Tuesday, February 2, 2016

January Reads // Literary Ladies January Book Linkup

Ah, January 2016, the month when I read #allthebooks. 

I'll be honest and say, that my anxiety started getting the better of me this month. Juggling the #fulltimefulltime thing is hard, and I'm also just trying to do better at normal things like flossing and working out. KC, being the great man he is, spent many January evenings doing things like dishes and vacuuming, knowing that I needed that time to decompress more than ever. I appreciate it so much, love. 

... so, as a result, I read 13 whole books in January! (2 non-fiction!)

Here we go!

Wolf Pact by Melissa de la Cruz

4 Stars - I recommend if you have read the all but the last book of the Blue Bloods series...

So, if you read any of my book posts in the past few months, you'll know that I had been reading the Blue Bloods series... forever. It is LONG. But it was also a pretty darn good series. The holidays caught up with me and I finally finished the last two books in January. This one is a supplemental book that comes right before the last one. It isn't essential to read, but it definitely helped with some background I needed before everything in the finale went down. It's interesting how she tied The Witches of East End story line into this one a little. - this is not an interesting review for those of you who have not or do not want to read this series... lol, sorry!

Gates of Paradise by Melissa de la Cruz

5 Stars - I recommend if you have read the rest of the Blue Bloods series as well as Wolf Pact (above).

The final book in the Blue Blood series is a battle between good and evil (and sometimes those inbetween) for the gates of paradise. Not going to give any more info there. But I CAN SAY: for being such a freakin' long series... I did like the way everything played out, and how it ended. Unlike some series... I'm lookin' at YOU, Allegiant.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

4.5 Stars - I recommend if you like dark, twisty, psychologically thrilling, YA. 

This book was a very wild ride for me. The premise follows Mara, who wakes up in the hospital as the only one who survived a terrible accident, but she has no memory of what happened. She spends the entire book trying to navigate the blurry line between PTSD hallucinations and some sort of extremely scary psychokinetic kind of ability. As the book goes on, she remembers pieces of what happened the day of the accident. She also meets a guy at her new school that seems to have a mysterious understanding of what is going on with her. This book is very dark (for YA) but I was absolutely riveted.  At the end of the book, I have to say... I still did not know what was going on with her. There's something about an unreliable narrator that keeps you just enough in the dark... you have to find out what's going to happen. There are (just!) two more books, and I'm really excited to read them, especially after the cliff hanger ending! 

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

4 Stars - I recommend if you like YA, science fiction, and fairy tale re-tellings.

I finally got my hands on a copy of Cinder, and it was such a fun read. I will disclose, that I don't typically personally identify with the post apocalyptic/dystopian heroine. Tris, Katniss, Cinder... etc. They just aren't "me". That being said, reading is a glorious thing because it expands your horizons, and you can read from a different POV, etc.... so I guess what I'm saying here is: I really enjoyed this book, though I did not get super invested in Cinder's character. Which probably made me LOVE it just a little bit less. Does any of this make sense?!! 

Ramblings aside: I thought this book was a quick read, a fun spin on the story of Cinderella. Cinder is a mechanic, and a cyborg. She meets the prince by chance, and sort of falls for him, but he can't know that she's a cyborg. I found the society in this book really interesting, it takes place much into the future, and there are quite a few changes to the world as we know it now. Hover cars, micro ID chips, plague sweeping the world... I appreciated that there was more depth to the society than uprising (the hunger games, divergent). I thought the android, medical research, and plague elements were really interesting and rounded out the setting. As a former community health major I got really into the pandemic part of this... is that strange?  I didn't find myself shocked or surprised by any of the plot, but again did enjoy it. I'm excited to see how things develop and progress as a series. Hoping for more surprising moments in the next few. Anyhow, I thought it was really good, and I am excited to read the next books, I just started Scarlet. I think that the more I read into the series, the more invested I will become! :)

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you like contemporary fiction, The Big Apple, acting, humor, and the '90's.

I have had this book for years, and I finally read it as a part of the Semi-Charmed winter challenge. Franny is a young woman trying to make it big as an actress in 1995 New York. She goes on auditions that fail miserably, she navigates dating actors, she works as a waitress, she forgets to call her dad a lot. I think the beginning is HILARIOUS! I think Franny's character is really funny, and I love the '90's ness of it all. It's just amusing. Toward the middle of the book, I think I wanted more character development of her roommates and family... and the other actors, because it got a little bit slow for me. It picked back up and I enjoyed it, but I have to say that I am not super into the "life as a struggling actress plot" ... I just wasn't ever ultra curious about it. The ending felt a tiny bit rushed, but I was happy with how it resolved. There were a lot of really good elements, the humor, there's one scene toward the end that is just so fantastic.... I had a really hard time rating this on goodreads. Ultimately, it's a 3.5. or a 3.75 for me. A very good first book, for someone who wasn't initially a writer anyhow! :)

Chocolate by Joanne Harris

4 Stars - I recommend if you like magical realism, chocolate, or bohemian lifestyles.

Have you seen the movie Chocolat? I love it. I needed a food themed book for semi-charmed so I picked this one up at the library. To my (pleasant) surprise, this book is quite a bit different than the movie! It follows a young bohemian woman named Vianne and her daughter Anouk, as they move to a new town in France. She decides to open a chocolatrie right as lent begins. The corrupt priest in town does everything he can to try to get her to quit and move on to another town, but Vianne sticks it out making friends with the locals. In particular, her landlord Armande (played by Judi Dench in the movie) becomes a close friend. Vianne has the mysterious ability to discern what is going on in her customer's lives... some even think she's a witch. When a caravan of gypsies arrive on the river, the town is torn in two; those who welcome them, and those who deny them entrance into their businesses. Overall I found this book very interesting. I liked Vianne's character, she is so passionate and eclectic. There are some passages of the book that are just so interesting to read, filled with little folk stories, mixes of Catholicism and Paganism... it's just really really interesting. There are also some lovely pieces of description related to the cooking, the chocolate making, the settings... you get really immersed in this small provincial French town. If you love food, and aren't offended by pagan sort of themes I would definitely recommend this one! This doesn't end on a super tense cliffhanger, but there are more books. I think I would be interested in picking them up sometime, but I'm not in any rush!

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you like Magical Realism and other SAA books. This is not one of my favorites of hers though...

I'm a big fan of Sarah Addison Allen's books. She writes lovely novels containing love, hope, mystery, and just a little bit of magic. It's hard to describe, but it's just so subtle. 

This book is no exception, it follows Emily, a girl who's mother has passed away. so she moves to North Carolina to live with her long-lost grandfather. His home is a mystery, the wallpaper in her room changes pattern, her grandfather is about 8 feet tall, and he has a strange fascination with his clothes dryer. She soon finds that her mother left town, and refused to come back, but why? And why are there strange glowing lights in the trees at night? Next door, Julia, is constantly baking cakes, which unexplainably draw her high school love to her. She's biding time, and saving money, so she can sell her father's restaurant and move back to Boston. But eventually, she's forced to confront some issues from the past that may draw her back to her high school love, as much as she's trying to avoid him. 

Overall, this was not my favorite of Addison Allen's books, but it still contained so much of what I love in her stories. I loved the pieces between Emily and her grandpa, as well as between Julia confronting her past. The "Mullaby Lights" piece was a little far fetched for me. I loved the baking element, the magical element, the back of the book even has a few recipes. I also liked the lore surrounding the meanings of full moons in different months. I think it's fun how many subtle elements Addison Allen weaves into her stories. Very interesting. I liked the ending a lot, and I would definitely read a sequel if she decided to write one. 

For people interested in her books: I would recommend Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, or The Peach Keeper before reading this one, but I did enjoy it quite a bit! 

Starting Now by Debbie Macomber

2 Stars - I cannot particularly recommend this one. I like Debbie Macomber's books, but this one was really lacking some of the carefree heart that I so much enjoy in her novels. Read it if you are reading the rest of the series.

It may not be a well known fact about me, but it's certainly not one I'm hiding. I'm a sucker for Debbie Macomber books. She writes her stories like a RomCom, or a Hallmark movie (many of her xmas books have been made into (much worse) Hallmark movies...) but the books almost always leave me feeling hopeful. They're really good when the world is in a particularly bad state... ha

This book is part of a series about knitting. Yup, knitting. I don't knit... at all. I just picked up the first one one day... and I loved it. Pretty much all of the books in the "Blossom Street" series are about a woman or two who have landed on hard times, found themselves lost in life, etc. But they pick themselves back up with the help of community. Some of them have more focus on the knitting group than others, but overall they're just really happy, easy, fun books. 

This book comes later in the series (the order has almost no consequence...) when a lawyer expects to make partner, but unexpectedly gets fired instead. She takes the time of unemployment to find herself, and build a life outside of work. She starts going to the gym, re-kindles an old friendship, starts knitting hats for premises at the hospital, and volunteers to rock the newborns. This book was definitely one of the cheesier, but also one of the least happy of all the books. It didn't have the usual charm for me, and I thought the ending portion was really weird. : / 

Devoted by Hilary Duff

4 Stars - I recommend if you like, YA fantasy, travel, and romance.

I've wanted to finish the Devoted trilogy for... a long time. I wanted to read the final book last summer, but quickly realized that re-reading the first two would be wise. I finally re-read the second one this month... and then I can finally move on to finish it!! :) 

I love the first book, you can read my review of that here. I found on the re-read of the second book, that it was still pretty good too. It was very different than the first one, much more focused on finding a character rather than the over arching story. The ending is just crazypants. I'm really excited to see how it ends in the third book. Overall, (so far!) I would recommend the series if you like YA, and easy reads.  I'll let you know if the last book is worthwhile here in the next month or two... again, looking at YOU, Allegiant. 

Secret Sisters by Jane Ann Krentz

4 Stars - I recommend if you like mysteries, romance, and a quick read.

This was the Literary Ladies book club book for January. It is a murder mystery, and I haven't read this author before. Definitely pushing me a little out of my comfort zone, but I'm really glad I read it, because I thought it was really good!! 

The plot centers around something that happened 18 years ago on an island off the Seattle coast, two young girls are preyed upon by a man. In the present, hotel executive Madeline is dealing with the aftermath of the situation 18 years ago, and struggling in personal relationships due to the trauma. When the caretaker of the hotel where the incident took place 18 years ago, calls Madeline saying they need to talk, she quickly travels to the island to meet with him. The caretaker was calling to say that their dangerous secret from all those years ago, is in danger of being discovered. When she arrives to find him dying.... and the killer still on the premises things get interesting. Her head of security Jack, comes to help her figure out what's going on. Arson, murder, mystery, and a little romance ensue. 

I was really riveted by this one. I don't read a lot of murder mysteries, but this book had a lot of depth to the story lines, multiple POVs in the writing, and some character development that I thought was pretty good. Overall, I really liked this book at lot, and would definitely recommend it if you like suspenseful mysteries! I had to laugh by how glad they were to leave the PacNW and get to Arizona... I definitely felt that way coming back from Seattle! haha

Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess by Janet Hill *

5 Stars - I recommend if you like art, dogs, quirky stories, and fun gift/children's books.

This is a quick little art book, that I absolutely LOVE. Janet Hill is an Etsy artist that I've been admiring for a while. She creates the most delightful paintings with full of old world glamour and a dash of whimsy. She created a series of paintings centered around a character called Miss Moon, who is a dog governess. She is charged with the care and teaching of 67 dogs, and the paintings show various aspects of their life together. Hill turned the series of paintings into a delightful little book, perfect for art lovers, dog lovers, children, and the young at heart alike. You guys, this book is just plain fun. The paintings are adorable! The little lessons are true to life. It's short and sweet, and I want to own a copy just to flip through on my own, but I have a suspicion that my little sister Olivia would enjoy it as a big dog lover. :) If you like art, whimsy, dogs, or just cute little gift or children's books, I would highly recommend this one! I believe she is currently working on another one, Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House. I'm excited to see what comes of her other series.... and eternally hoping I will be gifted some of her prints.... that have been in the limbo of my pinterest wish list for ages!


Cake Magic: Mix + Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations - Caroline Wright * 

5 Stars - I recommend if you like to bake, and are looking for some truly AMAZING cake recipes!

Oh. My. Goodness. You guys, this book is glorious. I should probably mention that I don't usually choose cake of all of the desserts that exist... but these are so beautiful and they all sound amazing. I was having so much trouble deciding which one to make first... that I haven't tried any of them yet. Maybe for KC's birthday...? (shh!) All the same, I am sure I will love nearly every recipe in this book, and I really admire how it is laid out. Wright gives you combinations to try, but they are all made up of individual batter, syrup, frosting, and sometimes topping recipes that you can mix and match to make unique cakes. So for example, you can mix up a big batch of the dry ingredients for say, the vanilla cake... and then use it to make several different cakes throughout the year. It's absolutely brilliant. So, while I can't tell you which I want to try first... here are a few at the top for me: S'mores, Chai Pear Cake, Drunken Tuxedo Cake, Vanilla Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Lemon, Vanilla Chocolate Cherry Cake, New Orleans Cafe Au Lait Cake.... and a lot more. I also like, that she gives gluten free and vegan alternatives and baking info in each section and recipe. Great for cake lovers who don't want to worry about those details!! If you like baking, or cake, or pictures of cake... go pick up this book. It hit shelves in April! I'll let you know how trying a recipe goes!

This one made me think so much of Gina at Pink Wings! She's always baking the loveliest cakes and desserts! OOoh and Shea for that matter! :)

**Update: I have now tried two of the cake recipes... and they are SO GOOD. Seriously, I will be making more! I will blog about these after the book is released!**

Savor by Ilona Oppenheim *

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you are looking for a cookbook/simple living lifestyle resource related to foraging, homesteading, etc. Filled with truly rustic recipes.

This book is a beautifully photographed and documented portrait of Ilona Oppenheim's life. She lives in Aspen with her family, where they live in harmony with their natural surroundings. They forage and search for responsible local sources for their food. Just like the nature of their lifestyle, the recipes and information in many ways go back to the basics. The recipes are for things like oatmeal baked apples, pine needle tea, hearty soups, quiches, and breads. She even explains processes like making cheese, yogurt, etc. things that are not traditionally made at home in modern day American society. After reading this, I get the sense that Ilona and her family live life at a slow and comfortable pace, enjoying the natural environment surrounding them, and leaving a light foot print. It is filled with stories from her life, that really back up her lifestyle choices. It's a really lovely picture. I appreciate that a fair chunk of the recipes are also accessible to your average home cook, someone who does not live somewhere so scenic or remote, who may not be able to forage for mushrooms, etc. I bookmarked quite a few recipes that I would like to try myself! All that being said, some of the recipes were a little far out for me, especially things like making my own cheese or yogurt, it just isn't something I could do right now. But I do like that she presents it to you in a way that is useful, and perhaps a possibility for the future, should the reader decide to taper their life into a more from scratch type of lifestyle. I do have a handful of friends that I could see doing these types of things at home. Overall, I would recommend this book for people who are interested in a simpler, greener lifestyle, and for anyone who loves gorgeous rustic food and photography. I don't think this book is for everyone, but for those who are interested in this type of lifestyle, it would definitely be a treasure on their bookshelf.

Whew, congrats if you made it to the bottom, and certainly don't feel bad for skipping around! There's a lot going on here!

What have you been reading?!?!?! 

Here's a current book challenge I am participating in January-April 2016! :) 



* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for reading! I love seeing your sweet comments and visiting your lovely blogs! XO