Friday, December 30, 2011

How to Ruin...

Ruined (How to Ruin, #1-3)Ruined by Simone Elkeles
Source: Purchased
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After finishing Chain Reaction, I decided to dust off Simone Elkeles's first series which I already had but never got a chance to read.  After finishing all three books (How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, How to Ruin My Teenage Life, and How to Ruin Your Boyfriend's Reputation), I've decided this particular author has improved leaps and bounds over the years.  Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy these books, but they were clearly written by a less experienced author. The best way I can put it is this: it was a bit more immature story, written in a more immature style, and definitely with a more immature main character.  I had several moments where I just cringed at a particular word choice or at something the main character said or did.  Then again, I do have to remember that teenagers have cringe-worthy moments on a daily basis.  So maybe it would be accurate to say that the characters were true to life, warts and all.

The series is basically about a spoiled American teenage girl named Amy who goes on vacation to Israel with her estranged father.  They start to improve their father-daughter relationship and Amy learns more about the Jewish side of her family she never knew.  Of course, she also falls for a hot Israeli guy and the story goes from there.

If you have not read and enjoyed Simone's other series (Perfect Chemistry and Leaving Paradise), I really don't think this series would be the best (or most fair) introduction to this author.  If you have not read anything by her previously, start with her newer books first.  Then, if you liked them as much as I did, go ahead and give these a try.  If you are looking for a recommendation for younger readers (ones who belong to the actual target age range of the series, 12 & up), I'd say go ahead.  Pre-teens and younger teens would probably enjoy these books very much.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry, #3)Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyone who knows me has heard me say this before, but I'll say it again: I'm a sucker for young adult fiction.  There's nothing like a good romance/coming-of-age story and my latest pick is no exception.  Simone Elkeles' books are easy to read, have likable characters, and interesting plot lines.  Are they a tad bit predictable? Probably, but predictable has never prevented me from enjoying an otherwise excellent book.  Reinventing the wheel has never been a requirement of mine in a novel.  

This particular book, as well as the other two that came before it (Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction) also deal with some important hot-button issues such as gangs, drugs, and relationships.  This latest installment features Luis Fuentes, the younger brother of Alex and Carlos Fuentes from the earlier books.  I liked that the books are related, but they each follow the experiences of a different main character rather than just focusing on one.  So if you are looking for a quick, fun, read that also deals with some heavier issues and is told with a unique and original voice, check this one out.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A book for Halloween (and some background reading)

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Source: Borrowed from the library
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the week leading up to Halloween, I decided to tackle Bram Stoker's Dracula.  I've been wanting to start reading the classics for some time now and I figured it was the perfect time of year to read the original vampire story.  I'm a great lover of The Twilight Saga (don't judge!) and a big fan of the newer Infinite Days, by Rebecca Maizel.  That being said, I never knew much about the original vampire other than the fact that he scared the living daylights out of everyone.  I heard all the criticisms of the modern vampire stories saying they were not scary enough, not evil enough, and just not true to the original.  So, to tell you the truth, I expected Dracula to be scary, or at least creepy, eerie, or spooky and honestly, it was none of those.  I'm glad I read it because I now have a bit more knowledge of where the whole vampire genre began, but I was sorely disappointed in the book overall.  It was not difficult to read or understand, but it took me a solid two weeks to finish because at times I found it quite dull.  I have two boxes of classics in the basement that I hope to read someday and I fervently hope they are better this first attempt.  For the time being, I'm going to stick with my non-traditional, but oh-so-much-more-interesting vampires.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Hollow Trilogy

The Hidden (The Hollow, #3)The Hidden by Jessica Verday
Source: Purchased
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished reading the final installment in the Hollow trilogy, The Hidden.  The first two books are The Hollow, and The Haunted. The story is essentially about a teenage girl who falls in love with a ghost.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a sucker for young adult fiction.  This book has a few darker elements, but overall it's pretty light and fluffy.  They are enjoyable, quick reads for when you are not in the mood for anything heavy.  I also figured a book with ghosts in it would be the perfect pick for late October :)

Friday, October 14, 2011


Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium trilogy #1
Published by: HarperTeen
Date: Feb. 1, 2011
How did I get this book? Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

Imagine a world in which no one is allowed to fall in love.  A world in which love is believed to be the root of all evils.  At age 18 you get "cured" and are "safe" from contracting the "disease" of love, or Amor Deliria Nervosa as it has been named.  Of course, this book was destined to be about a girl who falls in love right before she is scheduled to be "cured."

I found the premise of this book fascinating and I really enjoyed reading it.  Until I got to the end, that is.  I didn't care for the end and felt as if the story was left unfinished.  Then, to my happy surprise, I discovered there is a sequel coming out!  So, I feel it is only fair to not hold the ending against this book, because the story is not yet over!  If you like young adult fiction with an interesting twist, give this one a try.

The Distant Hours

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A few words about my most recent literary addiction:

If you like novels with these characteristics, read Kate Morton's novels.  I cannot say enough good things about her books and I wholeheartedly recommend them.  She never fails to surprise me and I cannot wait until she publishes her next book.  Bear in mind that her writing is not of the happy, feel good type.  Her stories tend to be dark and creepy and not for the reader who needs a happy ending. There are always bright spots in her books and parts of the plot resolve themselves in a happy way, but overall these novels could best be described as tragic.  But, the biggest tragedy of all would be to not lose yourself in these pages.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Feast Nearby

The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week)The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally by Robin Mather
Source: Purchased
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I started reading this book, I was surprised by how many recipes it contained.  The sheer number of them made this an extremely quick read.  Essentially, it is a collection of essays that shows us how Robin figured out how to support herself (and her local economy) at a little lakeside cabin in Michigan.  She finds happiness and security by putting up food, making new friends, and enjoying the company of her dog, bird, kitten, and chickens.  She weathers the four seasons and shares her experiences the first year she lives alone in her cabin.

This was an informative read with delicious sounding recipes and lots of canning and preserving tips I plan on making good use of (someday).  I found it well written with one glaring exception, which may be personal, you can judge for yourself.  Instead of saying she liked or enjoyed something, Robin said over and over again that "such-and-such pleased her," or "it pleased her neighbor" or "it pleased her neighbor more than it pleased her."  For whatever reason, that wording just grated on my nerves.  Glossing over that one failing, I found the book educational and interesting and I will definitely hold onto it for future reference.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First of all, I have to say that Kate Morton is my new favorite author.  I can't put a finger on exactly why, but I am finding her books thoroughly addictive.  I am trying to put off starting The Distant Hours because I know it is the only one I have left of hers to read until she publishes her new title next year.  Of the two I have already read, I have not yet decided which I liked better: The Forgotten Garden or The House at Riverton.  Luckily I don't really have to choose and I can happily find a permanent place on my shelves for both of these wonderful books.

The basic premise of The Forgotten Garden is the story of a little girl who travels alone on a ship from England to Australia in 1913.  The girl is taken in by the family of the dockmaster who finds her and raises her as their own, naming her Nell.  On her 21st birthday, Nell's  father tells her the truth and shatters her sense of self.  Nell has an intense desire to figure out who her birth family was and why she was abandoned on that ship all those years ago.  One of the only clues Nell is left with is a white suitcase containing a book of fairy tales written by a woman named Eliza Makepeace.

The book is told from various points of view and over various time periods.  The story is alternately told from Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra's (Nell's granddaughter) point of view.  It takes place 30 years ago when Nell is first investigating her origins, the present time when Cassandra has taken over the investigation after Nell's death, and the early years of the 1900s when all the mysterious "action" is originally taking place.  It was fascinating to see Cassandra and Nell piecing together the mystery while also "going back in time" to see what really happened.  From reading other reviews, I have gathered that many readers did not like all the bouncing around, but I found it intriguing and feel it really added to the story, making it more interesting.

As with Morton's previous novel, this one also had all sorts of twists and turns.  Even when I thought I had it all figured out, there was always at least one more curve ball thrown my way, keeping me on the edge of my seat until the very last page.  But unlike The House at Riverton, after finishing this book, I still had a few unanswered questions in my mind.  I spent a good hour flipping back and forth, looking up various passages and piecing together a few of the more minor mysteries.  I just couldn't shake the feeling that I was missing something.  Upon further examination, I found there were indeed a few small connections that had slipped under my radar.  I normally would not have done this, but I really enjoyed playing detective after the fact.  Trust me, the details I was looking up were not the main thrust of the story-line; Morton wrapped up the primary mystery/secret in a very satisfactory way.  But for anyone who likes to read in between the lines, there were a few other things to be discovered.  If you were slightly more astute than I, or if you read this book over less time than I did, maybe you would see these things the first time around.  Either way, it was an excellent and enjoyable read that I will treasure for a long time to come.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Dirty Life

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and LoveThe Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball
Source: Purchased
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is an interesting memoir about a Harvard educated city girl who quits her job, gives up her lease in Manhattan and moves upstate with her farmer boyfriend.  He has big dreams of owning his own farm one day and operating a CSA that feeds people a whole diet - not just veggies, but eggs, chicken, pork, beef, grains, flour, beans, and maple syrup to name a few of his other products.  Kristin falls head over heels in love with this guy and truly admires his conviction and his vision.  She, however, is very much a fish out of water.  Over time, she becomes more accustomed to farm life and the demanding, physical work it entails.  She even comes to enjoy her daily chores and working alongside her now husband.

I found this book very informative and also a bit of a reality check for anyone who has ever daydreamed about the "peaceful" or "quiet" life out on a country farm.  Farming is hard work!  And if you ever balked at the cost of organic veggies, read this book and you will understand exactly why they cost so much.  I'm almost beginning to think they don't cost enough.

Kristin does not sugarcoat any part of farm life.  For her, trading in her stilettos for work boots has been both challenging and rewarding.  While she may have questioned herself along the way, when all is said and done, she doesn't seem to have any regrets, and that is saying something.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The House at Riverton

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's killing me that I don't know anyone who has already read this book because I am dying to talk to someone about the ending!  The overarching plot line is the suicide of a young poet witnessed by two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline. Grace, now an elderly woman recounting her days as a servant in the girls' home, harbors a sense of guilt and we know there is more to this story than meets the eye.

As the book continued toward its conclusion, I could not put it down.  It was a little slow going at first, but once I kept reading, I just couldn't stop.  This is what you would call a gothic mystery, set in 1920's England and filled with family secrets, an old country house, and an almost unbearable amount of sadness and death.  But, it also contains some brilliant bursts of happiness that I truly enjoyed reading.  We know from the very beginning where the book will end, we just don't quite know how the story is going to get there.

I give this book exceptionally high marks because I was not able to figure out the narrator's secret until the very moment the truth is revealed.  As a reader, I love being surprised and hate it when I see things coming from a mile away (in a book with mystery elements, anyway; I am still a sucker for predictable romances).  That being said, there is more than one surprise in this book and one of the more minor ones I did figure out pretty early on.  I'm fairly sure that most readers who are half paying attention would also figure out the same secret I did.  This is not the type of book to have a happy ending, but the grand finale is grand indeed and just might leave you breathless.  You'll have to read it yourself to find out because I'll never tell!

Monday, August 8, 2011

God Hates Us All

God Hates Us All by Hank Moody
Source: Purchased
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
View on GoodReads

A short review for a short book:

This book was "written" by Hank Moody, the lead character on Showtime's Californication.  It's a dirty, trashy book based on a dirty, trashy show.  And sometimes that is just what I need.  I wanted something short and light that I could kick back and enjoy in spite of all the craziness of our impending move upstate.  This is not a book for the faint of heart or  for the easily offended.  You have been fairly warned.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In the mood for a memoir

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor WheelsThe Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
Source: Borrowed from the library
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently read two memoirs I had borrowed from the library.  First, was The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels--A Love Story by Ree Drummond. I picked this one up because I knew a little bit of the story behind Ree's blog and was always fascinated by it.  This book follows her courtship and first year of marriage to her husband "Marlboro Man."  If you're a sucker for a love story, you need to read this book.  It is a fabulous read, made all the better because it actually happened.

Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Chocolate Shop That CouldChocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Chocolate Shop That Could by Frances Park & Ginger Park
Source: Borrowed from the library
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second memoir I just finished was Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop That Could by Frances and Ginger Park.  I had never heard anything about this shop or the owners before picking up this book.  It turned out to be a good read and an absolute celebration of chocolate.  It's also an interesting look inside a small business for anyone who has ever dreamed of opening up their own shop.  These sisters had a really rocky start, but in the end they were able to fulfill their dream.  The book doesn't sugarcoat their struggles and it also addresses some tough subjects such as their father's death and both of their parents' experiences in war-torn Korea.  There were lots of happy moments as well and overall, it was a sweet, heartfelt story.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Midwife of the Blue Ridge

Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this book the night of my Memorial Day train snafu and just finished it the other day. Come to think of it, I don't know why it took me so long, especially because it was a really good read.

The story follows the life of a young Scottish woman named Maggie Duncan. As a child, her entire village was massacred, leaving Maggie an orphan. A local midwife adopts Maggie, but because of her history as the lone survivor, she is regarded with superstition by the rest of the townsfolk. She is considered un-marriageable, even though she has grown into a talented, beautiful woman. Unhappy with her life in Scotland, Maggie agrees to travel to America as an indentured servant after the death of her adopted mother.

The rest of the book chronicles the adventures and hardships Maggie encounters in the New World. The plot moves along swiftly enough, but there is also a lot of attention paid to the details of Colonial life and to the relationships between all the characters. At times the book portrays unspeakable cruelties, but these things were a reality during this turbulent time in history.

I found this book so enjoyable to read because it covered the full gamut of emotions. You have both romance and danger, tenderness and heartache. Maggie's Scots accent and tell-it-like-it-is personality reminded me a bit of some of the characters in Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (an all-time favorite of mine). This book was a nice escape and the only downside is that there is no sequel!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Evenfall by Liz Michalski
Source: Purchased
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
View on GoodReads

My book of choice while staying in Ocean City, NJ this past Memorial Day weekend was Evenfall  written by Liz Michalski. It is written from three different points of view. First, there is Andie, a 30-something young woman who comes back to the farm where she spent summers as a child with her Aunt Gert, Aunt Clara, and Uncle Frank. Clara and Frank have died and Andie returns to the farm to help Gert clean the house out and get ready to possibly sell it. Gert is the second character whose point of view we get to see. As a young woman, Gert and Frank were in love, but a combination of circumstance and choices kept them from marrying. Frank ended up marrying Gert’s sister Clara instead. Frank, still in love with Gert, lingers on as a ghost. One of the best parts of the book is that Frank’s ghost is an actual character and the third point of view the book is written from. When I first picked this book up, I thought the story sounded great, but I was a little worried about how the ghost element would manifest itself. Hauntings and ghosts in books, especially romance books, often come across as silly "bumps in the night" and “signs” from a lost loved one. Boy, was I glad to be wrong in this case. From the very first pages, we know that Frank is a ghost and a prominent character in the story. This whole scenario requires a little suspension of disbelief, it is fiction after all, but I really think Frank's ghost adds a lot to the story.

Gert, who is still alive, is haunted by regret for letting Frank go. Having lost the great love of her life, Gert is in a unique position to give Andie romantic advice when she finds herself in a relationship with Cort, a young man she babysat as a child. He’s all grown up now of course, but Andie convinces herself that Cort is nothing more than a summer fling. Even though it turns out to be much more than that, Andie does not know how to handle it. She has just come out of a bad relationship with a man I just love to hate. The best word I can use to describe him is “slimy.” He is a total charmer which really is just a nice way of saying he's a master manipulator and I was more than happy to root for Andie and Cort to work things out. Overall, this is a fabulous read for a day at the beach or any other time you have to just relax and escape to the book’s idyllic farm setting and get lost in a great story.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cherries in Winter

Cherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard TimesCherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times by Suzan Colon
Source: Borrowed from the library
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even with all the books I have on my shelves, I picked this one up at the library. It is a memoir about a writer who lost her job in the recession and who digs into her Nana’s recipe file to help save some money and learn to live on less. In the meantime, the author also digs into her family’s history and relays some really great stories about her relatives. Many of the stories date back to the Depression, but not all of them. I found the cast of characters endearing and I especially loved the author’s grandfather whom the author was very close with. Overall, this was a quick, enjoyable read. It was perfect train reading.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Long Walk Home

The Long Walk Home by Will North
Source: Purchased
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
View on GoodReads

This was such a lovely little book. It takes place in the countryside of Wales on a family farm/Bed & Breakfast.  The main characters of the story are Fiona and David, the married couple who own the farm and a man named Alec who comes to visit. Alec comes to stay at the Bed & Breakfast because it is right near a mountain where Alec has come to scatter the ashes of his late ex-wife (yes, ex-wife - that relationship is quite interesting).

David has an illness that causes him to have chemical sensitivities, so he lives in a separate building on the property set up specially for him. Meanwhile, Fiona continues to live in the main house where she runs her Bed & Breakfast.  They are definitely still married; they are not "separated," but they do live apart. It is also made pretty clear that theirs was never a particularly close or intimate relationship, even before David's illness.  So into this scene comes Alec. Not surprisingly, Alec and Fiona fall in love. The fact that Fiona is married makes this forbidden romance quite complicated.

I had some mixed feelings about Alec and Fiona's relationship because I'm not normally one to condone or excuse infidelity.  However, this is both fiction and a romance, so I went along for the ride.  And I must say I was rooting for them to work out a way to be together.  What helped me suspend judgement were two things: 1. Fiona and David were clearly not a good match to begin with and 2. David had gone from being merely frustrated and angry about his illness to actually becoming violent toward Fiona.  Sick or not, hitting your wife just does not sit well with me.

I won't give it away, but I will say I really loved the ending of this book.  I think everything wrapped up nicely and realistically.  Even if this book is a tad predictable, I really enjoyed it.  I liked that it had a bit more substance than your typical romance novel, dealing not just with love, but also with loss.

One of the other things I absolutely loved about this book were the cooking scenes. The descriptions of the food and wine made me want to dive into the pages and take a seat at the table. North really sets the scene of the kitchen (and the other rooms in the Bed & Breakfast as well) and makes it feel like a place I would want to be, a place that feels like home.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Where to begin?

# of books READ - 0
# of books REMOVED - 0
# of books TO READ - 230


230 is a huge number.  I can't believe I really have that many unread books in my "library," as my husband likes to call it.  I confess I am a book addict.  I have more than enough choices at home and yet I cannot resist the lure of a bookstore.  Used bookstores, online bookstores, chain bookstores, independent bookstores - I love them all.  I love discovering new titles and new authors.  Best of all, I love diving into a fabulous book - the kind of book that makes me wish I could just stay home and read all day. And also the kind of book I wish I could prolong indefinitely because I just can't bear for it to be over.  I do have a sweet spot for series; these types of books delay the inevitable END at least for a little while longer.

The idea of this blog is to share my experiences as I read my way through my rather large collection of books that are threatening to topple my bookcases at any moment. Since the beginning of 2011, I have so far read 13 new books. My goal is to continue reading through all the NEW books on my shelves.  You see, when I can't decide what type of book I want to read next, I usually revert to re-reading something that I already love.  As fun as that can be, I believe I am missing out on all the other books I have acquired over the years.  After all, I picked up each of these books because they sounded great.

My plan is to share my thoughts on each book after I read it and keep track of the total number of books I have left to read on my shelf.  Now, I also know that I will inevitably buy more books (though I am trying to cut back) and with each entry I will keep track of new additions and adjust my total TO READ number.  I also occasionally weed through my collection and sell/donate/give away books that I discover no longer appeal to me.  Again my total TO READ number will be adjusted.  My goal is not to punish myself, but to thoroughly enjoy myself

I will also post entries about my favorite books I have read over the years.  After all, a girl can only read so fast and I do love to share a great find.  Happy reading!