Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos

Here is a summary of Falling Together from the HarperCollins website:

What if saying hello to an old friend meant saying good-bye to life as you know it?

It’s been six years since Pen Calloway watched her best friends walk out of her life. And through the birth of her daughter, the death of her father, and the vicissitudes of single motherhood, she has never stopped missing them. 

Pen, Cat, and Will met on their first day of college and formed what seemed like a magical and lifelong bond, only to see their friendship break apart amid the realities of adulthood. When, after years of silence, Cat—the bewitching, charismatic center of their group—e-mails Pen and Will with an urgent request to meet at their college reunion, they can’t refuse. But instead of a happy reconciliation, what awaits is a collision of past and present that sends Pen and Will, with Pen’s five-year-old daughter and Cat’s hostile husband in tow, on a journey across the world.

With her trademark wit, vivid prose, and gift for creating authentic, captivating characters, Marisa de los Santos returns with an emotionally resonant novel about our deepest human connections. As Pen and Will struggle to uncover the truth about Cat, they find more than they bargained for: startling truths about who they were before and who they are now. They must confront the reasons their friendship fell apart and discover how—and if—it can ever fall back together. 

My Review:
Falling Together is my first experience with Marisa de los Santos, and although I found the book enjoyable for the most part, I have to admit that reading this novel was not an overwhelmingly pleasant experience.  I love books that deal with friendships, both lost and found, but for some reason this one did not hit the mark for me.

Pen, Cat, and Will were best friends back in college, but their friendship ended suddenly, allowing them all to go their separate ways and figure out their lives on their own.  They all make their own mistakes along the way, which is probably one of the reasons that Pen and Will are so willing to put their lives on hold to search for Cat.  Maybe their lives would seem more logical if they could pick up their friendship with where it left off.

As Will and Penn make the commitment to search for Cat together, they unknowingly are allowing each other to search their own souls.  As they deal with secrets and hidden truths, Pen and Will finally accept something in each other that has been there throughout their entire lives.  If only they could have given the emotional support they each needed in the six years they were apart.

Although the summary indicates this novel was about searching for their friend Cat,  the actual search seemed to take up very little of the book.  A very small portion of the story was spent in the Philippines looking for her,  and  I think I would have enjoyed it more if the search was more extensive.  And then when they did find her, I thought the reunion could have been a bit more eventful.

So besides my reservations about this novel, I did find enjoyment from it.  This novel seemed to be more of a search for Pen and Will, but searching for the people they used to be.  The Philippines were described in a way that makes me want to hop on a plane tomorrow to walk on the beach enjoying a beautiful sunset.  With themes of friendship, forgiveness, and love, you may enjoy this book too.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mailbox Monday-Feb. 27

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 see what everyone received over at Metroreader.

Here is what came in my mailbox:
 Come a Little Closer by Dorothy Garlock (audiobook)

This was a nice surprise as I didn't even know it was coming!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday-Feb. 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!

Here is a new word that I learned while reading Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos:

Elucidate:   to make lucid or clear.

Here is how elucidate was used on page 86:
"It probably has to do with the way they're shaped or the way they're set or something."
"I'm sure he brushes.  Of course, he does."

I actually have a relaxing week that isn't requiring me to spend my evenings running here and there.  One would think I could get some reading done during this time, but it appears that movies and knitting have taken over my free nights lately!  I'm hoping to finish a knitting project that I started almost a year ago!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

My Review:
This book is unlike any other book I have read.  The beauty, magic, and mystery will keep you entranced as you find the circus at a new location.  No advertisements will let you know when the circus is coming.  It will just be there one day and the anticipation grows as you wait for the sun to set so you can experience the circus that evening.

At the heart of this novel is a challenge that Marco and Celia find themselves as the main participants.  By the time that they realize that they are opponents in this magical game, they can no longer deny their love for one another.   Their feelings for each other conflict with the purpose of the game, so how can one of them possibly win this challenge but yet remain in this relationship.

Both Marco's and Celia's magic is special, and it seems that the circus itself feeds off of them as they draw strength from the circus.  But besides these magicians, all of the circus performers are extraordinary with what they have to offer.  Their gifts are exceptional and when it is apparent that the circus itself is in jeopardy, a plan must be devised in order for it to continue.

As I said earlier, this was a special and magical novel.  Morgenstern's writing was beautiful and believable, as sometimes when I read books with magical elements they become a bit too far-fetched for me.  I enjoyed this book and I'm sure many of you will also!

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this ebook from my library to read for my own entertainment.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mailbox Monday-Feb. 20

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 see what everyone received over at Metroreader.

Here is what was in my mailbox last week:

I have been refraining from requesting ARC's, but when I spotted this one in a Shelf Awareness newsletter, I couldn't help myself.  I've done pretty good not accepting review copies or requesting books as I haven't had any of these books come to my home since December!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teaser Tuesday-Feb. 14

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 Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos:
Once, after her father died, Pen had tried to keep hatred alive, but it kept losing its firm shape, kept smudging and blurring until it became an immense, black impossible heavy sadness that lived inside her body and made it hard to move, so she had given up.  Sometimes she missed it, though.

pg. 41

Monday, February 13, 2012

What Are You Reading?

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:
I read Night Road by Kristin Hannah as a book club selection.  I read this book a year ago and enjoyed it then, but decided to read it again so I could be a contributor at our meeting.  I'm also giving away a copy of this book here.

What I'm reading now:
I decided to pick up Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos.  I received a copy of this from LibraryThing, so I figured it was about time I got it read and reviewed.  I'm liking it so far!

What's up next:
Our next book club selection is The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith.  My book club loves this series and I can't wait to get started on this one!

My reading has slowed down significantly lately, but I am still enjoying the books I am reading.  So what books have been keeping your attention lately?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Giveaway and Book Club Thoughts: Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Here is a summary of Night Road from Kristin Hannah's website:

For eighteen years, Jude Farraday has put her children’s needs above her own, and it shows—her twins, Mia and Zach—are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill moves into their small, close knit community, no one is more welcoming than Jude. Lexi, a former foster child with a dark past, quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable.

Jude does everything to keep her kids on track for college and out of harm’s way. It has always been easy-- until senior year of high school. Suddenly she is at a loss. Nothing feels safe anymore; every time her kids leave the house, she worries about them.

On a hot summer’s night her worst fears come true. One decision will change the course of their lives. In the blink of an eye, the Farraday family will be torn apart and Lexi will lose everything. In the years that follow, each must face the consequences of that single night and find a way to forget…or the courage to forgive.

Vivid, universal, and emotionally complex, Night Road raises profound questions about motherhood, identity, love, and forgiveness. It is a luminous, heartbreaking novel that captures both the exquisite pain of loss and the stunning power of hope. This is Kristin Hannah at her very best, telling an unforgettable story about the longing for family, the resilience of the human heart, and the courage it takes to forgive the people we love.

The Sweet Connections book club was lucky enough to win hardcover copies of this book for all of our members.  So this ended up being our January selection and we got together to discuss it on February 1st.

I read and reviewed this book about a year ago so I am not going to go into the details again.  If you missed my review and would like to read it you can do so here.

I enjoyed this novel, along with most of the members of our book club.  As a parent I can tell you that it is a difficult story to read and quite often I found myself disliking the main character.

A couple of the gals had the opinion that the book should have been more about Lexi's story than Jude's.  A few of us also thought the book had a young adult feel to it and thought we may have enjoyed it more if it didn't.  My main problem after reading this book again is that the ending seemed to wrap up too quickly and nicely.

Even though I read this book for the second time I still had the need for tissues.  Knowing the main points of the book and even the ending did not prevent me from enjoying this story for the second time.

Now for the giveaway:

I will be giving away one hardcover copy of this book.

To enter this contest you must be at least 18 and live in the U.S.

For one entry leave me a comment including your email address below.

For two additional entries, blog about this contest or add the link to your sidebar.

Please include your email so I will have a way to contact you if you win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as myemail.address AT gmail DOT com or myemail.address [at] gmail [dot] com.

You will have until February 25th to enter and I will draw for a winner on or after February 26th.

Good luck Everyone!

**This giveaway is closed.**

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Title:  The Descendants

Author:  Kaui Hart Hemmings

Narrator:  Jonathan Davis

Unabridged Length: 9hrs, 12 mn.

Here is a summary from the publisher's website:
Fortunes have changed for the King family, descendants of Hawaiian royalty and one of the state’s largest landowners. Matthew King’s daughters—Scottie, a feisty ten-year-old, and Alex, a seventeen-year-old recovering drug addict—are out of control, and their charismatic, thrill-seeking mother, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident. She will soon be taken off life support. As Matt gathers his wife’s friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation is made worse by the sudden discovery that there’s one person who hasn’t been told: the man with whom Joanie had been having an affair. Forced to examine what they owe not only to the living but to the dead, Matt, Scottie, and Alex take to the road to find Joanie’s lover, on a memorable journey that leads to unforeseen humor, growth, and profound revelations.

My Review:
This was such a raw and emotional story that brings us along on the journey of Matt King as he prepares to say goodbye to his dying wife, Joanie.  During the process, as Matt searches the details of his life to uncover Joanie's secrets, he is drawn closer to his daughters, Alex and Scottie.

Joanie has lived a life of glamour and luxury.  Since she has been a model she easily attracts beautiful and wealthy people as friends.  When Joanie gets together with these friends they have a tendency to not think about consequences, but just do whatever they think will be fun at the time.  This does not always have a good outcome.

Alexis is the King's older daughter that was sent away to finish her high school education at a boarding school.  While still living at home Alexis developed a drug habit so after completing rehab her parents did not want to put her back into the society that contributed to her addiction.  Matt isn't sure how to deal with Alex when he goes to pick her up after Joanie's accident.

Scottie is the younger daughter, just on the cusp of becoming a teenager.  It is obvious she still wants to be a little girl, while wanting also to get the attention of young boys.  Matt can't help but wonder who will teach Scottie all the things girls need to know after Joanie dies.

As Matt is getting to know his daughters again, and prepare them all for the inevitable passing of Joanie, he discovers the unsavory details of her infidelity.  He is obviously angry and frustrated with this revelation, but somehow deals with those feelings and lets the love he had for Joanie provide the comfort his entire family needs.

I can tell you that I just loved this audiobook was wonderful and kept my attention throughout.  Davis did a great job of picking up on the emotions of our main character as he deals with this difficult situation.  With themes of family, love, and forgiveness I don't hesitate in recommending this book for either a book club selection or leisure reading.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me from the Audiobook Jukebox Reviewer Program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 6, 2012

What Are You Reading?

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.

I finished on my Kindle:
Just yesterday afternoon I finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I loved this magical story and will try to get my review done this week.

I'm currently listening to:
I've been listening to Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons.  This book may help you recall your own memories of summer innocence as we follow Thayer's life.

Next audiobook:
I am not usually one to hop on the bandwagon of popular fiction, but a friend of mine highly recommended The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I just picked up the audiobook from the library so I'm looking forward to listening to it!

How about you?  What are you reading or listening to right now?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2012 Goodreads Reading Challenge

So the last couple of years I signed up for the 100+ Reading Challenge and failed miserably.  But I signed up mostly just to keep a list of the books that I have read throughout the year.  This year I noticed that the challenge that is out there does not allow you to use audiobooks, and since that makes up at least a dozen of the books that I read (or listen to in this case), I decided to forego the 100+ Challenge.  I found this challenge on Goodreads that allows you to set your own number (now that is more up my alley).  I am challenging myself to 70 books this year, which is probably unrealistic since I didn't even hit 50 last year, but that's ok!  I will list the books on this post as I read or listen to them for this challenge:

1. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings--Completed 1/26/12
2. Night Road by Kristin Hannah--Completed 1/31/12
3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern--Completed 2/5/12
4. Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons--Completed 2/11/12
5. Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos--Completed 2/27/12
6. The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith--Completed 3/4/12
7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins--Completed 3/8/12
8. Clair de Lune by Jaretta Carleton--Completed 3/21/12
9. Come a Little Closer by Dorothy Garlock--Completed 4/2/12
10. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran--Completed 4/2/12
11. Cross Currents by John Shors--Completed 4/16/12
12. The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay--Completed 4/17/12
13. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne--Completed 5/1/12
14. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins--Completed 5/11/12
15. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett--Completed 5/15/12
16. Come Home by Lisa Scottoline--Completed 5/24/12
17. Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin--Completed 5/28/12
18. The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker--Completed 6/6/12
19. An American Family by Peter Lefcourt--Completed 6/29/12
20. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel--Completed 7/6/12
21. The World Without You by Joshua Henkin--Completed 7/22/12
22. The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar--Completed 8/4/12
23. More Than You Know by Penny Vincenzi--Completed 8/18/12
24. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese--Completed 9/5/12
25. The Kingmaker's Daughter by Phillipa Gregory--Completed 9/11/12
26. Surviving Hitler by Andrea Warren--Completed 9/13/12
27. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenaugh--Completed 9/23/12
28. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire--Completed 9/26/12
29. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls--Completed 9/30/12
30. Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci--Completed 10/13/12
31. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova--Completed 10/19/12
32. A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama--Completed 10/24/12
33. Summer Island by Kristin Hannah--Completed 10/26/12
34. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger--Completed 11/06/12
35. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins--Completed 11/12/12
36. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe--Completed 11/27/12
37. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore--Completed 12/4/12
38. The Linen Queen by Patricia Falvey--Completed 12/16/12
39. The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson--Completed 12/23/12

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

Here is a summary of A Redbird Christmas from the publisher's website:

With the same incomparable style and warm, inviting voice that have made her beloved by millions of readers far and wide, New York Times bestselling author Fannie Flagg has written an enchanting Christmas story of faith and hope for all ages that is sure to become a classic.

Deep in the southernmost part of Alabama, along the banks of a lazy winding river, lies the sleepy little community known as Lost River, a place that time itself seems to have forgotten. After a startling diagnosis from his doctor, Oswald T. Campbell leaves behind the cold and damp of the oncoming Chicago winter to spend what he believes will be his last Christmas in the warm and welcoming town of Lost River. There he meets the postman who delivers mail by boat, the store owner who nurses a broken heart, the ladies of the Mystic Order of the Royal Polka Dots Secret Society, who do clandestine good works. And he meets a little redbird named Jack, who is at the center of this tale of a magical Christmas when something so amazing happened that those who witnessed it have never forgotten it. Once you experience the wonder, you too will never forget
A Redbird Christmas. 

My Review:
Our book club usually picks a holiday themed novel to read during the month of December and this was our pick for this last Christmas season.  We have all become accustomed to not expect too much from these novels,  by just accepting that these are light reads for some holiday entertainment.  A Redbird Christmas was a sweet story that provided just that.

Oswald is our main character that isn't living much of a fulfilling life in Chicago.  He is a divorced man who doesn't even seem to have any possessions that hold any meaning to the life he has lived up until now.  One day he receives a diagnosis from his doctor that prompts him to leave the cold weather of Chicago in an attempt to extend his life, by how long he doesn't know.

This is how he ends up in the trusting town of Lost River, Alabama.  Oswald's life and attitude take a change in this little town where everyone truly seems to care for each other and want to help one another in any way possible.  All of the citizens welcome Oswald as one of their own, so it is only a matter of time until he finds his own little niche in the community.

Like I said, this was a sweet story that also held some magical elements.  With themes of love, miracles and friendship you may enjoy this book yourself.  If you happen to be looking for something light to read during the holiday season I would recommend this one.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  I purchased this book for my Kindle to read with my book club and for personal entertainment.