Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

The Geography of You and MeThe Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Geography of You and Me is a quiet and sweet story of two teens who meet in a stalled elevator in the middle of a city-wide blackout. Despite the fact that they are in a fancy high-rise apartment building, they come from very different backgrounds. Lucy is a life-long New Yorker and the child of an international banker, and she is frequently left alone as her parents travel for business and pleasure. Owen is a recent New York transplant, and the son of the building's super - a man so deep in grief at his wife's recent death that he is at risk of losing everything around him. Lucy and Owen are caught in travels out of their control - Lucy across Europe following her father's promotions through different positions, and Owen supporting his dad as they move gradually westward looking for a job a stability. After their brief sojourn during the blackout, the two communicate with postcards and emails as the travel, and a romance blossoms - but a romance hard to sustain when faced with obstacles and other attractions in their respective geographies. This is the first book I have read by Jennifer E. Smith, and I was impressed by the flow of her prose, especially when she was writing in Owen's voice. The mirroring of the chapters was a bit cloying sometimes, but I accepted the style as showing that despite how different Lucy and Owen's lives were, their paths and lives were not all that different after all. As I mentioned in the beginning, this is a quiet tale - there is no big drama - but sometimes quiet tales are exactly what we need.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Book Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin

Deadly Curiosities (Deadly Curiosities, #1)Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm giving this story 3.5 stars (sorry - Goodreads and NetGalley don't show half stars). For me, the story fared much better than the writing. Cassidy owns an antiques store in Charleston, SC, with a cute name - Trifles and Folly; however most people don't realize that she and her store also serve to neutralize haunted and possessed objects. Cassidy is a psychometric, so she can read the history of objects by touching them, and she works along side a vampire/benefactor named Sorren and a young man named Teag, who has magical talents as a Weaver. To be honest, I read through the book and I am still not sure what that means. Teag seems to be good at research and hacking online, and somehow this also translates to tying knots, needlework, and actual weaving. I feel like Martin missed out on some exposition (or perhaps I just missed out on where the origin and usefulness of his abilities were explained). Dead bodies start piling up, and previously calm or non-haunted objects all of a sudden start turning malevolent, so Cassidy and team are called in to find out what was going on. The story drags down from there. Cassidy and Teag are not romantically involved, but they go out for meals or coffee 3-4 times, and every coffee shop and restaurant they go to has people working there with complete backstories of their own. I found myself reading and thinking, "Is this person relevant? Is there a reason why Martin is going into such detail?" But they weren't - and afterward it just seemed like a lot of unnecessary niceties. To me, this book was urban fantasy lite. Given the cover (and I know you are not to judge books by the cover), I expected something grittier. Deadly Curiosities was a fun book - the action scenes were quite good, and I was very amused that Cassidy's weapons included a wooden spoon and a dog collar. This book seems to be setting itself up to be the first book in a series; I am interested in reading what comes next - but I also hope that the writing tightens up a bit and perhaps a little romance is thrown in.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Hot and Bothered by Kate Meader

Hot and Bothered (Hot in the Kitchen, #3)Hot and Bothered by Kate Meader
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

It took me a long time to read this book - a little over 3 weeks, when I normally read a book within a few days. Many things in this story grated on me, and I found myself reading a few pages, then having to put the book down and walk away.

That being said, I liked the story. Friends who become lovers is almost always a story I like to read. Jules is a new single mom and a British ex-pat, and she has a serious crush on one of her friends (and friend of her extended family), Tad. Tad, for all his charm, is an inveterate womanizer - and actually has groupies who follow him around! Tad is trying to open up a new wine bar in Chicago, and needs Jules' help in making appetizers and other small plates for people to eat with the wine. That alone would have been a cute story, but the details get piled on from there. Jules is still fighting her baby weight, she is avoiding her baby's daddy, she wants to date again, and she has dyslexia. Tad has demons of his own - opening this wine bar is laying bare memories of his parents, who had a famous restaurant of their own, and his guilt at their deaths. To me, the story quickly became over-burdened with these details, and made the book frustrating to read at times. There were some details I also felt weren't thought through - there were times where Tad was using very British slang in his internal monologue, which seemed unlikely for an Italian-American man from Chicago. The other was Jules' date - early dinner Dan; I swear I read through that section a few times and I think she stood him up at the bar...

I don't want to be overly negative - as I mentioned above, I liked the story. Some of the other things I liked were the descriptions of the food and wine. Meader made me seriously hungry while reading this book. I wish that she had included some of the recipes that Jules comes up with throughout the course of the story. The sex scenes between Jules and Tad were very hot - and I wish there had been more of them! I also liked how Meader approached Jules' dyslexia, and how she described Jules' coping mechanisms at hiding the dyslexia. As this is a series, I hope in future books they show Jules seeking help for the dyslexia, because it seems that she had never received any therapy for it in the past.

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Tale of Two Orchids and Two Cats

My in-laws went to Longwood Gardens earlier this week, and they brought home some gorgeous orchids, and I was the lucky recipient of this gorgeous yellow orchid:


 And this absolutely beautiful magenta orchid:


 My friends laughed at me when I asked whether orchids were poisonous to cats (they aren't) - but you see, we have an intrepid hunter in this house. Nothing is safe - Piper's little stuffies, hair scrunchies, yarn...


 "Mama, they look so pretty! And they move in the wind!"


 "I will smell them a little bit. They smell so pretty!"


 "Why am I licking my lips? No reason..."


 "Hey big brother, come here! Check out these things! Mama calls them 'ORKIDS.'"


 "Come on! You have to smell these things!"


 "Chomp! Mine!"


 Hermione is going to even lessen the survival rate of any plant brought into this house. My Christmas cactus has teeth marks in it. I don't even get why these are things she would want to bite!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Book Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and NowThe Here and Now by Ann Brashares
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don't think I have ever read a book before that has made me more afraid of mosquitoes. Prenna is a 17 year old immigrant, who belongs to a community of fellow immigrants, all of whom live quietly and do their best to not interact with outsiders. Like other immigrants, Prenna watched TV to learn American ways of speech and pop culture - but unlike other immigrants, Prenna didn't come from a different land, but rather a different time. She and her community are refugees, really, from a time of Blood Plagues, ecological disasters, and food shortages - sent back in time because they were immune to the diseases of her time, and in hopes that the immigrants would be able to somehow fix what went wrong before it happened.

But in truth, that wasn't what was happening. Five years into her new life, Prenna sees that nothing is getting fixed. The immigrants have strict rules hanging over their heads - no outside medical care, no telling people where (when!) they are from, stay out of the public eye, no unnecessary fraternizing with outsiders - and people are being bullied and disappearing. Prenna is doing her best to keep her distance from Ethan, a school mate, but Ethan has no intention of staying away - and he knows much more than Prenna can imagine.

I really enjoyed this book. Once Prenna opened up and started describing what life was like in her natural time, and what had lead up to all the diseases and disasters, I was transfixed. It really wasn't too far into the future, and you can easily draw lines from where we are now to how Prenna's reality came to be. I found myself trying to tie the rules that subjugate the immigrants to what happened in their natural time, and not always making the connection (Why no organized religion? To take the temptation of confession away?). Prenna and Ethan's romance was both innocent and enticing, and the moments that they were together had me holding my breath and wishing the scenes was in slow motion. Their plans to fix the timelines and stop horrible things from happening seemed a bit incongruous and convenient at times, but I let that slide because I was too interested in finding out what was going to happen next.

I would recommend this book to young people age 15 and up. Now, off to buy myself some mosquito netting and DEET.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Piper and Lucky Snuggling

IMG_1715, originally uploaded by jochibi.

Lucky has been a grumpy old man cat of late. We're not really sure if it is just him - we adopted him as an adult cat, and the vet said he could be as old as 13 years old now. Or, maybe it is just the comparison to having a teenage cat running around like a crazy girl. Once he is in a good spot now, he doesn't want to leave - even if it means having the three year old curl up next to him and pulling a blanket over him.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Book Review: Undone by Shannon Richard

Undone (Country Roads #1)Undone by Shannon Richard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have to say up front that I am giving this book 3/5 stars more because I would love to travel to Mirabelle, FL, than to give the rating because of the writing. I requested this book to read because I like fish out of water stories, and the fact that Paige was from Philly (where I am now) piqued my interest. Paige is a young artist who has experienced a series of setbacks - her best friend and roommate moved away for a new job, she lost her own job, her boyfriend broke up with her - and all of this has cumulated in Paige moving in with her parents, who have retired to a small town in Florida. Paige is miserable there; simply put, she does not fit in. She wears bright colors, goes running in short shorts, and spends so much time in her parents' shed-now-art studio that the neighbors think she is having illicit parties in there. It has come to the point that people in town are inviting her to job interviews just so they can laugh at her. She meets Brendan, a local man who has had own problems fitting in despite being from Mirabelle, and the two fall in love.

One of my issues with this book is that Ms. Richard has a grand vision for this series, and as a result the storytelling is not very tight. As this is the opening book, she has to introduce you to so many characters and places and events, that somehow the main characters get lost in the shuffle. So many times in the course of the story I found myself wishing there was a cast of characters listed so I could follow along with who was related to whom. There are many hints as to who will be paired up in future additions to this series, and I think maybe I would like those stories better, partly due to the characters up for pairing, and partly because the world and character building will have been established.

Another issue for me was the lack of closure with certain events, and I hope that these issues get resolved in future books. One of these issues was the local gossip blog - I don't understand how that character could get away with such flaming defamation and the local police say there is nothing they can do about it. Some characters were so downright nasty (Verna and Missy, I'm looking at you!), a reader really has to hope they get what is coming to them. My personal wish is that we find out that the two of them have been embezzling from the funeral home and they end up going to jail.

When I finished reading the book last night, I found myself feeling rather meh about Paige and Brendan. They were sweet together and good for one another, but I had a hard time getting excited about them. As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the location was another matter altogether. I think Ms. Richard did a fabulous job of imagining Mirabelle - the beaches, the boardwalk, the cafes, the festivals - even the funeral home!

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