Thursday, October 31, 2013

Throwback Thursday: A Total Waste of Makeup by Kim Gruenenfelder

A Total Waste of Makeup
Kim Gruenenfelder
St. Martin’s Griffin, 384 pgs, 2005
Physical book 

Official Summary

Charlize "Charlie" Edwards certainly knows, in theory, what it takes to lead a successful and happy life. She owns a nice house in Silverlake, LA's trendiest neighborhood. She has glamorous and loyal friends who accompany her to the hottest clubs in town. And she works as the personal assistant to Drew Stanton, Hollywood's sexiest movie star. But she's also turning 30, chronically single, and faced with serving as maid of honor at her younger sister's wedding. Charlie finds herself struggling to juggle the chaos of wedding planning (while wondering if she'll ever wear the white dress herself), her all-consuming job for lunatic boss Stanton, and a serious crush on Jordan, a photographer on the set of Drew's latest feature--a man who might actually return her feelings. A page-turner from start to finish, A Total Waste of Makeup puts a fresh face on women's fiction.
First Read
I don’t remember for sure.  I’m guessing 2009 or 2010 so pre-blog but not that long ago. 
What made me love A Total Waste of Makeup
It’s funny.  Laugh out loud funny.  A lot of the situations that Charlie’s boss Drew gets into are downright ludicrous (I had to spell check that because I spelled it like the rapper), and the clueless way he reacts the these situations is priceless.  But Drew has a great heart even when he’s clueless.  It’s a nice change of pace from the typical celebrity as an overbearing, unreasonable expectations boss story. 
This book has a little bit of everything:  funny, down on her romance luck protagonist in Charlie, swoon-worthy romantic interest (not Drew) and fun girl times with her best friends.  Throw in a quirky, interesting family (and a wedding).  Great light read.




Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Devil's Mixtape by Mary Borsellino

The Devil’s Mixtape
Mary Borsellino
Dec 2011, Omnium Gatherum

Why I read this book

Normally I pull the official summary of a book and post that before my thoughts.  I read this book without every reading the book summary.  I read it because I stumbled across a quote from the book and from that quote I knew I had to read The Devil’s Mixtape. 

“As soon as teenage girls start to profess love for something, everyone else becomes totally dismissive of it. Teenage girls are open season for the cruelest bullying that our society can dream up. Everyone's vicious to them. They're vicious to each other. Hell, they're even vicious to themselves. It's terrible.

So if teenage girls have something that they love, isn't that a good thing? Isn't it better for them to find some words they believe in, words like the 'fire-proof and fearless' lyrics that Jacqui wrote? Isn't it better for them to put those words on their arm in a tattoo than for them to cut gashes in that same skin? Shouldn't we be grateful when teenage girls love our work? Shouldn't that be a fucking honor?

It's used as the cheapest, easiest test of crap, isn't it? If teenage girls love a movie, a book, a band, then it's immediately classified as mediocre shit. Well, I'm not going to stand for that. Someone needs to treat them like they're precious, and if nobody else is ready to step up, I guess it's up to us to put them on the path to recognizing that about themselves.”

I had an “AHA” moment when I read that.  It was something that I’ve kind of understood, but never fully put the entire thought together. 
My Summary / Thoughts

So this book is told in alternating chapters from completely different perspectives, places, and times.  The first is the perspective of a girl in hell.  She went to school one day in 1999 with weapons and a plan.  It’s been a little more than a decade since she died and she’s writing to her younger sister who grew up in the aftermath of that day.  Sounds appealing, huh?   Next there’s a couple vagabond teenage girls in Australia in 1952.  Finally you read the writings of a journalist doing a story on a band touring in Australia in 2011. 
Each story feels completely separate from the others but with the underlying theme of ignored girls/women.  Then you start to see other connections within the major stories.  I strongly suggest keeping a character list and drawing relationship lines and you discover them.  I finally did this about two thirds of the way through the book.

Anyway, I loved The Devil’s Mixtape.  It was a quote smorgasbord, but I’m not going to put any more of them in here.  I’ve tried not to give anything away in my review and part of the fun of reading it is having those moments where a quote grabs you and you have to go back and read it a couple more times.

My Rating
Enjoyability (4 out of  5 stars)
Characters (4 out of 5 stars)
Writing (5 out of 5 stars)
I’ll remember pieces and quotes from this forever.  I’m still a little confused about certain pieces so if I don’t reread those won’t stick.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Melody of Secrets by Jeffrey Stepakoff

The Melody of Secrets
Jeffrey Stepakoff
272 pgs, 10/29/13

Goodreads Summary

Jeffrey Stepakoff's The Melody of Secrets is an epic love story set against the 1960s U.S. space program, when deeply-buried secrets could threaten not just a marriage, but a country.

Maria was barely eighteen as WWII was coming to its explosive end. A brilliant violinist, she tried to comfort herself with the Sibelius Concerto as American bombs rained down. James Cooper wasn't much older. A roguish fighter pilot stationed in London, he was shot down during a daring night raid and sought shelter in Maria’s cottage. Fifteen years later, in Huntsville, Alabama, Maria is married to a German rocket scientist who works for the burgeoning U.S. space program. Her life in the South is at peace, purposefully distanced from her past. Everything is as it should be—until James Cooper walks back into it.

Pulled from the desert airfield where he was testing planes no sane Air Force pilot would touch, and drinking a bit too much, Cooper is offered the chance to work for the government, and move himself to the front of the line for the astronaut program. He soon realizes that his job is to report not only on the rocket engines but also on the scientists developing them. Then Cooper learns secrets that could shatter Maria’s world.
My Thoughts
This is Maria’s story.  It mainly takes place in 1957 with a few flashbacks to 1945 for the backstory.  Maria was born in Germany and lived there throughout the war.  She witnessed terrible things and when Hans – a man who had taken care of her after her parents deaths – proposed with condition of moving to the U.S. she accepted.  Maria is mostly happy with her life in Alabama.  She has a nice house, a caring but not passionate husband, and a son she adores.  She’s also part of a symphony that they (the other German transplants) have started in their town and the symphony is taking off largely thanks to her. 
Then James Cooper, an American Pilot she spent a few days with during the war turns up and everything happens all at once.  Questions of whether she should have accepted Hans’ proposal or waited for James resurface.   Maria starts to wonder whether her husband was as uninvolved with the S.S. and the camps as he has always lead her to believe.  She also really notices segregation and draws parallels to early Nazi treatment of Jews that make her feel she must fight it.
My favorite aspect of the story was the one not even mentioned in the summary – a German woman’s perspective on segregation having spent WWII in Germany.

I read this in one sitting.  The writing is mostly beautiful (with a couple run-on sentences that I hope get fixed for final printing).  Good in concept, but I felt The Melody of Secrets tried to tackle way too many important issues and themes then can be handled well in under 300 pgs.  It left all the characters including Maria feeling somewhat flat.

My Rating

Enjoyability (4 out of 5 stars)
Characters (2 out of 5 stars)
Writing (4 out of 5 stars)
I will remember this book for at least a year. 

Disclosure:  I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

YA Book Signing and Discussion tonight!

Sorry I'm so late posing this, but better late than never.

Gayle Forman, Stephanie Perkins, and Rainbow Rowell will all be in Omaha tonight discussing the topic: “Coming of Age, Falling in Love: Teen Love Stories and Why They Matter to Us All.”

If you're in the Omaha area you should definitely come to the discussion.  It's at the Millard Branch of the Omaha Public Library at 7:00 PM.  Otherwise let me know if you have any questions and I will try to get them answered.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Character names

Every Tuesday the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish host a book related Top 10 theme. 

Today's topic are Top 10 character names.  Just to be clear these are not names I would give my kids.  These are names are a little different, but I still like (sorry Katniss) and I feel really fit the character.

First up best "matchy" twin names ever in Fangirl with Cather and Wren.  Genius Rainbow, Genius.

Next, my favorite pet name Heaven's to Betsy from Lola and the Boy Next door.

I'm cheating just a bit here and using a TV character cause I loved the name Lux from Life Unexpected (surprisingly good show that is on Netflix if anyone is interested.

From the Prey series (that I reviewed a couple weeks ago) I always thought that the name Weather was just a little different but really fit the character.

A couple nicknames made my list.  Using Low as an abbreviated version of Willow (Sea Breeze #2) and Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door.

I'm assuming this was a fake name for the student since the book was non fiction, but thought Venus really did fit the little girl in Beautiful Child.

And my favorite love interests names (that haven't already been mentioned for other reasons) are Levi from Fangirl and Tobias from Divergent.

Any great character names that I missed? 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Daughter of the God-King by Anne Cleeland

Daughter of the God-King
Anne Cleeland
Sourcebooks Landmark, 368 pgs
November 5th, 2013

Hattie Blackhouse is the only child of famous Egyptologists, and when they go missing, she travels to their latest excavation in ancient Thebes only to discover that she is attracting interest from the French, the British, and the Egyptians, who believe her the reincarnation of a long-dead princess.

In the second book in the Regency series, the heroine finds herself in the crosshairs of factions who are vying to support or thwart Napoleon’s latest attempt at world domination—and she unknowingly holds the key.
My Thoughts
This novel felt a bit scattered to me.  Hattie Blackhouse leaves the home she grew up in to travel to Paris because she’s convinced she should marry her former neighbor and childhood friend, Robbie.  Turns out he’s engaged (but it’s a weird situation).  Seconds later she stumbles into another man, the mysterious Perry, and is immediately attracted to him.  
While in Paris ominous things start happening and everyone from government officials, to Robbie, to Perry, want her to tell them everything she knows about her missing parents and their work without telling her anything.  All of this is happening while Napolean is in exile in Elba. 
She “escapes” to Egypt to find her parents (who have not been much of a part of her life).  They are archeologists and have discovered a sarcophagus that they believe to be the daughter of the God-King, Seti.   And it kinda seems like the curse of the Tomb is true because people involved keep disappearing or dying.    Perry anticipates her escape to Egypt and is on the same boat leaving Paris.  Hattie gets to Egypt and it’s pretty much the same story – everyone wants info from her but no one will tell her anything.
And I’m bored of summarizing now…I was fairly bored reading it too.  The history of the tombs was woven into the story fairly well I think, but I personally I just wasn’t interested.  I felt the romance was poorly executed.   Hattie starts the book in pursuit of Robbie and quickly changes devotion to Perry (kind of a reverse Romeo).    Hattie would go from distrust of Perry to flirtatiously teasing him in the same paragraph.   Then for no reason whatsoever she decided that he’s trustworthy.     And I spent the rest of the book sort of hoping he would betray her cause giving your trust to someone who won’t tell you anything is just stupid.
I wasn’t aware that this was the second book of a series until I pulled the official summary just now (I requested it from Netgalley cause I liked the title) and I briefly wondered if part of the reason Daughter of the God-King didn’t grab me was cause I hadn’t read the first book.  The summary of book 1 sounds more like a companion novel from the same era of history, but it’s possible there’s backstory I missed that would have made this more enjoyable.

My Rating

Enjoyability (2 out of  5 stars)
Characters (2 out of 5 stars)
Writing (3 out of 5 stars)
Fairly forgettable – I doubt it will cross my mind a year from now.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I was "forced" to Read

Sorry I'm a bit late posting today.  Crazytown here... and fair warning it probably won't get any better until 2014, but I'm going to try to keep at it. 

Every Tuesday the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish host a book related Top 10 theme. 

Anyway, Books I was forced to read.  You can’t really force me to read something.  Especially since finishing school.  So these are mostly things I wouldn’t have read without someone else’s urging.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay  (School) - Pretty well established as my favorite book ever (technically tied).

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Bookclub) -

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver (All theBooks I can read) - It's a year later and I still think about this book ALL.  THE.  TIME.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (My cousin Mallory, and pretty much everyone else alive) - I held out on reading any of these until all the books were released.  My cousin sent me home from Houston with me.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (My mom,  my aunt Brenda, bookclub) – This one took 3 tries but I’m really glad I persevered.  Then I "forced" my brother to read it and he LOVED it.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Bookclub)

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Friend) - I need to reread this one.

Cane River by Lalita Tademy (Bookclub)

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (Friend) - Fascinated story of the World's Fair and a serial killer.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mini Reviews - Did Not Finish

As of today there are three books that I have started to read and put down and decided I was never going to pick them up again.  I officially moved these to the Did Not Finish pile and while I am getting more comfortable adding books to this pile (why commit more time to a book I’m not enjoying when there are hundreds of books on my TBR list) I still hate to give up.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson – I never really connected to Jenna.  Maybe I wasn’t supposed to.  I liked the concept of the novel and it raised interesting questions as to what it is that makes us human, but after reading two-thirds of the book and still not caring one iota about how anything turned out I decided I was done.

Jessica by Bryce Courtenay – I jumped up and down when I found this at the Half Price Book Store.  Bryce Courtenay wrote my favorite book The Power of One but the rest of his books aren’t in print in the US so stumbling across one is a major find for me.  I also read and reviewed April Fool's Day last year. 
The first 40% of Jessica was terrific:  I loved the setting, the characters, and the writing.  Unfortunately about half way through it started to feel like Courtenay knew what he wanted the plot to do, and forced the characters to behave in ways that were not consistent with how they were portrayed leading up to that point.  I got mad and threw the book across the room.  Giving up on this one was hard for me.  Side note – I discovered recently that all his books are now available for Kindle so I’ll definitely give more of them a try. 

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – Please don’t hate me.  I know that most book bloggers love her books.  I read “Saving Francesca” last year and while I liked it I definitely didn’t quite get the hype.  I was still really excited to try another of Marchetta’s novels and went with Jellicoe Road.  I was vaguely interested in Taylor’s back story, but the “Turf War” between the Jellicoe Students, the Townies, and the Cadets bored me to tears.  Seriously, not my cup of tea. Please don’t hate me.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Best/Worse Series Enders

Every Tuesday the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish host a book related Top 10 theme. 

Up this week are the Top 10 Best / Worst Series Enders. I don’t have a lot of Best Series Enders because I lose interest before the end of most series.  Many of my worst series enders will be book 2’s that kept me from reading book 3.

Best Series Enders
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Something Borrowed  by Emily Giffin
Tandia by Bryce Courtenay 

Worst Series Enders
(these books ended the series for me)
Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver
Ten Big Ones (Stephanie Plum #10) by Janet Evanovich
Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth
Glorious Appearing by Tim LaHaye – Yeah I fought my way to the end of this series.  I should have stopped after book 3.
Pretties by Scott Westerfield
Misery Loves Cabernet by Kim Gruenenfelder

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Eyes of Prey by John Sandford

I’ll admit it I’m terrified to start “Features” because I’m an inconsistent blogger, but I decided that since I read about a book a week and they aren’t all things that I’m interested in reviewing I’d start doing some Throwback Thursday reviews.  Basically anything I read pre-blog and still think about. 
I’m kicking things off this week with my favorite serial author John Sandford and the Prey Series.
 Rules of Prey (Lucas Davenport #1)
John Sandford
Berkley 2005, 479 pgs
Borrowed then Purchased

Official Summary
The "maddog" murderer who is terrorizing the Twin Cities is two things: insane and extremely intelligent. He kills for the pleasure of it and thoroughly enjoys placing elaborate obstacles to keep police befuddled. Each clever move he makes is another point of pride. But when the brilliant Lieutenant Lucas Davenport--a dedicated cop and a serial killer's worst nightmare--is brought in to take up the investigation, the maddog suddenly has an adversary worthy of his genius.

First read
In 2001 had summer job that required me to be there to answer the phone and do some paperwork, but not nearly enough paperwork for the downtime.   My Dad read the Lucas Davenport series and there were plenty of them lying around the house so I started Rules of Prey…and didn’t stop til I was done with every book in the series (at that point).  I believe there were 11 or 12 at that point.  I have faithfully read every new addition to the series (as well as John Sandford’s other novels) on the day of publication.  As of this moment the Lucas Davenport series has 23 books and a new one is released every spring.

What made me love Rules of Prey
Lucas Davenport is a great series lead.  He’s a bad-ass with a fashion sense.  Very smart and as it has been previously established I LOVE SMART.  The side characters are always interesting although in each individual novel not especially fleshed out – over the course of the series you get a well rounded picture of each.  The “maddog” murderer in Rules of Prey is exactly how I like my villain – a truly demented SOB.

Why I keep reading the series
Consistency.  Lucas’s life evolves naturally over the course of the series but you could pick up any book and not feel lost.  There are zero To Be Continueds – an unpardonable book sin in my book.  The plot on all of them have me racing to finish, Sandford know how to throw in just the right amount of twists and turns that have your heart racing without feeling like you’ve been jerked around.

Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a series that you can count on to be a quick, easy (but thrilling) read you should definitely give Lucas and the Prey series a shot.