Thursday, March 28, 2013

Audiobook Review: What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Title:  What We Saw at Night

Author:  Jacquelyn Mitchard

Narrator:  Rebecca Gibel

Unabridged Length:  7hrs, 39mn.

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

Allie Kim suffers from Xeroderma Pigmentosum: a fatal allergy to sunlight that confines her and her two best friends, Rob and Juliet, to the night. When freewheeling Juliet takes up Parkour—the stunt-sport of scaling and leaping off tall buildings—Allie and Rob have no choice but to join her, if only to protect her. Though potentially deadly, Parkour after dark makes Allie feel truly alive, and for the first time equal to the “daytimers.”

On a random summer night, the trio catches a glimpse of what appears to be murder. Allie alone takes it upon herself to investigate, and the truth comes at an unthinkable price. Navigating the shadowy world of specialized XP care, extreme sports, and forbidden love, Allie ultimately uncovers a secret that upends everything she believes about the people she trusts the most.

My Review: 
I have to admit that when I requested this book I really had no idea what it was even about.  I've had good results with Mitchard's past work, so I felt drawn to this one also.  Teenage Allie is the main character of this story and we follow her and her best friends on a journey of exhilarating danger and secrets.

Allie lives with her family in Iron Harbor, Minnesota.  They moved there after she was diagnosed with XP, since there is a clinic in the small town that specializes in the disease.  This gives Allie the opportunity to meet other people with the strange disease and develop realistic friendships.  Two other XP patients, Rob and Juliet, become her best friends, and the three of them spend many evenings together as they are physically safe under the cloak of darkness.  It is during one of their adventurous evenings that Allie sees something the others do not, causing her to fear for their safety.

I have heard of XP, but this novel definitely gave me a closer glimpse into the disease.  The narrator did a great job of capturing the emotions and attitude of the young main character.   My only complaint of this novel is that it almost felt like a young adult book, but since the main character is a teenager I think it hits the mark.  

My favorite part of the novel is that the location is the fictional town of Iron Harbor.  The fictional town is right on Lake Superior, about an hour north of Duluth, Minnesota, and a hop away from Two Harbors.  Since I go to Duluth quite often and glimpse Lake Superior almost every day, I think Mitchard did a great job of creating the landscape for this novel.  She made very accurate descriptions that created wonderful visualizations as I was listening to the audiobook.

As I mentioned earlier, I think this book falls into the young adult genre, but I still enjoyed it overall.  With themes of secrets, romance, disease, and suspense, this novel has much to offer.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club selection.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox in exchange for an honest review.   

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday-March 27

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

So here are a couple of new words I learned while reading The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner:

Augury: an omen, token, or indication.

Here is how augury was used on page 13:
I did not think it a good augury for the afternoon.

Antithetical: directly opposed or contrasted; opposite.

Here is how antithetical was used on page 14:
We were three years apart, and antithetical in temperament.

Porcine: resembling swine; hoggish; piggish.

Here is how porcine was used on page 43:
Giron had stomped up to us by then, overpowering us with the stench of sweat, leering at Beatriz before his porcine eyes fell upon me.

Halberd: a shafted weapon with an axlike cutting blade, beak, and apical spike, used especially in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Here is how halberd was used on page 49:
The retainers opened a path before us, using halberds to disperse anyone who impeded our way. 

These are just a few of the words I learned while reading The Queen's Vow.  As much as I enjoyed this book I have to tell you that you are going to have to wait til July for my review, as that is when I am scheduled to be a part of the blog tour.  It is a great one though!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Are You Reading?

First of all...I know I'm 2 days late, but I don't care!  I've been having a busy week and

Sheila over at Book Journey hosts this meme that gives you the opportunity to share the books that you have been losing yourself in lately and also the ones that you are looking forward to picking up next.

Here is what I finished listening to:
I listened to What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard, and although it started out with a young adult feel to it, it turned out to be much more than that.  Watch for my review soon!

What I'm reading on my Kindle:
I requested The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner through the library system and it finally came available!  I was asked to be part of a blog tour for this book in July, but I just couldn't wait!  But you will have to wait til then for my review.

What's next?
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan is just one of the books that I will be bringing along with me when I go to Jamaica next week!  With my Kindle stocked, a few ARC's, and a sandy beach for a whole week I should be pretty relaxed!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Here is a summary of the book from Kristin Hannah's website:

In her bestselling novels Kristin Hannah has plumbed the depths of friendship, the loyalty of sisters, and the secrets mothers keep. Now, in her most emotionally powerful story yet, she explores the intimate landscape of a troubled marriage--with this provocative and timely portrait of a husband and wife, in love and at war.

All marriages have a breaking point. All families have wounds. All wars have a cost…

Like many couples, Michael and Jolene have to face the pressures of everyday life—children, careers, bills, chores—even as their twelve year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a soldier she has always understood the true meaning of duty. In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own--for everything that matters to his family.

At once a profoundly honest look at modern marriage and a dramatic exploration of the price of war on an ordinary American family, HOME FRONT is a story of love, loss, heroism, honor and ultimately, hope. 

My Review:
Hannah did a marvelous job of taking something we hear about every day and giving us an inside glimpse of a family scarred by war.  This novel was an example of how war changes everyone, and leaves an impression on soldiers' souls for a lifetime.  Jolene is the heroine of our story, and even though she beat the odds of her youth, she now has a new battle to face.

Since Jolene was raised by two alcoholic parents, she adapted the attitude early on of brushing off the bad circumstances, smiling, and moving on.  She wouldn't allow herself to grovel in self-pity.  This attitude can be fine and dandy in most circumstances, but in others it may appear that you are not offering support to others in need.  This behavior is what pushed her husband Michael away as he deals with his grief alone and practically giving up on their marriage.

Things change quickly for the family when Jolene is deployed to Iraq as a helicopter pilot.  As she prepares for war she tries to assure her girls that she will be fine and won't even see the front lines of battle.  But she is scared and doesn't know what to expect over there.  Her heart and mind are in more turmoil as she realizes her marriage is over as her unit deploys.

I think Hannah did a great job of letting us know what the war is like.  One thing I guess I didn't realize before reading this novel is that unlike previous wars, everywhere is the front line. There isn't a safe haven to retreat to and soldiers must always be on their guard.  We all hear how bad things are on the news, but sometimes the gravity of the situation is not realized.  That's how it was for me until I read this book.

While Jolene is gone, Michael steps up to the plate and finally becomes the father he should have been years ago.  He changes in her absence, and also comes to accept Jolene for the woman she is, the woman he fell in love with.  Upon her return, they are both wounded souls and now must fight for the person they fell in love with, although they have both changed and will never be the people they once were.

This was a very good book, and I think my only complaint is the overall sadness of the story.  I understand it is not a joyful theme by any means, but I was spotted crying several times while reading this one.  With themes of family, love, loss, war, and perseverance, I think many of you would enjoy this book.  The gals in my book club loved this book and it made for a great discussion.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for personal reading or as a book club selection.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to my book club from the publisher in agreement that we would read it as a group and provide honest feedback.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday-March 6

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

Here are a couple of new words I learned while reading Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith:

Riposte: a quick, sharp return in speech or action.

Here is how riposte was used on Kindle location 659 of 3361:
He would have been able to reply with some witty riposte, but what could he say?

Impecunious: having little or no money; penniless; poor.

Here is how impecunious was used on Kindle location 895 of 3361:
He was notoriously impecunious and the prospect of a bit of pin money was very attractive. 

So those are some new words I learned lately, how about you?  I can't wait to discuss this book with my group tonight!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Teaser Tuesday-March 5

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This week my teaser is from Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith:
"If you do not stretch your legs, the blood sinks down to the feet and there is not enough for the brain.  That is why some people are so stupid."

Kindle location: 853 of 3361

These books are always a joy to read, but I can tell that this is one of my favorites in the series in a long time!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mailbox Monday-March 4

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time.  This month you can check out what everyone received over at Chaotic Compendiums.

Here is what came into my house recently:

Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates (audiobook)

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

I've been wanting The Marriage Plot for ages, so when I came across it on the Bargain shelf at Barnes and Noble last weekend, I couldn't resist.  Unfortunately, this was the best thing that came out of the State Bowling Tournament weekend, since it obviously wasn't my bowling!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs

Thanks to Trish once again from TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this tour.  Here is a description of The Secret of the Nightingale Palace from the Goodreads website:

Struggling to move on after her husband's death, thirty-five-year-old Anna receives an unexpected phone call from her estranged grandmother, Goldie, summoning her to New York. A demanding woman with a sharp tongue and a devotion to fashion and etiquette, Goldie has not softened in the five years since she and her granddaughter last spoke. Now she wants Anna to drive her to San Francisco to return a collection of exquisite Japanese art to a long-lost friend.

Hours of sitting behind the wheel of Goldie's Rolls-Royce soften Anna's attitude toward her grandmother, and as the miles pass, old hurts begin to heal. Yet no matter how close they become, Goldie harbors painful secrets about her youthful days in 1940s San Francisco that she cannot share. But if she truly wants to help her granddaughter find happiness again, she must eventually confront the truths of her life.

Moving back and forth across time and told in the voices of both Anna and Goldie, The Secret of the Nightingale Palace is a searing portrait of family, betrayal, sacrifice, and forgiveness—and a testament to the enduring power of love.

My Review: 
Let me start this review off by telling you how much I loved this novel!  Maybe it just made me reminiscent of the Grandmother I lost less than a year ago, but even so, it gives one the opportunity to reflect on their own relationships and how they might be saved.  Anna had a falling-out with her honest and well-to-do grandmother years ago, but for some reason Goldie wants Anna to drive her across the country, from New York to California to help her return Japanese art prints to their rightful owner.  Anna can't imagine why her grandmother would want her to drive.

Anna has spent years harboring hurt and resentment not only against the world, but against her grandmother, her dead husband, and even herself.  As she watched her husband's health deteriorate, their relationship also became a victim, being consumed by the anger and frustration that sometimes comes along with terminal illness.  Goldie did not keep it a secret that she didn't approve of Anna's marriage, so this created a rift between the two that would not be confronted for years to come.

Anna is shocked when Goldie asks her if she will drive her across the country in her Rolls Royce, but knowing she could use the time away, she hesitantly agrees.  On their journey, which takes longer than usual as Goldie is in her eighties and does need to get a decent amount of rest, the two rediscover the fondness they once had for each other and learn to appreciate what the other has to offer.

What I described so far is just a small, but important, part of the book.  A good portion of the novel takes place in 1940's California, where Goldie was a young, hard-working girl, looking to make her way in this world.  The Japanese art prints help to tell a story of a young Jewish girl who is befriended by a Japanese family.  Of course, our country has other plans for Japanese people during this time, so things do not turn as picturesque as one might think.

I loved this story that showed us a glimpse of this elderly woman's life, following her love interests, hopes, dreams, and fears.  I think many of you would enjoy this book as much as I did with themes of love, friendship, war, and family.  I don't hesitate in recommending this book for personal leisure or as a book club selection.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.