ARC August-Amanda Starts Reading

July has been insane! An extremely happy month due to traveling to see Holly get married, but we moved as well.  Moving with a 3 year-old is not conducive to reading time.  So my stack of To-Reads is growing every day.  Combined with my compulsion to grab at least one extra book every time I walk into the Chicago Public Library-I need to get some books out of my house and off my To-Read List.

Thankfully, Octavia at Read, Sleep, Repeat came up with ARC August as a challenge to get through some books and I’m joining in!

I’m hoping to read at least 8 off my list including:

Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay (I’m reading this now and its good!)

Lucky Us, Amy Bloom

House of the Four Winds, Mercedes Lackey, James Mallory

Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healy

The Arsonist, Sue Miller

And the other 3 I’ll decide on when I get there! Anyone else doing ARC August?  What are you reading?

Happy month of reading!


Review: The Art of Arranging Flowers

The Art of Arranging Flowers, Lynne Branard


Published June 3rd 2014 by Penguin Group/Berkley Trade

Paperback, 320 pages

From Goodreads…

Ruby Jewell knows flowers. In her twenty years as a florist she has stood behind the counter at the Flower Shoppe with her faithful dog, Clementine, resting at her feet. A customer can walk in, and with just a glance or a few words, Ruby can throw together the perfect arrangement for any occasion.

Whether intended to rekindle a romance, mark a celebration, offer sympathy, or heal a broken heart, her expressive floral designs mark the moments and milestones in the lives of her neighbors. It’s as though she knows just what they want to say, just what they need.

Yet Ruby’s own heart’s desires have gone ignored since the death of her beloved sister. It will take an invitation from a man who’s flown to the moon, the arrival of a unique little boy, and concern from a charming veterinarian to reawaken her wounded spirit. Any life can be derailed, but the healing power of community can put it right again.

This book makes me think of a bowl of vanilla ice cream.  Wonderful and just right for some, but also too plain for others.  For me The Art of Arranging Flowers was vanilla ice cream that needed a lot of toppings. I was excited to learn about Ruby and intrigued by her floral skills.  Ruby knows the right flowers for every occasion and knows what secrets to add to help a budding romance or ease a cancer patient’s pain. That’s a pretty cool talent for a florist! I wanted to know more about it. I just wanted MORE from this book in general.  It was a little too simple and sweet for me -I think I was looking for some angst or action.  

The Art of Arranging Flowers delves into grief, love and how family and friends can heal us all while describing some beautiful bouquets.  There is definitely a reader that will love The Art of Arranging Flowers, sadly it just wasn’t me.  I liked it fine, but I just could not love it. You might love it though-lots of readers on goodreads are!  Anyone else read this one and disagree with me?

2.5 stars.  

Thank you Penguin and NetGalley for this advance read copy in exchange for an honest review.

Romantic Interlude

Holly here – I am totally hijacking the blog because Amanda is out of town for a few days.

– because she is at my house this weekend!

– because J & I are getting married tomorrow!

If I were a bit more together, I would put together a post about how spending evenings sitting in the family room while J (in his recliner) and I (on the couch, with a cup of tea) are both reading, is among my favorite things to do. However, I’m a little busy this week, so instead, I offer you photographic representation of our life in books: I am reading a book that Amanda demanded I read and Jeff is reading about the civil war. Typical evening (save the fancy dress and professional photographer).


Review: The Signature of All Things

Title: The Signature of All Things

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Published 2013 by Penguin

501 pages

Source: Library

signature of all things

Reviewed by Holly 

I can’t talk about this book without talking about my experience with Eat, Pray, Love – and that is this: I really loved Eat, Pray, Love. And then I read a whole bunch of negative comments on the book, complaining that Elizabeth Gilbert was narcissistic and spoiled and that it was incredibly unfair that she got to go on this sojourn around the world while processing her first world problems. Even my mom called her a whiner.

Whatevs – I dug it.

And then The Signature of All Things came out, and all I’ve heard about this book is great praise – which sort of left me wondering, would I have the opposite reaction as the critics this time, and hate this book? So, I picked this up (from the library, yo!) with some trepidation.

And – I loved it. I wanted to start recommending it to people before I was even done.

The Signature of All Things is set in the nineteenth century, in Philadelphia and (way) beyond.. It starts with the story of Henry Whittaker, who grew up poor in England and then rises to great fortune through a combination of hard work, moxy, and circumstance, and then turns to his daughter Alma, born in 1800. The story of the family runs alongside the story of nineteenth-century scientific progress, with a heavy dose of repressed desire throughout. The 500 pages ebb and flow, with times where a great deal of action happens in quick succession, followed by times where nothing seems to happen for years on end. It’s a long book – and drags on a bit at the end – but it did not take me long to finish.

In summary, highly flawed characters + weird and random adventures + interesting scientific details make for an enjoyable read. Throw in broader themes about abolition, colonialism, and what families are made of, and I found parts of this story sticking with me. And, if nothing else, you’ll learn Victorian slang for ladyparts, as well as some facts about plants.

Rating: 5 Stars

Parting Words:

Beatrix admired the useful over the vapid, the edifying over the entertaining. She was suspicious of anything one might call “an innocent amusement,” and quite detested anything foolish or vile. Foolish and vile things included: public houses; rouged women; election days (one could always expect mobs); the eating of ice cream; the visiting of ice cream houses; Anglicans (whom she felt to be Catholics in disguise, and whose religion, she submitted, stood at odds with both morality and common sense); tea (good Dutch women drank only coffee); people who drove their sleighs in wintertime without bells upon their horses (you couldn’t hear them coming up behind you!); inexpensive household help (a troublesome bargain); people who paid their servants in rum instead of money (thus contributing to public drunkenness); people who came up to you with their troubles but then refused to listen to sound advice; New Year’s Eve celebrations (the new year will arrive one way or another, regardless of all that bell-ringing); the aristocracy (nobility should be based upon conduct, not upon inheritance); and overpraised children (good behavior should be expected, not rewarded).


Top Ten Characters I would want with me on a deserted island

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday and here are my top ten characters I would want with me on a deserted island. 

1. Hermione Granger -Because she’s brilliant and of course magic.  She comes with 2 sidekicks of course who need no explanation

2. Harry Potter

3. Ron Weasley

4. Lula  of the Stephanie Plum Series.  Because she makes me laugh until I cry in almost every book.

5. Ranger also Stephanie Plum.  Because he’d get us out of any situation-also he’s just hot.

6. Miss Havisham-of the Thursday Next Series specifically.  Because if we need to get out she can always read something to get into the Book World.  Also, she’s hilarious.

7. Percy Jackson-definitely stole this from another TTT list at Book Revels because she made a really good point-if you’re stuck on an island you want the son of the sea god on your side!  

8. Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass.  I feel like having a female assassin on board can’t hurt anything.

9. Verity Price from Incryptid.  Who knows what kind of island this is-we may need a scientist.

10.  Elisa from the Girl of Fire and Thorns.  She’s got serious camping experience so I think she’d be good to have around!


Conclusion: Dorothy Must Die

Amanda: Wow.  So I think I can safely say Holly and I agree, Dorothy really has to go. She’s a megalomaniac in blue gingham and red heels.

I have to say I was starting to get irritated because I felt like the mission the cover of the book told me about wasn’t happening:

Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart

Steal the Scarecrow’s brain

Take the Lion’s courage

and then

Dorothy must die!

Happily my fears were unfounded! This book ended with a quite a kick and set the stage well for book #2.

Holly- Yes!  I had the same thoughts about the cover.

What I really liked is that no one is really completely trustworthy.  Amy has to be a smarty pants. Its going to boil down to Kansas girl vs. Kansas girl.  

Wizard, Order of the Wicked, monkeys, Pete.  Who to trust?!

In summary, this was a book that did not make me work very hard, but still had some heavy topics woven in about fear and power.  I wasn’t kidding about the Nazi references! And because it was such a clever and creative idea, and because I’m currently sending this text from Kansas I give it 5 stars!  I can’t wait for #2!

I completely loved this book for the creativity.  I think Paige was very brave to take this beloved story and basically turn it on its head.  I really liked Amy and even her pet rat.  I cannot wait to see what happens next and I think I’m going to brush up on my Baum reading to get ready.  I might even check out the novellas set in Paige’s Oz.  I have to go down a 1/2 star because of the romance.  It was not believable enough for me, but we’ll see what develops in Book #2!  I’m hoping for more munchkins! 

Head down the Yellow Brick Road and tell us what you think!

Holly 5 stars!

Amanda 4.5 stars!

Thank you Harper360 for these copies in exchange for an honest review!!

Review: Dear Daughter

Dear Daughter, Elizabeth Little


Expected Publication July 31st 2014 by Viking Adult

384 pages, Hardcover

Source: NetGalley

Imagine for me if you will that a teenaged Paris Hilton killed her mother.  Imagine the fall out, the paparazzi and the E! news hysterics.  Then imagine after her conviction Paris is released from jail 10 years later on a technicality.  That is the basic premise behind Dear Daughter.  

Janie Jenkins went from tabloid darling to inmate.  She’s now hiding from the paparazzi and trying to re-acclimate to freedom after 10 years in jail.  Janie was not a nice character, but she was a fun one!  I loved her attitude and the situations her mouth got her into.  It wasn’t hard to see why people believed she was a murderer!  Janie really doesn’t think she is the one that killed her mother, but she’s not absolutely sure.  Going on snippets overheard before her last fight with her mother on the night of the murder Janie is out to investigate who her mother really was.  With the help of her attorney she changes her appearance and flees California.  

Jane ends up undercover in small-town South Dakota where she sticks her nose into everything and everyone’s business trying to find out why her mom would have mentioned this town.  She doesn’t necessarily make herself more likeable, but she was entertaining!  Jane’s story is interspersed with transcripts from her police interview, news articles and posts from a true crime blogger who has a price on her head.  I liked getting all the flashes back at the past drama Jane was involved in right along with her current snooping.  While I found that the motivation for the murder was easy to predict, the path we took the revelation was not what I thought it would be.

I was definitely on edge at the end of this book waiting for a reveal.  I had to get off the train with 4% left on my kindle and that nagged at me all day.  The wait was totally worth it.  The conclusion was more than I expected and the ending of this book made me really laugh out loud.  It was the perfect wrap up to Janie’s story.  I felt like Jane’s mom tried to steal the story from beyond the grave-but Janie wrenched right back for herself. I can see why this is being compared to Gone Girl, but I enjoyed it much more.  Janie was not always likeable, but you still want to root for her! 

This is Little’s debut book and I am definitely looking forward to more.  Read it and tell me what you think!

4 stars!

Thank you Viking and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Dorothy Must Die 2/3 Through!

Second Third, Through Page 300



Find our first thoughts here:

What do you think, sister? I think Danielle Paige has some serious imagination to come up with all this creepiness! Well, imagination and some serious Nazi references, right? I hate the Scarecrow (we should not post spoilery details, but ewwwwww. I have the creeps)

I’m slow, didn’t even think Nazis.  ICK.  That Lion scared the crap out of me. It took a lot of thought to make these beloved icons into such creepy and scary guys.   Dorothy too obviously, but taking those sweet and cuddly friends of hers and going to the other extreme is a really fun concept for the book.

Uh yeah, there is some serious Josef Mengele shit going on. And also Munchkin pogroms. At least that’s my interpretation. On another note, I thought it was hilarious that there was a command: “magic painting, show me [whatever]” Ha! That doesn’t sound like much of a spell!

Okay, and I have to say there is a bit of schizophrenia between referencing The Wizard of Oz the book versus the movie. Dorothy’s shoes are silver in one reference (book) and red (movie) when Amy makes it to the Emerald City. She talks about Glinda’s dress and refers to watching the movie on one page, and then the book 2 pages later! And the Tin Woodman’s origin story is definitely out of the book!

Seriously, I’m going to read wikipedia now.  I think you’re right.  And then aren’t they silver on the cover?

Honest to goodness though, as much as I clearly noticed the jumps in references, it makes total sense. I mean, you’d have to reference the movie because that’s what everyone knows! But, the book has more details and history to work with – like the creeper Tin Woodman story, the geography of Oz, and the ruling family’s line of descent. So, I don’t mind that Amy has knowledge of both and sort of thinks of them both interchangably. I mean, she does have a better knowledge of the book than arguably your average teen (or adult!) would have, but I suppose I can manage that suspension of disbelief amidst the rest of this story…

Hmm.  I’ll be honest, I tried Wikipedia just because I have a compulsive need to know details (this probably explains my compulsion to keep reading series that I’ve grown to despise…) but that was kind of frustrating.  I think I needed to read all about OZ-rather than just the first book but I don’t want to go too overboard.  Maybe I’ll plan to read the series while waiting for Book #2 in this series!

Anyway, I do like that Pagie’s Oz is a mixture of the movie and the book worlds.  Nearly everyone has to have seen the movie, but how many people have really read the original books?  She’d have to base as much as she could off the movie for familiarity, but also want to mine the details of Baum’s written world.  I love the thought that Paige put into the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked and how different they all are.  I really am going to have to read up to understand who is her creation and who is from the Oz series.

Time for me to get to reading! 

We’re Reading: Dorothy Must Die

Amanda and Holly read Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (in three parts). Thank you to Harper360 for the sending copies for us to read together!


Check out the book trailer if you want a quick overview – in short, Dorothy has gone bad, Oz is a mess, and another girl from Kansas takes a trip to Oz via tornado.

First Third, Through Page 155



I think this book is hilariously creative.The Kansas cliches are one of the best parts – totally overdone, but I think that goes along with the irony of this whole story. I mean, we’ve got the trailer park, addict mom, disappeared dad, pregnant teenage bully, not to mention a town called Flat Hill, Kansas. (Note: not a real place.)

I agree, hilariously creative. And brave. I mean you’re messing with Dorothy and Glinda-Oz itself. Judy freaking Garland. This could have really upset people. I love fairy tale retellkngs (Kill Me Softly, Indexing) so this is perfect for me. I do wish I knew more about the Oz books besides Dorothy- maybe I’ll hit Wikipedia before reading the next 1/3…

So, I was listening to an interview with M.T. Anderson talking about how he wrote Feed(TBR pile!) in the future, because one of the hard things about writing contemporary stories, especially YA, is that cultural references become dated so quickly. So, while I loved that Paige threw in details like “one of those blankets with sleeves that Mom had ordered off TV with money we didn’t have,” I wonder how long that Snuggie reference will resonate with readers.

That’s funny.  I did giggle at the Snuggie reference, but you’re right.  Who knows how long we’ll remember those.

Also, um, were YA books always so violent? I honestly can’t remember if there was so much killing and fighting in the genre. Did it start with The Hunger Games? Before that? I mean, it’s downright formulaic:

 1. Hero/ine gets involved in some sort of organized fighting scene

2. Training. There’s always training.

3. Much blood and bruising

4. Someone fights someone to the death.

Examples? The Hunger Games, Divergent, His Fair Assassin. Hmm, I suppose even Harry Potter, because what’s Dumbledore’s Army besides an organized fighting training group. Is that where this started?

Isn’t adolescence in and of itself difficult enough without every story being about someone having to fight someone? Are all teenagers harboring latent violent tendencies these days, or what?

I don’t know that I think the violence is new, I mean you go back as far as Ender’s Game and you get the children being trained up for war.  I think its just HOT right now as a trend thanks to the HG, Divergent -and I could go on and one into dystopians.  I know! What we need is John Green to write a dystopian! That will blow minds.

Anyway, that said I am completely creeped out by the Tin Man and what I hear of the scarecrow.  I can’t wait to get back into Oz.  I’m not sure I want Amy to be an assassin yet.  I know Dorothy sounds like bad news, but to go from poor Kanas girl to killer?  I’m not sold.

Follow along as we continue the next 33.3% tomorrow!

PS-How cool is this cover?  I love it!

Review: China Dolls

China Dolls, Lisa See


Published June 3rd 2014 by Random House

376 pages

Source: Edelweiss

From Goodreads…


In 1938, Ruby, Helen and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at San Francisco’s exclusive “Oriental” nightclub, the Forbidden City. Grace, an American-born Chinese girl has fled the Midwest and an abusive father. Helen is from a Chinese family who have deep roots in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And, as both her friends know, Ruby is Japanese passing as Chinese. At times their differences are pronounced, but the girls grow to depend on one another in order to fulfill their individual dreams. Then, everything changes in a heartbeat with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly the government is sending innocent Japanese to internment camps under suspicion, and Ruby is one of them. But which of her friends betrayed her?

Grace, Helen and Ruby meet as they’re all auditioning as dancers in a Chinese club in San Francisco.  These are great paying jobs for women at the time-especially for Chinese women, but this is not innocent dancing and there’s also a price they pay for that.  Eventually they leave San Francisco and start traveling the country with other Chinese entertainers or those passing as Chinese due to the times.  I had never heard of the “Chop Suey Circuit” of Asian entertainers traveling the United States so the stories were fascinating to me.  This was a shocking read from a 2014 perspective of the racism that was present at all levels and the way that it was just part of these girls’ daily lives. Unfortunately these characters didn’t really come to life for me the way that I felt about See’s previous work such as in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Ruby, Grace and Helen’s lives become deeply intertwined and they depend heavily on each other.  Despite that dependence the interactions between them just felt forced to me at times.  They professed to be such true friends, but really were frenemies.  Maybe that’s just show business?  Reading about false friendships can be fun and all-but this wasn’t supposed to be that kind of book.  I felt like I could see what was coming far ahead of time-the great reveals really weren’t any kind of revelation for me.  If See had put as much into her characters as she did into the historical setting this would have been an amazing book.

 3 stars

Thank you Random House and edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.