Monday, July 29, 2013

Mailbox Monday-July 29

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 Book Obsessed.

Here is what showed up at my door:

A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershow

So I did actually expect the first two books, but A Dual Inheritance was a total surprise!  I have decided that I am out of control and need to cut myself off for awhile.  Today is my husband's birthday so I will be making him his favorite chicken dinner tonight rather than focusing on books to read. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blog Tour and Review: The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner

Here is a summary of the novel from the author's website

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she is thrust into danger. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, until, at age seventeen, she finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man whom she has vowed to love yet is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Arag√≥n.

As together they unite their two realms under "one crown, one country, one faith," Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor, Torquemada, even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, it will test Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny . . . .

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile. 

My Review:
Another hit by Mr. Gortner as he captures the heart and soul of Queen Isabella.  After reading this novel I couldn't help but ask myself why I don't read more historical fiction.  Gortner does a wonderful job of depicting not only the time period, but bringing to life the character of young Isabella.

After the death of her father, Isabella is whisked away from Castile at a very young age for her safety.  She grows up without the privileges that come with royalty as she doesn't own beautiful gowns or even attend court on a regular basis.  When the country is struggling from poverty, her stomach also aches from hunger.

Isabella lives a normal childhood away from the politics and treason of court, until one day her presence is requested at Castile.  She has no idea why her half-brother, the king, would want to see her, but his request cannot be denied.  This first trip to the court opens a new world to Isabella, not only for her destiny of eventually becoming the queen, but also sparking feelings within her heart that are new to her.

It is quite a journey to the crown for Isabella as she fights for what is best for the people of Castile.  It is hard to imagine the stress that these women of power and influence must endure, but Gortner does a great job of giving a glimpse of the trials that Isabella went through.  We not only see her fight for her crown, but we also see the struggles within her own marriage created by politics.

I think you can tell that I enjoyed this novel of historical fiction.  With themes of honor, destiny, treason, and royalty, I think many of you would enjoy this one also.  Whether you are reading this book for personal leisure or as a book club discussion I don't think you will be disappointed.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel.

My Rating:  4/5

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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee

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

Once a privileged and loving couple, the Armsteads have now reached a breaking point. Ben, a partner in a prestigious law firm, has become unpredictable at work and withdrawn at home—a change that weighs heavily on his wife, Helen, and their preteen daughter, Sara. Then, in one afternoon, Ben’s recklessness takes an alarming turn, and everything the Armsteads have built together unravels, swiftly and spectacularly.

Thrust back into the working world, Helen finds a job in public relations and relocates with Sara from their home in upstate New York to an apartment in Manhattan. There, Helen discovers she has a rare gift, indispensable in the world of image control: She can convince arrogant men to admit their mistakes, spinning crises into second chances. Yet redemption is more easily granted in her professional life than in her personal one.

As she is confronted with the biggest case of her career, the fallout from her marriage, and Sara’s increasingly distant behavior, Helen must face the limits of accountability and her own capacity for forgiveness.

My Review:
This story takes us into the lives of a family that seems to have everything going for them.  Ben is an established lawyer, able to provide anything needed for their New York suburban home.  Since Helen does not need to work, she is able to focus all of her energy on raising their young daughter.  From the outside, everything appears picture perfect, but looks can be deceiving.

Even though we are given the story through various perspectives, it seemed to me to be Helen's story.  When Ben loses his perspective of what is important in life, their comfortable life comes to an abrupt end.  Not having the security Helen has been accustomed to, she must pull herself together and do what is needed to provide for herself and her daughter.  It can be a scary world out there, especially for a woman who has not worked in years.

I think I loved this story because it was so true to form for me.  How often do you hear of women having to pick up the pieces from their husbands mistakes?  I know this works both ways, but men seem to be more resilient to me, as it is easier for them to start over and find another job.  It's tougher for women, especially if they've been a stay-at-home mom for the past 5-10 years.

I didn't necessarily like their daughter, Sara, as a character.  That's ok, because I think my dislike of her helped my appreciation of the novel as a whole.  Since Sara was adopted she was still trying to find who she truly was, but then with her parents marital difficulties thrown in the mix, she became even more belligerent and confused.

Ben, Helen, and Sara, all come to terms with the crisis that changed their family relationships.  They are not by any means happy with the events that took place, but have come to accept that all of them played a role in what resulted in failure.  With themes of love, family, trust, forgiveness and second chances you may enjoy this book as much as I did.  I think this novel would make a great book club discussion and I don't hesitate in recommending it for personal leisure.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This ebook was provided to me by the publisher through the Netgalley program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mailbox Monday-July 15

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 Book Obsessed.

Here is what surprised me:
Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

When I noticed that Jackson had a new novel out, I jumped at the chance to receive an ARC.  I have plenty to keep me busy, so honestly I don't need any more new books than this one right here!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz

Title:  The Edge of the Earth

Author:  Christina Schwarz

Narrator:  Candace Thaxton

Unabridged Lgth:  8hrs, 26 mn

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

In 1898, a woman forsakes the comfort of home and family for a love that takes her to a remote lighthouse on the wild coast of California. What she finds at the edge of the earth, hidden between the sea and the fog, will change her life irrevocably.

Trudy, who can argue Kant over dinner and play a respectable portion of Mozart’s Serenade in G major, has been raised to marry her childhood friend and assume a life of bourgeois comfort in Milwaukee. She knows she should be pleased, but she’s restless instead, yearning for something she lacks even the vocabulary to articulate. When she falls in love with enigmatic and ambitious Oskar, she believes she’s found her escape from the banality of her preordained life.

But escape turns out to be more fraught than Trudy had imagined. Alienated from family and friends, the couple moves across the country to take a job at a lighthouse at Point Lucia, California—an unnervingly isolated outcropping, trapped between the ocean and hundreds of miles of inaccessible wilderness. There they meet the light station’s only inhabitants—the formidable and guarded Crawleys. In this unfamiliar place, Trudy will find that nothing is as she might have predicted, especially after she discovers what hides among the rocks.

Gorgeously detailed, swiftly paced, and anchored in the dramatic geography of the remote and eternally mesmerizing Big Sur, The Edge of the Earth is a magical story of secrets and self-transformation, ruses and rebirths. Christina Schwarz, celebrated for her rich evocation of place and vivid, unpredictable characters, has spun another haunting and unforgettable tale. 

My Review:
This was a lovely story that has us following Trudy across the country to an unknown land.  She leaves the comfort and safety of her family home in Milwaukee as she puts her trust and love in Oskar to lead her in the right direction.  Oskar is young, full of dreams and new ideas, and feels that living near the ocean in California will help him realize his dreams that much sooner.

Trudy does not expect the life that she finds in California.  It is a wild savage country and her loneliness is apparent without friends and family near her.  She finds herself missing the comforts of home when she enters the lighthouse they are to call home.  Food is scarce and all resources must be utilized, not wasting a single drop of water.

The Crawleys are basically the only neighbors Trudy has to keep her company.  For the most part, Mrs. Crawley is all business most of the time, but every now and then a side of her shines, offering friendship and refuge.  Thankfully, Mrs. Crawley is kind enough to show Trudy the ropes and offer advice for new tasks.  Since Mrs. Crawley has a few children that are always underfoot, she suggests that Trudy start teaching them on a daily basis.  The teaching lessons give Trudy something to look forward to, and even open up a new world for her.

The Crawleys, Trudy, and Oskar all develop a friendship, as there are no others around to associate with.  When Trudy makes a discovery through her lessons with the children, she finds that each of these friendships could shatter by the wrong move.  Trudy wants to support her husband, but in the end finds she must do what her heart is telling her is right.

I think Thaxton did a great job of narrating Trudy's story and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel in the audio form.  My only problem with the audiobook is that I found myself confused at the beginning and end.  Someone was telling Trudy's story and I'm not sure who it was in the beginning and how that person was associated with her.  Had I read it in book form I could flip back and figure it out.  I suppose I could just listen to the beginning on my iPod again to clarify though.  With themes of dreams, hopes, secrets, and family this book has much to offer for both book clubs and personal leisure.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel.

My Rating:  4/5

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mailbox Monday-July 8

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 Book Obsessed.

Here is what I found in my mailbox:
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls (audiobook)

This will be enough to keep me busy for awhile.  As much fun as it is to find books in my mailbox it does overwhelm me at times.  So I think it's time to take a break from requesting review copies.  If only these new books would quit tempting me!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: The Sisters by Nancy Jensen

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website

In the tradition of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, a dazzling debut novel about the family bonds that remain even when they seem irretrievably torn apart.
Growing up in hardscrabble Kentucky in the 1920s, with their mother dead and their stepfather an ever-present threat, Bertie Fischer and her older sister Mabel have no one but each other—with perhaps a sweetheart for Bertie waiting in the wings. But on the day that Bertie receives her eighth-grade diploma, good intentions go terribly wrong. A choice made in desperate haste sets off a chain of misunderstandings that will divide the sisters and reverberate through three generations of women.

What happens when nothing turns out as you planned? From the Depression through World War II and Vietnam, and smaller events both tragic and joyful, Bertie and Mabel forge unexpected identities that are shaped by unspeakable secrets. As the sisters have daughters and granddaughters of their own, they discover that both love and betrayal are even more complicated than they seem.  

My Review:
I love stories that follow women's lives over not only their lifetimes, but even the lifetimes of their children.  Not only does Jensen accomplish this within the pages of this book, but she also brings to life a third generation of the family.  The story opens in Juniper, Kentucky, and the year is 1927.  Bertie and Mabel are left living with their stepfather after their mother's passing and the sisters plan to get as far away from there as possible when the opportunity arises.

The stories alternate between perspectives of Bertie and Mabel, until their children become main characters and we see things from a whole new light.  And then when these ladies grandchildren are introduced we are given a whole new set of problems.

Early on in the novel the girls are separated from most unfortunate circumstances sending their lives in different directions.  They make the best of their lives, raising their families the best way they know how.  Unfortunately, Bertie has harbored her anger for so long, this attitude seeps through her everyday life, and eventually rubbing off onto her children.

I really don't want to give too much of this book away, as it was enjoyable the way events unfolded.  My main complaint about this book was the multiple characters we were introduced to.  Between Bertie and Mabels' children and grandchildren it was tough to keep them all straight.  The author did include a family tree in the beginning that was quite helpful, but while reading the Kindle version I probably didn't use this tool as much as others may have.  I think I would have enjoyed knowing more about Bertie and Mabel, rather than having little snippets of multiple characters.

I did enjoy the novel overall and most of my book club did also.  With themes of family, resentment, and truth, you may enjoy this book also.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:   This book is from my personal library and I read it for my own entertainment and as a book club discussion. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Teaser Tuesday-July 2

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 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:
The telephone rang inside, startlingly, and as Daisy shook her head decisively at Tom the subject of the stables, in fact all subjects, vanished into air.  Among the broken fragments of the last five minutes at table I remember the candles being lit again, pointlessly, and I was conscious of wanting to look squarely at every one, and yet to avoid all eyes.

pg. 15

This is my first time reading The Great Gatsby and I'm sure enjoying it so far?  Have you read this treasure?