Thursday, December 6, 2018

Blog Tour: The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright

THE WHITE CHRISTMAS INN
by Colleen Wright
Atria/Howard Books
ISBN: 9781501180606; $15.99

A New England inn seems like the picture-perfect place to spend the holidays. But when a snowstorm shuts the roads and keeps all the guests inside, they find themselves worrying that this Christmas may not be exactly what they dreamed.

Hannah has plans for a picturesque winter wedding, but they come crashing down when her fiancé calls everything off.

Jeanne and Tim don’t know how they’re going to keep the inn open another year – or how to bridge the distance in their marriage. With a flurry of unexpected guests, they’ll have to work together to fix all the problems that crop up. But will it be enough to rekindle their relationship? 

Molly just needs to finish her latest book, but her writer’s block is crippling. And the arrival of Marcus, a handsome widower with two young girls, is exactly the distraction she doesn’t need.

As the characters’ stories intertwine, they discover that with faith, and a little bit of Christmas magic, they just might find hope where they thought it had been lost.

FLO'S REVIEW 
This book was pitched to me as "Love Actually meets The Holiday meets The Hallmark Channel," and since those are two of my favorite Christmas movies, I was immediately here for it. And it delivered to the full extent. I had a full smile on my face as I read this book. I was so easily transported to the beautiful inn. I felt as if I was there, eating all the delicious goodies that Jeanne made, chatting with the guests in the common room while sneaking pieces of pie, and even taking sleigh rides with Luke. Colleen did a great job with the setting and scenery here.

The characters, too. It was so easy to fall into their stories and start rooting for them. I fervently hoped that Jeanne and Tim would fix their financial and relationship strain. I cursed Hannah's fiancé, but then immediately was like, "You're better off without him, girl!" One of the characters threw me for a loop that I wasn't expecting, but it was a delightful loop. This book gave me the exact same feeling as sitting in my jammies on the couch watching Hallmark Christmas movies all day long. Every time I opened the book back up, I found myself once again in a happy place.

If you love Hallmark and Netflix romantic Christmas movies, just go buy this one. Just do it. You won't even regret it. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
COLLEEN WRIGHT was raised in snowy towns in Michigan, where she loved curling up by the fire with a good book at Christmas. She now lives and works in Brooklyn.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Book review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Book Summary
Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

Flo's Review
Sadie got a lot of pre-publication hype, so as I was really looking forward to reading it. Luckily, it did not disappoint. The set up of the book was truly unique -- a podcast discussing a series of events that happened in the past alongside the narrative of the events as they unfolded. This parallel narrative was interesting -- it was fun to see West discover something that we, the reader, already knew from Sadie.

I can't discuss the end without being spoilery, but here is the feedback I tweeted to author Courtney Summers: asdlkjgao;dsuir[ew0qaj!!!

Speaking of Courtney Summers, I had the opportunity to meet her this year at YALLFEST while I was in the middle of the book. Having the opportunity to speak with her about her book as I reading it was a lot of fun for me. Plus, she's adorable and so sweet.

See?! Adorable and so sweet!
It is always refereeing to read a unique and engaging book, so I was delighted to find that in Sadie.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Bob Eckstein


We had the opportunity to sit down with illustrator, cartoonist, writer and snowman expert Bob Eckstein last month at the Miami Book Fair for a lively and informative conversation about independent bookstores, drawing Fair scenes, and quirky history about snowmen. Take a look!


About The Illustrated History of the Snowman
A thoroughly entertaining exploration, this book travels back in time to shed light on the snowman's enigmatic past -- from the present day, in which the snowman reigns as the King of Kitsch, to the Dark Ages, with the creation of the very first snowman. Eckstein's curiosity began playfully enough, but soon snowballed into a (mostly) earnest quest of chasing Frosty around the world, into museums and libraries, and seeking out the advice of leading historians and scholars. The result is a riveting history that reaches back through centuries and across cultures -- sweeping from fifteenth-century Italian snowballs to eighteenth-century Russian ice sculptures to the regrettable "white-trash years" (1975-2000). The snowman is not just part of our childhood memories, but is an integral part of our world culture, appearing -- much like a frozen Forrest Gump -- alongside dignitaries and celebrities during momentous events. 

Again and again, the snowman pops up in rare prints, paintings, early movies, advertising and, over the past century, in every art form imaginable. And the jolly snowman -- ostensibly as pure as the driven snow -- also harbors a dark past full of political intrigue, sex, and violence. With over two hundred illustrations, The Illustrated History of the Snowman is a truly original winter classic -- smart, surprisingly enlightening, and quite simply the coolest book ever.


About Footnotes From the World's Greatest Bookstores
New York Times Bestseller

From the beloved New Yorker cartoonist comes a collection of paintings and stories from some of the world’s most cherished bookstores. 

This collection of 75 evocative paintings and colorful anecdotes invites you into the heart and soul of every community: the local bookshop, each with its own quirks, charms, and legendary stories. 

The book features an incredible roster of great bookstores from across the globe and stories from writers, thinkers and artists of our time, including David Bowie, Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Lethem, Roz Chast, Deepak Chopra, Bob Odenkirk, Philip Glass, Jonathan Ames, Terry Gross, Mark Maron, Neil Gaiman, Ann Patchett, Chris Ware, Molly Crabapple, Amitav Ghosh, Alice Munro, Dave Eggers, and many more.  

Page by page, Eckstein perfectly captures our lifelong love affair with books, bookstores, and book-sellers that is at once heartfelt, bittersweet, and cheerfully confessional.

Miami Motel Stories premieres tomorrow!

MIAMI MOTEL STORIES: MIMO AT THE GOLD DUST BY SELINA 
Immersive Theatre to Narrate Miami History in Unconventional Spaces

WHAT: Miami Motel Stories: MiMo, presented by Juggerknot Theatre Company, in association with Avra Jain
WHEN: Nov 30th - Dec 23rd, 2018 
WHERE: Gold Dust by Selina, 7700 Biscayne Blvd. (Developer- Avra Jain)


Miami Motel Stories is back! Juggerknot Theatre Companyreturns for a second season of Miami Motel Stories. With presenting sponsor Chivas Regal, in partnership with Miami’s Avra Jain, founder of The Vagabond Group, Miami Motel Stories: MiMowill highlight the glamorous and historic Biscayne Corridorfrom the 1950’s to the present day at the Gold Dust, the future home of Selina, formerly known as Motel Blu on 7700 Biscayne Biscayne Boulevard. Audience members are invited to the tiki themed 1957 grand opening of The Gold Dust Motel. Audience members will have the option to purchase a pink, blue or yellow key, unlocking doors to different decades, with costumes and sets sponsored by Goodwill Industries of South Florida,between 1957 and 2018They may experience inspired-by-true- life stories that took place in the motel. These may include an encounter with a Playboy Bunny who worked across the street at the Playboy Club in 1964; A young hustler from gritty 1995, or a 1950’s couple on their first road trip the Magic City, amongst others. 
Awarded the Knight Arts Challenge Grant, Miami Motel Stories is a real-time immersive theatre experience that takes place inside hotel/motel spaces within developing neighborhoods. Writers work alongside developers to tell the story of Miami’s past, present, and future: one room at a time. The work will reflect the undercurrent of history, both real and imagined, bringing artistry and homegrown craft to Miami’s ever-quickening rush to develop.In 2017, Juggerknot Theatre Company launched their first edition of Miami Motel Stories in Little Havana at the historic Tower Hotel, to critical acclaim and sold out houses.
One of the stories will also take place in an authentic 1950s Miami Dade bus, courtesy of Miami Dade Transit, because said Alice N. Bravo, P.E., Director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works, “our transit system has been an important part of people’s lives throughout the years, giving people access to opportunities. It’s through the understanding of our past that we can build a better and brighter future. We are delighted to be part of Miami Motel Stories.”

“We have a responsibility to preserve these authentic Miami stories. Our unique relationship with developers allows us to provide Miami audiences a new way to experience history through immersive theatre. It is a special partnership we have created, and we look forward to telling Miami Motel Stories in every neighborhood,” said Tanya Bravo, Executive Artistic Director of Juggerknot Theatre Company.
"Miami is a city of stories, with many of them rooted in our ever-evolving neighborhoods and buildings. This project provides a chance to tell those stories and bring our city together through the arts,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Miami Book Fair 2018 Preview: The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez

It's pretty much November, which means we are almost up to one of my absolute favorite events of the year -- Miami Book Fair! The Fair goes from November 11th to the 18th this year, but you can bet I'm already getting ready for it. As a lead up, I'll be doing a few preview posts where I share a review of a book by an author that will be presenting at the Fair. 

Flo's Review
What a beautiful, uplifting, and relatable story! Woodson's words are brief, but powerful. Young readers will see themselves in her words. And then, they will see what they can be. The accompanying illustrations by Lopez bring everything to life. The diversity of colors and patterns exactly depict what Woodson is saying. This well blended marriage of words and images make this book one little ones will consume, quickly and with delight. 

Jacqueline Woodson at the Fair
For Kids and Teens: Kwame Alexander and Jacqueline Woodson
Saturday, November 17 at 3:30 p.m.
Room 2106 (Building 2, 1st floor)
300 NE Second Avenue, Miami, FL 33132

As things are just starting to look up for two teenage boys, a chain of events alters their understanding of love, friendship, and fate in Kwame Alexander’s latest YA book, SwingJacqueline Woodson‘s children’s book The Day You Begin reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes—and how brave it is that we go forth anyway.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Book Review: Never Never - Part 1 by Colleen Coover

Never Never (Never Never, #1)

Goodreads Overviw:

Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen.

Complete strangers since this morning.

He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.

Jacque's Review:

We are first introduced to Charlie, who is a high school senior.  During the middle of class she loses all of memories.  She has no idea who she is or where she is, but she can remember things like how to drive a car, songs, what things are, etc.  She is fumbling her way through the rest of the school day when she discovers another student experiencing the same thing.  Silas Nash was apparently her childhood best friend and has been her boyfriend for the past four years, but neither of them can even remember each other.  

They spend the next two days trying to reconstruct their past in an attempt to regain their memories.  Apparently they were not the most likable individuals in their previous lives, but I loved the Silas in this story.  He was very friendly, kind, funny, and a bit overly confident.  Charlie on the other hand, was very stand offish.  The more she started to reconnect with Silas, the further she pushed him away. 

I knew this was a series when I started reading this book, but I didn't quite realize each book is only part of a single story.  Book one is about 150 pages and provides the background and a jaw dropping twist just before it completely cuts off.  Fortunately, all three parts of the story have already been released.  I can't imagine what readers did back in 2015 and early 2016 when they had to wait 6 months between the release of each book.   I'm currently in the middle of a couple of other books, but I definitely plan on continuing this series very soon.  

If you like young adult and a bit of a mystery, this is a highly entertaining read.  I can't wait to find out how this situation arose and whether or not Silas and Charlie can find a cure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Book Review: The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell

The Body Farm (Kay Scarpetta, #5)

Goodreads Overview:

The Body Farm - a research institute that tests the decomposition of corpses. Black Mountain, North Carolina: a sleepy little town where the local police deal with one homicide a year, if they're unlucky, and where people are still getting used to the idea of locking their doors at night. But violent death is no respecter of venue, and the discovery of the corpse of an 11-year-old girl sends shock waves through the community. Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief medical Examiner on a similar case in Virginia, is called in to apply her forensic skills to this latest atrocity, but the apparent simplicity of the case proves something of a poisoned chalice - until Scarpetta finds enlightenment through the curious pathologists' playground known as the Body Farm.

Jacque's Review:

The Body Farm is the fifth book in the Kay Scarpetta murder mystery series.  The murder has a striking resemblance to a case solved in one of the prior books, so Kay and her colleagues from the FBI are called in to investigate.  When an additional body is found in a rather peculiar situation, they aren't so sure their original assumptions are correct.  The more evidence that turns up the more confusing the case becomes.  

In addition, Kay's niece, Lucy, is caught up in an FBI investigation that could ruin her chances of joining the FBI full time upon graduation.  She is exceptionally gifted with computers and is working on a top secret software that could greatly improve information sharing among law enforcement around the world, but someone else must want access to the information for sinister reasons.

This is an older series that I started reading at least 20 years ago.  I would definitely recommend reading the books in order since the personal relationships between the characters develop throughout the series and some of the knowledge gained from the cases are referenced in later books.  There are currently 25 books in the series, but you do not need to read all of them back to back in order to remember what is going on.  I read one every now and then when I am looking for a good mystery and haven't had any trouble remembering the basics needed to fully appreciate each story.  Each case is independent, so the majority of the information acts as a stand alone novel.  

I thought I had this mystery all figured out about 75% of the way through, but as always there was a twist I didn't see coming until closer to 85 %.  By that point, I had it figured out and just needed to see how all of the loose ends would get tied up.  

The series is a bit graphic, so it isn't for everyone.  I am definitely enjoying it and look forward to seeing what is in story for Kay, Lucy, and the rest of the team in the next installment.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Miami Book Fair 2018 Preview: Rebecca Serle, The Dinner List

It's pretty much November, which means we are almost up to one of my absolute favorite events of the year -- Miami Book Fair! The Fair goes from November 11th to the 18th this year, but you can bet I'm already getting ready for it. As a lead up, I'll be doing a few preview posts where I share a review of a book by an author that will be presenting at the Fair.

Flo's Review
As soon as I learned of this book, I wanted to read it. The whole question about "What 5 five people, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?" is one that has floated around for years. It was definitely a great idea to take this question and run with it. Rebecca Serle did it in an interesting way. In her interpretation of the question, the 5 people you'd have at your dinner table are there because they reflect some aspect of your life -- unresolved issues, people you can't live without, etc. It's not just, "Chris Hemsworth, because he's hot and I want to listen to his accent." (HEY. No judging anyone on my list! 😂) 

It was interesting how Serle chose to bring this theory to life. She didn't dwell on the questions of "how." The main character, Sabrina, only quickly wonders where the people at her table currently are, how they got there, what happens after the dinner ends, and little thing such as what happens if one person leaves the table. I did like that these issues were minimized, because that's not really what the book was about. The book was about Sabrina's unresolved issues with her father, Tobias, and her best friend Jessica. 

At the same time, I would have liked a little more detail. The list starts off as Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina's grandmother, Sabrina's father, Plato, and Tobias. Serle explains that because Sabrina's relationship with Jessica changed, Sabrina went back and amended the list to include Jessica instead of her grandmother. At one point there is a sentence or so about how Plato got changed to Sabrina's old teacher, Conrad. This one, to me, wasn't explained well. Sabrina had a class with him and liked him? Okay? She had something with every other person at the table -- even Audrey Hepburn makes sense in the scheme of Sabrina's life -- but Conrad didn't. As far as the storyline, he was good at facilitating and moving the plot forward, so I understand why he was helpful in that regard. But his presence made zero sense as far as being one of Sabrina's five.

I read a lot of YA fiction. It's a good escape from adult reality, because at the end of a YA contemporary novel, the couples get together and kiss, and that's the end of it. But reality is that it's not. Reality is that the "Happily Ever After" is hard. That's what this book is about. As we grow, love grows and evolves for us, based on our lives. In other words, the idea of love at 25 years old is going to look different than the idea of love at 35 years old. And it should, because you, as a person, at 25 years old are different than at 35 years old. And 45 years old. Lasting love grows and evolves with both parties involved.

But for Sabrina and Tobias, it didn't. Their love flourished and worked best as first love, as young 20s love. But as they grew up, their love didn't. It stayed the same. And that led to problems for them and their relationship. A song from the 80s laments in the chorus, "Sometimes love just ain't enough." I feel like that song could be the theme for this book. Sabrina and Tobias loved each other. Fiercely. But that wasn't enough for them. Their love needed to be the foundation, the start, in order for them both to succeed in all areas of their lives. Not the be-all, end-all. That's what this book was about.

The Dinner List did a great job of exploring this topic is a fun, unique way. It was delightful to read about a dinner with Audrey Hepburn sitting there, telling everyone about the things she loved when she was alive. At times I was frustrated with Sabrina, but that makes sense -- I think she was frustrated with herself and her situation, and that translated into her actions. She was also deeply sad to her core and there was a lot that she didn't understand. I could feel her just wanting to understand. This dinner was her way of trying to do that. To understand, to accept, and to move on. 

Rebecca Serle at the Fair
Reading from New Novels
Sunday, November 18 @ 12 p.m.
Room 8201 (Building 8, Second Floor)
300 NE Second Avenue, Miami, FL 33132

In Rebecca Serle’s captivating The Dinner List: A Novel, Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner to find not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. Joanna Cantor’s Alternative Remedies for Loss is a slyly funny coming-of-age novel about a young woman fumbling her way into the mysteries of loss and the travails of adulthood as she tries to make sense of a vanished mother’s legacy. Marci Vogel’s funny, tender, and wholly original, Death & Other Holidays is a year in the life of a young woman coming to terms with the death of her beloved stepfather, while attempting to find love in LA. Roxanna Elden’s Adequate Yearly Progress is a workplace novel that captures teaching with humor, insight, and heart. This perspective-hopping debut follows a diverse group of educators as their professional lives impact their personal lives and vice versa.

Author interview: The Color of Lies by C.J. Lyons

Book Summary
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons comes The Color of Lies, a world drenched in color and mystery.

High school senior Ella Cleary has always been good at reading people. Her family has a rare medical condition called synesthesia that scrambles the senses—her Gram Helen sees every sound, and her uncle Joe can literally taste words. Ella’s own synesthesia manifests itself as the ability to see colors that reveal people’s true emotions…until she meets a guy she just can’t read.

Alec is a mystery to Ella, a handsome, enigmatic young journalist who makes her feel normal for the first time in her life. That is, until he reveals the real reason why he sought her out—he wants to learn the truth behind her parents’ deaths, the parents that Ella had always been told died in a fire. Alec turns Ella’s world upside down when he tells her their deaths were definitely not an accident.

After learning her entire life has been a lie, Ella doesn’t know who she can trust or even who she really is. With her adoptive family keeping secrets and the evidence mixing fact and fiction, the only way for Ella to learn the truth about her past is to find a killer.

Perfect for fans of Caroline B. Cooney, Ally Carter, and Jennifer Brown, The Color of Lies blurs the lines between black-and-white facts and the kaleidoscope of reality.

Flo's Note
Happy book birthday to The Color of Lies! To celebrate its release, we're sharing an exclusive interview with author C.J. Lyons! 

Author Interview
What was your inspiration for The Color of Lies?
 CJ: For The Color of Lies,my inspiration was the idea of a girl who saw everyone else’s truth … but was blind to her own.
I loved that conflict; the paradox of what we see and believe versus what is real and true. And how we deny reality, sacrifice it to our dreams by what we chooseto believe … It happens every day in the real world. Just look at the epidemic of fake news posing as reality.
What if someone’s entire life was colored by what they wanted to believe instead of what was real? Answering that question led to The Color of Lies.

How do you build your characters?
CJ: After writing so many dark thrillers, for The Color of LiesI wanted to work with a character who saw life in all its beauty and who truly felt as if she knew and understood her world. Someone with a loving family and friends, although her main problem in life stems from that loving family as she feels obligated to stay in her hometown to take care of them. 

Of course, my next job as a writer is to figure out how to totally destroy this character’s perfect life!

I needed a character strong enough to survive the chaos and turmoil I’d engulf her in, and so Ella was born. I always knew she was an artist but wanted her view of the world to be even more unique. A friend of mine plays the violin and one night was describing how she saw musical notes as colors and that gift helped her to quickly master complex pieces because she wasn’t memorizing them, she was visualizing them. Painting with music.

This kind of sensory crisscrossing is a well-recognized medical condition called synesthesia. Studies suggest it’s actually twice as common as the gene that causes red hair.

While synesthesia might sound like fun, there are forms that are very uncomfortable and actually end up isolating people from the outside world. For example, tasting words. You can’t unhear a word and can’t control a taste—so if the word “football” tastes like baby poop, your life might be a bit unbearable. Or if you feel sounds, then simply venturing into the outside world can feel like being swept up in a tsunami of noise pounding you from every direction.

For Ella, I wanted her synesthesia to be essential to her worldview—a sixth sense that she couldn’t live without. So I gave her the ability to “see” people’s emotions via colorful auras. Ella believes her synesthesia reveals the truth that people hide routinely from each other and trusts it to navigate her way through the world.

Until she meets a boy whose aura she can’t see. And he tells her that everything in her life is a lie.

Read more with CJ Lyons after the break.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Book review: The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Book Summary
We’ve been waiting for an hour. That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends within her utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day, and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a romance for our times. Bon appetit.

Flo's Review
As soon as I learned of this book, I wanted to read it. The whole question about "What 5 five people, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?" is one that has floated around for years. It was definitely a great idea to take this question and run with it. Rebecca Serle did it in an interesting way. In her interpretation of the question, the 5 people you'd have at your dinner table are there because they reflect some aspect of your life -- unresolved issues, people you can't live without, etc. It's not just, "Chris Hemsworth, because he's hot and I want to listen to his accent." (HEY. No judging anyone on my list! 😂) 

It was interesting how Serle chose to bring this theory to life. She didn't dwell on the questions of "how." The main character, Sabrina, only quickly wonders where the people at her table currently are, how they got there, what happens after the dinner ends, and little thing such as what happens if one person leaves the table. I did like that these issues were minimized, because that's not really what the book was about. The book was about Sabrina's unresolved issues with her father, Tobias, and her best friend Jessica. 

At the same time, I would have liked a little more detail. The list starts off as Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina's grandmother, Sabrina's father, Plato, and Tobias. Serle explains that because Sabrina's relationship with Jessica changed, Sabrina went back and amended the list to include Jessica instead of her grandmother. At one point there is a sentence or so about how Plato got changed to Sabrina's old teacher, Conrad. This one, to me, wasn't explained well. Sabrina had a class with him and liked him? Okay? She had something with every other person at the table -- even Audrey Hepburn makes sense in the scheme of Sabrina's life -- but Conrad didn't. As far as the storyline, he was good at facilitating and moving the plot forward, so I understand why he was helpful in that regard. But his presence made zero sense as far as being one of Sabrina's five.

I read a lot of YA fiction. It's a good escape from adult reality, because at the end of a YA contemporary novel, the couples get together and kiss, and that's the end of it. But reality is that it's not. Reality is that the "Happily Ever After" is hard. That's what this book is about. As we grow, love grows and evolves for us, based on our lives. In other words, the idea of love at 25 years old is going to look different than the idea of love at 35 years old. And it should, because you, as a person, at 25 years old are different than at 35 years old. And 45 years old. Lasting love grows and evolves with both parties involved.

But for Sabrina and Tobias, it didn't. Their love flourished and worked best as first love, as young 20s love. But as they grew up, their love didn't. It stayed the same. And that led to problems for them and their relationship. A song from the 80s laments in the chorus, "Sometimes love just ain't enough." I feel like that song could be the theme for this book. Sabrina and Tobias loved each other. Fiercely. But that wasn't enough for them. Their love needed to be the foundation, the start, in order for them both to succeed in all areas of their lives. Not the be-all, end-all. That's what this book was about.

The Dinner List did a great job of exploring this topic is a fun, unique way. It was delightful to read about a dinner with Audrey Hepburn sitting there, telling everyone about the things she loved when she was alive. At times I was frustrated with Sabrina, but that makes sense -- I think she was frustrated with herself and her situation, and that translated into her actions. She was also deeply sad to her core and there was a lot that she didn't understand. I could feel her just wanting to understand. This dinner was her way of trying to do that. To understand, to accept, and to move on. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Book Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #2)

Goodreads Overview:

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Jacque's Review:

This is such a unique series that I hardly know where to begin.  The story is written around a number of vintage photographs the author has acquired from various sources.  For example, we are introduced to a number of new peculiars in this novel such as the one on the cover of this book.  How else could someone explain a photo of a girl with a hole in her torso that appears to be completely healthy?  She is most definitely "peculiar".  All of the peculiars have unusual abilities that did not meld well into society, so they have been living in "loops" where they live out one day over and over again and never age. 

There are evil creatures known as hollows and wights who have been raiding the loops and taking their caregivers known as ymbryne, such as Miss. Peregrine.  In order to save their peculiar world they must first rescue their ymbryne.  

The majority of this novel is spent traveling through WWII bombings in 1940 and escaping the constant chase of hollows and wights.  The children travel from their island off the coast of England to London and beyond in order to help Miss. Peregrine, who was injured during the raid at the end of book 1.  They meet not only peculiar people, but also animals along the way who assist them with their quest.  The cleverness of Ransom Riggs is remarkable as he weaves a tale with unusual abilities around photographs that would otherwise be inexplicable.

The constant chase was exhausting for the children and it felt like an end was never in sight the majority of the book.  Jacob is beginning to come to the realization that he may have already accomplished what he set out to do and should return to the safety of his home in present day America, when he is thrown an unbelievable twist.  (Of course there had to be a twist...we already know there are two more books in the series.)  Now I can hardly wait to read the next book, Library of Souls, to see what happens next.  I already picked up a copy when I was at BEA in 2016 and spent the better part of two days trying to catch up with Ransom to get it signed, which I was able to accomplish on the final day.



If you enjoy YA fantasy, I would recommend giving this series a try.  On a side note...I read a physical copy of the first book and an ebook copy of the second.  It is worth getting the hard copy because the pictures are larger and can be viewed in better detail.  I tried increasing the font size on my kindle to see a larger copy of some of the pictures, but it only increased the font size and not the size of the photos.  I will definitely read the physical copies of the remaining books in this series.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Miami Book Fair 2018 Preview: Ally Connie and Brendan Reichs, The Darkdeep


It's pretty much November, which means we are almost up to one of my absolute favorite events of the year -- Miami Book Fair! The Fair goes from November 11th to the 18th this year, but you can bet I'm already getting ready for it. As a lead up, I'll be doing a few preview posts where I share a review of a book by an author that will be presenting at the Fair. So let's get started! 

First up, is Ally Connie and Brendan Reichs, who will be discussing their new book The Darkdeep

Flo's Review
What a creative story! I don't want to give away details, but so many elements are so unique and quirky. I can definitely see a kid exclaiming, "Cool!" as he experiences some of the supernatural things in the story. But there's also so much more to the Darkdeep than I think we learned in this first book. I was impressed and intrigued with the back story and I am so curious to learn more about its history. 

The Darkdeep also does so well with character relationships and development. Everyone has that super enthusiastic friend like Emma. Tyler's comments made me laugh at several points in the story, because, dude, Tyler is me! He reacted to the Darkdeep probably how I would react. But he will drop everything for Emma and that is just adorable and I love it. I also thought the relationship between Opal and Nico was well done, especially for a middle grade novel. It's true to the age group, but there's definitely more to it that I hope will be uncovered in future Darkdeep novels. I can't say too much about Logan's character arc and remain spoiler-free, but I appreciate his journey and contribution.

If you're looking for a creative, easy-to-read middle grade novel, I'd recommend you check this out. But I have to know....what's the thing in the jar??!?

Ally and Brendan at the Fair
The Plot Thickens: Secret Adventure Stories
Sunday, November 18 at 3:00 p.m.
Wemby Wordsmith's Storytorium (in Upper Plaza of Children's Alley)
300 NE Second Avenue, Miami, Florida 33132

In this rollicking adventure by comics sensation Molly Brooks, Sanity & Tallulah must save their space station from a science experiment gone wrong before it’s too late. Ally Condie & Brendan Reichs will have your pulse racing with The Darkdeep, home to something ancient that can detect your brightest wishes and your darkest secrets.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Book Review: Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Embassy Row, #3)

Goodreads Overview:

Centuries ago, the royal family of Adria was killed…or so everyone thought.

Now Grace Blakely knows the truth: There was one survivor, and that survivor’s blood runs through her veins. This simple fact could cause a revolution—which is why some people will stop at nothing to keep it from coming to light.

There is only one way for Grace to save herself, save her family, and save the boy she loves. She must outmaneuver her foes, cut through the web of lies that has surrounded her for years, and go back to the source of all her troubles, despite the risk.

If she wins, she will inherit a throne.

And if she loses, she will inherit the fate of all the dead princesses who came before her.
 

Jacque's Review:

This is the third and final book in the Embassy Row series.  While it isn't my favorite series by Ally Carter, it is still an entertaining read that kept me interested throughout.  

Adria is an island country that is centuries old and has been secretly controlled or manipulated by generations of women.  They refer to themselves as The Society.  They took it upon themselves to save the baby princess when the gates of the palace were stormed 200 years ago and the royal family was murdered.  They hid the princess and raised her as one of their own, but records were lost.  Over the years they lost track of who the princess was and where her descendants went.  

As children, Grace's mom and her two closest friends became obsessed with uncovering the mystery of the lost princess and putting her descendant in her rightful place on the throne.  They thought they had the perfect plan and set the wheels in motion, but they were wrong about one very important fact.  

The pace of this book was too slow for me and at times I wondered if this could have been consolidated into two books instead of three.  I really enjoyed when Noah, Megan, Rosie, Alexei, and Grace were all together because it combined their unique abilities and really increased the pace of events.  I also enjoyed the addition of the 15 year old Prince of Adria to their team towards the end of the book.  Those were by far the most enjoyable sections of this book and are what propelled the story forward.  The rest of the time, I felt like there was a lot of filler that could have been eliminated.

I was also annoyed by all of the older women from The Society operating as a dictatorship.  While they thought they were doing what was best for Adria, they certainly weren't taking into account the well being of those impacted by their scheme.  Their actions weren't even rational the majority of the time.  What could have been a very entertaining aspect of this series, with Grace working together with this ancient society her mother was once a part of, turned into a solo mission with these very powerful women constantly working against Grace and her friends.  

While it felt like it took a long time to reach a conclusion in this series, the ending was very abrupt.  Everything reached a boiling point and then in one chapter it was over.  This is how things will pan out for the characters....done.  Overall, I was happy with the conclusion, but it felt very rushed and incomplete compared to the lengths the characters went through to reach that point.  

I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads, but it was probably closer to a 2.5.