Thursday, August 10, 2017

Summer Vibes Books



Whenever I think of books perfect for reading during the hot summer months I think of something easy. However, I am a hard to please reader. Don't just go throwing chick-lit at me! I am pick in my easy reads.
{I just need to say that there's nothing wrong reading what I call easy books. What I'm saying is that not everyone can enjoy them to the same degree. I usually don't.}

I have long planned to read more YA. The books I've read thus far that fall into that category are few. A few weeks ago I saw Stephany mention a book repeatedly on her blog and her Instagram account. That book is Love & Gelato. Now, listen. I don't typically read books that are this easy to read. I need to be either too tired and look for something that is outside my heavy topic reading pattern, or I requested it via Net Galley because it had a pretty cover and I overlooked all the warnings in my head telling me this is not the book for me.

This leads us to my poor YA list. I have read one (or two?) of John Green's YA novels, namely The Fault in Our Stars and I loved that one. Oh, and also Let it Snow, that stories collection. That was cute. Let me rephrase: I loved the feeling it gave and that I read it during a snow storm, but I am not sure my feelings would be the same if I were to reread it. And no, I did not like the movie. Eleanor &Park is also on the YA read novels, as well as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series (yes, ma'am, I liked this series!), The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mocking Bird and Lord of the Flies (classics, come on! and I'm not even sure these could be considered YA), A Walk to Remember, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret... and that's pretty much it. No Harry Potter, no Hunger Games, no Divergent, no the cheesy ones out there. 

To this pathetic list was added, you guessed it, Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. I thought Lina, the main character, was stupid and intentionally so. Poor soul had no awareness of language, made embarrassing mistakes, had shocking gaps in her general knowledge of everything, but she could sure wow her fellow Americans with a hard to pronounce word or trivia piece. Please. This was in the first part of the novel. Then it grew on me. I rooted for her, for every character, it gave me the fuzzy, cheesy, summer vibe I was after in the first place. 

This wasn't the only summer vibes novel I read. Just yesterday I finished The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan. It was funny, it had a slow rhythm, it held my attention, maybe a tad too long and repetitive, but not a deal breaker. The setting of the story makes me want to pack my warm and fuzzy clothes and head to the Northern Islands of UK. Of course, I would like to eat all the food. My expectations weren't high; I was just looking for a summer read. I liked Flora. The references to Snapchat and other social media mediums made it read real and contemporary. She kept saying "Shut up!" when she had no argument in her squabbles with her brothers or Lorna - that's a real character right there!
The love part didn't interest me so much, I paid more attention to her development as a person. I liked how the novel ended, and the atmosphere it created.I forgot where I first learned about this novel I first learned about this novel from Modern Mrs. Darcy's blog, in her Summer Reading Guide. I am glad I read it. 

I am on the look-out for more books to cram in before the summer's officially ready. The Internet is talking about When Dimple Met Rishi, but I don't know... I have one or two other books on my Kindle that I think would be good for this summer vibe thing, and we'll see from there.

Nothing beats the feeling of having the possibility to read to your heart desire for two long summer months.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Trust - by Ronald H. Balson: Book Review

Title: The Trust
No. Pages:
Publishing Date:
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: Kindle

I have read Ronald H. Balson's third book in the Liam and Catherine series, and I even wrote a review for it. I still haven't read the first two books in the series, but this fourth one made me very reluctant.

{this review contains some spoilers, but I couldn't say how much some characters annoyed me without mentioning some context}

Liam Taggart, a Chicago based PI, is summoned by his estranged Irish cousin, Janie, to come to their uncle Fergus' funeral. Upon arriving in Northern Ireland he learns that his uncle was killed. What (most) the family asks of him is to find the killer. The plot thickens when Liam is declared the trustee of his uncle's entire estate and goods, possessions which are to be revealed to the beneficiaries only after Fergus' killer is found. Not every member of his Irish family looks fondly upon his presence in Northern Ireland, all the more due to his past choices.

If you ask my opinion, this novel could easily have been at least one hundred pages shorter. Of all the characters trying to solve the mystery and catch the killer going on a killing spree, none have the ability to think rationally. Maybe Catherine could be a better PI than Liam who is lost and whiny for more than half the novel. The premise of the novel is great; too bad the characters ruined it. 

For starters, Liam, allegedly the great PI, has missed it grandly with his instincts. Although he hasn't seen his Irish family in 16 years, he's so sure that Aunt Deirdre, his cousin Janice and her boyfriend Charles are innocent, despite Inspector McLaughlin's suspicions about each family member, and of course he thinks the cousin with a bad temper must be the killer. For most of the novel Liam wastes time and makes excuses, rarely acting like a PI. And even when he goes into action mode he's reckless and acts like an amateur. His wife Catherine has a better grip on things than he does. However, what I have to say against her is that if there are to be future books in the series, she seriously needs to drop the heroic attitude: when someone prank calls your house, throws rocks through your window, your husband's tires are slashed, his hotel room is ransacked - lady, you need to leave your place and go somewhere safe. Despite all the threats, she claims she's fine and oh, so busy; too busy to think about your life and your kid's? Seriously.

The reader is offered different options for who the killer might be, but they obviously turn out to be the wrong ones. If proper investigation and background check would have been done earlier in the case instead of drinking all that tea and eating so much of Aunt Deirdre's (quote) "yummy food", maybe we wouldn't be so shocked that in the last 60 or so pages every character suddenly becomes good, and only the overlooked character turns out to be the killer. The great Liam looks only into the suspects he fancies, is not at all objective, and he is unprofessional.  Makes no sense to me, and I'm not a PI.

I think the novel would have been better written in third person. The main character's actions would gain less criticism, in my opinion. Can I mention that he refers to his Aunt Deirdre's house as Fortress Deirdre? The first time I understand - it's a joke, but the second and third time it's not. Also, I would like to focus on Annie, who thinks it's a good time to keep a promise she made Fergus. Sure, dear, never mind that there's a killer out there. Unsurprisingly, the big secret turned out to have no relevance to the case. Shocker.

I felt cheated by this novel. It took me more than two weeks to finish it. A mystery novel should make you hold your breath and make you want to read it faster and eagerly. It would have been more appealing if it had been shorter, with characters with a better ability to deal with everything going on.
However, read Karolina's twins. That story is well told and makes more sense.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All these thoughts expressed here in such a gentle way are mine.

Characters List: {spoilers!}
Liam Taggart - PI, lives in Chicago with his wife Catherine
Catherine - lawyer, lives in Chicago with her husband
Ben - Liam and Catherine's baby boy
Aunt Deirdre - Liam's aunt, Fergus' life-partner
Taggart brothers' birth order: Eamon, Danny (Liam's father), Fergus, Aunt Nora, Robert
Uncle Fergus - Liam's uncle, Liam's father's brother
Uncle Eamon - Fergus' brother, Liam's uncle
Uncle Robert - Fergus' brother, Liam's uncle
Molly - Liam's sister, presumably dead
Janie - Liam's cousin, Robert's daughter
Conor - Fergus' oldest son
Riley - Fergus' youngest son
Annie - Liam's old love 
Mr. Malcolm O'Neill - Fergus' solicitor
Officer Megan Dooley - helps with the case
Inspector McLaughlin - in charge with the case
Seamus McManus - old enemy of the Taggarts and the Catholics
Shankill Butchers - enemies of the Catholics
Archie, Thomas, Edward, Geoffrey Walker - enemies of the Catholics
Charles Dalton - Janice's boyfriend

Bees Make Honey, Butterflies Make Jam - by John Offord: Book Review

Author: John Offord
No. Pages: 23
Publisher: Matador
Publishing Date: 21.04.207
Format: Kindle

I would certainly not call this book humorous, nor educational. I found some short stories funny, but not in a laugh-out-loud kind of way. Some are actually sad and cringy, and you realise this only after you're done making fake laugh noises.

If this is meant to be a children's book the parents read to their children and they snort or giggle as they read it, mission accomplished. These are shorter than a short story. I read an e-book copy, I don't know what the physical version of the book looks like, but it would be fun to have some drawings or interesting art accompanying the "stories". 

As far as I am concerned, this was not for me, but it was an out of ordinary experience.

1*

I received a free e-book copy of the book from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Postcrossing & Postcards

It's been a long time since I last posted an update on the postcards I received and sent via Postcrossing. I haven't been very active over the last six months (or year?), but a few weeks ago I remembered my 101 in 1001 project. Of all the goals I have come up with for that project, reading is the only one that I have been serious about. Besides reading, I think sending mail is my favourite, so one of the goals I set was to send 100 postcards. I am short of three postcards, and I'll be able to cross another goal off the list. 

Here are the last five postcards I received and I have a photo of. I've decided to take a photo of every postcard I send and received in order to upload it on the site from now on. Makes me feel more organised and serious about the whole affair.
 I love this postcard!



 And here are some I sent:








In May I spent  two days in Cluj-Napoca and I stayed overnight at a cousin and her husband's home. She is an avid postcrosser. She was kind to give me a lot, and I mean a.lot.! of postcards. This may have contributed to rekindling my love for sending postcards. 

A few weeks back, I got a surprise email. Of course, initially I thought it was spam because I am calm and never jump to conclusions. (that is sarcasm, btw, if you didn't catch it). The sender, Ana, the community manager at Postcrossing, congratulated me for winning third place on the latest giveaway. That means ten free postcards from Natuurlijkefoto. I get excited for everything free, but to have won a giveaway made me even more excited. Today I got the postcards in the mail. It came as a lovely surprise because I completely forgot about it. It's been a full and stressful month this July, and it's not even over yet. But, the postcards: 

 This is the "extra" postcard letting me know I won. Isn't it pretty that little birdie whose species I don't know?

 
 










And that's my update on Postcrossing. I think I should pick a postcard and send it on its way, and have the last three postcards traveling together towards the fulfillment of my goal.
Aww, doesn't that sound poetic and cheesy? 

PS. Excuse the lack of quality these pictures of postcards have. Winning a Pulitzer for photography is not a goal of mine.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

If the Creek Don't Rise - by Leah Weiss: Book Review

Author: Leah Weiss
No. Pages: 320
Publishing Date: 8.08.2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Format: Kindle

I liked this book. I 5 stars liked this book. However, it left me with the feeling that there was missing something. It starts with Sadie Blue, it ends with Sadie Blue, but between the first and the last page there is a host of other characters I was curious about. The writing is good, the information given about each character makes you interested in them, it makes you want to know more about them - but you don't. That's what left me with the feeling of something missing - what happens to the rest of the characters?

The language, more specifically the characters' dialect, gave a special flavor to the characters and the story. There were many things I didn't know about Appalachia of the 1970s that I discovered while reading. It did read in some parts like a "lesson" for the reader, but it's something I can overlook. 

What made me furrow my brow was the way the speech seemed to transform towards the second part. The novel is told from different points of view, which I always like because it gives different perspectives on the same events. Most characters speaking are poor and uneducated, and you're made to believe, that they will speak like such people. And so is the language at first. In the second part, though, the speech becomes a bit more polished. I know it sounds as if poor and uneducated people can't be coherent and eloquent, and that's not my intention. However, while reading I sensed a gradual progress from simplistic language to well articulated thoughts. 

As I said, I enjoyed this novel very much. It made me curious for more novels set in the South, be them classics or contemporary novels. I was impressed that this was the author's debut novel, and even more impressed that she was brave to go after her dream a bit later in life. I will read more from this author, and I hope there is a sequel to this novel. I do want to know more about the other characters!


GoodReads Blurb 
In a North Carolina mountain town filled with moonshine and rotten husbands, Sadie Blue is only the latest girl to face a dead-end future at the mercy of a dangerous drunk. She’s been married to Roy Tupkin for fifteen days, and she knows now that she should have listened to the folks who said he was trouble. But when a stranger sweeps in and knocks the world off-kilter for everyone in town, Sadie begins to think there might be more to life than being Roy’s wife.

As stark and magnificent as Appalachia itself, If the Creek Don’t Rise is a bold and beautifully layered debut about a dusty, desperate town finding the inner strength it needs to outrun its demons. The folks of Baines Creek will take you deep into the mountains with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.


I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Impossible Views of the World - by Lucy Ives: Book Review

Author: Lucy Ives
No. Pages: 304
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publishing Date: 1.08.2017
Format: Kindle
 
This novel sure is witty, but it didn't feel like a neurotic humor, nor did I find it dazzling, and I certainly did not find Paul's secret "unbearable".

I did like the lost-at-thirty-years-old thing Stella had going on there. Made her more humane, and that was necessary because all her pretentious words made her seem all put together and snob-ish in the beginning. She reveals more about her life and you get to know her better. I still have a curiosity and this thought popped into my head a few times while reading - what exactly was her job at the museum? And speaking of those bombastic words, there were a lot. Sure, I read to learn new words, but it's too much when on the same page there is at least one word that I have to look up. Maybe it's just because English is my second language, but this sure was an impediment. However, the witty part about this novel was this exact speech - she is funny, sometimes deep, you chuckle at some parts, and that works in her favor.

The plot, minimal as it was, is centered around a museum, and that immediately creates the perfect background for mystery and secrets. I had a hard time keeping up with all the bits of information she came upon. I think this is because the novel was in the first person narrative, and every time she figured something out she expected us to have an aa-haaa! moment as well. Well, explain it to us, mere mortals with no PhD in art history. I still have this feeling that I missed something and now it's (obviously) too late to understand it all. And as I mentioned, I didn't find any secret as unbearable and shocking. I've read worse. Or better, depending how you look at it.

I liked the way she over-analyzed everything, I had no problem having patience for that. However, I didn't have any patience for her love life drama, but it was good that she had two major things going on in her life during the week the novel takes place in. A mother with whom she has a not loved based relationship; an emotionally distant father, but still present and helpful; two men she loves or not; a man who's dead and into whose life she decides to look into and then take it upon herself to discover his hidden things and side job; and a fourth man who thank goodness doesn't become her lover in the course of that week - yeah, it was a packed-full week; only in novels.

Surely this novel would appeal more to art lovers, to those with a knack for modern mysteries, and novels set in museums. I wish I liked this novel more, but I knew it wasn't something I enjoyed reading when I chose to watch TV instead, and I hardly every do that.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

List of Characters:
Stella Krakus
Paul Coral - museum curator, gone missing, dead
Mary Carol Lynch - Stella's mother
Fredrick Lu - museum curator, Stella's ex-lover, colleague
Bonnie Mangold - museum employee, Stella's boss
Marco - museum employee
Whitaker Ghiscolmb - Stella's ex-husband
Nicola di Carboncino - museum director

Monday, June 19, 2017

Anything Is Possible - by Elizabeth Strout: Book Review

No. Pages: 272
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 25.04.2017
Format: Kindle

What I didn't like:
Every.single.character. was downright sad or pity-worthy. Even the characters who posed as happy or content were, actually, ridden by a deep issue. Not to mention, everybody in this novel has a mommy, daddy or sexual-nature issue. And it's just sad that all the poor people seem to have these problems. It felt a bit judgmental, but who am I to judge? Makes one have a lousy opinion about the human race. Just pick another human issue, goodness!
It left me with a bitter taste and in a funk, not in the mood to enjoy life, if that makes sense.
Clearly, I am not the target audience for this book. Also, I think it would have been better if this was written/ published before "My Name Is Lucy Barton".
 
What I liked: I wouldn't consider this a novel, but more like a short story collection, with one common thread: Lucy Barton. I've always liked books that are constructed that way.
I also thought that the book was written in a natural way, that is as if the author was telling the story of what happened. It also had a stream-of-consciousness feel about it, which was nice to see.
However, these are not things that redeemed this book.

It was not my cup of tea, thankyouverymuch. Maybe I would have appreciated it more were I in my middle-age stage of life?

Glad I didn't have to pay for this book since I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

1*/5