Book Review: White Fur

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

From the publisher:
When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in a housing project without a father and didn't graduate from high school. Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. The attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.

The unlikely couple moves to Manhattan in hopes of forging an adult life together, but Jamey's family intervenes in desperation, and the consequences of staying together are suddenly severe. And when a night out with old friends takes a shocking turn, Jamey and Elise find themselves fighting not just for their love but also for their lives.

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The writing in this book is undeniably beautiful. Some books are focused on plot and action, some on characters, some on setting. And some, like this one, are just beautifully written and every sentence feels like a descriptive explosion. Her descriptions in here are some of the strangest and most lovely and enhancing ones I've read. 

This book is also character driven. It's not so much about the plot as it is about discovering who these two people are as they discover each other. They're not always likable, or even usually likeable. But they are genuine, and in pain, and in love, and very real feeling. 

This is also a very sensual book. It's very mature and exposed. It's a non traditional romance story. Things don't always work out. They might not be "meant for each other." It might be better that way. It's worth reading if you like heavily descriptive and character focused writing. It's quite captivating. 

Links: Author Website, Goodreads, full tour
Buy it on Amazon:White Fur: A Novel

I received this book through TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

April/May Wrap Up

Monday, May 29, 2017

Here are all of my books for April and May! I was doing finals and a vacation during these two months so they were definitely slower reading months. Looking forward to the summer and more time to read.

1. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Genre: Fantasy, romance
Get it on Amazon:
Cruel Beauty

2. The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
Genre: Romance, literary fiction
Get it on Amazon:
The Red Notebook

3. Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
Genre: Graphic novel, sci fi, adventure
Get it on Amazon:
Wires and Nerve: Volume 1

4. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
Genre: Memoir, humor
Get it on Amazon:
Sh*t My Dad Says

5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery, suspense
Get it on Amazon:
And Then There Were None

6. The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day
Genre: Mystery, drama, thriller
Get it on Amazon:
The Day I Died: A Novel

7. The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Genre: Suspense, thriller
Get it on Amazon:
The Kind Worth Killing: A Novel

Mini Review: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

A classic mystery from one of the most famous mystery authors of all time. In this book, ten seemingly unrelated people travel to an island at the request of a mysterious wealthy individual. When they arrive things immediately begin to wrong, and one by one, they die under mysterious circumstances. As they begin to understand what is happening, the mystery is heightened, tension increases, and everyone is a suspect.

My thoughts:
This was my first Agatha book and it absolutely won't be my last. I loved this. It's an incredibly intelligent mystery, which is ideal. I could not make up my mind about who the murderer was throughout the entire book--in my opinion, the sign of a great mystery. The characters are all unique and complicated, which makes their lives and deaths more interesting to the reader. The end is absolutely fantastic and so inventive.

I love this concept; it's unlike anything I've read before. The fact that Agatha manages to kill off ten characters without the reader knowing how or who or why until the very end is awesome. I was entertained and flew through every page, trying to guess the truth. Every guess was wrong! This is a must-read. I'm pretty sure almost anyone who enjoys being entertained would enjoy this.

Link to buy on Amazon:

And Then There Were None

Book Review: Signs and Seasons

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Signs and Seasons by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber

From the publisher:
Discover how to eat for your sign and nourish your soul in Signs and Seasons, the one-of-a-kind cookbook that pairs chef-driven seasonal recipes with deep insight into how astrology shapes our appetites, from iconic astrologer Monte Farber and artist Amy Zerner.

Food connects us to our families, history, culture, and to the natural world itself—to the seasons and the cycle of life. Just as our path around the sun—and through the Zodiac—dictates the seasons, the seasons dictate what will flourish, from the tender greens of early spring to late summer’s lush and impossible perfect tomatoes.

In Signs and Seasons, Farber and Zerner—along with chef John Okas—take home cooks through the four seasons and each of their astrological signs in over 95 tantalizing seasonal recipes that include starters; meat, seafood, and vegetarian mains; sides; and desserts for each sign.

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This isn't a book to read word for word. It's a creative and unique cookbook with a spin I've never encountered before. I'm not a fancy cook by any means, but I do like cookbooks and own a few. This one is specifically about cooking meals that appeal to you based on your astrological sign. The beginning of the book features pages of information about each astrological sign and how they interact with food or entertaining, as well as a list of the best foods for that sign. I'm a fan of astrology, but not in a very researched or knowledgeable way. I am familiar with the concepts but don't religiously read horoscopes or believe everything can be decided by the stars. Nonetheless, this was an interesting way of structuring a cookbook. 

The recipes are divided into the seasons and feature recipes from each sign in its respective season. The recipes are all interesting, some simple and traditional, many more complicated or diverse. I do wish that within the seasons the recipes were organized by sign--they're scattered throughout the chapter randomly, which makes it harder to find your specific recipes. The meals all look good though, and I've highlighted a few already that I want to try over the summer when I have more time.

I really like the cover for this book, though the photos inside could be more attractive and professionally taken or styled. Still, it's easy to see how much care and work was put into this book. The thought behind each recipe and example is clear. If you like cooking and are interested in astrology, this is an obvious and great choice.

Book links: GoodreadsAuthor website, HarperCollins
Link to buy on Amazon:

Signs and Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review through TLC Book Tours. Check out the rest of the tour here

Book Review: The Day I Died

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day

From the publisher:
From the award-winning author of Little Pretty Things comes this gripping, unforgettable tale of a mother's desperate search for a lost boy.

Anna Winger can know people better than they know themselves with only a glance—at their handwriting. Hired out by companies wanting to land trustworthy employees and by the lovelorn hoping to find happiness, Anna likes to keep the real-life mess of other people at arm’s length and on paper. But when she is called to use her expertise on a note left behind at a murder scene in the small town she and her son have recently moved to, the crime gets under Anna’s skin and rips open her narrow life for all to see. To save her son—and herself—once and for all, Anna will face her every fear, her every mistake, and the past she thought she'd rewritten.

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I love this concept. I'm always on board for a smart psychological thriller, and this one had a great story to make it stand out. The main character Anna, as a handwriting expert and analyst is unique from more "typical" character profiles in books like these. The concept of using a handwriting analyst with a mysterious past as a storyline is great. The writing and plot are intelligent and engaging, and draw the reader in very easily. This is a solid pageturner, even in the slow moments. 

I didn't love the constant slow gifting of information in the beginning of the book. I'm okay with a protagonist having secrets in their past, but it starts to frsutrate me when they feed the reader tiny tidbits of information one at a time throughout 100 or 200 pages before you can get a clear idea of this mysterious story. This book definitely does this. I got a bit fed up with Anna so slowly and painstakingly revealing her dark history. It affects so many of her thoughts and actions and is a major part of the story, so I know it's an interet-building technique. But it can only go on so long before I get tired of it and really want full answers. 

That being said, the character development here is great, as is the full cast of supporting characters. They're complicated, like real people. The main mystery of the book is also an interesting one, and does the concept of a suspense novel justice. This story sucked me in and kept me interested. So while I didn't enjoy the withholding of information about Anna, that's a consistent personal pet peeve of mine, and didn't do much to detract from my enjoyment of this book. 
This thriller is definitely worth your time. 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review through TLC Book Tours. Check out the rest of the tour here
Book links: GoodreadsAuthor website
Buy it on Amazon: The Day I Died: A Novel

Book Review: The Illusionist's Apprentice

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

From the publisher:
Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. 

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First off, the setting of this book is amazing. I'll give any book a try if it takes place in the 20s and this one drew me in even more with the promise of illusions and magic and murder and vaudeville. The book is enchanting. The story begins with no hesitation, and you're immediately thrust into the mystery and the lives of the characters. This is not a book you'll struggle to get into. 

Cambron's descriptions are really beautiful. She makes the simplest things sound extremely interesting. The characters and settings are all fully explored and developed, making for a more reader oriented book. 

The plot is so intriguing and unlike anything else I've read. Though there are books out there about the 20s or illusionists or vaudeville, none seem to combine all of these elements quite so impressively and with quite as much fun. This is a very entertaining book. 

Book links: Goodreads, Author Website
Buy it on Amazon here: 
The Illusionist's Apprentice
I received an advanced copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. Check out the rest of the tour here!

Book Review: The Women in the Castle

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

From the publisher:
Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.
Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.
First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

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This was a stunningly written book. Not only is the cover gorgeous, but the story inside is as well. I was immediately drawn in to this historical world. I don't know how much of this story was based on real events, real situations, or real people, but I do know that Shattuck makes them feel incredibly real. It's difficult to realistically portray the reactions and emotions of someone who has been through a horrible experience, but it is done incredibly well here. 

These characters have lost so many people, have been abused or have starved, and have lived in fear for years. They're all incredibly broken in different ways, but they continue to love deeply and to fight for their lives to return. Shattuck's choice to zoom in on the lives of these three women is a great one. It takes a story with huge scope and gives it some clarity and incredible depth. Her descriptions are beautiful and moving, and this book is absolutely heart wrenching. 

It's very rare that I come across a book written about WWII in the perspective of our "enemies" in that war. In this case the German perspective is fascinating; to see how these women, all German but all resistors of Hitler's leadership and atrocities, think about Americans, fellow Germans, Russians, and so on. It says so much about the mindset of the other side of a story that we've heard so many times. American history books tell the story from our side and our side only. Reading books like this is so important because it presents a much needed shift in our thoughts about the most documented war of all time. It's so crucial to expand horizons to other perspectives as an American student who gets very little of the other side of the story. And Shattuck writes so well that it's really impossible not to love this book. 
It's amazing, and you should read it. 

I received an advanced copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. Check out the rest of the tour here!