Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rules for 50/50 Chances

Just to highlight what a terrible book reviewer I have been, this book has been on my desk to read since October. Yes, I am that much of a slacker. The stack of review books is ready to topple over which means Matt REALLY needs to get my new shelves up because all of these piles are making me feel like a book hoarder. If they were on shelves I'd look smart and feel like I was living in a real library.

Rules for 50/50 Chances - Kate McGovern

A heartrending but ultimately uplifting debut novel about learning to accept life's uncertainties; a perfect fit for the current trend in contemporary realistic novels that confront issues about life, death, and love.

Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she's going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that tells her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington's disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother.

With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family's genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she'll live to be a healthy adult-including her dream career in ballet and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool and gets an audition for a dance scholarship across the country, Rose begins to question her carefully laid rules.

So, full confession: I know next to nothing about Huntington's disease. All I know is that Doctor Thirteen, played by Olivia Wilde, on House M.D. had it, which she inherited from her mother and we had a several episode arc where she was mentally trying to decide if she wanted to know if she had it. It's not a disease you just get, you're born with the gene and basically it comes on slowly usually in your 30's or so and progressively gets so much worse. Patients eventually lose control over physical movement, cognitive impairment and some psychiatric symptoms.

Basically, it's a really horrible disease to watch someone die from but even more so when you know you could very well be dealing with it yourself in the future.

Which is the life struggle of Rose. Rose is 17, she's watching her mother wither away and become a stranger because of this disease, and while being a teenager full of angst and attitude, she's having to reconcile that some of the things her mother says or does isn't really here- it's the disease. Which, let's be real, if your mother randomly shouted hurtful things to you, your first thought isn't that it's the disease talking, you are trying to not internalize whatever said as truth about you in the eyes of your own mother.

It's a tough deck of cards to deal with.

But also, Rose meets Caleb at a local fundraising walk event for people with incurable diseases. Caleb's mother and twin sisters have sickle cell, equally horrible and difficult to manage, and the two form a friendship which then turns into a romance. Rose, not knowing what her fate is going to be, decides that once she turns 18 she's going to take the test to see if she has Huntington's because she's convinced that will help her make the decisions she needs to about college in the fall, her career, what life path she's going to take. She doesn't want to fall in love and eventually saddle someone down with having to care for her which she thinks would cause that person to resent her. Because while her dad is still caring for her mother, she's sure that if he could choose differently, he would have.

I won't tell you any more because it basically would ruin the book for you but what I can tell you is that Rose makes decisions, and then different ones, and things kind of work out. And I say kind of because while we know what she's going to do come fall, and we have closure and ending on some things, we are left kind of with a cliff hanger. Enough that I really wanted to know. I wanted more answers at the end of the book but then I got annoyed because really- it's like we've come full circle. It's really the ending I wanted all along, and then we get it and I'm annoyed.

I'm as bad as teenager Rose.

But I really liked this book. As infuriating as Rose was for most of the book, and she really comes off as a selfish brat unable to look past her own problems or put them into perspective, she's written really well because isn't that how teenagers are? I mean, I wasn't- I was a perfect kid, obviously. (Ha!) I'll have to give this book 4 out of 5 stars because it is one I'd recommend to people as a fast and interesting read that makes you ask yourself- would you want to know? If you could know how you were going to die, or how much time you had left to be "normal-ish", would you want to know?

I'm not sure. Maybe it's meant to be a surprise for a reason?

You can purchase your own copy of Rules for 50/50 Chances on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. In the meantime, you can find more information about the author, Kate McGovern, on her website and follow her on Twitter!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Owlcrate April - Dystopia

I know, I feel like such an asshole for continuing on with book subscriptions. But I literally cannot quit, I'm a junkie, and I'm kind of a fan of Owlcrate even though I haven't loved every single book.

Now is probably a terrible time to mention I signed up for LitCube again only because the next box (which ships May 15) is Through the Looking Glass themed and I freaking love Alice in Wonderland. and I can't quit. I basically have no self control and at this point? I'm not even sure if I should try to reign myself in.

When I saw that the April theme for Owlcrate was going to be dystopia, I wasn't totally excited. I'm not a huge fan of dystopia and basically the only thing I really liked was The Hunger Games. It's not a go-to genre for me and I basically only read something once it's super popular and everyone is raving about it.

Yes, I am totally that person. It's rare that I'm ahead of the game. HA! But here's what I got in my box:

  • WICKED decal from The Maze Runner by Shailey Ann Designs: I haven't put it anywhere, not sure where I will put it, but you know.. it's pretty cool. Shailey Ann Designs also included a 20% off coupon for her store, so I'll be taking a little look around. 
  • Mockingjay Bracelet from The Geeky Cauldron: I absolutely LOVE this bracelet. This bracelet is basically what made this box for me- I'm a fan of fun jewelry, especially if it's book related! We also got a 10% off coupon for The Geeky Cauldron, which is so great. 
  • A small notebook with artwork from 1984 by George Orwell. I always carry a notebook around in my purse because I never know when I'll need to write something down, and this is a great size for just that. 
  • A Hunger Games style magnet. Admittedly, not super excited about this? I think I actually threw mine away. Whoops! 
  • An Evie Bookish designed coaster based off of Shatter Me. I'm going to use this on my desk because it's usually covered in books and book related things. It seems like an appropriate place for it! 
  • Our book of the month is Flawed, and we also received a letter from the author as well as an exclusive mini poster. The book itself sounds interesting: it's about a society that "believes obedience is of the utmost importance, and any rebellion is strictly prohibited. Failure to comply with the rules will strip you of your rights and leave you branded as a 'flawed' citizen. Celestine North is a model citizen trying to live a perfect life, until one day she makes an instinctive decision which in turn could cause her to lose everything." So.. it almost sounds a little like Divergent and The Hunger Games, right? So we'll see. I'm hoping to get to read this soon. 
The next theme for Owlcrate is STEAMPUNK. Which again, isn't necessarily a genre I go to but I am a huge fan of The Infernal Devices and an early teaser told us if we were a fan of that series we would love this box so.... you know I'm all in. My broke ass is all in. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

300 Days of Sun

Man, if I could give an award for prettiest cover for the most perfect summer read, this book would absolutely win it. So let's just pretend I've made one full of rhinestones, OK?

300 Days of Sun - Deborah Lawrenson
Combining the atmosphere of Jess Walters’ Beautiful Ruins with the intriguing historical backstory of Christina Baker Kline’s The Orphan Train, Deborah Lawrenson’s mesmerizing novel transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past—where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.

Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

I think I need to read more from this author because she does such a fantastic job of mentally sending you to the setting, I can't think of anyone who does it better. I signed up for this book tour only for the cover and the comparison to Orphan Train, which is one of my favorite books so I felt compelled to read. Does it live up to that comparison? Meh, not really. Sure, 300 Days of Sun has a great story that we flip back to but it doesn't grab me like Orphan Train, but that doesn't mean it's not good on its own merit. Basically, we have two separate story lines that are put together so you leave feeling like you've really finished two different stories. 

We have Joanna, who has come to Portugal to escape her life that she feels is suffocating her. She decides to take a class on how to speak Portuguese, which is how she meets Nathan, and expatriate. Nathan soon asks for Joanna's help in solving an old kidnapping case, which leads them to a book, and that essentially breaks this book wide open. It's a mystery that sucks you in and keeps you reading to figure out what has happened in the past and how it is motivating things in the current. My number one complaint is going to be in parts, it was too slow for my liking. I'm saying this as a person who gets very little dedicated reading time so I'm reading in short chunks of time and sometimes I'd finish my chunk and felt like nothing happened. I would 100% feel differently if I could plop myself down, preferably in a lawn chair in the sunshine, and just read. Maybe split up over a weekend. The best part about the book for me is the mystery at the heart of it, and of course, the writing. Never in my life have I ever thought I'd ever want to go to Portugal, but Deborah Lawrenson has made me want to get a passport and go. It sounds absolutely stunning. This would be a really great addition to your vacation planning- take this book with you! I also think this would make an intriguing book club book as well. 

You can purchase your own copy of 300 Days of Sun from Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. In the meantime. you can follow Deborah on her website, blog, and Facebook!

Monday, April 25, 2016

25 Literary Must Haves

Do you read past your bed time? 

Find yourself begging, “Just one more chapter!”? 

Have an emotional break down when your favorite character dies?

 Then say it loud and say it proud: I LIKE BIG BOOKS AND I CANNOT LIE!
Here is a list of must-have pieces for every literature lover.

1.    Harry Potter

Represent your Potter pride with this tank.
Cozy up with your favorite Quidditch player. Pillows here.
Just in case Hogwarts starts delivering their acceptance letters via text. Here.
***Attention Harry Potter Lovers: In honor of J.K. Rowling being named the Top Followed Author on Reader’s Legacy in 2015 we’re holding a 1 week sale on ALL of her books. From April 25th-30th, 2016 any Rowling book is 20% off AND double the LitCoins will be loaded into your account just for purchasing. Click the link to check out this limited time offer!***
 2. The Hunger Games
If you get a set of these bracelets you’ll know it’s real. See what I did there? Click here.
Let’s be honest, Seneca Crane’s beard is the real winner of the Hunger Games. Mug here.
But what do we do about the tracker jackers? Tank here.
3. Lord of the Rings

The one fire pit to rule them all here.

You’ll love these leggings like a hobbit loves second breakfast.
 4. Alice in Wonderland
Now you can go to Wonderland every night. Bedspread here.
“I’m not crazy. My reality is just different from yours.” -Cheshire Cat Here.
 5. To Kill a Mockingbird
…and stick it in my awesome tote, thanks.

6. Sherlock Holmes

Nothing says ‘high-functioning sociopath’ like these Baker St. cuff links.
*ring ring* Detective Holmes, is that you? Phone case here.
7. The Great Gatsby
Why Daisy Buchanan, you are simply radiant tonight! Headband here.

Ain’t no party like a Gatsby party because a Gatsby party don’t stop until two people are dead and everyone is disillusioned with the jazz age as a whole. Gatsby envelopes here.

8. The Chronicles of Narnia

So how does it work if you keep your map of Narnia in your wardrobe? Do you fall into Narnia when you go to put it on? Narnia-ception. Scarf here.

Three cheers for The Great Lion! Necklace here.

9. Pride and Prejudice

Is it just us, or did Mr. Darcy give you unrealistic expectations of love too? Printable here.
Never leave home without your Jane Austen! Bag here.
This wisdom from the 18th century still holds. Pillow here.

10. Where the Wild Things Are

I think they’re hiding in your hair! Bow here.
Capture the wild side of parenting with this matching set.

And for all of the book lovers that can’t choose just one novel to rep!
How’s THAT for a full-fandom? Shirt here.

You other readers can’t deny; when a book walks in with a good plot base and a big spine in your face you get sprung! Tote here.
Deep breathe in. Ahhhhh books! Candle here.
As an added perk of Reader’s Legacy’s Rowling celebration, we will be holding a special 20% off sale for each of her novels from April 25th to April 30th –
The sale not only celebrates J.K. Rowling, but was also brings attention for a special grant program we have created in order to give away 1 million physical books in support of literacy programs! Spreading a love of books, and ending illiteracy around the world is 100% possible, and with the help of reader’s on the site, we believe will be one step closer to achieving that goal! Get in on this sale HERE.

The House by the Lake

It's always really nice to get asked by an author to read their new book based on a review of a previous book of theirs. I had read Paris Time Capsule last year and I really loved it. I was happy to see Ella Carey had another book coming out and again, this one wasn't disappointing.

The House by the Lake - Ella Carey

Anna is content with her well-ordered life in San Francisco. But her world is turned upside down when her beloved grandfather, Max, reveals a startling secret: Anna is part of an aristocratic family who lost everything during World War II. What’s more, Max was forced to leave behind a precious item over seventy years ago in their estate in old Prussia. It’s now his ardent wish that Anna retrieve it.

Anna burns with questions as she heads for Germany: What memento could be so important to her grandfather? And why did he keep their history hidden? As she searches for answers, she finds herself drawn to Wil, a man who may hold the key to unlock the mystery. Together they discover that her family’s secrets are linked with an abandoned apartment in Paris, and these secrets go deeper than she ever imagined.

Alternating between 1930s Europe and the present, The House by the Lake illuminates the destiny of a family caught in the tumult of history.

First of all, I loved the connection to the first book. It's not a sequel and if you didn't read the first book you won't be lost at all but I really loved the nod to that book. I think this book brings us even more into the past than the first and I just really loved Max. You know what else? It dawned on me that I think we'll never have another generation quite like Max's generation. When you talk to people who have been through things like World War II, that changed them as a person completely. It doesn't matter where you were in the world, that time period is like a change in a person's DNA and I don't know if we will every really understand what it was like in those times because I think the truly awful things are down muted because the feelings those memories brings is just too overwhelming.


Loved this book. The idea that a person like Anna, who has essentially given up on love, would pick up and go to Germany to bring back something so important to her grandfather is just... it's a lot. I cannot even imagine being asked that but if money weren't an issue I'd obviously go. I'd be terrified and probably confused, but I'd go.

Obviously, given the time period the story reflects, the story has some pretty sad parts and it was like Max's current refusal to really talk about his past all made sense. I don't think I'd be real expressive about it, either. The story kind of morphs more into a mystery because Max doesn't tell Anna what item she's even looking for, which is bizarre. Once it's found.. it felt a little anti-climatic but overall the story of Max and Isabelle won me over. There is a key thing about the book that kind of stunned me, and almost made me quit, but I won't share it because it's a massive spoiler and I don't want it to turn you away from reading the book. Just know going in it might stun you for a bit. I had to really process it before I kept going. So there's that.

You can find a copy of The House by the Lake on Amazon right now. Ella is working on book three so I'm excited to see where she takes us next. Also curious if any of the characters from this book carry over into the third? We'll see!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard- Spotlight

Ugh, one of my biggest annoyances is when I can't read everything that I want to. I get a LOT of review requests and I feel terrible saying no, especially when it's a book I'm interested in, but I'm trying to do better about my time management and being realistic. So in lieu of that, you might be seeing a lot more spotlights here so you get a heads up on great books that are out that you should know about. We'll start this off with this fabulous book:

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard - Susan Meissner

In this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind  ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie… 

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her  dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future. 

Isn't that cover just pretty? The story and the cover remind me of Platinum Doll, which I read not too long ago which was great. If you are a fan of old Hollywood, you are going to want to add this to your to-read list!

What readers are saying... 

"Susan Meissner deftly casts a fascinating friendship between two complex women against a glittering 1930's Hollywood backdrop. You will love this book for its very human characters and for its inside look at one of the greatest movies ever made." - Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of Belong to Me

About the Author.. 

Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker, and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named Booklist's Top Ten women's fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. She is also a RITA finalist, and Christy Award winner.

A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor's wife and a mother of four young adults. When she's not working on a novel, she writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. She is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Connect with Susan.. 

Where to buy... 

 Happy reading, lambs! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Decent Proposal

Oh lawd lambs... I have so many book reviews coming your way the rest of April, and some even better ones for May. My plan is to keep reviewing right up until I give birth, take a couple of weeks break, and then back at it.

Because I'm kind of crazy like that, apparently.

The Decent Proposal - Kemper Donovan
An addictively readable debut romantic comedy, drama, and mystery rolled into one, about two very different strangers whose lives become intertwined when they receive an unusual proposition. This is a funny, tender, and enchanting story about love, attraction, and friendship: Jane Austen in Los Angeles.

A struggling Hollywood producer, Richard Baumbach is twenty-nine, hung-over, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an innate charm and an air of invincibility, he still believes good things will come his way. For now he contents himself with days at the Coffee Bean and nights with his best friend Mike (that’s a woman, by the way).

At thirty-three, Elizabeth Santiago is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina” The Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to avoiding anything that might derail her quiet, orderly life. And yet recently she befriended a homeless man in her Venice neighborhood, surprised to find how much she enjoys their early-morning chats.

Richard and Elizabeth’s paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor. They’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together—just talking—every week for a year. Astonished and more than a little suspicious, they each nevertheless say yes. Richard needs the money and likes the adventure of it. Elizabeth embraces the challenge of shaking up her life a little more. Both agree the idea is ridiculous, but why not?

What ensues is a delightful journey full of twists, revelations, hamburgers, classic literature, poppy music, and above all love, in its multitude of forms. The Decent Proposal is a heartfelt and often hilarious look at the ties that bind not just a guy and a girl but an entire, diverse cast of characters situated within a modern-day Los Angeles brought to full and irrepressible life.

I can't even tell you how in need of a light, fun read I was and I am so glad I had this in my review pile. Right away this reminded me of Catherine McKenzie's Arranged, slightly different but it was the first thing that popped into my head, which is a great thing because I loved that book too. Also worth noting is that this book felt totally L.A. I've never been there but when I think of L.A. this book is what I think it would be like. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad thing, but every stereotype and preconception you'd think of when you think of L.A. is in this book somewhere. 

Right away, I kind of related to Elizabeth because while I can be a bubbly, fun person, I really understand her work ethic and her sometimes awkwardness with people. It's hard to make friends as adults and break into a "group" and not having that natural ability can really hinder your career and maybe other opportunities. Richard.. alright, so I didn't love him so much. He kind of comes off as a loser though it's not like he isn't trying to be successful. He just.. isn't. So pairing these two together not only doesn't seem like an obvious choice but also kind of seems like it's totally right. They each have something the other needs and they both reluctantly jump at this seemingly too-good-to-be-true offer. 

I liked their "courtship", and the focus on her love of books and his love of movies. Their meet up's/dates are fun and enjoyable and if I was a single gal, I'd hope some of my dates would go like theirs do. 

The only thing I didn't love about the book is the epilogue. It's a little cheesy and while I usually love an epilogue as a last hurrah for the characters, a peek into their future down the road, this one was just meh for me. To be fair, I am also coming off of some books I was absolutely hooked to and this one was fun, but it wasn't one I couldn't put down, so maybe that's my problem. So feel free to completely ignore my opinion on that. 

Overall? I'd have to give this a 4/5 stars. It's fun, it's a cute story line, it's funny, it's chick lit but still a light, enjoyable read that even a guy should read to get ideas on decent dates. Just sayin. Ha! You'll find a copy of The Decent Proposal on Amazon and Barnes & Noble waiting to come to your mailbox. Happy reading, lambs!