daughter, is determined that her father pay for leaving Edie. Benny, an easy-going, pot-smoking family man, just wants to smooth things over. And Rachelle-- a whippet thin perfectionist-- is intent on saving her mother-in-law's life, but this task proves even bigger than planning her twin children's spectacular b'nai mitzvah party. Through it all, they wonder: do Edie's devastating choices rest on her shoulders alone, or are others at fault, too?

My Thoughts: I have been anxious to read this book, wondering if it would live up to the expectations that I had for it after reading several rave reviews and falling in love with the synopsis. It had all the makings for a great book, so when I finally stumbled across a copy at the library, I snatched it up, eager to get home and start it. I was a bit surprised because the book isn's very long (only 273 pages), so I wondered if maybe it was overhyped. But, just like everyone else, this book turned out to be a fantastic piece of literature. Jami Attenberg shines as a writer in this book, using her prose to craft a story of a typical American family, living in the suburbs, trying to live the American dream. Part of that American dream, unfortunately, is overeating, which manifests itself in Edie. She was always large, growing up in a home where her mother never stopped her from eating and was amazed at her daughter's appetite. The book alternates in chapters from Edie's past, chronicling her weight at a certain stage in her life. It's almost as if the weight defines who she is as a person in that moment, which really hits home. The other chapters are set in the present day and are told from various family members points of view, whether it be Richard, Edie's soon-to-be ex-husband, her children, even her grandchildren. It's amazing how one person's weight can affect so many people.

The characters in this story are what really made it for me. With Edie's chapters showing what it was like for her at certain points in her life, with her highs and lows in terms of weight, and the present day, you are able to understand why this family is the way that it is, and why Edie is the woman that she is. While I don't support her unhealthy eating habits, Attenberg shows what it is like growing up in the average American home, where food is emphasized as a means of expressing yourself. Edie eats when she's happy, sad, frustrated, and goes on and on at one point in the book about how eating is feeling. I was amazed at how perfectly Attenberg hit this on the head, describing our country's main issue with food. She didn't make it patronizing in anyway, just described why eating is so important to Edie. Her family all plays a role in her obesity and her disease also shapes them as individuals. Robin, her daughter, is the one most affected by her mother, for while she was an overweight child, she has a turning point where she changes her life and only eats what she needs to, realizing the role that food has played in her mother's life.

I could go on and on about this novel, discussing how Edie's relationship with food affects not only herself, but her family as well. This is a book that will certainly hit home with American today because I'm sure that everyone knows at least one person who is overweight or obese. This novel will resonate with you on so many levels that you will be sure to find yourself in at least one of the characters inside these pages. This is a book for modern America, a book that shows us what we are. Jami Attenberg really hit it out of the park with this one, giving us a glimpse into the average American family and their relationship with food. This is such a short read that I will recommend it to anyone, because even if you don't tend to like books like this, you will rush through it quickly. Seriously, just go get yourself a copy!