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March 2015 Take Control of Your TBR Pile

Wow, is this a challenge I need! I'll be participating in this during the month of March to see if I can make a dent in my overly stuffed "to be read" bookshelf! I'll be updating my progress as the month goes on. If you'd like to participate, head on over to Caffeinated Book Reviewer for all the details. Wish me luck 🙂

March 1  The Good Girl

March 4   The Headmaster's Wife

March 6   Shotgun Lovesongs

March 8   Wonder

March 12  Fangirl

March 15  To All The Boys I've Loved Before

March 16  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

March 19  Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour Bookstore

March 23  Your Perfect Life

March 30  We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

March 31  Will Grayson Will Grayson

UPDATE: And there you have it..........a grand total of eleven books off my tbr pile during the month! I'm very happy with my results, especially since one of the weeks I was on vacation (and not in a place that gave lots of reading time).

Now if I can just keep myself from buying twenty more books to replace the ones I just read.........I'll be good 🙂

Today I had the pleasure of guest blogging over at a fellow blogger's site. Many thanks to Tanya of Mom's Small Victories for asking me to guest post on her weekly feature.

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I met Tanya at an author event at our Indie bookstore shortly after I began blogging. She was very supportive of my blog, and was one of my first followers. We were to meet this week at an event that unfortunately got cancelled, due to our ice storm in NC. We hope to have more adventures together in the future.

Here is a link to my blog post:

Thanks Tanya for inviting me to write a post for your blog!

8

The Martian

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest TheMartianhuman being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

My review...........5 stars!!

This is a sci-fi book people......and I freaking LOVED it!! It is probably important to mention a couple things about me that may have influenced my love of this book. I have always been a science geek, and I was an 11 year old girl (following every aspect) when we landed a man on the moon. The space program has always held a huge interest for me. Then again, I've read a lot of reviews for this book, and not one of them has been anything but positive. We can't all be space geeks right?

The book is written primarily as journal entries from Mark Watney. There are also chapters within the story that detail what is going on at mission control, once they realize Mark is stranded on Mars. The main character is one of the best characters to ever be written. He is smart, industrious, genuine,funny (laugh out loud funny in several places). It was amazing to me that the author would create scenarios, and have the knowledge of how to get Mark out of them. The whole idea of him trying to solve his food issue was fascinating!

I could not put this book down. I had to see Mark through all of his crises. This would make such a great movie, I hope it is optioned for one. Get this book, you won't be sorry!

2

Whistling Past the Graveyard

The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is WhistlingPastTheGraveyardconvinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.

As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.

My review............3 stars

Such a feel good kind of story! That is not to say that there wasn't some tension and sadness along the way, but in the end you come away with a sigh of satisfaction. The title refers to the act of keeping your head up and carrying on when you encounter trouble in your life. The narrator of this book is what makes the story! She is adorable, sassy, smart, precocious, and a kid I'd love to get to know. I thought the author did a good job with all of the characters. The segregation and racial tension was very well portrayed without it being an "in your face" part of the plot. It's the kind of book where you are rooting for the characters through all of their adventures.

I gave it three stars simply because it's the kind of book that probably won't resonate with me down the road, except to remember that I liked it. That still makes it a book worth reading, it's a worthy one.  And I dare you not to fall in love with little Starla.

8

I've recently attended four author events in eight days!! I feel so lucky to live in an area that has some wonderful Indie bookstores that schedule great authors to come talk about their books! I love being able to listen to these authors talk about how these books came to be, and to get a feel for the authors themselves. It is interesting how much their personalities sometimes spill over into their writing. This was quite a diverse group, two debut authors, one relative newbie, and one with over 20 books to her name. Here is the lineup:

Monday February 2, 2015

Natalie Baszile with her debut novel Queen Sugar.

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Natalie spoke to us on the night that it was revealed that her book was being picked up by Oprah to become a series on OWN TV! Needless to say she was pretty excited, as were we!

Friday February 6, 2015

Kristin Hannah with her 23rd book The Nightingale.

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Wonderful presentation about her research and reason for writing this book. Great Q&A session with insight into lots of her previous books as well as this one. So personable and friendly!

Saturday February 7, 2015

Kim Wright with her 2nd book The Unexpected Waltz.

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This event was at a new to me bookstore about 40 minutes from my house. Can we talk about how beautiful this place is? That fireplace in the "signing room" was so lovely! Even though it was a bit of a drive, I would go back to future events for certain. Kim's book is one that I am in a discussion group on Goodreads for. During the course of the discussion I found out that she would be close enough to me to go and hear her talk. Great lady who writes about middle aged women (yay). Very funny story about how her next book The Canterbury Sisters came to be!

Tuesday February 10, 2015

Charles Belfoure with his debut novel The Paris Architect.

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New author of a book that sounds fascinating. This author is an architect (still) who decided to start a second career in writing fiction. He's looking forward to his writing career taking off so he can quit his stressful day job! He talked about the idea for this book, and gave us lots of info about his second novel (due out in the fall) which sounds equally as interesting as the first.

Whew! I think I'm done with events for a while, now I need to sit back and read all these, and the dozens of other books on my shelves 🙂

 

4

The Girl on the Train

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and TheGirlOnTheTrainJason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

My review.............4 stars

So unless you are living under a rock, you've probably seen or heard something about this book. The fact that it's being compared to Gone Girl really bugs me (most of us who read a lot are tired of it ok?). It's a psychological thriller, and I guess publishers think this new comparison is going to sell more books. I get it, but I'm over it. But I digress.........

This was a great read. Very engaging, you are immediately caught up in Rachel's world, and soon caught up in the plot (to the tune of "what the heck is going on here?"). It's definitely a book that keeps you turning pages to find out what is going to happen. I did figure out the whoodunit well before the end (and I'm not a big mystery reader/crime solver). I've read some reviews where that bothered people, but it didn't me. I was happy that I figured it out (for once). What kept me from giving this 5 stars is that there wasn't really a likable character at all. Even though I was rooting for Rachel to get it together, she kept frustrating me with her behavior throughout the book. I really needed someone to love and feel sorry for, and none of the characters brought that to me.

Overall a fast paced, interesting, and intriguing book. I flew through it, and it left me very satisfied at the end.

4

The Rosie Effect

 

THE ROSIE PROJECT WAS COMPLETE BUT I WAS UNPREPARED FOR THE ROSIE EFFECT.

GREETINGS. My name is Don Tillman. I am forty-one years old. I have been married to Rosie Jarman, world's most perfect woman, for ten months and ten days.Marriage added significant complexity to my life. When we relocated to New York City, Rosie brought TheRosieEffectthree maximum-size suitcases. We abandoned the Standardised Meal System and agreed that sex should not be scheduled in advance.

Then Rosie told me we had 'something to celebrate', and I was faced with a challenge even greater than finding a partner.

I have attempted to follow traditional protocols and have sourced advice from all six of my friends, plus a therapist and the internet.

The result has been a web of deceit. I am now in danger of prosecution, deportation and professional disgrace.

And of losing Rosie forever.

 

My review.............3 stars

 

I liked this book, but I think it fell prey to the sequel effect. Pretty much any first book of a series I've read and loved, I'm so excited for the next book, that it falls a bit flat. Part of this is probably because I'm expecting too much, since I have higher expectations of a sequel. This book was a good read, but it was more serious than the first, and dealt with more serious issues. Don still got himself into some snafus, but it wasn't as laugh out loud funny as the first go-round. I did still love his character, and I felt that the book did keep him true to that character, which was comforting.

 

Bottom line.....while it paled in comparison to its predecessor The Rosie Project, this was still an enjoyable read. I love Don Tillman, and I would read a third book about him, should it be written.

 

3

Horrorstör

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the Horrorstordead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.

My review............4 stars

Anyone who has read many of my reviews would never think I would give this high a rating for, of all things, a horror story! Believe me, I'm not a fan of horror, whether it be in print or in movies. This book gets all its stars from the sheer genius of the design and the idea behind the print. Once I saw the cover, I knew that I had to have it. It's set up like an Ikea catalog, right down to each chapter featuring a piece of furniture with a description (just like in a catalog), and that piece is used somewhere within the chapter. If you've ever walked through one of these stores, the descriptions of the store layout was brilliant. The story was so clever, and surprise surprise, I didn't even mind the horror parts! It was more creepy, kind of disgusting stuff, and it doesn't even occur until the last third of the book. It's a fast read, and with all the pictures and diagrams, it just flows together seamlessly.

This would be a great book for someone who wants to read something completely different and out of their comfort zone, particularly if you appreciate the artistic aspects of a book. I thought the whole thing was a treasure. I'll never walk through an Ikea store again without thinking about this book!

2

Lost and Found

 

Millie Bird is a seven-year-old girl who always wears red wellington boots to match her red, curly hair. But one day, Millie’s mum leaves her alone beneath the Ginormous Women’s underwear rack in a department store, and doesn’t come back.

Agatha Pantha is an eighty-two-year-old woman who hasn’t left her home since her husband died. Instead, she fills the silence by yelling at passers-by, watching loud static on TV, and maintaining a Lost&Foundstrict daily schedule. Until the day Agatha spies a little girl across the street.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven years old and once typed love letters with his fingers on to his wife’s skin. He sits in a nursing home, knowing that somehow he must find a way for life to begin again. In a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.

Together, Millie, Agatha and Karl set out to find Millie’s mum. Along the way, they will discover that the young can be wise, that old age is not the same as death, and that breaking the rules once in a while might just be the key to a happy life.

 

My review..........3 stars

 

I originally saw this book on BookRiot's In the Mail utube segment. I had to wait until the version for US readers came out on NetGalley to request it. I was so intrigued by the description, it seemed like the perfect book for me.

 

I liked it........but then I didn't. The beginning of the book was fantastic! The introduction to the three main characters was wonderful, the idea of them helping poor little Millie was a great storyline, the writing was fine.......I was happily reading along. Then about midway through the book, once they get on their journey, it got crazy and pretty unbelievable. The characters that were endearing at the beginning, end up turning into crazy people (Millie to a lesser extent, but even she was kind of unbelievable for a seven year old). I wish that the journey could have taken a few less wacky turns, because by the end, I wasn't really loving any of the characters.

 

Great beginning, but keep an open mind regarding the latter half. Some will probably love that the quirky behaviors were magnified, but it kind of ruined the end of the book for me.

 

3

Landline

 

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble;it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal Landlinethat she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

 

My review.............3 stars

 

My second Rowell book. I enjoyed this one, but not as much as my first, The Attachments. It's not really a book that I would normally pick up, let alone enjoy, so I'm giving huge credit to Rowell's writing style to keep me interested and reading. The storyline moves along nicely, but I did get slightly bored in the middle with the phone conversations. I was also a bit confused toward the end about a decision that Georgie made, relative to what she believed should be happening (based on the past). There was a very fun twist at the very end of the book that put a smile on my face, and left me satisfied with the finish. It's a hard book to describe, but its quirkiness definitely works. Rowell is so skilled at creating believable characters that you attach to, and love to follow throughout the story.

 

I recommend this one, but go into it realizing it's not a typical story. This is a great book to expand your horizons if you are not into the time travel genre.