Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dark Water - Laura McNeal

Dark Water 
Dark Water
By Laura McNeal

The thing that initially caught my attention about Dark Water was the reference to avocado groves. I have a lot of family in Southern California and an in-law who grew up on land that contained over 200 avocado trees when her parents bought it. Combine that with what I have heard about McNeal’s writing and I was extremely curious about this book.

Since I knew this story was about a girl who meets a boy who works in the groves, I was prepared for some high school girl romantic pangs, what I wasn’t expecting was how deeply real this story would turn out to be. The book is about a girl named Pearl and the path her life takes during a time when many things were changing for her. There are a few mentions of a fire throughout the book but most of the story is about Pearl and Amiel, the boy catches her eye with his circus tricks.

Although the fire only takes up a small amount of the actual book, the intensity and reality of it transformed the story into something extremely powerful. That part of the story had the force of someone who had lived through something similar and this confirmed in the Author’s Note.

This is a story full of truth and pain. It is about the stupid decisions and infatuations that make being a teenager exciting but also the consequences of those decisions and the heartbreak that everyone experiences at some point of their life in one form or another.

**Source: Amazon Vine

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Thank you Amy from Passages to the Past for hosting this month's Mailbox Monday blog tour.

Check out the blog and post all the new books you acquired last week.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives: A Novel  by Lola Shoneyin (from publisher for review)

From Amazon:
When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife's childlessness.

Meet Baba Segi . . .

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives: A NovelA plump, vain, and prosperous middle-aged man of robust appetites, Baba Segi is the patriarch of a large household that includes a quartet of wives and seven children. But his desire to possess more just might be his undoing.

And his wives . . .

Iya Segi—the bride of Baba Segi's youth, a powerful, vindictive woman who will stop at nothing to protect her favored position as ruler of her husband's home.

Iya Tope—Baba Segi's second wife, a shy, timid woman whose decency and lust for life are overshadowed by fear.

Iya Femi—the third wife, a scheming woman with crimson lips and expensive tastes who is determined to attain all that she desires, no matter what the cost.

Bolanle—Babi Segi's fourth and youngest wife, an educated woman wise to life's misfortunes who inspires jealousy in her fellow wives . . . and who harbors a secret that will expose shocking truths about them all. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Peach Keeper - Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach Keeper: A Novel 
The Peach Keeper
By Sarah Addison Allen

Do you have OCDs about certain books? I totally do! For example: Sarah Addison Allen must be read while sitting in the sun, preferably in the spring. So that is what I did a few days ago when we were lucky enough to have a beautiful spring day. I made it through a good amount of the book before I lost the sun and it was just too chilly outside to continue. I was going to finish it the following day when I could enjoy it in the sun but even after it got dark I couldn’t put this book down.

How is it that one author never fails to make you want to live in her story, to envy the characters and want to travel to the places and yet when I close the book I don’t feel depressed that I don’t have that life, I feel more hopeful about my own! I loved this book.

I love how her books are so impacted by food (there is even a chef from one of Allen’s previous books that makes a short appearance). I love the various scents that bring out different memories as well as so many emotions. I love the friendships. This book had an eerie feel to it that I don’t remember in her previous books and I really loved that! It fit perfectly into the story but didn’t stop the book from having a light ending.

I will admit that even with all this love, there were a few parts that weren’t my favorite. I am torn by the perfect way everything wraps up. Part of me thinks come one mix it up a little bit but the other part tells that part to shut up because it wouldn’t be the delightful story it is if it didn’t end that way. So, prepare yourself for an eye role and maybe an “oh my god of course” and then enjoy the rest of the journey.

**Source: ARC from Amazon Vine

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Emerald Atlas - John Stephens

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning)
The Emerald Atlas
By John Stephens

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I opened this book. I was excited because I felt there was a good vibe from it but was also concerned that it would feel too similar to other books. Although there were moments when I thought “hey this reminds me of…” it only happened early on in the book. If there were moments later on that should have triggered that reaction I didn’t notice it because I was too wrapped up in the story.

The Emerald Atlas was about the adventure three siblings mistakenly fall into. I loved the relationship between the three siblings, they had one of those “I can beat you up because we are related but if someone else tries, they will have to go through me first.” Kate is the oldest and steps into the parental role after they lose their parents. Michael is the cute nerdy kid who has knowledge that turns out to come in handy for the kids. Emma is the youngest of the three and I love her as the comic relief. She is cute and spunky and I couldn’t help but laugh at some of her remarks.

When I started the book, I was instantly excited and obsessed with it. My hopes were high but as the story progressed I found the energy that it opened with had died off and I started to become uninterested but just as I was becoming concerned, the story leveled out and the remainder was a constant pleasure. This is the first book in a series and I am excited to see what comes next.

**Source: ARC from publisher

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden - Helen Grant

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden
By Helen Grant

You know those books you read that totally surprise you, the ones that are just like SHABLAM in your face! Well, this was one of those. It started as a book about a girl named Pia and her life in Germany. It was about her growing up and dealing with school kid drama (the drama that every kid deals with but exaggerated to an entertaining degree). When a girl goes missing the story shifts to focus on how it affects Pia and those close to her. Through all this, tales are woven into the story about the town she lives in. As the focus turns more to the mystery of the missing girl it happened in a very natural way and was therefore much more real.

I have to tell you I started reading this on a warm day sitting out in the sun and it felt very cheery and light, then I was in my house later after the sun had gone down and the story got a bit dark. I was all alone and started totally freaking myself out because the book got creepy in a wonderfully delightful way and at the end I even caught myself reading with my eyes frozen in wide “holy crap” Os (and this was happening while I was in the bath…not the most relaxing bath I ever took but I literally couldn’t put the book down). This is where I tell you that I did something I have never done before in a book…I jumped ahead! I was on my lunch break and I had no idea I was getting to the apex of the story because (like I said) I had no idea it was going to be such a mysterious story and I just had to know…

I glanced at each page for the next couple of chapters until I found the answer I was looking for. I’m so ashamed! But I don’t regret it. I think it was more intense when I went back and actually read those pages knowing what I knew…

This book was not what I was expecting…it was better.

**Source: ARC via LibraryThing

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Thank you Amy from Passages to the Past for hosting this month's Mailbox Monday blog tour.

Check out the blog and post all the new books you acquired last week.

 Born Under a Million Shadows by Andrea Busfield (constest win from Stephanie D. at Misfit Salon)

From publisher's website:
A moving tale of the triumph of the human spirit amidst heartbreaking tragedy, told through the eyes of a charming, impish, and wickedly observant Afghan boy

Born Under a Million Shadows: A NovelThe Taliban have withdrawn from Kabul’s streets, but the long shadows of their regime remain. In his short life, eleven-year-old Fawad has known more grief than most: his father and brother have been killed, his sister has been abducted, and Fawad and his mother, Mariya, must rely on the charity of parsimonious relatives to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence.

Ever the optimist, Fawad hopes for a better life, and his dream is realized when Mariya finds a position as a housekeeper for a charismatic Western woman, Georgie, and her two foreign friends. The world of aid workers and journalists is a new one for Fawad, and living with the trio offers endless curiosities—including Georgie’s destructive relationship with the powerful Afghan warlord Haji Khan, whose exploits are legendary. Fawad grows resentful and worried, until he comes to learn that love can move a man to act in surprisingly good ways. But life, especially in Kabul, is never without peril, and the next calamity Fawad must face is so devastating that it threatens to destroy the one thing he thought he could never lose: his love for his country.

A big-hearted novel infused with crackling wit, Andrea Busfield’s brilliant debut captures the hope and humanity of the Afghan people and the foreigners who live among them.

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (contest win from Amy at Passages to the Past)

From author's website:
Once again, Geraldine Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha’s Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.
Caleb's Crossing: A Novel

The narrator of Caleb’s Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island’s glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative, secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia’s minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the island’s strongest pawaaw, against whose ritual magic he must test his own beliefs.

One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. Bethia, also in Cambridge at the behest of her imperious elder brother, finds herself enmeshed in Caleb’s fate as he crosses between cultures.

Like Brooks’s beloved narrator Anna in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha’s Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart. Evocative and utterly absorbing, Caleb’s Crossing further establishes Brooks’s place as one of our most acclaimed novelists.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go (Movie Tie-In Edition) (Vintage International)
Never Let Me Go
By Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go is the only book that I have read by Ishiguro but I am totally going to change that. If I had to pick my favorite thing about the book, I think it would be how real the characters and their circumstances are.

The story is focused around Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy and how their friendships evolve and change in the strange and mysterious circumstances they live in. Although Kathy and Ruth are friends, Ruth can be a bit of a bitch but their relationship reminded me of growing up. The ups and downs of their friendship held the key to my connection because it was so perfectly realistic.

The story unfolds in a unique way, with Kathy telling the story in chunks of time. This could have been confusing or annoying but it was done so well it just makes you not want to put the book down because you have to know what is going to happen next. It is a bit like the way I tell my husband a story (only mine aren’t as engaging). I’ll be telling him something and then realize that to make the story more interesting he needs to know something else that happened years before and that will lead to something else that happened last week. I don’t know how Ishiguro manages to make it work but I loved it.

The entire story builds up to a dramatic end where the things you are guessing are confirmed or explained and the part that leaves you hanging is that if this were a true story this is exactly how I could imagine it all going down.

**Source: Library copy

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Thank you Amy from Passages to the Past for hosting this month's Mailbox Monday blog tour.

Check out the blog and post all the new books you acquired last week.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (Amazon Vine)

From publisher's website:
The Peach Keeper: A NovelThe New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever. 

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See (ARC from publisher)

From author's website:
Dreams of Joy: A NovelIn her beloved New York Times bestsellers Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and, most recently, Shanghai Girls, Lisa See has brilliantly illuminated the potent bonds of mother love, romantic love, and love of country. Now, in DREAMS OF JOY, she returns to these timeless themes, continuing the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy.

Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime and the Great Leap Forward.

Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.

Acclaimed for her richly drawn characters and vivid storytelling, Lisa See once again renders a family challenged by tragedy and time, yet ultimately united by the resilience of love.

Dark Water by Laura McNeal (Amazon Vine)

From Amazon:
Dark WaterFifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California, where it’s sunny 340 days of the year, and where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn’t pay much attention to them . . . until Amiel. From the moment she sees him, Pearl is drawn to this boy who keeps to himself, fears being caught by la migra, and is mysteriously unable to talk. And after coming across Amiel’s makeshift hut near Agua Prieta Creek, Pearl falls into a precarious friendship—and a forbidden romance.

Then the wildfires strike. Fallbrook—the town of marigolds and palms, blood oranges and sweet limes—is threatened by the Agua Prieta fire, and a mandatory evacuation order is issued. But Pearl knows that Amiel is in the direct path of the fire, with no one to warn him, no way to get out. Slipping away from safety and her family, Pearl moves toward the dark creek, where the smoke has become air, the air smoke.

Laura McNeal has crafted a beautiful and haunting novel full of peril, desperation, and love.

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (Amazon Vine)

From Amazon:
The Borrower: A NovelLucy Hull, a young children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten- year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy's help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan. Desperate to save him from Pastor Bob and the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and upsetting family history thrown in their path. But is it just Ian who is running away? Who is the man who seems to be on their tail? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?

Can you believe how awesome my mailbox is this week?  I am in love with these books!

Friday, April 1, 2011

If I Stay - Gayle Forman

If I StayIf I Stay
By Gayle Forman

I have been in a bit of a book slump. I keep starting books and setting them aside to dabble in later and then I never pick them back up again. It’s not that the books I have started haven’t necessarily been good, I just wasn’t in the mood or I couldn’t give it enough time to get into it. Well that is over!

If I Stay has brought my inner bookworm back to life. I opened it a few times before I actually read it, looking at the first line in an unfocused sort of way and then setting it back down. I finally decided that I just needed to get a few pages into it so when I was ready for work with five minutes to spare I decided I would use that time to get past those first few pages. I set it down, left for work, and then anxiously anticipated picking it up again because with just those few pages I could tell it was going to be good. When I got home I sat myself on the couch and didn’t get up until the last page (and that doesn’t happen to me very often).

There is so much I love about this book; the music, the style, the emotions. I went from tearing up one second to laughing the next. The story was so tragic and heartbreaking but at the same time I wanted to be there. I wanted to know Mia and her parents, especially her hilarious parents with their perfect quirky adorableness. I just love this family.

"I did a slinky walk as best as I could in the heels. I expected Adam to go crazy when he saw me, his jeans-and-sweater girlfriend all glammed out. But he smiled his usual greeting, chuckling a bit. ‘Nice costume,’ was all he said.
‘Quid pro quo. Only fair,’ I said, pointing to his Mozart ensamble.
‘I think you look scary, but pretty.’ Teddy said. ‘I’d say sexy too but I’m your brother so that’s gross.’
‘How do you even know what sexy means?’ I asked. ‘You’re six.’
‘Everyone knows what sexy means,’ he said."
-page 97

I am in love with this book and I know there will be more Gayle Forman in my future…soon…seriously I already have another one waiting for me. Don’t be jealous.

**Source: I bought this book with my own sweet loot