Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Book Review

Karou has always had a double life. She spends her days as a high school art student in Prague, and the rest of her time in a dusty old shop where she makes her  home among with the only family that she has ever known, the chimera, creatures with a mixture of human and animal features and body parts. Her friends think her strange drawings and stories are the result of an active imagination and clever mind, and not from a world that exists alongside their own. However, when the handprints of fire start mysteriously appearing in select doorways, the separation between the two worlds starts to fade, and Karou finds that the key to her identity, which has always haunted her, will be the very thing that could save or destroy all that she holds dear.

Laini Taylor sure knows how to start a series off with a bang. Karou is the heroine girls dream of being, beautiful but with her own distinct style – and she’s smart and loyal to boot. Karou has to manage the expectations of a caring friend who sticks by her in spite of her mysterious disappearances, and her feelings for a formidable foe, Akiva, a handsome winged stranger whose intentions she can never really trust. Plenty of action, adventure and a hint of romance sets this book up with a dramatic ending, and leaves the reader with a crushing sense of anticipation for the next leg of the story. Of course, first in a trilogy. Highly recommended.

Read More Reviews At: Alison’s Bookmarks – Serendipity

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Fables of Fortune by Richard Watts   Book Review

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The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson – Book Review

In Sere Prince Halverson’s The Underside of Joy, Ella Beene has finally found happiness in her marriage to Joe, a grocery store owner with two small children. There are some lingering issues that Ella seems reluctant to face, but they are mostly happy in their sleepy, close-knit community, surrounded by Joe’s family and their friends. When Joe dies unexpectedly in an accident, a grieving Ella assumes that she will raise their two young children whose biological mother, Paige, has long been out of the picture. Ella is, basically, the only mother the children have known. Initially Ella thinks nothing of Paige showing up at Joe’s funeral, after all what claim can she have? But, Ella quickly realizes that she will have a fight on her hands to keep her family intact.

I loved a lot of what Halverson did in this novel, her writing is fresh and engaging, but for some reason the novel never really grabbed me. I was curious to see what the outcome would be, and that kept me reading to the end, but the short time period in which the story was told made it feel rushed and a tad implausible. The passage of more time would have made it more realistic, but as it stood, all the action with Paige, the children and Ella’s revitalizing the family business (so that she can claim a steady income) is rather sudden. The story seems to span just a few short months.

I also felt that I needed more of a feel for what Ella was all about. There are some references to her troubled first marriage, but I still never felt like I had a handle on the character. Paige’s intrusive actions were over the top. Halverson has an easy and inviting style, and it’s easy to get caught up in the lives of her characters, but more development and adjustment in the pacing of the story would have made an interesting premise and novel really shine.

Read More Reviews At: Literate Housewife – Purple Sage And Scorpions – Bookworm With A View – That’s What She Read – Books In The City 

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Arranged by Catherine McKenzie – Book Review

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Arranged by Catherine McKenzie – Book Review

In Arranged by Catherine Mackenzie, Anne Blythe is a woman on the brink of success. She has completed a novel and is in the process of finding a publisher. She has a great support system in her loving family and friends, and supportive co-workers. The one area of her life that remains tricky is her love life. She has just broken up with the latest in a string of boyfriends that are remarkably similar to one another, not only in looks, but also in the fact that each has proved unsuccessful in terms of ending in marriage. After breaking up with her last boyfriend, Anne moves into her own apartment and by chance comes across a card for the Blythe Company. Interested in what is presumably an unfamiliar dating company, Anne finds that they are in it for the long haul. After her friend becomes engaged, a slightly jealous Anne signs up with Blythe and Company even though they don’t arrange dates, they arrange marriages.

I am the first to admit that contemporary romance is not my cup of tea, but I couldn’t resist this one. My interest came in wanting to see how the author would approach arranged marriages from an American perspective. What questions would plague her heroine? What benefits would be offered in face of American skepticism and a staggering list of cons stemming from the ingrained belief in choosing one’s own partner? In the belief that this is the only way to have a successful marriage? In this respect Mackenzie has offered a thoughtful and well-considered analysis of relationships and how an arranged marriage might come to be understood as feasible and successful choice in a modern society. Anne’s time spent in pre-marriage counseling, the rationale for the Blythe Company’s processes, her own eventual embrace of arranged marriage, and both her stance and the company’s in enlightening family and friends,  was solidly planned  and thought-provoking. I enjoyed the depth and insight in this part of the novel.

Unfortunately, other aspects of Arranged proved less satisfying. The introductory section where we get to know Anne and her family and friends was painfully bland. Anne and her family are run of the mill rather than endearing, and the relationships and dialogue between her and her loved ones consist of pretty thin retreads of the clichés rife in contemporary romance. Not only weren’t there any surprises with these characters and their roles to each other, there also wasn’t enough depth for me to feel much for any of them. Anne is unfortunately named because of her mother’s obsession with Anne of Green Gables, and much is made of this through the novel, but even that angle wasn’t particularly appealing to me. My interest piqued again in a plot twist I really should have seen coming, but then book ambles on toward happily ever after in a way that didn’t sit well with me after all that was involved. I wanted to read this because I loved the idea of the unique premise, but almost everything else goes against the grain of what I find enjoyable.

Read More Reviews At: Jennifer Vido – A Bookish Way of Life – Book Drunkard

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Unbearable Book Club For Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher   Book Review

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The Unbearable Book Club For Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher – Book Review

The Unbearable Book Club For Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher Book Cover

The Unbearable Book Club For Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher Book Cover

Adrienne Haus is fifteen the summer that a torn ACL keeps her from a camping adventure with her best friend. Hoping to occupy her for the summer, Adrienne’s mother suggests a mother-daughter book club, but the book club participants are an odd array of mothers and daughters. Adrienne, CeeCee, Jill and Wallis are an unlikely quartet, and hardly in the same social circle; they would never hang out together at school under normal circumstances. Similarly, their mothers are also very different from each other. Harried single parents, unconcerned academics and socialites are among their ranks.  Adrienne is convinced that mixing it up like this can only lead to no-good, and when a book club related death occurs under mysterious circumstances it appears that she might be more right than she knows.

 Schumacher has written a deeply thoughtful and realistic, yet quirky, novel about the summer that a socially awkward teen spends separated from her only friend. While thinking about the choices her mother might have made that led to her fatherless upbringing, Adrienne forms new relationships that are precarious and fraught with danger. She pushes boundaries she never before would have approached. While warned by Jill, that CeeCee might not have her best interests at heart, she nonetheless is powerless to resist the pull of the new friendship that’s being offered, though she is skeptical of both its merits and endurance. Wallis, along with CeeCee, also provides points of contention between Adrienne and her mom – because though they spend the summer increasingly at odds with one another, Adrienne is more than a little peeved by the fast friendship they seem to have.

As a protagonist, Adrienne is a bit of a misfit. She is equally deliberate in the choices she makes just as much as she is passive and mystified by them as well.  I loved how the parents are involved in their children’s lives, even as they don’t quite understand what to make of them or what to do with them. All of Adrienne’s relationships and interactions make sense and are appropriate for whom she seems to be. I love her relationship with her mother and the way they evolve over the summer, leaving no easy answers or ready conclusions.

As a book club enthusiast I wholeheartedly approve of the reading list and Adrienne’s careful consideration of each book in light of the characters and their circumstances, and the relevance they have in her life and the choices that she makes over the summer. The novel is written in essay style as an assignment for Adrienne’s AP English course, and key elements of literary style and structure are defined and demonstrated in each of the chapters.  The group reads Frankenstein, The Yellow Wall Paper, The Awakening, The Left Hand of Darkness, and The House on Mango Street. Certainly it’s a worthy collection. The consideration that Adrienne gives to books, reading and the place and influence they have in personal existence provides food for thought and adds to a weighty and entertaining read. Recommended.

Read More Reviews At: Five Alarm Book Reviews – Ex Libris – Bookshelves of Doom

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Day The World Ends (Poems) by Ethan Coen – Book Review

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