Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty
by Amanda Filipacchi

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: A magical and comedic take on modern love, the power of friendship, and the allure of disguise.

Meet the Knights of Creation, a group of artistic friends in New York City, struggling with society's standards of beauty.  At the center are Barb and Lily, two women at opposite ends of the beauty spectrum, but with the same problem: each fears she will never find a love that can overcome her looks.  Barb, a stunningly beautiful costume designer, makes herself ugly in hopes of finding true love.  Meanwhile, her friend Lily, a brilliantly talented but plain-looking musician, goes to fantastic lengths to attract the man who has rejected her-with results that are so touching as they are transformative.

To complicate matters, Barb and Lily discover that they may have a murderer in their midst, that Barb's calm disposition is more dangerously provocative than her beauty ever was, and that Lily's musical talents are more powerful that anyone could have imagined.  
from the book jacket

Review: At first I thought this book was going to be a relatively light chick lit book about a woman who was struggling with her image but then it started to get a little strange and magical and I wasn't sure I liked it.  But then it went so over the top that it was funny and I realized it is supposed to be a farce.  Once I realized that I liked the book more because I could look at it in a non-serious way and just fine the humor in how overboard the author went.  There are plenty of places where I laughed or chuckled.  But then the end went a little too far which made me like the book a little less.  Just to warn you in case you decide to read this book, Barb's doorman does have an affinity for swearing and doing so quite vulgarly.  I think this book takes the right type of reader and for the reader to want to read something very quirky.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Hummingbird's Cage

The Hummingbird's Cage
by Tamara Deitrich

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: Everyone in Wheeler, New Mexico, thinks Joanna leads the perfect life: the quiet, contented housewife of a dashing deputy sheriff raising a beautiful young daughter, Laurel.  But Joanna's reality is nothing like her facade.  Behind closed doors, she lives in constant fear of her husband.  She's been trapped for so long, escape seems impossible-until a stranger offers her the help she needs to flee...

On the run, Joanna and Laurel stumble upon the small town of Morro, a charming and magical village that seems to exist out of time and place.  There, a farmer and his wife offered them sanctuary, and soon, between the comfort of Joanna's new home and blossoming friendships, her soul begins to heal, easing the wounds of a decade of abuse.

But her past-like her husband-isn't so easy to escape.  Unwilling to live in fear any longer, Joanna must summon a strength she never knew she had to fight back and forge a new life for her daughter and herself...
from the back of the book

Review:  This book starts with Joanna's immense feelings of despair and hopelessness.  But then when Joanna find Morro, there is such a sense of peace, stillness, healing and by the end of stay in Morro there is determination and hope.  At first I wasn't so sure about the magic of Morro and didn't know what to think about this place and what it truly was.  But by the end I understood it a little better (still have some unanswered questions about it though) and was captivated by its charm and tranquility.  This book is beautifully written and draws the reader in.  At times it is a little choppy because the chapters are so short and I felt that part of the time in Morro dragged.

Rating: 4 stars

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel / 1 Dog = Chaos

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos
by Vivian Vande Velde
Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman

Genre: Chapter book

Synopsis: Twitch, the school yard squirrel, has really gotten himself into a bind this time. While trying to escape from a hungry owl, he roused the principal's dog and got chased into the school. Now he's locked in for a dangerous and disastrous night. Can Green Eggs and Hamster, Sweetie the library rat, and the other school pets save Twitch from the crazed dog, Cuddles? In this uproarious chapter book, a group of small animals manages to turn an elementary school into a real zoo.
from GoodReads

Natalie's review:  I like the book because it has animals in it and I like animals.  I like the book because all of the animals go crazy in the book.  The book was silly and funny.  The animals got out of their cages and made a mess.  They talked to each other.  I think other kids would like the book because it is funny and the animals make a mess.  If children like animals they should read this book.

Natalie's rating: 5 stars

Noah's review:  I like the book because it was silly.  One pet would go to another pet and they would tell each what the problem was and each pet got out of their cage.  The animals made a mess and the day after that was supposed to be a special day.  Other kids should read the book because it is funny and the book is a chapter book.  If you have one of the pets from the book you will think the book is really cool.

Noah's rating: 4.5 stars

Becky's review:   This book was really cute.  Each chapter is told by a different pet that lives in the school (or the squirrel and dog who came into the school) and each pet has its own personality.  The hamster cracks me up because he's a little scatterbrained.  Some of the pets are quirkier than others and that is what makes the book fun.  My kids didn't laugh out loud during the book but there was some smiling going on during the book.  There were times that I found something funny that went over their heads.  This was a good book for a read aloud but I think it would also be a good book to read on your own. It is a pretty short chapter book so it goes by pretty quickly.

Becky's review: 4 stars

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Who Do You Love

Who Do You Love
by Jennifer Weiner

Genre: Women's Fiction

Synopsis:  An unforgettable story about true love, real life, and second changes.

Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are just eight years old when they meet one night in an ER waiting room.  Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she's intrigued by the boy who shows up alone with a broken arm.  He tells her his name.  She tells him a story.  After Andy's taken back to a doctor and Rachel's sent back to her bed, they think they'll never seen each other again.

Rachel grows up in an affluent Florida suburb, the popular and protected daughter of two doting parents. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent for running.

Yet, over the next three decades, Andy and Rachel will meet again and again-linked by change, history, and the memory of the first time they met, a night that changed the course of both of their lives.

A sweeping, warmhearted, and intimate tale, Who Do You Love is an extraordinary novel about the passage of time, the way people change and change each other, and how the measure of a life is who you love.
from the ebook summary

Review: This was a heartwarming tale of the development of love and of two individuals who are destined to be together.  At the beginning, I fell in love with the character of Andy, a boy and then a teenager who wanted a family and who just wanted to be like other kids and not be picked on. At some point in the story, I did become a little disenchanted with Andy because of choices he made. Rachel had some growing up to do but I think she eventually got to a good place.  I love reading about how their stories intertwined with each other through the years and how they moved in and out of each other's lives.  At times things were a bit cliche but still a great read!  Just a warning, there are a few steamy moments in the book.

Rating: 4 stars

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Blondes

The Blondes
by Emily Schultz

Genre: Distopian Fiction

Synopsis: The Blondes is a hilarious and whip-smart novel where an epidemic of a rabies-like disease is carried only by blonde women, all of whom must go to great lengths to conceal their blondness.

Hazel Hayes is a grad student living in New York City.  As the novel opens, she learns she is pregnant (from an affair with her married professor) at an apocalyptically bad time: random but deadly attacks on passersby, all by blonde women, are terrorizing New Yorkers.  Soon it becomes clear that the attacks are symptoms of a strange illness that is transforming blondes-whether CEOs, flight attendants, students, or accountants-into rabid killers.
from the book jacket

Review: Being blonde myself, the cover and description of the book caught from a table in the library as I walked by.  This book seemed quirky and light, something is right up my alley.  I tried to read the first chapter but time seemed to jump around and I didn't know who the characters and it really threw me off from enjoying the book.  So I put it down for a couple weeks.  Once I reread the first chapter a couple times and forced myself to get past it, I started to understand more of what was going on and there was less time jumping.  I kept reading because I thought something would happen.  Once the attacks started to happen there was a little bit more action but still not enough for me.  Hazel spent most of her time moping about the married professor, Karl.  There were quite a few unanswered questions in the story that I wish we knew the answers to.  There was just too much lacking in this book for me to like it.

Rating: 2 stars

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ember Island

Ember Island
Kimberley Freeman

Ember Island

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads): A riveting story of secrets and scandal

1890: Orphaned as a small child, Tilly Kirkland found a loving, safe home with her grandfather in Dorset. But nineteenth-century England is an unforgiving place for a young woman with limited means and as her grandfather's health fails, it seems perfect timing that she meets Jasper Dellafore. Yet her new husband is not all he seems. Alone in the Channel Islands, Tilly finds her dream of a loving marriage is turning into a nightmare.

2012: Bestselling novelist Nina Jones is struggling with writer's block and her disappointing personal life. Nothing is quite working. After a storm damages Starwater, her house on Ember Island, she decides to stay for a while and oversee the repairs: it s a perfect excuse to leave her problems behind her on the mainland. Then Nina discovers diary pages hidden in the walls of the old home. And a mystery unravels that she is determined to solve.

Though the two women are separated by years, Starwater House will alter the course of both their lives. Nina will find that secrets never stay buried and Tilly learns that what matters most is trusting your heart.

Review:  I would have given this book 5 stars until I reached the last few pages and learned the secret behind Nina's writer's block. What a crock.

Rating: 4 stars

The Memory House

The Memory House
Linda Goodnight

The Memory House (Honey Ridge, #1)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads): New York Times bestselling author Linda Goodnight welcomes you to Honey Ridge, Tennessee, and a house that's rich with secrets and brimming with sweet possibilities...

Memories of motherhood and marriage are fresh for Julia Presley--though tragedy took away both years ago. Finding comfort in the routine of running the Peach Orchard Inn, she lets the historic, mysterious place fill the voids of love and family. No more pleasure of a man's gentle kiss. No more joy in hearing a child call her Mommy. Life is calm, unchanging...until a stranger with a young boy and soul-deep secrets shows up in her Tennessee town and disrupts the loneliness of her world.

Julia suspects there's more to Eli Donovan's past than his motherless son, Alex. There's a reason he's chasing redemption and bent on earning it with a new beginning in Honey Ridge. Offering the guarded man work renovating the inn, she glimpses someone who--like her--has a heart in need of restoration. But with the chance discovery of a dusty stack of love letters buried within the lining of an old trunk, the long-dead ghosts of a Civil War romance envelop Julia and Eli, connecting them to the inn's violent history and challenging them both to risk facing yesterday's darkness for a future bright with hope and healing.

Review: A delightful Southern tale that takes place in a haunted historical mansion.  While the historical section was interesting, I was mostly interested in the current story about the ex-prisoner and the B&B owner.  The characters were well-drawn, with realistic emotions, and I found myself relating especially to the mother.  I think the historical section could have been an interesting story in its own right, with more detailed character development, but it felt too rushed and choppy when mixed in with the modern story.  I did enjoy reading the book and will definitely look out for the next book in the series.

Rating: 4 stars