All Broke Down

Finished All Broke Down by Cora Carmack.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this second book in “New York Times” and “USA Today” bestselling author Cora Carmack’s New Adult, Texas-set Rusk University series, which began with “All Lined Up,” a young woman discovers that you can t only fight for what you believe in sometimes you have to fight for what you love.

Dylan fights for lost causes. Probably because she used to be one.

Environmental issues, civil rights, corrupt corporations, and politicians you name it, she s probably been involved in a protest. When her latest cause lands her in jail overnight, she meets Silas Moore. He’s in for a different kind of fighting. And though he s arrogant and infuriating, she can t help being fascinated with him. Yet another lost cause.

Football and trouble are the only things that have ever come naturally to Silas. And it s trouble that lands him in a cell next to do-gooder Dylan. He s met girls like her before fixers, he calls them, desperate to heal the damage and make him into their ideal boyfriend. But he doesn’t think he s broken, and he definitely doesn’t need a girlfriend trying to change him. Until, that is, his anger issues and rash decisions threaten the only thing he really cares about: his spot on the Rusk University football team. Dylan might just be the perfect girl to help.

Because Silas Moore needs some fixing after all.”

I’ve loved every book that Cora Carmack has written but this is easily my new favorite.

It’s definitely her sexiest book to date (which is pretty impressive, all things considered) but that’s not why.  (Okay, that’s not entirely why.)

Silas and Dylan could easily have been caricatures, right?  I’d be willing to bet that if you read the synopsis, you’ll picture her as a young Reese Witherspoon (and if you didn’t before, you probably agree with me that she sounds perfect) and Silas sounds like any one of a number of bad boys that we’ve encountered in books and movies and TV shows since there WERE books and movies and TV shows.

I immediately identified with Dylan, as I think any over-achiever would tend to do.  She’s smart and funny and a good friend.  She’s also prone to living her life to please other people, as opposed to living the kind of life she wants to lead.

As for Silas, he’s living exactly how he wants to, but is terrified that things will change and he’ll live the sort of life he was destined for before he found football.

These two absolutely should not work, but they do.  And it’s more than a little magical to see how they fall for each other and how they just mesh.

I’m very excited that the next book will be about Torres, because I liked him a lot in this novel.  (I really hope the fourth book will be about Stella, because she deserves something happy.)

The only problem is that book three isn’t out until SPRING.  You guys, that’s forever!

Highly recommended.

An Italian Wife

Finished An Italian Wife by Ann Hood.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the best-selling author of The Obituary Writer, the stirring multigenerational story of an Italian-American family.

An Italian Wife is the extraordinary story of Josephine Rimaldi—her joys, sorrows, and passions, spanning more than seven decades. The novel begins in turn-of-the-century Italy, when fourteen-year-old Josephine, sheltered and naive, is forced into an arranged marriage to a man she doesn’t know or love who is about to depart for America, where she later joins him. Bound by tradition, Josephine gives birth to seven children. The last, Valentina, is conceived in passion, born in secret, and given up for adoption.

Josephine spends the rest of her life searching for her lost child, keeping her secret even as her other children go off to war, get married, and make their own mistakes. Her son suffers in World War I. One daughter struggles to assimilate in the new world of the 1950s American suburbs, while another, stranded in England, grieves for a lover lost in World War II. Her granddaughters experiment with the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll in the 1970s. Poignant, sensual, and deeply felt, An Italian Wife is a sweeping and evocative portrait of a family bound by love and heartbreak.”

I’m a huge Ann Hood fan and have been since I read The Knitting Circle.  All of her books are far deeper than they appear to be at first glance and this one is no exception.

While the synopsis implies that the whole book is from Josephine’s perspective, each chapter tells a different character’s story.  While I missed Josephine at first, I ended up liking all of the characters and the pieces they told of the family’s history.

It’s fascinating to see how the world changes and to have it told from one family’s perspective (and one person at a time).  The things that would be pretty much literally unheard of in Josephine’s chapter because not only no big deal but actually commonplace in her granddaughter’s chapter.

I loved this story and can’t wait to read whatever Ann Hood does next.

Highly recommended.

Atlantia

Finished Atlantia by Ally Condie.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from publisher):

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.”

I’ve read Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy (and really enjoyed it) and while this is completely different, it’s still incredibly good.

I wasn’t sure if this is supposed to be our world (think Planet of the Apes) or if it’s completely different.  I’m still not sure (although I don’t think so) but I just went with it.

I loved the idea of people living underwater (and I love the fact that the community is called Atlantia) and that some of them have evolved into sirens.  This is an excellent world Ally Condie built.

And oh, I loved Rio.  She’s smart and determined to get what she wants, and she never gives up.  And I loved Bay, although we didn’t spend that much time with her.

I enjoyed this book tremendously.

I’m not sure if this is a standalone or the start of a series.  I hope it’s the start of a series because I miss Ally Condie’s books.

Recommended.

Leaving Time

Finished Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult.  I received a copy from the publisher at BEA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Throughout her blockbuster career, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult has seamlessly blended nuanced characters, riveting plots, and rich prose, brilliantly creating stories that “not only provoke the mind but touch the flawed souls in all of us” (The Boston Globe). Now, in her highly anticipated new book, she has delivered her most affecting novel yet—and one unlike anything she’s written before.

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.

Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons—only to later doubt her gifts. The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.

As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers.”

I was talking to a coworker about this book and I said that I think it reminds me most of Jodi Picoult’s book Lone Wolf.  It’s different from most of her other books (although I still haven’t read The Storyteller, which I’m guessing is also different) and it deals as much with animals as  it does people.

I absolutely adored this book and its central mystery.  I felt for Jenna, who has no idea what happened to her mom, and whether she’s alive or dead.  (And really, which of those is the better scenario? If Alice is alive, then she chose to leave Jenna…but at least they could have a relationship, possibly, if Jenna could find her.  If she’s dead, then at least she loved Jenna and would’ve stayed if she could.)

Jodi Picoult’s biggest strength is writing characters.  I immediately knew who these people were, and so seeing things happen to them was upsetting.  (Yes, I treat fictional characters like they’re real. Shut up.)

Highly recommended.

Famous in Love

Finished Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The romantic story of a girl who gets plucked from obscurity to star in the next major feature film franchise based on a book and the ensuing love triangles she gets entangled in on—-and off screen.

Meet Paige Townsen, Rainer Devon, and Jordan Wilder…

When Paige Townsen, a young unknown, gets cast in the movie adaptation of a blockbuster book series, her life changes practically overnight. Within a month, Paige has traded the quiet streets of her hometown for a crowded movie set on the shores of Maui, and is spending quality time with her co-star Rainer Devon, one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive. But when troubled star Jordan Wilder lands the role of the other point in the movie’s famous love triangle, Paige’s crazy new life gets even crazier.

In this coming-of-age romance inspired by the kind of celeb hookups that get clever nicknames and a million page views, Paige must figure out who she is – and who she wants – while the whole world watches.”

I absolutely loved this book.  It’s incredibly fun but it’s also got a lot going on under the surface.

I think most people have had little daydreams about becoming famous and this book addresses that somewhat—the idea that, while it seems incredibly fun at first glance, there are a lot of other things to consider.  You’ll earn a lot of money, of course, but you’ll also have to give a lot of things up: privacy, obviously, but also a lot of your relationships will change.  It will be hard to relate to your friends who have minimum wage retail jobs when you can match their weekly salary in probably, what, half an hour of work? This was touched on in this book, but I think it will come into play in the next two books, as well.  (YES, this will be a trilogy and that makes me ridiculously happy.)

I feel like this contemp is breaking all the contemp rules (trilogy, not standalone; love triangle where both boys are actually good people, not the obvious choice and the distraction) and I love it.

And yes, while we’re here, let’s talk about the boys.  I love Rainer and Jordan but my choice is clear: I am SO Team Rainer.  And again, it’s not that Jordan is a bad choice.  He isn’t.  I just feel like we got to know Rainer more in this book and I like him as a person and as the “leading guy” for Paige.

Bottom line, this book is an absolute delight and I can’t wait for everyone to read it and talk about it.

Highly recommended.

Book Community Drama And Renewed Manifesto

Over the weekend, a huge thing happened.  And then all of a sudden, a lot of bloggers (including me) got nervous.

Do I need to get a PO Box?  Should I scour my blog and Twitter for any hints as to my personal life (jobs/location/places to find me) and double-check that my Facebook is locked down?  Is there a way to increase my anonymity without completely starting over?

And do I need to worry that someone will randomly call me at work or show up at my house because they don’t like something I Tweet or blog?

I quickly eliminated that last worry.  As I said to a blogger friend of mine, one of the perks of having dozens of readers is that you stay pretty low under the radar.

And then I came to some decisions.

1)  I am not going to alter my habits online or on this blog.  It’s primarily a book blog (and that’s a lot of what I discuss on Twitter—except for this month, when I have gotten a lot of use out of #31HorrorFilms31Days) and that won’t change.  But when I feel like getting personal, I will.

2)  I’m not writing any more negative reviews.  (To be fair, I have barely written any anyway, because I have a pretty good handle on what I like to read and so I am rarely surprised by a book that doesn’t gel with me.)  It’s not because I worry that an author will show up at my house; it’s because this particular drama has given me an epiphany: I don’t want to talk about books I don’t like.  It takes time away from me talking about the books I do like.

And there are so many books that I want to read that I don’t want to spend time reading a book I don’t love because I feel pressure to review it.  Screw that, kids.

And that brings us to my final decision (which has been made a long time ago):

3)  I will not read or review any book that is written by an author who behaves badly.  I am not giving any of them any publicity whatsoever.  And those authors (including the one who sparked this incident) will not be discussed or promoted on my blog.

We only have so much free time, and I would rather spend mine flailing about good books.  I would rather get you to read Darby Karchut or Gae Polisner or Martha Brockenbrough or Courtney Summers or Jo Knowles or DK Mok or Walter H. Hunt or Daisy Whitney or Michelle Johnson or Suzy Rigdon or DC Farmer or Rhys A. Jones or Eileen Cook or Lisa Schroeder or Sarah Darer Littman or Amy Fellner Dominy or JK Rock or Lisa Amowitz or Errick Nunnally or Jodi Picoult or Stephen King or M.D. Waters or Shauna Kelley or Ann Stampler or Carrie Jones or any one of a billion writers I love, and who I bet you would love, too.

(ETA: As a side note: if you have entered and won a contest of mine, I do not keep any addresses. Once the prize has been shipped, addresses are destroyed.  If the book was sent from the publisher, that contact person is the only person your address has been shared with.)

The Monogram Murders

Finished The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (writing as Agatha Christie).  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The bestselling novelist of all time.

The world’s most famous detective.

The literary event of the year—an all-new mystery featuring
Agatha Christie’s legendary hero Hercule Poirot.

Since the publication of her first novel in 1920, more than two billion copies of Agatha Christie’s books have been sold around the globe. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation, Hercule Poirot.

‘I’m a dead woman, or I shall be soon…’

Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffeehouse is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered.  She is terrified – but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.

Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at a fashionable London Hotel have been murdered, and a cufflink has been placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim …”

I absolutely loved the concept (as well as getting to read—sort of—a new Agatha Christie novel).  This is an incredibly interesting plot.  I definitely want to read more of Sophie Hannah’s books because this one was very fun.

But it didn’t quite read like Agatha Christie (or at least the ones I’ve read).  This isn’t a bad thing; the changes were all good ones.  (Poirot has acquired a Watson of sorts, and most of the book is told from his first person perspective.)  Most of the other aspects of the novel were the same (including the fact that I am apparently never going to be able to guess the killer or reasoning in a Christie [or "Christie"] novel).

My intellectual shortcomings notwithstanding, I think there’s a lot to love here.  Recommended.

 

The Silent Murders

Finished The Silent Murders by Mary Miley.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Vaudeville actress Leah Randall took on her most daring role ever when she impersonated missing heiress Jessie Carr in order to claim Jessie’s inheritance in The Impersonator. Now that the dust has settled around that tumultuous time in her life, Leah has adopted Jessie’s name as her own and moved to Hollywood, where she’s taken a modest but steady job in the silent film industry.

Jessie’s thrilled when Bruno Heilmann, a movie studio bigwig, invites her to a party. She’s even more delighted to run into a face from her past at that party. But the following day, Jessie learns that sometime in the wee hours of the morning both her old friend and Bruno Heilmann were brutally murdered. She’s devastated, but with her skill as an actress, access to the wardrobes and resources of a film studio, and a face not yet famous enough to be recognized, Jessie is uniquely positioned to dig into the circumstances surrounding these deaths. But will doing so put her own life directly in the path of a murderer?

With Silent Murders, MB/MWA First Crime Novel Competition winner Mary Miley has crafted another terrifically fun mystery, this time set in the dizzying, dazzling heart of jazz-age Hollywood.”

Like the first book in the series (The Impersonator), this book is full of little winks at classic Hollywood history.  (Jessie’s really good friends with the person who becomes Myrna Loy, who is friends with the guy who becomes Gary Cooper—fun fact: many people change their names in Hollywood!)

Also like in The Impersonator, Jessie is a fun, easy-to-root-for heroine.  While I preferred the first one, this was very entertaining.

It centered around  a slew of murders that are seemingly centered around guests and workers at a big Hollywood party.  Not surprisingly, Jessie finds herself right in the middle of it and realizes that she is taking certain clues far more seriously than the police are.

This series is incredibly fun and I’m excited to see where they go next.

The Beast of Seabourne

The Beast of Seabourne by Rhys A. Jones comes out on October 28.

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Synopsis:
“Oz Chambers has a wonderful secret; the obsidian pebble, gifted to him by his dead father, is an artefact of astonishing power.  The sort of power that makes the year eight science project a hands-down walkover thanks to the the pebble’s genius avatar, Soph. But, there are sinister forces abroad who will do just about anything to get their hands on the pebble, and when fellow pupils start being attacked,  Oz finds himself in very hot water.  Soon Oz and his friends, Ruff and Ellie, are caught up in a centuries old mystery involving a missing ring, lava toothpaste and a murderous monster known as the Beast of Seabourne.”
I’ve been lucky enough to read this and it is AMAZING.  If you are a fan of middlegrade books, you have got to check this series out (the first book is The Obsidian Pebble).

Naliyah

Finished Naliyah by Shauna E. Kelley.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from author’s blog):

Naliyah is Lenora’s story.

Lenora is different, and though her tight-lipped father Gabriel refuses to tell her much about what she is, she knows that she is not a vampire… not exactly. She can eat human food, survive the daylight, and is not quite immortal. Nonetheless, she and her father carry an ancient disease and need human blood to survive. They travel the world to battles and scenes of all manner of depravity feeding on the dying. They bring mercy and release to men in their final moments.

From 19th century Baltimore, across the Boxer Rebellion in China, and into the jungles of Vietnam, Lenora follows her father from each scene of brutality to the next, comforted only by her recurring dreams of a blue-eyed man.

Lenora’s life, surrounded by carnage and atrocity, weighs on her and she begins to question how long she can go on… until the blue-eyed man from her dreams becomes reality.”

I signed on to be a beta reader for this because the author is friends with my college friend Matt.  That’s the extent of me knowing Shauna, so me liking this book is not because we are friends once removed (although now we are getting to be actual friends).

And you guys, I absolutely adored this book.  I will admit that I absolutely love books set in Baltimore (and this one is, at least partially) and I loved learning exactly what was going on with Lenora.  There are definite parallels to Cassandra Clare in that the world-building in this is absolutely unparalleled.  (And I think that regardless of your feelings about Cassie Clare, you have to give her props for creating amazing worlds.)

I was immediately enthralled in this story and I loved Lenora and was desperate to know what was happening.  The answers come at their own pace but it never feels dragged out.

I’m delighted to know that this is part of a series and cannot wait for the second book.  I hope it comes out soon.

Highly recommended.