Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Review: "Father's Day" by Simon Van Booy

Harvey's parents die in a tragic car accident when she is six years old.  Suddenly orphaned, the social worker finds the only living relative Harvey has left - her uncle Jason.  Jason has been long estranged from his family due mainly to his criminal record, and wasn't even aware than his younger brother had a child... much less that his brother was gone now too.   The social worker sees something in Jason though, and helps him find his way to taking care of Harvey.  Fast forward twenty years, and Jason is visiting Harvey in Paris, where she lives and works now.  Harvey has put together a Father's Day present for Jason during his visit, and plans to unveil the secret she thinks he's been hiding from her.

I hadn't read Van Booy before now, but I see why so many people love him so much.  This book was beautiful and careful with emotions and wonderful.  It took me a chapter or two to become completely enraptured with this story.

Harvey and Jason have much to offer and teach each other, but it's far more than that.  There is a lot of love here, and it mostly starts with the opportunity for second chances.  The relationships that come out of these second chances are amazing.  Some take some time and effort, but what doesn't?  I loved how the narrative moved so seamlessly between past and present.  It worked so well, and I especially liked how each perspective or memory was offered to the reader.  Its truly beautiful.

I strongly recommend this to readers of literary fiction and those who enjoy redemption stories.

Father's Day

by Simon Van Booy
Harper, 2016
304 pages
Source:  TLC Book Tours


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bout of Books 16 is coming!

Here it comes - Bout of Books 16!  This is a week long readathon that will next take place May 9 - May 15.  Here's the official blurb:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 9th and runs through Sunday, May 15th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 16 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

So there you have it.  I have lost track of how many times I've participated in Bout of Books, but it's always fun.  It's funny now though, because when I started doing these - I really felt encouraged and motivated to read more in a week than I usually do.  Now, I already read pretty much every chance I get, but it is interesting for me to actually keep track of my reading habits.  I should probably set some sort of goal, but I'll think about that some more and include it on my master post which will go live on the morning of May 9th.

If you'd like to join in the fun, click HERE to sign up!

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Review: "Booked" by Kwame Alexander

Nick is a twelve year old who loves soccer, just like his best friend Cody.  Both of their teams have even been invited to the same elite soccer tournament!  But the big soccer game is in jeopardy for Nick.  Something is off with his parents and the bullies have targeted Nick and Cody again.  He's also got a major crush on April (hence the unwanted attention from the bullies).  There is still no telling how this season is going to work out for Nick.

I loved Kwame Alexander's Newbery winning Crossover, and in fact was fangirling over that novel to my friend at ALAMW without realizing that Alexander was standing right behind me!  Thankfully, he was already engrossed in conversation, so I wasn't completely embarrassed in a potentially very awkward situation.  Anyway, as I had hoped and this follow up is just as good.  Also written in verse, this novel's narration happens through rhythm and rhyme, and black out poetry while also introducing some fantastic new vocabulary.  I learned more than a couple new words myself!

I also thought that this middle-grade novel did a great job of keeping the reader interested through pacing, while also tackling some big issues appropriately.  Racism, divorce/parent separation, first crush, and bullying are all addressed.  Also, soccer?  That's going to go over really well with this age group in my area!

by Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
320 pages
Source:  ALAMW


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review: "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" by Gabrielle Zevin

A.J. Fikry is kind of an unusual person.  He found himself on Alice Island thanks to his wife, though she very recently passed away.  So now he is alone and running the only bookstore on the Island.  His unusual tastes and mannerisms aside (he's not a warm & friendly kind of guy, at least not at first), he is also in possession of an incredibly rare and perfect copy of Edgar Allen Poe's Tamerlane.... until it is stolen. Not long after the theft, two things happen:  he is visited by a new sales rep named Amelia and a toddler named Maya is left abandoned in his store.  And this is what happens...

I read this book for my book group, and I absolutely loved it.  It was just so different from the others we had read.  This felt much lighter in tone than most of our other selections this year, which was sorely needed.  A.J. is a big fan of short story as a literary medium, and while this is not a short story - it still resembles one.  There isn't a whole lot of character development or backstory - there is just enough.  There are a couple story lines working together and a twist or turn at the end.

This also reads like a love letter to books and independent bookstores.  Each chapter starts with a shelf talker that A.J. has written about a short story... and these become more and more personal as the book goes on.  Many good books are referenced or alluded to throughout the text, and there is a great scene about an author event that was hilarious and thankfully has never happened to me (knock on wood).

This was a delightful and quick read that I think would appeal to many different readers!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin Books, 2014
272 pages
Source:  Library


Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review: "Maternity Leave" by Julie Halpern

The novel opens in the delivery room; Annie and Zach are welcoming their first baby, a boy to be named Sam, into the world.  They are so excited about this new little life, and Annie is looking forward to a good long maternity leave to bond with her little angel.  But that is the dream isn't it?  Annie soon finds that real life as a new mom just isn't like that at all.... and if we don't laugh a little, we will cry at the smallest thing and then buy everything on QVC to make us feel better.

Now I know that everyone's experience is unique and special and all that crap.  Whatever.  I started reading this book and laughing and realizing that this was so very similar to my experience it was scary.  I definitely had some of the same crying thoughts late at night where my infant son's cries for (anything) would make me cry.  Those first few weeks are such a blur now, but I clearly remember being able to turn on the TV at ANY HOUR of the day and know exactly what was on the different channels.  I saw more Jimmy Fallon at his 3am repeat time than I ever had - before or since.  And while I didn't go the QVC route... I do remember how badly I just wanted to talk to another adult about something not baby related and not guilt inducing.  This was also the same time that I had trouble keeping up friendships with my childless friends.

Halpern has brought all of this into a fun novel that will have you laughing, and crying just a little.  It is a nice light and quick read, so perfect if maybe your kids don't leave you much reading time.  I also dug the nerd culture aspect of it too...  considering I am also in the middle of a Buffy binge-rewatch.  This is Halpern's first novel for adults (though she has written several for teens) and I look forward to more!

Maternity Leave
by Julie Halpern
Thomas Dunne, 2015
273 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book Review: "100 Sideways Miles" by Andrew Smith

Finn Easton doesn't know how to get out of his father's book (or if it is even possible).  The way his father's bestselling scifi novel ends is particularly frustrating for Finn, as well as the legions of fans across the country.  What Finn does know is that he is epileptic, he has survived a dead horse falling on him  (though it did kill his mother), his best friend is Cade Hernandez and he loves a girl named Julia Bishop.  Julia moves away at the end of the school year, and Finn is crushed... but a college road trip with Cade brings everything back into a new reality.

This is a difficult book to describe.  It is everything I love about Smith:  unusual circumstances, elements that just shouldn't make sense but do, and endearing male teen characters.

Finn is a great character.  He has a unique outlook on life where he prefers to think of time in terms of miles traveled on Earth.  It is a little confusing at first, but then it just becomes natural.  It really changes and screws with our perception of time, and how time affects us all differently but kind of the same too.  I know that makes no sense, but trust me.  Cade is a good secondary character to Finn; he is more outspoken, more adventurous and also takes care of Finn when he "blanks out" or has an epileptic seizure.

I found it very interesting to read about seizures from Finn's point of view.  I have no experience with this, and do not know anyone who has epilepsy.  While I imagine that Finn's experience when seizing is probably unique only to him, it at least gives me a slight idea of what it might be like for some people.  Finn was very capable in so many different areas, and I hated how restricted he was by his epilepsy and how it rendered him helpless and very often embarrassed.

But this isn't just about a kid with epilepsy...  it's about a kid trying to determine if he can get out of his father's book or not; can he create his own future or is it all laid out for him already?  I love how Finn discovers his answer and owns it.  Another great book from Andrew Smith!

100 Sideways Miles
by Andrew Smith
Simon & Schuster, 2014
277 pages
Source:  Gift


Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Review: "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo

I am not a neat freak.  My house isn't dirty, but it'd be safe to say that I have a clutter problem.  Then I just spent three years in grad school, and to be perfectly honest - keeping up with the housework was definitely not tops on my priority list.  So here I am now, a year past graduation and I'm ready to make my house right.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been a major best seller for some time now (and the sequel came out earlier this year).  I figured this was the place to start, get myself in the right mindset for this project.  Granted, I was still a bit skeptical...  and I'd heard about some of the, um, more unusual concepts the author brings to the table.

Marie Kondo is apparently a very successful organizer in Japan, and it is easy to see why.  She presents her KonMari method of tidying in this book, and she does make some very good points.  Specifically how we are not necessarily ever "taught" to clean our rooms (though we are sent to our rooms to clean often when we are kids).   As a parent, I can see that I've done the same with my children... and wonder why they don't ever really clean their rooms but just make piles and move stuff around?  The idea that a person's difficulty with with letting go with some items has to do with either  an over-attachment to the past or an insecurity with the future really resonated with me.  I also paid attention to the part where she talks about the needless guilt over whether or not to toss something that was given as a gift.  It was definitely a perception shift for me to think about the given purpose of an item and when its purpose has been fulfilled.

So, yes, I do think this will help me.  I don't think I'll do everything she says....  I will follow the basics as best I can though.  It does get a little out there in some ways, but I think the majority of that is based more in cultural differences.  The big test will be how well I reorganize my house though!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo
Ten Speed Press, 2014.  First published in Japan 2011.
213 pages
Source:  Purchased New


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book Review: "Walk the Edge" by Katie McGarry

We remember Razor from Book 1 of this series (Nowhere but Here)...  he's the newly patched in member of the Reign of Terror Motorcycle Club who most think has a touch of crazy.  He has a temper, and is constantly haunted by rumors and gossip surrounding his mother's death when he was 10.  Now a detective has shown at his door, asking questions and implying that perhaps her death was not an accident.  Razor starts to second guess everyone... including the club.  Breanna Martin, on the other hand, is quiet and smart and nearly always forgotten.  As the fifth of nine kids...  yeah, she gets lost in the shuffle sometimes and she's had enough.  For her senior year, she has decided that she wants to stand out more - get noticed.  Nothing goes as planned, and a chance innocent encounter with Razor turns into blackmail material for a jock who wants Breanna to cheat for him.  Breanna and Razor team up to outsmart the blackmailer....  and more.

I love McGarry's novels.  You know the basics of what to expect, and the journey is so incredibly worth it!  She always creates this incredible characters that you just fall for instantly.  I wasn't sure about this whole series built around a motorcycle club at first, but clearly I am completely sold on the idea now.  I'm already looking forward to the next book!  But let me take a step back really quickly...

I read an ARC of this book, so not a finished copy.  Besides the expected typos, I did have some issues with a couple continuity areas that I hope were corrected for the finished copy (I apologize - I haven't had a chance to check myself).  Nothing major of course, and they certainly didn't shut down the book for me.  Rather, I got wrapped up in the intensity of the drama and ended up racing to the finish!  There are some heart pounding moments - especially the climatic ending - that were incredibly thrilling.  And then there were those other kinds of heart pounding moments - the incredibly sweet and sexy moments that we also love.

I hope this isn't the end of Razor or Breanna - it was fun seeing Oz and Emily again, even if just for a bit - but bring on Chevy and Violet!  That snippet of a chapter from the next book was such a tease!!

Walk the Edge
by Katie McGarry
Harlequin Teen, 2016
448 pages
Series:  Thunder Road #2
Source:  ALAMW16


Monday, April 4, 2016

Book Review: "When We Collided" by Emery Lord

Vivi swirls into Verona Cove like the glittery sparkly fun loving spirit she is.  People are drawn to her and she makes friends quickly.  She meets Jonah one morning, and sparks fly.  Jonah is hanging on with all he's got - its only been six months since his father died suddenly.  He's trying his best to take care of the three younger siblings with his two older siblings as their mother grieves alone in her bedroom, unable to function in her sadness.  Jonah is swept up in Vivi's wild spirit that exudes happiness.  Everything is great... until it isn't.  Vivi hasn't shared her complete story with Jonah, and it very nearly kills them both.

I feel at this point I am just going to fall in love with anything Emery Lord publishes.  Its just the honest truth.  I loved Vivi and Jonah from the moment I met them.  I got swept up in Vivi too.  She has such a powerful personality that even when I could see things shifting a bit for her, I felt helpless.  I wanted to reach in the pages and help her, though I didn't know how.  And I was scared for Jonah...  really, really scared.  Already grieving, what would Vivi do to him?

The bottom line is that this is just a raw, honest and emotional look inside mental health - something that we just don't get to do enough.  I know someone who struggles with mental health issues, and so much of what was going on in this book felt true to what I witnessed in real life.  And I didn't know how to help.  I'm still not sure and I'm working on that.  I feel like the conversation is becoming more open though, at least I hope it is.  Books like this are certainly going to help to that end. It isn't an easy ride and you'll want your tissue box near, but it is worth it.

When We Collide
by Emery Lord
Bloomsbury, 2016
352 pages
Source:  ALAMW16

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