Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee





Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5



Synopsis:

Jasmine Mistry is recently divorced, and trying to tie up the loose ends of her marriage. She discovered her husband was having an affair and her whole, comfortable life came crumbling down. She is essentially lost and very bitter. When her aunt asks her to come and look after her bookstore while she returns to India for her health, Jasmine agrees. Perhaps, a month away will do her good. Shutter Island is very exclusive. When Jasmine arrives at the bookstore, she meets Connor Hunt. Immediately she is not impressed with his egotistical self. Life in the bookstore is very different from what Jasmine expected. She brushed off the rumors that it was haunted, but now books are rearranging themselves, dead authors are speaking to her and dust magically reappears. Connor is insisting that she go on a date with him, and her husband is trying to sell the Condo for much less than the market value. Jasmine’s life is out of control, and she must take the reins herself and figure out where she is headed.



Review:

I first want to address the magical realism in the story, I didn’t think that it would work for me but it really came together well. I enjoyed the storyline so much, that I accepted the paranormal aspects. It wasn’t over the top or scary, it added to the plot and left me questioning what was coming up. Jasmine begins to understand why her aunt insisted that she be the only one to look after the bookstore, and she surprisingly begins to enjoy her time there.

Initially, Jasmine is not a likable character but as the book progresses readers really begin to enjoy her development. Although she is not likable, readers will be empathetic. Jasmine is going through a divorce, and her sister surprises the family by announcing her engagement. Everyone is ecstatic and the wedding planning begins, Jasmine is forced to play along.

The relationship between Connor and Jasmine really had me questioning the circumstances, and I turned out to be right. I would have wanted it to turn out differently, but I can understand where Banerjee is coming from. In the end, I think it added to the storyline and I didn’t feel let down. I highly recommend this one; I read it quickly and didn’t want to put it down. Admittedly, the book does have some cheesy parts but overall it’s heartwarming and uplifting. If you are willing to accept the magical realism aspect, you really should try this one out. Keep in mind, this is not normally my type of book and I was quickly wrapped up in the storyline.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau


Publisher: Touchstone
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis:

Joanna Stafford, a young novice nun battles between obeying the Dominican Sister’s sacred rule of enclosure from the outside world, or leaving to view her favorite cousin’s execution. Joanna belongs to a Nobel family that has been recently disgraced by King Henry VIII. She has given her heart to God however, when she receives word that her beloved cousin will be burned at the stake, she follows her heart leaving Dartford Priory, hoping to say a few prayers during her last moments. When the execution takes place everything goes wrong; Joanna and her father are arrested for interfering with the King’s wishes and they are locked away in the tower. When Joanna thought she would be locked away forever, the ruthless Bishop of Winchester propositions Joanna, if she wishes to save her father and herself; she must spy for him and search for a long-lost ancient relic, a crown believed to be held in Dartford Priory. Joanna, accepts the deal and doesn’t realize that Dartford Priory has become dangerous and will forever change.



Review:

The Crown was a surprisingly, fantastic read. I say “surprisingly” because Tudor history has been written and rewritten many times and I didn’t expect to enjoy it as must as I did. Nancy Bilyeau has taken a familiar history and focused on a new aspect, the dissolution of religious houses. The result is a unique, fresh perspective that readers will love. Readers will find themselves in familiar territory but completely enthralled with the new perspective.

Joanna Stafford is a great character, she is headstrong and determined. She is relatable, and convincing as a main character, engaging readers. While she may struggle with her temptations, her heart belongs to her Priory. She jeopardizes everything to find the Crown, and it would devastate her to be thrown out of the Priory but she remains a dutiful daughter.

Overall, The Crown is a successful historical thriller. It’s filled with action, suspense, mystery and intrigue. The historical details are intricately woven through an untold story. Bilyeau’s debut novel is impressive, and adventurous. The story is fast-paced and definitely a recommended read for those who are seeking a fresh Tudor read.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ebook formatting issues Kobo issue?

I know that I've expressed my concern about ebook formatting issues that I have experienced. Here is an example of two more.


Notice the drop letter is actually dropped to the second line. This continued on EVERY page! This was only an issue on my KOBO Vox using the Kobo App, when I downloaded the DRM file to Overdrive, it looked normal.


Also, I purchased Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, and the cover stated "Advanced Uncorrected Galley-Not For Sale." As a blogger, I know what a galley is.



I've opened a ticket with Kobo, I'm hoping they can look into these issues.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Debut Spotlight: Forgotten Country




Book Description

March 1, 2012
On the night Janie waits for her sister, Hannah, to be born, her grandmother tells her a story: Since the Japanese occupation of Korea, their family has lost a daughter in every generation, so Janie is charged with keeping Hannah safe. As time passes, Janie hears more stories, while facts remain unspoken. Her father tells tales about numbers, and in his stories everything works out. In her mother's stories, deer explode in fields, frogs bury their loved ones in the ocean, and girls jump from cliffs and fall like flowers into the sea. Within all these stories are warnings.
Years later, when Hannah inexplicably cuts all ties and disappears, Janie embarks on a mission to find her sister and finally uncover the truth beneath her family's silence. To do so, she must confront their history, the reason for her parents' sudden move to America twenty years earlier, and ultimately her conflicted feelings toward her sister and her own role in the betrayal behind their estrangement.
Weaving Korean folklore within a modern narrative of immigration and identity, Forgotten Country is a fierce exploration of the inevitability of loss, the conflict between obligation and freedom, and a family struggling to find its way out of silence and back to one another.





Review: The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott



Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating 4/5



Tess, is an inspiring designer and seamstress but her life consists of laboring as a servant and she doesn't receive the recognition she deserves for her talent. The Titanic is about to undock and Tess decides that it is now to never. She packs a small bag, determined to find a way onto the glorious ship. When Tess meets world renown designer Lady Duff Gordon, she begs to be hired as her maid for the voyage. Lady Duff Gordon is a little taken aback, but decides to have a little faith in Tess and give her an opportunity. Tess is introduced to a new world, and within a few days she and Lady Duff Gordon bond. The excitement of the voyage is cut short; when the Titanic strikes an iceberg and passengers scramble to abandon ship. Panic and chaos ensues, those who survive have no idea that they’re about to be scrutinized for the disorganization, incompetence, and negligence that took place. Following the sinking, a congressional inquiry begins to examine the causes of the tragedy and the accountability of the crew and passengers. Many of the “first class” passengers are scandalized by reports for their cowardice, and special treatment. The Dressmaker is a book about surviving and at what cost.

I really enjoyed this one, it was an original and entertaining read. The sinking of the ship occurs early on in the book, and the aftermath is the focus of the novel. The survivors are put under a microscope, and judged on their actions during a tragedy. Lady Duff Gordon’s actions are uncovered and her career is in jeopardy. Tess thought Lady Duff Gordon could do no wrong, but once her secrets unfold Tess begins to question the woman she openly defended. The relationship between Tess and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes strained.

The Dressmaker is a tale of bravery, cowardice and privilege. Split second decisions can have life-long consequences. While the bulk of the book deals with the aftermath of the Titanic, we are still introduced to other situations. Tess has a romantic interest approach her, but she’s still pining for a man who might not have survived the sinking. Lady Duff Gordon wants the press to leave her alone, when she gives too much information about another survivor, she doesn’t realize the impact this will have.

I really thought Kate Alcott took a great approach to this familiar story. She created an original, fresh perspective that really captured my attention. After finishing the book, I started researching some of these characters and my journey really kept going after I closed the pages. If you’re curious about the aftermath, I would really recommend this book.







Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood


Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5



Synopsis:

Born Wicked is set in an alternate version of turn-of-the-century New England. Cate Cahill is the oldest sister and with the death of her mother, she is now the lady of the house. Upon her mother’s death she promised that she would take care of her sisters. Cate and her sisters are reclusive and eccentric. They are well educated, something the Brotherhood frowns upon. The Cahill sisters also have a secret; they’re witches and even their father is not privy to that knowledge. If their secret is uncovered, the Brotherhood will take them away and they will never be seen again, tossed in an asylum. Perhaps, even worst. Maura is rebellious, bored, and desperately seeking friendship. She’s constantly reminding Cate that she is not their mother. Cate must also decide what her future will hold, her sixteenth birthday is weeks away and she must announce if she will marry or remain celibate and join the Sisterhood. Her childhood friend has returned after years away, and he makes it clear that he intends to propose. Cate is immediately infatuated with him, but a new friend begins to draw her attention. When Cate begins to read through her mother’s diary, she uncovers a prophecy that includes three sisters, one of which who has a rare ability, the sisters have great power and will either use their power to rule or become the second terror. Cate doesn’t know what to do, now is not the time to leave her sisters, but the brotherhood want answers. If she doesn’t choose, they are more than happy to choose for her.



Review:

I loved Born Wicked, as soon as I heard about this one; I knew it was for me. I love reading about witches, and I was immediately caught up in the story. I stayed away from reviews, and wanted to have no expectations from this book. Once I was half-way through, I kept thinking this book is similar to Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, which I loved. I think it was the time period, and the magical setting. Born Wicked was a great escape novel, once I began reading I was caught up in Cate’s world. The relationship between the sisters is fantastically written, it’s relatable, realistic and difficult. It’s evident that they want the best for each other, but at the same time they’re sisters and they don’t always agree on what’s best.

Cate is constantly struggling with the promise she made to her mother, but at some point you wonder was it fair to put all this responsibility on her shoulder’s. It’s really interesting to see Cate’s character grow. She was expecting to marry her best friend, but he has no intentions of living nearby. The prophecy really becomes the center of her thoughts and many secrets are revealed that further frustrate Cate.

Born Wicked was everything I love in a young adult novel, great characters, great plot, and a climatic ending. I can’t wait for the next book, I really didn’t see this ending coming, and I desperately need to jump back into this world. I’ve been having a hard time reading YA lately, the books became very repetitive, and I was so happy to read something so refreshing and original. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany





Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5



Synopsis:

Eden knew at an early age that her father was different but she loved him wholeheartedly and tried her best to keep him happy. Her mother was her constant parent; she was the one to be trusted, her father was impulsive and unreliable. When Eden was ten years old, she came home to find the bathroom mirror shattered and her father bleeding out on the bathroom floor, attempting to take his own life. Eden was distraught and called emergence services. Her mother finally had enough, love was not enough for David, she filed divorce papers and David was served while institutionalized. Eden is now thirty, a successful chef and her father is still on her mind. She received two letters from her father since he was taken away, and Eden was too angry to respond. Eden stood by her father through thick and thin until he was taken away from her. Initially, she resented her mother, and then she became angry that her father would not try and contact her, now she is ready to forgive but doesn’t know where to find him. Eden can’t forget the bond that she had with her father, even when his illness took over his thoughts, she knew he loved her. He loved her the only way he knew how. He was stuck between voices in his head, or medication that left him fuzzy. He had no escape, and could only suppress his illness for a limited time. She wonders if her father is dead or alive, has he been properly medicated or is he living on the streets. Eden has so many questions, and begins to seek answers.



Review:

Outside the Lines is an amazing, heart-wrenching novel. Mental illness is not an easy topic, this is probably not a book that I would normally pick up, but I loved Hatvany’s first novel Best Kept Secret and wanted to see if I would enjoy this one as well. I came away from this novel thinking, there is more than one way to love someone. Sometimes you need to step back, and understand that some issues are not just black or white. Hatvany does an astounding job portraying mental illness, and the impact is has on everyone.

Amy Hatvany gives a voice to all parties involved. The characters come alive, and their stories are so real and unbiased. Eden is the primary narrator of the story, but readers also peak into David’s troubled mind. It’s terrifying to get a glimpse of David’s mine, and not easy to write him off as a horrible father. Readers understand that David loves his daughter, he struggles to get better but ultimately he can’t control himself. Her mother is stuck between loving her husband, wanting to do what’s best for him, but her daughter deserves a normal childhood. Love can not cure David, as much as they both want that to be enough, it isn’t.

I will warn you, don’t pick up this book if you only have ten minutes to spare because you will not want to put the book down. Outside the Lines is much more than a good read, it is a thought provoking book that will stay with you long after you close the pages. I can’t recommend this book enough!



Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mailbox Monday




Hi Everyone,

I've been cutting down on review commitments and being very selective with the books that I do accept for review. The last few weeks, I received 3 books, all of which I'm very excited to read.


Happy reading!

I'm currently reading:





Friday, February 17, 2012

Debut Spotlight: A Good American by Alex George




Goodreads Description:

An uplifting novel about the families we create and the places we call home.


It is 1904. When Frederick and Jette must flee her disapproving mother, where better to go than America, the land of the new? Originally set to board a boat to New York, at the last minute, they take one destined for New Orleans instead (""What's the difference? They're both new""), and later find themselves, more by chance than by design, in the small town of Beatrice, Missouri. Not speaking a word of English, they embark on their new life together.

Beatrice is populated with unforgettable characters: a jazz trumpeter from the Big Easy who cooks a mean gumbo, a teenage boy trapped in the body of a giant, a pretty schoolteacher who helps the young men in town learn about a lot more than just music, a minister who believes he has witnessed the Second Coming of Christ, and a malevolent, bicycle-riding dwarf.

"A Good American" is narrated by Frederick and Jette's grandson, James, who, in telling his ancestors' story, comes to realize he doesn't know his own story at all. From bare-knuckle prizefighting and Prohibition to sweet barbershop harmonies, the Kennedy assassination, and beyond, James's family is caught up in the sweep of history. Each new generation discovers afresh what it means to be an American. And, in the process, Frederick and Jette's progeny sometimes discover more about themselves than they had bargained for.

Poignant, funny, and heartbreaking, "A Good American" is a novel about being an outsider-in your country, in your hometown, and sometimes even in your own family. It is a universal story about our search for home.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Ru by Kim Thuy



Publisher: Random House
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5


Ru is an autobiographical novel, written in vignettes. Thuy recreates flashbacks of life as a young girl running away from communist Saigon, living in a desolate Malaysian refugee camp, and finally settling in Quebec. Her parents feared for their children’s lives, and uprooted them from a comfortable lifestyle to living in extreme poverty. Their lives were shattered, turned upside down, and they were a family on the run. As an adult, settled in Quebec, her life is still filled with obstacles, raising two boys and giving special attention to one who has autism. Thuy questions her parent’s actions, and wonders if they did what was best for the family. Thuy recognizes that her past has made her the person she is today. She can handle some of the most difficult situations. Ru is about life, hardships, and memories.

I enjoyed Ru, the story is powerful and engaging but I couldn’t really connect with the story. The story is quite short, and not told in chronological order. It felt a little disjointed to me, and more about style than story. The vignettes cover a wide range of emotions, and circumstances. RU is a quick read, and definitely worth the time. The book was originally written in French and has gained a lot of attention. It wasn’t really my type of book, I really like developed novels. If you’re willing to try something different, and immigrant stories interest you, I would suggest this one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review: Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter by Lisa Patton





Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Pages: 320
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5/5
Leelee Satterfield is a Southern belle, born and bred in Memphis, Tennessee. She’s Daddy’s little girl, an Ole Miss alumni, and her best friends have been there since elementary school. She’s married to the man of her dreams and has two beautiful little girls, life couldn’t be better. When her husband announces that he wants to move to Vermont to run an inn, Leelee is flabbergasted. She never thought she would move away from the South, as much as she tries to tell Baker she doesn’t want to go, she wants him to be happy and he won’t take no for an answer. When Leelee decides to make the best it, the inn is nothing like she imagines. She’s literally a fish out of water, and Baker is not helping her adjust. Baker no longer seems to be the man she married. She’s beginning to figure out that she has a lot to learn about Vermont and an Inn business, the climate is just one obstacle to endure. 
Leelee Satterfield captured my heart from the opening pages. She has always depended on a man, first her father and secondly her husband. Leelee never thought she would be left to run the inn on her own, but that’s exactly what happens. Her inheritance is wrapped up in the inn, and she refuses to walk away without her father’s money. She wants nothing more than to return home to her friends, but she must wait. Memphis will be there when she is ready to go home. When Leelee is faced with hardships she really begins to blossom and mature, life in Vermont wasn’t what she expected, but she is determined not to give up. 
Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter is full of southern charm, and I throughly enjoyed each and every page. Leelee’s life will pull at your heart strings, and cause you to laugh out loud. She is a force to be reckoned with and you will be cheering her on. Her strength and tenacity really impressed me. If you’ve lived through a harsh winter, imagine a reluctant Southern belle’s first winter. The inn is a 24/7 business and raising two daughters doesn’t make it any easier. 
The ending doesn’t completely wrap up the story, but Lisa Patton has since released book two called “Yankee Doodle Dixie.” I can’t wait to read this one, and jump back into Leelee’s world. I highly recommend this one. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: Truth by Julia Karr



Publisher: Puffin
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Book 1 XVI- Review


Nina Oberon’s world was turned upside down when her mother was brutally murdered. Life as she knew it changed forever. In addition to the adjustment of her mother gone, she discovers that her father is alive and well. He’s been fighting in the resistance and had to stay away to protect his family. Nina’s little sister Dee doesn’t know that they share the same father, and the father she knows has been killed. Nina’s XVI tattoo is fresh, and she must be aware of predators as she is now seen as fair game. Life gets a little more complicated for the Oberon sisters when their grandfather is arrested, and their grandmother suffers a heart attack. Cracks are beginning to show in the system, and some key details are revealed to the citizens. Unfortunately, the media twists the truth for their own personal gain. Nina is determined to assist the resistance, protect her family, and stand by the truth.

Truth picks up immediately after XVI, the sequel is packed with conflict, hurdles, and suspense. This novel is less about world building, and more about plot. Nina and Dee are evicted, and forced to seek shelter in the Jenkins home. This brings about a different dynamic. Nina is now living in her best friend’s house, and it becomes clear that their parents were once really good friends. Other friends of Nina’s parents come out of the woodwork as well. Life has been hectic. While Nina is dealing with many circumstances, she’s also dealing with being a teenager and having a boyfriend. Her emotions are further confused when her boyfriend is never around, and she begins to develop feelings for someone who really makes an effort to know her.

Overall, I really enjoyed Truth. I’m eagerly anticipating the third book (I really hope there will be a third book.) I thought the conflicts grew and kept me entertained. The government structure seems to be changing, and it doesn’t have such a secure hold on everyone. People are beginning to question their surroundings. The Resistance is growing in power, and creates more interruptions. The secondary characters begin to really stand on their own, and I enjoyed their growth. Both XVI and Truth were thought provoking, and absorbing. I recommend these books for dystopian fans. The world is unique, and intriguing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Debut Spotlight: The Darlings by Cristina Algers


 **Releases Feb 16th
Description:

Sometimes (more often after she met Paul), Merrill wondered what she would have been like if she had grown up outside New York. Would she be herself but more open, less circumspect? Sunnier? Less sarcastic? Manhattan children were like armadillos: sharp-clawed and thick-skinned, deceptively quick-moving. They had to be. Manhattan was a Darwinian environment: only the strongest survived. The weak, the nice, the naïve, the ones who smiled at passersby on the sidewalk, they all got weeded out. They would give up. They would opt out.


The ones who stayed long enough to raise children were the tough ones, the tenacious ones, the goal-oriented ones, the gold-digging ones, the deal-closing ones, the “kill or be killed’ ones, the “whatever it takes” ones. They looked out for themselves and slept with one eye open.

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A sophisticated page-turner about a wealthy New York family embroiled in a financial scandal with cataclysmic consequences.

Now that he’s married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to New York society and all of its luxuries: a Park Avenue apartment, weekends in the Hamptons, bespoke suits. When Paul loses his job, Carter offers him the chance to head the legal team at his hedge fund. Thrilled with his good fortune in the midst of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, Paul accepts the position.

But Paul’s luck is about to shift: a tragic event catapults the Darling family into the media spotlight, a regulatory investigation, and a red-hot scandal with enormous implications for everyone involved. Suddenly, Paul must decide where his loyalties lie—will he save himself while betraying his wife and in-laws or protect the family business at all costs?

Cristina Alger’s glittering debut novel interweaves the narratives of the Darling family, two eager SEC attorneys, and a team of journalists all racing to uncover—or cover up—the truth. With echoes of a fictional Too Big to Fail and the novels of Dominick Dunne, The Darlings offers an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society—a world seldom seen by outsiders—and a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions.



Thursday, February 9, 2012

Blog Tour: The Silent Oligarch by Chris Morgan Jones





Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 336
Source: TLC Book Tours


Goodreads Description:

A London intelligence agent pursues a money launderer to expose the dealings of a shadowy Russian oligarch.

In a world where national borders shrink to insignificance in the face of colossal wealth and corporate power, "The Silent Oligarch" offers a new kind of hero to combat a new kind of crime. Drawing on his decade of experience at the world's largest corporate intelligence firm-where the wealthy buy the justice they want and the silence they need-Chris Morgan Jones leads us down into the unvarnished realities of our time in the grand tradition of John le Carr?. Bearing news from a world hidden behind closed doors, "The Silent Oligarch" effortlessly creates a new genre in its wake.

Deep in the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources sits a nondescript bureaucrat named Konstantin Malin.
 He draws a nominal government salary but from his shabby office controls half the nation's oil industry, making him one of the most wealthy and feared men in Russia. His public face is Richard Lock, a hapless money launderer bound to Malin by marriage, complacency, and greed. Lock takes the proceeds of his master's corruption, washes them abroad, and invests them back in Russia in a secret business empire. He knows little about Malin's true affairs, but still he knows too much.

Benjamin Webster is an investigator at a London corporate intelligence firm. Years before, as an idealistic young journalist in Russia, Webster saw a colleague murdered for asking too many hard questions of powerful people; her true killers have never been found. Hired to ruin Malin, Webster comes to realize that this shadowy figure might have ordered her gruesome death, and that this case may deliver the justice he has been seeking for a decade.

As Webster peels back the layers of Malin's shell companies and criminal networks, Lock's colleagues begin dying mysteriously, police around the world start to investigate, and Malin begins to question his trust in his increasingly exposed frontman. Suddenly Lock is running for his life- though from Malin or Webster, the law or his own past, he couldn't say.

Leading us into a world we can know little about, "The Silent Oligarch" is the brilliant overture of a major new literary talent.


Thoughts:

I signed up to participate in this book blog tour, and I initially thought it sounded really good. I was going to step outside of my comfort zone and try a thriller. Unfortunately, I really couldn’t get into this one… I tried. Since it is not the type of book I normally read, I’m not going to review it. I felt lost in the money laundering aspect of it, the technicalities. I wasn’t able to visualize everything, and then I began to get frustrated. I really like the relationships involved and I was able to enjoy those scenes. Overall, this just wasn’t my type of book.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: American Dervish by Ayad Aktar



Publisher: Little Brown
Pages: 368
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5


**2012 Debut Adult Fiction Author**

Hayat is a Pakistani-American coming from a wealthy, dysfunctional family living in the outskirts of Milwaukee. His mother and father have become very americanized, both have shunned the Qur’an and the community. His parent’s marriage is fragile; his mother warns Hayat against Muslim men and wants him to be nothing like his father. His mother is depressed and lonely; she holds little details from Hayat about his father’s indiscretions. When his mother’s best friend comes to live with them from India, Hayat is immediately infatuated with her. While Mina was giving birth to her son, her husband divorced her, causing her parents great shame. Mina is distraught to be told her son would have to be given to her husband upon his seventh birthday. She escapes to America, hoping for a better life and security for her son. When Mina comes into the household, Hayat is relieved to have a change in atmosphere. He is immediately fascinated with her faith, which she openly begins to teach him. Hayat immerses himself in these teachings, but has a lot to learn about life and literal interpretations.

American Dervish is a captivating read, an amazing debut novel. Hayat is an innocent boy who quickly gets caught up in the beauty of faith, and the ugliness of stereotypes. For the first time in his life, Hayat is showered with attention by someone other than his mother. He hangs on Mina’s every word, and hopes that nothing will come between them. He does everything in his power to stay golden in her eyes. When Hayat realizes that Mina’s attention is divided by a Jewish suitor, Hayat is distressed. What comes next is a surprise, even for Hayat.

Akhtar does not shy away from a difficult topic. There is great comfort that comes from faith, but when literal interpretations begin to cloud ones thoughts, it can be devastating. The book opens in 1990, when Hayat is in college, he begins to reflect on his past. Hayat may not be proud of his past, but he was young, naïve and misguided. Akhtar warns of the dangers that come from being narrow-minded. Tunnel vision can be devastating.

Hayat’s parents do not have likeable personalities, but their intention to give their son a better life is commendable. They want nothing but the best for Hayat however, instead of guiding him in the right direction they want nothing to do with his Qur’an curiosities. Both of his parents seem to be lost, struggling to find their place in this new world. Hayat is struggling to gain acceptance, and wants to be seen. American Dervish is an amazing coming-of-age novel that readers will love. Akhtar presents characters who are trying to make sense of the new world, trying to understand the old world, characters who are lost in the shuffle. The writing is compelling, beautiful and readable. The story is engaging and engrossing. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson





Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 368
Source: Personal Copy
Rating 5/5




Christine wakes up every morning with no recollection of her recent life.  The man laying in bed beside her is a stranger, pictures are placed around the bathroom mirror to help her adjust each morning, she can't help but notice her hands are much older. When looking into the mirror, the woman staring back at her is not the person she remembers. She’s much older, apparently the man next to her in bed is her husband, she’s married to a man she doesn’t remember loving. Each new day, Ben gently reminds Christine about their life together. When Christine begins secretly working with a therapist, he encourages her to start a journal. Their meetings are kept from Ben, after many unsuccessful attempts he doesn’t want to put Christine through the pain of failed treatment again. Perhaps, not wanting to put himself through the same pain. Surprisingly small memories begin to come back to Christine, although she may not remember them the next morning, she has her journal to help jog her memory. Unfortunately, each new day she also has to relive her devastating memories. When she opens her journal and discovers a note “Don’t trust Ben” written in her handwriting Christine is very confused. She has no one in her life besides Ben. 

Before I Go to Sleep has received rave reviews, and initially I wasn’t sure what to think about it. The concept of memory loss is not new, and I wasn’t too keen on picking this one up. When I started reading the book, I was quickly caught up in the story. As the story shifted to journal entries, I became very nervous. Journal entries from an amnesiac could potentially be very repetitive, and fortunately they were not. Each journal entry is a clue that builds on Christine’s backstory. This book is rated as a thriller, but it’s not really mysterious until half way through. At the end of the book, I couldn’t help but think “this would be a great movie.” 

Christine’s character was very believable, her emotions were real and her circumstances were heart wrenching. The first person narrative is excellent. Christine isn’t a very reliable witness, readers are carried on the journey with her. She has skeletons in her closet, and is shocked to figure out where her life took her. When it becomes clear that Ben hasn’t been upfront with her, we all begin to wonder why. Is he protecting her, making the answers easier for himself, after all tomorrow will be a new day with the same set of questions. Ben seems to be the perfect, patient husband and readers begin to question Christine. Why can’t she trust Ben? S J Watson has written a real page-turner, one that will keep you thinking long after you close the book. Highly recommended!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

In My Mailbox

Hi everyone, 

I received some great review books this week, and I can't wait to start reading.

Here is what I received:




A new week, means new books to read and review. 

Last week, I reviewed:



I read:



Currently Reading


The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott



Debut Adult Fiction Challenge Reviews








What is this challenge about?


This challenge is for anyone who intends to read/spotlight 2012 Adult Fiction Debut Novels. This challenge was inspired by The Young Adult Debut author challenge hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.



1. Challenge will run from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012.

2. Once the challenge has begun, each month there will be a post with a Mr. Linky, please come and add your link. 

3. You may link your review, guest post or interview. The goal is to spotlight these 2012 debut authors, and get the word out about their debut books. 

4. Please sign up for the Challenge using the linky (If you do not have a blog, you may use the comment section). 

5. You do not have to choose your books ahead of time.






Below you may post your review links. Help spread the word about Debut Adult Fiction authors.












Friday, February 3, 2012

Debut Spotlight: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey




The Snow Child

SNEAK PEEK!
Read an excerpt fromThe Snow Child onBiblio Files
In Eowyn Ivey's magical debut novel The Snow Child, a couple creates a child out of snow. When she appears on their doorstep as a little girl, wild and secretive, their lives are changed forever.
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for a couple who have never been able to conceive. Jack and Mabel are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone, but they catch sight of an elusive, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and leaves blizzards in her wake. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who seems to have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in the Alaska wilderness, life and death are inextricable, and what they eventually learn about Faina changes their lives forever.
Eowyn was inspired to write the novel after she discovered the classic Russian fairy tale of the snow maiden. She was shelving books in the children's section of Fireside Books when she happened across a copy of Freya Littledale's retelling of the fairy tale with illustrations by Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee. The story haunted Eowyn with its loneliness and magic in a landscape so similar to the one she grew up in. She spent the next few months researching the original tale, and depictions of it in Russian art work, before she began writing.
The Snow Child has been described as a "remarkable achievement", "stunningly conceived" and "enchanting from beginning to end."





About this author


Eowyn LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. This is her first novel. 






Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand



Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 416
Source: Personal Copy
Rating 5/5



In Unearthly (Book 1) readers are introduced to Clara, an angel. She’s told that she has a purpose that she must fulfill. Her family uproots from sunny California to snowy Wyoming. She doesn’t know the consequences if she fails, or much of anything about herself. She waits for flashes to appear, and tries to decipher what her flashes mean. Her mother keeps her out of the loop, and she struggles to find answers. Clara doesn’t know why her mother is so reluctant to answer her questions. When it came time to fulfill her purpose she was not prepared, and now her life seems even more confusing. Clara has learned that sometimes there is a grey area; often things are not just black or white. Hallowed picks up shortly after Unearthly ends, and Clara must live with the repercussions of what happened. She’s still dating Tucker, and friends with Christian. It’s tortuous not knowing, not having answers and just waiting. When she starts having flashes of a funeral, Clara is on alert. Frustrated and confused Clara just wants answers.

Clara is facing college decisions and teenage situations, at the same time she is facing an unknown. When she is able to reveal whose funeral she will be attending, she is further thrown for a loop. Her life is not stable in the least, and she must deal with it day by day. Clare really has trouble facing her future, but she is not as alone in this novel. When she moved from California, she had to start over. At this point she’s formed relationships and a support system. Her brother is also trying to deal, and lashing out. Her mother has kept mum about their background, but Clara and her brother are about to be given some answers. Answers they would never have guessed.

Hallowed was amazing! I wasn’t sure what to expect because I really enjoyed Unearthly, and wasn’t sure how the series would develop. Hallowed fills in some holes, and gives more details about Clara’s background. Cynthia Hand really begins to set the scene, and let these characters evolve. It should come with a warning; this is not a light, humorous read. It’s rather depressing, but incredibly well written and you won’t want to put the book down. I’m not sure how I feel about another love triangle, but I like the way the storyline seems to be progressing. It makes sense in my mind. I really liked that these characters felt like teenagers, often times I feel that characters are wiser than their years and it throws me off a little. Cynthia Hand’s writing is spot-on, unpredictable, emotional, and a perfect blend of romance, family tension, and life choices. If you haven’t started this series yet, you should!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak


Publisher: Bantam
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5



Barbara Nikolayevna otherwise known as Varvara is orphaned and brought to Empress Elizabeth, her father knowing that his time might be short asked the Empress to take care of his daughter. The empress fulfills her promise to the book binder, and accepts Varvara into her court. Varvara’s initial experiences living among the help was arduous, and intimidating. It’s clear that she wasn’t born to be a seamstress, and worries about her future. Her life soon changes when she catches the eye of Count Bestuzhev, chancellor and spy master. She must master the skills of observing, listening, lock picking and spying. Varvara is to keep Empress Elizabeth happy, and report back her findings. Eventually she is given a prominent position in the court, and attends to Princess Sophie, the soon to be Catherine the Great. Varvara befriends a vulnerable Catherine and tries to encourage and protect her. When Catherine was left alone, Varvara was there. Through Varvara’s eyes we experience the tight reign of Empress Elizabeth and the rise of Catherine.

The Winter Palace is a great historical fiction novel, filled with great characters, rich history and original fictional plots. The story is told through the eyes of Varvara, and we learn about Empress Elizabeth’s paranoia, and strict rules. Varvara working as a spy is very entertaining. Catherine begins the novel as an innocent teenager, dreaming of her wedding. She soon finds herself in a loveless marriage and a doormat for the powerful Empress. Catherine must bare an heir, there will no tolerance for her if she does not. The Grand Duke Peter will not come to her bed, and Catherine doesn’t know what to do. Catherine learns to play the game, and she becomes selfish, manipulative, and spiteful. She remains generous and loyal to her friends. Catherine’s character is intense and captivating.

Eva Stachniak writes beautifully, and I was gently swept away into the Russian Imperial Court. The characters and descriptions are written so vividly that readers will have no trouble visualizing the setting. It’s clear that Stachniak’s undertook extensive research to write this book. At times it did feel a little long-winded, but that is something that i’ve come to expect from historical fiction. I thought the story was full of rich details, and Vavara’s fictional character was a great addition to the story. Overall, The Winter Palace is a great historical fiction novel. I recommend this one for historical fiction lovers.