Friday, November 16, 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Via Goodreads -
Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

My Review: 3 Stars
This is the first book chosen for our book club to read.  I didn't really want to read it at first - although given weeks to read it, I finished it 5 hours before book club - I'm glad I did.  I knew it was set in a time of great prejudice and war and I wasn't looking forward to crying - I'm a huge crybaby when it comes to books.  It's about a 12 year old Chinese boy named Henry and his friendship with 12 year old Japanese girl named Keiko.  The story takes place after Japan has bombed Pearl Harbor and Japanese-Americans are beginning to be herded into concentration camps in the United States.  Henry and Keiko's friendship is strictly prohibited by his family, who are understandably anti-Japanese.  Henry and Keiko meet while attending an all-white school and endure a lot of bullying together.  Even after Keiko is sent off to a camp with her family, Henry cannot let go of his deep connection with her.   

I think this book does a wonderful job of painting a vivid picture of what life was like for Chinese, Japanese and African American people in that era.  The details are precise and you can practically smell the food mixed with the Pacific air of Seattle.  You feel completely immersed in the culture and you learn so much more than the history books tell you.

This book also makes you think and ask yourself a lot of "what if" questions.  It made me consider/reflect on my ethnicity quite a bit and what it's like to be an American of Mexican descent.  In book club we talked a lot about what we would do differently than the characters, how we would feel standing by watching innocent families hauled away to who knows where, how we would feel if our own families were the ones being hauled off with only the belongings we could carry.  I don't think that we had to use our imaginations too much to picture living in a time of war after a devastating attack on American soil.  We lived through 9/11 after all.  That's still pretty fresh and still deeply heartbreaking.  Have Muslim people not been persecuted by fellow Americans here on American soil since the towers came down?  Muslim people who were born here on American soil and only speak English.  I bring this up because Keiko states on numerous occasions that she doesn't even speak Japanese, she was born in the United States and strictly identifies herself as an American - treated as a enemy.

I recommend that anyone with the slightest interest in history read this book.  It is a beautiful and heart-wrenching story of love, sacrifice and humanity with a lot of historical fact.  The only reason I didn't give this book more stars is because I spent the better part of it not completely invested in the story.  I only felt mildly interested in the love story, though I can count 2 times (toward the end) that my heart dropped down to my stomach by a turn of events.  Very good book that I'm sure many people fell in love with, I just wasn't one of them.  I only fell into like, but with no regrets.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I apologize.  I've neglected my blog for waaaay too long.  I have plenty of excuses, though.  It's summer time, all 4 of my kids are around and have constant needs, I had my only brother's wedding to plan for and attend in Cali, then Disneyland and the beach, then there were all my extended family obligations - reunions, birthday parties, religious gatherings and so forth.  It was life.  I let life get in the way and something had to give.  It turned out to be my blog.  I think I've only read 2-3 books since my last post.  Pathetic, I know.

But, schools about to start again and life will (hopefully) calm down to a pace I can better deal with.  I missed my constant reading and blabbing about it.  I missed all you fellow book-obsessed peeps too.  And you probably, maybe, didn't even notice I was gone!  Shame ;) 

Soooo...I'll be starting back up with a review of the book I just finished last night.  Insurgent, sequel to Divergent  by Veronica Roth.  I'm working backwards...just 'cause.

Also, I did something I didn't think I'd ever do.  I joined a book club.  The reason I didn't ever see myself joining one is because I don't like being told what to read.  In school that was fine.  But, now that I'm an adult, my time is FAR more valuable.  I didn't want to spend my precious time reading what someone else chose for me.  Especially when I already have a list of a bazillion books I have chosen for myself and chances are they won't be on the top of someone else's list.  I was also afraid of being bored with their choices.  I'm an escapist.  I have enough reality in my life and I need to spend time in someone else's brain/fantasy world.  Since there are so many genres and so many books to chose from, I was scared that all the choices would be somber and boring.  Well, my BFF and a couple of other ladies I know from church decided to join up and I caved.  The first couple of books, as I feared, are going to be tear-jerkers with some heavy material.  But, we voted and fair is fair.  My favorite genre is paranormal and dystopian YA.  LOVE IT.  But some of the others have a slight aversion this type....and that's okay.  We'll meet in the middle, right.  So, thankfully, Everneath, Divergent and Insurgent made it onto the list.  Whew!  Still, now I have to be a good sport and read the serious stuff too.  Wish me luck, I'm great at procrastinating.  I still have a few weeks to get it done, but I'm not sure how I'm gonna buckle down and read a sad book.  It's fine, I'll be fine.  Maybe I'll end up so grateful that someone made me read something I otherwise would never have picked up.  In case you're wondering what the first book assigned is, it's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  If you feel so inclined to join in and read what we're reading, feel free.

So, again, my apologies....but I did not abandon my blog...I was just on hiatus and I'm glad you didn't ditch me.  I'm back on the horse.  Let's read!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review of STARRING IN THE MOVIE OF MY LIFE by Laurel Osterkamp

Starring in the Movie of My Life by Laurel Osterkamp
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Thirty-five-year-old Samantha acts without thinking. Her heart is huge while her sense of purpose is small; she's willing to fight for those she loves, but she's never learned to fight for herself. Eighteen-year-old Melody is cold and calculating, and she's driven by the desire to better herself. As these compelling yet deeply flawed women battle for the affections of twenty-five-year-old Nathan, he becomes increasingly confused and torn between them. Nathan is Melody's English teacher, and after he saves her from being raped, she becomes attached. Melody longs for the affection she's never felt, so she involves people in her self-invented drama, making sure she is at once the star and the director. Meanwhile, Samantha is newly married to Nathan. But Samantha has hang-ups about motherhood and lingering feelings for her ex. To make sense of the world, Sam relates her life to the themes of her favorite movies, while she independently makes a documentary to jump-start her non-existent film career. Stylistically influenced by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, Starring in the Movie of my Life is told alternately from both Samantha's and Melody's points-of-view and relates two complete yet combined stories about love, acceptance, and redemption. It speaks to our universal desire to be saved by the ones we love, and the monumental effort required to save ourselves.
My Review: 5 stars
I was pleasantly surprised by how great this book is.  Which makes me all the more happy to be a part of this book tour.  It's a smart read with great depth.  A book that you can read and enjoy and also one you can pick apart and still be thinking about days later.  It makes you think.

The story is told from 2 points of view.  Samantha is the adult married to a high school teacher and Melody is a senior in high school with an unhealthy infatuation with Samantha's husband.  The book starts out with Nathan Lindon, Samantha's husband, saving Melody from being raped by a fellow student.  Melody then decides that what she feels isn't gratitude but, romantic love.  She then develops a plan to steal him away from his wife, who she isn't very impressed with.
Although Melody and Samantha are completely different personalities, both are hugely flawed.  Just when I thought I could stand behind one and condemn the actions of the other, the character I rallied behind does something reprehensible and condemning.  Then I'm left feeling critical of all the characters.  Which makes the book so believable and realistic.  Laurel Osterkamp's characters are deeply flawed and complex.
Someone interested in psychology could spend hours dissecting the characters and the types of personalities they are.  Samantha is flighty, impulsive and has deep-rooted issues with commitment, despite being married to Nathan.  They both claim to love each other, but I'm not sure I was ever convinced.  What I mean is, I believe that they believed they loved each other, but I couldn't say I thought it really was more than convenient tolerance and mutual need.

Meanwhile, Melody is the opposite.  She is methodic, manipulative, calculating and meticulous.  She's so smart and so stupid at the same time.  Her neediness and entitlement issues are part of her downfall.  Both women weave such tangled webs and desperately look to Nathan to save them and fill the voids in their lives.  And while Nathan seems like a pretty great guy, he's fatalistically naive.

What I really valued about this book was it's honesty.  It's honesty about how flawed, vulnerable, needy and afraid people are.  It's honest about how even though people make mistakes, big and small, everyone hopes for redemption and then true happiness to follow.  It's honest about how so many people are afraid to be the real them and in turn grow tired and unable of maintaining the facade and ultimately end up hitting rock bottom.  And it's honest about owning up to your mistakes and their consequences.  You can tell that Ms. Osterkamp knows people and their natures.

Another aspect of this book I enjoyed were the steady use of movie references.  I'm a movie buff and I think I'd seen all the movies mentioned except for one, so I got it.  I understood her fascination with movies and how she used the comparisons.

All in all, this book was fantastic.  A really enjoyable read and the author has gained another fan in me.  I like to make mention in my reviews of use of profanity in my reviews and in this book the use was low.  Probably 5 words or less, but they did come up.

I'm happy to also be able to giveaway a copy of this book.  For a chance to win an ecopy of this book, simply leave a comment about this review and a winner will be chosen by use of on July 6th.
Purchase links:

Laurel Osterkamp's first novel, Following My Toes, published by PMI Books, won the 2008 National Indie Book Award for Excellence (Chick Lit category). She drew on her experiences as a high school film studies and creative writing teacher as she wrote Starring in the Movie of my Life. Currently she lives in Minneapolis with her husband, son, and daughter, and is working on her third novel

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review of JESSICA RULES THE DARK SIDE by Beth Fantaskey

Series:  Book 2 (sequel to Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side)
Synopsis via Goodreads:
It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?

My Review:  4 Stars 
I thought book 1, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, was a fun read.  Really cute, not too serious.  Book 2 is similar.  If you enjoyed Jessica's first story, you'll love the second.  I did.  

Jessica and Lucius are married and completely in love.  Everything else should just be gravy, right?  Wrong.  Being royal is not the same as ruling a kingdom.  Jessica is having a lot of difficulty finding her backbone when it come to the politics and governing.  She's feeling out of place and exuding a lack of confidence.  This is a huge problem for the happy couple because they need to a majority of the Elders' votes, in order to be exalted to King and Queen.  Jessica knows that this is Lucius' rightful place - King and ruler.  But is it hers?

When Lucius is framed for the murder of an elder, she has no choice but to assert herself and take charge in his absence.  Since vampire mlaw states that blood is denied to those accused of murder, Jessica finds herself racing against the clock to find who has betrayed them and to save Lucius' from falling into a coma from blood deprivation. 

Thankfully, Jessica has her bestie, Mindy, and Lucius' mysterious cousin, Raniero.  These guys keep the spice and angst in the story.   Mindy and Raniero add comic relief, when they can.  For the most part, Jessica Rules is a more serious installment.  It's still a lighter vampire novel for the younger YA crowd, but there's a darker aspect to this one.  It's a life and death of your true love and murder kind of dark, without taking itself too seriously.

I think this is what I like best about Beth Fantaskey's stories.  There's dark content, but not in a slit-your-wrist kind of way.  She's able to separate herself from the other vampire stories by doing this, being silly and flirtatious.  Her books are fun!  She the kind of author that stands out to me, because her storytelling is so different.  I find myself laughing, biting my nails and swooning at some of the things Lucius and Raniero say.

So, if you liked the first book, definitely give the second one a try.  Just be forewarned that it's a tad darker and most of the romantic fun comes from Mindy and Raniero (since Lucius is in solitary confinement with his life on the line).   I anxiously await the sequel!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review of DRIVEN by Lisa Nowak

DRIVEN by Lisa Nowak
Full Throttle series
Synopsis via Goodreads:
The last thing on 16-year-old Jess DeLand’s wish list is a boyfriend. She’d have to be crazy to think any guy would look twice at her. Besides, there are more important things to hope for, like a job working on cars and an end to her mom’s drinking. Foster care is a constant threat, and Jess is willing to sacrifice anything to stay out of the system. When luck hands her the chance to work on a race car, she finds herself rushing full throttle into a world of opportunities—including a boy who doesn’t mind the grease under her fingernails. The question is, can a girl who keeps herself locked up tighter than Richard Petty’s racing secrets open up enough to risk friendship and her first romance?
My Review: 5+ Stars 
Lisa, you've done it again!  Driven is hands down my favorite book in the series.  Pure literary joy. I didn't think Running Wide Open could be topped.  I was wrong.  I really couldn't put this one down.  I've never given a book higher than 5 stars, but I'm throwing in a plus on this one - I loved it that much.

In book 3 of the Full Throttle series, Lisa Nowak has taken a different approach with her story.  Instead of the story being told from Cody Everett's point of view, it's now Jess DeLand's turn.  And she does not disappoint!  The story is told from her perspective as her world collides with that of  our favorite characters' from the previous books.  This is a nice change and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The story is an emotional roller coaster ride, while being heartfelt, real and relatable, the entire way through.  

Jess DeLand has it rough.  Her dad walked out when she was 8, leaving her in her mother's care.  While not an uncommon situation, this is an extreme hardship on her because her mother is an alcoholic.  Jess has endured things no child should have to ever endure.  Such as having to go to a bar, at the age of 10, and dragging her drunk mom home because her keys have been confiscated by the bartender.  Or having to cut a much needed, much deserved evening with friends short because she has to collect her mom from the police dept. after she's busted for a DUI.  Or having to work 2 jobs to help meet their basic needs because her mom can't be bothered to make it to work on time and hold down 1 job.

Luckily, Jess has skills.  Before he left, her father cultivated in her a love of automotive mechanics.  Her dream job is to work on cars, particularly racing ones.  One day, Jess get a lucky break.  She's offered the opportunity to live her dream of working on race cars . . . .  and getting paid for it.  No more flipping burgers for her.  The bonus comes as she develops real friendships for the first time in her life.  Having to hide her mom's abusive, neglectful and alcoholic tendencies has meant she could never make friends for fear her secret would be discovered and she'd end up in foster care.  But, her new  boss, teenage race car driver, Teri-Sue Cline and her younger brother Rhett, become the siblings she's never had.  What she also wasn't expecting was the attention of one Cody Everett.  After she takes a few swings at his head in a fit of rage, he can't seem to stay away from her.

Things are far from normal or easy for her.  She's trying to find balance in her life, and it's proving to be a difficult task.  Especially for someone who isn't accustomed to asking for help from anyone, no matter how dire her circumstances become.

What I most enjoyed about this book, is how all my favorite characters are  incorporated into Jess' life, in addition to the new ones.  Cody's and Jess' worlds mesh perfectly and we get what we loved about the previous books with a new, equally endearing story and protagonist.  Although their relationship starts off on a hostile note, Cody and Jess compliment each other beautifully and find that they have a lot more than a love for the race track, in common.

"I understand how it is, not knowing what's gonna happen to you because your parents are too messed up to put you first." - Cody

Lisa's characters have tugged at my heartstrings since book 1.   They are lovable and endearing as well as infuriating.  I find myself wishing some of these people were real and that I was part of their inner circle.  Their devotion to each other melts my heart.  While some are selfish, flawed, and deeply troubled, others are fiercely loyal, sweet, vulnerable, dependable and sincere.  As always, both sides of humanity are displayed.  You have those who practice unconditional love and those who can't see past their own wants and desires.  They elicit a wide range of emotions from the reader.

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Lisa Nowak's.   She's easily one of my favorite authors.  She has a way of telling a wonderful, compelling story with incredible depth and humanity.  This enables her to pull the reader in and make you care as if you've become a part of her characters' family.  Her writing style is completely enjoyable.  It's easy and flows effortlessly, never distracting from the storyline.  If anyone has been on the fence about this series, I guarantee this book will seal the deal. 

You can find my reviews of  Running Wide Open HERE and Getting Sideways HERE.

Purchase links for DRIVEN:

About the author:
In addition to being a YA author, Lisa Nowak is a retired amateur stock car racer, an accomplished cat whisperer, and a professional smartass. She writes coming-of-age books about kids in hard luck situations who learn to appreciate their own value after finding mentors who love them for who they are. She enjoys dark chocolate and stout beer and constantly works toward employing wei wu wei in her life, all the while realizing that the struggle itself is an oxymoron.

Lisa has no spare time, but if she did she’d use it to tend to her expansive perennial garden, watch medical dramas, take long walks after dark, and teach her cats to play poker. For those of you who might be wondering, she is not, and has never been, a diaper-wearing astronaut. She lives in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her husband, four feline companions, and two giant sequoias.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


This year's edition of THE BOOK BLOGGER"S COOKBOOK is out and it's fabulous.  The recipes are simple enough that even someone like me can whip them together.  The reviews have been positive and this includes mine as well.  It was fun to see what fellow book bloggers, like myself, had to say about books I've read and one's I still haven't been able to get to yet.  I enjoyed reading reviews from book bloggers I currently follow and one's I'd never heard of before.  What a way to bring us together!

The books featured in this edition are:

Some of the delicious recipes you'll find in the book are:
Beignet Chess Squares
Jagged Ham
Octavian Ribs
Polite Pumpkin Custard
On the Go Ice Cream
Lumba Berry Pie
Everliving Soup
Modern Day Rootbeer Cookies
Wind-whirled Ice Cream Cake

I was immediately sold on the idea of this book.  It's genius.  Combine delicious recipes and pair them with book in the Young Adult genre.  Bloggers and readers have to eat, right?  Of course, being me, I headed straight for the dessert recipes.  The first one I tried was the On the Go Caramel Ice Cream Topping - which is the the recipe my review of WATCHED is featured in!  See my full review of Cindy M. Hogan's book HERE. 

Funny thing is, I'm not a caramel lover.  But, I really wanted to give it a try...AND it did not disappoint!  It's so delicious and my husband and 4 kids loved it.  It only has 3 simple ingredients:  bananas, brown sugar and butter.  It serves 6, which was perfect for my family size.  Thanks, Christy, for putting together such a wonderful book.  Although I haven't tried all the recipes, I will.

I love the idea of this book and what it does for people who love to try new things.  If you get the cookbook right now, it's only 0.99!  But this won't last for very long, so hurry and snatch it up!  To find out more about Christy and the incredible giveaways she's doing during her book launch visit her website HERE where you could win $200 worth of books!

Also on the tour stop today is Jennifer over at My Life with Books.  So stop by and see what she has cookin'!  And don't forget to enter Christy's GIVEAWAY!

About the author:
 My family means everything to me and I love being a wife to my amazing husband and stay at home mom to five awesome kiddos.

Reading, writing, cooking and Irish dancing make me happy. You will find a little of everything here.

I am a freelance writer and author. My articles have appeared in Feis America Magazine and DiddlyiMag. I write for my local newspaper, The Syracuse Islander, and I recently had an article accepted for the children's Friend Magazine.

I love to read books and review them.  And because I love to cook, I found a way to combine reading with eating--I guess you could call it reating!  I enjoy matching recipes to the books I read and then I blog about them both.  Last year I combined my reviews and recipes with reviews around the blogosphere and created a book.

My first book, The 2011 Book Blogger's Cookbook is now available on Amazon. The 2012 edition is slated to be published in May (if you are an author or blogger who would like to be a part of the 2012 edition, fill out this form). Currently I am working on a non-fiction book on Irish dancing, several picture books and a YA fiction that's in a rough outlining stage.