Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

Blurb from Goodreads:
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena—dazzling, poignant, and lyrical interwoven stories about family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art.

This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts. In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.
My Review:
I will admit that the first few chapters of this one took some effort to get into but once I got a better sense of the book, I was enthralled.  Such beautiful writing!!  The best way that I can describe this book is that it follows one particular painting, of a particular field in Chechnya, and it spans many decades to tell the story of this field, this painting, and the people that were impacted by both.  It is sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees in a book that is so masterful and so beautifully written through the use of seemingly divergent stories, and it took some time for all the threads and lives and stories to make sense, but it was done in such a gorgeous and unique way.  I had no sense of the history and the wars in the former USSR but this book left me reeling and thinking about the world I don't know.  The ending was perfect.  I definitely want to read more from this author!

I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to fans of beautifully written and captivating literary fiction, especially historical literary fiction.

The Tsar of Love and Techno came out last year, you can purchase HERE, and I highly recommend it!
You have waited for me past the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, past each of Saturn's rings.  It's ridiculous, so stupid, I know, to cross the entire solar system just to hear you and Galina butcher Tchaikovsky.  If ever there was an utterance of perfection, it is this.  If God has a voice, it is ours.  
The calcium in collarbones I have kissed.  The iron in the blood flushing those cheeks.  We imprint our intimacies upon atoms born from an explosion so great it still marks the emptiness of space.  A shimmer of photons bears the memory across the long dark amnesia.  We will be carried too, mysterious particles that we are.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

From Edelweiss:
From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick and a "Best Book of the Summer" by Glamour and USA TODAY—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life. 
In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.
I love this author and I can't wait for her latest!!  One True Loves is scheduled for release on June 7, 2016, and I can't wait!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??

Monday, January 25, 2016

Top Ten Books I Re-Read Every Year!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fab ladies at The Broke and the Bookish!

Are there any books you re-read every year?  
I love freebie top tens!  I re-read the Love Me With Lies series and the Raven Cycle series every year and have since the first time I read the first book in each series.  What did you choose for your TTT freebie today?

Review: Jane and the Waterloo Map (Jane Austen Mysteries #13) by Stephanie Barron

Blurb from Goodreads:
Jane Austen turns sleuth in this delightful Regency-era mystery

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.
My Review:
The best way to describe this book is Murder, She Wrote meets Jane Austen in which Jane Austen is akin to Jessica Fletcher in solving the murder mystery even though all the men think she is a bumbling, fragile lady.  You would think that since I love both Jane Austen and Murder, She Wrote, this would be a smash hit for me.  But it wasn't.  I know this will sound odd but I felt like Jane Austen was not truly how Jane Austen would be (or at least how I imagine her) -- she was a bit annoying and the book took at least 40% to get into and for the pacing to pick up.  I am not sure if I will go back and read earlier books in this series -- it is amazing that there are thirteen of them!  I had no problem reading this one without reading prior books although there were a ton of "editor's notes" via footnotes that referred to previous books.  That's another criticism I have, in general, about this book—all of the "editor's notes" that were supposed to show how historically accurate the author was in her story instead came off as condescending and as if the reader was not familiar at all with the regency era (uneducated comes to mind).

I would still recommend this to anyone that likes mystery, the regency era and Jane Austen, in particular because you may have better luck than I did with it.  Jane and the Waterloo Map is scheduled to be released February 2, 2016, and you can purchase HERE!  
But there is no fool like an old fool.  The haunting image of a creature named Isabella rose before my eyes.  It must be impossible to ask him directly about her importance in his life.  He is a man of the World, after all, as his father is forever telling me.  He owes no explanation of his habits or arrangements.  Once, I was a green girl enough to dream of happiness with an improbable suitor, from an utterly different world

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: White-Hot Hack (Kate and Ian #2) by Tracey Garvis-Graves

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
White-Hot Hack (Kate and Ian #2) by Tracey Garvis-Graves

From Goodreads:
Follow Kate and Ian to Washington as the next chapter of their lives together unfolds...
I really liked the first book in this new series from TGG -- it was funny and unique!  There is no official release date yet for White-Hot Hack but I can't wait until it is released!!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??

Review: Call Me, Maybe by Ellie Cahill

Blurb from Goodreads:
Clementine Daly knows she’s the black sheep. Her wealthy, powerful family has watched her very closely since she almost got caught in an embarrassing scandal a few years ago. So when Clementine’s sent on a mission to live up to the Daly name, politely declining isn’t even an option. Of course, the last thing Clementine does before departure is grab a stranger’s phone by mistake—leaving the hunky journalist with her phone. Soon his sexy voice is on the line, but he doesn’t know her real name, or her famous pedigree—which is just the way Clementine likes it.

Despite all the hassles, Justin Mueller is intrigued to realize that the beautiful brown-eyed girl he met at the airport is suddenly at his fingertips. They agree to exchange phones when they’re both back in town, but after a week of flirty texts and wonderfully intimate conversations, Justin doesn’t want to let her go that easy. The only problem? It turns out that Clemetine has been lying to him about, well, everything. Except for the one thing two people can’t fake, the only thing that matters: The heat between them is for real. 
My Review:
Call Me, Maybe almost felt like it was written to try and appeal to book bloggers since the MC is a book blogger herself.  The premise of this book is cute -- the entire thing is almost itself a meet-cute -- Clementine leaves her phone at the airport and instead grabs the cute stranger's phone.  The problem arose when there was literally nothing else about Clementine that was relatable.  First of all, she is more wealthy than you can imagine -- she even refers to herself as American royalty.  In fact, she readily admits she could just buy Justin a new phone but doesn't want him to know who she really is and how wealthy she is -- you can imagine how well this works out when Justin finds out the truth.  Maybe it's just me but the whole woe is me because I don't have to work and can't figure out what I want to do and my family bought me an entire building to live in didn't really lend itself to liking Clementine.  The romance was fast and there was a bit of insta-love, the combination of which made me not root for this story, at all.

I can't say that I would recommend this to anyone but others may like it.  Books such as On An Edge of Glass, Breathe, Annie, Breathe or the books in this post are, for me, better NA that feels a bit more realistic.  I also really liked Ellie Cahill's NA release last year, When Joss Met Matt.  Call Me, Maybe is scheduled to be released on February 9, 2016.
Some people stress eat.  I stress read.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Ever After (Nantucket Brides #3) by Jude Deveraux

Blurb from Goodreads:
Jude Deveraux’s eagerly awaited third novel in her blockbuster Nantucket Brides trilogy continues the spellbinding saga of the Montgomery-Taggerts, set on an island steeped in beauty and unforgettable romance.

Life is anything but perfect for Hallie Hartley, a young physical therapist who has given up nearly everything—even her love life—for her beautiful blonde stepsister, Shelly. Though Shelly’s acting career has never taken off, she has certainly perfected the crocodile tears to get what she wants—which all too often means Hallie’s boyfriends. When Hallie arrives home early from work one fateful day, she makes two startling discoveries that will turn her life upside down: Not only has a mysterious relative left Hallie a house on Nantucket, but Shelly has been trying to steal it. Desperate to put her troubles behind her, Hallie impulsively flies to Nantucket.

New trouble, however, has already settled into Hallie’s guest room in the form of her newest client. Hallie is told that wealthy, young James Taggert has injured his leg in a skiing accident. Assuming that the devastatingly handsome man has led a charmed life, Hallie is surprised by Jamie at every turn throughout his recovery. His attentions draw her out of her shell—but he has a dark secret, and is tormented by nightmares that only her presence can keep at bay. She suspects there’s more to his injury than he’s letting on.

On this gorgeous island rich in history, magic is everywhere, even in Hallie’s own backyard. As Jamie’s relatives arrive for a wedding gala, something wonderfully unusual is in the air. There’s an aura of romance—enhanced by a pair of matchmaking ghosts and a colorful island legend. In their own little corner of the world, Jamie and Hallie unravel the timeless secrets of their own hearts, and a very special story of True Love destined to last forever after.
My Review:
I love love love books set on Nantucket, especially Elin Hilderbrand's and Nancy Thayer's books.  That is initially why I wanted to read this one.  I liked Hallie (the MC) a lot but this book (and maybe the series or the author?) seemed super antiquated -- this easily could have been set in the 1970s or 1980s based upon the plot/language, etc. Hallie and Jamie were sweet together but I was definitely not expecting the touch of paranormal (ghosts/haunting) at all -- it wasn't done in a scary way but it was a bit weird.  Overall, however, the setting and the unique details of the book made this a fun read.

I would recommend this to fans of contemporary romance.  It was a light read and I always love the setting of Nantucket.  I also hadn't read the first two books in this series prior to this one so it definitely could be read as a stand-alone.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Defending Taylor (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
Defending Taylor (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally

From Goodreads:
Taylor’s always felt pressure to be perfect. That’s what happens when you are a senator’s daughter. So when she’s kicked out of private school for covering for her boyfriend’s not-so-legal behavior, she is devastated.

Things go from bad to worse as she joins what used to be her rival soccer team at Hundred Oaks High. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. But Ezra has secrets of his own. Will Taylor repeat past mistakes, or can she score a fresh start? 
I love love love this series and I can't wait for this book, in particular, since I played soccer for 15 years!  Defending Taylor is scheduled for release on July 1, 2016, and I can't wait!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??

Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker

Blurb from Goodreads:
The USA TODAY bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series makes her suspense debut with this sexy, heartpounding story of a young woman determined to find justice after her best friend’s death, a story pulsing with the “intense, hot, emotional” (Colleen Hoover) writing that exhilarates her legions of fans.

A woman who almost had it all . . .

On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old woman could want: a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?

A man who was supposed to be her salvation . . .

Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.

Until he became her ruin. 

On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered. 
My Review:
The concept of this book and its execution felt pretty generic to me although the writing was not bad.  I love suspense and thrillers, which is why I wanted to read this and thought there would be some huge twist, but this one wasn't very suspenseful or thrilling for me.  The author pretty quickly guided you into figuring out this "mystery" and it was so classic and obvious.  The problem was that there wasn't enough else that was unique in the story to drive it past such an obvious mystery.  I also was pretty bored reading this book -- the MC, Maggie, should be very likeable since she is a trust fund baby who spends her life helping the poor and has taken time off from her work in Africa to try and find her best friend's killer.  That being said, Maggie was a magnet for stupid decisions and judging her best friend.  While it is true that it turned out that she really didn't know her best friend like she thought she did, I couldn't help but feel that she was so judgmental when she found out the truth about Celine and focused on making sure everyone knew how amazing she (Maggie) was to eschew her personal wealth and try to make a difference.  

I will say that Maggie was very focused on, and truly did want to find out, what happened to Celine but she wasn't very smart.  Her two love interests, and I do hesitate to call them that but I'm not sure what else to call them (without spoiling the book), were utterly awful.  It was hard to imagine that someone like Maggie would have been so turned around and such a bad judge of character.  My dislike of the main characters in the book (with the exception of Ruby, the elderly nosy next door neighbor and mystery writer) ultimately made this drop from 3 stars to 2.5 stars -- I just didn't see any sense in villainizing the victim (Celine) in this book.  Depression and/or addiction do not make someone a bad person, but the ending of the book seemed to take away from the fact that Celine was a victim.  The ending was definitely unsatisfying for me and I hated how many loose strings were wrapped up in the epilogue.

On the plus side, I would recommend this to someone wanting to ease into the thriller/suspense genre from pure contemporary romance.  I would also recommend this to fans of the Inside Out series by Lisa Renee Jones (I really liked the first book in that series but it went downhill for me after that) -- there are a lot of similarities between the two.  I also think fans of the Consequences series by Aleatha Romig would like this one.  In this sort of genre, I really loved Swerve by Vicki Pettersson.  He Will Be My Ruin is scheduled for release on February, 2, 2016,  and you can purchase HERE!  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

From Goodreads:
Reader, I murdered him. 

A darkly brilliant Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre from the Edgar-nominated author of The Gods of Gotham. 

Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked - but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London's underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household's strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him - body, soul and secrets - and what if he discovers her murderous past?
I love retellings and this one sounds like an awesome retelling of Jane Eyre!  Jane Steele is scheduled for release on March 22, 2016, and I can't wait!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??

2016 Discussion Challenge

Since I'm such a pro at discussion posts (see my first one ever HERE), I've decided to sign up for the 2016 Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight! I'm super excited! From the challenge:
This challenge is to help get us discussing books and book blogging, so talk about whatever you want as long as it’s relevant to book blogging. Discussions can be book related or book blogging related (or generally blogging related – no discussions about things that are completely off-topic like travel or fashion, etc). Discussions can also be about you personally if it’s a get-to-know-you type post.
You, too can sign up HERE!

Conversations With Myself (& Hopefully You): Are Authors Rushing to Publish Too Quickly?

If you can believe it, this is my first "discussion" post. I've always wanted to do a discussion post but I never knew where to start and I could never think of a topic that other bloggers didn't already address brilliantly.  That being said, nothing is new and I'm sure that this topic has been discussed by someone, somewhere but recently I read the latest book by my favorite author and the entire time all I could think was:


Let me break it down for you.  First of all, I love self-publishing.  I think there are some amazing authors out there that wouldn't otherwise be able to get their books out without self-publishing.  Some of my favorite books in the past five years have been self-published.  I discovered Colleen Hoover, Chelsea Cameron, Emily Snow, Jessica Park, Tarryn Fisher, Autumn Doughton, Jillian Dodd, Rosalind James, Tammara Webber, Tracey Garvis Graves, and Mary Whitney, all through their self-published works before any of them were signed to representation/traditional publishing houses. However, I have definitely noticed a change in books that were self-published three, four and five years ago versus many of the books coming out now (some even traditionally published).  

That is, I feel like authors are rushing to publish too quickly.  It's like this need for instant gratification (and we know this is tied to social media, the internet, etc.) means that an author has to constantly be publishing.  Whatever happened to having to wait a year or more for the next installment in your favorite series or a new book by one of your favorite authors?  Whatever happened to sometimes waiting multiple years and that being okay because the book that came at the end of that wait was amazing?  For example, I waited 11 years for Donna Tartt to publish another book after The Little Friend.  And guess what?  The Goldfinch was incomparable when it came out -- there is no way a book like that could be written in a year, or even two years, or maybe even in ten years.  It was well worth the wait -- it was worth whatever research, planning, plotting, revising and editing it had to undergo to be ready to publish.

Another example is my beloved Raven Boys -- The Raven King, the last book in the series (and the book I am most dying for and anticipating this year) was supposed to come out on September 29, 2015 (I mostly remember because that's my birthday).  Obviously, it didn't.  Sometime before that date, Maggie announced that book was being delayed and now we have a scheduled date of April 26, 2016, which very well might change.  I'm okay with this despite how much I want this book.  And you know why? Not only do I trust the author and respect her for saying, this book isn't ready, but editing/revising/time can only help.

I know that not every author has the luxury of time and resources to make every book perfect before it's published but I also don't think authors should feel rushed and pressured to release a new book every few months.  There needs to be a renewed focus on editing, on planning a series out (not just writing the first book and then seeing what happens or crowd-sourcing an ending), on developing a story and not just writing something as fast as you can in order to publish it/sell more copies.  I know this is all a bit art for art's sake but I'm writing this to traditional publishers as well as those who self publish.  Find someone to be objective about your work -- to truly edit it, not just fix a few typos (which also seem to exist in larger numbers than ever before!).  Nereyda recently wrote an honest and inspiring review of November 9 by Colleen Hoover and she wrote this sentiment with which I could not agree more: 
I also really wish authors would find beta readers that aren’t friends that can be truly objective…
If you don't know by now, this post is largely inspired by F*ck Love by Tarryn Fisher. Tarryn is one of my favorite authors, if not my favorite author.  But this book made me question everything and ask whether authors are rushing to publish too quickly and the status of beta readers that are the author's best friends.  Don't get me wrong, the book wasn't bad but it wasn't up to par, in my opinion.  It could have been SO much better with more time, more editing, and someone being constructive.  When we are forced to sit on our hands (or on a book), new things occur to us, we may re-phrase something that is pivotal or change an entire scene -- room and space and time from writing is a good thing and, in my opinion, ultimately produce better results.

Lastly, my kingdom for well-developed companion series if you're going to write them.  Not every single person in a book needs their own book -- have a reason for the companion series to exist!  There, I said it.  I find that the ever growing number of companion series out there today is one of the reasons for this constant influx of books being published way too quickly -- so and so needs their own book and it has to come out in less than six months in order to remind people of the success of the first book.  There are certain authors that have become exponentially popular based on this theory alone and I think their work suffers for it.

So, have you noticed a change in the quality of books lately?  Are things being published too quickly?  Would you be okay waiting for a book for longer than a few months, even if it was one that you really, really wanted to read?


Imagination Designs