A Few Books I Couldn’t Finish

Amanda

I really try to finish every book I start, but I’m also trying to be ok with letting go when I just don’t attach to a book.  Here are a few books I’ve started recently but I decided to put down.  I’m not afraid to try again if you’ve read either and can convince me to give them another chance!

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Some Other Town, Elizabeth Collison

Paperback, 288 pages

Published February 24th 2015 by Harper Perennial

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

From Goodreads…

Margaret Lydia Benning lives adrift in the same Midwest town where she went to college. By day, she works at a low-level job for the Project, a university-sponsored educational publisher housed in a former sanatorium. There she shares the fourth floor with a squadron of eccentric editors and a resident ghost from the screamers’ wing. At night, Margaret returns to her small house on Mott Street, resigned to the disturbing overtures of her strange neighbor, Mrs. Eberline.

Emotionally sleepwalking through the days is no way to lead a life. But then Margaret meets Ben Adams, a visiting professor of art at the university. Despite the odds—and their best intentions—Margaret and her professor become lovers, and she glimpses a future she had never before imagined. For the first time, she has hope…until Ben inexplicably vanishes. In the wake of his disappearance, Margaret sets out to find him. Her journey will force her to question everything she believes to be true.

Quit at 24%.  This is a book of alternating perspectives from Margaret and a man who I assume is the missing Ben.  Margaret and Ben have broken up and she hasn’t heard from him since.   Not atypical right?  Margaret believes he just hasn’t called because he is angry, but her neighbor convinces her that something is wrong and they have to find him.  When I read the synopsis for Some Other Town I was so excited to read it and to try to find out what happened to Ben.  At this point, I just don’t care if really he disappeared.  Ben appears to be living on a farm keeping geese-why is he talking to geese?  Again, I don’t care.  There’s a very whimsical quality to the writing and maybe that’s why I couldn’t connect.  When I decided to give up it seemed to me like Margaret was disconnecting herself from reality.  It was getting too strange for me inside her head.

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Woman with a Gun, Phillip Margolin

Hardcover, 320 pages

Published December 2nd 2014 by Harper

Visiting an art museum displaying a retrospective of acclaimed photographer Kathy Moran’s work, aspiring novelist Stacey Kim is stunned by the photo at the center of the show—the famous “Woman with a Gun,” which won a Pulitzer Prize and launched the photographer’s career. Shot from behind, the enigmatic black and white image is a picture of a woman in a wedding dress, standing on the shore at night, facing the sea. Behind her back, she holds a six-shooter.

The image captures Stacey’s imagination, raising a host of compelling questions. Has the woman killed her husband on their wedding night? Is she going to commit suicide? Is she waiting for someone she plans to kill? Obsessed with finding answers, Stacey discovers that the woman in the photograph is Megan Cahill, suspected of killing her husband, millionaire Raymond Cahill, with the six-shooter on their wedding night. But the murder was never solved.

Drawn deeper into the case, Stacey finds that everyone involved has a different opinion of Megan’s culpability. But the one person who may know the whole story—Kathy Moran—isn’t talking. Stacey must find a way to get to the reclusive photographer or the truth may never see the light of day.

Quit at 22%.  How cool is this cover?   The photo and the premise definitely made me want to know what this woman was doing with the gun.  The book begins in aftermath of murder and then eventually moves to the future with the shooting left unsolved.  Unfortunately I didn’t make it that far.  I felt like the dialog was stilted between the parties investigating the murder and kind of forced.  It seemed to me the story was being told to me, not actively unfolding and I just wasn’t feeling drawn in.  Those flocking to the murder suspect felt flat and predictable and I’m calling this one done as well.

Thank you to Harper, Harper Perennial and Edelweiss for these advance copies in exchange for an honest opinion.

How long do you give a book you don’t like?  Hopefully my next read is a better pick for me!

Pink for All Seasons: Books 4-6

We are halfway through with Pink For All Seasons, a Lauren Willig read-along of her Pink Carnation series. We will be officially hosting book # 9 of the read-along over at The Bubblebath Reader in May, but once again we’ve decided to offer our unsolicited opinions. Here’s our take on books 4, 5, and 6.

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The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (2008)

Synopsis: In modern times, graduate student Eloise continues diving into the lives of English spies and French counterspies – while also deciding that she is interested in Colin for more than just his family’s archives. From there, the story dives into scheming Mary Alsworthy (sister of the heroine in book 3) and equally conniving Lord Vaughn, as the two embark on a business relationship that turns into something else.

Holly: After the virtuous naivete of the ladies in the first three books, I found Mary to be a refreshing change. Of course, I loved Amy, Henrietta, and Letty while reading about them, but Mary’s point of view offered an entirely different perspective on her life and her choices.

Amanda: I admit on my first read of this series I wondered why Lauren would want to write about Mary Alsworthy.  She just sounds like a jerk!  And then you get into her head.  She’s well aware of her place in Society -she has the face everyone wants but no money to back up a marriage.  So despite myself I found myself sympathizing for Mary a bit and then rooting for her to find her own happily ever after.  After all the pleasantness of the other heroes and heroines I have to say I really enjoyed the snark Mary and Vaughn bring to the series.  They can be a bit too condescending for me, but I suppose as the son of an Earl Vaughn can be as rude as he’d like.  These two are simply perfect for each other in the end.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe (2010)

Synopsis: Arabella Dempsey, friend of Jane Austen, has grown up on the outskirts of the ton, the British high society to which so many of the characters in the Pink books belong to. She takes a teaching position at a girl’s school, and finds herself involved in a web of school girls and spies, while one Turnip Fitzgerald finds himself suddenly quite interested in visiting his sister at school. Notes – here, Lauren Willing recommends reading the series slightly out of order from their publication years, so this book jumps over some earlier published titles. She lists the order here. Also, unlike the rest of the Pink books, this one has no modern Eloise & Colin storyline.

Holly: I was prepared not to like this book – we’ve got a random appearance of Jane Austen, a serious lack of Eloise and Colin, AND the male lead is played by the comic relief of book #2 (I mean, not that Hen and Miles need much comic relief as they’re pretty hilarious on their own). However, Lauren got me again, because I loved this one. I thought it was interesting that this is the first book without um, a vivid romantic scene, but I think that is quite fitting. I’m pretty sure Turnip would call it deuced dodgy to talk about his and Miss Dempsey’s business like that.

Amanda: Something about this book made me grumpy when I started and I was prepared to rate it much lower on my re-read.  Maybe it was the Jane Austen cameo?  I love Austen so I don’t know why this irked me.  But Turnip- or Reggie as I now prefer to think of him- is just so stinking pleasant! And like Arabella, I fell a little bit in love with him.  I did miss Eloise and Colin but I was totally entertained by Arabella and the antics of her students.  Even though this was a reread for me I was surprised in the end by the spies!

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (2009)

Synopsis: Eloise spends time at Selwick Manor – both hanging out the Colin and researching in the family archives. She uncovers the letters and diary of Charlotte Lansdowne, who has fallen in love with her just-returned-from-India-very-very-distant cousin Robert, the Duke of Dovedale, who seems to be hiding something.

Amanda:  I have such a good story about this book! My best friend wanted to get this for my for my birthday-but it was not going to released until later that month.  She emailed Lauren and explained what fans of the series we were and asked if she knew any way to get a copy early. Lauren mailed me one of her very own copies and signed it!  Sweetest author ever!  Dear Charlotte is also the sweetest and you just have to want her to be happy.

Holly: I adore Charlotte. In sharp contrast to the heroines of Pink 1-3, she is not at all afraid to tell Robert what she feels about him, what she wants, and how his actions affect her. I just loved reading her story, and six books in, I am still quite enjoying the series!

Are you reading along with us?  Or eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the Pink Carnation series?

Top Ten Favorite Heroines

Today is Tuesday so again we’re linking up with the Broke and the Bookish with a list of Amanda’s favorite heroines.

cafc6-toptentuesdayI think this is a pretty random list-in no particular order.

  • Hermione Granger.

Who’s on your list?

2015 Book Blogger Love-a-Thon Interview

Thanks Alexa Loves Books for hosting the 2015 Book Blogger Love-a-Thon!

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  1. What’s your name?  Amanda and Holly
  2. Where in the world are you blogging from?  The frigid midwest. Complete with neverending snow and ice.
  3. How did you get into blogging in the first place?

Amanda: Our fairy blogmother is my friend Christina who was blogging at Allodoxaphobia at the  time.  Those ladies have moved on to other endeavors but thankfully Christina continues to answer all my blogging questions and always is willing to talk books with me!

Holly: Amanda made me do it!

       4. How did you come up with your blog name?

Amanda: The name is in homage to our amazing high school English teacher.  He taught us “If there’s a gun on the wall in Act One, its going to go off by Act Five.”  RIP Bro Ruhl!   If he could, Brother Ruhl would come back from beyond the grave to beat me with my inappropriate comma usage as well as my inability to correctly use “it’s” vs. “its”.  Sorry sister.

    5. What genre do you read and review the most on your blog?

Amanda: That’s a good question-I don’t think I can answer.  I think both of us will try nearly anything.  I admit to reading much more smut and YA than my sister.  But I don’t think that’s all of what I read.

    6.  What other types of posts do you do on your blog, apart from reviews?

 Profound Ones.  Completely profound discussions.  And TTT when we’re in the mood!

     7.  Best blogging experience so far?

Holly: Getting a comment from a Pulitzer Prize winning author here

     8 .  Favorite thing about the blogging community?

Amanda:  That there is always someone willing to listen to me rapture about my latest read. And then chances are good they’ll point me to my next best read!

     9.  Name the 5 6 books you’re most excited for this 2015!

Amanda:  The Wrath & the Dawn; Re Jane; The Invasion of the Tearling; A God in Ruins; Pocket Apocalypse

 Which should I read first?  The first 4 are all on my floor staring at me.

   10.  What’s an underrated book or series that you think everyone should read?

 Amanda: Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson.  Totally shocked me.

   11.  Which book boy or girl would be your book BFF?

 Holly: I really hate questions about book friends or boyfriends. Books are not people and that is okay.

Amanda: Books are not people I know sister. But it’s still fun to think about sometimes!  I will avoid picking a boyfriend lest my husband ever read this and feel offended.  But I can think of 2 BFF’s I take- 1. Elisa from Girl of Fire and Thorns.  2. Robin from The Cuckoo’s Calling.  Clearly those are very different books – but two chicks that are smart, self aware and can kick booty!

   12.  Apart from reading, what are your other hobbies or interests?

 Holly: Cooking, tennis, annoying my sister

Amanda: Chasing my 4 year-old. Daydreaming fantasy vacations. Going anywhere in Chicago I can walk-when its not freaking snowing.  Texting my sister.  Also currently obsessed with the Americans and Orphan Black.  Debating trying the 100 after the twitter obsession I see.

     13.  Apart from book shopping, what else do you like shopping for?

 Holly: Plane tickets.

 Amanda: Shoes.  All the shoes.

     14.  At a party, the DJ suddenly changes the song – and it’s your song. What song would be playing?

 Holly:  Who goes to parties with DJs?

Amanda:  How do I follow that up?

    15.  Pick out either a book you want turned into a film/TV show, or a film/TV show you want turned into a book.

Holly: The Lumatere Chronicles. Obviously.
Amanda: Obviously, I agree with my sister 100%.  On a totally different note, I think The Pink Carnation series would be totally fun.

Thanks for stopping by our Love-a-Thon post!! Please link us back to visit you!

Review: Into Thin Air 2015 TBR Challenge

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, Jon Krakauer

Amanda

Paperback, 333 pages

Published October 19th 1999 by Anchor (first published 1997)

Source: Purchased

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From Goodreads…

Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer’s book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles, Into Thin Air clearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author’s own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions.

Holly and I signed up for the Roof Beam Reader’s 2015 TBR Pile Challenge and this is my first book off the list.  I bought my copy so long ago that my husband and I actually got into an argument over who the book belongs to – though neither of us had read it.  Also- don’t you agree its all marital property anyway?!

Anyway, I knew that Krakauer tells a good story from reading Under the Banner of Heaven and I knew that he had actually been a part of this disastrous expedition.  What I didn’t realize was that  this book was also a confessional of the experience on the mountain and Krakauer’s own role in the loss of life.

Honestly, I found this book a bit depressing.  People are paying (in the late ‘90s) $65,000 to fight their way up a mountain that might kill them. And in doing so they’re ruining the mountain itself:

It seems to me that to want to climb mountains you have to have an appreciation for nature, right?  So why be a part of ruining what you’re going to see?  That’s not even getting into the dead bodies left on the mountain.

I just don’t understand why you’d willingly go into a situation where you know there’s a good chance you’ll have to decide between your life and someone else’s before you go home.  Or where there’s a fair chance you’ll die yourself.  These climbers walk past people that are dying and just leave them. Do people just think it can’t happen to them, I wonder?  Or are they so determine to say they’ve been to Everest that they don’t care?  It is beyond me.

This might sound silly, but what I really wanted in this book was more photos.  Krakauer talks about the Hillary Step as a significant waypoint-but I didn’t really understand how.  He talks about how perilous the Iceflow was to ascend and descend-but I wanted to SEE it.  So I spent a fair amount of time on Google images while reading.  [Beware if you do this you can also see a lot of the bodies left behind on the climb.] This is how you cross the Icefall in portions:

Who thinks that’s a smart thing to do?!

All that being said, this was a fascinating story.  Its a terribly sad story for the men and women who died both on Krakauer’s expedition and in climbs after.  I respect Krakauer for coming out and explaining his own role and for the addendum chapter addressing the version put out by another guide.  I might like to read other stories of this expedition some day, but for now I am more than satisfied with this version.  I’m thankful to the Roof Beam Reader Challenge for getting me to read this one!

Major takeaway from this book- Why in God’s name does anyone want to climb Mt. Everest?

4 stars!

Review: The Same Sky

The Same Sky, Amanda Eyre Ward

Amanda

Hardcover, 288 pages

Published January 20th 2015 by Ballantine Books

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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From the publisher:

From the acclaimed author of How to Be Lost and Close Your Eyes comes a beautiful and heartrending novel about motherhood, resilience, and faith and a ripped-from-the-headlines story of two families on both sides of the American border.

Alice and her husband, Jake, own a barbecue restaurant in Austin, Texas. Hardworking and popular in their community, they have a loving marriage and thriving business, but Alice still feels that something is missing, lying just beyond reach.

Carla is a strong-willed young girl who ha€™s had to grow up fast, acting as caretaker to her six-year-old brother Junior. Years ago, her mother left the family behind in Honduras to make the arduous, illegal journey to Texas. But when Carla’€™s grandmother dies and violence in the city escalates, Carla takes fate into her own hands ”and with Junior, she joins the thousands of children making their way across Mexico to America, risking great peril for the chance at a better life.

In this elegant novel, the lives of Alice and Carla will intersect in a profound and surprising way. Poignant and arresting, The Same Sky is about finding courage through struggle, hope amid heartache, and summoning the strength ”no matter what dangers await €”to find the place where you belong.

This dual perspective novel introduces us to Carla, a young girl growing up in a slum in Honduras and to Alice, who runs a barbeque restaurant in Austin, Texas.  Their stories run separately for the length of the book and in the end I was kind of kicking myself for not seeing how they would intersect.

Carla is living a relatively decent life for her poverty stricken area.  She and her brothers are being raised by their grandmother.  Her mother is living in Texas and sends home money and fancy American clothing.  By comparison, Carla’s best friend leaves school to help his family eat by salvaging food and anything sellable from the garbage dump.  When Carla’s grandmother dies and her younger brother begins looking for drugs over food, she knows she has to try to find her way to America.  To write this book, Amanda Eyre Ward worked at shelters interviewing children who immigrated.  The journey that Carla and Junior take is harrowing and so many people make this choice every day.  Ward tells a powerful story of how desperate people are to try to make it to the United States – something everyone lucky enough to be a US Citizen should understand.  Carla’s life is not something a little girl should have to experience.  Psst – if you are looking for a great nonfiction book on the subject, Holly recommends Coyotes: A Journey through the Secret World of America’s Illegal Aliens by Ted Conover)

In contrast, Alice’s life is pretty good.  She and her husband have a crazy popular restaurant in Austin.  They are broken hearted though as the baby they believed they were going to adopt was taken back by his birth mother after 24 hours.  I think Alice is a character that women readers can relate to.  She wasn’t trying to be the perfect wife or friend or business person.  She was selfish in her grief – as you can be!  Though Carla and Alice could not have been more different they were both great strong female characters.  As I said, I probably should have seen where their lives would meet but I didn’t until the very end which I was glad for.

This was a really hopeful book for both Carla and Alice when it was over.  Even though I would not change the resolution at all, it felt as though things wrapped up a little too neatly.  However, I really loved how the book was finished from Carla’s perspective.  This was a fast read despite the weighty subjects and it definitely leaves you with a lot to think about.  If you want books like this I also highly recommend Prayers for the Stolen which I reviewed last week.

3 stars

Thank you Ballentine Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: Tear You Apart

Tear You Apart, Sarah Cross

Amanda

Published January 27th 2015 by Egmont

ebook, 384 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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From Goodreads….

An edgy fairy tale retelling of “Snow White” set in the world of Kill Me Softly for fans of Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

Faced with a possible loophole to her “Snow White” curse, Viv goes underground, literally, to find the prince who’s fated to rescue her. But is life safe in the Underworld worth the price of sacrificing the love that might kill her?

How would it feel to be in love with someone who might be your executioner one day?  This is the central question I pondered while reading Sarah Cross’ Tear You Apart.  Vivian lives in the strange town of Beau Rivage where fairy tales have come to life.  Many of the locals are fairy cursed – you can find Sleeping Beauties, Snow Whites, Prince Charmings.  You can also find Evil Queens, girls who spit out jewels or frogs when they talk, and Beasts.  These are not Disney fairy tales, they are much truer to the original and often violent stories.  I enjoyed Cross’s first book, Kill Me Softly, also set in Beau Rivage so I was excited to see what fairy tale she retold next.  Viv is a Snow White, which means that she is the fairest of the fair. It also means her Stepmother will ask for her heart someday, and Viv must pray that her huntsman will find compassion for her.

To complicate matters, Viv knows exactly who the huntsman is who will eventually be tasked to kill her. Oh, and he is her boyfriend, Henley. Viv seems to love him, but through the story, she does not treat him as though she does! She can be downright cruel to him.  They had been the best of friends before falling in love, but Viv has a fatalistic outlook and seems to be just trying to push Henley to make a decision kill her himself.  I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t a big fan of Viv.  I love the world Cross created with these dark twisted versions of stories, but Viv was too whiney and spoiled.  Someone is going to try to kill you someday?  Ok that sucks, but try to do something to change your life then!  Don’t whine and antagonize people who might help you!  Viv does make a choice to go to the Underworld (another awesome setting!) but that’s to hide-not to fight back against her stepmother at all.  I will say Viv definitely improved in the end, but it was too late for me to care too much about her.

My issues with Viv aside, I was definitely entertained by this book!  I really liked how the fairy tales were wrapped into each other so the details all helped tell Viv’s story.  I loved that she brought in stories I hadn’t thought about in years like the 12 Dancing Princesses.  I also thought it was great that she brings in lesser known fairy tales such as the girl who spits diamonds and toads.  Things got twisted to a degree I didn’t expect!  If you’re a fan of fairy tales this was a fun read overall.

Sadly Cross’ publisher, Egmont, has closed but I really hope she’s picked up by a new house soon because I would read more from Beau Rivage for sure.

3 stars!

Thank you Egmont and NetGalley for this advance read copy in exchange for an honest opinion.