Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Orchardist Giveaway

I'm a few days delayed but wanted to get my giveaway going before the holiday weekend really kicks off.  Check out my review for Amanda Coplin's beautiful novel The Orchardist.  Good luck!  

Giveaway has ended!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Orchardist - Amanda Coplin

Title: The Orchardist
Author: Amanda Coplin
Hardcover: 426 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published date: August 2012
FTC: Received to review for TLC Book Tours

I've been trying to back off from receiving a whole lot of review books.  I'm a little back logged and I want to make sure I get to them all.  When I first was offered The Orchardist I was intrigued but declined.  Since then I've seen so many good reviews and things about this book that I decided to join the TLC Book Tour.  The Orchardist is a beautifully written American Western whose characters can't help but make an impression.

Back of the book:

At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he's found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit from the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.

Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, Amanda Coplin weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune. She writes with breathtaking precision and empathy, and in The Orchardist she crafts an astonishing debut novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in.

My thoughts:

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I cracked open this book.  I was not expected to get swept away into a modern American Western story.  When I say "modern" Western, it's because it's set slightly after the more normal 1800s than more traditional Westerns.  Talmadge's story is at the turn of the 20th Century in the Pacific Northwest in a period of history where towns were very isolated, horses or your own two feet were your transportation, and where it wasn't too uncommon for bands of men including Native Americans to steal horses for auction.  It was interesting to start seeing the little modern things start creeping into the characters' worlds - like their first train ride or getting their picture taken.  

The story is beautifully written but kind of different.  There are no traditional quotation marks when a character speaks, which in a book over 400 pages is actually not too often.  Characters tend to think a whole lot more and choose their words carefully.  The book is broken down into seven sections but after that, there are no real chapters.  There are breaks quite often and sometimes even I was unsure why.  Sometime a "chapter" could be a handful of pages and sometime just one paragraph.  I'm not sure what method she used for the breaks because while sometimes it would change to another character's perspective, often a perspective would change without notice.  I loved this method because lacking chapters really made me keep reading a lot later into the night than I probably should have and also it made the story flow as a whole. I could see how this might be confusing to some people though.

It says something about a book where the characters aren't the first thing I think of writing about.  The setting almost seems to take over as main character.  It's almost as if I've seen a movie I can visualize the orchard and Talmadge up on a ladder tending apricots while a little girl runs around helping him out.  I really don't want to give too much away even on the characters or perspectives because I don't want you to know how the story goes.  Talmadge is such a silent strong hero that you can't help but fall for his character.  How he maintains and protects his orchard and those who end up being in his small, silent, and at first lonely world.  Caroline Middey, Talmadge's friend in town becomes almost like a mother or grandmother figure.  For some reason these two characters give off the Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert feeling of Anne of Green Gables - loving and trustworthy characters in their own ways.

Now that I've read this beautifully haunting story, I want to go back to all those reviews I've been seeing and read them again.

***Come back tomorrow as I will be giving away a beautiful hardcover copy of The Orchardist.

Amanda’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, March 5th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, March 7th: Book Snob
Friday, March 8th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, March 12th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, March 14th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, March 15th: 5 Minutes For Books
Saturday, March 16th: Unabridged Chick
Monday, March 18th: The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Tuesday, March 19th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, March 20th: Raging Bibliomania
Thursday, March 21st: Becca’s Byline
Monday, March 25th: Amused By Books
Tuesday, March 26th: A Library of My Own
Wednesday, March 27th: Silver’s Reviews
Thursday, March 28th: Between the Covers
Friday, March 29th: missris
Monday, April 1st: Lit and Life
Tuesday, April 2nd: Paperback Princess

Monday, March 25, 2013

Once Upon a Time VII

My gosh I just love Carl's challenges - R.I.P, Sci-Fi, and Once Upon a Time. I actually love that it's evolved into less of a challenge and more of an experience.  I used to read five, six books and keep track and log it all.  Now I just sit back, enjoy reading the posts and read books that grab me. I love that each experience gets me in the mood for the season.  During the fall I look forward to digging into mysteries and dark gothic stories with the R.I.P. experience.  Mid-winter is the perfect time to curl up and read a classic sci-fi novel. I'm definitely going to re-read The Left Hand of Darkness next year.  Spring is the perfect time for magic and fairy tales.

I must have subconsciously been ready for Once Upon a Time because my audiobook is currently The Night Circus - lots of magic and narrated by the Harry Potter voice Jim Dale.

I also snagged my library sale find Shades of Milk and Honey. It's like a Jane Austen novel but with magic. Carl reviewed it awhile back it sounded awesome.

I'm also going to be joining along with Neil Gaiman's Stardust Read-Along.  I've got a beautiful edition from HarperCollins/William Morrow that is just dying for me crack open.  I first read it years ago as an eBook and have re-read it since then.  This is the perfect edition to add to my Gaiman collection and it's such a beautiful book to give as a gift too.

Join along and read too or you can check out what everyone else is reading over at the Review Site.  Have fun!

Friday, March 22, 2013

City of Bones - Cassandra Clare

Title: City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments Book One
Author: Cassandra Clare
Paperback: 485 pages
Publisher: McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster
Published date: 2007
FTC: Bought at used book store

Back when I worked at a bookstore there was a prominent display of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series.  It always caught my eye because the covers are really pretty cool and shiny. I know.  I'm drawn in by pretty shiny things.  Anyway, fast forward to last October when I was in Colorado visiting family and my brother and I were perusing a used book store. We'd both wanted to check this series out so I snagged the first book.  In a nutshell - super fun, easy read, love the characters, want to see the movie, getting book two at the library - BUT not going to buy the rest of the series. I am looking forward to The Infernal Devices series by her - seems like more up my alley - but I've heard you need to read this series first.

Back of the book:

When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder. Much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with odd markings. This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons - and keeping the odd werewolves and vampires in line. It's also her first meeting with gorgeous, golden-haired Jace. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in an ordinary mundane like Clary? And how did she suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...

My thoughts:

This series seems like it's going to be a great escapist read.  You know when you are looking at all the books you want to read and just want something that's easy to get into and can finish in a day or two.

Clary Fray is fun heroine to follow - artistic and smart.  Ok sometimes I thought a bit too much, would a teenager, even an artistic smart one talk like she does? I don't know.  Anyway, Cassandra Clare obviously thinks that her readers are also intelligent and the writing isn't too dumbed down for the teenage crowd - thank you Ms Clare!

While the ending wasn't necessarily shocking - I could see it coming - I was still surprised that she went that way.  I'm not giving anything away but I'm curious to see how the relationships play out in the series and how the movie masses react to the ending (those who haven't read the book.)

I also think it's quite funny how the book I have has a quote from Stephanie Meyer as the blurb, but the one above on GoodReads features one from Holly Black.  Interesting to see the change.

Another interesting thing - here's the cover to book two with the obvious image of red-headed Clary Fray on the cover:

I know there's some hubbub about the casting of a dark haired - although dyed a dark red - Lily Collins.  I don't really have a problem with it.  I am looking forward to seeing actor Robert Sheehan play Clary's BF Simon. That seems like a perfect casting call.  I also adore actors Lena Headey and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.  It's interesting that a story which takes place (so far) in New York City has a predominately British/Irish casting.  I'm assuming that it's not an American made movie? Thoughts?

I guess I should link the movie trailer since I talked a lot about it:

Also Reviewed By:

Fyrefly's Book Blog

Sunday, March 17, 2013

City of Dark Magic - Magnus Flyte

Title: City of Dark Magic
Author: Magnus Flyte
Paperback: 448 pages (ARC version)
Publisher: Penguin
Published date: December 2012
FTC: Received to review from publisher

Disappointed.  That about sums it up.  Take Prague, Beethoven's manuscripts and mysterious Immortal Beloved,  time-travel, a four-hundred year old dwarf, a prince, and a description of "rom-com paranormal suspense" and how can you go wrong?  Well I guess you can.  Sigh.

Back of the book:

Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.

Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.

City of Dark Magic could be called a rom-com paranormal suspense novel—or it could simply be called one of the most entertaining novels of the year.

My thoughts:

Blah. I've put off reviewing this one because of how let down I was.  I was expecting something awesome.  Instead I got a lot of juvenile humor and talk, uncomfortable sex scenes that were not at all romantic, and an unrealistic romance.  I felt like the authors didn't think that readers would be as interested in the history and the story if the scholarly characters didn't talk like high schoolers and have random sex with unknown people in the bathroom.  Gross.

The horrible part is that City of Dark Magic has one of the most original and realistic time travel-ish thing I've read about in a while.  I also tagged a ton of pages because there is so much cool history about Prague, Prague Castle, and Beethoven's life.  I wasn't around a computer or phone when I read it and there was so many historical things I wanted to Google.  The only character I really liked was the dwarf.  He reminded me of the humor and wit of Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones.  Arg.  This book had so much potential!  There's going to be at least one sequel but I am obviously not going to be picking it up.

That's really all I can write.  I'm off to check out other people's reviews.  Have you read this one?  Thoughts?

Also Reviewed By:

Luxury Reading

Friday, March 15, 2013

Monument 14 - Emmy Laybourne

Title: Monument 14
Author: Emmy Laybourne
Paperback: 294 pages (ARE version)
Publisher: MacTeen/Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan
Published date: July 2012
FTC: Received to review from publisher

I received this book as part of the Fierce Reads tour from MacTeen.  I have to admit that they have some pretty awesome books out there.  Shadow and Bone was my favorite but I also really enjoyed Cinder.  I also reviewed Struck which was ok and I haven't reviewed Of Poseidon just yet.  Monument 14 was actually pretty darn good.  There's definitely a sequel so I'm not sure if it's going to be a trilogy or what.  For some reason though this one didn't grab me like some of the others.  If the next book falls in my lap I'll read it but I'm not itching to read it like some of the others.

Back of the book:

In Emmy Laybourne's action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapon spill, seems to be tearing the world - as they know it - apart.

My thoughts:

Emmy Laybourne sets up this series with one of the most original and realistic apocalyptic events I've read about.  Monument 14 gets it's name from Monument, Colorado - a small town near Colorado Springs and more importantly, Cheyenne Mountain - the famous NORAD nuclear bunker.

Dean and his brother Alex are racing to make their school bus on time.  The opening scene of the hailstorm, the bus wreck, and the narrow escape as the bus rams into a chain shopping store is a pretty awesome start to the book.  Talk about pulling you right into the story.

After dealing with life and death situations, the rest of the book takes place inside of the superstore as the children, left alone without any adults, have to survive and figure out what is going on.  The whole story takes place through the perspective of not-to-popular high schooler Dean.  So while it's a story of an apocalyptic event, there's enough down-time in the store to eek out a lot of teen angst.  Of course there's Dean grappling with his popularity, some bullying by more popular guys, a big-time crush on a girl, being a big brother to Alex, and also trying to feed and keep calm a bunch of younger elementary school age kids.  I thought Emmy Laybourne did a great job of writing through a male teen's perspective.  

While it was a pretty original and fun read, it just didn't grip me enough to be excited about reading the next book.  The up side is that the next book will probably have more than one perspective and not just take place in the store.  I don't want to give away any spoilers but here's the next book's cover to give you an idea:

Also Reviewed by:

Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Dark Unwinding - Sharon Cameron

Title: The Dark Unwinding (Book #1)
Author: Sharon Cameron
Hardcover: 336 pages (my version is ARC paperback 318 pages)
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Published date: September 2012
FTC: Received ARC for review

I read this one back in August of last year. I can't believe it's taken me this long to review.  When I first delved into the book I was so excited because it was perfect, a creepy Gothic YA book mixed with steampunk and likable Jane Eyre type of character.  Awesome!!  But when I finished the book I was a bit "hum."  Not that it wasn't a good story - it was. I just think I got a bit too excited with the Jane Eyre/steampunk idea at the beginning and then - it's a trilogy, or at least a book number one.  So while it didn't end on a huge cliffhanger like some, it didn't leave me satisfied at all and I want to know how it ends! I guess it did it's job. Maybe it's because I'm a bit tired of the trilogy trend in YA novels.  Before I grumble any more...

The synopsis:

A thrilling tale of spies, intrigue, and heart-racing romance!

1852.  When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his remote English estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of childlike rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she has grown to care for - a conflict made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a mysterious student, and fears for her own sanity. As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as they know it. With twists and turns and breathtaking romance at every corner, this thrilling adventure will captivate readers.

My thoughts:

I loved this story and the heroine Katharine Tulman was Jane Eyre awesome.  Hopefully you understand what I mean by that - a girl with principles and morals with enough backbone to take care of herself.  Katharine isn't just coming to protect her inheritance like some spoiled rich girl.  She is an orphan and is living with her Aunt Alice and her spoiled over pampered cousin.  It's really the unsympathetic and hard hearted Aunt who sends her to have Uncle committed with the bait that Katharine will be taken care of.  In this day and age, an orphaned woman didn't have a whole lot of options so her mission is really of survival an self-preservation. Brilliant plot line really.

The uncle's eccentricities, his steampunkiness, and his insanely innovative community of workers is pretty darn cool.  But you could see how the extended family and even society would look at this guy and think "insane!" (You have to check out Sharon Cameron's website to read about the actual historical guy/estate she modeled this after.)

I think the weakest link in this novel is the romance angle.  I wouldn't call this a romance steampunk at all - so typing the book's synopsis that had "breathtaking romance at every corner" made me laugh a bit.  I mean there is a romance angle - even an attempted triangle.  But it's really not the point of this book.  I think this one sets the stage for Katharine Tulman to come into the woman that she is supposed to be.  I'm assuming and hoping that the romance angle is more developed and deeper in the following books.

I definitely want to see how the story plays out and it would be a series I'd be ok with my daughter reading if I had one :)  But man, waiting for the next book in all these YA trilogies is starting to get to me. Anyone else?

Also Reviewed By:

Book Smugglers
Katie's Book Blog

Thursday, March 7, 2013

#EstellaGram Days 6 & 7

The Estella Society #EstellaGram

6 mystery

This is my stack of to-read ARCs and stuff that I've accumulated and been horrible about reading.  Look at these great mysteries and crime novels I need to read.

7 crime

Since mystery and crime sort of go together I decided to go a different way with this one.  I used Marie Burton's definition of crime.  A total crime that I don't have a protective cover for my limited edition Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book. I put it in a plastic ziplock bag instead.  I need to find a plastic cover like my W. Somerset Maugham book has.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bookish Photos 1-5 #EstellaGram

The the last week or so has been a bit crazy.  It was my birthday AND we found out that we are going to be adding another baby boy to our family in July!  I realized that I have been horrible at blogging and all that stuff - usually because naps take a bit of precedence over a lot of stuff AND my son is seriously addicted to my iPad.  I'm still reading a good deal which is awesome.  When I saw The Estella Society post this Bookish Photo a Day Challenge I thought what a great way to pick up my blogging.  Obviously I'm way behind but hey, some it better than nothing.  

So here we go:

1. bookshelves

This is my "read" shelf from IKEA.  Obviously I am running out of room to store my favorite books I've read.  I recently bought one of those invisible bookshelf things from Barnes & Noble to display a stack of my favorite books.  If it works well I'll buy a few more so that I can display some around the house.

2. TBR

This is the shelf cubby on my desk my husband made me.  I reserve it for my upcoming reads.  There's a ton more to-reads on my main shelves and a space missing since I just pulled out Wildish by Robert Parry to read.

3. unread

These are my latest additions.  My husband took me out for dinner on my birthday and I decided instead of going to a movie which is starting to be expensive we'd take that money and hit up the bookstore instead.  I adore Connie Willis and have been dying to add these two to my collection for forever.  I haven't read them yet but come on...time travel and WWII...Hugo and Nebula winners...and Connie freakin' Willis....

4 fiction

This is probably the scariest/best place in my house.  These are all my un-read fiction books.  Yeah.  My husband keeps threatening/promising to build me built in bookshelves.  I keep hoping his already packed and busy schedule opens up so he can come through with that.  Le sigh.  Most of these books are ARCs I've been horribly behind on, library book sale books, and books I've won.

5 non-fiction

This is my small cram packed non-fiction to-reads shelf downstairs.  I keep meaning to add more non-fiction to my reads but I haven't been very good at it either.  Most of these are library sale books, books I've gotten or inherited from my mom and dad or other family member, college books I've wanted to revisit, and a few that I've won.