Posts Categorized: Book Reviews

Landline by Rainbow Rowell; Review and Giveaway!

July 10, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 18 ★★★★★

Landline by Rainbow Rowell; Review and Giveaway!Landline
by Rainbow Rowell
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 9 hours, 3 minutes
Published by Macmillon Audio
on July 8, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 308
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book
five-stars
From the New York Times best-selling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, comes a hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones.

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply - but that almost seems beside the point now. Maybe that was always beside the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her - Neal is always a little upset with Georgie - but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything. That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. Is that what she’s supposed to do?

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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To say Landline, or any new Rainbow Rowell, is highly anticipated by me is a VAST understatement. I fell in love with Rainbow’s writing with Eleanor & Park and AttachmentsFangirl sealed the deal.

Landline was the nail in the coffin.

Landline was everything I expect from a Rainbow Rowell book. Heartfelt. Witty. Real. Yes, real. Rowell writes some of the realest characters, in my opinion, that I’ve ever read. And Landline may feature the realest ones yet.

Unlike her three previous novels, Landline isn’t about new love. It’s about old love. It’s about the love that has stood the test of time, maneuvered through all those unexpected changes the newly-in-love think will never happen to them. It’s about the love that has changed, grew, shrank, and stuck through thick and thin. But then, it’s also about the love that isn’t sure it’s going to make it. That isn’t sure it will last. The love that may just not be enough anymore. 

Georgie McCool is on the edge. On the edge of making it. A successful sitcom writer, Georgie is finally selling HER SHOW. All she has to do is stay home from the family vacation and write a few episodes to give to the producer. The only problem is that family vacation is the family CHRISTMAS vacation. And her husband, Neil, is none to happy about it. A stay-at-home dad, Neil is used to Georgie not always being there. Their two little girls, are used to it too, and so go off with Neil to see their grandparents. Without Georgie. Things haven’t been great for awhile now, and now Georgie is left with not only the stress of writing 5 shows in one week, but the stress of seeing that her life may be irreparably broken.  Dozens of unanswered calls later, Georgie finds an unusual way of reconnecting with Neil.

It’s, well, it’s a magic phone.

In her mom’s house.

That let’s her talk to Neil.

The Neil of 1998.

Look. I know it sounds weird. It IS weird. But Ms. Rowell does some amazing things with this. I mean, imagine if you could talk to your spouse 10, 15, 20 years in the past. What would you change? What would you leave the same? I love how Rowell uses the phone as a device to the let Georgie examine her life and her love for Neil. Because Georgie still loves Neil. It’s what a normal person would do anyway in this situation, but he or she would only do it in their head. I, personally, as someone who enjoys fantasy anyway, loved it.

The audiobook, which is what I read, was fantastic. Rebecca Lowman is a phenominal reader. I have a new favorite reader, that’s for sure. Her performance, especially of Georgie and Neil was funny, emotional, and lovely. Even her readings of the side characters; Georgie’s bizarre mother, Georgie’s 4-year-old daughter who wants to be a cat (I loved the way Lowman said “meow”), and Neil’s placid mother were all lovely. Lowman really brought the story to life.

Luckily, the publisher sent me a finished copy of the audiobook! So, I decided since I haven’t had a giveaway in awhile, that’s what I’m going to do with it. Give it away! So, sign up below and I’ll post a winner next week! Good luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

June 26, 2014 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 8 ★★★★½

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel LawhonThe Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress
by ariel lawhon
Published by Doubleday
on January 14, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy the Book
four-half-stars
A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there's a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge's wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge's bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband's recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster, Owney "The Killer" Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

“I hate being predictable.”

“I believe they call that classy.”

These are not listened in order of importance, obviously. Or are they…. I often find myself pondering titles. I mean, they are your hook, right? That and the cover. So, when you have a title like this, what do you think? Who is important? Who isn’t important? Are they ALL important? Who is the story about? WHO IS THE MOST IMPORTANT?

Let’s break it down, shall we?

First, we have a wife. In this instance, it’s Stella Crater, wife of Justice Joseph Crater, who disappeared in 1930 (that’s right, this is based on real stuffs, yo!), and, obviously, suspect numero uno. Because isn’t it ALWAYS the spouse?? Stella is, by all appearances, exactly what you would picture of a judge’s wife; wearing the correct dress, the proper perfume, attending the best parties, and serving the best champagne. She’s also the silent standby, watching her husband’s shenanigans with a weather eye.

Next we have a maid. Maria Simon is the maid for the Judge and Stella. The judge helped Maria’s husband get a promotion to detective with the NYPD. I imagine any maid for such a couple might know a few deep, dark, secrets, don’t you? Is she in the Judge’s pocket thanks to that promotion? Or, is she the good Catholic girl she appears to be?

Lastly, we have the Mistress. Ritzi has come to New York like a lot of poor Midwest girls did in the 1930s. She’s seeking fame and fortune. She’s on the chorus line, but she wants more. She’s also mixed up with some bad people, worst being Owney “The Killer” Madden. If you think that sounds like a mobster name, you would be right. Ritzi is a sweet, naïve kid and she’s about to be in big, big trouble. Because Ritzi is the last person to see the Judge alive.

So, the Judge has disappeared. This is not a spoiler, it is a fact. Remember? Based on a true story! No one has ever seen him again. Which of these three women know what happened to him? After 39 years of deception, Stella Crater is ready to tell all to the detective who worked the case, the very same detective married to Maria. Stella’s tale is full of lust, greed, and lies. It is full of smoky jazz clubs, ambition, sordid deals, and the smell of illegal whiskey.

Ariel Lawhon did a fantastic job of evoking an era. From the sizzling hot dance floors of Prohibition era New York to the dance halls of Broadway, I felt like I could smell the smoke and taste the whiskey. The mystery of just what happened to the Judge was taut and stayed that way to the end. Her writing is sharp and wickedly fun. All three women were well drawn, different, and mysterious in her own right. And the end. Oh, the end. What fun. That’s all I’ll say. The whole book is fun. I love that the 1920s are a popular setting this year. I’m really enjoying all the books I’ve read set there. I hope I don’t burn out on them for a long while.

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The 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Foods in Three Easy, Empowering Days by Pooja Mottl

June 25, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 4 ★★★½

The 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Foods in Three Easy, Empowering Days by Pooja MottlThe 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Foods in Three Easy, Empowering Days
by Pooja Mottl
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Published by Seal Press
Genres: Cookbook
Source: Publisher
three-half-stars
Eating healthy can be a struggle. It’s hard to pick broccoli and brown rice over hot, cheesy pizza, and 21- or 28-day diets often ask you to cut out different foods all at once, leaving you feeling deprived.

In 3-Day Resets, Pooja Mottl outlines 10 different ways to change your cravings and start eating whole, healthy foods—foods that are also delicious—three days at a time. Each reset takes 72 hours to complete and consists of three simple steps, which means you’ll be able to stay focused on healthy eating.

“Awareness” resets target your consumption of certain ingredients like sugar, wheat, and salt.

“Discovery” resets teach you new ways to drink beverages (including tea) and eat chocolate, yogurt, and chicken.

“Change” resets shift how you view eating breakfast, salads, and take-out.

Packed with delicious recipes and nutritional information to support why you should eat whole foods like quinoa instead of processed, frozen, or packaged foods, 3-Day Resets will set you on the path to healthy eating… and help you stay there for good.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Let’s just start this out with some honesty. I don’t feel like I’m very good at reviewing cookbooks, diet books, or self-help books. I so rarely read those type books; that I barely know where to start. I accepted this book for review because for one thing, I need to start eating healthier and two, something called a 3 Day Reset sounded manageable.

Let me tell you, when you tell me I can’t eat something, it only makes me want it more. I’ve been almost 10 months without bread (except for a couple slip ups and one deliberate mistake) and I still want it as badly as I did the first day. However, since I don’t want the migraines and the pain, I can usually bring myself around to NOT EAT THAT THING, whatever that thing may be. So, to pick something and eliminate it from my diet for 3 days, while not sounding that difficult, proved to be a huge mountain of difficult for me.

Which, incidentally, was great in helping me find my problem; I have no self-control. Please bear in mind; I did not do this necessarily to lose weight. I am not overweight; I’m only near the line of what is considered obese for my height. This is more about learning to eat healthier and teach my children to eat healthier. And should a few pounds come off, mores the better, right?

I love Mottl’s goal: “enjoy eating the way Mother Nature intended.” This is the way I want to eat! Mottl’s technique is pretty simple. A reset is basically changing some part of your diet for 3 days. Resets included in the book are sugar, salt, wheat, chocolate, yogurt, chicken, breakfast, beverages, salads, and take-out. Mottle calls these foods WAMP or Whole And Minimally Processed foods. Which foods are WAMP?

“WAMP foods are usually perishable. They won’t last too long on that top shelf in your pantry.

WAMP foods usually don’t come with ingredient labels. If they do, they’ll likely have fewer than five ingredients.

WAMP foods rarely have ad budgets. You’ll never see a commercial or advertisement for them.

WAMP foods don’t have “natural flavor” in their ingredient lists.

For the purposes of my review, I do not pick wheat since I did that ages ago, but picked salt. I rarely use salt anyway, so I thought it would be easiest. And boy was I wrong. Salt is in EVERYTHING. It’s in even more things than wheat. And it’s so obvious! Once you remove it from your diet, it doesn’t take long for you to detect it in food. For three days, my family and I had free, natural foods, spiced by hand (except salt! Natch!) and I, personally, did not miss the salt at all. In fact, I didn’t really like it after the reset was over.

In the case of salt, this technique worked great for me. It helped me recognize that salt is in so many foods and that I do not need it in my diet to be a happy eater. I can’t say that this technique would work for ME in other areas (I’m looking at you chocolate) but I’m willing to give it a shot. I’ll be using Mottl’s techniques to slowly (and hopefully) train myself to eat the way I want to eat. She makes it sound so easy, but I know all the work has to come from me. Wish me luck.

If you find this interesting, check out The 3-Day Reset — as well as the rest of the TLC Book Tour. And if you’d like to connect with Pooja, you can find her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

About Pooja Mottl

pooja

Pooja Mottl is a professionally trained Natural Foods Chef, Healthy Eating Coach, and Healthy Living Expert whose work has captivated audiences from Good Morning America to the Huffington Post.

She is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, a world-renowned institution for pairing culinary training with health promoting food. Pooja also holds a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University and is an NSCA-CPT certified personal trainer.

Pooja advises private clients on healthy eating and has taught cooking classes at Whole Foods Market. She regularly blogs for the Huffington Post and Gaiam.com. Pooja has appeared on Good Morning America, WGN TV, Martha Stewart Radio, Style.com, the Green Festival, HuffPost Live, and a variety of additional media outlets.

Pooja lives and works in Greenwich, Connecticut. Mottl is a wife and proud mom to a baby girl named Valentina and a five-year-old, over-confident Brussels Griffon.

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Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

June 20, 2014 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 5 ★★★★½

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von ArnimElizabeth and Her German Garden
by Elizabeth von Arnim
Published by Random House
on 1898
Pages: 207
Format: eBook
Buy the Book
four-half-stars
"Elizabeth and Her German Garden," a novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, was popular and frequently reprinted during the early years of the 20th century. "Elizabeth and Her German Garden" is a year's diary written by Elizabeth about her experiences learning gardening and interacting with her friends. It includes commentary on the beauty of nature and on society, but is primarily humorous due to Elizabeth's frequent mistakes and her idiosyncratic outlook on life. The story is full of sweet, endearing moments. Elizabeth was an avid reader and has interesting comments on where certain authors are best read; she tells charming stories of her children and has a sometimes sharp sense of humor in regards to the people who will come and disrupt her solitary lifestyle.

I love my garden. I am writing in it now in the late afternoon loveliness, much interrupted by the mosquitoes and the temptation to look at all the glories of the new green leaves washed half and hour again in a cold shower.

This is less a garden than a wilderness.

I’m going to make one of those odd statements that I’m often afraid I’m the only one who gets, but it makes sense to me, so here goes. This book was both exactly what I was expecting, and nothing like I was expecting.

See? Doesn’t really make sense. But it does in my head, so I’m going with it.

You see, first off, I can’t tell if it’s a novel or a diary. If you read the description above from Goodreads, it calls it “a year’s diary written by Elizabeth.” Everything else I’ve looked at (Wikipedia, other reviews, and other websites) call it a novel. The protagonist is named Elizabeth. It is written in diary form. So which Elizabeth is it? The writer or the fictious character? A autobiographical novel? Novelised nonfiction? I’m going with fiction for now, until I see something of a life story about Mrs. Von Arnim.

The “novel diary” is a chronicle of the year of the life of the CHARACTER Elizabeth as she spends said year, in the late 1890s, in Germany. Elizabeth is a highly inquisitive character, who saying;

I believe all needlework and dressmaking is of the devil, designed to keep women from study.

I love this woman.

Elizabeth is content to putter in her garden, something unheard of for a woman of her station. She buys countless seeds for her garden, writing her pages and pages long diary entries, reading, and plays with her children when the mood strikes her. She calls her husband the Man of Wrath, but he seems to be quite the indulgant character.

The people round about are persuaded that I am, to put it as kindly as possible, exceedingly ecentric, for the news has travelled that I spend the day out of doors with a book, and that no moratl eye has ever yet seen me sew or cook. But why cook when you can get some one to cook for you?

What a happy woman I am living in a garden, with books, babies, birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them.

I spent equal amounts of time envying Elizabeth, being annoyed by Elizabeth, marvelling at her gorgeous prose, and wishing she would just hurry the hell up. She waxes on and on about her beautiful garden, her life in the house, the Man of Wrath, her Spring babies, that at times you just want to tell her to shut up and get on with it. Her commentary on the beauty of nature is what makes the book. Plus, Elizabeth is something of a precious character, she knows she’s precocious, and she milks it. She’s the type of bumbling female character that inspires you to think her adorable and hilarious when she makes mistakes, but it can also eventually wear on the nerves.

She wore on my nerves.

But then she writes something like this:

From us they get a mark and a half to two marks a day, and as many potatoes as they can eat. The women get less, not because they work less, but because they are women and must not be encouraged.

They are like little children or animals in their utter inability to grasp the idea of a future; and after all, if you work all day in God’s sunshine, when evening comes you are pleasantly tired and ready for rest and not much inclined to find fault with your lot. I have no yet persuaded myself, however, that the women are happy. They have to work as hard as the men and get less for it; they have to produce offspring, quite regardless of times and seasons and the general fitness of things; they have to do this as expediously as possible, so that they may not unduly interrupt the work in hand; nobody helps them, notices them, or cares about them, least of all the husband. It is quite a usual thing to see them working in the fields in the morning, and working again in the afternoon, having in the interval produced a baby. The baby is left to an old woman whose duty it is to look after babies collectively.

You can’t help but love her a bit for this, right? She notices. She writes about it. She talks about it. Listen to this. This is to her husband!

“Poor, poor woman!” I cried, as we rode on, feeling for some occult reason very angry with the Man of Wrath. “And her wretched husband doesn’t care a rap, and will probably beat her to-night if his supper isn’t right. What nonsense it is to talk about the equality of the sexes when the woman have the babies!”

You gotta admire her spunk!

And she feels the restrictions on herself too, and doesn’t hesitate to remark on it:

I wish with all my heart I were a man, for of course the first thing I should do would be to buy a spade and go and garden, and then I should have the delight of doing everything for my flowers with my own hands and need not waste time explaining what I want done to somebody else.

I can only imagine her reaction when her husband says things like:

“I like to hear you talk together about the position of women,” he went on, “and wonder when you will realise that they hold exactly the position they are fitted for. As soon as they are fit to occupy a better, no power on earth will be able to keep them out of it. Meanwhile, let me warn you that, as things are now, only strong-minded women wish to see you the equals of men, and the strong-minded are invariably plain. The pretty ones would rather see men their salves than their equals.”

He goes on, but you get the drift.

All in all, Elizabeth and her German Garden is mostly a delight. While the gardening parts, while lovely ( “Oh, I could dance and sign for joy that the spring is here! What a resurrection of beauty there is in my garden, and of the brightest hope in my heart!”), the comments on society and class are by far the most interesting parts of the book. It’s well worth your time for it has definitely earned its place as a classic.

About Elizabeth von Arnim

2098

Elizabeth, Countess Russell, was a British novelist and, through marriage, a member of the German nobility, known as Mary Annette Gräfin von Arnim.
Born Mary Annette Beauchamp in New Zealand while her family resided in Sydney, Australia, she was raised in England and in 1891 married Count Henning August von Arnim, a Prussian aristocrat, and the great-great-great-grandson of King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia. By this marriage she became known as Elizabeth Gräfin von Arnim.

She had met von Arnim during an Italian tour with her father. They married in London but lived in Berlin and eventually moved to the countryside where, in Nassenheide, Pomerania, the von Arnims had their family estate. The couple had five children, four daughters and a son. The children’s tutors at Nassenheide included E. M. Forster and Hugh Walpole.

In 1898 she started her literary career by publishing Elizabeth and Her German Garden, a semi-autobiographical novel about a rural idyll published anonymously and, as it turned out to be highly successful, reprinted 21 times within the first year. Von Arnim wrote another 20 books, which were all published “By the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden”.

Count von Arnim died in 1910, and in 1916 Elizabeth married John Francis Stanley Russell, 2nd Earl Russell, Bertrand Russell’s elder brother. The marriage ended in disaster, with Elizabeth escaping to the United States and the couple finally agreeing, in 1919, to get a divorce. She also had an affair with H. G. Wells.

She was a cousin of Katherine Mansfield (whose real name was Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp).

Elizabeth von Arnim spent her old age in London, Switzerland, and on the French Riviera. When World War II broke out she permanently took up residence in the United States, where she died in 1941, aged 74

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

June 13, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 7 ★★★★½

We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads)
Published by Delacorte Press
on May 13th 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
four-half-stars
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 


Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Wow. Just…wow.

Go into it blind. Get it right now. Before it’s spoiled for you. Just read it. Since I AM NOT going to be the one to spoil it, that’s all I’m going to say. Except to say, pick a time when you can read it straight through. You are NOT going to want to put down this study of wealth, priviledge, love, hate, prejudice, greed, and mystery.

About E. Lockhart

lockhart

E. Lockhart is the author of We Were Liars, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The Boyfriend List and several other novels.

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Graphic Novel Reviewlettes: Y: the Last Man, Saga, Lazarus

June 12, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 4

reviewlettes

I had a few I wanted to say a brief bit about, so I combined them into one post. You’re welcome.

Y: The Last Man Deluxe Edition 1 by Brian K. Vaughn

To hear this series described, you can only imagine that a guy decided to write about what it would be like to actually BE the last man on earth. Because that’s what it’s about; the last man on earth. And a hell of a lot of paranoia on the part of the women folk. A plague of some sort, no one knows where it came from, has killed every masculine member of a species on Earth, except Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand. Yorick just wants to find the love of his life, who went hiking in Australia. His mother, suddenly the President of the United States, has other ideas for him. So do a LOT of other women.

Y the Last Man Deluxe Edition 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

Edition 2 continues the story of Yorick and Ampersand and their lives as the only males left on Earth.

Do you know how tempted I am to just say, “and hijinks ensue?”

But they do. Women are after these boys. Doctors, armies, Presidents, mothers. Amazons. TRUE AMAZONS. Yes, women with one breast and a penchant for bows and arrows. *whispers* they want them dead! However, these boys are on a mission. Towed along by two women, one a doctor and one a mercenary, they are on a trip across country to get to a lab where the doctor hopes to figure out why they survived when no one else did.

Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan

Am I the only one who hates reviewing books in the middle of a series? I mean, why should you care what this one is about if you haven’t read the other two? So, I will say this: Volume 3 is excellent if you’ve read the other two. If you haven’t, GET ON ALL THREE. It’s a rocking space opera of a story and you can’t help but love it. It’s got flying space trees, an interspecies love affair, and really awesomely cute baby, and more. Fun, fun, fun. And the drawing is absolutely crazy amazing. Three was a little bit of a let down after all the anticipation, for me, but that’s my own fault. It was still awesome.

Lazarus, Vol. 1: Family by Greg Rucka

I know what you’re thinking. Okay, no I don’t, because I bet you don’t know what this is about. I didn’t before I read it. But it’s something that is fast approaching overdone. Dystopian, questionable government, slim resources, and…unusual…people hanging around. So NOW I know what you are thinking. What makes this one different? Well, besides the obvious, it being a graphic novel, the Romeo and Juliet overtones made it super interesting to me. Dystopian Romeo & Juliet FTW!

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Audiobook: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth

June 6, 2014 Audio Books, Book Reviews 5 ★★★★½

Audiobook: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer WorthCall the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
by Jennifer Worth
(Goodreads)
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Length: 12 Hours and 2 Minutes
Series: The Midwife Trilogy #1
Published by HighBridge Company
on September 10th 2012
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Goodreads
Buy the Book
four-half-stars
An unforgettable story of the joy of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the hope of one extraordinary woman

At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London's East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies all over London-from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives to the woman with twenty-four children who can't speak English to the prostitutes and dockers of the city's seedier side-illuminate a fascinating time in history. Beautifully written and utterly moving, The Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother.

Finding Call the Midwife was exciting for 3 reasons. One, I found an awesome new reader. Two, I found an awesome story. And three, now I have something to watch on Netflix!

If there is one thing I have learned in 2014, it is that I love narrative nonfiction. I completely adore it. Coupled with a fantastic narrator, a good narrative nonfiction book can be a thing hard to put down. Call the Midwife was a thing very hard to put down. Jennifer Worth’s life working as a midwife and nurse in post-World War II London, in the slums no less, is nothing short of fascinating.

Oh dear. I’m gushing. Let’s get into what the book is about, exactly, and why you should read (or listen to!) it.

As I said, Call the Midwife is about Jennifer Worth’s years of working in the London slums as a midwife. She meets such a colorful cast of characters, almost exactly the sort of people you would expect. My favorite was the Spanish woman with the English husband. Neither one spoke the same language, yet they had 24 children together. 24. (to quote: “Quite suddenly, with blinding insight, the secret of their blissful marriage was revealed to me. She couldn’t speak a word of English and he couldn’t speak a word of Spanish.”) Wow!! Right? What!?! Jenny meets prostitutes, dock workers, cockney barrowmen, and more. And oh, the nuns. THE NUNS. Just like in the Sound of Music, you can’t help but adore the nuns. Sister Monica Joan, a 90-year-old nun who is a wee bit batty is a delight.

I absolutely loved Jenny’s voice. She doesn’t pull punches, but tells it like it is/was. Life was hard in the slums. Women couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, or the hospital, when the time came to give birth.

“Obstetricians also doubted the female intellectual capacity to grasp the anatomy and physiology of childbirth, and suggested that they could not therefore be trained. But the root fear was – guess what? – you’ve got it, but no prizes for quickness: money. Most doctors charged a routine one guinea for a delivery. The word got around that trained midwives would undercut them by delivering babies for half a guinea! The knives were out.”

These midwives were desperately needed and did so much to help turn the tide of death for those women, and the babies, alike. She goes into the history of the times. How the pill wasn’t introduced until the 1960s and the changes that introduces:

“The Pill was introduced in the early 1960s and modern woman was born. Women were no longer going to be tied to the cycle of endless babies; they were going to be themselves. With the Pill came what we now call the sexual revolution. Women could, for the first time in history, be like men, and enjoy sex for its own sake. In the late 1950s we had eighty to a hundred deliveries a month on our books. In 1963 the number had dropped to four or five a month. Now that is some social change!”

Jenny doesn’t sugarcoat it childbirth. The blood, the pain, the smells…poor Jenny had a sensitive stomach. Yet, she soldiers on and through her one comes to appreciate the lives of the East End women and the way they all soldiered through their rough lives in the slums. Through it all, and most amazingly, Jenny never loses her humor, her wit, or the knowledge that each child is a stunning miracle, a gift from God, and something to be treasured.

Nicola Barber is the narrator for all of the books in the Midwife Trilogy. It was my first experience with her. I only wish I had found her much sooner. She has a marvelous, soothing voice, with just the right amount of British accent and perfect for the voice of Jenny. She sounds young, but not too young, and she does a marvelous job of changing her voice for different characters. She gained a hardcore fan with me. If you find you can’t get into reading the book, definitely give the audio a try. Or, just give the audio a try. You will not regret it.

Bits I liked:

“Their devotion showed me there were no versions of love there was only… Love. That it had no equal and that it was worth searching for, even if that search took a lifetime.”

“Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.”

“Whoever heard of a midwife as a literary heroine? Yet midwifery is the very stuff of drama. Every child is conceived either in love or lust is born in pain, followed by joy or sometimes remorse. A midwife is in the thick of it, she sees it all.”

“Why aren’t midwives the heroines of society that they should be? Why do they have such a low profile? They ought to be lauded to the skies, by everyone.”

About Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth RN RM (25 September 1935 – 31 May 2011) was a British nurse and musician. She wrote a best-selling trilogy of memoirs about her work as a midwife practising in the poverty-stricken East End of London in the 1950s: Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to The East End.

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The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

April 10, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 10 ★★★★★

The Woodcutter by Kate DanleyThe Woodcutter
by Kate Danley
(Website, Goodreads)
Published by 47North
on October 14th 2010
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 346
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
Buy the Book
five-stars
Deep within the Wood, a young woman lies dead. Not a mark on her body. No trace of her murderer. Only her chipped glass slippers hint at her identity.

The Woodcutter, keeper of the peace between the Twelve Kingdoms of Man and the Realm of the Faerie, must find the maiden’s killer before others share her fate. Guided by the wind and aided by three charmed axes won from the River God, the Woodcutter begins his hunt, searching for clues in the whispering dominions of the enchanted unknown.

But quickly he finds that one murdered maiden is not the only nefarious mystery afoot: one of Odin’s hellhounds has escaped, a sinister mansion appears where it shouldn’t, a pixie dust drug trade runs rampant, and more young girls go missing. Looming in the shadows is the malevolent, power-hungry queen, and she will stop at nothing to destroy the Twelve Kingdoms and annihilate the Royal Fae…unless the Woodcutter can outmaneuver her and save the gentle souls of the Wood.

Blending magic, heart-pounding suspense, and a dash of folklore, The Woodcutter is an extraordinary retelling of the realm of fairy tales.

You guys. When I started this book, I didn’t know what to expect. It was an impulse buy. It was $3.99 on Amazon. The premise sounded interesting. And I was in a funk and needed some retail therapy. So in the cart it went. Then, somehow, it didn’t flounder in my TBR. I picked it up the next day. STILL not expecting much.

I certainly didn’t expect to fall head over heels in love with it and promptly call it my favorite book of the year. The whole year. Like, I’ve already read my favorite book of 2014 and I already know nothing else will hold a candle, favorite book of the year.

No, I am not delusional. I am in love, damn it!

So, what’s so great about this book?

  • If you know me at all, you know I love fairy tales. The Woodcutter takes place in a world where fairy tales are real, they continuously play out, and Woodcutter plays his part, as well as watching over this unique world.
  • All my favorites are there; Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Baba Yaga, Oberon and Tatiana, (lots of different traditions are covered) but there are also other traditional fairy tale tropes – magic trees, moving houses, pixies and more.
  • The best part however, is there is something wrong with this world where everything happens so predictably according to story. The stories are changing. In such brilliant ways. In horrible ways. In ways that just keep you reading. It’s like the Grimm brothers on some dark, twisted shit.
  • The writing is gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. Seriously gorgeous. So fairy tale faithful gorgeous.
  • The best description I can think of; it’s a fairy tale for grown ups, with all your favorite fairy tale characters from your youth.

My favorite character without a doubt was the Woodcutter. His (insert mental picture of me clasping my fists to my head because I can’t think of the words I so desperately want) WAY with his environment; the trees (oh, the trees, my second favorite character), the stories, the pixies, all of it, was simply mesmerizing. He’s such a quiet, unassuming man, but he’s also the hero. Perhaps reluctantly since throughout the book he just wants to go home to his plain, boring, but adored and wonderful wife, but he keeps on. He just keeps on keeping on, doing the job tasked him, because he cares. He cares so damn much. It’s his job, but it’s also something more. It’s his life. He feels like a throwback character to another time to me; when men did what they had to do not only because it was their job but also because it was their passion.

I also loved how all the stories were turned on their heads, so to speak. All the stories change. Red Riding Hood still goes tripping through the forest, but she doesn’t quite end up the way she usually does. Neither does her grandmother. Snow White still flees into the forest with the Hunter, but she never makes it to the dwarves. Rumplestiltskin still goes for a first born, but things don’t turn out quite the way he hopes. Traditionally weak female characters are suddenly empowered. Males find themselves forced into unfamiliar circumstances. And it was all delightful to me. DeLightFul.

Did I mention the writing is gorgeous? Kate Danley really outdid herself with keeping to the traditional fairy tale tropes. The writing practically sings. You know I highlighted a ton of quotes, right? Here are a few of my favorites:

She was who she was, no more, and that was what made her so special.

Winter was fading and the tender touch of spring had caressed the earth, leaving its gift of new blossoms in delicate green.

The absence of glamour was intoxicating. Surrounded by a swirl of other ladies in paired fineries and magicked perfumes, she stood in the firelight with no auras, no spells-just quiet, like an ancient oak rooted deep to the center of the earth.

He took those fingers and held them to his lips, loving them, loving them for loving him, loving them for teaching him how to love.

There are so many more I want to share, but I can’t because they give too much of the story away. I feel like I have been very inadequate in describing this book, but I feel reasonably sure I have conveyed my love for it. If you give it a try, please let me know. I’m dying to talk to someone about it.

I purchased this book through Amazon.com. If you should buy the book through my link, I will receive around 4% of the price in commission.

About Kate Danley

Kate Danley is twenty year veteran of stage and screen with a B.S. in theatre from Towson University. She was one of four students to be named a Maryland Distinguished Scholar in the Arts in the annual competition.

Her debut novel, The Woodcutter, was honored with the Garcia Award for the Best Fiction Book of the Year, is the 1st Place Fantasy Book in the Reader Views Literary Awards, and the winner of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

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Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

April 3, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 9 ★★★★★

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne JonesHowl's Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
Series: Howl's Moving Castle #1
Published by Greenwillow Books
on January 1st 1986
Genres: Classic, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 340
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
Buy the Book
five-stars
Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the ey

“In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

I swore this month that I would make friends with Diana Wynne Jones if it killed me (gross over-exaggeration, but typical of me as you know). I’m happy, so happy, to report that after 3 years of trying, I have found a Diana Wynne Jones’s book I like, nay, love. I LOVE IT.

A few things about it:

  • Who is the main character? That would be Sophie, the eldest of three daughters and destined to fail. Why is she destined to fail? Because everyone knows the oldest will fail! She hides in her widowed step-mother’s hat shop, making hats all day, talking to them (as in the hats), and generally being a bit of a mouse. She has some magical abilities but doesn’t really seem to realize it.
  • Who is Howl? Howl is a wizard! And something of a dandy. Okay, more than something of a dandy, he is QUITE the dandy. And rumored to eat the hearts of all the girls who fall in love with him or something like that. There are a LOT of rumors about Howl.
  • What final gets Sophie out of the hat shop? The Witch of the Waste! Sophie somehow caught the ire of the Witch (that magical ability that Sophie doesn’t seem to know about no doubt) and she comes along and ages Sophie about 70 years completely out of spite.
  • How does Sophie deal with that? By running away and going to live with Howl in his magical walking castle of course! There she meets Calcifer; a fire demon who lives in Howl’s fireplace. They make a deal; if she will help Calcifer break the curse on him, he will help her break the curse on her. She hires herself as Howl’s cleaning lady and moves on in.
  • Also along for the ride? Michael, who is Howl’s apprentice; a scarecrow; Sophie’s two sisters; various spiders; a man-dog; and, of course, the house. Plus various other minor characters.

Oh, I love so many things about what Diana Wynne Jones did with this story. The sheer fun of it was a delight. It was just a joy to read. And I feel like I haven’t read enough books this year that were just plain old fun, joyful reads. I need more of these reads in my life.

I loved the main character of Sophie. She starts the book as such a mousy person, but becoming “old” set her free in so many ways. She started saying the things she thought, she started doing the things she wanted to do…she just became so much less inhibited. As I have aged, I have noticed that I too have started doing and saying things I want and think more often and can only assume that Wynne Jones was showing that getting old can do that to a person. I hope it continues for me! I love that she takes her destiny into her own hands, rather than staying on the path to failure as she believes because of her birth. And I loved how Sophie ended up, but of course, I can’t tell you exactly how she ends up. You’ll have to read the book for yourself.

I was surprised at how much I liked Howl. He is a different kind of immature than Sophie. Sophie’s immaturity is based on a sheltered homelife and a timid personality. Howl is a spoiled brat. When he doesn’t get his way, he throws temper-tantrums. His room is a disaster. He trolls from woman to woman, loving them until they love him back then he’s off on the next conquest. Yet, as Wynne Jones paints this picture of him, I couldn’t help but start to understand him and as I understood him, to like him.

And then, there’s Calcifer. You can’t have Howl without Calcifer. He’s described in the book as a fire demon and he lives in Howl’s fireplace. His magic and Howl’s are so intertwined, it is put forth that one cannot live without the other. The two have made a mysterious bargain. Calcifer is the one who decides to let Sophie in and in return for letting her stay, they will help each other break their respective curses. Calcifer is by far my favorite character in the whole book. He’s so grumpy and crabby and powerful and can be a bit mean. By the end of the book, Calcifer’s life is just as intertwined with Sophie’s as with Howl’s, in a sense making a family.

The main antagonist, The Witch of the Waste, is the most powerful magician around and she has her sights set on Howl, since he spited her. Howl therefore does everything he can to avoid her. I think a lot of her power comes from her broken heart and I appreciated how Wynne Jones shows how that power can be used for ill. By the end, despite all the things she has done, I was merely left feeling sorry for her.

As for Wynne Jones’s writing, it’s equal parts clever, hilarious, moving, and just plain ole fun. I love how she shows age doesn’t necessarily mean life is over, and that anyone can be family. I love that she took a dandy (Howl) and turned him into something more. And I loved how she took this timid mouse of a girl and turned her into something amazing. Gosh, I just loved this book so much. I hope it’s obvious. And I hope you’ll read it. I have left out so much! Howl’s Moving Castle is a book rich in story, characters, personality, and, like I said, fun.

Quotes:

“Yes, you are nosy. You’re a dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old woman. Control yourself. You’re victimizing us all.”

“More about Howl? Sophie thought desperately. I have to blacken his name! Her mind was such a blank that for a second it actually seemed to her that Howl had no faults at all. How stupid! ‘Well, he’s fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical,’ she said. ‘Half the time I think he doesn’t care what happens to anyone as long as he’s alright–but then I find out how awfully kind he’s been to someone. Then I think he’s kind just when it suits him–only then I find out he undercharges poor people. I don’t know, Your Majesty. He’s a mess.”

“Really, these wizards! You’d think no one had ever had a cold before! Well, what is it?” she asked, hobbling through the bedroom door onto the filthy carpet.

“I’m dying of boredom,” Howl said pathetically. “Or maybe just dying.”

“So you were going to rescue the Prince! Why did you pretend to run away? To deceive the Witch?”

“Not likely! I’m a coward. Only way I can do something this frightening is to tell myself I’m not doing it!”

Affiliates disclosure: if you buy a book through my affiliate link, I will get 4%.

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Will O’ the Wisp by Tom Hammock and Megan Hutchinson

February 27, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 4 ★★★★★

Will O’ the Wisp by Tom Hammock and Megan HutchinsonWill O'the Wisp
on January 28, 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 216
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
Buy the Book
five-stars
After her parents' accidental death by mushroom poisoning, young Aurora Grimeon is sent to live with her estranged grandfather on Ossuary Isle, deep in the southern swamps. Joined by her grandfather's pet raccoon Missy, Aurora explores the fog-covered island of graves. Along the way she meets its sinister residents who care for the tombstones and mausoleums, living out their lives by the strange rules of Hoodoo magic. When ghostly things start happening out in the swamp and island residents start disappearing, Aurora thrusts herself into the middle of the mystery, uncovering secrets that might be better left buried.

Fair warning. I really really really really really loved this graphic novel. So expect a fair amount of gushing. I can’t help it. I just can’t help it.

I LOVED IT OKAY?

Don’t judge me.

This is Aurora Grimeon.

aurora

This is her grandfather.

grandfather

Aurora is twelve and has been sent to live with her grandfather on Ossuary Isle after the death of her parents by mushroom poisoning. Lucky for Aurora, she doesn’t like mushrooms and someone sent the antidote before she succumbed as well. Her grandfather is an eccentric man of science (honestly, I never really caught on to what he does exactly, but I didn’t really care. I’ll pick it up in a reread I’m sure.) and keeps a pet raccoon instead of having personal relationships. Estranged from Aurora’s family for years, it’s an unexpected surprise for him to suddenly be raising a twelve year old girl.

Ossuary Isle is firmly entrenched in the South. It is in the deep, deep swamp. It feels very ‘Louisiana,’ with talk of death and tombstones, mausoleums, and Hoodoo magic. As Aurora explores her new surroundings; her grandfather’s ancient mansion full of twists, turns, skeletons, and so many oddities (pay attention to what isn’t said); the foggy island full of graves, and the strange and eccentric residents of the isle, she encounters a mysterious entity known as the wisp. When people start mysteriously disappearing, Aurora takes matters into her own hands. She WILL find out what is going on or…well…die in the trying?

This. Book. Oh my gosh, you guys. This book was pure magic to me. Hoodoo magic! As soon as I held the book in my hands, I knew it was a keeper. It fit perfectly. I was enchanted by the catch on the side, like something secret was lurking inside, waiting for me to crack it open and get lost. And get lost I did. The art is magic. The words are magic. The story is magic. This book! It is SO a book for me. Being from the South, I feel like we have our own particular brand of magic, must like other places in the world like England, Scotland, and Ireland and Africa and the isles. Maybe it’s because so many of South’s ancestors are an amalgamation of these cultures; it just feels so entrenched to me. And all of that in entrenched in this book, explaining my love. I have always loved fairy tales, myths, folklore, and the like and Will O’ the Wisp has all of it in spades. I sincerely hope there will be more books about Aurora Grimeon, or at least more books by this author. This team! I now cannot imagine Tom Hammock’s words without the beautiful artwork by Megan Hutchinson.

There. I have gushed enough. I hope it was sufficient to convince you to give this one a try. Because I want you to. For me. Read this one for me, your old pal Heather. You won’t regret it!!!

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