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Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Title: As Bright as Heaven
Author: Susan Meissner 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "n 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it."

My Two Cents:

"As Bright as Heaven" follows the story of the Bright family as they leave the countryside for Philadelphia where the father of the family plans to take over a funeral business for a family member. Even though it is hard, and sometimes sad, work, it promises to give the Bright family a more successful future. Fate has a way of intervening though. It is the late 1910s and the world is ravaged by the Spanish flu and World War I has taken many young men far away from home where they may be hurt irreparably. This is a story of a family standing together even when things are difficult.

While this is a story about a whole family, the mother and daughter relationship is especially important in this book. When Pauline's husband goes away, she becomes the full caretaker for her three daughters. They live in a brand new place and are trying to get used to a brand new business. Pauline puts everything on the line for her daughters until she can't anymore. Being a mother (and of daughters at that), I found a lot of common ground with Pauline throughout the story. It makes the turn of events even more painful!

I loved the characters in this book. We get to see the Bright daughters as they grow up. They are three very different people but all brave in different ways. At first, I didn't understand why the author chooses to show the Bright family both in 1918 and then a little bit later but as you see (and I don't want to give anything away), it was necessary in order to show the full progression of their characters, which I really liked.

This was a difficult read. This flu season has been bad so it was interesting comparing the differences between the flu in this book and the flu currently going around. It was so crazy to me how widespread the flu was then and how deadly it proved to be. I thought the author did a really good job of showing how devastating this flu was and how worried people were. There's one part of the book where the grandparents of the family refuse to let the family come back to the countryside to escape the flu because they believe the Bright family already has it. It was very sad to read how the flu tore families apart both in life and death.

Overall, this was a hard read in a lot of ways but I enjoyed how thought provoking it was and the writing was great!


Friday, February 16, 2018

Help a Book Lover Out!

This week has really gotten away from me. It has been such a crazy few weeks and I am woefully behind on book reviews!

So I want to know what you're reading right now? And if you aren't digging it, tell me what the last great book you've read is!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Giveaway Winner!

Another giveaway is over and I have another winner to announce!

The winner of "The Secret Life of  Mrs. London" is Terry M.!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Review: Elmore by Holly Hobbie

Title: Elmore
Author: Holly Hobbie
Format: ARC
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 30, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Elmore is a porcupine desperate to make friends. But it is hard to seek closeness with others when you're covered with spikes that shoot off your back every so often. Elmore suffers rejection and heartbreak, but the goodness of his forest community ultimately shines through as the animals find a way to connect with this prickly bundle of love.

Holly Hobbie is the creator of the beloved Toot & Puddle series and now brings us a character for the next generation. Just as charming, funny, and good-hearted as her little pigs, Elmore the porcupine will snuggle and prickle his way securely into the picture-book canon."

My Two Cents:

"Elmore" is the adorable new release by Holly Hobbie. Elmore just wants friends but finds it hard to connect to the other animals in the forest because of who he is: extremely prickly! The other animals are scared of him at first but eventually they figure out some common ground with him and suddenly the prickles don't matter!

I liked the message that this book had about trying to see the good in people before just stopping at outside appearances. The adorable animals make this message accessible to even little readers! I always like when books don't talk down to kids and this one certainly doesn't, which is great and makes for a story that both parents and children can enjoy.

I loved the illustrations in this book. They are adorable and you want to just hug each of the woodland creatures, even Elmore, prickles and all. This is a very pretty book with great art! My kids and I both really enjoyed this one.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Review: Layover by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer

Title: Layover
Author: Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer
Format: ARC
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Flynn: At first we were almost strangers. But ever since I moved to New York, Amos was the one person I could count on. And together we were there for Poppy. (I mean, what kind of parents leave their kid to be raised by a nanny?) I just didn’t expect to fall for him—and I never expected him to leave us.

Amos: I thought I was the only one who felt it. I told myself it was because we were spending so much time together—taking care of Poppy and all. But that night, I could tell she felt it, too. And I freaked out—you’re not supposed to fall for your stepsister. So I ran away to boarding school. I should have told her why I was leaving, but every time I tried, it felt like a lie."

My Two Cents:

"Layover" is the story of step-siblings Amos and Flynn and their half-sister, Poppy. They are getting ready to go on a family vacation to Bora Bora with a layover at LAX. Poppy overheard something their parents said and tells Amos and Flynn. It upsets them so much that they decide they won't meet their parents in Bora Bora and that they will stay in their layover location, Los Angeles, instead. I had high hopes for this one but it fell sort of flat for me. 

This book was really just ok for me. I had a really hard time caring about any of the main characters in this book. Flynn is the total "not like other girls" heroine, which falls really flat for me. In trying to make her different, she keeps making comparisons between herself and the other girls around her and how she is so unique and different. It got old. Amos just isn't particularly interesting. Poppy was probably my favorite character. She is 10 years old but incredibly precocious (in some cases, too precocious that it didn't feel real). She kept the story going and in many ways, proved to be more insightful than the other characters.

The writing of the book was okay. I liked that the story was told from the perspectives of Flynn, Amos, and Poppy but I wish the voices of the different characters had sounded a little more separate from each other. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

HFVBT Review: The Phantom's Apprentice by Heather Webb

Title: The Phantom's Apprentice
Author: Heather Webb 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Sonnet Press
Publish Date: February 6, 2018 (This week!!!)

Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "In this re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera, meet a Christine Daaé you’ve never seen before…

Christine faces an impossible choice: be a star at the Paris opera as Papa always wanted, or follow her dream—to become a master of illusions. First, she must steal the secrets of the enigmatic master who haunts her, survive a world of treachery and murder, and embrace the uncertain promise of love. To succeed, she will risk her life in the grandest illusion of all."

My Two Cents:

"The Phantom's Apprentice" is the re-imagining of "The Phantom of the Opera." I was drawn to this book as I am a huge fan of musicals and grew up enchanted with Andrew Lloyd Weber's Phantom. In fact, it was the very first musical that I saw on stage! That being said, I have never read Gaston Leroux's original book so some parts in the book were new to me. This was an exciting story that added a little more depth to the story of the Phantom for me. 

This book started out a little slowly for me. It really picked up once Christine is selected to become a part of the Opera company. And then the book gets very exciting as Christine discovers who her Angel of Music really is and more about his back story. I really liked that there is a large dose of magic and illusions throughout the book. This acts as a kind of thread to bind the book together - definitely an exciting take!

I really liked that the story was told from Christine Daae's perspective. Even though she is one of the main characters in the musical, musicals are not great for fleshing out characters so I loved getting a better sense of her in this book. She is much stronger than she seemed in the musical, which I liked. It was fascinating to see how she deals with all that she goes through in this book. You really get to see her change throughout the book as she grows a little older and more savvy about the world that she is surrounded by. 

Overall, I enjoyed this retelling! Although it started a little slowly, I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

HFVBT Review and Giveaway: The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg

Title: The Secret Life of Mrs. London
Author: Rebecca Rosenberg
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: January 30, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear."

My Two Cents:

"The Secret Life of Mrs. London" is the story of famous writer, Jack London, and his wife, Charmian, who works with him to get all of his brilliant ideas and writing down on paper. They have a tumultuous, fascinating relationship. They are sparring partners: physically and mentally. They love each other but both of their gazes are often going in opposite directions. A chance encounter with infamous magician Harry Houdini will turn everything on its head.

This book initially ensnared me with the promise of giving a little insight into famous people like Jack London and Harry Houdini but once I opened the book, it was really Charmian that charmed me the most throughout this book. The characters are really the stand out feature of this book. She has a fantastic sense of adventure and thinks nothing of going off with Jack on another adventure. She isn't like many other women of her time and she lives on her own terms and makes her own rules for herself and for her relationships with others. I really loved that we got to see the action as she sees it throughout the book!

Before reading this book, I didn't know much about Jack London's personal life at all. One thing that I loved about this book is that it gives you a little insight into what kind of man he was. He obviously loved Charmian but it was mixed with a healthy dose of suspicion and jealousy. He was talented but never seemed to realize how much Charmian did to help him with his writing. He doesn't seem to give her enough credit even as he loves her. I knew a little more about Harry Houdini and found him fascinating in this book. The interactions between him and his wife, Bess were very intriguing. I don't want to give anything away but their marriage is very different and I really liked how the author unfolded the secrets throughout the book.

Overall, this book was a treat with the vivid characters. I loved "meeting" Charmian through this book for the first time. This book definitely made me want to look up more about this fascinating woman and her "Mate."


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