Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quick Review: "Mystic River" by Dennis Lehane

From Goodreads:  When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened -- something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever.

Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay -- demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy's daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy's daughter died covered in someone else's blood.

A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves.

My Thoughts:  This is just one of those books that messed with my head.  There was this constant theme of right vs. wrong and the gray area was so huge that it was hard to draw a definitive line between the two.  It made me question my own opinions on certain things.  The characters were so flawed and it was difficult to know who to like and who to not like.  I liked Jimmy Marcus for like 90% of the book but the end just made me really not like him.  I didn't like Dave Boyle at all even though I felt like I should. 

The story was compelling and I really didn't figure out the 'whodunit' until the end which is always fun for me.  This is the second Dennis Lehane book that I've read and I must say that he is a really awesome writer.  He can set a scene like no other and he's also really good at surprise endings.  I will definitely be reading more of his books in the future. 4 stars.

This book is part of my personal collection.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mailbox Monday (4)

Mailbox Monday is a traveling meme where you can showcase the awesome books you received each week.  This month, Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Gina at Book Dragon's Lair.

 I really need to stay away from NetGalley but I just can't resist all the good books!

From NetGalley:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mini-Reviews (2)

I am not a huge fan of Philippa Gregory and yet I just keep reading her books.  I am so intrigued by the War of the Roses that I just can't stay away from her Cousin's War series.  Elizabeth of York is a fascinating historical figure and I can't help feeling bad for her in both real life and this story.  I must say that I really enjoyed this book.  This is probably the first book I've read where Elizabeth Woodville seemed like a pretty nice person and a very loving mother; she was portrayed in a completely different manner in this book than in others I've read.  I enjoyed that but I'm not sure if it's an accurate depiction or not.  Also, while I loved the fact that Gregory had one of the 'princes in the tower' survive, I was annoyed that she asserts in her author's note that she believes that this version of the story is correct.  I feel like sometimes she makes a lot of assertions that she doesn't always back up. Oh well, it was still a good read!  3 1/2 stars.

The Child Thief by Dan Smith

This book reminded me a lot of Child 44 in that it was a mystery set in Stalinist era Ukraine.  However, it did focus more on the peasant population and how collectivization affected them.  It was a really interesting read because a lot of the story focused on the mystery but there was also a lot of focus on the fear of being collectivized.  What I loved most about this book is that I could not figure out who the kidnapper/killer was.  When it was finally revealed, I was so surprised because I never in a million years would have guessed that person.  The Child Thief is the perfect combination of historical fiction and mystery. 4 stars.

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore

I know I've said before that I am getting sick of Anne Boleyn books but seriously, this is one of the best Anne Boleyn books I have read.  It was set prior to Henry VIII's bid for a divorce and his split from the Catholic Church.  I loved Longshore's portrayal of Anne: it's probably one of my favorites. She was a very sympathetic and well-developed character.  The only thing I didn't like was the constant use of the word 'tarnish'.  I got the point she was trying to make but it started to get annoying.  Tarnish is the second book in a trilogy and while I liked Gilt (the first book), Tarnish was even better.  I can't wait to see what the next book will be like. 4 stars.

All books reviewed in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Character Names that I Love

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic is:  Top Ten Character Names that I Love

It was really hard to pick only 10 because there are a lot of names I love.  Most of these I wouldn't consider naming one of my kids but I love them just the same.

1.) Kira from We the Living by Ayn Rand-I like this name but I think the character made me love it more.
2.) Eleanor from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen-Eleanor is a name that I wouldn't mind naming a child.  It's so pretty!
3.) James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon-How can you not love this name?!
4.) Hazel Grace from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green-I wasn't ever a huge fan of the name Hazel until I read this book.
5.) Jonas from The Giver by Lois Lowery-Great name!
6.) Andrei Bolkonskii from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy-I think I had a crush on this character when I first read War and Peace and have loved the name ever since.
7.) Dageus MacKeltar from The Dark Highlander by Karen Marie Moning-So unique!
8.) Dimitri Belikov from Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead-Dimitri is one of my favorite names in general.
9.) Edmond  Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas-It's just fun to say!
10.) Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson-I don't know why I love this name but I do.

What character names do you love?  Leave a link in the comments so I can check out your list!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mailbox Monday (3)

Mailbox Monday is a traveling meme and this month it is hosted by Gina at Book Dragon's Lair.
I haven't done a book haul post in a couple of weeks!  I have just been trying to catch up on library books and review books I already have but I did get two new books this week.
Ebooks For Review (from HFVBT):

I really enjoy both of these author's works so I am excited to read them!
What books did you pick up this week?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: "The Loyalist's Wife" by Elaine Cougler

Synopsis:  When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

The Loyalist’s Wife is the first of three books in The Loyalist Trilogy. The Loyalist’s Luck is scheduled for release in June, 2014 and The Loyalist Legacy in June, 2015.

My Thoughts:  This book made me realize that I don't read nearly enough about American history.  Elaine Cougler took a really interesting period in history, added some wonderful characters and came up with a compelling story.  I don't think I've read anything that was told from the perspectives of those loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution.  I always feel like I should be sympathetic to the revolutionaries but Ms. Cougler made me feel sympathy for the other side as well.

Lucy is one of my new favorite characters.  She is one tough cookie!  Her husband, John, left to fight in the war and she stays on the farm and manages to keep it running, bring in the harvest, butcher a cow and even give birth completely on her own.  I enjoyed reading about such a tenacious character.  who never gave up no matter what was thrown her way.  I also really liked the character, John.  He seemed like a decent guy and it was hard to watch him struggle with fighting for his beliefs and wanting to be at home with his wife.  There were a lot of twists and turns in this book which made it hard to put down.  I really cared about the characters and I couldn't stop reading because I wanted to make sure that things were going to work out for them. 

In addition to great characters, this book also had a beautiful setting.  A lot of the story takes place in New York State when it was still pretty uninhabited and Ms. Cougler did a wonderful job of describing the landscape.  Her descriptions of everyday life for both Lucy and John only made the story better.

I am really happy to know that this is the first in a trilogy.  I was kind of sad of when the story ended because I felt really attached to the characters and wondered where life would take them.  I would highly recommend this book to any fan of historical fiction.  4 stars.

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:

A native of Southern Ontario, Elaine taught high school and with her husband raised two children until she finally had time to pursue her writing career. She loves to research both family history and history in general for the stories of real people that emanate from the dusty pages. These days writing is Elaine’s pleasure and her obsession. Telling the stories of Loyalists caught in the American Revolutionary War is very natural as her personal roots are thoroughly enmeshed in that struggle, out of which arose both Canada and the United States.

For more information please visit Elaine’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Check out other stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on twitter:  #LoyalistsWifeTour


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Ten Books I Was "Forced" to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic:  Top Ten Books I was "Forced" to Read
 (either by teachers, friends, other bloggers, book club)
1.) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon-I technically wasn't forced to read this but it was a book club pick one month and I absolutely loved it.  I probably never would have read it because the synopsis didn't sound that interesting to me.
2.) A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley-I had to read this in 12th grad honors English as a companion to King Lear. At the time I completely hated it but I wouldn't mind picking it up again in the future.
3.) All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque-This was required for one of my college classes and I really enjoyed it.  I have read it a couple times now and it's definitely a favorite of mine.
4.) Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist-Another book club pick that I loved.  It's such a creepy book, perfect for October!

 5.) Animal Farm by George Orwell-I was required to read this in 8th grade and I did not like it at all.  I think it's another book I need to revisit.
6.) Night by Elie Wiesel
7.) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
       Both of these were required in 10th grade and both are books that I still enjoy to this day.  I think I've read Fahrenheit 451 at least five or six times
8.) Number the Stars by Lois Lowry-I read this on my own in elementary school but was then required to read it in 6th and 11th grades.  It's a classic must read.
9.) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee-Okay, I'm going to get in trouble for saying this but this is not one of my favorite books.  While I like it and I understand it's importance, I'm just kind of over it.  I was required to read it in 7th, 9th and 11th grade and in college (that's what happens when you move a lot) so I'm pretty sick of it.  Maybe in a few years, I'll re-read it and fall in love with it.
10.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling-I was so not into Harry Potter for the longest time.  I thought it was the dumbest concept and I hated all the hype surrounding it. When the fifth book came out, people kept telling me I HAD to read these books so I gave in and picked up the first book.  I ended up reading all five books in less than a week.  It was so worth it.

What books were you forced to read?  Leave me a link in the comments so I can check out your list!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mini Reviews (1)

I've decided to start posting mini-reviews every now and again.  A lot of times there are books I read that I just don't have enough to talk about to warrant a whole review or even a shorter 'quick review'.

Six Days in Leningrad by Paullina Simons
I loved The Bronze Horseman and this memoir chronicles the trip that Paullina Simons took to Russia to do research for it.  Simons is originally from Russia and this trip was her first time back after leaving when she was a child.  It was a sad but fascinating look at what it's like to revisit one's childhood.  Her memories didn't always coincide with reality and it seemed to be quite shocking for her when this was brought to her attention.  I want to visit Russia so bad and this book only encouraged that desire.  It's only available as a kindle ebook which is kind of a hassle and there were a lot of typos but I would still recommend this book.  4 stars.
This book is part of my personal collection.
The Boleyn King by Lauren Andersen
When I first saw this book, I had no desire to read it.  There have been so many Anne Boleyn/Tudor books that I feel like the market is a little saturated.  However, I started noticing that it was getting great reviews so I figured, what the heck?  I am so glad I read this!  It's an alternate history and asks the question, 'what if Anne Boleyn  had a son?'  The story focuses around Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII's son, William and it just sucked me in immediately.  A lot of well-known Tudor era figures are featured in the story and it is really neat to see them in a completely different environment!  It is the first book in a trilogy and having read the second book, I must say that it just keeps getting better. 
 4 stars.
I borrowed this book from my local library.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: "A Wilder Rose" by Susan Wittig Albert

From Goodreads:  In 1928, Rose Wilder Lane—world traveler, journalist, much-published magazine writer—returned from an Albanian sojourn to her parents’ Ozark farm. Almanzo Wilder was 71, Laura 61, and Rose felt obligated to stay and help. To make life easier, she built them a new home, while she and Helen Boylston transformed the farmhouse into a rural writing retreat and filled it with visiting New Yorkers. Rose sold magazine stories to pay the bills for both households, and despite the subterranean tension between mother and daughter, life seemed good.

Then came the Crash. Rose’s money vanished, the magazine market dried up, and the Depression darkened the nation. That’s when Laura wrote her autobiography, “Pioneer Girl,” the story of growing up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and by the shores of Silver Lake. The rest—the eight remarkable books that followed—is literary history.

But it isn’t the history we thought we knew. For the surprising truth is that Laura’s stories were publishable only with Rose’s expert rewriting. Based on Rose’s unpublished diaries and Laura’s letters, A Wilder Rose tells the true story of the decade-long, intensive, and often troubled collaboration that produced the Little House books—the collaboration that Rose and Laura deliberately hid from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers.

My Thoughts:  I loved the Little House books when I was a kid so when I saw this book, I had to read to it!  The book is mostly about Rose Wilder Lane's life and relationship with her mother.  While this is the story of how the Little House books came into being, it is also the story of Rose and Laura's relationship as mother and daughter.  They seemed to have a very tumultuous relationship which was made more difficult by their very stubborn personalities.  

Though this book is a work of fiction, the author used Rose's diaries and letters as her sources of information for creating the story.  The book asserts that it was mostly Rose who was responsible for the success of the Little House books; she took her mother's childhood stories and reworked them into book format.  There seems to be some controversy surrounding whether Rose was the actual author of the books or if she was just more of a support system for her mother.  I don't know enough about the issue to have an opinion but the author of A Wilder Rose created a pretty interesting story out of the idea that Rose was the real writer of the Little House books.  

While I liked this book and I thought it had an interesting premise, it definitely is more about Rose than about Laura.  I think Rose Wilder Lane was a fascinating historical figure who lived a pretty exciting life, I was hoping for more information about Laura and her writing.  Instead, the reader sees Laura through the eyes of a daughter who never quite got along with her mother.  Laura is definitely portrayed as an annoyance to Rose, kind of a thorn in her side, and it was hard for me to reconcile this portrayal of Laura with the one in my head.  Overall, if you have an interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder, this is a unique addition to the stories surrounding her life. 3 stars.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

August/September Wrap Up

October is here, can you believe it?!  I am so excited for the next couple of months and all of the holidays coming up!  I still have to find a costume for baby girl but I can not decide what to dress her up as!

I never got around to writing an August wrap up post so this is going to be a combined post.  So far this year, I have read 72 books which is only 3 books away from my goal of 75.  Yippee!  I really wish I could make it to a 100 books this year but there is no way that is going to happen.  I only read 4 books in August and 5 books in September so at that rate I'll be lucky to hit 90 books by the end of the year.I just don't have as much free time to read as I used to.  Heck, we moved at the beginning of August and I STILL have not unpacked my books yet.  There are just empty bookshelves in my living room right now!

August books:

1.) The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields 
2.) Song of the River by Sue Harrison 
3.) His Last Mistress by Andrea Zuvich 
4.) The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen 

September books: 

1.) Six Days in Leningrad by Paullina Simons
2.) Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle 
3.) The Study of Murder by Susan McDuffie
4.) The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Andersen  
5.) The White Princess by Philippa Gregory 

What books did you read in September?  Are you getting excited for the upcoming holidays?
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