Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sisterland: A Novel by [Sittenfeld, Curtis]

This is not a new book, but I finished it yesterday afternoon and I'm still thinking about it today.

I was browsing at the library the other day, and ran across a book named Eligible by the same author, which is supposed to be a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, one of my all time faves. But I hesitate to read re-tellings of actual books sometimes - I think I've mentioned that I like re-tellings/re-imaginings of fairy tails, though I'm not sure why it's different - because what if it ruins the original? So I saw that the author (I was assuming it was a "he" at that point - oops) had a few other books, and I took to the shelves. Once there, I realized that a) she's a she, and b) I had read her American Wife many years ago when it was first published, and I remembered liking it. After reading a few dust jackets, I decided that Sisterland looked to be the most intriguing.

Violet and Daisy are identical twins growing up in St. Louis in the 80's - I think we find out at some point that they'd fall in about 3 years younger than I am - which was a pull in the first place, since St. Louis is one of my favorite places. Their home life isn't awful, but it's not ideal, either - they conspire to help their very unnaffectionate (though not abusive) mother hide her depression from their somewhat cold father. They aren't well-off, but they're not poor. Vi and Daisy are very insular - the book is narrated in first-person by Daisy, and she mentions that she wouldn't have thought of Vi as her best friend, necesssarily, just that they didn't have or even want anyone else.

The most unusual thing is that Vi and Daisy both seem to have a form of ESP. Daisy dreams of tragedies before they happen. We don't know much about Vi's abilities as they are growing up, but at one point, Daisy is befriended by the cool girl clique and opens herself up to using a Ouija board. She senses a "dark presence" that does help her know things. Being teenage girls, they mostly find out about the ringleader's love life, but she also has some darker knowledge.  Being teenage girls, they have a falling out, and Daisy's social life is somewhat ruined as they are outed as "witches." Daisy, however, tries her best and eventually is mostly treated as "normal" and really downplays her "senses", while Vi embraces the weird and notoriety.

Daisy can't wait to get out of St. Louis. When the time comes, she goes to Mizzou and Vi heads to the west coast to a small private college.Vi isn't gone long, though, before she drops out/becomes too socially awkward/fails? and crashes Daisy's life (who is now going by her middle name, Kate) . They have a fairly major falling out, and the rest of the story often deals with their contentious relationship, along with Kate's marital life.

The story is told jumping around from the "now" - the fall of 2009-  to childhood, to college, often as a backstory to something going on in the present. That part is handled well - the timeline and pacing didn't suffer by being too chopped up.

The storyline - though the book is truly a novel about relationships more than anything else - is that Vi, now making her rather meager living as a psychic, has predicted a major earthquake, and the story is picked up by the national (then international) media. Kate, despite trying to disregard and even destroy her senses, also gets a feeling about a particular date. Kate is married to a professor, a scientist who has always said he believed her about her premonitions, but doesn't really REALLY believe. Kate is exasperated by Vi's willingness to share the "weird" and concerned for Jeremy's career when her husband's closest colleague is tapped to be the "anti-Vi" on TV - made worse by the fact that she lives a half a block away, and their families are absolute best friends.

Will the earthquake happen? Will her husband believe her or drive her to a stubborn impasse? Will Vi embarrass the heck out of Kate and ruin Jeremy's career?

But again, this is really just a novel about relationships. How can two people who truly were once one egg want such opposite things? Kate's relationship with her husband is tested and explored. Her relationship with her parents is examined. As a mother of two young children, she worries about what her children will think of her, given what she thinks of her own parents, and Vi's rather sour outlook on her perfect suburban life does ring a bell or two for her, even as she's usually happy.

For me, the book was very well written. I liked Kate as a character and understood why she took a lot of her actions, even as I disagreed strongly with several of her decisions. Disagreeing with her made me feel almost guilty about liking her, but then, that can happen in life, too. Most other characters were well developed - I didn't get a great sense of the wife of the other couple and her motivations - but mostly you got enough to be invested and to care. The pacing was good and kept me interested.

I read some reviews last night, and if you're expecting a book purely about psychic twins, this won't satisfy you. If you're looking for a thriller about earthquakes, also not the right book. But if you enjoy books that explore human relationships, this was a good one. The line that keeps resonating with me today is one where Kate thinks "how shocking it still is to realize that someone else doesn't want what you want, or wants what you desperately don't." It just reminds me that, no matter what we have in common or how well we know a person, we don't all think or dream the same, and a step back to see another perspective might not be all bad. Pin It

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The One that Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

This was a fun little romance book, but a bit on the shallow side. Ruby is a professional (ad man) in NYC, getting ready to attend her younger sister's wedding in a castle in England. Her sister is marrying her ex's best friend, so she'll be seeing him for the first time in years. While she's become successful in her firm, he's become some mega-app billionaire type. She has a secret about why they broke up, and she's not sure that she doesn't have some feelings left for him.
She's likeable, as is he - though you don't really get to know him at all. The story is told in "now" and "then" format, and while we get a couple of "then" from his view, we don't know why they fell in love in the first place, and we don't get any "now" from him at all. We get her thoughts from both time frames, but we still don't know why she fell so in love with him in the first place, besides him being cute. 

There are added complications with Ruby's father, and the wedding, and it's romance, so things are good in the end. The secret was NOT what I was expecting - if it had been what I thought, I think I'd have liked the book more because it would have been deeper. 

I finished it in one day, it moved along fine, but it's a pretty basic, easy romance that isn't going to be all that memorable for me.

There is mention of sexual acts, but no sex scenes at all - very very PG rated.

I happened to receive a preview of the British publisher's version free from NetGalley in exchange for a review, and it is set to be published on 2/28/17. However, I see that the American version should be published on Thursday of this week. ;) There were a few British spelling changes, but I would assume otherwise that the book remains the same.

Not a bad choice if you enjoy pure romance without suspense, mystery, or sex.  ;)
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Friday, June 3, 2016

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

In case you are heading out to the movies this weekend, feel free to put this one on your list.  I read it as part of my " review series" this year....reading all of the 2016 books to movies.  I got my list here. 
I don't even care what books are being made into movies anymore this year.  I can't imagine a better one than this.  Think Jodi Picoult on steroids. Or think An Affair to Remember in modern times.  Or just take my advice and go.  (But you have to promise to read the book after you see the movie).  Jojo Moyes wrote a bestseller with this one. 
And if you're thinking it will be a hard sell to your husband/boyfriend/partner-in-crime, remind him that Emilia Clarke is the female lead.  If he's still not convinced, remind him that she plays Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones.  You know, the Mother of Dragons.   That should help. 

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman

In my never-ending quest to procrastinate my mom duties, I finished yet another book.  You'll remember that I'm reading and reviewing all of the 2016 books to movies, and The Light Between Oceans is installment number two.  Unlike the first one, The Circle, which I reviewed last month, I actually enjoyed this one.  Set off the coast of western Australia, The Light Between Oceans tells the story of a couple that find a lone infant adrift in a boat.  Struggling with the loss of multiple recent miscarriages, the baby seems like the perfect miracle.  Over time though, circumstances change.  New "parents" Isabel and Tom don't necessarily agree on decisions that must be made.  As light keeper, Tom has a duty to report all vessels that come in and out of his landing.  However, this conflicts with his deepest desire of wanting to heal his broken-hearted wife.  It's a good story and doesn't read as far-fetched as it sounds on the book jacket (a baby just HAPPENS to float by in a boat? Come on!).   

The movie is set to release in September of this year.  Unfortunately, I am old enough and far enough removed from the Hollywood scene that I had to Google who the actors are that were cast for this one.  Michael Fassbender? Alicia Vikander? Anyone? Anyway, it turns out that I'm also old enough to have plantar faschitis in my right foot.  So now when I'm reading, I'm rolling my foot over this torture device.  At least I don't need reading glasses yet, right?

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Somewhere between making school lunches, keeping up with the maintenance on this 100-year old house the Army is allowing us to live in AND being the best wife ever, I decided I would read (and review) the 2016 books being made into movies.  I got the list from my new friends at PopSugar.  They are excellent at posting articles about stuff like this, you know.  You can see the full list here:     Or you can just wait and I'll post their reviews here every few weeks.  Deal?

The Circle was not my favorite so far this year but not my least favorite, either.  I was especially intrigued because the author is a fellow Illini (Oske-Wow-Wow!) and because the movie stars Emma Watson and Tom Hanks.  Sounds good, right? Well not so much, in my opinion.  It starts as a hopeful story of a young professional ready to take on the world with her new dream job in corporate America. The tech company she works for is more far-reaching than she bargains for, yet she goes along with it in order to keep the peace. She sacrifices friendships, family and ultimately herself as the company develops more and more overreach at her expense.  She becomes the poster girl for government transparency in this novel that is almost TOO far-fetched. 

Even though I didn't love this book, I am interested in seeing how the movie plays out.  There are parts of it (the mystery man who may or may not be be stalking her at work and her relationship with her aging/sick parents) that could add some real suspense to an otherwise partially predictable book.  It will probably end up being a rental though, because I've already read two more that I liked way better than The Circle.  And it will also end up being a rental because I don't like going to movie theatres.  But that's a post (or three) for another time. 

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

This is a great YA novel about the consequences of choices. It very much reminds me of the movie "Sliding Doors" - where an instant's hesitation makes for a world of change, and both outcomes are depicted.

Summer is a (young acting) sixteen year old girl who lives with her mother in NY state - NOT in NYC, as she mentions several times. Her parents are divorced, and her father is a somewhat famous painter who lives in Paris, but summers in Provence. Her dad has been pretty flaky since he left five years ago, but he asks her to join him for the summer in Provence. Her mother is reluctant, for reasons that Summer can't quite understand.

She has a best friend, Ruby, and an unrequited crush at home. She has no idea what will await her in France. As she is set to leave, she and her mother argue. Ruby takes her to the airport, but Summer is a little flaky herself, and very superstitious, and isn't sure she should go. Her phone is about to die and she's the last to board the flight. Just as she approaches the jetway, her phone rings...

The book alternates between two different "universes" jumping from what happens when she doesn't answer the unknown caller ID and gets on the plane to the other side where she does answer the phone and winds up not going to France. The jumping is handled very well - it's not every other chapter. The author does a nice job of maintaining a flow of the one side, then taking natural breaks to flip us to the other.

Neither outcome is perfect. I found it a little hard to like Summer in the opening part - she is just a little too wishy-washy for my taste in heroine. Of course, that is perhaps necessary to set up the premise. In France, things are far from perfect, but Summer learns to handle herself pretty darn well through adversity. In NY, it takes a little longer for her to mature, and there is more angst around her friendship with Ruby, but she does also ultimately come into her own there as well. The family drama surrounding her father's absence occurs in both places, but obviously is more apparent in the France half. Her relationship with Ruby is more highlighted in the NY portion. I don't want to give any spoilers, but the ending was satisfying and I very much enjoyed the book.

The voices are clear and authentic. The structure is handled well. I have not read any previous works from this author, but I'll be looking her up. Highly recommended for middle school and up. (No sex, drugs, drinking, etc., but the family topics might not interest readers younger than 6th-7th grade.)

I received this as an advanced reader copy in exchange for a review from The book will be published on April 26, 2016.
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

I was hugely lucky to be offered an Advanced Reader Copy of this novel from, in order to do a review. The book will be published on April 5th, 2016.

If you've ever read this blog before, you know that both Carrie and I love the series, so my glowing review won't be a shock. But it's the best thing I've read lately, so I wanted to plug the series one more time (at least!)

I have been reading Mary Russell books since the very first one came out, waiting a year or more between stories, completely devouring them when they are finally published... I was therefore ecstatic to be offered this advanced copy, especially since the rather worrisome title has been floating around now for a while.

This is another excellent outing in the series. I don't know if Ms. King had planned to do some background on Mrs Hudson all along, or if it was an offshoot idea, but the story of Clara Hudson is truly fascinating. It makes me want to re-read the books (which I do on nearly an annual basis, anyway) to see if there are signs of anything we learn in this installment. It does jump around in time, as the last book "Dreaming Spies" did, but since we are first learning of Mrs Hudson's parents' background and then her own story, while dealing with someone who may or may not be related to her in the "now", it makes sense.

Some backstory is also revealed for the younger Sherlock and how some of his habits and help came about. One of the things that keeps me loving this series is the character development. With the relationship better explained between Holmes and Hudson, you wind up learning interesting, and sometimes uncomfortable, traits about him.

The writing is excellent, as usual. I sat down and read this book in one day. It maybe isn't the typical Holmes and Russell story, but the characters' traits and relationships continue to develop well, and I enjoyed the story very much.

 I can't say much without giving more away than I want to in a review, but you should read this book. (Start at the beginning of the series if you're a new reader - while this would stand alone pretty well, the series is fabulous, and you'll thank me...) Highly recommended - Chanin Pin It

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Boys in the Boat

I finished this masterpiece today.  And I don't take that word lightly.  (It's like the word 'amazing'....totally overused, especially in reality tv)   I'm not a big non-fiction gal, but this won me over.  Reading The Boys in the Boat filled me with a sense of patriotism and admiration and I am confident it would do the same for you.  Couple that with the descriptive portrayals of the Washington countryside, the stark coldness of a rising  Nazi Germany, and the fighting spirit of Olympians and you have a winner. If you liked Unbroken, this book is for you. If you are into sports, this book is for you. Heck,  if you can read this book is for you.  Happy Reading!

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