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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Monday Musts #8 + a Giveaway!

Monday Musts is a weekly feature hosted by Jessica from the blog Lovin' Los Libros.  Go to her blog for a complete list of all the participating blog, and add your own to the list!


It's been a wonderful week of blogging!  I am celebrating my Blogiversary with a Giveaway of a $50 Amazon gift card!  The raffle ends at Midnight March 3rd, so follow this blog and enter!




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here are my Musts for Monday!


Must Read:


 Part graphic novel, full of action, adventure, and romance, this book surprised me in so many ways.  I know I am a little late to the party, but I only just read this wonderful book.  I purposefully stayed away from hearing much about this, and it was worth it.  This is a book you must read to get the full effect.  I don't know how this would come across as an audiobook, but I might listen to see what the producers do with it.

Must Listen:




This is a quick 5 minute daily podcast hosted by Garrison Keillor and highlights milestones in writing and poetry.  I love the rumbling baritone of Garrison's voice as he explains interesting tidbits each day.  The podcast finishes with a poem.  It has made me widen my knowledge of writers and poets and propelled me to seek out the featured poets and explore more of their work.  You can find this podcast on iTunes.

Must See:



        

This TED Talk by Rosie King, who challenges stereotypes about autistic people.  I saw this at a training I went to last week, and it reminded me that people's uniqueness should be celebrated.  It is only a six and a half minute video, but I will be well worth your time.

What are you excited to share this week?  Make your own Monday Musts post and add it to the list!
 
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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Stacking The Shleves #19

Stacking The Shelves  is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  Go to their site for a complete list of all the participating blogs.  This is a huge Blog Hop, so take some time this weekend to look at all the varied and unique blogs out there.  Each week, there are over 100 blogs that post their Stacking The Shelves.   It is so fun to see what everyone is reading and receiving.


I skipped a post last week, due to my wildly unrealistic expectation of being a part of the Love-a-Thon blog event.  It looked like such a great idea and there were posts to do ahead of time (so many posts...).  Well, I realized on Thursday night that I should have planned better because there was no way I was going to be able to do all the work needed to participate in any meaningful way.  So I bailed!     

Here is what I read, and received in the last TWO weeks:


Read:






My favorite book read has got to be Sisi: Empress On Her Own, by Allison Pataki.  It is a grand, sweeping historical fiction based on the famous Empress Elisabeth (or Sisi) of Austria.  She was the Princess Diana of her day:  famous, beautiful, and dreadfully lonely.  I will come out with a review of this book soon.  If you like Historical Fiction, look for this book coming out on March 8th.

Books Bought:



With the movie trailer starting to show up around the web, I thought I should re-read this romantic tear-jerker.  I loved this book, and am really looking forward to the movie!

Books From The Library:




I am an aide in a school and the students I work with are reading this book for some of their reading groups. It looks really good.  I hope to read it quickly so I know what the students are talking about during discussions and reading reflections.

Received As Part Of A Blog Tour:



Whoo Hoo!  I signed up for two blog tours recently and I got both of these in the mail this week!  I am so stoked because I was just expecting to get digital copies!  I have some physical ARC, but that is just because I won some contests.  I feel like such a grown-up blogger now!

Giveaway:


Speaking of being a grown-up blogger, I just celebrated my one year blogging anniversary!  In honor of that, I am doing a rafflecopter contest.  Follow this blog and enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!!!  I feel really blessed to be a blogger and to be a part of such a wonderful community of bookworms!




a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's My Blogiversary & a Giveaway!!!



                    
via GIPHY

I can't believe I have had this blog for an entire year, already!  I have learned so much and yet I still feel like a newbie.  I make mistakes, take forever to read books, and I struggle sometimes to find things to blog about.  But, I have also grown  as a writer this year.  I have been able to be creative, find a conversational style of writing, and read some amazing books due to blogging.

Scroll to the bottom of the page for my Blogiversary Giveaway!

Here are some of my highlights for this year:


1.  Getting approved to read 25 ARC books on NetGalley.

2.  Getting the elusive 80% feedback rating on NetGalley.

3.  Getting ONE approval on Edelweiss.  This may seem terrible compared to NetGalley, but I did a happy dance because I have tried for months to get any action with this service and had zero success...until now!

4. Meeting Leigh Bardugo at her book signing for Six of Crows.

5.  Getting 170 followers on this blog!

6.  Getting over 600 followers on Twitter!

7.  Reading 126 books last year.

8.  Reviewing 65 books on my blog in the past year.

9.  Writing 163 posts for my blog this year.

And most importantly:

10.  Meeting (online) so many wonderful bloggers!   I have made some lovely friends.

Giveaway Time!!!

Now it's time to celebrate.  Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card.  This is open Internationally!!!

 

 

 

 


a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ARC Review: The Last Days Of Magic

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25734207-the-last-days-of-magic

Please Note:  I received an ARC copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This does not influence my opinions in my review.

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

What became of magic in the world? Who needed to do away with it, and for what reasons? Drawing on myth, legend, fairy tales, and Biblical mysteries, The Last Days of Magic brilliantly imagines answers to these questions, sweeping us back to a world where humans and magical beings co-exist as they had for centuries.

Aisling, a goddess in human form, was born to rule both domains and—with her twin, Anya—unite the Celts with the powerful faeries of the Middle Kingdom. But within medieval Ireland interests are divided, and far from its shores greater forces are mustering. Both England and Rome have a stake in driving magic from the Emerald Isle. Jordan, the Vatican commander tasked with vanquishing the remnants of otherworldly creatures from a disenchanted Europe, has built a career on such plots. But increasingly he finds himself torn between duty and his desire to understand the magic that has been forbidden.

As kings prepare, exorcists gather, and divisions widen between the warring clans of Ireland, Aisling and Jordan must come to terms with powers given and withheld, while a world that can still foster magic hangs in the balance. Loyalties are tested, betrayals sown, and the coming war will have repercussions that ripple centuries later, in today’s world—and in particular for a young graduate student named Sara Hill.



Review:

When we read a book, we often find what is called text-to-self connections, which means that something in our own lives connects us to the story.  In the case of The Last Days of Magic, by Mark Tompkins, I immediately connected with this book based on my Irish heritage, and my conflicted Catholic upbringing.


                 
via GIPHY


The setting of this book is 14th century Europe and Ireland.  The Church is trying to rid the world of magical creatures, saying that they emerged after fallen angels left heaven to mate with human women.  Fallen angels and women...both deemed by The Church as evil.  What a convenient way to oppress women who wanted to learn to read, question The Church, or not be submissive to their husbands.  I was cringing, at times, to read how awful the clergy was to women, using their power to abuse, and debase a group.  What makes this novel so good is that this kind of witch hunting and abuse actually did happen during those times.

When the book begins, the reader is treated to many scenes of Ireland and it's brutal beauty.  The people have a connection to the land, each other, and to magic.  There are fighting, conniving kings (both fae and human), goddesses, slaves, peasants, and priests.  The nobility is at war with each other, The Roman Catholic Church, and (of course) England.  But the common people are the ones who pay the price.


I thoroughly loved this book!  



                  
via GIPHY
If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, then this will certainly delight you.  

One of the best aspects of this book is that there are wonderful female characters. 

                       
via GIPHY


It's not just the men who are important in this story.  There is Aisling, the half-goddess, trying to rebuild her life after a terrible tragedy.  She goes through many transformations as she navigates a world that is advancing without the magic she has harnessed in the past.  Another great character is the slave,  Najia who finds a way for her and her siblings to survive after being traded around like packages.   Brigid is a Irish high priestess who protects Aisling and the traditions and rituals that keep magic alive at the expense of her own happiness.  I loved having so many perspectives in the story.

This story is an epic adventure.  Once I started reading it, I could not stop.  Considering all the various characters, locations, and plots it was easy to follow (sometimes, in GoT I would be lost).  All the different stories wove together to create a rich tapestry of Ireland and a time gone by.

Rating: 




Release Date:  March 1st, 2016

Source:  ARC from NetGalley

Format:  E-book

Recommendation:  For fans of magical, royal, epic stories, this will be a MUST READ!!!

Would I read more from this author:  Yes, Yes, Yes!



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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Monday Musts #7

Monday Musts is a weekly feature hosted by Jessica at Lovin' Los Libros.  Go and add your Monday Musts post to the linky-link list.  Then we can all see and share our must lists.


Must Read:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17675462-the-raven-boys?from_search=true&search_version=service

Click on the image to go to the GoodReads page for this book.


In anticipation of The Raven King's release in April, why not read (or re-read) The Raven Boys?  Privileged prep-school boy meets bohemian townie in this supernatural mystery.  

The opening chapter explains that the main character, named Blue, will cause her true love to die.  So Blue makes sure to stay away from boys.  But she can't seem to keep away from Gansey, the rich, golden boy of the local prep- school.  There is so much to love about this series!  

 

Must Listen:



http://www.wnyc.org/shows/heresthething/

Click on the image to get the the webpage for this show.


I love to listen to various things while I'm doing chores around the house.  One of my favorite things to listen to are podcasts and Alec Baldwin's Here's The Thing is a smart, funny show where the star interviews legendary stars, politicians, and policy-makers.  Listening to this show makes me feel like I am some sort of intellectual living in New York! 

Must See:


     

Tom Hanks is one of the most beloved actors in Hollywood, and this movie proves, once again, why.  He's a good man caught up in a frightening time in American history:  The Cold War.  This movie just came out on DVD and pay-per-view.   It is nominated for  six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  Watch it before the Oscars next Sunday.

What are your Monday Musts?  Make your own posts and link them to the list. 
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Thursday, February 18, 2016

ARC Review: Multiple Listings

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23492619-multiple-listings?from_search=true&search_version=service

Please Note:  I received an advanced readers copy (ARC) from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This does not influence my opinions in any way.

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

What would you do if your ex-con father suddenly came to visit…indefinitely? Family drama ensues when Nicki’s dad unexpectedly moves in with her, her son, and her boyfriend in this comedic novel from successful TV writer Tracy McMillan.

Nicki Daniels owns a home appraisal business, but real estate is her true passion: she lives for open houses and really knows her way around a floor plan. And especially at this juncture of her life, real estate has come to signify the stability she is trying to build with her teenage son, Cody, and her much younger boyfriend, Jake. She’s finally ready to find the perfect house for the three of them and work on a new business venture with Jake that she thinks will jump-start their lives together.

Meanwhile, Ronnie, a longtime inmate at a nearby correctional facility, is getting some good news for once—there was a mistake in his sentencing, and he’s eligible to get out of prison. After a sixty-day stay in a halfway house, Ronnie decides his best option to avoid homelessness is to move in with his estranged daughter: Nicki. Even though they haven’t spoken in years, her door is always open to him, right?


Review:

When I first requested Multiple Listings, by Tracy McMillan on NetGalley, I will admit that I was initially drawn to the cover art.  I then read the description and was immediately interested.  A successful woman in the midst of a family crisis?  I can identify with that!

What I liked:
Nikki:  Nikki is a woman who appears to have it all:  She owns a home, has a thriving business, and is dating a handsome, younger man.  I empathized with how Nikki, despite having all this, still had deep insecurities and shame about her childhood.  This affects all of her relationships.  This book is a comedy, but I felt it packed an emotional punch as well.

Ronnie:  Ronnie is Nikki's father who was just released from prison.  At first Ronnie reformation seems like it's too good to be true.  And it is, as he messes up and must face the consequences of his actions.  I liked that he also began to work on repairing his relationship with Nikki.  He understood how his absence altered Nikki's life.


                 
via GIPHY


If they make a movie out of this, I think Alec Baldwin would make a perfect Ronnie.

The Real Estate tie-ins:  From the title of the book on, the author sprinkles in the psychology of home buying and the real estate industry as metaphors to what is happening in the story.  I found this engaging and it was a fun way to weave everything together.

What I didn't like:
The Clichés:  
Nikki's troubled teenage son transforms into a happy young adult because Ronnie is there to teach him to become a man.  This is so insulting to single mothers and their kids.  Plenty of boys who were raised by single mothers turn out just fine (ever heard of a guy named Obama?).  

Nikki's other friend, Peaches, also seems like a caricature of the tough, but loyal friend.  Peaches still acts like an obnoxious teen and Nikki is fine with that?  There is some growth to Peaches later in the novel, but I think it comes a little too quickly, and conveniently, in the story.    

It may seem as though I didn't like this book, but I really did enjoy it.  It was funny, and I could identify with Nikki trying to figure out how to relate to her father as an adult.  I think this is something that many people struggle with.  Can we let go of the hurt we feel from the things our parents put us through as kids?  Can we see our parents as fellow adults?  Can our parents see us, and respect us, as adults?  These are some of the themes explored in this novel.  It is an entertaining book that would be a great Spring Break read.

Rating:



Release Date:  March 8th, 2016

Source: ARC from NetGalley

Format:  e-copy

Recommendation: A fun book that also explores serious issues.  This would be a great book to read on a vacation or a sunny weekend by the pool.
 

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

ARC Review: The Girl From Everywhere

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21979832-the-girl-from-everywhere?from_search=true&search_version=service

Please note:  I received an e-book Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This does not affect my opinions for this review in any way.


Synopsis (From GoodReads):
Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveler. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times - although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix's father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix's existence rather dangerously in question...

Nix has grown used to her father's obsession, but only because she's convinced it can't work. But then a map falls into her father's lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it's that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.


Review:

I'll admit that I really didn't know much about The Girl From Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig, before I read it.  There was a lot of chatter about this book on Twitter, which I have found to be both a good and a bad thing.  On the one hand, people were saying it was wonderful.  I had heard the story was about time travel and there seemed to be a pirate ship on the cover.  Hmm, I was intrigued.  On the other hand, I really didn't want to read any spoilers, and I didn't want to hear so much about it that it couldn't possibly live up to the hype.  So I started to stay away from posts where The Girl From Everywhere was the subject.  But then it was offered up on NetGalley and I was actually approved!  Amazed at my good fortune, I began reading.

What I Liked:

Nixie:  The main character, Nixie, is a sixteen-year old who has lived entirely on the ship.  Time travel for her is what is normal.  I loved how she was an intelligent person who was conflicted about her feelings for her father.

Slate:  I thought the father, Slate, was a wonderfully complex character.  An opium addict, he was selfish about fulfilling his needs and desires.  You could see how much cared about Nix and also mourned the loss of his wife.  

Kashmir:  The lovable thief, who may (or may not) be a certain storybook character.  He has had a difficult life on the streets.  Does he care for Nix or is he trying to con her?

The setting:  The ship travels to Hawaii in the mid-1800's.  I love how that time period shows the conflict between the traditional native Hawaiians  and the influx of Americans eager to exploit that natural resources of the island.  If you know Hawaii's history, you understand how heartbreaking this struggle became.

What I didn't like:

The exposition:  I would have appreciated a bit more explaining at the beginning of the story as to how time travel worked in this universe.  I will admit that sometimes as a reader I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I was confused by how they were able to go from one era to the next.  How do the maps actually work?  Since I do not want to spoil anything, I will not say much more.

Overall, The Girl From Everywhere was a fun adventure with a delightful dose of romance sprinkled in for good measure.  With it's premise, I would think there would be many opportunities for sequels.  And I would definitely want to sail on that ship.

Rating: 



Release Date: February 16th, 2016

Source:  NetGalley

Format: E-book ARC

Recommendation:  For a swashbuckling good time, read this book!  Fun and romantic, if a bit confusing.

 





 
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

ARC Review: Beyond The Red by Ava Jae





Please note:  I received am e-book copy of this novel from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  This in no way influenced the opinions in my review.


Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.


Review:

I didn't know much about this book when I found I could get it from Edelweiss.  I follow the author on Twitter, and some of the other book bloggers I know said it was a good read.  So I took it on faith that this would be entertaining.  Well, I need to listen to these guys more often, because once I started this book, I could not put it down!  It was engrossing, exciting, and just a wee bit erotic!  I binge-read this, completing it on a lazy Sunday.

The story centers around Eros a half Human, half Sepharon teenager.   Most half-blooded babies are killed at birth if they are around Sepharons.  But Eros, instead, is raised by an adoptive human family.  Because of his heritage, he is despised by the human nomads he and his human family live among.  As the book begins, Eros is captured by the Sepharons.  But rather than being executed, he is picked by Kora, their queen, to become her personal guard.  Eros bargains to let the other captured humans go in exchange for his loyalty.

There is immediate attraction between Eros and Kora.  Eros feels conflicted because Kora is responsible for the deaths of many of the humans.  Kora knows that, because of his half-blood status, Eros is considered untouchable.   I enjoyed how the two characters interacted and fought their attraction to each other.  Both found ways to look beyond each others social status and see the actual person beneath.  Both felt mistrusted by society and had to prove themselves.  

There were many other interesting characters populating this universe: Gray (the leader of the human nomad is a unsentimental commander looking out for his people), Kora's jealous twin brother, Dima (who is looking for any excuse to steal the throne from Kora), Jarek (Dima's second in command), and Serek (a royal suitor of Kora's).  These characters round out the book and create an epic saga of rebels and royalty.  There are some inventive plot twists that kept me turning the pages to find out what happens next.

I think the world building was imaginative and the details of the technology such as the nanites and transportation were fun without being distracting.  I think this would make an excellent movie...

Rating: 


Release Date:  March 1st, 2016

Source:  ARC from Edelweiss

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  Science fiction fans will enjoy the world that author Ava Jae creates as well as the heat between the main characters.

Will I read more from this author?  Yes!








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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Monday Musts #6

This is a weekly feature hosted by Jessica @ Lovin' Los Libros.  Go to her blog to sign up with your own Monday Musts!  Come on, join us! 

Must Read:


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21979832-the-girl-from-everywhere?from_search=true&search_version=service


  I just finished this book and it is a fun time-traveling adventure.  I love the setting, which is 1800's Hawaii, and there are lots of fun characters.

Must Listen:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23453112-modern-romance?from_search=true&search_version=service

Was Valentine's Day a bummer for you?  Well, listen to the audiobook version of Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari and learn how to play the dating game in the digital age!  This audiobook is so fun to listen to.  And the book itself is an actual study commissioned by the comedian to study how technology has changed the way people date.  It really is a fascinating read listen.

Must See:


            


We have a ritual at our house.  We love to eat dinner and watch Family Feud.  I can never tire of the way host Steve Harvey can turn a ridiculous contestant's answer and spin it into comedy gold!  Here is is a recent example that Steve Harvey, himself, posted.  Most of it will never make it to the airwaves, but it is so fun to watch him! 

What are your musts for Monday?  Join the blog hop and let people know!

 

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stacking The Shelves #18

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Team Tynga's Reviews.  Go to their blog for a complete list of all the participating bloggers.  Each week, over 100 blogs show you what books they received and what their excited about.  This is a super fun blog hop!


It has been a fun, but crazy week for me!  I work in a school and on Thursday we had all the Valentine's parties.  How were they?  Let's just say it was high energy and leave it at that.  I feel really lucky to have had Friday off (and I get Monday off as well).  

I have been doing lots of writing this past week.  Last weekend, I made a goal of visiting and commenting on every blog that registered on Tynga's Linky-link list.   There were 101 blogs and I did it!  I think I will try to do this again this weekend.  What I loved about it was seeing all the various blogs and how each blogger interpreted the Stacking The Shelves theme.  

Next Saturday I will not do Stacking The Shelves.  Instead, I will be participating in the 2016 weekend Love-a-Thon:



Hosted by:

                      Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books 

                      Cee @ The Novel Hermit

                      Hazel @ Stay Bookish

                      Mel @ The Daily Prophecy

         

My most anticipated book obtained this week is Leah Remini's memoir, Troublemaker.  I immediately started listening to this audiobook and it did not disappoint.

Read This Week:


I loved all three of these books!  The Girls From Everywhere was a fun time-travel story.  The Arrangement was a deep look into the compromises made in a marriage.  And the audiobook of Troublemaker was mesmerizing.

Books I won in contests:



I forgot to post this last week, but I won this in a Twitter giveaway!


Kindle Books I Bought:




Eternity was a Freebie!!!  The Coffee Girl looks really fun and was only $1.99.  I know I will want to read it after finishing something heavy.


Books from the Library:




I was so happy to start getting books from the library again.  This is part of my goal of finding ways to read for my own pleasure, not just for reviews.  Although I may review these books, I am mainly reading these for pleasure.

What books did you get this week?   Which book are you most excited to read?  Let me know in the comments.
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Audiobook Review: Troublemaker






Description (From GoodReads): 
The outspoken actress, talk show host, and reality television star offers up a no-holds-barred memoir, including an eye-opening insider account of her tumultuous and heart-wrenching thirty-year-plus association with the Church of Scientology.

Review:
I love celebrity memoirs.  They can let you in on all kinds of little-known facts about a person you admire.  In my opinion, the best way to experience these kinds of books is through listening to the author in an audiobook.  Troublemaker, the memoir by actress Leah Remini, doesn't disappoint.  It has everything a great memoir needs:  an unusual childhood, celebrity gossip, and a compelling overall story about Hollywood and Scientology.

What I liked:
Leah's Personality:
With her tough New York accent and attitude, Leah makes a fascinating narrator.  You can tell that this woman calls them like she sees them.  She also is the first to point out her own flaws (she's a bit rude, speaks up, and keeps pushing people's buttons) and concedes that these got her into all kinds of trouble throughout her life.  She comes off as obnoxious and loud... and a fiercely loyal friend.
 
Behind The Scenes Hollywood:
Leah shows how her "overnight success"  actually took decades to achieve.  If you are a fan of the show The King Of Queens, there are many stories of the creation of the show, and of co-start Kevin James and Jerry Stiller. 


TomKat:
Being a Scientologist, Leah had a first-hand account of the infamous courtship and wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  This stuff was really juicy and I was enthralled by Leah's description of how the church seemed to have a say in every aspect of Tom's life.

What I Didn't Like: 
Too Much Detail:
I'm sure many people will be fascinated by all the Scientology stuff.  But, to me, it got bogged down into too many minute details of the various types of "courses" and punishments the church handed out.  I think this could have been simplified or consolidated for the reader and it would have made the book read a lot more smoothly.

Rating: 


Release Date:  November 3rd, 2015

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audiobook

Recommendation:   This was a fun book to listen to, particularly if you are a fan of Leah Remini





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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: The Nightingale

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21853621-the-nightingale?from_search=true&search_version=service





Synopsis (From GoodReads):

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.


Review: 

Up until a few weeks ago I had never heard of The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah.  Several of my friends from work started reading it.  But they quickly finished and one of them was able to loan me a copy of the book.  That was a Friday and by 1am Tuesday morning I had finished it.  It was one of those books you keep thinking about, even when you aren't reading it.  I would be fretting as I was doing housework.  What was going to happen to Vianne?  Would Isabelle be caught by the Nazis?  Who was the actual narrator of the story?

I love historical fiction, and France during WWII is one of those eras that I find fascinating.  What does it mean to live through a war?  I loved how the book described this as the "Shadow War" that civilians, particularly women, fought during WWII.  When it was over, there were no parades, no monuments erected.  People just tried to get on with their lives.  This was a time in history where those who lived through it would rarely talk about the hardships they endured.  That is why a book like The Nightingale is so important.  We must not forget that the nightmare these people went through is the reality of so many people throughout the world right now.

Lately, I have been writing reviews in a "What I liked" vs. "What I Disliked" style.  I can't do that with this book for the simple reason that there is nothing to dislike in this book!  I loved it so much.

One of the themes I enjoyed was the exploration of bravery.  What does it mean to be brave?  Some characters had to make moral compromises in order to keep their children safe. Others chose to fight in the French underground.  Many found other ways to resist the occupation and assist their Jewish neighbors.  These were not easy decisions.  If one was caught, the punishment could easily be death for an entire family.  The character's moral struggles are so fascinating and had me wondering what I would do if it were me.

This book was epic in scale, covering the time just before the war broke out until a few months after it finished.  I loved going through the journey with these vivid characters.  There was suspense, romance, and heart-break.  It was a tale I will think about for a long time.

Rating: 



Release Date:  February 3rd, 2015

Source:  Borrowed from a friend (Thank you, Elisa!)

Format:  Hardcover book

Recommendation: For those who love Historical Fiction, this is a MUST READ.  It will haunt your dreams and re-enforce your faith in humanity.


 
   
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: The Love That Split The World

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25467698-the-love-that-split-the-world?from_search=true&search_version=service

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start... until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.


Review:

I've been a lucky blogger lately, getting to review a bunch of ARCs from NetGalley, winning books from contests.  I have even had a few authors send me their books.  Yet despite all this good fortune, I could not snag an advance copy of Emily Henry's The Love That Split The World!  I had heard so much about it, how wonderful it was and didn't I wish I had a copy?  Well, yes I did have ARC envy!  But then I came to the realization that I would, indeed, need to shell out my hard-earned money to actually buy a copy of the book.  Actually, I was glad to buy this book as I wanted to support the author.  But I also had that nagging thought in the back of my mind:  This better be worth it.  Well, I am happy to report that IT WAS SO WORTH IT.  


                   
via GIPHY

What I Liked:


The Love Story:  I usually am not a fan of an insta-love story, but in this case it was necessary and it worked.  I totally believed that Beau and Natalie were meant to be together.  Although the circumstances of the story are fantasy, I see Beau and Nat's dilemma as an analogy for all those what-ifs and if-onlys we all think about as time goes by.  How would our lives be different if we did (or didn't) go on to that party?  What if we had (or hadn't) moved to that part of town?  There are so many parts of life that happen due to chance.

The Friendships:  I love books where the main characters have great friendships to anchor them.  I loved Natalie's relationship with Megan, how she could tell her things that no one else would believe and Megan took it in stride.  Natalie's on and off friendship with Rachel was a rich example of how friendships change over time.

The Stories:  The Grandmother tells Natalie a series of stories throughout the book that may have meaning later on.  These stories were beautifully written and added a fairy-tale quality to the overall narrative.  They were also a nice way of subtly showing the reader Natalie's Native-American heritage.

What I was Mixed about:

The timey-wimeyness of the story:  Okay, this is going to be hard to discuss without throwing in some spoilers, so I will be a bit vague.  But there were many parts in the story where I was completely lost!

                     
via GIPHY

I realize this is a necessary part of the story, and it was probably my personal issue, but some of what was happening was really confusing.  I think I will need to re-read the book to perhaps understand what happened, and why.  But sometimes the story made me feel stupid for not getting it.

Overall, this book was definitely worth the money.  It was a beautiful love story.  If two people are meant to be together, circumstances will conspire to ensure they find each other.  I often think about this in my own life.  I can recall the exact moment when the friendship I had with this guy changed into romance.  I had liked this guy for a while but I was on the fence about taking it further.  Well, I was at a party when a girl I knew started talking about him, saying she wanted to make a move on him that night!  That decided it for me.  I literally ran up to him, threw my arms around him and we've been together ever since.  Was it chance or fate that brought us together?  I don't know but, decades later, I often say a silent thank you to that girl for nudging me into action.

Rating: 



Release Date:  January 26th, 2016

Source:  Bought by me

Format:  Hardcover book

Recommendation:  For those who love an epic love story and time-bending fantasy, this is a must read.



 
 
















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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

ARC Review: The Arrangement

Synopsis (from GoodReads):

She’d made it sound as though her husband would be joining them for dinner. She’d made it sound that way on purpose, and then she arrived alone.

Los Angeles, 1934. Mary Frances is young, restlessly married, and returning from her first sojourn in France. She is hungry, and not just for food: she wants Tim, her husband Al’s charming friend, who encourages her writing and seems to understand her better than anyone. After a night’s transgression, it’s only a matter of time before Mary Frances claims what she truly desires, plunging all three of them into a tangled triangle of affection that will have far-reaching effects on their families, their careers, and their lives.

Set in California, France, and the Swiss Alps, The Arrangement is a sparkling, sensual novel that explores the complexities of a marriage and the many different ways in which we love. Writing at the top of her game, Ashley Warlick gives us a completely mesmerizing story about a woman well ahead of her time, who would go on to become the legendary food writer M. F. K. Fisher.


Review: 

The Arrangement is a book about hunger:  hunger for love, hunger for sex, hunger for sensations, and hunger to create.  Set in the 1930's, the story follows Mary Frances, a young wife who will become a talented writer.  Her journey to attain that is fraught with obstacles.  Her husband Al is also a writer but, given the era, Al expects his writing to be important, while his wife's would just be a hobby.  He also expects Mary Francis to get pregnant and settle down as a mother.  But what does Mary Frances want?

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I thought that Mary Frances was selfish for having an affair, putting her desires ahead of her marriage. But I would say that Al was also selfish and self-centered.  He never treated his wife as an equal.   When Tim enters the picture and treats Mary Frances's opinions as worthy, it is no wonder she wants him.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I think today we forget how hard it was for women to be treated with respect and honored for their opinions.  This book shows a woman struggling to make herself be heard, letting her needs dictate her actions (much like any man), and then trying to figure out how to deal with the aftermath.  While I DO NOT ADVOCATE AFFAIRS, I do understand how desperate she was to be valued and to matter.

This book is superbly written.  There is heat between Mary Frances and Tim (Al's best friend) from the get go.  Their sex scenes are hot, without being crass.  I appreciate that as a reader.  I also loved to read how Mary Frances developed as a writer.  From her realization that one must observe everything carefully, to her understanding that to write the truth is to betray her husband, we see how she becomes a master story-teller.

I was confused, at times, when the story shifted between the 1930's to Mary Frances's later years.  I think that was because it was abrupt and in the middle of some chapters.  This, however, could easily have been because I was reading an ARC and the formatting would be different in the finished book.

This book will make you appreciate how far women, and relationships, have come in the last few decades.  In this day and age, it is unthinkable for a husband to be so dismissive of his wife, but I think that was the norm at the time the book takes place.  

Rating: 


  
Release Date: February 9th, 2016

Source:  ARC from NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  For fans of historical fiction and of women finding their voice, this is a must read.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR  

(from the publisher)


ASHLEY WARLICK is the author of four novels. Her work has appeared in Redbook, The Oxford AmericanMcSweeney’s, and Garden and Gun, among others. The youngest ever recipient of the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship, she has also received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches fiction in the MFA program at Queens University in Charlotte, South Carolina, and is the editor of the South Carolina food magazine edibleUpcountry. She is also the buyer at M. Judson, Booksellers and Storytellers in Greenville, SC, where she lives with her family.











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2017 Reading Challenge

MsArdychan has read 2 books toward her goal of 180 books.
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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

The Hummingbird's Daughter
Joseph Anton: A Memoir
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris
The Help
The Fry Chronicles
A Clash of Kings
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A Game of Thrones
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Mockingjay
The Giver
Savvy
The Red Pyramid
Anne of Green Gables
The Complete Novels
Slam!
Slam
Hatchet
Scorpions


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