October 2014 archive

Review: The Body Electric

The Body Electric by Beth Revis

From Goodreads: The future world is at peace.

Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift—the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother—to help others relive their happy memories.

But not all is at it seems.

Ella starts seeing impossible things—images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience—and influence—the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love—even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing…

Someone’s altered her memory.

Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.

So who can she trust?

Jennie’s Thoughts: Guys, I love Beth Revis. I talked about it before here, and with this book my feelings didn’t diminish one little bit.

Ella’s story unfolded in this amazing and dramatic way, keeping me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I didn’t want to stop reading to eat or drink or feed my kids. And Jack, oh the chemistry between the two of them, even when she couldn’t remember who he was, made me smile and swoon.

These pages are full of twists and turns and antics and backstabbing and all the things I’ve come to expect from a Beth Revis novel! And I wasn’t expecting the ending at all. Like. At. All. And that ending was so good my stomach hurt for Ella!

And the science fiction pieces to this book were delicious and creepy and awesome. OH! And the Godspeed name drop and now I feel like I need to reread the entire Across the Universe trilogy. Sigh. I love that feeling.

So, I think you should read this. It’s really great! Thank you to Netgalley for letting me read a copy, and this in no way influenced my words here. Promise, Promise!

Review: Save My Place

Save My Place by Olivia deBelle Byrd

Goodreads synopsis: Blessed with an innate optimism and a magical childhood, Elisabeth Belle Sterling discovers that the path to happily-ever-after love is not as easily obtained as she had always imagined. The Camelot-like love she longs for seems like only a dream until she meets the handsome Kincaid Patterson, a West Point graduate who carries a dark secret from his past. Theirs is a passionate and unconditional love that has to confront a painful past, heart-searing separation, and the greatest of all tragedies. But the biggest obstacle is the loss of faith that threatens to undermine all that they have. Set in the South during the 1960s and 70s against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Save My Place is a beautifully written love story of two people who search deep within their souls to save each other.

Andrea’s Review: I actually stumbled across this book at a signing by the author at a local indie bookstore when I went to pick up my preorder of Kelsey’s book. Mrs. Byrd was as charming and gracious as you would expect from a lady of the deep South. Her first book was a collection of humorous essays, but she’d just released this, her debut novel, so I snagged a copy and had it signed.

I liked the story. Just as Olivia had mentioned, it’s a sweet, old-fashioned love story set in the Vietnam era. It was too short, in my opinion- I felt like there were a lot of unspoken and unwritten things going on in the story, but I am one who likes long epics with every possible detail and story line hashed out (I’m looking at you, Diana Gabaldon <3)

For a debut novel, I think she really has a good story here. I’ll definitely be watching for future works.

Review: BEEKLE

From GoodreadsThis magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and-at long last-is given his special name: Beekle.

Erin’s Thoughts: First, just watch this book trailer:

That trailer conveys exactly the feelings I have while reading this stunning, magical, charming picture book.  Dan Santat has created the most lovely story about an imaginary friend waiting to be imaged.  This story is full of hope, adventure, and friendship — everything you want in a story for children (and adults) with breathtaking illustrations.  This is a book you want on your bookshelves to sit alongside Where the Wild Things Are.  To be pulled out and read again and again.  Pure picture book magic!

Review: The Last Anniversary

The Last Anniversary, by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I read and reviewed The Husband’s Secret in April and have also read a couple others. This is one of her older ones; I came across it while browsing my library’s website and realized I had never even heard of it. And it was available for immediate borrowing. Happy Day!

The Last Anniversary is a little bit genre defying. It’s a little bit chic lit-y, but maybe leaning more into mainstream or even literary fiction. It’s kinda mystery-ish but that isn’t the entire focus of the plot, so I probably wouldn’t toss it there. It’s a little bit all over the place, but in a happy “that’s kind of how life is” kind of way.

With that, there’s a lot going on here. There are issues of “single and childless at forty” and the search for family and the desire for a husband’s attention and old friends and lies and betrayal and rape and… dun dun duuuun…. postpartum depression.

You guys. It got me in the gut. Grace is a side character really, but is given quite a bit of “screen time” and…. wowza. The thing is, I’ve read a few books about postpartum depression since I’ve experienced it, but mostly non-fiction and never in such a “THIS IS EXACTLY HOW I FELT” kind of way. I didn’t have postpartum depression in the way that I wanted to hurt my children and during my first go-round, I didn’t realize it presented itself in any other way. Grace’s experience was much like mine because she kept thinking that her family would be better without her and she wished she could easily disappear from their lives- these are two thoughts that I fixated on for months and months and months. If you had never experienced all of this, I do kind of see how you could feel like Grace was heartless and awful, but she wasn’t really presented that way- she came off as pretty sympathetic and  I thought she was one of the best, most honestly written characters in the novel.

And that’s saying a lot because there was a whole cast of quirky, honest, great characters. Like her other books, I thought that this was well written and captivating. I wasn’t super hung up on the “mystery” bit and think that I (mostly) figured it out early on, but the journey getting there was pretty awesome. The setting (an island off of the coast of Australia) was stunning and I was THERE. The characters, like I said, were super real and captured my heart in a big way. It was just good, good stuff.

Read this while you’re waiting through the library line for her new one, Big Little Lies, and then let me know how it is. I think I’ll be in line forever 😉

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

From Goodreads: In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Jennie’s Thoughts: Oh man, I always feel so weird, disturbed in a way, when I say that novels about the civil rights movement are some of my favorite. But, there is so much upheaval, so much heart, and people fighting for what is right, even when it is so very hard. It’s inspiring, honestly. But, on the flip side is the hate. And, this story conveys that emotion like one hundred punches in the gut.

I was literally sick to my stomach for the first third of the book. I could only read in 30 page chunks before the wrongness, the cruelness would just be too much. The writing is so damn powerful that I was literally queasy. And yet, I wanted to keep reading.

And then the story sucked me in, even through the pain and uncomfortableness. The characters, oh how I ached for them. For their fear, for their dreams, for what I hoped would come to those who breathed such nasty hatred out of them. And Sarah and Linda…I was fighting for them to grow into the people I hoped they’d become. I was holding my breath in places, waiting for what I wished would happen…and in spots that happened…and in spots reality came crashing down on me…and them.

This story is haunting and beautiful. It’s the kind of story that should be taught in middle schools and again in high schools. Required reading for every single year of both, honestly. This book touched me in ways I wished some of my required reading had in school.

This is the type of book that leaves a mark on your heart and you’re never quite the same after you finish. It’s really that powerful. Read it, and then let me know when you’re done so we can chat about it!

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

From Goodreads: There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The raven boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

Jenny’s thoughts: The third (not final, hallelujah!) book in The Raven Cycle does exactly what you’d expect from a third book. We learn so much more about the characters, the characters learn so much more about themselves, and we all learn so much more about their relationships with each other.

Relationships. Oh, man. Maggie Stiefvater is going to rip our hearts out with Gansey’s promised (not guaranteed, remember – can that promise be broken?) death, isn’t she? Blue and Gansey get even closer to that “true love” place in BLLB, which should be no surprise to anyone. Predictions have a funny way of coming true where our 300 Fox Way friends are concerned. We even see one of those creepy Cabeswater predictions come true. IT’S ALL HAPPENING.

As a fan of character-driven novels and series, The Raven Cycle is a dream come true (see what I did there?). The more we read, the more dimensional the characters get. Maybe Ronan isn’t such a jerk. Maybe Adam isn’t quite so prideful. Maybe Gansey isn’t that unshakeable. Maybe Blue’s place in the psychic world goes beyond simply being useful to others.

For those unfamiliar with the series, these books are creepy to the max, but not in the disturbing way, per se, as in the chills-up-and-down-your-spine, I-could-almost-believe-some-of-this creepy factor. Maybe it’s because that shine business has always poked at my beliefs (real? not real?), or maybe it’s because Maggie Stiefvater is just that good at bringing supernatural and paranormal to life. Whatever the case, I not only got chills at multiple points in this book, I also had nightmares.

Tarot readings, scrying, omniscient trees (Why is it always a fly on the wall that observes closely? It should be the trees who have seen it all.), psychic predictions, magical dreams, and the scary people who follow such wonders – this series is overflowing with chilling angles.

Beyond the creepy, these books are a great observation in friendship, family that reaches beyond DNA, and self discovery. The quest to find Glendower has brought together an unlikely bunch, but it’s clear that there’s more keeping them together than a common interest.

I was thoroughly swept off my feet by The Raven Boys. The Dream Thieves read like a tangent, doing that thing that sophomore books sometimes do, filling in holes, adding layers, and generally leaving me unsatisfied, making me anxious to find out exactly where all this new information was going. Blue Lily, Lily Blue was incredibly satisfying. We’re starting to see some frayed ends come together, that Ronan tangent is totally not a tangent, and holy crap – earlier predictions are coming true left and right.

I have a feeling Stiefvater’s tarot card would be The Magician because, man. This series is goooooood.

I got my grabby hands on an ARC of Blue Lily, Lily Blue through NetGalley, though the book will be available for purchase on Oct. 21, 2014 – that’s just a few days away from today! If you preorder from Fountain Bookstore, you’ll receive a signed copy with a creepy doodle from Stiefvater herself.

Beyond the Books: Brides, Blogs, and Besties

Seven years ago, I stumbled upon this online book club hidden among the usual suspects on an online community. There were all of these women, generally of my generation, doing the same general things I was doing (getting married and embarking on true independent adulthood, primarily), and they were reading ALL THE BOOKS. My go-to genres of mysteries and thrillers? They were reading them. NYT Bestsellers? Sure, let’s discuss. YA and paranormal and Twilight and Outlander?  They had their own sub-boards! It was like stumbling into a fantasy world where these brilliant, beautiful, snarky and fabulous people didn’t mind you talking about books AT ALL.

As time went on and I became more comfortable within the group (and the subgroups, and the mini-subgroups LOL), I also became more curious about these women who lived (literally) all across the US and who shared so many things in common with me.

To date, I’ve joined different ladies at different times at the Savannah Book Festival, the Decatur Book Festival, and our getaway in Nashville last year. I’ve FaceTimed and Google Chat-ed and emailed and even vacationed with a couple of special friends. We’ve all progressed through our post-college years and settled into marriage, kids, and ups and downs. We were there (virtually) when Jenny’s triplets came early. They were there for me through not one, but two NICU stays, three years apart. We’ve celebrated new jobs, promotions, transitions to SAH. We were there when Jessica Love’s book was first signed, and Kelsey’s book, too. We’ve swapped manuscripts and memories, and I can’t tell you how many books through the postal service. Gift exchanges, pen pals, and 2 am emergency texts- these are the women you can count on.

So as I approach my seventh wedding anniversary, I’m also looking at the seventh anniversary of meeting these wonderful, fabulous women. I love you all.

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