Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday: No One Is Coming To Save Us

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

No One Is Coming To Save Us
Stephanie Powell Watts
Expected publication date: April 4, 2017
The Great Gatsby brilliantly recast in the contemporary South: a powerful first novel about an extended African-American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream.

JJ Ferguson has returned home to Pinewood, North Carolina to build his dream home and to woo his high school sweetheart, Ava. But he finds that the people he once knew and loved have changed, just as he has. Ava is now married, and wants a baby more than anything. The decline of the town’s once-thriving furniture industry has made Ava’s husband Henry grow distant and frustrated. Ava’s mother Sylvia has put her own life on hold as she caters to and meddles with those around her, trying to fill the void left by her absent son. And Don, Sylvia’s undeserving but charming husband, just won’t stop hanging around.

JJ’s newfound wealth forces everyone to consider what more they want and deserve from life than what they already have—and how they might go about getting it. Can they shape their lives to align with their wishes rather than their realities? Or are they resigned to the rhythms of the particular lives they lead? No One Is Coming to Save Us is a revelatory debut from an insightful voice that combines a universally resonant story with an intimate glimpse into the hearts of one family. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I'd Love to Meet

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is authors I'd love to meet!
  1. Kate Morton: Easily one of my favorite authors.  Her writing is just so magical and her Instagram is full of pretty pictures and hints about her next book!
  2. J.K. Rowling: I just want to bask in her genius!
  3. George R.R. Martin: I need to know when that next book is coming out!
  4. Emily Giffin: She is one of the few authors I will pre-order books from.  She seems so down-to-earth - her Facebook feed always has pictures of her adorable kids and dog!
  5. Diana Gabaldon: I love her Outlander series, but I have a few questions for her.
  6. Lauren Weisberger: For writing some of my favorite smart chick lit!
  7. Louise Penny: To find out how she comes up with all those great mysteries for Inspector Gamache.
  8. Beatriz Williams: Because her books are just so much fun!
  9. Erik Larson:  To find out what his next book is going to be about!
  10. Marissa Meyer: Just to tell her how much I loved The Lunar Chronicles!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: The Shadow Land

The Shadow Land
Elizabeth Kostova
Expected publication date: April 11, 2017
A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by oppression and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger. - from Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

Elizabeth Kostova wrote one of my favorite books, The Historian,  so I was very excited to get an early copy of her newest book!

Alexandra Boyd has just arrived in Bulgaria, soon to start a teaching position, when a chance encounter on the street mistakenly leaves her in the possession of someone else's bag, which she discovers to be the ashes of Stoyan Lazarov. She feels compelled to personally return them to the family, but this decision plunges her into a situation she never imagined, joined by her taxi driver Bobby, who turns out to be more than he appears.

The story felt a bit repetitive; Alexandra and Bobby search for the family and while they gain some information at each spot, it almost felt like they were taking one step forward and two steps back.  There's a lot of searching and not much finding.  Someone seems to be following them and making vague threats, but I didn't really feel the tension and danger; it could have been built up more.

I felt it took a bit too long to get to the point of the story.  It is unclear why Stoyan Lazarov and his ashes are so important to the bigger picture; he was a great violinist with a wife and son, but there didn't appear to be any notoriety or importance surrounding him.  The political situation in Bulgaria in the 20th century plays a large role in the story, particularly how oppressive the country became and how political prisoners were treated after WWII, and it wasn't until the very end of the story that I finally understood how Stoyan fit in, although the whole thing was still kind of confusing. 

The story ties up very quickly and neatly, which I did appreciate in this case.  I love Kostova's writing, but I felt the story became a bit overwhelming and convoluted.  I'm not much one for politics, but I think readers who understand and appreciate political intrigue better would like this book very much.

3 stars

Friday, March 24, 2017

Through The Years: How My Genre Preferences Have Changed

When I look back on my reading habits over the last 5, 10, and even 15 years, I can easily see that I'm not the same reader I used to be, and the biggest change has been in the genres I read.

When I was in high school, I somehow came across a list of 100 or so classic novels, and I became obsessed with reading my way through it.  I don't have the list anymore, but I know I read a fair number of them.  I even still own most of those books, although I haven't read them in years.  Of course, there are some classics that I still haven't read, but I'm glad that at least at one point in my life, I was exposed to these important works beyond what was required in my classes and enjoyed them.  Even to this day, Jane Eyre is still one of my favorite books.

During my college years, my time for fun reading was drastically reduced.  Between my courses and extracurriculars, there wasn't a lot of free time.  However, I do recall spending some Friday nights in the student center, reading Anna Karenina on one of the couches, so I guess my love of the classics was still going strong at that point.  I also remember reading The Pillars of the Earth, a novel about the construction of a cathedral in the Middle Ages, for a course on medieval Europe.  It was a nice change from our somewhat dry textbooks to read historical fiction.  I still own the copy I bought for my class and reread it from time to time.

After college, I moved out on my own for the first time and realized there are a lot of hours to fill when you live by yourself.  I still loved history, reading and learning about it, so sometimes I read nonfiction.  I discovered author Erik Larson, who writes amazingly readable but thoroughly researched nonfiction.  I also read a lot of historical fiction; Philippa Gregory became one of my favorite authors.  In addition, my love of smart chick lit began, Emily Giffin and Lauren Weisberger in particular.

Now that I'm in my early 30s, I find myself branching out in terms of what genres I read.  I still read a lot of historical fiction and chick lit, but I've also added contemporary fiction and YA to the mix.  Mystery/thriller is yet another genre that I am constantly reading.  Basically, these days, I'm open to trying most things at least once; if it looks interesting, I'll give it a shot. 

What are your favorite genres to read?  Have your tastes changed over the years?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review: The Otto Digmore Difference

The Otto Digmore Difference
Brent Hartinger
Published February 21, 2017
“Road trip!”

Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success.

Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.

It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie.

There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend.

Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?- from Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.   I also want to thank Lauren from Shooting Stars Mag and Let's Get Beyond Tolerance for bringing this book to my attention.

Otto Digmore is an actor, and when he finds out that an audition for the role of a lifetime is happening across the country, he and his friend Russel take a road trip.  Otto is one of the most self-aware and honest main characters I've ever come across.  He's not afraid to admit that being an actor means he lives a double life, and that in his real life, he is actually very lonely.  Otto also knows how fickle Hollywood can be, for better or worse, and understands how his sexuality and the burn scars that cover him can affect his career.

Otto goes on a road trip with his friend Russel, who was also his first love many years ago.  It's an interesting look at how people can remain friends after a break-up, and how often one person still has feelings for the other, but can't be open about it.  I loved how Russel was there for Otto as a friend, always trying to see the best in every situation, but the supporting characters (other people they meet along the way) really gave the book some depth and heart.  Their stories, however small, really helped break the bubble of Otto and Russel and made the story more well-rounded.

I enjoyed the insider Hollywood secrets, like about how actors make extra money.  The pop culture references were fun, but they could also serve to date the book very quickly.  In a year or two, the book might not feel so fresh.

The writing is readable and accessible, but maybe a bit too conversational in some places.  There were some long monologues, which is kind of a pet peeve of mine, since I don't think people really talk like that in real life.  Also, Hartinger is a bit heavy-handed with the lessons Otto learns during the course of the novel.  I think they could have been handled a bit more subtly, instead of spelling everything out for the reader.

3 stars

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Castle of Water

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Castle of Water
Dane Huckelbridge
Expected publication date: April 4, 2017
Two very different people, one very small island.

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. The proud owner of a thriving Parisian architecture firm, co-founded with her brilliant new husband, Sophie had much to look forward to—including a visit to the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel.

For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. Turning away from his dreary existence in Manhattan finance, Barry had set his sights on fine art, seeking creative inspiration on the other side of the world—just like his idol, Paul Gauguin.

But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another's strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home. - from Goodreads

Monday, March 20, 2017

Quotables #2: The Anna Kendrick Edition

I was finally able to get a copy of Anna Kendrick's Scrappy Little Nobody from my library and instead of writing a full review, I thought it would be a perfect time to choose some awesome quotes from her book and do another round of Quotables!

Why it speaks to me: It's good to have confidence, but it's also important to be realistic.  I think if we have a little bit of self-doubt about something, it makes us work harder to achieve it.  Too much confidence leads to complacency.  And it's rare in this life that things will magically work out or just be handed to us; very often we have to work for the things we want, and I think that makes us deserve it more, because we were willing to put in the time to get it.

Why it speaks to me: I love this quote because it speaks to a spirit of volunteerism.  We go to our jobs everyday mainly because we get paid and we need the money.  But it's often the things we do outside of work that we're most passionate about - whether it's reading, blogging, or doing charity work.  We do these things because we love them, not because we're getting paid for it.

Why it speaks to me: What does "nice" even mean?  Agreeable, obedient, never saying a bad word against anyone or anything?  It's kind of blah, what someone says when they don't know you very well.  Like Anna, I'd rather be known for other qualities, something more definable and precise, like honesty.

Why it speaks to me: Sure, sometimes it's nice to dream about going back to my (relatively) carefree college days.  But I've grown so much since then, and I don't think I would trade back those years.  There are benefits to the wisdom, strength, and stability that come with being 30+!

Which of these is your favorite?  Do you identify with any of them?