Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Review: Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

Title: Finding Violet Park
Author: Jenny Valentine

About the book (from Goodreads):  Narrated by the most compelling voice since Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, this is a quirky and original voyage of self-discovery triggered by a lost urn of ashes. The mini cab office was up a cobbled mews with little flat houses either side. That's where I first met Violet Park, what was left of her. There was a healing centre next door, a pretty smart name for a place with a battered brown door and no proper door handle and stuck-on wooden numbers in the shape of clowns. The 3 of number 13 was a w stuck on sideways and I thought it was kind of sad and I liked it at the same time. Sixteen-year-old Lucas Swain becomes intrigued by the urn of ashes left in a cab office. Convinced that its occupant -- Violet Park -- is communicating with him, he contrives to gain possession of the urn, little realising that his quest will take him on a voyage of self-discovery and identity, forcing him to finally confront what happened to his absent (and possibly dead) father!

My Thoughts: I requested this book through our library's ILL program.  Usually I request a book because I owe a review on Net Galley and no longer have access to the ecopy, or it is on some Best of the Best list, etc - but for the life of me, I do not know why I requested this book!  Despite that, it was a quick read. 

 Lucas discovers this urn with ashes in it at a cab office and feels drawn to it.  Thinking about the urn later, he feels that Violet (the woman in it) is trying to communicate with him.  He concocts a story with his grandma to get possession of the urn.  Once they have it, he starts to run into people and places that Violet has been more often than can be coincidental.  

I should tell you that Lucas' father, Pete, disappeared 5 years earlier when he was 11.  He has pretty much put his father on a pedestal and thinks he could come back at any day.  He often wears some of his father's old clothing as well.  Through all of the information that he finds out about Violet Park, he also discovers that his father knew her and had actually interviewed her.

Lucas may have been right when he thought that Violet was trying to communicate with him.  Through her, he learns some truths about himself and his parents, and that people are not perfect, even if you want them to be. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Review: The Free by Willy Vlautin (read in 2016)

Title: The Free
Author: Willy Vlautin

About the book(from the cover): In his heartbreaking yet hopeful fourth novel, award-winning author Willy Flautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for illuminating the disquiet of modern American life, captured in the experiences of three memorable characters looking for meaning in distressing times.

Severely wounded in the Iraq war, Leroy Kervin has lived in a group home for eight years. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, he finds his existence has become unbearable.  An act of desperation helps him disappear deep into his mind, into a world of romance and science fiction, danger and adventure where he is whole once again.

Freddie McCall, the night man at Leroy's group home, works two jobs yet still can't make ends meet.  He's lost his wife and kids, and the house is next.  Medical bills have buried him in debt, a situation that propels him to consider a lucrative -- and dangerous -- proposition.

Pauline Hawkins, a nurse, cares for the sick and wounded, including Leroy.  She also looks after her mentally ill elderly father.  Yet she remains emotionally removed, until she meets a young runaway who touches something deep and unexpected inside her.

In crystalline prose, both beautiful and devastating, this "major realist talent" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) considers the issues transforming ordinary people's lives -- the cost of health care, the lack of economic opportunity, the devastating scars of war -- creating an extraordinary contemporary portrait that is also a testament to the resiliency of the human heart.

My Thoughts: Let's start by saying this isn't the type of book that I would normally pick up - and yet I still found it haunting and hard to get out of my head.  It is written very realistically, and even though all 3 characters lead bleak, heartbreaking lives - underneath it is a ribbon of hope that keeps them all going.  I started to really relate to them and wanted to reach out and help them in some way - forgetting that they weren't real people but characters in a story.  That made me think twice about the people that I see everyday and know nothing about.  How many of them have been victims of circumstance and are struggling - feeling alone, not knowing how they are going to get through another day.

I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Willy Vlautin. (This book was read in June of 2016).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Out with the old - In with the new

As the year comes to a close I look back with a heavy heart on my lack of posts this year.  I didn't quit reading, as I am currently only 6 books shy of my 75 book goal for this year.  I was just too busy with life.  Things have started to slow down again as I have resigned one of my library jobs and am now only subbing at our public library.  I am still working as an aide at a school library though.  I am also in my last semester before completing my Library Sciences Associate Degree.  

I am going to try once again to start posting regularly.  I reach a point where I think I cannot write a good enough review.  Sometimes I can't get it out my head that this isn't school - that I am not being graded - that I am not being paid - that I just need to tell someone whether I loved, hated, or was just indifferent towards a book.  So with that in mind, I hope to post some long overdue reviews in the next few days and start off the new year with a fresh start.

I will probably be joining some challenges this year - but we are going to keep those at a minimum as I start to get discouraged by not completing them!

So Happy Holidays everyone

Image result for i'm baaack shining

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Promo: Girls' Weekend by Cara Sue Achterberg

Title: Girls’ Weekend
Author: Cara Sue Achterberg
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: The Story Plant
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Format: Ebook/Paperback

Dani, Meg, and Charlotte have bonded over babies, barbeques, and backyards, but when they escape for a girls’ weekend away, they can’t bring themselves to return to lives that don’t seem to fit anymore.

Harried Dani can’t explain why she feels so discontented until she meets a young gallery owner who inspires her to rediscover the art that once made her happy.

Dependable Meg faces up to a grief that threatens to swallow her whole and confronts a marriage built on expectations.
Flamboyant Charlotte, frustrated with her stagnated life and marriage, pursues a playboy Irish singer and beachside business opportunities.

All three of these women thought they would be different. None of them thought they’d be facing down forty and still wondering when life starts. What they do when they realize where they’re headed is both inspiring and wildly entertaining.

GIRLS’ WEEKEND is a fun, yet poignant romp through the universal search of who we are, why we love, and what makes us happy by an author who is quickly emerging as one of our most incisive storytellers.

Book Links:

About the author: Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a national bestseller. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for living a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.

Author Links:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: Death at a Fixer-Upper by Sarah T. Hobart

Title: Death at a Fixer-Upper
Author: Sarah T. Hobart
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: May 17, 2016

About the book: In Sarah T. Hobart's wickedly funny and fast-paced Home Sweet Home mystery series, small-town real estate agent Sam Turner discovers it's bad for business when her clients keep dropping dead.

Newly armed with her real estate license, Sam Turner loves Arlinda, her quirky seaside hometown in Northern California. But life by the beach isn't exactly a breeze: She and her teenage son, Max, are being evicted from their apartment, her long absent ex-husband unexpectedly resurfaces, and her possibly romantic relationship with sexy Chief of Police Bernie Aguilar is, well . . . complicated. All Sam wants is a quick and easy sale. What she gets instead is a killer headache—or three.

Sam's trying to drum up interest in 13 Aster Lane, a rambling Victorian fixer-upper that's more than a little neglected—and possibly haunted—so when a trio of offers arrive out of the blue, she can't help thinking it's too good to be true. But after a new client drops dead on the property, she fears she's lost more than a commission. Before Sam's out of house and home, she must unmask a killer targeting her clients, or the only property she'll be moving will be plots—at the local cemetery.

~I received a free copy of Death at a Fixer-Upper from Chatterbox for Random House. #RHMystery Pack #Sponsored.~

My thoughts: This was my third book to read of the cozy mysteries I have received from Chatterbox for Random House.  I must admit this one was not my favorite.  For some reason I had a hard time getting into this story.  I just wasn't invested in Sam in the beginning.  I couldn't get a feel for her very well.  I am thinking that this was maybe no fault of the book, but the fact that I was dealing with an ear and sinus infection - followed 2 days later with my son getting strep throat.  So my focus was on other things.  

Once my health cleared up a little, and I was able to get back into the book - then I became more invested and I had to find out who and why someone was killing all of Sam's clients!  The second half of the book I read in one sitting and it flew by!  While the killer from this book was eventually identified, there is a lot of story here that is just waiting to be told.  Story involving Sam and Bernie, Sam and Wayne, Wayne and Max, Sam and her sister. .. . et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  I want to know where these are all going!   

So, even after a slow start, I would recommend this book for a quick cozy mystery.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: Girl Last Seen by Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown

Title: Girl Last Seen
Author: Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co. Teen
Publication Date: March 1, 2016

About the book: Kadence Mulligan played to a packed house of her fans Friday night.  Saturday morning she was gone.

The songs Kadence wrote and sang with her best friend, Lauren DeSanto, had made them both online sensations.  But when Lauren lost her voice, Kady couldn't wait to go solo.  It's no secret the two had a major falling-out and were barely speaking to each other.  Yet Lauren was one of the last people to see Kady the night she disappeared.

The only person who seems to believe that Lauren is innocent is Jude Williams, former outcast turned gorgeous bad boy, but he has reasons of his own for wanting to get back at Kady.  Still, he's Lauren's only ally, and together they look back on their complicated friendship with Kadence as they search for answers.  But are they both really on a quest for the truth?  Or is one of them playing an elaborate game to cover up a crime?

My thoughts: There were 4 major players in this book - Lauren and Kady, best friends since junior high but recently falling apart.  Jude/Nathan - who was Lauren's best friend before Kady moved to town.  He was kind of a dork with a "pizza" face, but Lauren did not seem to notice - until Kady pointed it out to her, as well as to the whole school.  He moved away, but is back - using his middle name - Jude - and that is not all that has changed.  He is still in hopeless love with Lauren, but has many revenge fantasies involving her and Kady. And last is Mason, Kady's boyfriend of the last couple of years.

The story is told in revolving points of view/chapters among these four - with Lauren, Jude and Mason's being in the present and Kady's told through webcasts.  Kady disappears after a solo performance at the coffee shop that Lauren works at.  Her car is at her house, but the door is hanging open and both she and her laptop are missing.  

Lauren is under suspicion due to their recent falling out and Kady's success as a solo artist.  Jude befriends her and together they start to piece together how Kady has destroyed reputations and bullied people in their school - and it is starting to look as if she has been setting Lauren up to take the blame for it all. Both her and Jude are questioned regarding Kady's disappearance and the longer she is gone, the worse it looks for them. 

This was a great read and while I suspected part of the ending - there is no way I could have predicted what actually happened.  You are going to have to read it to find out!

From the publicist: Girl Last Seen is a timely tale, tackling the relatively new phenomenon of Internet fame and the harsh realities that come with it – from the fickleness of fans to the desperate lengths some people will go to for their 15 minutes in the spotlight. Song lyrics, news segments, video diaries, text messages, and YouTube comments are woven throughout, giving the story a uniquely modern feel. The multiple points-of-view are cleverly crafted to implicate everyone and absolve no one, making readers question their own judgment, as well as the motives of each player in this elaborate game of smoke and mirrors. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl and Pretty Little Liars, the twisted life of Kadence Mulligan will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

~I received a complimentary copy of Girl Last Seen from Media Masters Publicity in exchange for my unbiased review. ~

About the Authors: Heather Anastasiu is the author of the young adult sci-fi Glitch trilogy. She grew up in Texas but recently moved to Minnesota with her family. She teaches creative writing at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. You can visit her on Facebook facebook.com/HeatherAnastasiu and Twitter @h_anastasiu.

Anne Greenwood Brown is an attorney by day and young adult novelist by night. Her works include the paranormal mermaid trilogy: Lies Beneath, Deep Betrayal, and Promise Bound. She lives in Minnesota. You can visit her on Facebook facebook.com/AnneGreenwoodBrown and Twitter @AnneGBrown.


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