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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Title: Lilli de Jong
Author: Janet Benton 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Publish Date: May 16, 2017
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid a life of poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a charity for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overpowers her heart. Mothers in her position have no sensible alternative to giving up their children, but Lilli can't bear such an outcome. Determined to chart a path toward an independent life, Lilli braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive. 

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the perilous streets of a burgeoning American city. Lilli de Jong is at once a historical saga, an intimate romance, and a lasting testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.""

My Two Cents:

"Lilli de Jong" is the story of Lilli, a young Quaker woman living around Philadelphia in the late 1800s. When she gets pregnant out of wedlock by a man she loves, she is forced to go out on her own as her positively evil stepmother will not see to helping Lilli at all. Lilli will be forced to try to make her way in the world on her own with her baby, a tall order for a woman at the time! This book gave me a ton of insight into a time and setting that I haven't read a lot about. What a treat for my fellow historical fiction readers!

This book does such a good job of describing how things were for woman in those days. Lilli first goes to a home for unwed mothers (based on a real place; I loved reading about the real place in the author's note). Most women give up their children and the book has some detail about what that is like. Lilli decides to forge her own path and keep little Charlotte. Lilli still has to work because she is on her own and must find some way to make ends meet. Lilli is already quite limited in what she can do outside of working on her family's farm. Since that's no longer an option and she is even more limited after having Charlotte, Lilli is forced into some pretty unsavory situations. The book is told through Lilli's diary entries so you get incredibly close to her and are pulling for something good to happen the whole way. 

The book is also timeless in a way! I am a mother and I think this book captures a lot of the feelings that you go through as a parent. She captures the instantaneous connection that you have with your kid. Here is one of my favorite handful of lines in the book: "My problem is how deeply she affects me. The doctor cut the fleshy cord that connected us, but an invisible one has taken its place. I begin to suspect that this one can be neither cut nor broken." You're willing to be uncomfortable and do uncomfortable things so that your child can have a better life. Lilli does this over and over and over throughout the book because her daughter means so much. It was so interesting to see the juxtaposition between Lilli's relationship with her daughter and Lilli's frayed relationship with her last remaining biological parent, her father. 

I loved this book a lot! You're pulled in from the very beginning and then you're not let go until the very end!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: In a Daze Work: A Pick-Your-Path Journey Through the Daily Grind by Siobhan Gallagher

Title: In a Daze Work: A Pick-Your-Path Journey Through the Daily Grind
Author: Siobhan Gallagher
Format: ARC
Publisher: Tarcher Perigree
Publish Date: July 25, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "From small-talk to dating to death, In A Daze Work is an exciting, playful new spin on the minute and mundane decisions that make up your daily life. 
Each flip of the page puts you in control of the story: 
Will you stay in or go out?
Do you wake up or sleep in?
How will you navigate a bad date, or a party full of cookie-cutter couples (available in vanilla flavor only)? 
More importantly, where will your decisions take you? 
Bringing humor and sly self-reflection to the humdrum details of adulthood with hand-drawn illustrations and sharp wit, this relatable visual journey will help you find the extraordinary (or at least hilarious) moments in any day of the week."

My Two Cents:

"In a Daze Work" is a choose-your-own-adventure book for adults. As a kid who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I loved, loved, loved choose-your-own-adventure books! Even without having to pick the next page, books have always felt interactive to me but the CYOA books always had that extra oomph of super interactivity that I loved. I was excited to see what a CYOA geared for adults might look like!

So how does this genre work for adults? Well (if you have Siobhan Gallagher's wit and adorable illustrations at the helm). This book takes us through a normal day of either work during the week or (relative) pleasure during the weekend. Adventure may be a bit too cheery of a description for what for most adults is just life. Gallagher makes us laugh at ourselves though, which is really where the true beauty of the book lies!

I could see this book being a good gift for a friend that just needs a good laugh. I had fun going through the book a few times just to see if I would find something new to laugh at during my journeys (and I did). This book is a lot of fun!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: Perilous Prophecy by Leanna Renee Hieber

Title: Perilous Prophecy
Author: Leanna Renee Hieber 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Tor
Publish Date: June 20, 2017
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "The Goddess:
In the beginning, there were lovers: a winged deity of power and light, and a queen of grace and beauty. Phoenix was murdered, his beloved stolen away to the Whisper-world. But their passion inspired the Muses. Through great sacrifice, it could live again.

The Guard:
There are always six, mortal hosts for the divine. Battling spirits through the ages, they defy Darkness, Lord of the Dead. In 1867, a shadow rises. The tide turns against them, and all hope falls on a child of prophecy, an eerie, snow-white girl yet to be born. But her path must be cleared. A Great War is coming, and song, wind and stars whisper that the eighteen-year-old Beatrice Smith must give everything to prepare."

My Two Cents:

"Perilous Prophecy" is the prequel to the two books in Ms. Hieber's Strangely Beautiful books. I have not read the other two books in the trilogy but after reading this book, I definitely want to read them! I've heard this book described to me as "gaslamp fantasy," which is the perfect description. You have the history of the Victorian age combined with a paranormal bend that made even the familiar seem different and new.

In this book, we meet Beatrice, a young woman, who is called up to perform the ultimate duty as the leader of the Guard, a group charged with protecting our world from another. This book does not go that much into the legend behind the Guard, which I was very much interested in. I would love to see if the other books talked more about this and gave some more background. We see how this group storms when they first get together to eventually getting to a better place where they begin to function, which is interesting. Each member of the guard is unique and many of them come from different places with different customs, which take awhile to get to where they understand each other. I loved that part of the journey.

One of the things that I really liked in this book is the setting and the way that the author weaves together the real and unreal. Set in 1800s Cairo and London, this book was off the beaten path for me. I read a lot about London but Cairo was relatively new for me, especially with a historical setting. I loved the detail that the author used to bring everything to life! This book makes for a great story to get lost in. I love how the real and unreal become one in this fantasy. This book is a great start to what promises to be an interesting trilogy!


Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Everybody But You by Thia Sexton

Title: Everybody But You
Author: Thia Sexton
Format: ARC
Publisher: Weasel Press
Publish Date: August 29, 2017
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From ""A collection that's spirited and endearing . . . which she tells with winning self-deprecation and a level of detail that conjures the dusty, sunny fragrance of her travels. Sexton punctuates the pieces in an all-caps-studded brand of wacky humor, mostly in the form of wry one-liners." -- Kirkus Reviews"

My Two Cents:

"Everybody But You" is a collection of short stories by Thia Sexton, comedian. I was initially drawn to this book as I had seen Sexton on Comedy Central before and was looking for a light read that might have some humor thrown in. This book touches on many different subjects. Some of them are very funny on the serious, others are serious but Sexton does her best to try and lighten the mood, with mixed results.

In this collection, Sexton regales us with stories that cover everything from funny surnames to her adventures abroad (these are some of my favorite tales in this book). There are other stories like the one where she calls a suicide hotline, happens to get an operator that really sucks at his job (like really, really sucks), and she has to reassure him instead of him really helping her (this kind of made me cringe since hotlines like that are supposed to be a good resource and I'm not sure if it was the light treatment or the incompetence that bothered me more).

There are some truly funny stories that made me laugh out loud (always the mark of a good story). I really liked some of the stories about her family (nieces and nephews) and also about being abroad. I also liked the story about how she came to love New York. I'm not a New Yorker but I love to visit and I loved the way she captured the city (and EVERYBODY'S hatred of the one way streets and while I would never be brave enough to back down one of the streets, she does and lives to share the hilarious tale).

Overall, this was a solid collection with only a few stories that did not hit the mark for me.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: It's Not Yet Dark by Simon Fitzmaurice

Title: It's Not Yet Dark
Author: Simon Fitzmaurice
Format: ARC
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: August 1, 2017 (soon!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "In 2008, Simon Fitzmaurice was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (also known as ALS). He was given four years to live. In 2010, in a state of lung-function collapse, Simon knew with crystal clarity that now was not his time to die. Against all prevailing medical opinion, he chose to ventilate in order to stay alive. Here, the young filmmaker, a husband and father of five small children, draws us deeply into his inner world. Told in simply expressed and beautifully stark prose—in the vein of such memoirs as Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly—the result is an astonishing journey into a life which, though brutally compromised, is lived more fully and in the moment than most, revealing at its core the power of love its most potent. Written using an eye-gaze computer, It's Not Yet Dark is an unforgettable book about relationships and family, about what connects and separates us as people and, ultimately, about what it means to be alive."

My Two Cents:

"It's Not Yet Dark" is a memoir by Simon Fitzmaurice, a filmaker, father, and husband, who is struck down in the prime of his life by ALS. Even if we are relatively healthy, there is a chance that something could strike us like that without warning. It is a slim chance (luckily!!!) but there is still a chance. Most of us just don't go around thinking about things like that because it would drive us absolutely nuts. It's the fact that this book is so raw that makes it good and that makes it thought-provoking. This situation could happen to any of us.

Fitzmaurice walks us through his diagnosis and the disbelief that he originally has when he starts having issues. He blames it on his shoes at first because the idea that a healthy person like him could have a medical issue that makes it impossible to fully work his foot seems so strange and then things quickly seem to go from bad to worse.

Told in stark prose, this is a story of heartbreak and how you go on living when everything that is happening to you is fully out of your control. How do you embrace family and friends? How do you adapt and move forward? How do you form a new life when reality is so different than what you had anticipated? This book explores all of these topics and more in a really raw and real way. This book is relatively short but it packs a huge punch!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: The Comfort of Secrets by Christine Nolfi

Title: The Comfort of Secrets
Author: Christine Nolfi
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Lake Union
Publish Date: July 18, 2017 (Yesterday!)
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Cat Mendoza needs a win. After a business failure and years of dating the wrong men, she’s ready to turn things around.

First she must convince the residents of Sweet Lake, Ohio, that she’s taking her responsibilities seriously. As the events director of the newly restored Wayfair Inn, she has the support of her best friends, Linnie and Jada. But everyone else—including her overprotective mother and the well-meaning Sweet Lake Sirens—can’t help but chime in with advice about her plans, her apparently too-tight clothes, and her undeniable attraction to Ryan D’Angelo, the charming ad exec hired to promote the inn.

Cat knows she should keep Ryan at a distance, but she’s drawn closer by the heartbreak he tries to hide. Will uncovering his secrets derail the new life Cat hopes to achieve…or will she gain something to cherish forever?"

My Two Cents:

"The Comfort of Secrets" is the story of Cat, a young woman trying her best to show the small town that she grew up in that she can be an adult with true responsibilities that she can take seriously. After developing a reputation for being fun loving and fancy free with no regard for consequences, Cat has a long road ahead of her. Luckily she has some good friends in her corner who are pulling for her to figure out her career and her romantic life.

This is the second book in the Sweet Lake series by Christine Nolfi but you don't need to read the first book in order to enjoy this book. Many of the same characters from the first book appear but Cat is really at the center of this book.

The characters in the book were great. I loved Cat! She's the kind of scrappy character that you can't help but to root for her. The reader knows early on that Cat really has changed and she really is ready to take on being the event planner at the inn in town but almost everyone around her seems convinced that she is going into this endeavor with her eyes closed and want to make sure that she knows that they think about this.

You're also pulling for the love match in the book! Ryan comes to Sweet Lake as the ad-exec charged with getting the inn some business through some slick advertising. Love is the last thing on his mind. The love between Cat and Ryan feels a little insta-love but works relatively well. Ryan is more of a realist but Cat is a dreamer and this seems to fit in her character a little more. The love between them is very sweet, especially when we see the plans that Cat carries out to give Ryan back some of the childhood that we learn he missed out on.

This is a sweet romance with a quirky set of characters. This book was a lot of fun! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger

Title: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash
Author: Candace Ganger
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: July 25, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page."

My Two Cents:

In "The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash," Birdie and Bash meet at a party. Birdie isn't supposed to be at the party. Bash is trying to escape from everything else in his life by going to the party. Bash is trying to do the same. At the time, neither of them can imagine the inextricable ways that their lives will be tied forever more.

On its surface, this book seems like fun romp but it is so much more than that. This book is filled with a lot of drama and questions about whether its better to hide or its better to tell the truth even with the truth has the power to rip people apart. I loved seeing the main characters and the secondary characters in the book explore what this meant for each of them throughout the book. You're pulling for the truth the whole time but the author keeps you guessing so that you are not sure on what side the characters are going to end up until the very end. I love when a book can keep me on my toes like that!

The characters really make this book. I really liked how the author gave depth to not only the main characters but the secondary characters as well (Birdie's sister and Bash's friend, Kyle - OMG! Both of these characters!). Birdie has a pretty good life. Yeah, she fights with her sister and yearns for a closer relationship. Yeah, she just lost a scholarship but things are okay until the unimaginable happens and Birdie suddenly realizes how good her family had it. Bash is struggling. His mother (the only person that she really has in the entire world) is dying and he is doing everything he can to try to forget about it. He can't confront what his life might/ will be like when he loses his mother. This book goes deep and makes you care about these characters so much.

I was left wanting the ending to draw out a bit more so we could see what happens to these characters and their families after the book ends but this isn't one of those books that would ever lend itself well to a sequel. There is a bit of beauty in the way the author left it: open with a good dose of hope for the future.

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