Sunday, June 23, 2019

Book review: Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg

Book Summary
Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is-spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn't be? In a few short months, everything's going to change, big time.
But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she's not Allison Smith. And Ally's-make that Amanda's-ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?

Flo's Review
As I shared on Instagram when I received this book, I was already highly anticipating it after talking about it with Elizabeth at Miami Book Fair last year. I really enjoyed Just Another Girl and was excited to see what Elizabeth had in store for us next.

My favorite weekend days are those where I just just lie in bed or on the couch under a blanket with a drink of choice (tea, wine, whatever) and just let myself get lost in a book because I have no other responsibilities. I am so happy that I was able to do that with Past Perfect Life today! After a big brunch at Cracker Barrel, I curled up in bed and started reading. I did not put the book down again until about page 130ish. I moved from the bed to the couch and continued reading. Then I did not put it down again. There's something so deliciously satisfying about reading an entire book in a day and I'm always so happy when I do it.

It also says a lot about the book. I mean, if I can read 300 plus pages in a few hours, it means I am truly, truly engrossed. I was so invested in this story! Ally is a great character. Funny, smart, but also shy, a hard worker, and all those other good things Neil said about her in the beginning. Also -- Neil. ❤️❤️

Her situation is one that I could not fathom being in and it was so fascinating and engaging to consider, through reading her thoughts and reactions, what that would even be like. (Note: I'm being purposefully vague so as to be sure not to spoil anything for anyone.) This book raises a lot of questions about what makes you you? Is it family and DNA alone? Is it how you are raised? Is it the friends you surround yourself with growing up? Is it a combination? If so, how much do these different elements factor in?

Whenever I can't put a book down, it's because the pacing is done so well that you don't even notice. And as I mentioned before, Ally was a great protagonist. Even though she suffering a lot, and for obvious reasons, she remained kind and accommodating, true to those she loved, open, and willing to do whatever it took for the people important to her.

The combination of the great pacing, a protagonist you want to be friends with, and Neil (lol) made this book such a delight! Past Perfect Life publishes July 9th from Bloomsbury.


Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book review: Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Book Summary
High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

Flo's Review
This book was a little hard to get into right at the beginning because of David Yoon's writing style -- it's distinctive and unique, and you have to acclimate to it. But once you do, you get to the point where you're so swept up in that story that you don't even recognize it. Probably because it just becomes part of the story, and it's just so obviously the way Frank thinks that it doesn't seem different any more.

The cover of the book, besides being beautiful, is 100% accurate. Because you think this story is about one thing, but it goes so, so much deeper than that. Yes, the pact is a part of the plot, but it's far from being the whole story. It's one facet of the story, and definitely a big one. It's the instigator, the impetus for a lot of questioning, growth, and subsequent actions on Frank's part. I think I read that this might be getting adapted for TV or movie, and if that's the case then I feel like the story in that medium will focus on the fake dating pact, which is fine. That in and of itself makes for a fun story.

But it's really the WHY behind the pact where Frank's story of senior year lives. I loved reading about the Apeys, because they were the smarty pants and they completely owned it. They had each other and it was just a great group. In the author's thank you at the end, David Yoon mentions his real-life Apeys, so I'm really glad he had this group of friends in school.

Then the Gatherings. My family 100% has those on major holidays. It was fun to read about what happened at the Gatherings and about the Limbos, because 100% accurate. I had my own group of Limbos, and we even had a nickname for ourselves. So I completely related to that.

I loved reading about Frank's experience as a Limbo. I enjoyed learning more about Korean culture and Korean-American culture. And speaking of accurate -- David Yoon did such a good job encapsulating the experience of senior year. On one hand, you spend so much time and effort working toward what's next, planning for what's next, looking forward to what's next. But on the other hand, high school can house some good memories and comfort. It's emotional to move away from that. In that aspect of his life, Frank is also in limbo. (Sorry. This book is full of puns, so of course at least one had to make it into my review.)

Speaking of the puns, I just adored Frank's relationships. His conversations with Q. His conversations with Joy. So great. I can't say too much about the ending without being spoilery, but it was so real, so raw, so fitting, so true. It hit me in all the feels.

Frankly in Love comes out September 10th from Penguin Teen, and frankly, I think you're going to love it.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Book review -- Iron Magicians: The Search for the Magic Crystals by Cetrix and Yuio

Book Summary
This middle-grade graphic novel series makes YOU the hero of a fantasy quest—pick your panel, find items, cast spells, defeat enemies, solve puzzles, and play through new storylines again and again!

Step inside a steampunk re-imagining of nineteenth-century Paris, where magic and machines exist in harmony. The Eiffel Tower—a secret weapon built with magic—is almost complete, but the crystals that power the structure are missing! Find the hidden crystals and survive your dangerous mission.

HERE’S HOW TO PLAY:
• Select your character and begin your quest.
• Numbers are hidden in every panel. Decide where you want to go next, and then flip to the panel with the matching number.
• Solve puzzles, cast spells, and defeat enemies in your quest for success. Only after you’ve collected all the crystals will your journey be complete.
• If you fail your mission, just start again from the beginning! You can play the book again and again, making different choices every time. 

Remember, this is no ordinary comic book—what happens next is up to you!

Flo's Review
I admit that I was intrigued by this concept as soon as I heard about it. And I'm happy to say that the execution was as fun as I'd hoped. In a nutshell, this was a combination of a comic book and a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The instructions are a little complex and may require attention and focus from a middle grader. For me, just reading for fun on a Saturday night, I chose to focus not on the puzzles but on following the storyline through the pages. And like I said, I had fun with it! I definitely think I will be giving this book to my niece or nephew, as it strikes me as a good one to give to a child to get them critically thinking while still having fun. 

Also, it looks like Comic Quests is a whole series! So if an adventure in Paris around the time when the Eiffel Tower was built is not your forte (which I can't imagine why not?!) then you can choose one of these.


Thank you so much to Quirk Books for sending me copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Audiobook review: Finale by Stephanie Garner



Flo's Spoiler Free Review
Oh boy. It's going to be hard to keep this spoiler-free, but I didn't want to just write something for the people who have already read Caraval and Legendary. After all, I definitely want to encourage you to read them all.

I was *highly* anticipating Finale, and I'm so, so glad it did not disappoint! The end of Legendary left me with a "Ahh! OMG!!" kind of feeling, so I was 100% ready to dive into this conclusion. I listened to the audiobook, which was read by Rebecca Soler, who can do no wrong. (She also read the Cinder series, among many others.)

Finale followed in the footsteps of the previous two books, but continuing to bewitch me with its magic. Stephanie Garber's world is awe inspired. It expands my mind with its colors and possibilities. It encourages the reader to dream bold and dream wild. 

I also really enjoyed seeing and learning new aspects of all the characters -- Legend, of course, but also Julian, Paradise, and even some of the horrible Fates. I found myself liking Scarlett better than Tella in this one, which is interesting -- because I didn't love Scarlett in Caraval and I really enjoyed Tella in Legendary. But maybe having both of their points of view in one book really showed their true characters. I don't know, I just found myself admiring Scarlett in this book and finding Tella to be...headstrong to the point of eye roll and sometimes a little irritating? 

But I have to say it again, the best part of this series is how much it completely swept me away. It was truly immersive. I wasn't stuck in traffic on a busy highway on a rainy morning -- I was seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling unbelievable, impossible things. 

I absolutely recommend this series.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Book Review: Rowan by Josephine angelini


Rowan is a short 30 page novella that is 1.5 in the Worldwalker series. It shows how Rowan discovered Lily in his world and the events that transpired shortly after her arrival.  Rowan believed she was Lillian and couldn't understand what was wrong with her.  She acted like she had no idea who he was, she was having allergic reactions to things Lillian has been able to control for years, and was basically weak and helpless.  How could this possibly be the Salem Witch who has been reeking havoc on his world and family?  But what other explanation could there possibly be?

Overall this was a nice addition to the story, but I don't feel like it was essential to the story line. I have already read the first two books in the series and do not feel like I was at a loss without this content, which actually took place somewhere within the first book.  The back story is helpful in getting some of Rowan's perspective on the situation, but we can also get that through mind speak and the sharing of vision within this series.  

I downloaded this for free to my kindle from the library, so it was well worth my time to read.  It is listed for $1.99 on Amazon, which seems a bit crazy to me.  Many authors release these short novellas for free, assuming readers of this content are also buying and reading the rest of their series.  That is what should have happened here.  Charging people for a few scenes, which were probably cut from the original book, will likely disappoint many readers. Definitely try to get this book from the library.

Friday, June 14, 2019

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Melanie Cantor, author of Death and Other Happy Endings

Book Summary
Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has a terminal blood disorder and has just three months to live--ninety days to say goodbye to friends and family, and to put her affairs in order. Ninety days to come to terms with a diagnosis that is unfair, unexpected, and completely unpronounceable. Focusing on the positives (she won't have to go on in a world without Bowie or Maya Angelou; she won't get Alzheimer's or Parkinson's like her parents, or have teeth that flop out at the mere mention of the word apple), Jennifer realizes she only has one real regret: the relationships she's lost.

Rather than running off to complete a frantic bucket list, Jennifer chooses to stay put and write a letter to the three most significant people in her life, to say the things she wished she'd said before but never dared: her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend--and finally tell them the truth.

At first, Jennifer feels cleansed by her catharsis. Liberated, even. Her ex-boyfriend rushes to her side and she even starts to build bridges with her sister Isabelle (that is, once Isabelle's confirmed that Jennifer's condition isn't genetic). But once you start telling the truth, it's hard to stop. And as Jennifer soon discovers, the truth isn't always as straightforward as it seems, and death has a way of surprising you....
 


Author Interview

It seems like women over fifty are having it all these days, re-writing the rules and living life on their own terms. You are certainly an example of this. Tell us what led to you becoming a published writer at the age of sixty-two.
Since a child, I have always enjoyed storytelling but there was no way I ever thought I would become a writer.  It simply wasn’t an option for me.  My mother wanted me to be a good wife and mother (like her) but my father wanted me to be a PR (a Public Relations Officer which in the US I believe you would call a publicist)—funny that he was the one who encouraged me to pursue a career, although not funny if you knew him.  He was an artist.  He could have become a penniless one but in order to feed his family, he put his talent into graphic design.  Working in below the line advertising, often for fashion brands, the majority of his clients were women PRs.  He thought it would be a good career for me.  At 19, I started life as a secretary (my mother’s idea) but, being well behaved I soon followed the path my father had encouraged.  After a few false starts, in 1978, I landed a job working in theatre PR, which I loved.  This then led to television (I was the press officer who helped launch commercial breakfast television in the UK in 1983) which in turn led to becoming a TV presenters’ agent.  In the rollercoaster years that followed, there was no time to think about becoming a writer but the itch was there and I was always scribbling some idea or another.  Finally, in 2008, having been successful as an agent, I decided to dedicate myself full time to becoming a writer, which no longer seemed beyond my reach—little did I know how many years in the wilderness lay ahead. But, I got there and am so proud of DEATH AND OTHER HAPPY ENDINGS.


You were discovered on a subway platform in London and featured in Dove’s campaign. How did you get your style? Has that changed as you’ve gotten older? And explain “the power of red lippy”!
Both my parents enjoyed clothes and passed that interest onto me (my brother does not share that interest so it wasn’t a given!).  My mother was more classic, my father flamboyant: I think I merged the two!  As soon as I could legally earn money, I got a Saturday job and that wage immediately went into clothes.  Not much has changed, although with more money in my pocket, my taste has improved and my style evolved.  Having been single for six years has also been quite liberating.  I dress for no one but myself and in so doing I have found who I am.  I have never consciously defied age but realize now, thanks to the number of times I am stopped by women saying they love my style, that being in your sixties and happily wearing color is not necessarily the norm!  It should be!  There is a notion that women over fifty disappear.  We don’t have to.  We should wear whatever makes us feel happy, whatever colors make us smile. There is no such thing as age appropriate, just you appropriate.   I think that was why I was spotted by the Dove scout.  For the same reason, I am a big fan of the red lip.  If there are two things I think are important about face make-up in your later years, I would say eyebrows and lips are essential.  I never go out without having put on these two.  Including when I walk Mabel my dog.  She won’t be seen dead with me if I look like the walking dead and trust me without my red lips and dark eyebrows, I disappear.  Wherever I am, you will see me coming but hopefully for all the right reasons.

Read more with Melanie Cantor after the page break.

Book review: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Book Summary
10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she's just performed her hit song "Heartbeat" in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She's about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She's in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She's very cute. He's maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

Flo's Review
Short review. I almost decided not to do a review for this one, but then I remembered that I got this cute Lucky poster from the Fierce Reads tour, and it would be a waste not to use it. So here we are. 😂

This book was everything I'd hoped for. I admittedly don't know much about K-Pop, but I do know a lot about pop music and pop music fans. I loved reading everything about the concerts, the superfans...I've been there. 

Lucky was a delight. Maurene could have made her this total diva who becomes more down-to-earth and human as her day progresses away from the limelight, but she didn't go that stereotypical route. Instead, Lucky is joyful and silly and seems like just a fun person to hang out with. So as you're reading about their day, you can totally see why Jack is having fun spending time with her.


Exploring Hong Kong along with Jack and Lucky naturally made me want to visit. (And if I could have Jack as a tour guide? I'd buy a plane ticket right now!) The themes that come through this story are all good ones: taking a chance on your dreams, but also working hard for them, particularly resonated with me. 

I read this entire book with a smile on my face (except for when I was stressed out or nervous for Lucky or Jack -- lol), and the smile remained when I turned the last page and closed the book. So overall success, and a great way to start my relaxing weekend.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Book Review: Never Never Part 3 by Colleen Hoover


Never Never is a three part novella series that is a continuation of the same story throughout.  In the first book, we discovered that Charlie and Silas keep losing their memories at exactly the same time every 48 hours.  They start reading their old journals and letters to each other and begin taking meticulous notes to use as a reference point every time the clock resets. In this final installment, we discover who is responsible for their memory loss and what is needed to stop the cycle. 

While this was a very challenging situation for them, it allowed them to see their lives and personalities from a different perspective.  They had allowed a number of external factors to influence not only their friendship and relationship with each other, but ultimately their personalities. They turned into people they weren't exactly proud of.  There is nothing they can do to change the past, but they have complete control of the present and their futures.  

Overall, I thought this story had an excellent message.  How it was presented was a bit far fetched and unrealistic, but it was still an entertaining read. It wasn't my favorite Colleen Hoover book... READ SLAMMED if you haven't already....but I have yet to come across one of her books I haven't enjoyed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Book Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium, #3)

This is the third and final book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy and picked up pretty much where the previous book left off.  Lisbeth Salander is taken to the hospital and is fighting for her life after a violent confrontation with her father, Zalachenko, and half brother. Even though Zalachenko tried to kill his daughter, he is claiming self defense and the security police are once again trying to clean up his mess.

Lisbeth and Mikael Blookvist must unravel decades worth of corruption and conspiracies if they are going to clear Lisbeth of all of the charges against her.

The one person who is actually telling the truth, Lisbeth, is painted in the media and by everyone in authority to be incompetent. She should be locked in a mental institution where she can no longer harm herself and others.  The stories she tells are so ridiculous they can be nothing short of fantasies. In fact, she must be a paranoid schizophrenic. This is basically what the prosecution is basing its case upon.  The courtroom drama that ensues was nothing short of spectacular. Mikael, Lisbeth, and her lawyer Annika Giannini (Mikael's sister) had all of their ducks in a row and completely rocked the courtroom.  You almost wanted to cheer as the "bad guys" were taken down one by one.

I don't want to spoil the book for those who haven't read it yet, but I have to say this series was an absolute masterpiece.  Even though it is fiction, it makes readers question what lengths organizations like the FBI, CIA, etc. might go to in order to protect their own interests.  What may start out as a mission with good intentions could easily spiral out of control and impact the lives of ordinary citizens in unthinkable ways.

The only thing that I did find to be a little odd was the level of detail provided to every day situations.  I would like to know exactly how many cups of coffee were served up in this book.  Hundreds I'm sure. These characters are always turning on the coffee pot or pouring a cup of coffee at all hours of the day or night.  We also know exactly what everyone is wearing in every situation and precisely what they ate at every meal.  We knew exactly what street they are on at all times and precisely when they need to use the toilet.  If you think I am joking...I am not.  It seemed like a lot of additional information that wasn't necessary to propel the story forward, but I guess it provided a greater connection with the characters' every day lives.  I didn't find it annoying...just very unusual.

I will once again add a disclaimer that this series contains a lot of graphic content that is not suitable for younger readers, but it was an excellent mystery/thriller for adults. I read the first book, but it took me a long time to get through with all of the Swedish names.  I opted for audio for the send book. For the third, I listed to the audio while following along in the book.  I found this to be the most enjoyable because I didn't feel like I was struggling with how to pronounce all of the names and locations I wasn't familiar with.  

I'm participating in the Year of Epic Reads Challenge. This book fulfilled the Read a Book Set in a Country you want to Visit challenge.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Audiobook review: Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

Book Summary
marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Flo's Review
I am usually so stingy with my 5 star reviews, and here I feel like I've been rating books 5 stars left and right lately. But to me 5 stars means, "OMG YOU NEED TO READ THIS IMMEDIATELY! YES, YOU!" and I do truly feel like this is justified for this book.

I loved this book because it gave me the opportunity to really experience a life, a culture very different from my own. I love how Zayneb and Adam love their faith. I think I would really enjoy hanging out with them both -- Adam, because he's so good at seeing the good (the marvel) in everything, and Zayneb because I think she can show me things with new eyes. 

Also, I want to visit Doha now.

The audiobook narrators all did a good job, and I was happy that the author's parts were actually read by the author. I had this book on my TBR because I was debating whether to try to get in her signing line at BookCon and now I regret that I didn't read this beforehand so I could talk to her about it. From the Author's Note and from the earnest passion of Zayneb, I am guessing that they share a lot of characteristics and beliefs. 

The supporting characters in this book were also all so great. Auntie Nandie, Hannah, and Connor most of all, but even the Emmas. I think this book will find a lot of people who relate to it and a lot of people who learn from it. It's so great, guys! Go read it!!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Cleaning Up My TBR - Down the TBR Hole


This challenge was originally started by Lost in a Story, but I saw it on Lisa Loves Literature's blog and thought it was a good and fun idea. Here's how it works:

1. Go to your Goodreads "To Read" shelf
2. Order by Date Added, ascending
3. Take the first 5 books
4. Read the synopses of the books
5. Decide: keep it, or should it go?

This should be interesting! Here we go....

1. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Synopsis: David Sedaris' move to Paris from New York inspired these hilarious pieces, including the title essay, about his attempts to learn French from a sadistic teacher who declares that every day spent with you is like having a caesarean section. His family is another inspiration. You Can't Kill the Rooster is a portrait of his brother, who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as restaurant meals presented in ludicrous towers of food and cashiers with six-inch fingernails.

Flo's Thoughts: At some point I actually got to meet David Sedaris and he signed this book for me! (That's actually a fun story, but it's one for another time!) I could definitely see myself finding the audiobook for this and listening to it at some point. Especially if David himself reads the audiobook? (I'll have to look into this.)

Verdict: Keep.

2. Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

Synopsis. Brooke loved reading the dishy celebrity gossip rag Last Night. That is, until her marriage became a weekly headline... For five years, she’s worked two jobs to support her husband’s dream of making it in the music world. Finally, after countless gigs at Manhattan dive bars and toiling as an A&R intern, the soulful, enigmatic Julian Alter gets signed by Sony, where he logs long hours in the recording studio with no promise of success. But when he is invited to perform on a national late-night talk show, he is catapulted to stardom—literally overnight. At first the newfound fame is fun—who wouldn’t want to stay at the Chateau Marmont or love being treated like rock royalty? But as Brooke’s sweet husband becomes increasingly absent and tabloid rumors swirl, Brooke begins to question the truth about their marriage and is forced to finally come to terms with what she thinks she wants—and what she actually needs.

Flo's Thoughts: I know why I added this -- I read and really enjoyed Lauren's other books: Devil Wears Prada, Chasing Harry WinstonEveryone Worth Knowing. But since I added this book, Lauren has come out with a new one, When Life Gives You Luluemons, and I feel that I'm more likely to pick that one up first before I come back to this one. So this is a maybe, but I don't know how likely it is.

Verdict: Remove.

3. A Girl's Best Friend and Calm, Cool, and Adjusted by Kristin Billerbeck

Note: I'm counting these 2 books are one since they're related.


A Girl's Best Friend Synopsis: From the outside, Morgan Malliard has it all: diamonds at her disposal, a willowy figure, a doting daddy, and all the elegance that money can buy. But money can't buy happiness—or an identity to call her own—and Morgan is realizing her perfect life has no purpose other than spectacular grooming (which isn't really a purpose at all . . . unless you're a chimpanzee). Then a falling-out with her father drop-kicks Morgan into the real world, and she is suddenly forced to get an actual job, wear affordable shoes, and cope with public transportation—not to mention deal with that mysterious hottie who may or may not be stalking her! It's time for a spa getaway with her best gals, Lilly and Poppy—because there's just something about lying under a pile of sweet-smelling papaya plaster that can help a girl figure things out. Like the fact that life isn't about living up to a perfect ideal, and that with God's grace, the beauty of it may just be in the flaws after all.

Calm, Cool & Adjusted SynopsisSilicon Valley chiropractor Poppy Clayton is as calm, cool, and adjusted as they come . . . or is she? Known for her bad fashion sense, a love for all things natural, and the inability to get a second date, Poppy is beginning to wonder if she might be misaligned herself. Poppy's route to self discovery will be an unnatural one involving a plastic surgeon (of all people!), a condemned house in Santa Cruz, and a wedding date from the dark side. It's enough to send a girl and her gal pals running for their favorite spa!

Flo's Thoughts: These are the second and third books in a trilogy. This author was really speaking to me at the time in my life when I read them! Kristin's book Ashley Stockingdale series was one of my favorites. The thing is, I feel like I'd need to go back and re-read book #1 to really get into this trilogy. And while I don't think I'd 100% rule it out, I feel like I'm more likely to go back and re-read the Ashley Stockingdale books than I am to re-start this series.

Verdict: Remove.

4. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Synopsis: Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything" — at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store. This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen's help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends. 

Flo's Thoughts: I'm hit and miss with Sarah Dessen books, but I have heard lots of good things about this one. I own a copy and feel that it is one of hers that I am likely to pick up when I'm in the mood for a good YA contemporary -- and since that's my favorite genre, the mood for it hits more often than not.

Verdict: Keep.

5. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Synopsis: The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism in the Taliban’s backyard. Anyone who despairs of the individual’s power to change lives has to read the story of Greg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools—especially for girls—that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson’s quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Tea combines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit.

Flo's Thoughts: Hmm. I honestly don't know. But after reading all the reviews just now, I think I am more likely to pick up another book I just got, A School for My Village

Verdict: Remove.


Final verdict: That was fun and insightful! I should do this again. Maybe it will help me pare down my TBR list to something slightly more doable...

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Audiobook review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Book Summary
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. 

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Flo's Review
All the emotions! This book took me through them all -- fear, anticipation, sadness, pity, love, tension, and so much more. I didn't gather my thoughts together before I started typing, so this is just going to be a stream-of-consciousness type review: I apologize in advance.

First of all -- Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, the narrators of this audiobook, can do no wrong. Fiona is fantastic at conveying emotion in her voice. If Zafira felt fierce, Fiona sounded fierce. If Zafira felt hesitant, Fiona sounded hesitant. If Zafira felt proud, Fiona sounded proud. The same for Steve West. He always reads characters with such intense inner turmoil, and I never fail to feel the depth of the pain and conflict at the core of the character he is reading. Steve's Nasir is no different.

Since I just finished the book, I cannot stop thinking about the ending. (Why hello, book hangover. Long time no meet!) There were just so many reveals and connections! I think maybe some more eagle-eyed readers might have picked up on some of them, but I never catch these things. And I'm okay with that, because it means that my mind is always blown -- in a good way.

One of the best things about We Hunt the Flame is the complexity of the characters. There is no one that is the "good" one, or the "evil" one. (Well, I take that back -- there is a Big Bad. But besides that character.) All our main characters have inflicted pain and suffering, but also have endured pain and suffering. The further I read into the book, the more I learned about these characters. And yet, I feel that I am going to learn so much more about them in the next books.

Shoutout to my boy, Altair! I mean, yes, I'm living for the tension between Zafira and Nasir, but we could really all use an Altair in our lives. 

The setting of this book is truly magical. Hafsah gave us such rich descriptions of the the diverse land of Arawiya that I was able to feel completely immersed in it, even as I drove down the highway on the way to and from work.  I generally don't do well with long audiobooks, which for me is anything more than about 8 or 9 hours. But I never wearied of this one, which came in at almost 15 hours long. 

I am truly chomping at the bit for book #2! It is officially one of my most anticipated for when it comes out (please say no later than 2020!) I was intrigued by this story at first because it reminded me of Sabaa Tahir's Ember quartet, but then I was invested as it became its own unique, magical experience. 

Highly recommend!