Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: Lucky Us by Amy Bloom






Title: Lucky Us
Author: Amy Bloom
Publication Date: July 29th, 2014
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 256
ISBN: 1400067243
Source: ARC from Publisher

Rating: 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
"My father's wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us."

Brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny, Lucky Us introduces us to Eva and Iris. Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star, and Eva, the sidekick, journey across 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris's ambitions take them from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.


With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine through a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life. From Brooklyn's beauty parlors to London's West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat, and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species. 
  





Amy Bloom is the author of "Come to Me," a National Book Award finalist; "A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You," nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; "Love Invents Us"; and "Normal." 

Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Short Stories, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, and many other anthologies here and abroad. 

She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, Slate, and Salon, among other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award. Bloom teaches creative writing at Yale University.



After receiving this book for review, I had heard good things about it on NPR. The reviews for Lucky Us are all over the place, so you may just have to read it yourself to decide what you think about it. It's definitely a unique work, and if you like a lot of dynamic and don't mind some explicit storytelling, then you will enjoy it. One reviewer didn't seem too impressed, and especially did not find the connection between the cover art and the pages that lie behind it. Related or not, the absurdity of a lion and a zebra stacked and balanced on a tight rope was appealing to me, but then again, my phone case looks like this:


Lucky Us is a story of two girls, Eva and Iris, who blindly feel their way through life after emerging from their dysfunctional and abandoned family unit. We are then catapulted into a series of quasi-unrelated events that somehow lead these girls from one experience to the next (and the reader isn't entirely sure how they got there).

Iris is an emerging starlet who carries the potential to be America's next sweetheart. In the hype of Hollywood's glamour, she begins experimenting with her sexuality and the reader suddenly finds themselves in the center of several scandalous sexcapades. Needless to say, this is not a family-friendly book. Iris is betrayed by her fellow starlet and femme-fatale lover and is banished from the limelight forever.

Eva, on the other hand, is the conventional one who lives in Iris' shadow, but she is also the storyteller and gives us a glimpse into the quiet-but-fierce persona of her own. She may not be another pretty face, but she definitely has a strong stomach, and so the reader learns to admire her through her narrative.

This book possesses an exceptional level of realism and artistry that will leave you dazed and charmed all at once. Truly, it's a ripple effect of serial events that keeps the reader's attention because of its unpredictability. It's impossible to guess the ending or what is going to come next, so be prepared to adapt quickly and spend moments wounded and thrilled simultaneously. Because of this, you can't help but feel dynamic attachments to the characters. It's almost comedic how bizarre and jarring it all is.

There are times when the plot seems to be in utter chaos, traveling around in strings weaving out and in between, but in the end they enter twine together to become a masterful design. If you enjoy a story that hybrids historical and modern society, and names its chapters after vintage song titles, then you'll love this book. Not to mention the mystery cover that leaves you both intrigued and scratching your head!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: The Promise by Beth Wiseman






Title: The Promise
Author: Beth Wiseman
Publication Date: September 30th, 2014
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Christian Fiction
Pages: 306
ISBN: 1401685951
Source: ARC from Publisher

Rating: 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Mallory's search for happiness leads her to a faraway place. There she finds heartache, betrayal---and danger.

Mallory Hammond is determined that no one will stand in the way of her goal---to save a life. She had that chance years ago, and she failed to take it, leaving her adrift and in search of the real meaning of her life. Finally, she meets a man online from a volatile corner of the world who offers her the chance to find that purpose. But she will have to leave everyone she loves behind in order to take it.

Tate Webber has loved Mallory for many years. He understands that Mallory will never be happy with him until her deepest heart's desire is satisfied. When Mallory decides to travel across the world to fulfill her dreams, Tate begs her not to go but tries to give her the space she needs. Mallory embarks on her dangerous journey only to discover how swiftly and easily promises can be broken. And Mallory can only pray that she will make it out alive.

Inspired by actual events, The Promise is a riveting love story that asks the question: how far will we go for love?
  




Beth Wiseman is the best-selling author of the Daughters of the Promise series and the Land of Canaan series. Having sold over 1.3 million books, her novels have held spots on multiple Bestseller lists. 

She was the recipient of the prestigious Carol Award in 2011 and 2013. In 2013 she took home the coveted Holt Medallion. Her first book in the Land of Canaan series--Seek Me With All Your Heart--was selected as the 2011 Women of Faith Book of the Year. 

Beth lives in Texas with her family.






    Beth Wiseman was introduced to me a few years back when my mother brought me a bag full of books that her neighbor gave her because she knew I was a big reader. I have several of her earlier books, but I was very excited to see her newest novel on my list. I love journeying with an author through their career and seeing them progress. This is a book that can be relatable for contemporary audiences, and that's something I can definitely appreciate.

One of the great things about this story is that it's based off a true story. As far-fetched and bizarre as some of it may seem, this actually happened. The main character, Mallory, has a heart to change the world. However, Mallory is still a bit naive about things. This is a huge part of what got her in such trouble. This book serves not only as an adventure story, but a good warning for those with good intentions, but susceptible to getting caught in online scams. It has a lot of good messages to it, and I believe this is Wiseman's best work yet.

I very much enjoyed this book! I think my only complaint would be that I wish there was more of the story that set the book off, Mallory and her cousin. It seemed to be really important at first, and then we moved on without looking back. After you read the book description and then read the first few chapters, you get a little confused as to what the book is actually about. Other than that, I thought this was a great book and would definitely recommend it!

In a daring new novel, Beth Wiseman jumps way outside the box. The Promise will take readers far away from Amish country and small Texas towns to a dangerous place on the other side of the world. Inspired by actual events, this is the book Beth has been working toward for a long time.

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Curious? Click here to read the reviews, and be sure to enter Beth's Kindle HDX giveaway!
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Promise by Beth Wiseman
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 9th. Winner will be announced November 10th here.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Review: The Unicorn Thief (Unicorns of the Mist #2) by R.R. Russell






Title: The Unicorn Thief
Series: Unicorns of the Mist #2
Author: R.R. Russell
Cover Design: Bert Fanslow
Cover Illustration: Ian Schoenherr
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Pages: 270
ISBN: 1402279922
Source: ARC from Publisher

Rating: 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Danger lurks in the mist.

Twig and Ben are unicorn riders--guardians whose job it is to keep the last free unicorn herd safe. But a new danger is threatening the beautiful, mysterious creatures of Lonehorn Island. A thief from Terracornus has snuck onto the misty island and stolen Ben's loyal unicorn, Indy. There's only one path for Ben and Twig--straight into the secret, shadowy heart of the island and through the passage to Terracornus.


But their rescue mission is unexpectedly complicated by a secret Ben has been hiding. A secret about the Queen of Terracornus who has enslaved all the unicorns of Ben's homeland. A secret that could save them all--or start a war.
  







R.R. Russell lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. She grew up traveling the world as an army brat and now travels the country as a coach with a non-profit judo club. She loves to read and draw, and like Twig, once spent a lot of time sketching unicorns.










     Lonehorn Island is home to our two protagonists, Ben and Twig (I'm kind of digging this name). In the first novel, we adventured with them to save the unicorn race from danger. In this next installment, there is a thief who steals Ben's loyal unicorn companion, Indy. The duo must venture into the unknown of the island to save him. The plot thickens as Ben is holding a deep, dark secret regarding the Queen of Terracornus that could determine the fate of everyone.

In terms of middle-grade books, this is a fabulous choice for the young library, especially one that is lacking in books about unicorns. You will find several elements that will encourage even the reluctant reader to explore this new land and consume the story to their heart's content. It moves at just the right pace that will keep their attention. I think young readers who enjoy light fantasy will enjoy this series.

I didn't give this book 3 stars because it was bad. Honestly, it just wasn't to my taste. I'm sure children will enjoy it and find it interesting, but this was not a favorite of mine. For the most part, it was well written. The content was at times overly-detailed and a little too simple. I did enjoy the story itself and I'm sure I'll introduce this book to my kids one day.

If your child loves fantasy, adventure, and of course, unicorns, then The Unicorn Thief is a great choice. As for adults who enjoy children's literature, you may not like this as much as others. But really, it all comes down to personal opinion, so by all means, I urge you to see for yourself.

Honorable mentions go to the creators of the cover, Bert Farnslow and Ian Schoenherr. The illustration and design is soft and beautiful. Honestly, the cover illustrations are what drew me to this book!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: Prime Deception by Carys Jones






Title: Prime Deception
Author: Carys Jones
Publication Date: April 7th, 2013
Publisher: Carina UK
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Pages: 304
ISBN: 1472094727
Source: ARC from Publisher

Rating: 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
When Lorna Thomas is found dead in her car everyone believes she killed herself. But the day after her death Lorna was set to sell a scandalous story to one of Britain’s biggest tabloid papers. For six months she had been the Deputy Prime Minister’s mistress.


Will Lorna’s secret die with her? While her family try to move on and come to terms with her death one person refuses to believe that Lorna killed herself. Her twin sister, Laurie is convinced that Lorna was murdered and she’ll stop at nothing to prove it, even if that means teaming up the very man her sister had been having an affair with…
  



Carys Jones loves nothing more than to write and create stories which ignite the reader's imagination. Based in Shropshire, England, Carys lives with her husband, two guinea pigs and her adored canine companion Rollo. 

When she's not writing, Carys likes to indulge her inner geek by watching science- fiction films or playing video games. 

She lists John Green, Jodi Picoult and Virginia Andrews as her favorite authors and draws inspiration for her own work from anything and everything. 


To Carys, there is no greater feeling then when you lose yourself in a great story and it is that feeling of ultimate escapism which she tries to bring to her books.

      John Quinn is a journalist for The Shadow, England's top-selling tabloid newspaper. His job is to expose the scandals and corruption of his society, and make a decent dollar for doing it. John has been approached by a young woman with the biggest kids-and-tell story of the year, not because of the event itself, but because of the man it involves. However, his awareness of the story comes with severe consequences.

Carys Jones was introduced to me through this novel, and I'm kind of on the fence. The premise of Prime Deception sounds good, but I wasn't convinced it would be delivered to satisfaction. In a lot of ways, I was presently surprised in a lot of ways. Once I got into the book, I couldn't put it down. It's like devouring a novel-long tabloid that you know you shouldn't be so interested in, but you just. can't. stop. The contents of this book is like nuggets of gold to the mystery-reader who enjoys a bit of scandal. Jones has a way of hooking the reader into intrigue, wanting to know more and divulge in it.

The writing was definitely good. I enjoyed that part of it. And for the most part, the story itself was interesting. But I had a love-hate relationship with this book. The main character, Charles is honestly a guy I don't even like. I don't feel sorry for him, and I think he's kind of a jerk...and several other choice names. He desperately lacked self control. But for some reason, I had to know what happened. I just had to. Well played, Jones, well played.

If you like mystery, murder, juicy scandals, and a touch of steamy romance, pick up this book for a light read.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: Expectant Parents by Suzanne Hadley Gosselin






Title: Expectant Parents: Preparing Together for the Journey of Parenthood
Author: Suzanne Hadley Gosselin
Publication Date: October 1st, 2014
Publisher: Focus on the Family Publishing
Genre: Self-Help, Christian Non-Fiction, Parenting
Pages: 240
ISBN: 1589977947
Source: Paperback from Publisher

Rating: 
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Many books focus on prenatal development and the health of a mom-to-be. While Expectant Parents does touch on important issues of pregnancy, its core purpose is help expectant parents understand key issues related to the arrival of a new child in the home, offering practical assistance as they prepare themselves for long-term family success.

It's often said that babies don't come with an instruction manual. This book actually provides parents with information and practical steps for writing their own---as they work to create the kind of home and family they choose to build. This includes strengthening their own marriage relationship, setting plans and expectations for parenthood, increasing communication, and preparing for the new stage of their family life that is just ahead. Ideal for first-time parents, this book would also be helpful for couples wanting to explore and prepare for the emotional, physical, and spiritual life changes that come with the arrival of any new child into the family.
  



Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is the former editor of Clubhouse Jr. magazine for Focus on the Family. She is now a regular contributor to Thriving Family magazine and Boundless.org, and the recipient of several Evangelical Press Association awards for her writing and editorial work. Gosselin writes children's resources for David C Cook, Zondervan and Harvest House. 

She is also the author of Faithgirlz Handbook: Let Your Light Shine Through and is currently working on the God's Got an Answer for That children's devotional and activity books to be released in January 2015. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and biblical theology from Multnomah University. Suzanne and her husband, Kevin, who is a children's pastor, have three children and make their home in Colorado.

      Hold onto your hats, new parents of babies 1 and 2 (and maybe 3 if you haven't gotten the hang of it yet)! Suzanne Hadley Gosselin has just prescribed your survival manual. You're welcome.

If you're a first-time parent, this book will definitely prove to be useful for you in a lot of ways. Although the cover and title seem to refer toward the pregnancy season, Gosselin actually exposes what to expect after the baby has arrived. And it isn't just for mothers, but she addresses the father as well and how to be team players in this process: mother, father, and baby.

Not only does Gosselin tackle expectations for new parents, but she also addresses some of the touchier subjects, like how to handle comments of your peers that might be a little less-than-helpful. If you're also concerned about what to do with your jobs after baby is born, then you'll also find some helpful information in here. I think that's wonderful. I'm at the age where several of my friends are having kids, and quite a few have decided to become stay-at-home moms. Which is great! Parenthood is a full time job. But for the person who thinks they might want to continue working after our little bundle of joy has arrived, Gosselin provided some helpful ideas.

The only thing about this book that I think we could use more of, is touching base with some of the more "natural" parents. I was very happy that Gosselin talked a little bit about Doulas, but in terms of breastfeeding and natural birthing options, those were minimal to none. I understand you can only fit so much into a book like this. The size is great for those parents who can't read an entire dictionary-sized manual for this kind of thing. And perhaps her knowledge is just limited in these areas (experience is the best form of learning). But I just wish we had a little more. 

As for the layout, I liked it. It broke everything up into small sections so it's easy to read and easy to find stopping points if you're on the go. The boxes get a little messy sometimes (visually, they're better if you give small enough portions to fit on one page). But other than that, I think the sections were divided well.

For those who are new parents, this may be a good book for you to start with. I wouldn't say it's THE book you need, but it will definitely prove to be useful.

While many books for new parents focus on prenatal development and the health of a mom-to-be, Suzanne Hadley Gosselin's Expectant Parents' core purpose is to help new parents understand key issues related to the arrival of a new child in the home, offering practical assistance as they prepare themselves for long-term family success.

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Learn ways to strengthen your marriage relationship, set plans and expectations for parenthood, increase communication, and prepare for the new stage of your family life. Pick up a copy for yourself or for expectant friends and enter for a chance to win an iPad Mini!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • Expectant Parents from Suzanne Hadley Gosselin and Focus on the Family
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 2nd. Winner will be announced November 3rd on Suzanne's website here.

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