Review: White Houses

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Title: White Houses
Author: Amy Bloom
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

For readers of The Paris Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenuecomes a “sensuous, captivating account of a forbidden affair between two women” (People)–Eleanor Roosevelt and “first friend” Lorena Hickok.

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.

From Washington, D.C. to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan’s Washington Square, Amy Bloom’s new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity.

Review:

Since I’m Canadian, I don’t know much about American History. I wasn’t very familiar with the Roosevelts before reading this story. I learned a lot, but this story just wasn’t for me.

The story was quite confusing at times. It jumped around in the timeline. The main story was about Lorena and Eleanor in a hotel in New York following Franklin Roosevelt’s death. But Lorena would tell stories from her past at times. It was confusing when she would jump to a different time between paragraphs. Sometimes, I would be reading a scene and I would forget what the point of it was or even how she got to that story.

Whenever I read historical fiction, I end up googling the characters to see what parts are true. Many of the events in the story really happened. But some seemed over the top. One example of this is a scene with a circus troupe near the beginning of the story. It reminded me of the exaggerated circus story from the movie Big Fish. These scenes didn’t seem connected. This book was really missing an overall plot to weave these scenes together.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t work for me.

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? – April 16, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

This blog meme is hosted by Book Date. It is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever growing TBR pile!

What I just finished:

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This weekend I finished White Houses by Amy Bloom.

 

What I’m currently reading:

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I’m currently reading Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey.

 

What I’m reading next:

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Next I will be reading Running Through Sprinklers by Michelle Kim.

What are you guys reading this week? Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Woman in The Window

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Title: The Woman in the Window
Author: A.J. Finn
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Gift
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Review:

This book didn’t live up to the hype for me. I was expecting an amazing thriller, but I didn’t understand the excitement.

Anna was a very annoying character for me. She took tons of pills and mixed them with alcohol, but she was a psychologist, so she should have known better. The whole story was based on wondering if she was imagining things or not, and all those stimulants didn’t help her case. Really, there weren’t any likable characters in this book. The Russels were furious with her, though their son, Ethan, would speak to her. And even the police were rude and jumped to conclusions. It was frustrating to read.

I don’t want to give away the ending for those who haven’t read it yet, so I won’t give my comments on that. I guessed what was happening before it was said. I knew what happened to Anna’s family, and the solution to Jane Russel’s identity ended up being the first thing I thought of when I read it! The thing about figuring out this mystery is to look at what’s being said, and more importantly what’s not being said.

The last couple of chapters were pretty exciting, but unfortunately, the rest of the book was frustrating so I didn’t enjoy it.

Review: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power

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Title: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power
Author: Ryan North, Erica Henderson
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publisher: Marvel
Source: Purchased
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Wolverine, Deadpool, Doctor Doom, Thanos: There’s one hero that’s beaten them all-and now she’s got her own ongoing series! (Not that she’s bragging.) That’s right, you asked for it, you got it, it’s SQUIRREL GIRL! (She’s also starting college this semester.) It’s the start of a brand-new set of adventures starring the nuttiest and most upbeat super hero in the world!

COLLECTING: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 1-4

Review:

Squirrel Girl is a cute superhero. She’s a quirky girl, who is part squirrel and can speak to squirrels. She was so funny, which made it an entertaining read.

Squirrel Girl, aka Doreen Green, starts college in this story. She has a serious roommate, who loves her cat, Mew. Doreen’s squirrel antics attempted to distract her from the cute guy, Tomas, who she kept running into around campus. But the one who really stole the show was Tippy-Toe. Tippy-Toe is Doreen’s squirrel sidekick and partner in crime. She was so adorable!

I really enjoyed this cute story. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for more books in the series!

Review: My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel

Title: My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel
Author: Kitty Curran, Larissa Zageris
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Quirk Books
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

The romance novel that lets you pick your path, follow your heart, and find happily ever after

You are the plucky but penniless heroine in the center of eighteenth-century society, courtship season has begun, and your future is at hand. Will you flip forward fetchingly to find love with the bantering baronet Sir Benedict Granville? Or turn the page to true love with the hardworking, horse-loving highlander Captain Angus McTaggart? Or perhaps race through the chapters chasing a good (and arousing) man gone mad, bad, and scandalous to know, Lord Garraway Craven? Or read on recklessly and take to the Continent as the “traveling companion” of the spirited and adventuresome Lady Evangeline? Or yet some other intriguing fate? Make choices, turn pages, and discover all the daring delights of the multiple (and intertwining!) storylines. And in every path you pick, beguiling illustrations bring all the lust and love to life.

Review:

When I was a kid, lots of my classmates loved choose your own adventure stories. But I didn’t. I wanted a complete story to read, and I didn’t want anything to change from the original. However, I thought I would give this one a try since I love Victorian romances. And I loved it!

There are three directions your story could go. You could choose the brooding Sir Benedict Granville, who is like Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. You could choose Captain Angus McTaggart, who is like Jamie from Outlander. Or you could choose to go on an adventure with the socialite Lady Evangeline. For my review, I followed the path with Angus MacTaggart, also known as Mac.

The story was so entertaining! It had everything from a spy, a faked death, orphans, and a burned down mansion, all of which are aspects that make a great Victorian novel. I loved this story and I was satisfied with the ending. The great thing about this book is that you can read it over and over, following different paths, and end up with different endings. I will definitely be reading this book again!

Review: Isle of Blood and Stone

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Title: Isle of Blood and Stone
Author: Makiia Lucier
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Ulises asked, “How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers.”

Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. “It’s bound to be a goose chase. You know that?”

“Or a treasure hunt,” Ulises countered, “and you’ve always been good at those.”

Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar’s oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way…until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.

The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias’s father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king’s beautiful cousin by his side—whether he wants her there or not—Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried…and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.

Review:

I loved this book!

It was very fast paced. I read the first half of the book in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down. Everything moved very quickly, so it was never boring.

The beginning of the story was a little confusing because it starts right in the middle of the action. At first, it was difficult to connect the prologue to the rest of the story, but it quickly becomes clear how the events of the prologue are important to the story.

I loved the ending of Elias’s search. I had no idea where the story was going to end up, but I think a clever reader could figure it out before the end. There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming, though!

I’m so excited about this story! I can’t wait to see where the rest of the series goes!

TBR Thursday – April 12

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TBR Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly Faye Reads, where you post a title from your shelf or e-reader and find out what others think about it.

My pick this week is An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review and Guest Post: Happily

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Title: Happily
Author: Chauncey Rogers
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: self-published
Source: Author
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

If the shoe fits, wear it.
If it doesn’t,
make it.

Laure is a teenage street urchin just trying to get away. Where the rest of the world sees an enchanting love story, Laure sees royal incompetence and an opportunity to exploit it. She’ll have wealth and a way out of a life she detests, if she can only manage to hoodwink the royal family and survive to tell the tale.

Review:

I loved this unique twist on the story of Cinderella. Rather than telling the story of Cinderella, it tells the story of Laure, a girl who tried to trick the King and Prince into thinking she was the girl from the ball.

Since the story gave a different perspective of the Cinderella story, it was unpredictable. Laure wanted to get a glass slipper made that matches the one at the palace to deceive the King into believing that she was the girl who the Prince fell in love with at the ball. This led her on a journey with her new friend Luc (who she met when she destroyed his family’s cart) to find a glass blower who could make her a glass slipper.

I loved this different perspective of the story! It’s a fresh take on a story that’s been told a thousand times. Laure was a poor street girl, similar to Cinderella’s poor position, but she was very sneaky since she wanted to deceive the kingdom. Laure seemed like a more realistic girl than Cinderella. She wasn’t afraid to fight or lie or do whatever it took to get what she wanted. That made her an unpredictable character.

This is a great story! And the best part is there will be a sequel! I can’t wait to read it!

Guest Post:

Sticking (to) the Ending – Concluding Happily

Thank you Jill for hosting today!

It goes without saying that the ending of a story is a crucial element. Of course, so are the beginning and middle of the story. But the ending has to fulfill all the promises and answer all the questions (or at least enough of them). It has to deliver the big payoff that the reader has been working towards, and it has to leave the reader so satisfied that they’ll talk with others about it and pick up your other work.

It’s a lot of pressure.

But I’m not going to talk about endings in general. I’m going to talk about the ending of Happily in particular. So I will try to avoid spoilers, but be ye warned: we arediscussing the ending. Even if no specific spoilers are named, there still might be some general spoiling that occurs. So, please read with caution.

Okay, with that out of the way, I just want to open up about the ending of Happily a bit, and what that process was like for me.

For starters, I dread endings that drag on. This may be a byproduct of having viewed The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition too many times. Regardless, I worry about having too much follow after the main resolution. Anyone who has read my other works will notice that I do very quick wrap-ups. Once the main action is over, resolve anything that’s left and BAM! The End.

But Happily was going to be tricky. I knew that even before I began to write the ending. The problem was that Laure’s key conflicts, which needed to be resolved, where not the only key conflicts that had to be wrapped up. There was also the issue of the shoe and the real Cinderella, and what would happen to her, which was a question both for Carl and (I presume) the reader.

However, I didn’t feel like I could come off the main action sequence, and then continue the hunt for the missing girl. It also seemed to me that adding anything would have separated the end of the book too far from the story’s climax.

For example, having some kind of wedding ceremony between Carl and Laure, with the steorotypical “Speak now or forever hold your peace” bit being interrupted couldhave been done, but not without adding a fair amount to the story. Perhaps somebody else could have done it, but I didn’t see a way that I felt worked.

The other thing I want to address is the big plot twist that comes at the end of the story. Some people love it, and some people felt like it was a lot to digest, came too close to the end, came out of nowhere, and was totally unnecessary.

Alas, I find myself in both camps on this one.

I definitely love it for sentimental reasons. I don’t know if I could have written it for my daughter without including that bit. But I also agree with those other remarks.

Interestingly, however, in the original draft there were more hints of it coming. Some of my clever early readers spotted it coming, and so I decided to tone back the foreshadowing and alter some of the clues, with the result being that it is, perhaps, too well hidden to be a satisfying reveal for some.

As for it being too close to the ending, or being unnecessary, or the wrap up being too fast, I have a few final thoughts on that.

The chiefest thought, though, is that this is intended to be a Cinderella backdoortelling, as well as a Cinderella retelling.

Yes, Laure interacts with the traditional Cinderella. But Laure is also her own Cinderella. She’s a girl who goes from rags to riches, finds true love, is rescued from bad situations, and has a lot to do with a pretty shoe.

To me, the big twist at the end plays a big part in making Laure into her own Cinderella. It’s a huge reversal for her, and while there is a romance story within Happily, the true love that she finds at the ending is not the same as the romance plot line within the book. For me, that big twist at the end was the best way to deliver on the promise of true love.

And in closing, the quick wrap-up is also a trademark piece for Cinderella stories. The shoe fits, a few nice words, and *SNAP, just like that, you’re at the wedding sequence. It’s kind of just how they go. 🙂

I know this post was a bit rambly, but hopefully it gave you some insights into why Happily has the ending that it does. And anyways, with the announcement of a sequel we all know that this isn’t really the ending anyways. 😉

About the Author:

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Chauncey Rogers was born in Arizona, and since then has hopped back and forth between the mid-western and western United States. He married in 2012 while attending school in Utah. His favorite movie since he was three is Jurassic Park, and he wishes very badly that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster were real, though he doesn’t believe in them as much as he used to.

In March 2017, he published his first novel, Home to Roost. In October 2017, he published Cleaving Souls.

He currently lives in Kansas City with his wife and two children.

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Thank you Reads and Reels for letting me participate in this blog tour.

‘Waiting on’ Wednesday – April 11

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This is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. In this post we highlight a book that’s highly anticipated.

The book that I’m waiting on this Wednesday is Leah on the Offbeat.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

What books are you waiting on this week?