June 30, 2014

Listmaniac: Hidden Gems

So, today's listmaniac is about those books that I love that just never got any popular, or at least not popular on a large scale like, say, John Green's books or Sarah Dessen, or Meg Cabot or Lisa Kleypas - authors like that. 

That's not to say that you haven't heard me talk about these books before, because I probably have pimped them... and often, but still, I tried to dig into the obscure recesses of my reading lists. So, here we go, in no particular order. 

Why Do I Love This Book? It's funny, plain and simple. Libby, the protagonist, loves history and she thinks it will be super awesome to spend the summer working at a reenactment museum in Maine, even if she has to hide her bright pink cell phone within her "era appropriate undergarments", and she often crashes with a local reporter trying to figure out if the museum is haunted. 

And there might or might not be a ghost lost in the museum. And Libby's best friend is really funny. 

Best Time to Read? In summer, it's non-beachy summery read. 

Why Do I Love This Book? Because it takes the authors (and some characters) of many literary classics and puts them as teachers in a reform school set in an island called Shipwreck Island; where everything and anything that has ever happened in a book can happen for real. 

It's a smart book too, without talking down to readers, it trust them to have enough general culture to get the jokes and the personalities of the many authors and characters that populate the island, along with the students. 
Plus: boarding school theme!

Best Time to Read? During the fall, it's a great back to school book. 

Why Do I Love This Book? Well, this one is a bit personal. I went to a seventh day adventist school for many, many years (just because it was really close to my Grandma's place), and I identified with a lot of the stuff Mena went through having to navigate her faith and deeply held beliefs with the word around her; and how cruel organized religion can be on people who don't agree with it. 

It was a very interesting book about faith and science and it had some very funny characters and a cute, age appropriate romance and PUPPIES!! Lots of puppies!

Best Time to Read? Another back to school book. 

Why Do I Love This Book? It's different, and it's pretty different to what I usually read. Treasure Blume in the inheritor of a family curse that makes anyone over the age of six and under the age of sixty dislike her when they first met her, like really dislike her (and be really rude to her). 

Which is why she loves her job as a First Grade teacher since her young students just take her in. Other people grow to like her but very few people care to get to know her beyond the first impression. There is a dash of romance, but for me it's all over the other types of love that people get to have in their lives. 

Best time to Read? Anytime really, but it's also kind of a cozy book, so maybe when the weather turns cold. 

Why Do I Love This Book? Because it's a modern tale retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion and it actually gets it pretty right. And Persuasion is one story that I love, this whole idea of giving love a second chance, even if there was some hurt involved. 

Plus, in this version, Wentworth is a marine biologist which is speaks to many of my wheelhouses as a hidrobiologist. Other than that, it's a very sweet story and I like Anna and Rick and reading their story gives me warm fuzzies. 

Best time to Read? I would say this is more of a holiday book, definitely wintery, anyway since it's when the book takes place (late fall, early winter). 

Well, that's me! Please let me know if you got some hidden gem you want to share! I'm alway looking for out of the box books ;)

June 28, 2014

Book Review: Hidden by Catherine McKenzie

The Deal: Three lives collide when Jeff Manning decides to walk home from work after having to fire his mentor from the company they both worked for. Jeff is distracted, reflecting about his life when he's blindsided by a car and dies. 

At home, his wife Claire waits for him, and is shocked when police officers come to her door to let her know about the accident.

She now has to comfort their grieving son and deal with the neighbors and with the sudden reappearance of Jeff's older brother whom she used to date back in college, and with the many unresolved feelings she still has about the Manning brothers and the turns her life has taken. 

Miles away and in another city entirely, Tish's world is rocked by the news of Jeff's passing. As far as anyone knows, they have only talked to each other once or twice at company-wide events. But unbeknown to everyone, even their spouses, Tish and Jeff talked every day, several times in fact, sustaining a complex long distance relationship.

My Thoughts: Told in alternating points of view between Tish, Jeff and Claire, Hidden tells a very complicated story that goes back and forth between past and present of these characters and how they related to each other.

Catherine McKenzie is an author that writes unusual stories and I've always enjoyed that about her books, but I'll admit that I had to go on faith a little with Hidden because it took me a while to get into the story.

While Claire, Tish and Jeff's voices were distinctive, I found it hard to connect with any of them, as they often tended to reminisce about the past - how Jeff met both Claire and Tish, the trials of Claire's marriage - and Tish often sounded whiny and... unappreciative of the life she did have (with a husband and kid who loved her).

But as the story unfolded and the layers began to be peeled back, I was intrigued by the links between these people and the choices they had made.

While not my favorite Catherine McKenzie book (That would be Forgotten); Hidden is interesting and made for a good read at the end, though it had a slow start.

June 19, 2014

Book Review: Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan

At First Sight: Dr. Sean O'Neil is the go-to-guy orthopedic surgeon in Boston, and perhaps the world, he's good at what he does and specializes working on athletes; and he's pretty darn good at putting things back together and making them work... except when it comes to his family.

When his father died a couple of years prior, Sean lost it and had a big row with his grandfather, which he hasn't told anyone about, but which has kept him more-or -less away from the family's Snow Crystal Resort in Vermont.

But when the call comes that his Grandfather has been rushed to the hospital after collapsing with a possible heart attack, he drops everything and rushes home... not that he things it will do much good, plus he'll be stuck in a place he never loved as much as

Elise Philipe has made her life at Snow Crystal over the last eight years, adopting the O'Neil family as her own and forming deep connections to everyone there, specially Grandpa O'Neil, who is old and ornery and likes to do things his own way.

Having escaped from a bad situation years before with the help of Jackson O'Neil, Sean's twin brother, Elise is in no rush to ever leave Snow Crystal, the only place she has ever been happy since her mother died. And she can't quite understand why Sean keeps away, at least not at first.

But as the summer wears on and Sean sticks around, she begins to understand, even if she's not quite ready to share all of her secrets herself

Second Glance: Suddenly Last Summer was a lovely book, I really enjoyed it and I liked it more than I liked the previous book Sleigh Bells in the Snow, which to me felt very much like a set up book, plus I didn't like the Grandfather in that one.

In this one, the world of Snow Crystal is already more or less stablished so we spend less time in the whole setting things up part and now we are just expanding on the characters we met before... for the most part. There is this bit of the story that keeps getting brought up over and over and over - about how much the Grandfather, whose name eludes me right now, loves Snow Crystal and how much Sean's father hated running the business (But mostly the first part).

And, like, that was a big part of the plot of the first book, we already knew that, but even if we hadn't known, with the first two or three times they said it was enough to make a point, yet it was brought up almost every other chapter.

Other than that, I really enjoyed spending time with Sean and Elise and figuring out why they were they way they were. Sean hated feeling tied down because he saw what that did to his father; and Elise had gone through a really bad relationship in her early twenties and felt adrift since losing her mother, so for her Snow Crystal and belonging there was wonderful.
UK Cover

Aside from the romantic relationships, there is a lot of how important connection is in this book; Elise loves that she feels like part of the O'Neil family and that she has great friends in Kayla and Brenna and that they trust her and love her. Sean on the other hand feels the burden of his family history and expectations, but loves them to death anyway.

Bottom Line: Like I said, I enjoyed Suddenly Last Summer, it was a lovely contemporary Romance and I believed the relationship between Sean and Elise, its also a book about family and I really enjoyed spending more time with the characters from the previous book and I'm really looking forward to book three Maybe This Christmas. 

June 14, 2014

Why does NA even exist? But I ask again, why? - A Book Rant

Hello my lovelies!!

So, I finally put together all my thoughts on why I don't believe in New Adult as a thing that should be happening... and I did it on vlog format!!

So, yeah, I did this all in one take, sorry if I rant a little too long. And if I say "A lot of these books..." quite a few times. And please let me know what you think down in comments.

Also, yeah... that's the pretty bad haircut I'm rocking right now... can't wait for my hair to grow out of it :P

And, as always, this is just my opinion on a book classification I don't like, it says nothing of the authors or readers who do like to write it or read it.

Okay, so here we go:

Feel free to leave comments!

June 9, 2014

What's Making Me Happy...

Sorry, I didn't get a chance to post last week, it was nuts as it usually is at work during exam days. *sigh*

But, this week I do have stuff that made me happy:

1. Made brownies from scratch and they were actually pretty good!! Chocolate-y as hell but good!! Also made cookies and they turned out all right!

2. Almost done with evaluations and relatively few of my kids got low grades or flunked their first evaluation. This makes me happy as it means less time arguing with them over homework they never did. One down, 2 more to go.

3. Got a moment of pride when my kids - most of which I had last term - did these awesome cards detailing the characteristics of each ecosystem we studied last term. I love when my kids surprise me with top quality work.

4. New projects: So, I started a blog with my friend Sofia so we can review books in Spanish! I'm thinking we are going to do mostly video blogs but who knows! :) I'm just excited.

June 6, 2014

Book Review: Lord Somerton's Heir by Alison Stuart

The Deal: Isabel, the now widowed Lady Somerton is on a mission: to locate her husband's next of kin and have him installed as the new Lord Somerton, and then finally move on with  her life. The last few years she spent married to Somerton were not happy, and Isabel is really looking forward to finally being free.

There is one small problem though, the man next in line to inherit the title is Captain Sebastian Alder, who is among the many injured following the battle of Waterloo.

Yet, Isabel finds him and brings him back to Somerton, where against the odds he pulls through. Sebastian might not be well equipped to be a Viscount but he's an honorable man and Isabel is happy to see his duty is done. 

Until a series of events - among them the fact that there is little money left in estate, as Isabel's husband spent it all, including her widow's portion - keep her in Somerton, where things are rarely what they seem; putting her life and her heart at risk.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed Lord Somerton's Heir, which was a bit odd for me since for the most part the story played like a mystery and there were plenty of lose ends regarding Isabel's husband and what happened to him; some stuff was easy enough to figure out but a few caught me by surprise, which is always welcome. 

The romance between Isabel and Sebastian is of the slow-burn kind, as they have both loved and lost before - Isabel married thinking she was pretty in love with her first husband, for example, only to have her dreams dashed as her marriage progressed - and they aren't eager to have that kind of emotional intimacy again. 

Watching them fall in love was a little odd though, sometimes I felt like there were scenes missing that should have better informed what was going on, plus the pace wasn't great. Early on I had the distinct feeling that Isabel and her husband (whose name, I'm honest, I can't seem to recall) had been married for a couple of years at most... but then it turned out it was close to 10 years in actuality and that threw me too. 

And there were many things like that, that just pulled me out of the story from time to time. 

The story is compelling though, even when it goes into "over the top" territory, which it totally does. 

June 2, 2014

Book Tour: Baby It's You - Excerpt

As part of the Baby It's You Tour I bring you an except to tempt you to read this book - which I quite enjoy it.

With only the wedding dress on her back and her honeymoon luggage in the car, Kari Worthington is running away. 

Determined to put her controlling father, her rigidly structured life, and the uptight groom she left at the altar in her rearview mirror, she escapes to the Texas Hill country . . . and lands on a tall, dark, and gorgeous winery owner's doorstep. 

All she needs is a job and a place to live until she can get back on her feet. So why is she fantasizing about losing herself in his powerful arms?

For Marc Cordero, freedom is so close he can taste it. He's devoted his life to managing the family business and being a single dad. Now with his daughter away at college and his brother taking over the winery, Marc is ready to hop on his Harley for parts unknown-until a runaway bride bursts onto the scene. 

Free-spirited and tantalizingly sexy, Kari excites him like no other woman has before. But when irresistible passion turns into something more, will Marc give up his future to take a chance on love?

The Excerpt: 

  About Jane Graves:
New York Times bestselling author Jane Graves is a nine-time finalist for Romance Writers of America's RITA Award, the industry's highest honor, and is the recipient of two National Readers' Choice Awards, the Booksellers' Best Award, and the Golden Quill, among others.  

Jane lives in the Dallas area with her husband and a very sweet kitty who kindly keeps her lap warm while she writes. You can write to her at jane@janegraves.com.  She'd love to hear from you!

Jane’s social media:

Buy links:
Barnes and Noble: http://tiny.cc/v21bgx
IndieBound: http://tiny.cc/g31bgx

Book Review: Baby It's You by Jane Graves (Book Tour)

At First Sight: Half an hour before her wedding day Kari Worthington comes to the realization that she does not wish to go through with it, that she has never really loved her fiancée but stayed with him because her dad liked him, and that she needs to get out.

So she gets on her car and makes a run for it, still in her wedding dress, and ends up at Cordero Vineyards, in a little town called Rainbow Valley.

Marc Cordero, has managed his family's winery for the last 18 years while juggling his responsibilities as a single parent. But now his daughter Angela is off at college and his brother is coming in to take over the winery, and all Marc wants its to enjoy his free time while he waits for the last harvest before he can hop into his bike and ride into the sunset.

Until Kari shows up in his doorstep.

Marc doesn't want to get involved and he definitely doesn't want to start a relationship when he'll be leaving in a few weeks, but Kari's free spirit makes him feel young again, something he hadn't felt since becoming a parent as at 18. 

Second Glance: I had never tried Jane Graves' books before but I have to say that I really loved Baby It's You, there is just something so lovely and fluid about her prose, and she got me to cheer for both Marc and Kari right from the get go.

I loved Kari's character, and how it was hard for her to adapt to living out from under her father's thumb - both for good and ill - and how she learned to stand on her own two feet. Marc was very rigid and sometimes even a little humorless, but he was very dependable and he moved heaven and earth for those he cared about; and I really appreciated that. 

Plus, I found his whole side of the story very interesting, how he's only in his mid-thirties but empty-nesting like crazy because he's so used to putting his daughter's needs and moods ahead of his own.

There are other secondary plots as well, like about Marc's sister Nina who is struggling with personal loses - I really felt for her, by the way.

Even the final twist worked well on me, for a moment I didn't think the author was going to be able to pull it off in a way that satisfied me, but in the end I was totally okay with what happened.

Bottom Line: I definitely recommend Baby It's You, and I totally want to go read the previous book in the series (though this works perfectly well as an stand a lone) and look forward to reading more from Jane Graves in the future. 

This review is part of the Baby It's You Book Blog Tour!!

About Jane Graves:
New York Times bestselling author Jane Graves is a nine-time finalist for Romance Writers of America's RITA Award, the industry's highest honor, and is the recipient of two National Readers' Choice Awards, the Booksellers' Best Award, and the Golden Quill, among others. Jane lives in the Dallas area with her husband and a very sweet kitty who kindly keeps her lap warm while she writes. You can write to her at jane@janegraves.com. She'd love to hear from you!

Jane’s social media:

Buy links:
Barnes and Noble: http://tiny.cc/v21bgx
IndieBound: http://tiny.cc/g31bgx