Friday, October 30, 2015

Julia Reviews Four Nights with the Duke by Eloisa James

Title/Author: Four Nights with the Duke by Eloisa James
Publisher/Year Published: 2015 by Avon
How I got this book: I bought it from Half Price Books
Why I read this book: Eloisa James is one of my favorite romance authors. I eventually read everything she writes ;)
Rating: 4 stars

There is not many good things about being stuck in the air for five consecutive hours during a time when you are fully awake and naps are hard to come by. But one perk, maybe the only perk, is being able to indulge in uninterrupted reading. Hence my last foray into regency romance with Four Nights with the Duke.

Mia is in quite the pinch. She needs to get married and quickly to be able to retain guardianship over her crippled nephew. She takes her case to someone who she has some hold over, Vander, who also happened to be one of her former adolescent crushes. Push comes to shove and they end up marrying but due to some misunderstandings, Vander finds himself having to win over his wife. I am vaguely summarizing this because I think the setup is a unique one that would lend better to not knowing too much. 

The characters are written well. It is easy to get lost in their journeys and struggles. Vander and Mia come at marriage from a very weird place and their reactions are fun to witness. This novel is less of a wild horse chase of a ride and more of a unique situation leads to just trying to figure out every day life. 

The writing is great, and the characters are lovely. I personally could do with less of the misunderstanding aspects of romance, but in the context of the scenario these two are put it, it sort of makes sense why they wouldnt feel comfortable baring their souls to someone they sort of knew at some point in their lives, despite being now married. 

This was a nice, quick read that helped my plane ride fly by. I think this is technically book 8 in a series, but it really stands alone quite nicely. You dont really miss anything at all by not reading the first six, and nothing in book seven has much import on this plot, except you meet some of the characters earlier I guess. But they are not intertwined to the point of being able to not enjoy this without reading the others.

If you are looking for a nice read with some more unique stories that stick to the same characterizations of regency romance, this is a good one.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

6th Annual Broke & Bookish Secret Santa

Hello everyone!!! Can you believe it?? SIXTH SECRET SANTA. We've had such a great time hosting this over the past 5 years and are SO ready for year 6 after last year which was a record year with 300+ participants. 

Please only sign up if you are truly interested and are committed to sending off a package (on time). No seriously, stop and think before you sign up. Can you commit to this? We have only had a few problems in the past 5 years but I'd like to not have to spend my time chasing people down -- seriously.  It's a bummer for the person who doesn't get a package and a bummer for me to have to hunt you down for months after.

*Non-US/Can people who are wondering where they would have to ship to if nobody from their country signed up: so far we have people signed up from Singapore, Japan, Puerto Rico,  the Netherlands, France, UK, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Australia. We have interest from the Phillipines.

Things You Need To Do

1. Send an email to TBTBSecretSanta (at) gmail (dot) com answering the following questions BEFORE November 13th  with the answers to the following questions: 

*BEFORE November 13th means 11:59pm EST on the 12th though if they slip in the wee hours of the morning while I'm sleeping I'm okay but please don't yell at me when you are past the deadline any later when I'm pairing and I say no...I have extended it too many times in the past but with 300+ participants last year I have to shut it down sometime, sorry)

  1. Full Name & Address
  2. Blog URL  (also any other social media accounts you might want to share to help your secret Santa out)
  3. List 10-15 books you'd like to read or a link to a wishlist (please mix it up with older and new releases -- aka maybe things that aren't just available in hardcover right now). DO NOT ASK FOR ARCS please. If your SS wants to throw some in there because they saw it on your Goodreads or something that's fine but once we had someone ask for mostly ARCs.
  4. List of your bookish preferences (a few fave authors, your fave genres, things you WILL NOT READ, does not prefer used books, prefer hardback or paperback, if you are okay with them not getting you something on your wishlist if they think you will like it etc.)
  5. Please give a few things you like or things about yourself (to help with your goodie). See below for examples in the guidelines.
  6. Would you be able to send internationally if needed? Please answer with:

    A. Yes, I would actually prefer to send and receive internationaly
    B. No, I cannot.
    C. Would prefer not to but will if needed

    (if you are outside of US and Canada just know I can't guarantee that you will get somewhere even remotely close to you. I try to work it geographically for you but it all depends on who signs up and where they are from. That said we typically have a decent number of signups from England and Australia).
  7. Have you participated in this Secret Santa before or is this your first time?
  8.  Which closely resembles what kind of package you are wanting to send out (I will be pairing people with similar answers):
    a) 1 book and a small gift/candy
    b) 1-2 books and a couple goodies
    c) 2-3 books and goodies

  9. Any questions, comments or additional things your Secret Santa should know.

2. When you receive your Secret Santa, go play Santa and buy your prezzies. Send it out no later than December 15th. The earlier the better as the mail is always slow during the holiday season.

3. After you send off your package, please email TBTBSecretSanta (at) gmail (dot) com letting us know you sent it off WITH DELIVERY CONFIRMATION/TRACKING (changing it this year, sorry!). Email us again when you receive your package. (Unless there are questions, I will not be responding to these emails due to time but will filing them away). If you have not received your package by January 1st please then email us and I will attempt to contact your Secret Santa. Please understand I will try my damndest to work it out but there is only so much I can do in the event someone decides to be naughty. Karma is a biotch though..maybe they'll get their toes run over by Santa's sleigh.

4. FOR EXTRA FUN: We are going to use the hashtag #TBTBSanta  again on Twitter & Instagram for this event! We'd love to hear and see through pictures and tweets your entire process -- maybe a sneak peek of your Secret Santa skills in action (a picture of something you are sending, the wrapped picture, the box) and we'd LOVE to see your goodies as you get them!

Some guidelines:

* Books can be new or used. Use your discretion as far as used books go but please be kind and don't send something you wouldn't want to receive. They should be in VERY good condition -- like you can't even tell if it was read.

* If you aren't sure what kinds of things to add for goodies peruse the #TBTBsanta thread to see pictures of packages from last year. Lots of good ideas that will probably help you!

* Suggestions for things to add that could be helpful to tell your Secret Santa for the little gift: music you love, if you celebrate Christmas, hobbies you have, things you will not eat/are allergic to,  smells or flavors you do not like, shows you watch/favorite movies, things you collect, any fandoms you are part of, would love something native to where your Secret Santa lives, coffee/tea you like, favorite colors, foods you love, favorite animals, things you are obsessed with, etc. etc. Also maybe if you have an e-reader and would be willing to get ebooks or a gift card.  Just really anything relevant to your interests that could help them.

* If you are from outside the US or Canada, be aware that you might have to send internationally due to the fact that there are significantly more US participants and we may not be able to pair you up with someone closer.

* Be sure to thank your Secret Santa when you receive your package via social media or reach out to me for their email!

* Feel free to grab the button to put on your sidebar or make your own!

Please ask any questions in the comments!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Daisy Talks About Reading and Music

I'm a big music lover and for me, it combines perfectly with my love for reading and I pretty much always have music playing in the background, whatever it is I'm doing. But the first edition of my book club's epic readathon sleepover made me realise that not everyone does this. Two of my book club friends cannot tolerate noise while they're reading, while I get distracted when it's quiet cause then I hear EVERYTHING and music is an expected noise that adds to my reading pleasure. But I'm also one of those people who tended to sing along to the music while doing homework, so I can combine most of any mental activity with music. It also actually helps me remember everything better and I have a lot of memories that are linked to songs.

So, how about you? Do you listen to music while you're reading or do you prefer a more quiet environment? Let me know!

Also, I'll leave you with this song that I adore and that I rediscovered two days ago:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday -- Halloween Freebie

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

For our Top Ten Tuesday Halloween freebie we decided to pick some of the creepiest covers we've encountered!

 Judging by the covers how terrifying do these look to you/if you've read them do you think the cover matches what is inside??

Bridget's Picks
The Haunting of Hill House

Julia's Pick:

Jamie's Picks

I can't handle the creepy kid factor EVER so this child who looks like she is levitating? TERRIFYING TO ME. I thought the book was going to be SCARY based on the cover but it was so strange and wonderful. 
This just terrifies me. I'm like half expecting this chick to crawl at me like on The Ring or do some weird head spinning from The Exorcist. 
Creeeeepy. Also sharp things + babies probs not a good idea.

I can't with the dead eyes. 

COME SCARE US! Direct us in the way of scary book covers!!!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Lauren Reviews Harrowgate by Kate Murayama

Harrowgate by Kate Murayama 
Published: September 2013 by 47North
Source: Gift from Author
Rating: 4 Stars

Michael should be overjoyed by the birth of his son, but his wife, Sarah, won't let him touch the baby or allow anyone to visit. Greta, an intrusive, sinister doula has wormed her way into their lives, driving a wedge between Michael and his family. Every time he leaves the Harrowgate, he returns to find his beloved wife and baby altered. He feels his family slipping away, and as a malevolent force begins to creep in, Michael does what any new father would do... he fights to keep his family together. Kate Maruyama's debut novel, Harrowgate, is a chilling, richly detailed story of love, loss, and the haunted place that lies between.

Holy shit. This was one creepy book. There were several times I thought I had everything figured out, and I was wrong. And then it just gets creepier... 

Michael often travels for work. He gets a message that his wife, Sarah, has gone into labor while he is out of town. He immediately packs and goes home as quickly as possible. He finally reaches the Harrowgate, his apartment complex, and Sarah is there... with his newborn, Tim. In the very beginning, Sarah acted weird... paranoid. Sarah wouldn't even let Michael hold Tim at first. Then Sarah wouldn't allow anyone in the apartment or let Michael leave. Every time he would leave, when he came back, Sarah and Tim were older, different. 

Then here comes Greta... the sinister/hippie/loving mother looking type. Michael immediately dislikes her (as do I), but Sarah is enamored with her. Greta even gives Sarah a special tea to drink that makes Sarah feel a little better, but then Greta gives some to Sarah to secretly give to Michael. What's up with that?! Greta always says, "Everything I do and help you with is so that you can be with your baby and Michael." It's awfully rhetorical... Michael and the baby, Michael and the baby... I was to the point of thinking bad thoughts about Greta by the middle of this book. 

As the story progresses, Sarah's physical condition worsens, Tim just keeps growing, and Michael realizes there is evil in his home. Something that he has to fight. He wants to keep his beautiful family and NOTHING will change that. 

It was particularly hard to review this book without unintentionally including spoilers. Its one of those books like The Exorcist... you want to experience every moment as if it was the first time you're reading it. I recommend this book to anyone who likes creepy mystery/thrillers. I'd have a giveaway for my copy, but my goober wiener dog knocked a glass of water on it so... go buy it for your nook or kindle. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ten Wishes We'd Ask The Book Genie To Grant Us

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

Bridget Wishes...

1. Dear Book Genie -- Is it cheating to ask for unlimited access to all books ever? Because that.

2. Dear Book Genie -- Please tell mass market paperback producers to stop making their books too tall and narrow. They are impossible to hold open and look dumb. There's a reason photo sizes, post cards, and index cards come in 4x6 and 5x7, but not 4x7.

3. Dear Book Genie -- Please remind all movie producers who are making movies from books we love that *real* fans of these books would be totally willing to sit through a 6+ hour movie if it means getting all the details right. And by right, we mean consistent with the book. That means no extra love stories to get the Nicholas Sparks crowd, no casting white actors in roles meant for characters who aren't white, and no changing significant plot points.

Jamie Wishes...

4. Dear Book Genie -- Can you please produce a list of all the books I've read as a child and teen... for reference. You see, I was pre-Internet and NEVER HAD A HANDY WAY LIKE GOODREADS TO KEEP TRACK OF THIS.

5. Dear Book Genie -- I'd like to have the rest of the Throne of Glass series, PLEASE AND THANK YOU. I CANNOT WAIT.

6. Dear Book Genie -- Can you make me read faster AND still absorb/enjoy it all so well?? I'd like to get through my MASSIVE TBR LIST more quickly!!

Lauren Wishes...

7. Dear Book Genie -- Can you please let me meet Margaret Atwood before I die? And maybe Neil Gaiman... and Patrick Ness... and Deborah Harkness...

8. Dear Book Genie -- Can you please build me more bookshelves? I'll gladly pay for them, but putting them together just plain sucks.

9. Dear Book Genie -- Can you convince my boyfriend to read more books instead of exclusively graphic novels and the Game of Thrones series? THERE ARE SO MANY BOOKS HE WOULD LOVE.

10. Dear Book Genie -- Lastly, please dear sweet book genie... I ask that you grant all book nerds their wishes. Give books to children who read newspapers and want ads because their parents can't afford books, give a teenager who might just need the right book in their hands that may change their life forever, or even just give that one book to comfort an old lady sitting in a nursing home so she can have a smile for the day.

What would you ask the Book Genie for?

Monday, October 19, 2015

What's the Scariest Book You've Ever Read?

In the spirit of Halloween (which I can't believe is less than two weeks away...I've already had nightmares about all those germy children ringing my doorbell), let's discuss the scariest books we've ever read!

I read a lot of scary books. I've read at least half of Stephen King's oeuvre, and most of them don't really scare me in the traditional sense. Most of the "scariness" comes more from King's adept portrayal of the human condition, showing how, under the right conditions, anyone can do evil. King isn't afraid to use a good jump scare, of course, but his preference is for those insidious scares that get under your skin and keep you up at night.

With that in mind, one of the scariest books I've ever read—and the book that King says scares him the most—is Pet Sematary. (I've never seen the movie, but I've heard that's pretty terrifying too.) Believe it or not, he never intended for Pet Sematary to be published; after writing it, both he and his wife agreed he had "gone too far," and he put it in a drawer, intending for it to stay there. But when he needed a quick exit from a contract with a publisher, he dug it out and sent it to them, figuring no one would want to read it.

He was wrong, clearly; decades later, he's still surprised about this, but I'm not. Pet Sematary, at least for me, wasn't super scary the first time around; it took me a few reads for it to really sink in, and it's one of those books that really sticks with you. Without giving anything away, the basic idea is this: a doctor moves to rural Maine with his young family. Their road isn't busy, but it's one of those country roads that large tractor trailers occasionally zoom down, and inevitably, their daughter's cat gets run over. An elderly neighbor lets the father in on a secret: beyond an abandoned "Pet Sematary" in the woods behind their house lies the ancient Micmac burial grounds, where the two of them bury the daughter's cat.

The next day, the cat comes back. And this cat is not nearly as cuddly as the one that wears a hat.

It gets steadily more horrifying from there. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is one of the more famous lines from the book: Sometimes dead is better.

Pet Sematary has its share of jump scares, but the scariest part is the way King delves into the deepest reaches of the human heart in the face of tragedy. It's a masterpiece for sure, despite being tough to get through in a lot of ways. But if you want something scary to read this Halloween, give it a try!

What's the scariest book you've ever read?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lauren Reviews Serpentine by Cindy Pon

Serpentine by Cindy Pon
Published: September 2015 by Month9Books 
Source: eARC
Rating: 5 Stars

Serpentine is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self - even as she falls in love for the first time. 

I adored this book. I adore mythology. I adore Chinese mythology even more because I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING. Instead of just summarizing a book without spoilers speckled with my opinions, for this review, I'm going for short and sweet. 

The author captured the essence of the ancient Chinese Kingdom of Xia so gracefully that I truly felt as if I was there. Historical fiction was my first genre love and this book was just begging for me to pick it up. The world building, the details pertaining to mortals, demons, even the immortals... I could imagine everything so clearly in my mind. The bravery of the main character was inspiring. If I went through the changes she did, were faced with the same challenges... I'm not sure I'd measure up. The plot was seamless, as was the author's writing. I devoured this book in hours and you will too. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Julia Reviews Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook

Title/Author: Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook
Publisher/Year Published: 2011 by Penguin
How I got this book: I bought it from Powells in Portland!
Why I read this book: Second book in the Iron Seas series
Rating: 4.5 stars

When I picked up this book, I was a bit hesitant to start reading it since I had read (and enjoyed) the first years ago. Would I enjoy the second as much as the first? Would I have forgotten too much to be able to get sucked into the world? Well, I should not have worried. Heart of Iron sucked me right back into the world and explained away all the things I had forgotten.

Heart of Steel is the second book in Meljean Brooks really popular Iron Seas series. It's a steampunk romance which is utterly ridiculous to try and explain out loud. Trust me I tried. I got a lot of, "Wait you are reading a book with a half naked warrior on the cover who is trying to go reclaim lost items from a war ravaged Europe for his bounty?" "Well Europe wasn't really ravaged by war as much decimated by it. It's now infested by zombies" It is truly the best. 

The plot is sort of amazing all spelled out. We have our hero, Archimedes Fox, who is on the run from some hit-men trying to earn enough adventuring and artifact reclaiming to pay off the price on his head. This had taken him in the last book across the path of Yasmeen, the pirate captain of the airship Lady Corsair, and well it didn't end well. Circumstances being what they are Yasmeen is off to find Archimedes' sister to tell him of his death when things start to get weird. And then who pops back up but Archimedes, alive and well, and looking for something of his that she has. Well things lead to other things (that I don't really want to get too much into) and they end up having to work together to achieve their goals and get their lives back on track. 

Oh man is this book fun. I love the leads! They play off each other so well! And neither of them loses the essence of what makes them good characters once they fall in love. That is so. rare. in a romance. Neither of them are apologetic for who they are and they just sort of learn to fit together. It's just a wonderful romance and a really fun adventure story involving zombies, mechanical steampunk fun, assassins, and all that jazz. 

The plot clips right along and I enjoyed every minute of it! This book is only loosely tied to the first so you can start here if you feel so inclined. You will miss one scene they reference but it's not too big of a thing. Honestly though this world is so fun, I would start with Iron Duke just because you get more time there. 

If you are new to steampunk and want something adventurous with a little bit of steamy romance, this is a great series to read, and book two did not disappoint! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Top Ten Author Duos We'd LOVE To See Write A Book Together

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

Lauren's Picks
This dynamic duo of sci-fi awesomeness...

Another duo of sci-fi geniuses...

This duo of historical fiction gurus...

Jamie's Picks

4. Gayle Forman and Jandy Nelson:

 Two of my all time favorite contemporary YA authors who write beautifully heart-wrenching books that bring ALL THE FEELS. Feelsplosion if they collaborated!! 

5. Sarah J. Maas & Susan Dennard

 They have collaborated on their online project Starkillers Cycle but I want an actual published book series from these two besties!! They both are incredible writers and I know they'd push each other deeper and deeper and it would be epic.

6. Jonathan Safran Foer & Nicole Krauss
 I love both of their books and I am just such a sucker for married bookish people to write together. I'm sure they would write a killer literary fiction book.

Julia's Picks

Steampunk duo of amazing!

Because I want to see what would happen... Romance Novel Game of Thrones!!

Jana's Pick

Marissa Meyer and Leigh Bardugo
They are two of my very favorite authors! They both write awesome female characters and dynamic worlds. I can only imagine what the two of them could dream up!
Tell us the authors YOU want to see co-write a book together!!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Broke and Bookish Book Haul for 9/27 - 10/10

Daisy's Book Haul

-The Sound by Sarah Alderson: I've been eyeing this for a while and people seem to either love or hate it. I'm curious to see where I fall on this spectrum :)
-Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: I have the best book club friends ever and Debby in all her awesomeness gifted me this book for my birthday! <3 Also, she's been totally pushing this for a while now, so I'd better get to it ;) -Other Words For Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal: my other amazing book club friend Daph also spoiled me and gave me this for my birthday! :D Thanks again! <3 It's doubly awesome cause this book was SO hyped around the time we both first started blogging and I never got around to reading this, so I'm excited :) -Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns series, so I'm VERY excited about Walk On Earth a Stranger!

Egalleys for review:
-Again, My Lord by Katharine Ashe: I basically don't read self-published books, but because Katharine Ashe is amazing, I will make an exception, LOVE her books!
-Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn: I'm endlessly fascinated by messages from the future or prophecies or such and how it ties into destiny and everything, so this sounds like the perfect book for me!
-This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin: MUSIC! And possibly a love triangle, but mostly music industry awesomeness!
-Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley: I still feel that Lena Coakley's Witchlander is underappreciated and should have gotten a sequel and all. I loved her writing and I'm so excited by this book because I'm also really curious about the Bront√ęs!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lauren Reviews Two Years Eight Months & Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Two Years Eight Months & Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
Published: September 2015 by Random House
Source: eARC
Rating: 4 Stars

From one of the greatest writers of our time: the most spellbinding, entertaining, wildly imaginative novel of his great career, which blends history and myth with tremendous philosophical depth. A masterful, mesmerizing modern tale about worlds dangerously colliding, the monsters that are unleashed when reason recedes, and a beautiful testament to the power of love and humanity in chaotic times.

Inspired by 2,000 years of storytelling yet rooted in the concerns of our present moment, this is a spectacular achievement -- enchanting, both very funny and terrifying. It is narrated by our descendants 1000 years hence, looking back on "The War of the Worlds" that began with "the time of the strangenesses": a simple gardener begins to levitate; a baby is born with the unnerving ability to detect corruption in people; the ghosts of two long-dead philosophers begin arguing once more; and storms pummel New York so hard that a crack appears in the universe, letting in the destructive jinns of myth (as well as some graphic superheroes). Nothing less than the survival of our world is at stake. Only one, a djinn princess who centuries before had learned to love humankind, resolves to help us: in the face of dynastic intrigue, she raises an army composed of her semi-magical great-great--etc.--grandchildren--a motley crew of endearing characters who come together to save the world in a battle waged for 1,001 nights -- or, to be precise, two years, eight months and twenty-eight nights.

I honestly don't even know where to start, but here goes nothing. There are two worlds - ours and the magical world the jinn live in. One day a crack forms between the two worlds and the jinn, both good and bad, slip through to our world. The jinn can do many, many things... influence people to do just about anything, curse them for eternity, give them a magical gift... they're magical creatures so... yeah. 

We follow a few humans and get to witness the weird things that start happening to them, to people around them, and to the world around them. This is when "the time of the strangenesses" begin, which last for the amount of time the title of this novel suggests. 

Before the crack was opened, a good jinn princess slipped into the human world and lived for many years. Almost all jinn are incapable of human emotions such as love, jealously, gratefulness, shame... and the princess wanted to experience those. She married a philosopher and had many children. Her children all had one thing in common - they had no earlobes. Weird, but not too weird, right? Eventually the philosopher chooses work over his wife and moves away, leaving her and their children. With this, the jinn princess goes back to her world. 

Now years later, this crack between the two worlds is causing chaos and fear. Remember the jinn's children? Think about how they had children, then more children, and so on until there are now countless half human/half jinn people in the world. When that crack was opened, many things start to plague these earlobe-less people and you can't help but be sucked into their lives. 

Rushdie presents yet another stunning literary novel full of fantasy, stories I have no how how he came up with, and a writing style that always keep me interested.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Tahleen reviews: Ana of California by Andi Teran

Title: Ana of California
Author: Andi Teran
Publisher: Penguin Books

Rating: 5+ stars

Ana has been through the foster care system in Los Angeles, getting kicked out of one home after another for being a "problem" or "not what they were expecting." As a last effort, she has accepted a position as a farmhand over the summer at a farm in northern California. If things go well, she might be able to stay through the first semester of the school year. She just has to make sure she doesn't screw it all up again; trouble seems to follow her like a curse.

Abbie and Emmett Garber, a brother-sister duo, are struggling to keep their farm up and running as work increases as well as costs. Abbie has the idea to become a temporary guardian to a foster child in exchange for having her help around the farm. Emmett reluctantly agrees, expecting a boy, but is surprised to discover a girl by the name of Cortez waiting for him at the airport.

Can Ana overcome her self-doubt and Emmett's reluctance, as well as prove herself, to finally find a place where she belongs?

I love this book. So much. I was excited to hear about it in the first place: a retelling of Anne of Green Gables set on a farm in northern California? Sign me up. Ana of California exceeded my expectations and has earned a permanent spot on my bookshelf.

Andi Teran did an excellent job of bringing the original story into present day. Ana, a gifted artist, is so sweet and caring, and has a poetic way with words as the original Anne does. There are all these little details throughout the book that are a nod to the source material, incidents (like the hair dye disaster) that are retold, and characters reimagined. Really, I loved every single scene in this book, just like I loved every single scene in Anne of Green Gables. If you have any fondness at all for Anne Shirley, you'll love reading about Ana Cortez. Please do yourself a favor and go out and get this book right now. Library, bookstore, friend who owns it, whatever. You'll be happy you did.

Disclosure: I won a copy of this book through another blogger, Cassi Steenblok at My Thoughts Literally, who hosted a giveaway through Penguin. Thanks Cassi, I loved it!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lauren Reviews A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
Published: October 2015 by Disney Hyperion
Source: eARC
Rating: 5 Stars

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air. Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

At first, I got the... "I volunteer as tribute!" vibe when the girl swapped places with her sister. She was sacrificing her life so her sister could live. So... that's basically the same thing, right? This still did not deter me from the book by any means. 

The main character is one brave girl. Not only did she decide to die so her sister could live, but she decided if she was going to go die - she'd go out with a bang. She wanted to kill Lo-Melkhin. I mean, who wouldn't? Lo-Melkhin had killed over 300 girls - all of them his brides to be. But this time would be different. The girl tried something none of the other had... to pique Lo-Melkhin's interest. The first night, when almost every bride died, the girl told Lo-Melkhin a story. Soon dawn arrived and Lo-Melkhin agreed to let her live another day so he could hear the rest of the story. 

Throughout the book, the girl seemingly challenges Lo-Melkhin with her words, which of course just made him more curious. It soon become apparent that Lo-Melkhin isn't really himself and he has some sort of power. The girl starts to see this mysterious power during their long nights full of story-telling. Even Lo-Melkhin's mother can sense her son is different... changed somehow. 

All the while, the girl's sister and the people from the girl's village have been praying to the girl as if she was already dead and considered a smallgod for sacrificing herself. Now the girl starts to sense a sort of power within herself. Maybe now the girl can finally face Lo-Melkhin and prevent more deaths. 

This book was a wonderful reboot of Arabian Nights... or at least it had a few similarities. I loved the main character and the snide comments she made to Lo-Melkhin all the while knowing she could be breathing her last breath. I recommend this book to everyone... seriously. Even if you don't care for the YA or fantasy genres, I still think you'll love it. 

Cross-posted at The Tattooed Biblio

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

I just started law school.  My free time is fairly non-existent, which means that my time spent reading is even more non-existent.  I never in a million years thought that, on the rare occasions I do get to read, I'd turn to non-fiction.  Yet, here I am.

Beyond that, most of my reading has been focused on how to manage my life.  I have far less time than I used to for things.  I'm in the position of choosing very carefully how I spend my time because I have so little time for everything that's not law school.  But there are so many things I'm wanting to get into my day--exercise, leisure reading, cooking, and other activities that I enjoy.  So I've been reading and rereading a lot of books about time management and changing the way I think about and approach problems.

Two of my recent selections include...

SkinnyGirl Solutions by Bethenny Frankel  I've flipped through this one a few times since it came out.  It covers a great variety of things--health, daily life, and career.  One of the things I love about Frankel is her conversational, completely honest approach.  I feel like I'm having a drink or two with a girlfriend (sidenote, I initially typed "having a drunk"; clearly we know where my mind is!).  I also like how Bethenny talks about the struggle to achieve work-life balance.  I am definitely feeling that right now!  I love how she emphasizes health and taking care of yourself as an integral part of doing 84,000 other things.  If you aren't healthy, you can't do anything else.  This is something I definitely need to work on.

EveryGirl's Guide to Life by Maria Menounos  This one also covers the gamut.  I love how Menounos is very much a self-made woman.  I love the amount of space in the book that she uses to discuss organization--and on a budget at that!  She also talks a lot about being a one-woman business, which I kind of feel like I am right now.  She tackles style, emotional relationships, and health as well.  She has a follow-up book on weightloss.  Her approach to weightloss (but really, also everything else) is very down to earth and totally affordable.  She literally is the EveryGirl.

Here are two I'm about to pick up...

Big Magic by Liz Gilbert  I pre-ordered this one and am so excited to pick it up!  It deals with creativity, yes, but I thought it might have some interesting applications with legal thinking.  If not, oh well.  But I really think it will help me get in the habit of thinking outside the box and help me develop the artistry that really can be the legal profession.  The books discusses attitudes, approaches, and habits that foster creativity.  I really enjoy Gilbert's writing, so I definitely look forward to reading this one.

Getting Things Done by David Allen  I remember several people raving about this one in the not too distant past.  Like I already mentioned, I have a lot going on that I must do and a lot that I would like to add in.  I've been feeling like I've had a time management problem.  I ordered the book immediately.  Can't wait until it gets here.  I did some more research on the system this afternoon and I think it will really help.  It's supposed to help you organize your thoughts and to-do list and help you make the most of your time.  I listened to a TED Talk by Allen today that, I think, kind of previewed some of his philosophy and it was fantastic.  I took notes.

Now I just need to decide which book to read first!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ten Bookish Things I Want to Quit Or Have Quit, Specifically Books We Had To DNF

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

This week we chose, out of all the bookish things to quit, all the books we quit reading!

Lauren's Picks

The following books I unfortunately had to DNF, which is the saddest thing ever. Besides the looks that puppies give you when you have food. All I'm going to say so as not to offend anyone who likes these books, is that I tried. I tried and they just weren't for me.

3 -- Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Bridget's Picks

I've had a lot of trouble finishing books I start recently, which I think says more about me than the books necessarily—or at least the mood I've been in recently (that is, the mood to not have to think very hard when I read). So, here are a few books I've given up on in the past few months, but hope to return to when I'm in a more compatible state of mind:

4 -- The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
5 -- Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
6 -- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
7 -- The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

Daisy's Picks

One of these was just too much blah and not enough awesomeness to weigh up to it, one of these had too much gruesomeness without characters I could find myself caring about and one is an extra-sad because I love Shana Galen's writing! But life is too short and my spare time to precious to be reading books that I'm not enjoying.

8 -- The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic
9 -- Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson
10 -- The Rogue You Know by Shana Galen

Tell us your bookish quit list!

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