Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sweet Valley Confidential - Review

Title: Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later
Author: Francine Pascal
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Now with this striking new adult novel from author and creator Francine Pascal, millions of devoted fans can finally return to the idyllic Sweet Valley, home of the phenomenally successful book series and franchise. Iconic and beloved identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back and all grown up, dealing with the complicated adult world of love, careers, betrayal, and sisterhood. 

My thoughts:

This book will never win any awards. But it is definitely a fun way to spend a few hours laying on your bed  reading lazily and indulgently.

This book was pure camp. I saw it on the shelves of the library and snatched it up. I couldn't wait to read it. I had to laugh at myself, it made me think of when I was in middle school and acted the same way over the Sweet Valley High books, my introduction to the twins. I feel as a preteen I learned so much from Elizabeth and Jessica.  I learned that if you snort coke and have a heart murmur, you could die instantly and that you could die of TSS from leaving a tampon in too long. Not that I ever would have thought about trying cocaine! I had too much Elizabeth in me for that kind of rebellion, although I was like Jessica as well.  I wanted to be Lila Fowler though, and date Bruce, with his sports car and vanity license plate that said 1Bruce1.

Sweet Valley Confidential revisits these moments and characters. This time though, the twins are older, in their late twenties, and finding their way in the world. Elizabeth works in New York as an entertainment journalist, drinks, has casual sex, and swears. It was like a whole new Elizabeth! But deep down she still had the same moral code as always. Jessica lives in Sweet Valley still, has a fiancee, and works at a cosmetics company. Most importantly, Elizabeth and Jessica have not spoken for 8 long months.  You learn through a series of flashbacks (that get a little old honestly, especially when Jessica lapses into Valley Girl speak) what caused this rift that may never be reconciled. Or will it?

Like I said, this book will never be considered anything more than it is, a fun piece of fluff. As long as a book is entertaining and enjoyable, it is enough for me sometimes. And this book was not only entertaining, it was a welcome trip down memory lane.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Short Thoughts on a few Southern Books

Return to Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank

I really enjoyed this book! Although I found the main character Beth to be very naive and make really stupid decisions, I had to remember that she was young and I am..older. And wiser. I found the energy of this book to be quick, and the imagery gorgeous. If only I had a house on Sullivan's Island!

Yankee Doodle Dixie by Lisa Patton

Super adorable cover, not as adorable book. We read this for my online book club with my family (called Let's Read Y'all).  The book however was not the best. Not one of us liked the main character Leelee - she was thought to be selfish and prudish, depending on who you talked to. The blurb says that Leelee can't say no and that gets her into trouble; I beg to differ. I think what gets her in trouble is simply poor decision making. We all thought she did exactly what she wanted to do, which sometimes had the least desirable results.

Biscuit Witch by Deborah Smith

I did not care for this book. I don't know if it was how I was reading it or how it was formatted, but I had a hard time understanding whose point of view I was reading. Which seemed to switch a lot and without warning. I chose not to finish this book somewhere near the beginning.

Monday, May 27, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Read Last Week:

Return to Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank: This was a fun and enjoyable read. I loved reading all the bits about the island! Review tomorrow.

Yankee Doodle Dixie by Lisa Patton: I read this for my family online book club; we all hated Leelee the main character! Review tomorrow. 

Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal: I saw this while walking the stacks at the library and had to read it!!!! I was such a fan growing up, I had to see what this new book was like. It was exactly like I thought it would be - a walk down memory lane with characters I was very familiar with.  Review Wednesday. 

Reading This Week:


Seasons of the Sacred Earth by Cliff Seruntine: I saw this on NetGalley and thought it looked interesting. 

Nos4a2 by Joe Hill: Because he is scary!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Read Last Week:


I was so restless last week. Nothing I started to read was good, nothing I ate was any good, I couldn't settle down. I think it was the sudden change in weather - it went from 20 degrees to 80 degrees almost overnight. I feel like this week is going to be better for me. 

I did get some reviews done.  I finished my reviews for:
(click on link for my review)


Reading This Week:


Return to Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank: I love this author, and when I saw this on Sheila from Book Journey's blog, I realized I missed this one somehow! And then I found it at a garage sale Saturday for fifty cents!

Yankee Doodle Dixie by Lisa Patton: This is for my online book club that I started with my family. It looks pretty good!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Clockwork Princess - Review

Title: Clockwork Princess
Author: Cassandra Clare
Source: Library (but buying series)

Goodreads Summary:

Tessa Gray should be happy - aren't all brides happy?
Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute.
A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her.

My Thoughts:

I love this series. I read this book until the wee hours of the morning, and I cried my way through most of the ending. I immediately ran to the living room where my husband was watching a movie (we are night owls) and told him he needed to read the book ASAP. Like I wanted him to start right that very second. He instead promised me it would be the next book he read, which is very good but I am still impatiently waiting for that moment.

This book, the third in the series, ties up all the loose ends.  ALL of them. I was more wrapped up in who will Tessa would end up with, and with Will and Jem, than I was with the central story of The Infernal Devices. I felt like I was twelve again, but oh well, I loved it. I am a Team Jem girl, I admit it. (if my husband were forced to pick, he is Team Will. ) There were a few huge surprises, including the answers to a big secret around Tessa, the question of her parentage and the full nature of her power.

I enjoyed this series more than the Mortal Instruments series. Clare did a wonderful job writing this book - I think it is her best ever.  The end was so beautifully written, and could touch the hearts of any person, young, old, or middle aged. And the big question, Will or Jem, is finally answered.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Backyard Jungle - Review

Title: My Backyard Jungle
Author: James Barilla
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

For James Barilla and his family, the dream of transforming their Columbia, South Carolina, backyard into a haven for wildlife evoked images of kids catching grasshoppers by day and fireflies at night, of digging up potatoes and picking strawberries. When they signed up with the National Wildlife Federation to certify their yard as a wildlife habitat, it felt like pushing back, in however small a way, against the tide of bad news about vanishing species, changing climate, dying coral reefs. Then the animals started to arrive, and Barilla soon discovered the complexities (and possible mayhem) of merging human with animal habitats. What are the limits of coexistence, he wondered? To find out, Barilla set out across continents to explore cities where populations of bears, monkeys, marmosets, and honeybees live alongside human residents. My Backyard Jungle brings these unique stories together, making Barilla’s yard the centerpiece of a meditation on possibilities for coexistence with animals in an increasingly urban world. Not since Gerald Durrell penned My Family and Other Animals have readers encountered a naturalist with such a gift for storytelling and such an open heart toward all things wild.

My thoughts:

I absolutely positively loved this book! When I requested it from NetGalley, I was worried that it could potentially be a little bit boring. Well, let me tell you, I actually couldn't put it down! Barilla's writing style is so engaging and interesting, you get sucked right in to his subject matter.

This book made me think twice about all the little critters that are living around my home. Possums, raccoons, mice, rats - in some cases (not near me!) monkeys and bears!! I can't even imagine having a bear den under my deck and not know about it. But it happens all the time in areas where there are bears.

Barilla talks about the relationship between animals and the ever shrinking areas they live in. They are forced to adapt or die out. And most of the time, like they say in Jurassic Park, "Life finds a way". Life changes, but it still goes on. Sometimes. Obviously, not all the time, and animals still struggle everyday to survive in our new world. My Backyard Jungle focuses however on more successful cases than not so successful. Barilla travels the world, investigating and seeing just how animals live around some of the most populated areas of the world. He relates this back to his own life, and to the lives of people like me and parts of America, the suburban world. Probably the chapter that I liked least was the chapter where Barilla followed an animal removal agent around. I felt sad for the animals that find there ways into homes - I know that I am not a fan myself, for however much I love animals. I still don't want a dead possum in my walls or rats in the attic.

The chapter I enjoyed the most was about bees, in particular the growing apiarist community in Brooklyn. One hive of bees produced red honey one year, and it was discovered they were getting their sugar from a maraschino cherry factory! I knew that the honey from bees would match what is in their environment, like lavender  etc. but learning about the maraschino cherry honey was crazy! And to make it worse, it was terrible tasting as well as bad for you, due to all the Karo syrup.

One thing Barilla did in an effort to share urban space with nature was have his backyard certified through the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat. I was inspired to the do the same, and my husband has agreed to help me, and even is excited as well. He agreed to build me a few bird houses, and even volunteered to add a small pond to our yard. It doesn't seem too terribly hard, and I am already halfway there. I am trying to focus more on fauna that begins with the letter b, such as birds and butterflies, bees and bats- I don't think my neighbors would like it if I enticed vermin to the area.

I really loved this book, and after I read that Barilla teaches creative nonfiction at the University of South Carolina, it made sense as to why this book was so readable. I think it is an interesting and informative read, and should be given a try.

And did you know that monkeys live in a small area of Florida? I didn't, but now I do.

Palisades Park ~ Review

Title: Palisades Park
Author: Alan Brennert
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Growing up in the 1930s, there is no more magical place than Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey—especially for seven-year-old Antoinette, who horrifies her mother by insisting on the unladylike nickname Toni, and her brother, Jack. Toni helps her parents, Eddie and Adele Stopka, at the stand where they sell homemade French fries amid the roar of the Cyclone roller coaster. There is also the lure of the world’s biggest salt-water pool, complete with divers whose astonishing stunts inspire Toni, despite her mother's insistence that girls can't be high divers.

But a family of dreamers doesn't always share the same dreams, and then the world intrudes: There's the Great Depression, and Pearl Harbor, which hits home in ways that will split the family apart; and perils like fire and race riots in the park. Both Eddie and Jack face the dangers of war, while Adele has ambitions of her own—and Toni is determined to take on a very different kind of danger in impossible feats as a high diver. Yet they are all drawn back to each other—and to Palisades Park—until the park closes forever in 1971.

Evocative and moving, with the trademark brilliance at transforming historical events into irresistible fiction that made Alan Brennert’s Moloka'i and Honolulu into reading group favorites, Palisades Park takes us back to a time when life seemed simpler—except, of course, it wasn't.

My thoughts:

I love an amusement park, all of them and any of them. I even love fairs and festivals and those local fly by night carnivals. Midways, games of chance, rides, French fries, the squeals of excitement, fear, and laughter, families having fun together. For my part of the world, our Palisades Park was Boblo Island, and not a summer goes by that I don’t miss going there.

In high school, we read the poem “A Coney Island Life” by James Weil, and I repeat the lines to myself on occasion – and I kept thinking of the two lines as I read this book – “Having lived a coney island life/on roller coaster ups and downs..” It so perfectly describes the lives of the characters in Palisades Park.  It all began with an idyllic visit to the park with his family for Eddie Stopka, when he was just a kid. It became that brass ring of a memory that he wanted to recapture and live in for his whole life

Palisades Park was an amusement park in New Jersey, on the city lines between Cliffside and Fort Lee. It survived through wars and fire from the 1930s to the day it closed its doors in 1971. Eddie and his family are the main focus, although their story includes many other colorful characters. 

 After living as a hobo for some years, Eddie finds himself back home and drawn to Palisades Park, where he starts his life anew.  He marries Adele, has two children, Toni and Jack, and all four of their lives are mixed in with the life of Palisades Park itself. Brennert has a way of combining a small story with the events of the world at large, through all the good times and bad. He does not fail in this when it comes to Palisades Park. You feel the up and down roller coaster emotions of these characters, empathizing and rooting for them. (Except Adele!)

There is just so much to say about this book, but I would prefer not to. I would prefer for you to uncover it the way I did, savoring it like a hot summer day, falling just a bit in love with it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? ~ May 13th

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

It was another busy fun week! My cousin graduated from college with a degree in Social Work on Thursday, and invited me to attend her commencements. I teared up at the end, thinking of how hard she worked for this degree, and still worked a job and took care of her two children.  She is definitely going to do some good out there.

I also worked outside all day on Saturday, planting flowers in our front yard. My favorite purchase is a strawberry vanilla hydrangea, which looks like a sno-cone. Unfortunately, we woke up Sunday to frigid weather! It is supposed to go down to 20 degrees tonight!! 

Read Last Week:


My Backyard Jungle by James Barilla This book made me think twice about the animals that might be in or near my year. Yikes! The book was very informational, but written in a easy to read way, that was interesting and not boring. Review will be up Wednesday.

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert: And Brennert does not disappoint! I love love loved this book. So good! Review up Tuesday. 

The Sassy Belles by Beth Albright: Not my cup of (sweet) tea. 

Reading This Week:


The Biscuit Witch by Deborah Smith: I usually pick up books with Witch in the title. I can't help it. 

And... I am out of books!!! I will be visiting the library tomorrow after work. Probably with a list of books that I have seen on your blogs!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Shorty Book Reviews

The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb

Let's start with you Mercy Alban. I read you under perfect conditions - slighty overcast, rainy, yet greening from the spring.  The stage was set. The book itself was very creepy! I read most of it in my bed before sleeping and sometimes freaked myself out.  The Fate of Mercy Alban has the classic lines of a Gothic - old crumbly house with a checkered past and murky mysterious history, a white lady, and hidden tunnels. Oh yeah. But then, we found out more of what was going on, and it fell flat. Sad.  Also, I wasn't buying the romance either. I kept waiting for the love interest to do something, like try to kill her or what have you, but nope, he was just a love interest.  If I were the type of girl to give stars, I would give this one 3 out of 5 stars. It gets 3 rather than 2 because it scared me.

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews

This one I adored. I love the south, food, cooking shows, and English Setters. This book had it all. Cute and fun, perfect for summer.  For why I love English Setters check out the page Penny and the Cats on my blog.

The Sassy Belles by Beth Albright

So, I didn't have super high expectations of this book, but I did expect it to be entertaining. Unfortunately, it missed the mark for me. I just wanted something fluffy and fun, but this book was just uncomfortable. The characters weren't honest or endearing, although one part where the women were gathered around the main character in solidarity almost got there. But it is hard to feel sorry for a character that is cheated on when they had already started down the same path. The only thing I liked about this book was the cover.

I borrowed the idea of  doing short little reviews sometimes from Jennifer at The Relentless Reader. Other people may do them as well, but I saw them there first.

Monday, May 6, 2013

April Book Club

Hostess: Jennifer
Book: Defending Jacob by William Landay
Food:  Chickpea and Kale Stew, Cheese/Beer Dip, Homemade Bread, Fruit Salad with a Citrus Glaze, and adorable desserts
Month: April
Wine of the Night: Smoking Loon Pinot Noir

This was a rough week for a lot of us.  I had book fair, Jill and Chrissy had finals, Mary and Alyssa had been volunteering at the book fair, Jennifer had to get ready for us to descend upon her like locusts, and Kelly had wedding duties and couldn't attend. However, the day was beautiful and everyone was looking very forward to book club at Jennifer's house, to kick back, relax, imbibe, and eat.

This was the line up when we walked in:

We waited about five minutes to see how far away Mary and Alyssa were, and when we realized they were still twenty minutes away, decided it was time to eat. The stew was filling and yummy, and I am going to make it myself some time in the future.  But then, I can eat soup and stew everyday, its my favorite. The beer cheese dip is from Founders, and I seriously ate the hell out of it. I liked it more than the dessert, which I am sure seems crazy. And dessert was fantastic by the way, so that tells you something about the dip. Jennifer got the dessert from Shatila's, and they were almost too pretty to eat!

But we did eat them. I actually only ate half of mine, and Jill ate the other half, since I had pigged out on the dip. Lol.

Jennifer and I talked about the book, which I had devoured almost as quickly as the cheese dip.  I read it in just a few hours, and it kept me on the edge of my seat!! It led to a general discussion about nature vs. nurture, and whether there is a "murder gene".  Fascinating stuff, in my opinion.  I am thinking about reading Landay's other books since I loved this one so much.

As always, we had a great time getting together, chatting, and chilling.  Next month is Chrissy's month, and she has picked Into the Darkest Corner for everyone to read. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading ~ May 6

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Read Last Week:


Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare: I found myself crying at 1:30 in the morning over this book!  I really loved it, but now I feel I need to read  the Mortal Instruments Series again to clear up some questions in my head.  But I loved this book and wanted to gush about it to my husband immediately after reading it, but he is reading the series too, and wouldn't let me reveal spoilers. 

The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb: This book fell a little short for me although the atmosphere was perfect.

Reading this Week:


My Backyard Jungle by Robert Barilla: I received this from Netgalley. I had to check it out, I have always thought it would be cool to transform the backyard into a habitat.

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert: I didn't get to this last week, sadly.

The Sassy Belles by Beth Albright: I needed something bright and shiny to read, to match the new weather we are having.