Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review | We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Delacorte Press
Publish Date: May 13, 2014

Source: Book - Library, Audiobook - Library
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My Thoughts
We Were Liars is a perfect example of why hype can be a bad thing. Even though this is a good story and even though I waited this long to read this book, the pre-publication hype still messed it up for me. Because I figured out the thing and thus did not get to GASP at the end. 


Regarding my thoughts: they are mixed. First of all, this is a good story.

I like E. Lockhart's take on privilege and money and corruption. I love the relationships in We Were Liars, be they healthy or unhealthy. I adore this writing style - short, choppy sentences. Blunt, stunted, to-the-point, yet somehow flowy, lyrical thoughts. It reminds me of some of my favorite American Southern classic authors, even though this book is not styled that way at all. These characters are really interesting: they're not really boring, but they're really hard to get to know beyond a surface level. Which, okay. But I liked them anyway. 

There is a certain point in the book (way near the end) when things began to pick up for me because of a few new details beyond what I had already figured out. So for a little while at the end, I really flew through the story and read it in a completely new way, which was nice. This is probably the way the book was intended to be read. Even so, I waffled back and forth from one extreme to the other, loving and not-loving what I was feeling, feeling excited about the story and also just the opposite. 

I guess I need to high five the author for making the story pop at the end. I'm not entirely sure what I feel, ultimately, after finishing it. Had I not figured out the main part of the story, I think I would probably be OH YEAH THIS IS ONE HECK OF A STORY. But I really feel bummed about the publishing hype basically spoiling it, and I can't help but wonder what my GASP would have been like had this not happened. 

The writing is the thing to love here. It is so lovely.  

Audiobook NotesThe audiobook format of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is published by Listening Library and is 6 hours and 27 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Ariadne Meyers, who does an amazing job. I went back and forth between a Kindle format and audiobook and LOVED this. The audiobook is pretty great. For those readers that are not a fan of the writing style used in We Were Liars, I would highly recommend the audiobook as an option if you want to give this book a try or perhaps reread now that you know the big secret reveal - the choppy, poetic-type writing seems to flow a little differently in the audio format.


We Were Liars will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary with Mystery/Thriller component
Romance: No triangle. 
Setting: An island near Cape Cod.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
is currently available for purchase. 


More by E. Lockhart: 

I really liked The Boyfriend List! 
I need to read more of E. Lockhart's contemporary titles. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review | My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M. Cameron

My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M. Cameron 
Series: My Favorite Mistake #1
Published by Harlequin HQN
Publish Date: August 27, 2013

Source: Book - Publisher, Audiobook - Bought
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 

Two secrets. One bet. Who will break first?

Taylor Caldwell can't decide if she wants to kiss her new college roommate or punch him.

On the one hand, Hunter Zaccadelli is a handsome blue-eyed bundle of charm. On the other, he's a tattooed, guitar-playing bad boy. Maybe that's why Taylor's afraid of falling in love with him, or anyone else. She doesn't want to get burned, so she needs him gone before it's too late.

Hunter himself has been burned before, but Taylor's sexy laugh and refusal to let him get away with anything make her irresistible. Determined not to be kicked out of her life without a fight, Hunter proposes a bet: if she can convince him she either truly loves or hates him, he'll leave the apartment;and leave her alone.

But when the man behind Taylor's fear of giving up her heart resurfaces, she has to decide: trust Hunter with her greatest secret, or do everything in her power to win that bet and drive him away forever.

My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M. Cameron 

My Thoughts:
My Favorite Mistake begins as female college student Taylor finds out that there has been a room assignment error and she is to be paired with a male roommate for the year in her campus housing. Within a few minutes of meeting Hunter, Taylor finds herself unimpressed and with [what she considers] reason to punch and kick him, so of course the two begin with a rocky start. What begins as a tense school year progresses to toleration and then to a relationship by the end of the story. 

Because Hunter really needs a place to stay for school (and he is certainly entitled to the place he is assigned), he makes Taylor a deal: if and when she either loves him or hates him, he will leave. That simple. 

The things I liked:

1. The deal makes for great tension and banter between Hunter and Taylor, particularly at the end of the night before they go to sleep. 
2. I love Hunter. 
3. I love how Hunter is honest about his attraction to Taylor, and I love that as his feelings progress and change, he continues to be honest with her. 

The things that weren't my favorite

1. Taylor: I had a tough time with her. 

I think that Hunter is a great character. He is a little on the cocky side, but sometimes a little bit of cockiness is crushworthy and sexy. Hunter cooks and sings and plays his guitar to impress Taylor , and this is also swoony. He loves his family and is loyal to his friends. He is more sweet and swoon than cocky jerk, and I'm glad about that. 

As much as I like Hunter: THAT is how much I dislike Taylor. She is so tough to love. I could never find a way to connect with her, at any part of the story. I felt like she began the story with a chip on her shoulder, she got away with a poor attitude and with throwing tantrums, and she treated Hunter far worse than she should have been allowed to. YES, she has character growth by the end of the story, but it felt like it took forever to come to fruition. I get that she has had some things happen to her and that I should have grace for her past, but this doesn't give her a free pass to be impolite and rude although unfortunately that is the impression I am left with after everything is done. Even the romantic tension she had with Hunter, even the witty banter, even the comedic relief - none of these things were quite enough to make me really love her as a character, which made me sad. 

Still, I liked this story. The secondary cast was great. The ending was happy with good resolution to the plot. I had this one sitting on my Kindle for a while so it felt good to pick it up and read it. 

Audiobook NotesThe audiobook format of My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M. Cameron is published by Brilliance Audio and is 10 hours and 14 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Kate Rudd, and  I do enjoy Kate's reading any time that I encounter it. I would encourage this audiobook for a first listen or a reread. 

I've actually read this book twice. The first time I finished the book was about two months ago - I got busy and didn't take the time in the holiday/Christmas season to review and rate it. I just now listened to the audiobook and I definitely liked this book more the second time. The reason for this is: on the reread, I can see hints of Taylor's big secret here and there in her thoughts and speech, and it made her behavior toward Hunter more tolerable on a very small level. 


My Favorite Mistake will appeal to fans of:

New Adult Contemporary Romance with Issues
Romance: No triangle. 
Setting: College campus

My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M. Cameron 
is currently available for purchase. 


More by Chelsea Cameron: 


Friday, February 19, 2016

Review | American Housewife by Helen Ellis

American Housewife by Helen Ellis
Published by Doubleday
Publish Date: January 12, 2016

Source: Publisher
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 

A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity, American Housewife features murderous ladies who lunch, celebrity treasure hunters, and the best bra fitter south of the Mason Dixon line.

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it's cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it's a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Vicious, fresh, and nutty as a poisoned Goo Goo Cluster, American Housewife is an uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood.  (Goodreads)

American Housewife by Helen Ellis 

My Thoughts:  I was drawn to this cover like a moth to a flame.

Sometimes I feel like I am this woman on the cover; the more I look at this picture, the more I love it. Sidenote: I stay at home to raise my family + am Southern, and I am quite sure that this author has crafted this book as if it could have been of my own soul. 

Inspired by Beyonce, I stallion-walk to the toaster.  -loc. 57, ARC

This is the first line from the What I Do All Day, which is the first short story in this collection. I was sitting in an airport when I read this and burst out laughing so loudly that I attracted more attention than I should be comfortable with in an airport. From stallion-walking to a toaster, Ms. Ellis goes on to describe the mundane hilarity of grocery-shopping, crafting, cooking, and a ton of other things which such snark (and truth) that I reread that particular story twice before moving on with the collection. 

I break into a sweat when I find a Sharpie cap, but not the pen.  -loc. 57, ARC

I shred cheese. I berate a pickle jar. I pump the salad spinner like a CPR dummy. I strangle defrosted spinach and soak things in branch. I casserole. I pinwheel. I toothpick. I bacon. I iron a tablecloth and think about eating lint from the dryer, but then think better or that because I am sane. I rearrange furniture like a Neanderthal. I mayonnaise water rings. I level picture frames.  -loc, 62, ARC

This isn't my exact life. This isn't the life of an American "housewife" exactly. At least not every single day. None of the stories in this book illustrate exactly such a life. But even though these stories are just a little but on the hilarious side, the crazy side, and even the dark side - I can assure you that I can see myself in these characters. 

I'm not sure that is always the best thing, but doggone it, I LOVE IT. 

These women are trying to maintain their mystery, their glamour, their sanity but most of them feel like they may have lost it or may be losing it or may never have been any of those things to begin with. These are strong women, but some of them are a little on the nutty side, and others may be heroic. 

I love this collection. It made me laugh. Some of the stories read almost list-like. My favorites were What I Do All Day, Southern Lady Code, and How To Be A Grown-Ass Lady. These made me feel like someone else out there is speaking my language and that someone else out there thinks like I do. The narrative stories were a little out there - some were a little dark and twisted with their hilarity - and I was cracking up. Favorites were The Wainscoting War and Dumpster Diving With The Stars. 

This isn't a collection that berates being a "housewife" or homemaking. These women are working hard, and in more than one of the stories, the women have paying jobs. These women are all types of women, in all types of situations. This is more of a celebration of women and their roles and their stories, and it is done in a smart and snarky and darkly sophisticated way. 

This is a collection that I read slowly over several days. I read one story at the time, pulling this book out when I wanted something short and fun to read. I think that's the best way to digest this book. In my opinion, trying to breeze through this one would be like selling each story short.


American Housewife will appeal to fans of:

Women's Fiction
Short Stories

American Housewife by Helen Ellis
is currently available for purchase. 


Check out these titles by Helen Ellis: 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review | Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Published by Putnam Juvenile
Publish Date: March 17, 2015

Source: Book - Library, Audiobook - Bought
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.   (excerpt from Goodreads)

Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

My Thoughts:  I just finished a reread of Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee and I loved that while I read the same story twice , I essentially read a different story both times. 

The first time I read Under A Painted Sky I was so excited to read a book about THE OREGON TRAIL! THE OREGON TRAIL! that that is what I picked up on mostly: the setting, the trail + the amazing friendship between Andy and Sammy. Andy and Sammy are two females that disguise themselves as cowBOYS to escape a really awful situation back in Missouri. They head west, meet up with other cowboys, and have to continue faking as boys in order to survive on the plains, risking everything for their freedom. I thought it was exciting and brilliant and lovely, and really just one of the best books that I read in 2015. 


When I read (listened to) this book as a reread, I was able to dig much deeper into the story and I heard more. This often happens, and is why I love rereading via audio so much. In a story like this one - where there is so much at stake, so much emotion involved - it just makes the story leap even higher off of the pages and land even deeper into my heart. 

What I read/heard this time:

- Samantha's grief at losing her father very early in the story never lessens, not once. She speaks to her father throughout the book, but it is heartbreaking. She feels responsible for his death. She feels guilt over so many things. She does not want to continue without him. She honors him with her words. The appreciation she has for Annamae. 

- Annamae's fear at being a runaway slave. The stories of her faith, confidently spoken. The encouragement she gives Sam. The hope she has at finding her brothers, cruelly taken from her as slaves. The appreciation she has for being free, even on the run. 

- The emotion in the backstories of Cay, West, and Peety. They are more than strong cowboys. They all have their own issues. 

- The onions. The onions. The onions. 

There is more, and this is not the first time a reread has meant a lot to me. THIS is a good book to have on your reread-radar if you like indulging in books once again. When I had hard time collecting my thoughts on why I loved this book so much the first time I finished it, I knew I would need to read it again, and now everything is so much more clear. 

Ultimately my favorite thing about Under A Painted Sky is the incredible friendship that Samantha and Annamae created under an intense and stressful circumstance. I think that theirs is the type that lasts a lifetime because it is true and already tested. I love reading relationships like this. I love the setting. I love the super strong women. I love everything about this book. 

Audiobook NotesThe audiobook format of Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is published by Tantor Audio and is 10 hours and 11 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Emily Woo Zeller who is so, so great at the emotion that Samantha's character brings forth in this story; she also reads a brilliant Annamae. Emily is great at voicing the accents in this story. She is new to me with this book but I have noticed that she reads several of the books on my wishlist. I would (and have) highly recommended this audiobook for first reads and rereads. 


Under A Painted Sky will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Historical Fiction
Strong female protagonists
Great friendships/relationships
Great Setting: The Oregon Trail

Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
is currently available for purchase. 


Check out these titles by Stacey Lee: 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review | The House Girl by Tara Conklin

The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Published by William Morrow
Publish Date: February 12, 2013

Source: Book - Library, Audiobook - Library
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 

Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

My ThoughtsThe House Girl is a dual-narrative story told by Josephine Bell and Lina Sparrow. Josephine is a seventeen-year-old slave from the 1850's, looking to escape. Lina is a young attorney living in the present time. She is working on a huge slave reparations case and learns about Josephine Bell through some of the people that her artist father know in his art community. Josephine worked as a slave in the house of artist Lu Ann Bell. Recently, the authenticity of Lu Ann's art has been questioned, with Josephine suspected as the true artist. Lina is looking to find Josephine's descendants - if she has any - because linking this type of publicity to this slave reparations case could potentially influence the outcome as well as the public perception of the case. Lina is following up on Josephine's story very closely and this, in the art world of both the past and the present, is where the lives of the two women intersect.

First of all, I just love the way the art is written into this story. It was easy to visualize each piece of art discussed because of its seamless placement into the narrative. 

I also love the two-POV structure in this book, particularly since Josephine's time setting is one of my absolute favorite in literature. I found her story so compelling; her voice is so strong. Recently I reread via audiobook during a move from one home to another, there were a few instances were I was so captivated by Josephine's portion of the story that I was brought to a standstill - no packing or unpacking. I had to completely stop and concentrate on her story as she told it, even though I had heard it before. When her chapter was complete, I felt free to move again. I love when audio rereads grab me in this way. 

I have to be honest here and say that Lina's portion of the story just didn't hold my interest as much as Josephine's did. Lina's story was a good one, and there was plenty to it, but it held less emotion to me. Perhaps this is because I'm so attracted to historical fiction. 

This is one heck of a story that easily flew to my favorites shelf. The ending felt a teensy bit abrupt or unexplored, but even so, this story is exceptional. After I read it the first time (November 2015) I couldn't stop thinking about it, which is why I reread it so soon (January 2016). 

Audiobook NotesThe audiobook format of The House Girl by Tara Conklin is published by Harper Audio and is 14 hours and 46 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Bahni Turpin who was so doggone believable as Josephine Bell, I promise you that my heart raced at some points and my breath caught at others.


The House Girl will appeal to fans of:

Historical Fiction/Contemporary
Dual-Narration/Alternating POV
Strong female protagonists

The House Girl by Tara Conklin
is currently available for purchase.