Posted in 3 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson

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Genre: Satire, Literary Fiction
Publisher: Hogarth
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover, Audible

Hilarious, profound, and achingly true-to-life, Jonas Karlsson’s new novel explores the true nature of happiness through the eyes of a hero you won’t soon forget. A passionate film buff, our hero’s life revolves around his part-time job at a video store, the company of a few precious friends, and a daily routine that more often than not concludes with pizza and a movie in his treasured small space in Stockholm. When he receives an astronomical invoice from a random national bureaucratic agency, everything will tumble into madness as he calls the hotline night and day to find out why he is the recipient of the largest bill in the entire country. 

What is the price of a cherished memory? How much would you pay for a beautiful summer day? How will our carefree idealist, who is content with so little and has no chance of paying it back, find a way out of this mess? All these questions pull you through The Invoice and prove once again that Jonas Karlsson is simply a master of entertaining, intelligent, and life-affirming work.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚

First off, I think calling this a novel is a stretch. It’s just over 150 pages, and it took me less than 3 hours to finish it. The premise was interesting and the writing solid, but something was missing. I finished the book not really understanding why this single middle-aged guy with a dead-end part-time job was somehow the happiest guy in Sweden. His “few precious friends,” as the synopsis describes them, are really just immature losers who pop in and out of his life. Before the invoice arrives, our unnamed hero is a boring gray blob of a person–the only interesting aspect of this story are his repeated conversations with Maud, the phone representative for the agency who sent him the astronomical invoice.

Additionally, I would have liked more details about what W.R.D. really is. Are they a government agency? A corporation? Some kind of bureaucratized karmic institution? I have no idea. Our hero doesn’t seem to be able to pay attention to any of the information given him, so the readers are left just as confused at the end as they are at the beginning. I would have been fine with the level of information we received were this a short story, but when you read something of this length you expect more answers than what Karlsson was willing to give.

That leads to my biggest problem with The Invoice–I feel like the author beats us over the head with his satirical point, without actually telling us what the point is. Are we supposed to feel critical of the government? Businesses? Society? Materialism? Consumerism? Responsibility? Attachment? The symbolism, and at times the story itself, is so vague that I walked away not quite sure that I’d “gotten” whatever it was Karlsson desperately wanted me to get.

Despite these issues, I did enjoy this book. There was a scene toward the end between the protagonist and Maud that was especially touching. I think this would be a good film, actually, if the idea of W.R.D. was fleshed out a little more. If you’re not usually bothered by the issues I mention above and you enjoy literary satire, I would definitely recommend it.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: Baggage Check (The Marriage Pact #3) by M.J. Pullen

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Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover
Baggage Check is the third in a charming series about a group of thirty-somethings in Atlanta making surprising discoveries about friendship, love, and happily-ever-after. 

At 35, Rebecca Williamson is surrounded by happy endings. Her friends Suzanne and Marci are living out their own personal fairy tales in Atlanta. But despite Rebecca’s best efforts four years ago, her adorable college friend Jake Stillwell has officially slipped through her fingers and broken her heart. When Rebecca gets a frantic phone call from her mother back in Alabama, Rebecca is pulled back to the tiny town she worked so hard to leave behind and forced to face the hard truths about her family and past. A past that includes Deputy Alex Chen, who thinks of Rebecca as more than just an old friend’s kid sister. Can Rebecca navigate the chaos and get her life back to normal? Will Alex prove himself to be the friend she’s always needed? Or will she discover that the door to Jake is not as tightly closed as she thought?
M.J. Pullen returns in this final installment to the same captivating group of lovelorn friends, this time following the girl group’s frenemy, Rebecca, as she’s forced to confront her past. Raising the stakes, Pullen delivers an absorbing, romantic novel that poses the question, what if everything you were looking for was right where you started?

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

After enjoying Regrets Only earlier this year I was excited to read Baggage Check, even though I wasn’t thrilled to learn that Rebecca was the main character. I haven’t read The Marriage Pact yet, but I know enough of its events that I already had a strong dislike for Rebecca. But Ms. Pullen’s characters are deep, complicated, and complex, and I found that the change in perspective allowed me to see a side of Rebecca that I never thought existed.

One of Ms. Pullen’s real strengths is her ability to engage readers with serious subject matter–mental health, infidelity, divorce, death of a child, marital problems–without overwhelming them with darkness. Despite the heavy topics broached, I would still classify this as a fairly light and uplifting read. As with Regrets Only, I appreciated that the romantic element was strong and sweet, but played second fiddle to Rebecca’s personal transformation.

As a side note, it was nice to see a realistic depiction of the south. I’m a native and current resident of Alabama, and it was refreshing to read a story set in the Birmingham area that didn’t depict everyone as backwoods morons. The drive times and road names were also correct, which is surprisingly something many authors don’t bother to research.

All in all, I loved this book and the series! I do still need to read The Marriage Pact, but it’s ready and waiting on my Kindle. M.J. Pullen is definitely on my list of favorite women’s fiction authors now, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

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Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover, PaperbackAudible

Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.

Future? A top-tier medical school.
Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around).
Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby—pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else?
Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.

So it’s no surprise that Andie’s got her summer all planned out too.

Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

This was my first trip into Morgan Matson territory, and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I heard her favorably compared to Sarah Dessen, who has been my YA contemporary goddess since I was fifteen. I feel almost guilty saying this, but I think I may actually like Matson better!

When I realized how long The Unexpected Everything was–over 500 pages–I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous. I’m not a reader easily deterred by length–as I’ve mentioned before, War & Peace is one of my all-time favorites–but I just couldn’t imagine a YA contemporary standalone needed that much time to tell a story. But the good news is that the font is on the larger side, and while the first 100 pages or so move rather slowly, the pacing picks up from there. I actually read the last 400 pages in one sitting, which is a rare occurance for me these days.

Ms. Matson was able to pull off several story elements I don’t usually like, one being the quintessential large group of best friends. Normally I find it difficult to keep track of the characters, and even when I can manage to remember their names, I always come away from it feeling a little unconvinced. No one has friendships that perfect, right? But Andie’s friend group is well-developed, with even the most minor of characters having a backstory and a personality. I grew attached to and cared for them all, rather than just worrying about Andie, and I found that very refreshing.

Another YA trope I can’t stand is the aloof, distant parent who doesn’t really change over the course of the story. Ms. Matson takes that trope and turns it on its head with Andie’s father. He starts out being the stereotypical clueless parent, but over time turns into a flawed, loveable character just like the rest.

The romance element . . . sigh. I won’t spill details for fear of spoiling the story for those of who you haven’t yet read this, but suffice it to say that I had heartwarming goosebumps long before I reached the last page. I’m hoping these characters crop up again in subsequent Matson novels, because I’m dying to see what they’re up to.

If you’re looking for a novel that will remind you of summer as a teenager, this is the one to grab.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I then promptly lost said digital copy, was unable to download it again, and decided to check it out from the library. So…do with this information what you will.

Posted in Free eBook Alert

FREE EBOOK ALERT: Unscheduled Departure by T.M. Franklin

Unscheduled Departure

“Reminiscent of the Twilight Zone and Stephen King’s short stories, this one will have you turning pages late into the night to see what happens.” – Martina, Amazon Reviewer

CLICK HERE to grab it while it’s FREE!

SUMMARY:

Rowan Elliott is devastated when her boyfriend, Finn, tells her he’s moving across the country to take over the family business, and thrilled when he changes his mind at the last minute and gets off the plane.

But then things get . . . weird. Finn’s acting strange, and Ro’s getting mysterious phone calls that have her questioning if her boyfriend’s really who she thinks he is. As Ro races to figure out what’s going on, she discovers it’s more complicated than she could have ever imagined.

And if she’s not careful, she could lose her Finn forever.

Teaser

About the Author

TM Franklin

T.M. Franklin writes stories of adventure, romance, & a little magic. A former TV news producer, she decided making stuff up was more fun than reporting the facts. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days. MORE was well-received, being selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards, as well as winning the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards. She’s since written three additional novels and several best-selling short stories…and there’s always more on the way.

Connect with T.M. Franklin

Web site: http://www.TMFranklin.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TMFranklinAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TM_Franklin
Email: TMFranklinAuthor@gmail.com

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“Reminiscent of the Mortal Instruments Series . . . Only Better.” – Penny Dreadful Reviews

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A Sweet and Funny YA Romance

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Bestselling Short Stories – for Only $.99!

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Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

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Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover, Audible

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Maybe not kill-all-the-dinosaurs bad, but at least kill-everyone-in-California-and-wipe-out-Japan-with-a-tsunami bad. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been recruited to aid NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. 

The good news is Yuri knows how to stop the asteroid–his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize if there’s ever another Nobel prize awarded. But the trouble is, even though NASA asked for his help, no one there will listen to him. He’s seventeen, and they’ve been studying physics longer than he’s been alive. 

Then he meets (pretty, wild, unpredictable) Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he’s not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and live a life worth saving. 

Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with the questions of the universe. 

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

(True Rating: Infinite Stars, and an Asteroid Too)

Even though we have five months and some change left to go before we bid 2016 adieu, I’m fairly certain that this will be my favorite NetGalley read of the year.

I’ve had a lot of disappointing and mediocre reading experiences this year, so I wasn’t expecting much from Katie Kennedy’s Learning to Swear in America. Sure, the blurb sounded fantastic, but when you read as much as I do, you quickly learn not to place much hope on that back-cover text.

The writing is excellent. The story is excellent. The characters are–brace yourself–excellent. This book is endlessly quotable. I tried to choose just one snipped to include in this review, but that simply can’t be done, so prepare yourself for a beautiful literary onslaught:

Dovie exerted a giant gravitational force. She was the closest thing to Jupiter of anyone he’d ever met, but you probably couldn’t say that to a girl.

“I’m late because I’m raging against the machine, Mrs. Lee.”

He hit “send,” and wondered how good NASA’s bullshit detector was. Their other detectors were pretty good.

“So I have to give you advice without any idea what you’re talking about.”

“Yes.”

“In that situation, I always turn to Immanuel Kant.”

“You’re very grave.”

“I’m always grave about gravity.”

But it had only taken him a cell phone and fifty seconds to hack in–not because he was a genius, but because he was a teenager.

If you follow my reviews, you know I normally go into a little more detail as to why I like or dislike a particular title, but here, words are insufficient. Learning to Swear in America is so many things: a young adult novel, a coming-of-age tale. It’s a story of first love and near apocalypse and what it means to be human–not Russian, not American, just human. If I were a betting woman, I would bet a fortune and a half that this book will be considered a classic in fifty years.

Read it. Read it now.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Uncategorized

BLOG TOUR: Holding on to Mrs. Right by Debbie White

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Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/29udCQY

Family feuds and love don’t mix.

Twenty-one-year-old Ryan knows it’s only a matter of time before he is destined to take over the family wine business. The recent college graduate finds his best-laid plans thrown for a loop when he falls for the girl next door–who should be off-limits for more reasons than he cares to think about. 

Beautiful and intelligent, Francesca is a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. That is, until a long-running family feud threatens to keep her and the man she finds herself falling for apart. 

Francesca and Ryan find themselves in a web of duty, family, and love in this heartwarming coming-of-age contemporary romance by bestselling author, Debbie White. 

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 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Debbie currently lives in northern California where the jagged coast meets rolling hills dotted with vineyards. When she’s not writing the next best-selling romance novel, she’s spending time with her family, traveling, wine tasting and anything to do with the outdoors.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

June Reading Wrap-Up

I can’t believe we’re already halfway through 2016! It seems like just yesterday I was packing away the Christmas tree. Now I’m sweating my way through what promises to be the hottest summer Alabama’s had in a while.

I managed to finish eight books in the month of June. I’ll link my reviews at the end of each synopsis!

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

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Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the señoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year, but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life.

My Review

 

Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

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Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle. These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloan McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend Tyler and best friend Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completed shattered heart.

Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.

But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to come by as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.

My Review

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets–thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk–it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

My Review

 

Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black

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Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice–inherited from her musically gifted mother–in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass.

Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself up to finding family in unexpected places.

My Review

 

Break-Up Club by Lorelei Mathias

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Holly Braithwaite and loveable loser Lawrence have been together for five years. But the obvious cracks in their relationship can no longer be ignored and Holly soon finds herself saying “it’s not me, it’s you.”

In the shock aftermath of their break up, Holly finds unlikely companions in Olivia, Harry, and Bella. Together, they form the Break-up Club, as they support each other through their mutual melancholy and find ways to love, laugh, and function as human beings again.

Break-up Club meets every Sunday. Each week, as the comedy and drama unfolds, they discover a new BUC “rule.” And, one by one, the rules become vital markers on their journey to recovery.

My Review

 

A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi

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In trendy Silicon Valley, Priya has everything she needs–a loving husband, a career, and a home–but the one thing she wants most is the child she’s unable to have. In a Southern Indian village, Asha doesn’t have much–raising two children in a tiny hut, she and her husband can barely keep a tin roof over their heads–but she wants a better education for her gifted son. Pressured by her family, Asha reluctantly checks into the Happy Mothers House: a baby farm where she can rent her only asset–her womb–to a childless couple overseas. To the dismay of friends and family, Priya places her faith in a woman she’s never met to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Together, the two women discover the best and the worst that India’s rising surrogacy industry has to offer, bridging continents and cultures to bring a new life into the world–and renewed hope to each other.

My Review

 

You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

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Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other–and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

My Review

 

The Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig

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Claire “Neely” Davis is no ordinary pastry chef. Her flavor combinations aren’t just a product of a well-honed palate: she can “taste” people’s emotions, sensing the ingredients that will touch  her customers’ souls. Her gift has never failed her–until she meets a free-spirited bride-to-be and her overbearing society mother. The two are unable to agree on a single wedding detail, and their bickering leaves Neely’s intuition frustratingly silent–right when she needs it most.

Between trying to navigate a divorce, explore a new relationship, and handle the reappearance of her long-absent father, Neely is struggling to make sense of her own conflicting emotions, much less those of her hard-to-please bride. But as she embarks on a flavorful quest to craft the perfect wedding celebration, she’ll uncover a family history that sheds light on both the missing ingredients and her own problems–and illustrates how the sweet and sour in life often combine to make the most delicious memories.

My Review