Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Top 10 Favorite Beach Reads of the Summer

Wired (Buchanan-Renard, #13)

Wired by Julie Garwood

Garwood's Buchanan-Renard series can sometimes be a bit predictable, but over and over again, I fall in love with the suspense and romance. 

The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I really can't tell you how much I love this book. The historical depictions, the character depth, the narrative style - just everything about Stockett's debut reminds me why I love reading.

Bitter Greens

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

A novel based on a well-loved fairy tale, but molded and make into a fantastic story that had me hooked. Forsyth develops her villain's character, creating them into an actual person instead of simply an evil entity. 

Mrs. Hemingway

Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood

I am head over heels with the premise of this book. I'm on a historical fiction kick lately, and reading about the relationships of Hemingway (another new obsession) sounds amazing for a lazy day at the beach.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I didn't expect to love this book as much as I did. The hype surrounding Gone Girl almost lowered my expectations, but Flynn's novel absolutely blew me away. If you haven't read it, you must

Gone with the Wind

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Stick with me here: I know this book is a tome, but it's a tome that's definitely worth a read. I was incredibly intimidated by it when I first started it, but fell in love so quickly. Mitchell's depiction of the Confederate South is gripping and her famous heroine is all you've heard about and more. 

Mercury in Retrograde

Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich

I can't wait to read this! It looks like a fun, chick lit story of women who lose their way and have to start over in the world. There's a lot of mixed reviews out there, so I'm curious to actually get my hands on this book.

The Girl on the Train 
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I've waited so long to get my hands on The Girl on the Train. Everyone I've talked to has loved this gripping thriller. Rachel sees something she can't unsee on her daily train commute and quickly becomes caught up in the case. How could I say no?

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert

Chick lit meets food book? Yes, please. I was sold the moment I saw the book blurbed as "'You've Got Mail' meets 'How to Eat a Cupcake'.

Yes Please

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

The reigning queen of goofy, big-mouthed characters, Amy Poehler tells her story with the same trademark humor that made her a household name. I'm in the middle of reading Yes, Please and couldn't be more in love with it. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Home of the Free Because of the Brave | Memorial Day

Part of my job is to do research for our company's social media posts. Last week, I started looking around on Twitter using #Memorial Day and, among the posts for sales and BBQ tips, I found some beautiful posts honoring our service members. I found #HonorThem, created by the Department of Defense (I think), and I felt so proud of these men and women. 

This video was so lovely, and I found myself crying in my cube, so caught up with the emotions of it all. 

So take some time today and think about the men and women who stood up for us so we can say what we think, do what we want, and be who we will. 

Thank you to our military, our service people, and their loved ones for all you do for us. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

5 Terrific Books You Need to Know About in June

The Truth According to Us

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

I have to level with you here - I didn't know anything about this book until I started researching this post. The cover, with its brilliant blues, caught my eye (I know - not supposed to judge by covers...sorry) and I fell in love with the blurb. A family history entwined with the story of a small town, set in history? You bet I'll be looking for this one. 

The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2)

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I reviewed the second installment of Johansen's Tearling series early last month and had to restrain myself from raving too much and revealing the story. If you loved Johansen's debut, her second book is a must read; she sets up the series for the final installment brilliantly.

The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

After months of searching for a new fantasy series, I'm excited to say I think The Witch Hunter is it! Witches, ghosts, pirates, and magic? Oh, yes

Wicked Charms (Lizzy & Diesel, #3)

Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

Say what you will about Janet Evanovich, but as the queen of the fun and fluffy, her books are just fun to read. I enjoy the Wicked series, but I'm a worried about the book being co-authored...

Royal Wedding (The Princess Diaries, #11)

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

Princess Mia has always held a soft spot for me. My dogeared copy of The Princess Diaries got me through some rough spots in junior high and high school. I admit I dropped off the series in the past few years, but I think it's time Mia and I got reacquainted. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Canon Classics | "Men Without Women" by Ernest Hemingway

Title: Men Without Women
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Publication Date: 2004 {this edition}
Publisher: Scribner
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 First published in 1927, Men Without Women represents some of Hemingway's most important and compelling early writing. In these fourteen stories, Hemingway begins to examine the themes that would occupy his later works: the casualties of war, the often uneasy relationship between men and women, sport and sportsmanship. In "Banal Story," Hemingway offers a lasting tribute to the famed matador Maera. "In Another Country" tells of an Italian major recovering from war wounds as he mourns the untimely death of his wife. "The Killers" is the hard-edged story about two Chicago gunmen and their potential victim. Nick Adams makes an appearance in "Ten Indians," in which he is presumably betrayed by his Indian girlfriend, Prudence. And "Hills Like White Elephants" is a young couple's subtle, heartwrenching discussion of abortion. Pared down, gritty, and subtly expressive, these stories show the young Hemingway emerging as America's finest short story writer.

Normally in The Canon Classics review, I like to talk about all aspects of a novel - the character development, the plot, pace, narrative style - but today, things are a little different. Why? Because I finally read Hemingway. 

I find it strange that in, oh, five years of college with at least one English course each semester (I started major classes my freshman year) I have never read Hemingway. High school was pretty typical: Shakespeare, The Great Gatsby, and a little Charlotte Bronte (I think I was the only one in the class excited), but never was Hemingway on any of my syllabi. 

I've always been entranced by the image painted by my professors of Hemingway: the man who coined "write drunk, edit sober," know for short, staccato narratives and occasionally grim images of life. I didn't know what I would make of his rumored abrupt writing style, but I finally got the chance to try it when I found Men Without Women hanging out on the library shelf.

I love it.

Let me clarify that it a bit - it took some getting used to. Hemingway's first story, "The Undefeated" tells the story of a bullfighter down on his luck and looking to return to the ring. Although each sentence is barely fifteen words, Hemingway builds such incredible tension and foreshadowing with each conversation and interaction Manuel has leading up to the fight. The symbolism of the bull on the wall, each character's warnings built up to an ominous atmosphere. 

As for the short narrative style, I find it deceptively simple. Hemingway hides so much in the words, creating emotions, atmosphere and settings with so few words that it's simply extraordinary. The same attention to detail and efficiency with words stays consistent throughout Men Without Women and makes me curious to what his novels, like A Farewell to Arms must be like. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Review | 'B' Is For Burglar

Title: 'B' Is For Burglar
Author: Sue Grafton 
Publication Date: 1985
Publisher: Bantam Books
Series: Kinsey Milhone {Book 2}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Finding wealthy Elaine Boldt seems like a quickie case to Kinsey Millhone. The flashy widow was last seen wearing a $12,000 lynx coat, leaving her condo in Santa Teresa for her condo in Boca Raton. But somewhere in between, she vanished. Kinsey's case goes from puzzling to sinister when a house is torched, an apartment is burgled of worthless papers, the lynx coat comes back without Elaine, and her bridge partner is found dead. Soon Kinsey's clues begin to form a capital M—not for missing, but for murder: and plenty of it.

The Kinsey Millhone series details the story of the original girl detective, and even though I didn't understand the first novel on my first try, I've fallen in love with the series.

The case Kinsey takes on feels like it should be simple, a open-and-shut kind that would take minimal resources and bring in the cash. As Kinsey slowly uncovers more and more about this case and another, seemingly unrelated, one. I found myself fascinated by the many layers of the story of the missing Elaine Boldt; so much care and precision went into making sure that each track was covered. The story never had a fast plot, per se, but the steady pace increased as the novel went on, as more clues appeared. 

I found myself especially entranced by the suspects and villains in B is for Burglar, more so than with Kinsey herself. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed her character, but she takes a backseat to the intricate, complex personalities that Grafton created and set loose in her world. The scene of the first break-in (if you've read this, the one in Tillie's home) made me get up and check all the locks on the house. The extreme nature of the characters in the second installment of the Kinsey Millhone series explores the vicious nature of greed and jealousy in a terrifying way. 

As for the few romantic elements in B is for Burglar, they just didn't do much for me. They give Kinsey's character a little color, but she's so gun shy that the entire encounter just makes me feel awkward. Her romantic decisions made sense, especially at the end, but I found myself searching for a reason to care about the romance. She never seems to think about it outside of the designated scenes. The novel would have been just as strong if Grafton had found a different way to bring a personal element to Kinsey.

B is for Burglar is a fun, quick read, perfect for the mystery lover. It's intrigued me to keep reading - if the characters were so heinous in this installment, what will they be like in the next?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review | Living on the Edge by Shannon K. Butcher

Title: Living on the Edge 
Author: Shannon K. Butcher {website}
Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Series: Edge {Book 1}
Source & Format: Borrowed; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
With her thrilling Sentinel Wars series, Shannon K. Butcher pushed readers to the very edge of their imaginations. Now, with the first in her new action romance series she takes them to the very edge of their seats, following the loves and lethal lives of a group of hardened mercenaries who live on the edge-and beyond...

More and more, I'm falling love with the action-packed romantic suspense, although Living on the Edge falls more on the side of romance then suspense. The ball-busting Sloane risking everything to save her friend from the wilds of Colombia and the retired soldier Lucas, tasked with returning her home, make a fantastic couple, keeping the sparks flying in Living on the Edge

The action scenes kept the plot moving forward at a rapid pace. There was little downtime - I never felt my mind wandering from the story. The typical action scenes of gunfights in the jungle, mixed with the sexual tension between Sloane and Lucas kept the pace quick. The only time the pace really fell was when the narration transitioned to Sloane's friends back in the U.S. They weren't boring, but I didn't feel like I had enough background information to become truly engaged with them. 

I didn't really care for the father storyline. It's so integral to Sloane's character makeup, but felt forced at times. His motivations were a bit predictable, but not overly so. Strangely, for having such an impact on Sloane's life and character, he was one of the flattest characters. The rest of the plot was incredible. Sloane's motivation to save her friend and Lucas' determination to keep Sloane safe all felt heartfelt and true. 

The romance was nearly a case of the dreaded insta-love, but Butcher takes the time to explain both characters' motivations. This attention to detail keeps the romance in the realm of possibility...well, as much as a manhunt in the wild jungle of Colombia can be. 

Living on the Edge was a good, fun story, but didn't make as much of an impact on me as I'd hoped. However, I am intrigued enough to try the rest of the series - the action scenes and the romance were fantastic enough for me to come back for more. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Unpopular Opinions Tag

unpopular opinions tag

I found this post over on Snuggly Oranges this weekend and fell in love with the idea! And since Debby tagged anyone who wanted to play...you bet I'm taking it on!

Of Poseidon (The Syrena Legacy, #1)  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)

Three different popular books/series starters that I could not stand. Of Poseidon was right up my alley, but the lack of strong plot and, well, dull romance just ruined it. Strayed's Wild was wildly popular (ha!), but I was so disappointed in the book that I almost immediately returned it to the library. I couldn't identify with the narrator or find at least a common thread with her. Fifty Shades of Grey just made me angry.


The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

I was amazed at how many people felt "eh" about this book. I loved the mixture of a relatively untold element of World War II history and the human element, the mystery and the treasure hunt. I burned through this book in a few days, no problem. Definitely recommend to history and art lovers, or someone who simply wants a bit of adventure.

Twilight (Twilight, #1)

Let's face it - the sane choice would have been Jacob. Edward's obsessiveness is beyond creepy.

House of Echoes When We Were Animals Within These Walls 

Horror absolutely terrifies me. Don't get me wrong - I know that's the point, but I hate beings scared. If there's horror elements mixed in, I can handle it - otherwise, I'll stick with the kids' versions, thankyouverymuch. 

The Selection (The Selection, #1) The Elite (The Selection, #2) The One (The Selection, #3) 

I did give this a good ol' try, but after the end of The Elite, I was done. America and I just didn't mesh - just thinking about her rankles me. 

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1) Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1) What Really Happened in Peru (The Bane Chronicles, #1)

I really wanted to love Clare's work, but there's so much teenage angst everywhere that I just can't handle it. It stresses me out to read her books. The lack of plot/plots based on ridiculous problems pushed me farther and farther away until I return everything to the library and never looked back.


The love triangle. Unless it is done perfectly, just no.

Velvet (Velvet Trilogy #1) 

The Princess Bride

Don't misunderstand me - I LOVE this book. But the movie will always hold a special place in my heart.