Wednesday, March 22, 2017

REVIEW: A Bridge Across The Ocean by Susan Meissner

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistancespy. Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides--and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings. 

This book was a total surprise. I thought I was getting a typical WWII historical fiction book about war brides and their stories 0f survival during the war. There is one thing the premise does not mention: there is a huge supernatural element. The main character from the present, Brette, can communicate with "Drifters" (i.e. ghosts). Even one of the POVs is that of a ghost. Pretty freaking awesome really. Brett comes from a family of people who can see Drifters. She has never gotten involved and she sees this as more of a curse than a gift. She avoids talking with them and even avoids eye contact if she can help it. But then she gets involved with a Drifter haunting the RMS Queen Mary (a site I really want to visit now that I have read this book) and she feels that solving this mystery will help with her own feelings about her abilities. 

The mystery in this book went in a direction that I was really not expecting. Besides the present day Brette, we meet two very different women whose stories collide on the ship. Annalise is German and is running from a secret past. It also isn't easy to be German at the very end of the war because people's feelings are running high. Then there is Simone, the daughter of a French Resistance fighter in search of a fresh start after the trauma she has endured. The story kind of goes back and forth between the Drifter and the present day and the women on the ship and we get glimpses of the women's stories before the war and what led them to the ship. It sounds confusing, but the author did a great job and I never got confused with the characters or the timelines. It's hard to speak much more about the plot because I really don't want to give it away, but I will say that the mystery was so well done and the characters were so well developed. There was such a great blend of historical fiction with the supernatural. There were a few times when I thought I knew the identity of the Drifter or that I knew what happened on the ship, but I ended up being totally wrong. I loved that the ending surprised me. This was a great read and not as emotional as other WWII books, which is a really good thing. The book actually focuses most of the mystery on the events on the ship and those events take place right after the war. This is a great read and I highly recommend it.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Short Reads

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic is favorite books that you can read in one setting. Personally, I can read most books under 400 pages in one sitting, if given the time. But for the purposes of this topic, I have listed my favorite books under 200 pages. 

So on January 31, if you are desperate to finish just one more book to satisfy that annoying Goodreads challenge, keep these in mind.

And yes, I am aware that there are only seven books in that list. As a bonus, I have listed a few books that were more than 200 pages, but I just could not put them down. I have a feeling you won't be able to either.

What are a few of your favorite books that you can read in one sitting? Have you read any of the ones on this list?

Friday, March 17, 2017

REVIEW: The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he? This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph. 

Man, this book got me right in the feels. Seriously, it was so beautifully written and it was moving and I cried so many times. My husband said I should start rating books based on the number of tears it causes. This book would get a LOT of tears . . . and typically, the more I cry, the more I love the book. This one is no exception.

Let's talk about how much I loved EVERY single character! Sal is a white guy who was adopted by a gay Mexican guy when his mom died of cancer when he was really young. I absolutely loved Sal's dad. Seriously, LOVED HIM! He was so incredibly supportive and fatherly and he had love for every single child in his son't life. He was the perfect parent. I loved his relationship with Sal. It was so perfectly realistic and loving and wonderful. His dad was stern when it counted, but he wasn't overprotective about it and Sam knew he could talk to his dad about anything. 

And here was an amazing thing: NO ROMANCE!! Seriously, the friendship was my FAVORITE part! Sam is a straight girl who Sal has known since he was a child and they are basically siblings. I was kind of worried the author would throw a romance in there somewhere at the last minute, but I am so happy that didn't happen. They had this ridiculously funny banter and they just seemed like regular teenagers. I am just in awe of the fact that a straight girl and a straight guy were best friends with not even a HINT of romance between them. I loved that they could cry in front of each other and they were for each other, no matter what and they were pretty honest with each other. But yes, Sal did keep a few secrets because, you know, realism and all. There were a few times when I thought Sam was a bit too pushy, but she evolved a lot and I still loved her. Oh, and there was food in this book. SO MUCH FOOD! Sal's grandmother showed her love by cooking for her family and I loved that. She made these homemade tamales that had me drooling on my Kindle and they ate SO MANY TACOS! Now I need a taco . . . desperately! 

I think the ONE issue I had with this book is that the plot was kind of . . . non existent. Sal had questions about his biological father and his grandmother gets cancer and he starts punching people at random but I didn't feel like none of things really moved things along in the book or even got resolved successfully. It felt like it was basically a year in the life of Sal where a bunch of bad things happen. Basically, there is a lot of tragedy in this book and I don't think all of it was necessary. But the characters and the food and the friendship and the family were all so amazing that I STILL loved this book to pieces.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

DISCUSSION: Let's Talk Social Media

Confession: I am awful when it comes to social media.
When it comes to my blog, I have a Twitter account, but no Facebook page. Here's what typically happens: I go on Twitter for a few weeks, I tweet, I interact, I retweet, I catch up on notifications and my followers, etc., etc., etc. Then . . . I forget about it for three months or something. Then I realize that I should go back on Twitter and the cycle starts all over again. And I usually have way too many notifications after not checking it in so long.

P.S. Looking at my Twitter feed, the only posts in the past several months are my auto-generated Goodreads reviews and my auto-generated blog post links. Boring, much?
I guess my problem is that I feel so much pressure with what I say on Twitter. 140 characters to express something profound and funny? I need at least 200 characters for that. And most of the time, I just don't feel like I have anything to say. I admire the hell out of all you fabulous Twitter people who manage to crack me up with every tweet. And personally, I just spend more time on Facebook than Twitter. So it's easy to spend more time on that platform.

And don't even get me started with Instagram. I'm way too lazy for that one. But maybe I should spend more time on there, if nothing else, just so I can share my wonderful pictures of all my travels.

I have been contemplating creating a Facebook page for my blog. I love interacting with other bloggers and with my readers and I feel like I would get more interaction there. I am curious about what you guys think though.

Fellow bloggers, do you have a Facebook page? Do you have a favorite social media platform? Which platform allows you more interaction with other bloggers and readers. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

REVIEW: Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and get to New York City, the better. Art school has been Piper's dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she's never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper's sister's tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper's art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power when it means giving up so much? 

This is going to be kind of a ranty review because spoiler alert: I hated it. Maybe part of it is an age thing. Some parts of it may appeal to younger audiences because while I could relate to some things, most of the book just annoyed me. This book is told through Piper's journal entries. Interesting choice for a narrative style, but it ensured that we only got things from Piper's POV. The problem with Piper was that she annoyed me for most of the book. She was a typical teenager who couldn't wait to leave her hometown for an art school in New York and she wouldn't shut up about it. I do understand that part because I was the same way. But she was so whiny about everything and she was unrealistic about her options. She wanted to go to an expensive art school, but did she do ANYTHING about trying to figure out options so her parents could afford it? No. She didn't look for scholarships or loans or grants or anything. She even took her sweet time about getting a job. She got in and then just expected her parents to be able to pay for it all and then she blamed other people for the fact that they couldn't. And she didn't have ANY other backups. 

Let's talk about her family. Her parents were supportive and I felt sorry for them because they had to deal with two very bratty teenagers. Okay, now I get that sisters can have a whole rivalry thing going on and they can hate each other for no reason and one always thinks the other is being spoiled by their parents. That's how it was for me and my sister growing up. But here's the thing: Piper's sister, Marli, was an absolute horrible person and there was no reason for it. And there was never any supportive or loving moments between the sisters. I don't even get the point of the Marli point of the storyline. I felt like the author was trying to insinuate that Marli had mental problems. Piper and her friend read a chapter in a psychology textbook and decided that Marli was a sociopath. Really?? I agree that Marli was mean, but I never saw any indication of that. Not a diagnosis you want to throw around lightly. And Piper kept calling Marli crazy. So annoying. And here's a radical thought: a person can be awful and mean WITHOUT suffering from a mental illness. But since nothing was ever resolved with that, I don't know if Marli actually had issues or if it was just an insult thrown around by an envious sister. But Piper could be mean to Marli too. And she thought her parents were spoiling Marli just because her parents actually did things for her. And not to give away any spoilers, but Marli's problem couldn't just be swept under the rug.

Then let's talk about Piper's friends. They were both artists too and they were also as moody as Piper because of the whole "teenage angst" thing. Kit was jealous of Piper a lot instead of being supportive. And Piper just apologized to Kit for things that weren't even her fault and she was so needy in her desire to make Kit okay. That was annoying. Enzo was Piper's artist boyfriend, who breaks up with her in front of everyone at the whole school because he's gay. I never got over the way he ended things with Piper and then I hated him because he kept jerking Piper around, despite the fact that he said he didn't want to be with her. And another reviewer pointed out that the author should have made Enzo bisexual or something and I have to agree with that. Basically, the ONLY options that were presented for Enzo were gay or straight. Yet, he still kind of wanted to be with Piper at times even after he came out. So was he just struggling with being gay? Or was he bisexual? If he were bisexual, then maybe some of this actions would have made sense and I would have liked him a bit more.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one. Please.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Swear I Will Read Soon!!

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic is top books on my Spring TBR . . . in other words, books that I swear I will get to soon, but may or may not actually read because I am easily distracted by other books.

ARCs on my TBR

Books Languishing on my Kindle (or my bookshelf) longing to be read

So what books are on your Spring TBR? Are there any on my list that you have already read? Which ones should I read immediately?

Friday, March 10, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive. Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

Victoria Schwab is a genius. There is just no other word for it. I bought this one because 1) Victoria Schwab and 2) it was on sale and 3) a library full of dead people! This premise was incredibly original and dark and Schwab definitely did it justice. First of all, the dead people basically sometimes escape and wander these dark hallways. Then the Keepers (i.e. people like MacKenzie) find them in these creepy and dark hallways (the Narrows) and send them back on their way to the Archives. There are Librarians in charge of the dead people Archives (how cool would THAT library job be??) and there are Crew members in charge of finding any dead people (also known as Histories) who somehow make their way into the Outer (also known as the regular world). Oh, and Mackenzie has to wear this special ring at all times because she can read memories of things or people that she touches. Reading people's energies and their memories and all their feelings can be crazy exhausting. It was so creepy and dark and twisted and I LOVED it.

The characters were awesome. Mackenzie is a total bad ass who became a Keeper at twelve years old, which is about four years earlier than they normally are allowed to because . . . obviously. She's awesome. The book goes between the present and the past when her grandfather actually recruited her to become a Keeper. Mackenzie is mourning the loss of her grandfather and her younger brother, so she has a few issues with the dead and the whole issue of their bodies returning. Not only is she grieving, but she has to lie to EVERYONE about her disappearances and her bruises. It is such a lonely life. I loved her parents. Everyone is still so devastated over Ben's death and her mom seems like a realistic portrayal of a grieving mother. She is overwhelmed with her own feelings her grief can sometimes blind her to what's going on with Mackenzie, but she obviously loves her daughter and is concerned about her. Same with Mackenzie's dad. It's nice to see a realistic family with real problems (aside from the whole daughter being a Keeper thing) instead of the typical YA abusive and neglectful parents.

It SEEMS like there is a love triangle here, but it still doesn't really feel like one. There is Owen, who is tortured and in the Narrows and Mackenzie is trying to figure out who he is and why he's there. Even though there is a little romance between the two of them, it's obvious that Mackenzie is using him for an escape. She is still grieving after all and she is just so tired of all the secrets and lies. And then there's Wesley, who is adorable and charming and they have CRAZY chemistry. Mackenzie and Wesley are such a slow burn that I LOVED it. The best part is there was NO insta-love. And the second best part was that there were twists with BOTH boys and they kind of left my head spinning. 

The ONLY negative about this book was that it started a bit slow. But as you can see, I still had no choice but to give this one five stars. Once it picked up speed, there were so many twists and turns and so much creepiness and I absolutely loved the entire plot and all the characters. And now, I MUST have the sequel NOW!!!

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy it NOW!! 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Alone (The Generations Trilogy #3) by Scott Sigler

Pawns in a millennia-old struggle, the young people known only as the Birthday Children were genetically engineered to survive on the planet Omeyocan—but they were never meant to live there. They were made to be “overwritten,” their minds wiped and replaced by the consciousness of the monsters who created them. Em changed all of that. She unified her people and led a revolt against their creators. Em and her friends escaped an ancient ghost ship and fled to Omeyocan. They thought they would find an uninhabited paradise. Instead, they found the ruins of a massive city long since swallowed by the jungle. And they weren’t alone. The Birthday Children fought for survival against the elements, jungle wildlife, the “Grownups” who created them . . . and, as evil corrupted their numbers, even against themselves. With these opponents finally defeated, Em and her people realized that more threats were coming, traveling from across the universe to lay claim to their planet. The Birthday Children have prepared as best they can against this alien armada. Now, as the first ships reach orbit around Omeyocan, the final battle for the planet begins.

Wow. What an incredible end to an incredible series. So there are times when I am reading a book series and I never really feel like the sequels live up to the first one. For so many series, the books just kind of lose steam as they go on. BUT NOT WITH THIS ONE. This book is just as exciting as the first two . . . even more so, actually. This book was almost 600 pages and I swear there was action and bloodshed and intensity for over 500 of those pages. It was such a roller coaster . . . if the roller coaster in question was full of hills and didn't give you a chance to catch your breath before taking you over the next one. 

Okay, it's REALLY hard to give a thorough review because of spoilers. I don't want to ruin this. I will say there are so many enemies that Em and the other Birthday Children have to fight here. Once they fight one group, another one comes along. Meanwhile, they also have to stop fighting each other so they can concentrate on the people who are really after them. This last book kind of reminded me of Lord of the Flies times a million or something. It's like an adult version of that. And there were so many twists in this one that my head spun a little bit. All the questions are answered and none of it was predictable at all. This was such a thrilling conclusion to this series. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one! You should read this entire series.

Monday, March 6, 2017

DISCUSSION: Does the length of a book impact your decision to read it?

Have I mentioned on this blog that I'm lazy? I'm sure that I have. And I am sure you have figured that out by the length of time it can take me to respond to comments.  Okay, I am working on it . . . and I'm talking about both the laziness and the responding to comments.
Most of the time, I am not lazy when it comes to reading. Actually, reading is the reason why I can be lazy sometimes.
reading vs. cleaning = reading wins (though that probably isn't a fair match)
reading vs. responding to blog comments = reading

reading vs. working out = reading
reading vs.  . . . . well, just about anything = reading wins (except maybe eating. I'll give up ten minutes of reading time to stuff some chocolate in my mouth.)
But when it comes to reading long books . . . well, my laziness has a tendency to win out. My average size book is around 300 or 350 pages. Don't get me wrong, I will read a long book. Last year, my longest book read was Gone with the Wind, which came in at a whopping 1057 pages.

Great book, but do you have any idea how long it languished on my Kindle before I finally read it?
Yeah, me neither but I know it was a long time.

Right now, I am reading Gemina, which is 659 pages. I have been looking forward to this book for ages, but it took forever to gather the motivation to read it because of its length.
I know some people may say they are intimidated by books with a lot of pages. I would love to say that is my excuse. Then maybe you guys would respect me a bit. But alas, it's strictly laziness.

I have found that the longer a book is, the longer it takes me to read it. If it's over 500 pages, that's the sweet, sweet spot of procrastination on my part.

So let's discuss: do you procrastinate on reading books if they are too long? What do you consider too long? Is it an intimidation thing or are you just lazy like me? No judgments!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

February Recap - The one where I come back from a much needed break

I am linking up to both the Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Sunday Post @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

This past month has been a good one. I know I haven't been around for a while. Part of the problem has been writer's block. But I think a bigger part of it is just that I needed a break from blogging. Or maybe I have also been more than a little lazy.
We all have those moments every now and then, right? I think I'm back, but let's face it: I may get distracted again by a candy bar or a shiny new book. I get that way.

So what have I been up to over the past month?

1. Recovering from jet lag
I came back to Italy from a month long trip to the States a couple of weeks ago and I am just now starting to feel like myself again. Jet lag is a bitch.

2. Spending time with my husband and my dog
One month away from them is just too long. My husband said he is never going to let me leave him for a month again. And when I got home, I was only home for eighteen hours before he had to leave for a week long business trip! Argh! I missed my family terribly and I know that my husband was happy to have someone to annoy besides our dog.

3. Catching up on TV
A month without watching This is Us because I had to watch it with my husband . . . TORTURE. That is real love folks.

4. Reading

Of course!! Luckily, I have not been in a reading slump. I have read some great books over the last month and some not so great ones. Below are a few of my favorites. I managed to read fourteen books in the month of February.
5. 5. Dealing with change
I despise change. And it's not even an age thing. I have been this way for a long time. Four versions of the iPhone came out before I finally gave up my old 90's style flip phone. What can I say? The camera was awful and it took forever to type out a text, but I loved it.

So I was forced to get a new Kindle because mine was old and having issues. I tried to get the same exact one I had before: the Kindle Fire with 7 inch display. I thought it would be exactly the same. I. Was. Wrong.

It's more narrow than I am used to and the display is all different and the place where I charge it is in a different spot. Even the plug is irritating me because it's all different.

I'm getting used to it, but it was rough for a few days. Did I mention that I'm old and I HATE CHANGE.

6. Planning travel
My husband and I will be living in Italy for two more years. We are planning on taking full advantage of our time left. We are planning Paris in April, Florence in May, Scotland in July and a Baltic cruise (that will include St. Petersburg, Russia!!) in September. And I think we will be spending Thanksgiving this year in Budapest. Good times.

Okay, so I think that's about it for me this month. Hope everyone else has had a great February.

Talk to me! What was your favorite book that you read this month? Any trips planned? Do you hate change as much as I do?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

REVIEW: Denton Little's Still Not Dead (Denton Little #2) by Lance Rubin

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

The good news: Denton Little has lived through his deathdate. Yay! The bad news: He’s being chased by the DIA (Death Investigation Agency), he can never see his family again, and he may now die any time. Huh. Cheating death isn’t quite as awesome as Denton would have thought.

FINALLY! More Denton! It seems like I have been waiting forever for this sequel and IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Denton has found his birth mom (yeah, the one he thought was dead) and they are running from the DIA. There was a lot going on with the plot and I loved it. There was so much action and so much of Denton running for his life. I also appreciated the awkwardness between Denton and his birth mom and how he still thought of his stepmom as "Mom." I thought that was so realistic. There was also more of Paolo. Seriously, could there friendship be any more awesome? They are your typical teenage boys and there was still so much snark and sarcasm and witty banter and I loved all of it. 

This book also still discussed the big questions about death, like whether people should be forced to know their death dates or whether people should even know at all. I think that if it were possible to know my death date ahead of time, I wouldn't want to know. And this book also deals with Denton trying to save Paolo from his death date. It's a race against the clock and I was rooting for him to figure out a way to outsmart it. 

It was AWESOME that romance was not a huge subplot of the book. Yeah, there were a few romance scenes, but it never took over the book and there was none of that stupid insta-love. I was rooting for Denton and Veronica, but I thought their relationship was realistic and well-done, especially considering the fact that they are both teenagers, for crying out loud.

This book was funny and touching and full of wacky adventures and if you loved the first one, you will love this one as well! 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!