Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Boooooooo UPS!!

I think many book lovers will tell you that the sound of a UPS truck brings joy. You just know that the UPS driver is coming to your door with something good. Today, I received two packages. In one package, the books were shiny and perfect. In the other package........well look at that photo above. I loved Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, so I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour for the sequel. I'm still looking forward to reading The Great Escape. But look at what happened to this wonderful book. The book is all out of shape. The package itself looked like it had been stuffed in a corner.

The back looks like someone punched it. Some of the pages are torn. And the spine.......

The spine is broken. It's been a long, long, long time since I've broken the spine on any book -- hardcover or paperback. Granted, this is a review book. I didn't spend any money on this, but I will be buying my own copy. In the future, I think all books should be marked as FRAGILE!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Before I was a blogger.....

Fair warning, this post might be a little rambling. Over the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about the type of reader I was before I was a blogger. Before I was a blogger, I read approximately 25-30 books per year. Since I started blogging, I read 60+ books per year. Every year I go on Goodreads and sign up for the reading challenge. In my mind, I have to outdo or at least read the same amount of books per year. Before I started blogging, I just picked up whatever caught my attention in the bookstore. I don't think I was aware of when certain books came out. I don't think I paid as much attention to plot and pacing. If I liked it, I liked it. If I didn't, I didn't. I wasn't thinking a particular book would have been better if an author had done X, Y, and Z. Since I've started blogging, it kind of consumes me. I'm also in graduate school for book publishing. When it comes to school, I have to think of books as a business. And....that comes with its own set of challenges. So, I have to have books on the brain 24/7.

Why am I saying this? I don't see myself quitting on my blog any time soon, but I think I'm hitting the wall. The wall that all bloggers hit at some point. Because I'm in school right now, I can't always devote my attention to my blog. I often wonder if I'm doing enough as a blogger. How do I keep it fresh? Is it enough to just post reviews? What else could I be doing? How do other bloggers do it so well? I'm often thinking, why didn't I think of that? Why does another blogger gush over a book that I thought was terrible? That one plays in my mind over and over.

And.....lately blogging is starting to feel like a like job. I'm sure everyone who blogs feels like that at some point. But this isn't my job. If it was, I would be in heaven. If book blogging was my job, I would be devoting as much time as possible to make this the best blog possible. But that just isn't the case. Publishers, publicists, authors, and others send me what sounds like a great book, but sometimes it's just not for me. I feel guilty if I don't read a book fast enough. I also hate to say I don't like a book. I hate to not finish a book, but sometimes I have to give up. When I don't finish a book, I feel like I've broken my obligation. But again this isn't my job and I do this in my spare time. But I can't escape the feeling that I'm letting someone down if I don't finish a book.

I hope at least some of this makes sense. I think I just needed to vent a little bit. Everybody is different, but sometimes I wish I could be more unique with my blog.

P.S.: Don't worry, I will be posting some reviews soon. I have a couple coming up with TLC Book tours!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

My take on: Surfacing

Sometimes I read a book that is just hard to quantify. Surfacing by Nora Raleigh Baskin is one of those books. It deals with a lot of big issues, grief, forgiveness, and teen sexuality.

Sophomore Maggie Paris is a bit of an enigma. She's a star on the swim team, but she doesn't always seem to like it. She has one loyal friend in Julie. Everyone else keeps their distance from Maggie. Why? Maggie's mere presence has the ability to bring out the best and the worst in people. When Maggie is around, fellow students feel the need to be honest about their deepest secrets. Sometimes they don't want to reveal those secrets. Maggie's parents are no different. Her parents spend more time arguing than dealing with their feelings. The whole family is avoiding the elephant in room.

Maggie was just five years old when her big sister Leah drowned. Ever since that day, Maggie and her parents have been harboring feelings of guilt. It was already a marriage in trouble before Leah's death, and after was no different. They had twin boys, Dylan and Lucas, following her death, but that did little to save the family. If you don't deal with the underlying problems, how can you truly move on? Maggie just seemed to be barely holding it together. She needed some kind of guidance. Her parents love her, but they're too involved in their own mess to see what's wrong with their daughter. Her still developing teenage brain comes up with a wild plan.

Maggie sets her sights on Matthew, a self-absorbed jock. If she has sex with him, somehow her life will be better. She will become a "woman." She will somehow have all the answers. Maybe the guilt surrounding Maggie's death will go away. This part of Maggie's personality and character just didn't seem to fit with the book. Maggie and Matthew's interactions didn't seem like normal teenage behavior. Matthew was a jerk and he dominated the relationship. What he did to Maggie seemed more like rape to me. She's not really sure she wants to have sex with Matthew, and when they do she spaces out. Mentally, she's not even there when Matthew is on top of her. Matthew appears indifferent or not satisfied by her, and Maggie thinks that's her fault. If she can be better at "it," then Matthew will like her. She starts dating another boy, Nathan, but only wants to use him as practice for her budding relationship with Matthew. Nathan truly cares for her, but sometimes Maggie doesn't see it until it's too late. I just felt so bad for Maggie and for teenagers like her. A boyfriend or girlfriend truly isn't the best way to measure your self-worth.

The book alternates between the past and the present. Leah's character also narrates part of the book. In the past, Leah and Maggie had a typical sibling relationship. As the oldest Leah was always annoyed by her little sister. But you can see they loved each other. Back then Maggie was a happier child. Now, she's a teen in need of guidance. I wish the book was a little longer. I wanted more on the sibling relationship and her relationship with Julie. It's not a bad, it's actually pretty good. I just wish there was more.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Candlewick Press) in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My take on: Dark Tide

I feel a little let down. I've heard such great things about Elizabeth Haynes' previous book Into the Darkest Corner. I've heard that Into the Darkest Corner was a great thriller, and I was kind of expecting that with Dark Tide. The elements were there, but I feel Dark Tide just fell short.

How does this sound? A boatwarming party lets out, late at night a body washes up against the boat, the body is discovered by the victim's former friend, and now that friend has to figure out what's going on before the killer comes after her. Sounds intriguing doesn't it?

Genevieve has led an interesting life. Growing up, she and her dad shared a deep love for boats. He taught her everything he knew about boats. Genevieve knows one day her dream of living on a houseboat will come true. She has a high-paying sales job, but it's not enough for her. She needs a second job to make her dream come true. What's the answer? Becoming a stripper...I mean dancer, or a dancer who strips or a pole dancer. Stripper just didn't seem to be in Genevieve's vocabulary. She was just a dancer who took her clothes off for money. Why? Because someone said she was a natural during a pole dancing workout class. It seemed a little far-fetched, but who am I to judge? Genevieve swears she won't get wrapped up in the lifestyle. Stripping is merely a means to an end.

When the book opens, Genevieve has already given up both her jobs and is living a new life on her boat, Revenge of the Tide. When Genevieve discovers the dead body of her friend Caddy, she can't believe her luck. Her once shady lifestyle has not only come back to haunt her, it has washed up next to her boat. None of her new friends know all of the details of Genevieve's past. Should she tell the police? What if they suspect her? What if they discover the package she is hiding? Yes there is a whole other subplot, one that I could have bought into if the end result was actually satisfying.

Genevieve is holding onto a mysterious package for her "friend" Dylan, a bouncer/enforcer at the strip club. They were a little more than friends, and Genevieve seems to be pining away for him. He won't contact her unless it's absolutely necessary. Even when she contacts him, he seemed a little indifferent or that he wasn't surprised. Could Dylan have killed Caddy? I certainly asked myself that question, but I quickly dismissed that theory. Dylan is definitely a hard-nosed guy, but he seemed to have a soft spot for Genevieve. Only he doesn't want to show any kind of weakness or vulnerability.

The novel flashes back between the past and the present. We learn all about Genevieve's struggles with her day job and her night job. Her daytime boss is a jerk, and she slowly learns that her nighttime boss, Fitz, is a criminal. But the money is too good on both sides, so Genevieve will just have to tough it out.

Sometimes when I'm not really into a book I will just give up and stop reading. But this was a book, I didn't want to give up on. I kept reading because I believed that the ending -- the ultimate payoff -- would be spectacular. I kept thinking there had to be an awesome, suspenseful, edge-of-my-seat ending. I thought all of this has to be leading to something, but I was just underwhelmed. The culprit behind Caddy's murder wasn't a surprise. To me, Caddy's murder was just a red herring. The overall book seemed to be more about Genevieve overcoming her own naivety and stupidity, and the end result was boring not thrilling.

Rating: Meh

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My take on: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

I think it's safe to say that I have never read anything like The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski, and I probably never will again. It is very, very, very unique. It's set in Louisiana in the 1950s. In 2013, it's jarring to read about the traditions and social mores that existed back then. It's a little hard to put into words what the overall book is about. Is religious faith powerful enough to help a family heal? Is voodoo powerful enough to help a family heal? Or, does a mute little boy have the power and the strength to help his family heal? This is the type of book that you have to read in order to truly understand it.

The first two sentences are the precursor to the overall theme of the book.

"Bonaventure Arrow didn't make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. But the child was only listening, placing sound inside quiet and gaining his bearings because everything had suddenly changed."

Bonaventure Arrow was the product of his loving parents Dancy and William. But Bonaventure's birth was shrouded in heartache and sorrow. William was shot to death by a disfigured and mysterious man named the Wanderer. Dancy was never the same. Her unborn child could not only feel her sorrow, he could hear it. As he grows up, Bonaventure doesn't speak. But he speaks without speaking. He knows how to communicate with hand-written notes, gestures, and emotions. This level of communication is what makes him special. He can hear sounds nearby and afar. Even his mother's overwhelming grief has a sound. Bonaventure doesn't know what he can do to make her heartache go away. Would things have been different if his father were alive? If William were alive perhaps Bonaventure would know the sound of his own voice.

Bonaventure's unique gift, isn't so unique to everyone. His grandmother Adelaide is so obsessed with her Bible and the local church. She doesn't take the time to get to know or understand her grandson. She's convinced the devil has control of his tongue. She's determined to get the devil out of him. Anything that's different is wrong in Adelaide's mind. It's her mission to "fix" everything that is wrong, no matter who it hurts.

Despite his death, Bonaventure does get to know his father. William doesn't want to go to heaven, he wants to be his son's guardian angel. People might think he's strange or crazy, but Bonaventure gets to communicate with his father. No one but William and Bonaventure can hear these talks. It sounds sweet and innocent, but is William really helping by staying behind? William's spirit casts a shadow over everyone in the house. Sometimes Bonaventure wishes he was like other children. He wishes his dad were still alive, just like other kids his age. William's mother Letice is also consumed by guilt. She believes sins from her past caused William's death. If Letice could just find a way to forgive herself, maybe she could move on. Dancy blames herself for his death, too. She often drowns herself in alcohol. No one can move on, not even William. 

It takes a perfect stranger to help the family heal. Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole woman, is also blessed with unique gifts. She has an instant connection with the entire family. She can see and understand what's below the surface. The average person wouldn't know that something is wrong with Letice and Dancy. She gets them to tap into their feelings. All three women have led different paths, but they're able to see how similar they really are.

Leganski's writing style takes some getting used to. The writing is almost lyrical, and I think it works here. But I feel like I missed something. There is a lot of mysticism and magic in this book, and sometimes I didn't understand it all. Overall, I think this is a very unique and inventive book.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is the March book club selection for She Reads.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My take on: The Shortest Way Home

It took me several months to finish The Shortest Way Home by Juliette Fay, but that's not because it was a bad book. It was a great book. I just get distracted by other books.

What did I love most about The Shortest Way Home? The family dynamic. Juliette Fay expertly captured how complex families can be. One moment you're running from your past, and the next you could be forced to face it. In The Shortest Way Home, Sean Doran has been on the run for 20 years. He's not running from the law, but from his future.

Sean has spent 20 years working as a nurse in war-torn areas. Those places were heaven compared to the storm waiting for him at home in Belham, Masschusetts. Moving from place to place and never putting down roots is the norm for Sean. He doesn't want to grow old with a wife, kids, and a white picket fence. His mother died of Huntington's Disease, and there is a 50% chance Sean will get it. It strikes in the mid-30s. At age 44, Sean would rather not get tested. Sean would rather not know his fate. He wants to end his life on his own terms in Mexico.

While Sean has been saving lives around the globe, his sister Deidre has been holding down the fort in their childhood home. Their brother Hugh died six years ago of pneumonia, but his son Kevin is deeply in need of guidance. Their feisty Aunt Vivvy is starting to show signs of dementia, and refuses to see a doctor. Deidre wants a life of her own. She wants to be an actress. She wants Sean to know how much she's given up to take care of Kevin and Aunt Vivvy. Sean can do so much for strangers, so why can't he do the same for his own family? Sean is truly burned out from all the travel, but in his mind a trip home is just temporary. He'll stay long enough to recharge his batteries, catchup with old friends and get to know his nephew. It's all temporary. He can't let himself get sucked in.

Of course Sean gets sucked back in. He realize how much life has passed him by. He doesn't know much about technology, especially computers, cell phones, and e-mail. He didn't know that Cormac, his best friend in high school, and his wife are struggling with fertility issues. He didn't know how much Kevin is struggling to fit in at school. He didn't know that shy Rebecca "Becky" Feingold had a crush on him in high school. After several weeks in town, Sean is struggling internally. He's reconnected with Cormac. He's helping Aunt Vivvy around the house. He's helping Kevin come out of his shell. Becky is helping him rebound physically and mentally. His relationship with Becky is going beyond friendship, it's a budding romance.. Sean is doing everything he hoped to avoid. He's connecting with people, and he is actually enjoying it. But there's still something very big hanging over his head. Huntington's Disease. He might be out of the woods, but the debilitating disease could take away everything. Is it better to know? Or is it better to live in the moment? Living in the moment might have worked for Sean in the past, but that won't do for everyone around him. Before going home, Sean thought he had everything figured out. But Becky and Kevin have altered his destiny. They've made him realize that a future might be possible.

The book is very well paced. On the surface, everything isn't what it seems. There's a lot of depth to most of the characters. I thought Deidre was a little one-note. She always seemed angry and a little self-absorbed. I wanted to like her, but I just didn't. Maybe that was intentional. She'd spent so much of her youth caring for her family, she was just ready to be selfish. Maybe her character was a way to show Sean that he needed to change. Overall, I loved the book, and would gladly read another book by Juliette Fay.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Upcoming reads!!

I think you all know that I read a lot...and now I'm going to read some more. Soon I will be taking part in blog tours with She Reads. Think of it as a large online book club. I will be reading one selection per month for them. Most of the books will be by debut authors, but there will be a few exceptions. The March selection is The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski.

It takes place in New Orleans. But I think it's the opening line that will get a lot of attention.

"Bonaventure Arrow didn't make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead."

Isn't that a great first sentence? It just makes you want to read more.

Normally, my reviews for She Reads will be posted during the first week in the month of publication. But I received this book a little late, so maybe by the second week of March I will have my review up. Stay tuned and happy reading!!!