Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield


Colleen and Shay are about as different as two women can be. Colleen is a wealthy woman from Massachusetts, who uses money to get whatever she wants. Shay is an unsophisticated woman from California who uses her looks and tough demeanor to get what she wants. These two women are thrown together when their sons, who were working on an oil rig in North Dakota, go missing. They realize they have to work together to find their boys, since no one else seems to want to help.

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield is a mystery that explores the lengths two mothers will go to in order to find their children. When they start digging around, they realize the oil company has been implicated in several accidents and injuries that have been covered up. They start to wonder if the company did something to their boys to keep them quiet. There's also a question as to whether the boys just took off, since the work is hard and some men just can't cut it.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect of The Missing Place, and was glad that the truth of the boys' disappearance wasn't obvious until the women learn about it themselves. The characters seemed real and I found myself caring about both mothers as they tried to find their sons. There were some aspects of the story, though, that didn't tie together so well. And there were quite a few loose ends that weren't tied up at the end of the novel. This wasn't too bothersome to me, but if you're a reader who likes complete closure at the end of a novel, you won't get it here (although the mystery of the boys' disappearance is one aspect that is tied up well by the end).

Overall, it was an interesting mystery with a cold, harsh setting that Littlefield brought to life.

My Rating: 3.5/5

This review was written based on a copy of The Missing Place that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bloggiesta Plans


It's Bloggiesta time! What is Bloggiesta? It's a four-day event during which we bloggers focus on cleaning up our blogs and getting to the projects we've put off for too long. I have a lot of work to do!!

Here's my to-do list. The main thing is getting caught up on book reviews! Most of this will be done on the weekend, rather than today and tomorrow. I will update my progress here throughout the event.
  1. Write reviews for:
    1. The Missing Place
    2. Brain on Fire
    3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
    4. Codename Zero
    5. The Land of Stories
  2. Add reviews to Reviews tab
  3. Add reviews to Amazon
  4. Create logo/lead space image
  5. Choose old book reviews to highlight during Banned Books Week
  6. Make plans for upcoming Blog Action Day - choose book(s) to highlight
  7. Start list of ideas for upcoming Blogiversary

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week in Review

       aaa1

Good morning. I hope you've had a good week. It's starting to feel like Fall here in North Carolina. What a change! I think I'm ready for it. How about you?

Reviews and Blog Posts
I wrote just one review last week: The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe.

Reading
I did a lot of reading last week. I finally got out of the slump I was in. I finished The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield. It was a good mystery. I hope to write my review for that one this week.

I also read my September book club selection: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. That was a fascinating memoir, especially if you are interested in the way the brain works! And it's only $5.99 for the Kindle version if you're interested!

Now I'm about halfway through The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie in preparation for Banned Books Week next week.

C has finished the last book in the Swindle series by Gordon Korman. He also read Iqbal by Francesco D'Adamo for school. I may read that one. It sounds very interesting.

M has been busy reading a lot of Magic School Bus books, and watching the shows on Netflix too!

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe


Cara Rutledge left her southern home many years ago and made a life of her own. In Chicago, her career is her life. But when her mother asks her to come home just as she loses her job and her life starts to fall apart, she reluctantly decides to make the trip back to her family's beach house in Isle of Palms, South Carolina.

In The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe, Cara learns that her mother, Lovie, is dying of cancer, unlikely to make it much past the summer. They try to reconnect, but the past is hard to overcome at times. Misunderstandings about the past and her mother's intentions have clouded their relationship, and it takes a lot for them to open up to each other.

I really enjoyed this beach read. While Lovie is dying of cancer, I didn't find the story to be depressing or overwhelmingly sad. She accepts her fate and the author doesn't dwell on her suffering at all. The story of Lovie and Cara is offset with other storylines involving a pregnant teen who is living with Lovie as a caretaker, Cara's childhood friend who is having marriage trouble, and a romance for Cara. Themes of abuse, both physical and verbal, are woven into the novel as well.

There is also a great deal of information about the sea turtles who return to the beaches along the east coast every year to lay their eggs. This actually serves as a sort of rift between Cara and her mother, who is a "turtle lady," responsible for protecting the turtles and their eggs. Cara always felt her mother spent more time worrying about the turtles than about her.

We read The Beach House for book club and although we did have some topics to discuss, it's definitely not as deep as most of our selections. I think it serves better as an easy beach read. The setting and the emphasis on the sea turtles evoke a relaxing, summery feeling.

My Rating: 4/5

This review was written based on a copy of The Beach House that I borrowed from my mother.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Week in Review

       aaa1

Good morning. I hope you've enjoyed the last couple of weeks. We've been busy getting back into the routine of school and work, and enjoying a final trip to the pool before it closed for the season.

Reviews and Blog Posts
Since my last update, I wrote a review of After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman. I also wrote a recap of my participation in the 2014 Big Book Summer Challenge. I managed to read four big books (over 400 pages) this summer.

Reading
I never ended up finishing The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath. I read about half of it and just could not get into it. It seems to be getting decent reviews, so it's worth considering. I just couldn't connect to the characters or the setting, and wasn't crazy about the writing style.

Once I finally gave up on that one, I started reading The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield. I'm still reading that one. It's been a slow couple of weeks as far as reading goes!

C has been reading a few of the books in the Swindle series by Gordon Korman. M has been busy reading some of the Rainbow Magic Books by Daisy Meadows.

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 Big Book Summer Challenge Wrap-Up


I had a great time doing the 2014 Big Book Summer Challenge this year! I am not one to read a lot of "big" books, but this summer I actually read more than I had expected. I ended up reading four big books:

1. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (545 pages)
2. Honolulu by Alan Brennert (431 pages)
3. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer (438 pages)
4. The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe (407 pages)

I still need to write reviews for the last two. And I really want to read more in the Divergent series and the Land of Stories series.

This was a lot of fun, as usual. I look forward to next year's challenge! It's hard to believe the summer has already come and gone.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review: After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman


When Felix Brewer skips town to avoid a prison sentence, he leaves behind a wife, Bambi, three daughters and a mistress, Julie. When the mistress disappears 10 years later, everyone assumes she went off to be with Felix. Then her body is found nearby. The police never manage to solve the murder case, but Sandy Sanchez, a former detective, decides to open the cold case about 20 years later and is determined to find the truth.

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman is part crime novel, part family drama. Lippman covers several time frames throughout the novel, telling the story of Bambi and Felix, Julie and Felix, and Bambi and her daughters in the years after Felix's disappearance. We also get to know Sandy a bit, as well as other key characters. It sounds complicated, but it actually was easy to follow after the first few chapters.

I enjoyed the different characters, particularly the three daughters who are middle aged women by the end of the novel. It was interesting to read how their father's disappearance and his affair affected them, and how they related to one another and their mother over the years. The question of what really happened to Julie remained a mystery until it was revealed, as did the question of whether Felix Brewer would ever return to his family.

Overall, this was a good mystery with an engaging storyline that will keep you turning the pages until the end.

My Review: 4/5

Connect with Laura Lippman on her website, Facebook page or Twitter.

This review was written based on a copy of After I'm Gone that I received from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Week in Review

       aaa1

Good evening. I'm a little late with today's update. I've had a week full of reading due to the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon. I didn't read as much as I had hoped, but I did get a lot more reading done than usual.

Today was the first day of school for my kids. C started 5th grade and M started 2nd. They both had good days, but we're already having to juggle homework and afterschool activities. At the moment they're outside playing with friends even though they should be doing homework and practicing piano. I just can't bring myself to make them come inside yet!

Reviews and Blog Posts
Aside from the Bout of Books postings, I also wrote a review of The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell. I was hoping to get a couple other reviews written, but it didn't happen.

Reading
I finished The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe, which is my August book club selection. We'll be discussing it later this week. And I've made it through about half of The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath. I'll admit I'm still struggling a bit with this one, but I'm trying to stick with it.

C is reading Cold Cereal by Adam Rex. M read Lucky Stars #1: Wish Upon a Friend by Phoebe Bright and will be starting the next in the series tomorrow (when it arrives from Amazon).

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell


Easter is a special time for the Bird family. Every year, Lorelei goes all out to make the day special for her family, with an egg hunt in the garden and a special meal with family and friends. But then tragedy strikes, and the family breaks apart. Easter is no longer a happy time for the entire family. Years later, Meg returns to clean out her mother's home after her death, and the story of how this family fell apart is finally revealed.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell is a family saga told from several different times and perspectives. We get to know Lorelei and Colin, and their children Meg, Beth, Rory and Rhys when they were young and happy. And we get to see them as they are now. Lorelei is an eccentric woman whose perpetual collecting eventually evolves into a severe hoarding problem. The impact this ~ and the tragedy that happens on that one Easter ~ has on each of her family members is what the story is all about.

I had mixed feelings about The House We Grew Up In. The novel was engaging and held my interest, but it started to feel like a soap opera by the time it was done. Every single character has some serious issue, and it felt like the author added in every unusual relationship she could think of: adultery, parent and child with the same lover, sleeping around, bisexual, incest and more. Any of these would have been fine, but to throw them all into one novel with a small number of characters was too much for me.

Overall, it was a unique look into hoarding and the impact it has on different people. If you enjoy family sagas, and don't mind a bit of over-the-top relationship drama, check out The House We Grew Up In. It's gotten some much higher reviews from others, so it's definitely worth a look.

My Rating: 3/5

This review was written based on a copy of The House We Grew Up In that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review includes Amazon Affiliate links.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bout of Books Challenge: Book Spine Poetry

This week, I'm participating in the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon. Today, My Little Pocketbooks is hosting a Book Spine Poetry challenge, in which you need to create a poem using at least three books. I thought this sounded like fun, so here is my poem.




The beach house on Cape Cod.
I recall the secret place,
the forgotten garden

The rules allow for the addition of one additional word for each title, and I added three so it would make a bit more sense.

Bout of Books 11 Read-a-thon

Bout of Books
The Bout of Books read-a-thon starts today and I've decided to sign up. I don't think I've actually done this one before, but it sounds pretty easy. Here's an explanation of what it's all about:
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
My goals:
  1. Read every evening for at least an hour Mon-Fri. (I work full time and the kids start all their fall activities this week, so getting an hour of reading in each night is actually a tough goal!)
  2. Read for at least 4-5 hours on the weekend.
  3. Finish The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath
  4. Finish The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe
My progress:

Monday
Time spent reading: 2.5 hours
Book/Pages read: 70 pages of The Bone Seeker

Tuesday
Time spent reading: 2 hours
Book/Pages read: 78 pages of The Beach House
Challenge: Book Spine Poetry

Wednesday
Time spent reading: 30 minutes
Book/Pages read: 26 pages of The Beach House

Thursday
Time spent reading: 1.5 hours
Book/Pages read: 90 pages of The Beach House

Friday
Time spent reading: 2 hours
Book/Pages read: 101 pages of The Beach House

Saturday
Time spent reading: 0
Book/Pages read: 0

Sunday
Time spent reading: 1.5 hours
Book/Pages read: 48 pages of The Bone Seeker