Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Whole New World!

Once upon a time, I couldn't sit still for two seconds and listen to my mom read out loud to me and my siblings.

It's not like I couldn't follow the story, it's just that I preferred reading it myself. Then I could go at my own (much faster) pace and and have something visually and physically to hold onto to keep my squirming body still.

Fast forward a few years and you'd find me sneaking books to work to read on my lunch breaks and then lying on a couch when I got home to read. Life was simpler then. I had a job and a few things to keep me somewhat busy but I didn't have a never ending list of "THINGS, JENNY NEEDS TO DO TODAY AND THE NEXT  DAY AND THIS WEEK AND AND AND." My reading slipped into oblivion. I was lucky to read 3 books a month, which, for me, is pretty pathetic.

And then...

Audio books! Honestly, I wasn't thrilled about getting into audio books. Like most people, I found them hard to concentrate on. We do, after all, live in a visual world that makes listening to something that doesn't offer something visual to look at difficult. I actually started listening to audio books because that's what was available to borrow for a book club book. I listened in agony. I hated how slow it felt. I hated that my mind wandered and I wouldn't know where I was in the story or what was going on.

But, as they say, practice makes perfect. And once I trained my brain to listen they weren't too bad. I would be working on the huge long list I mentioned and would remember I could listen to a book while I worked. Suddenly work became more bearable.

Just think of all the times you could be listening to an audio book.
  • cleaning your house
  • getting ready in the morning (showering etc)  
  • driving 
  • grocery shopping
  • doing yard work
  • swimming (turn your speaker on and you don't have to have dry hands to handle a book) 
  • remodeling yet another rental (what? is that only me?) 
  • exercising 
  • lying on the couch because the book's just to good to put down and you've accomplished your list for the day 

This summer I began listening hardcore to audio books. Especially once I discovered the "Always Available" audio books on my online library on Overdrive. Guys, I was able to reach my Goodreads Challenge back in September. I still love real paper books and ebooks but now, I always have an audio book downloaded to listen to when life doesn't allow lying on the couch.

So huge shout out to audio books! I never thought I'd be an audio book fan but, well, here we are!

Do you listen to audio books? If not you really should give them a try. Especially now that they're available for free on online libraries. Seriously! Download the Overdrive app and see what's available.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Review: Be Frank With Me

Title Be Frank With Me
By Julia Claiborne Johnson
Genre Adult Contemporary
Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

M.M. Banning  once wrote a best seller but for years has been holed up in her Beverly Hills Mansion. When she tells her literary agent she's working on something new he'll do anything to ensure she finishes her book. He'll even go so far as to send his assistant, Alice, to watch Banning's eccentric 9 year old. When Alice meets Frank, the eccentric 9 year old who she's in charge of and immerses her life in theirs, she'll never be the same.

First Sentence
"Mimi's Prickley," Isaac Vargas told me when he asked if I'd go to California to work for M.M. Banning while she wrote her long-awaited second novel.

I don't remember who read this one and reviewed it and made me want to read it or if anyone read and reviewed it that I saw. I just know it ended up on my TBR list and when I saw it come up on Overdrive on audio I promptly downloaded it and began to listen.

I laughed my way through most of this one. Frank's innocence and bluntness amused me and he wormed his way into my affections just as he did with the MC Alice.

Occasionally while reading I'd wonder just what exactly the plot of this one was, there wasn't much of one, but then I'd become too immersed in Frank's shenannigans to care.

While I found this one an all in all delightful read it wasn't perfect. Xander really annoyed me, that is, his relationship with Alice really annoyed me. I found it unnecessary and kept wondering why the author even threw it in.

So, while I'm not sure why I picked this one up, I'm glad I did. It was a great read and Frank was adorably frustrating in all the right ways.

Should you read it
Yes, it was well worth the laughs.     

Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: All The Truth That's In Me

Title All The Truth That's In Me
By Julie Berry
Genre YA fiction
Rating ⭐️⭐️

Judith disappeared for two years.  She returned to her small town with her tongue cut out and unable to speak of where she's been. Her mother barely tolerates her presence, choosing instead to dote on Judith's brother Darrel. When their small town is attacked secrets about Judith's disappearance come to light. Now she must choose to stay quiet or find her voice and change her world forever.

First Sentence
You didn't come.  

First off, I have to say how much I hate the cover of this book. I actually think it's an awesome cover for what the story is about except for a few details. The girl has like twenty pounds of eye liner on and looks like she's in the present. Not so. This book takes place back in like the 1600s-ish. Why couldn't they use a picture of a Puritan girl instead of this modern looking girl? Whatever. The book I read just had a flower on the front but I'd seen this cover and was shocked when I found out it wasn't modern.

So, yeah, this book isn't modern. Moving on.

I think this strange little story was trying so hard to be important. A book about silencing a woman and the harm it can cause. If it was going for that, I felt like it should have been modern after all and not so literal. Cutting out the MCs tongue was overkill (for that particular message) in my opinion.

The story was too long. It just kept meandering along and making me keep questioning WHY the MC wasn't telling her story? Did I miss something? Oh well. I read this one for book club. Maybe after our discussion I'll have some different insights. For now I just found it too long and trying a little too hard.

Should you read it
If you do, maybe don't think about it so hard.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Flicks: Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express
Rating ★★

What It's About
Detective Poirot is finally retiring. Taking a train from his last case, he's looking forward to a relaxing journey reading Dickens but he boarded the wrong train. A murder takes place and it becomes apparent that the murderer is still on the train, Poirot must come out of retirement to solve the murder but this will be the strangest and most difficult case he's ever worked.

There was so much buzz about this one, am I right?! At first I thought it was because it has such a large and famous cast but then, silly me, I realized it was based on a book. An Agatha Christie book. Sorry. I never read her books. I couldn't get into them. Anyways, After realizing why it was so popular I decided to give it a try; I like a good mystery, after all.

And it definitely was a mystery. I tried very hard to guess what was going on but they did a very good job of keeping you guessing (if you hadn't already read the book) and I appreciated that. Of course, now I'm trying to figure out why you'd want to see this one if you read the book. If I hadn't been guessing what was going on the whole time I might have been bored.

I did guess what was going on, right before the big reveal but maybe that's what I was supposed to do. And what a strange reveal it was. Suddenly this murder mystery was trying to be all important with a moral question presented. Meh. I wasn't blown away.

The cinematography in this one was beautiful! Seriously. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets nominated for an Oscar for that or at least costume design. It was a feast for the eyes. I loved it.

 Kenneth Branagh was a delight as usual. He was quite funny and you could tell he brought his personality into the directing.

All in all, I only found this one pleasing to watch for its cinematography. The mystery had me guessing but when all was revealed I was just left with a lot of questions.

Let's Talk
This movie really made me want to take a train ride on this kind of train minus the murder. Do these kind of trains even exist anymore? If not, I'm sad.

While I want to tell you to see its beauty on the big screen, you should probably just Redbox it or wait till it's on Netflix.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review: Fiendish

Title Fiendish
By Brenna Yovanoff
Genre YA Supernatural/Paranormal
Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When Clementine was a child her mother and aunt dabbled in dirt magic, making cures and small spells for the local folk, but when strange things started to happen the towns people panicked. Clementine's home was burned to the ground and her mother was killed. Clementine was kept safe by magic but was locked in the cellar; trapped by willow roots and silenced she stayed that way for ten years, until a boy sets her free. Now she must come into her power and find out what happened in the past so she can save the future.

First Sentence
When I was little, everything twinkled.

I've only read one other book by Yovanoff and had only luke-warm feelings about it so I went into this one with pretty low expectations. Maybe that's why I ended up loving it so much.

The twisted magic of this one lent to a great atmosphere to start off with. Everyone in this crazy little town had a dark side that disturbed me. I think that's why I loved Clementine so much! She was so sweet and kind and forgiving and not in that annoying, too-good-to-be-true way. She was genuine and I adored her.

The story had me intrigued from page one. I wanted to know what in the world was going on. Were the fiends really bad? How did Clementine end up trapped in that cellar? Would the young teens be able to come together with their collective powers and stop another Reckoning? I wanted to know. I actually cared. It was great to be so invested.

I loved the satisfying ending and I love that Yovanoff writes stand-a-lones.

 Should you read it
 If you're looking for a exciting and unique page turner give this one a go.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review: Haunting Violet

Title Haunting Violet
By Alyxandra Harvey
Genre YA Supernatural/Paranormal
Rating ⭐️

Violet's mother has been masquerading as a medium Violet's whole life. They've worked their way up to being invited to a country estate for a spiritualist party. But when Violet starts actually seeing ghosts she wants nothing to do with them. The ghosts won't leave her alone, though and Violet finds herself dragged into the mystery of a murdered young girl.

First Sentence
A lady does not dance more than two dances with the same gentleman.

Oi! This one has been on my shelf for a long time. I finally decided to pick it up and proceeded to be incredibly disappointed.

I'm not sure if it was a mood thing or what but I had zero patience for the amateurish feel of the writing in this one. I actually thought it was a debut novel, it felt so unpolished, but, nope, the author has written lots of other books. Several of which were published before this one. Could have fooled me.

I also think I was expecting a more modern day setting but this takes place back in Victorian times. Maybe Edwardian times. I'm not sure. That little detail escaped my notice, like most of the details in this one. Yay! Maybe I won't remember how bad it was for long.

Filled with all the YA cliche's of its day I found this one trite and boring and had to give up half way through and skim to the end. Even the skimming was bad. I should have just set this one down 20 pages in when I could tell we weren't going to get along. Oh well.

Should you read it
I think my dislike of this one is personal. So go ahead and give it a shot if you think it's your cup of tea. Just don't expect me to show up to that tea party. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Flicks: Thor Ragnarok

Thor Ragnarok
Rating ★★★★

What It's About
If you've been hiding under a rock it's time to come out. Come on, it's ok. Out you come. There's a good boy! Alright! I'm done. So anyway, I'm assuming you know all about the Marvel Universe and their movies. I love how they all fit together, don't you? This one follows Thor as he discovers he has a sister. A sister that was so power hungry and crazy that their father locked her away. But she's free now and back to her old ways of power mad controlling! It's up to Thor to stop her....without his hammer. Eeeep!

 I got to see this one opening weekend because my awesome friend Jenni had a spare ticket. Thanks Jenni! I'll be honest. I've only see the first Thor. I know! Sacrilege. But I have seen the Avengers etc so I wasn't completely lost. Now I don't know if I'm just remembering wrong or if they took a different approach to this movie but it was hilarious! Way funnier than it's predecessors. And I don't mean silly little jokes here and there amidst some serious action. I mean a laugh a minute, not taking itself too serious funny. I loved it!

And the story was fun too. I liked watching Thor figure out who he really was without his hammer. I loved all the Marvel cameos and the newcomers were great too. It was such a fun ride! If you're a Marvel fan and a fan of 80s videogames this one will be right up your alley.

My only beef with the movie, the reason it's a four star instead of a five, is I felt it was a bit long. Now if you're loving a movie or book so much that you don't want it to end then length is great. And I was loving this one but it was crowded and hot in the movie theater and enjoyable or not, it had a few unnecessary things that could have been cut in my opinion. Still, it's totally worth the watch and I guarantee you'll laugh your head off. Go see it!

Let's talk
    Chris Hemsworth fan? Cause I am. Damn!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review: The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Title The Girl Who Chased The Moon
By Sarah Addison Allen
Genre Adult Magic Realism
Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew--a reclusive, real-life gentle giant--she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes. (From Goodreads)

First Sentence
It took a moment for Emily to realize the car had come to a stop.

I needed another Allen book in this crazy depressing time of my life so I downloaded the audio of this one and listened while cleaning house and raking leaves. It was a life saver. 

I feel like this one isn't talked about as much as some of her others so my expectations were low. I thought it wasn't going to compare but I actually ended up really liking it. It was as sweet and enjoyable as Julia's cakes. (character in the story reference) 

I loved all of the characters in this one...mostly. One of the love interests annoyed the hell out of me (typical) but other than that I found the characters relatable and endearing. I also liked the story of this one. Allen's books can be a little light on story but this one held my interest and I wanted to know how everything unfolded.

A wonderful comfort read. If you haven't read Allen you need to.

Should you read it
Yes, A great Allen book to begin with if you haven't read any of her books.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Review: The Roanoke Girls

Title The Roanoke Girls
By Amy Engel
Genre Adult Contemporary
Rating ⭐️⭐️

Lane's mother never talked fondly of her childhood home. When her mother commits suicide Lane has no other options. She must go to the strange estate in Kansas to live with her grandparents. That summer the secrets are revealed and Lane can't get away fast enough but when her cousin Allegra goes missing Lane must return to the home she spent a summer in as a teenager and confront the families secrets to find out what happened to her cousin.

First Sentence
The Second time I saw Roanoke was a month after my mother committed suicide.

Oi! I'm not sure what I expected when I decided to read this one but it isn't what I got.

I was blown away by the beautiful writing in this one. Not just the style but the way everything came together with the past and present story telling and glimpses of the Roanoke girls.

Thus I gave it an extra star. Without that writing this one would have been a one star for me. The plot was just so disturbing and cringe inducing and I felt sick just reading it.

And then I asked myself why. Why did the author decide to write this twisted little story? There's nothing to be learned from it. No hope to offer or message to be learned. It was just gross and crass and pretty graphic.

So while I really didn't like this one I want to try something else the author wrote. As long as it's not a disturbing story like this one.

Should you read it
Can't recommend it. Just can't.

October Wrap-Up 2017

My favorite month of the year is over. Honestly, though, this October wasn't so great. On the 1st of this month, the untreatable cancer my mother has ate enough of her spine that it fractured in several places leaving her bed bound and in a lot of pain. The cancer in her lungs was cutting her oxygen just enough to make her levels low and as a result she was uncomfortable and cranky. She's on oxygen now and the pain killers are balanced enough to keep her comfortable so that's good but sadly, my family and I are left in that waiting period and feeling pretty helpless. On top of all that my husband and I were scrambling to get one of our rentals remodeled and rented and then another tenant moved out and we had to find renters for that unit as well. It's been a rough month but things look to be calming down. I managed to read 8 books, (audio books are awesome!) rake all the leaves, and even managed a visit down south to see my mom. Trying really hard to stay positive here!

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
A crime novel that surprised and entertained. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Incredibly stupid story with awful characters. ⭐️

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
ANOTHER multiverse story with nothing new to offer. ⭐️⭐️

The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli
A delightful middle grade/YA novel with depth and heart. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Way too disturbing of a story but what beautiful writing. ⭐️⭐️

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
A sweet story with a good message. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Warm and fuzzy comfort read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Favorites of the month were The Warden's Daughter and the much needed comfort reads by Allen. Least Favorite was Imaginary Girls.