Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Hello, everyone! I would love to try and keep this blog up to date, because I do not do a blog on every book I read. I DO list them on Goodreads, but maybe I SHOULD start writing about each one. 

I HAD to write about this one. I just finished The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. 

I was so excited to read this. I am going to be totally honest...and you will hopefully get a kick out of this. I actually bought this book back in February. I started it in September and finished it last night. I know that sounds like a huge gap, but I get distracted with other books and things to read. Also, I hardly ever buy books. I know that sounds strange, but I just get a lot of books from my library. If a title I want is new and I know it won't be in the library readily available, I just put them on hold and wait. I have plenty of other books in my pile to keep me occupied. But, I digress! 

So, I bought this book, threw it in the pile and read other things. I was so looking forward to reading it because it takes place in New York, which is my favorite city. And, even though I don't live there, I visit as much as I can. Anyway, this was a historical piece taking place in Coney Island back when Dreamland was being constructed and also in Manhattan during the time of the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. 

The book focuses on Coralie, the daughter of a "professor" who runs The Museum of Extraordinary Things in Coney Island. The museum features side show sort of attractions, including people, like the Butterfly Girl, etc. What I liked about this part of the book was reading about the human side of the performers that were explored. I also liked researching certain things, like Dreamland, which I had never heard about until I read this book. 

The other part of the book is about Eddie, an immigrant who lost his mother and traveled through very trying times and situations with his father in order to start a new life in New York. Eddie is very jaded by the life his father has carved out for them doing back breaking work in a factory. Eddie sets out and makes his own life, shunning his father due to his bitterness. Eventually, Eddie finds his place in the world as a photographer. 

There is a love story in this as well as a mystery woven through the book surrounding one of the workers in the Shirtwaist fire. 

Now, that being said, it sounds like it would be totally engrossing and I am sure to some people, it was. But, I started this book in September and ended it last night on November 8, 2014. I kept putting it down to read other things. I wanted to see what happened, but I found it kind of overwhelming. There are a lot of bad things that happen in this book and the author pulls no punches when describing certain events. 

Now, like I said, I wanted to finish it, but to be totally honest, I was glad when it was over. I started a new book with an overwhelming sense of relief. I know that must sound dramatic, but I really was relieved. 

I couldn't help notice the long list of other Alice Hoffman books in the first pages of this book. Unfortunately, The Museum of Extraordinary Things was my first Ms. Hoffman book, but, fortunately, it will not be my last. This is for two reasons. One, I noticed a good amount people saying on Goodreads that they wished she would come forward and say she didn't write this one. This gives me the impression that her other ones were written differently, and I am all for giving another one a whirl. And, two, I am always looking for a different author with a good number of titles on their list. 

If you have a favorite Alice Hoffman book, please let me know about it in the comments below! 

On to the next book! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Well, I started out being really into this book. I thoroughly enjoyed Jojo Moyes' book Me Before You, so, naturally I was looking forward to reading this. Then, I was excited when I got into it so quickly. 

I know I am going to get a lot of eye rolls at this review because it got so many rave reviews on Goodreads.  But, as it went on, I disliked it. That being said, that could be my fault because I couldn't get past one thing and I am hoping someone out there can clarify this issue.

First, a very short summary. Jess, a single mother of a 10 year old math prodigy and an approximate 15 year old stepson, Nicky,  struggles every day of her life. Her husband, and both the children's father, Marty, has abandoned the family for what Jess thinks is a break, and doesn't help at all with the kids he has left behind. She works as a cleaner and a barmaid but can't make ends meet. 

Jess' part in the story really starts when her math wizard daughter, Tanzie, is given an offer to attend a prestigious school due to her ability in math. However, even with a 90 percent scholarship, Jess cannot afford the rest of the tuition. 

It is then presented that Tanzie can win big money if she wins a math competition. However, the competition takes place in Scotland and Jess can't afford to get there.

Enter Ed Nicholls, a rich computer software guru who Jess cleans for sometimes. Ed is on the brink of getting charged with insider trading, but still agrees to drive Jess, Tanzie, Nicky and their dog Norman to Scotland after feeling he owes Jess for getting him home in a drunken stupor one night. 

The rest of the book takes place over days during the car trip to Scotland. It is a good story, but totally predictable. 

I am going to throw it out there. Jess started getting on my nerves. I understand people have horrible troubles and really struggle. But, her attitude annoyed me. "I'll just sleep on the chair" "We'll just take a bus." Even later,  (I won't spoil it here) when the family receives very generous donations for a completely different matter: "We'll pay back every penny." She took on the air of a martyr and that is something that bugs me. 

It also seemed to me that as the car ride went on, Jess acted sort of entitled to this huge favor Ed was doing for her. Putting her feet up on his dashboard, making Ed's car a trashbin...I don't know, I just think she should have seemed a little more respectful and appreciative. 

But! Here was the real issue that I couldn't get past and I hope someone can clear this up: HOW OLD WAS MARTY SUPPOSED TO BE? I say this because it stated in the book that Jess was 19 when Nicky came to live with them. It also stated several times that Nicky was 8 at the time as well. So, if Nicky's father was supposed to be around the same age, he had him at 11?? Let's say he was one year older....12? Two years older than her ...13? Am I missing something?

For the most part, I liked all the other characters in the book. Tanzie and yes, Norman were my favorites. :) 

Please feel free to leave your comments and PLEASE, someone help me with the age thing! 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The River by Beverly Lewis

I was so excited to read this! Number one, I received a free copy from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. Number two, I love Beverly Lewis' books and finally number three, I drove about an hour to York, Pennsylvania when I heard that Mrs. Lewis was doing a book signing. I couldn't wait to meet her! Plus, the very DAY that I set out to go to the book signing, was the day I got the book in the mail. 

One day, many years ago, I was in Lancaster County, and I saw Mrs. Lewis' book, The Shunning, in gift shop. I read the back of the book and was immediately intrigued. I got the book and needless to say I was hooked and have read almost all of Mrs. Lewis' books so far (I am two behind in the Hickory Hollow series). 

The River is a story of Tilly and Ruth, two sisters who left their Amish roots for the more modern world, each for their own reasons. They have been busy making new lives in the "English" world so when they receive word from their brother back in Lancaster County that their parents are set to have a little anniversary celebration and would like them to consider coming back to join in the festivities, both girls hesitate.

Tilly blames herself for her youngest sister's drowning years ago and still can't come to terms with it, while Ruth still struggles with being hurt by a former beau, still living in Lancaster County.

Their brother then informs them that their father is having health issues and this pushes the sisters to the decision that they should return to their home. 

After they arrive home, secrets are revealed and feelings and hearts must be somehow mended. Tilly and Ruth themselves must find peace with decisions they have made in the past as well. Can they find solace within the family and with themselves? 

I really enjoyed this book. I love when you really want to know what happens to the characters in a story. 

And as far as meeting Mrs. Lewis, she was an absolute delight. She was very gracious and appreciative of her fans. I was so glad I made the trip to meet her! 

Have you read the book? Let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Table By the Window

Juliette is going through a hard time in life. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away, and her mother is facing a cancer diagnosis. Through a shared love of food, cooking and the family restaurant, Juliette finds the support she needs from her parents and her four siblings. However, Juliette finds something missing. She is lonely and is looking for her true love.

While she's waiting, she throws herself into helping her brother, Nico, open a restaurant and into piecing together the story behind a photograph of a man who is NOT Juliette's grandfather, that was hidden in one of her grandmother's cookbooks.

This book was so charming. It's part love story, part mystery. I love books where characters seem so real. As an added bonus, the book features actual recipes that Juliette is making in the story. 

I read somewhere there is a sequel coming and I hope that is true! I can't wait to see what happens with the characters in the book. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Mosely

This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review from Waterbrook Multnomah. A Christian fiction book, it is also has a side of mystery. This story is about Laura and her return to her hometown, unfortunately, due to his mother's death.  This homecoming holds not only the sadness of Laura's mother, but also the chance to reunite with her old high school boyfriend and her best friend, too. 

However, rumors are circling the small town that Laura's father, who was presumed dead in a drowning when Laura was a teenager, has been seen on the outskirts of town. Reeling from the death of her mother, Laura sets out, hope against hope that her father may still be alive. 

I admit, this took me a little bit of time to get through...however, I am glad I stuck with it. It was part just regular Christian Fiction, but part mystery, too. It kept my attention enough to keep going to find out the mystery part. 

I think the author made well rounded characters, because even the side stories were interesting. All in all, I enjoyed this story and I would recommend it. 

Thank you to the Blogging for Books program for the copy of this book. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall

I so wanted to like this book. I love Amish fiction and I was hoping to really get into this one around the holidays. I started it in November and was looking forward to reading it into the Christmas season. This is a three in one collection. 

I love other Amish fiction authors and have tried a few Cindy Woodsmall books and just can't get into them. It frustrates me because I can't put my finger on why I can't get into this author but I just can't. They just seem to drag and not really go anywhere. But, this is just my opinion. This will be the last one of this author's I try. In case you're interested, my favorite Amish fiction authors are Wanda Brunstetter and Beverly Lewis. 

I received a copy for free from WaterBrook Mutlnomah in exchange for an honest review. 

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

The Last Original WifeThe Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Where do I start with this one? I loved Frank's book, Folly Beach, and I liked Plantation. I was okay with Porch Lights, but this one was so obnoxious. Are we supposed to feel one bit of "like" for Leslie? I understand Wes is no picnic and a jerk, but Leslie's sense of entitlement is sickening. I guess it might just be me. I work for a living and don't understand when people believe that money that someone else makes is theirs. YES, I am married and my husband and I share everything, but I would be mortified if I had to ask him for money especially for trivial things.

Leslie boo hoos about what she doesn't have and that she has had to scrimp and save...please. I don't know anyone who has a housekeeper that has to "clip coupons." Then she proceeds (spoiler alert) to demand half of Wesley's money that he worked for. I understand that half is the spouse's under the law, but good Lord, Leslie has no self respect. If she wanted money to do God knows what, then she could have at the very least gotten a part time job. I know she claimed Wesley didn't "want" her to work, but if she wanted to badly enough she would have. I have no sympathy for her whatsoever.

I really do hate that entitlement attitude. Also, for her to say a few times that she didn't want a divorce but wanted to run amok was another sticking point to me. Quite honestly, ALL the characters were annoying. I can't think of one redeeming quality in any of them.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Wow. There's nothing I like better than a book that makes me think and makes me go on the internet and learn more about the scenarios I am reading about. This book made me do both. 

This book is about thirteen year old Henry who lives in Chinatown in the Seattle area in the early 40's. Henry's father is dead set against the family's nearby Japanese neighborhood and everyone in it. Everyone becomes paranoid against ALL things Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Henry witnesses this first hand during the war when Executive Order 9066 is issued and the only friend he has, Keiko, a young, innocent, Japanese girl, who happens to be an American citizen, is rounded up with her family and taken to one of the Japanese internment camps.

And so off to Google I went, reading what I could about our dark history when we jailed our own citizens out of fear. Amazing, frightening and not that long ago, if you think about it. 

But the other thing that was real in this book is the hotel in the title. The Panama Hotel sat as a gateway between the Chinese and Japanese neighborhood near Seattle. I was stunned to find out that it does exist and looked at pictures of that as well.  

The book alternates between the 40's when Henry is young and watching his world fall apart around him and current time, when Henry is dealing with the loss of his wife and also struggling with communicating with his grown son, Marty. 

I was RIVETED to this book. And not to give too much away, while many parts gave me chills, one specific part with Henry's friend, Sheldon had me in real tears. I haven't had a book touch me like this in a long time. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Beginning of Everything by Robin Schneider

I kept hearing one thing after another about this book. Then, I realized it was a young adult book and I almost passed it by. THEN, I heard that it didn't matter that it was a young adult book, it was still a great read. I then decided to read it. 

Well, this is one that I was glad I didn't buy (I got it from the library). I should have left it in the hands of the young adults. 

The premise is this: High school student Ezra Faulkner had it all, good grades, good friends, a positive looking future in tennis, massive popularity in his school, when all of a sudden one day, it all came down around him. A victim of a hit and run car crash, he loses all possibility of college scholarships and loses his place as king of his circle of the popular friends. He also loses his girlfriend, Charlotte while recuperating over the summer from the accident. 

Ezra fights to find his new place when he returns to school. He meets up with some old childhood friends that he left behind as his popularity soared and he begins sitting with them at lunch and starts building a new life in his senior year. 

Enter Cassidy Thorpe, a girl who just transferred to Ezra's school. Ezra's friend, Toby, vaguely knows Cassidy from being on the debate team and having seen her at various multi school competitions. There's something about Cassidy that is somewhat mysterious and Toby tells Ezra to leave well enough alone. However, desperate for a new identity and new life, Ezra himself joins the debate team and develops a predictable relationship with Cassidy. 

What ensues is a typical teenage love affair, and that is fine. That's what happens when you're a lucky teenager in love. I don't want to begrudge the author this part of the story.  

However, Cassidy turns on Ezra on a dime. And the reader is left wondering why. Cassidy gives some lame excuse but the reader should know even with the excuse she gives that there is going to be more to the story. And there is: SPOILER ALERT!!!! 

Cassidy's brother is dead. Okay, that is traumatic, I get it. BUT, there is another part that is too coincidental, in my opinion. The brother is the one who crashed into Ezra's car, causing the devastating injuries.  Cassidy's brother doesn't die from the car crash, but for other health reasons. 

I guess I can say that for all intents and purposes I guess the "twist" was original at the end, but I thought that "twist" was too unbelievable. But, then again, like I said, maybe I should have left this one to the young ones. 

On to other books. I just started On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. 

Happy reading, everyone!