Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shall I Compare Thee..Book Reviews: Conversion and The Fever


I just read these two books and they were eerily similar. Almost like Howe and Abbott were hanging out together and this was a writing prompt. 

I read Conversion first, and I really liked it!! I didn't get all the answers I wanted, but I still really enjoyed it. 

Conversion: In Salem Village high school girls fall one by one to mysterious seizures and other weird symptoms, such as coughing up various items like twigs and other things you really wouldn't be coughing up. Hysteria ensues, the HPV vaccine is blamed, sexuality in teenage girls is blamed, PANDAS is blamed. All of this is taking place while the main character Colleen is reading The Crucible. The reader also gets flashbacks to the Salem Witch trials, which is really interesting. In the end, the reason for the outbreak is simple, but not what you would expect. I really liked this book a lot, especially with all the Salem history in it, fictionalized or not. This book was supernatural, where The Fever is not, however.

The Fever I read afterwards, and I just didn't like it that much. I am a huge Abbott fan, so I was excited, but once I began reading it, it was like deja vu. High school girls suffering seizures and other weird symptoms. Hysteria ensues, the HPV vaccine is blamed, sexuality in teenage girls is blamed, PANDAS is blamed. We are led to believe the cause is one thing, but it really much more simple. And very similar to the reason in Conversion, give or take. I thought this version of the similar story was less interesting than Conversion, and I had a hard time finishing it. 

It was odd to read two books that were so alike. I am sure it was not on purpose, but it was weird. Maybe if I had read The Fever first, I would have liked it more, but I don't think so. I think the supernatural aspects and the Salem history made Conversion the better read. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: California by Edan Lepucki

Title: California
Author: Edan Lepucki
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can't reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other. But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant. 

Terrified of the unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses its own dangers. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent,California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind's dark nature and irrepressible resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

My thoughts:

I was really excited to read this novel. I love the vintage type cover, and the premise was promising, sounding like my kind of book, dystopian and creepy. It has taken me some time to write this review, there are so many little nuances to it, but I was also left with some questions.

In California, the world has been devastated. California has been torn apart by earthquakes, the midwest buried in unrelenting blizzards, life is hard, and people are living a most basic existence. There are a few Communities out there, owned by big name companies like Walmart and Amazon, where the quality of life is much like pre-apocalypse.

Cal and Frida decide to strike out on their own, and leave L.A. to live in the wilderness. There are a lot of flashbacks, and we learn that Frida has a brother Micah who went a little militant. Frida finds out she is pregnant, and here is where things begin to change and get a little nutso.

I thought this book was a little slow, and kind of plodded along. Also, I felt like it could have been longer. I wanted to know more about so many different things that came up in the book, and they were just glossed right over. I wanted more info, I wanted answers! As for the characters, I really liked Cal. He seemed steady and honest, loyal, someone you could depend on. I didn't like Frida as much. She seemed duplicitous, and shifty. But hey, she made great bread.

To me, this book is about human nature - our heights, our depths, our motives, our desires, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Survival is a nasty business, and when people are brought down low, who knows what can happen.

Overall, I did like this book. I felt like it could have been developed a bit further, but I did like the world Lepucki created a lot. The biggest problem was that I wanted more of it! Sadly, I could see some of the stuff that happens in this book really happening, so perhaps this book could be taken as a warning.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list.

I apologize for not getting around to everyone's blogs two weeks ago who commented on mine. My week went nuts!

I am a bit behind on my blogging! My husband and I went on a quick trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and had a blast! It was so relaxing and beautiful.  

Read Last Two Weeks:


Conversion by Katherine Howe: It finally came in! Woohoo! I loved it. 

Nantucket Red by Leila Howland: This was a fun easy read on vacation.

The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank: I love Frank, and her books signify summer to me.

Reading This Week:


Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore: I read about this somewhere and thought it looked good.

Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah: Reading for July in Paris. 

Speaking of, who watched the Tour de France? Omg, I was a little addict! I watched all of them, except for the stages when I was on vacation. I plan on doing a quick post about it for Paris in July.

I also plan on catching up on my reviews this week!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Playing Hooky

I have been away on a little vacation to Michigan's Upper Peninsula with my hubs. I went once when I was in high school, and considering attending Northern University, but that was a little bit of time ago. That time, my dad was the one who drove across the Mackinac Bridge, not me. This time, it was me. I have a huge fear of heights that extends to bridges, and the Mackinac Bridge is no joke, yo. 

It is the longest suspension bridge in the Western hemisphere at 5 miles, and at its peak is 200 feet about the water. It gets windy up there too. I remember when I was younger, a Yugo tragically blew over the side with a woman in it. Now there are transports on windy days that escort cars over. We decided that it would be easier for me to drive across than be the passenger; I would have something to concentrate on rather than just looking at the water below. I white knuckled it all the way across, but I did it! 

An hour and a half later, we reached our destination - the cutest little cabin ever! I am a city girl at heart, and I was freaked out by the thought of staying in an isolated cabin, so I found this one that was part of a campground and cabin place called Northlands Outfitters. It turned out to be a wonderfully peaceful spot on the Manistique River. I loved it there! I haven't been so relaxed in a while as I was there. 

I also learned that I had forgotten my camera's memory card at home! It turned out to be a blessing, because I think I connected more with the moment, with my husband and with nature much more than I would have from behind my camera.

Northland Outfitters was great, and really has it all. Rustic cabins, campsites, a deluxe cabin (ours), kayaking, biking, and a very friendly staff.  We spent one gorgeous morning kayaking. We plan on going there again, and that time, we will take full advantage of the easy kayaking, and kayak every morning.

We were also centrally located to the Seney Wildlife Refuge and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where we hiked around and tried unsuccessfully to avoid mosquitoes.

I had an amazing trip, which was stress-free and restorative. The UP is pristine and peaceful in its wildness. I saw a few rare/uncommon birds - the Scarlet Tanager, Short-eared Owl, and the American Bittern. We didn't have much internet access nor did we have phone service most of the time, so we were completely unplugged.  

I even gave my hair a break from the hair dryer!

My friend told me I look very content here. I was, she was right. I played hooky from everything, and it was amazing.

This is a trip I would definitely take again in a heartbeat, even with the bridge crossing. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list.

Read Last Week:



The Hexed by Heather Graham: I think this was my favorite Krewe of Hunters in the series so far!

Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett: This was our fun July book club read. It was surprisingly good.

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland: I wanted to read something beachy and light, and this was perfect!

California by Edan Lepucki: Wow this book was intense! And weird. And slow. But I liked it. Review Tuesday.

Reading this Week:

I am leaving for vacation this week, so I am not sure how much I will be posting, and my book plan might change too, but this is what I am thinking:


Conversion by Katherine Howe - The library lied to me last week and said this was in, but it wasn't! It is in now though, I hope.

Posted last week:

Stay tuned this week for my Paris in July post!

Friday, July 11, 2014

An Evening Out At The Zoo

Twice a year, the Detroit Zoo opens it's doors after hours for a little zoomance, from 6-9 pm. The event is 21 years old and up, and it is the perfect time go to the zoo. The animals are all awake and up, having shaken off their daytime sleepiness, and are ready to show you their stuff. This peacock was definitely posing for the camera!

The Detroit Zoo has a long walk from the entrance to the rest of the zoo. As this is a date night for me and my Mr., I like to get dressed up - not very practical when walking around the zoo, but then again, this isn't a race to see it all. It is a leisurely paced event, taking your time with the exhibits, walking around with your drinks, and listening to the band play. 

The zebras are my favorite! Well, the zebras, the arctic fox, the baby camel, and the kangaroos, that is. My husband loves the arctic ring of life, which dominates the zoo with its huge "tundra" for the two polar bears, surrounded by water for them to swim in. One of the best parts of the Detroit Zoomance is that zoo volunteers are on hand to talk about the animals. I noticed most of the people ignored these volunteers, but we talked to them all! They are so knowledgeable and have some cute stories!

The kangaroo exhibit is one that you can walk around in, right with the kangaroos. You are not allowed to leave the path or touch the animals however. Which is good, because they just had a new addition, a small baby joey! He was being a little rebellious while we were there, and was wandering kind of far from his mother, who was watching him closely. 

One thing that the Detroit Zoo does not have is an elephant, due to how rough a zoo environment is on these animals, who seem so sensitive and gentle. Our zoo also has a lion that was being used to guard a junkyard in Kansas, if you can imagine! She now has a giant enclosure made to look like an African Savannah., and her name is Erin, which is a great choice in names if I do say so myself. Our zoo actually has many rescue animals - three grizzly bears who were abandoned as cubs by their mother in Alaska, and the NPS asked the Detroit Zoo to take them; two rescued race horses that now live in the American grasslands area of the zoo; and most recently, exotic animals rescued in a hoarding case that include fennec foxes, lemurs and many others. Around 1,000 animals were seized in this hoard from terrible conditions, and are now recuperating at the Detroit Zoo.

And this event is romantic, believe it or not. There is something magical about being at the zoo in the evening, the sky bathed in purples and pinks from the sunset, the music, the moment. We even took a train ride around the zoo, and ended up being the only people on the train, besides the conductor!

If you are ever in the area, be sure to stop in to the zoo! If you want to read more about the zoo and it's animals, you can check it out here

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews

Title: Save the Date
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Source: Library (by way of my mom)

Goodreads Summary:

A wedding florist finds love and trouble in this delightful new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Ladies' Night

A Savannah florist is about to score the wedding of a lifetime—one that will solidify her career as the go-to-girl for society nuptials. Ironically, Cara Kryzik doesn't believe in love, even though she creates beautiful flower arrangements to celebrate them. But when the bride goes missing and the wedding is in jeopardy, Cara must find the bride and figure out what she believes in. Maybe love really does exist outside of fairy tales after all. 

My thoughts:

I am a big fan of southern cities. Such a fan, that my husband has asked that we please go west or or east or anywhere but south again on our next vacation. Every trip we take is somewhere southern. But I can't help it - both of my parents are southern vacationers as well. Since I don't live down south or get to vacation there as much as I wish, I have to get my fix sometimes through books, and Mary Kay Andrews is a go to author for me. Her books are fun and like candy, a special treat.

This book was no exception. Cara Kryzik runs her own floral shop, selling bouquets over the counter as well as doing the flowers for special events like weddings. She lives above her shop with her golden-doodle Poppy, and is recently divorced. Everyday she deals with brides and their mothers, planning their dream weddings, from big to small, from bridezillas to the bridechillas. (ok I made that word up) Despite being surrounded by love, Cara is a bit jaded as a result of her failed marriage, and she and her assistant have a game of predicting the odds that the couple will remain married. Her business however has been financed by her father, the Colonel - who is insisting on being repaid back in full immediately. Unfortunately that kind of repayment is out of Cara's reach at the moment, until Marie walks in her door. Marie's daughter Brooke is getting married, and wants Cara to do the flowers. If she can pull this off, she will have more than enough money to keep her business going and to pay off her father.

But of course, things can't go that smoothly. Cara struggles and fights against the odds herself, battling a new fancy florist in town, landlords, disgruntled brides and mothers'of the bride, amongst other things. And of course, there is a hot guy, who has a golden-doodle as well, that helps to heat things up.

One of the things I loved best about this book was the interactions between Cara and her dog. I am a huge animal lover, and have four pets myself, including a goofy English Setter rescue. So I understand where Cara is coming from sometimes. There was a part that I totally got, having to do with Poppy that made me teary! Although, Cara does do something at the end that I would never have gambled on. Overall though, I love how Andrews incorporates animals and animal welfare into her books. It gets a thumbs up from me.

I really enjoyed this book, as I have all Andrew's work. The few complaints I had are minor, and don't detract from the rest of the story.  It was the perfect read for a warm summer day, even better if read while relaxing on the porch, sipping iced tea.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review: The Road to Burgundy by Ray Walker

Title: The Road to Burgundy
Author: Ray Walker
Source: Publisher for review

From the Penguin website:

An intoxicating memoir of an American who discovers a passion for French wine, and gambles everything to chase a dream of owning a vineyard in Burgundy 

Ray Walker had a secure career in finance until a wine-tasting vacation ignited a passion that he couldn’t stifle. Ray neglected his work, spending hours poring over ancient French winemaking texts, learning the techniques and the language, and daydreaming about vineyards. After Ray experienced his first taste of wine from Burgundy, he could wait no longer. He quit his job and went to France to start a winery—with little money, a limited command of French, and virtually no winemaking experience. 

Fueled by determination and joie de vivre, he immersed himself in the extraordinary history of Burgundy’s vineyards and began honing his skills. Ray became a pioneer in his use of ancient techniques in modern times and founded Maison Ilan. In 2009, Ray became the first non-French winemaker to purchase grapes and produce a wine from Le Chambertin, long considered to be one of the most revered and singular vineyards in the world. 

Along with his struggle to capture his wine’s distinct terroir, Ray shares enthralling stories of late-night tastings, flying down the Route National on a vintage Peugeot bicycle with no brakes, and his journey to secure both the trust of his insular Burgundian neighbors and the region’s most coveted grapes. Capturing the sunlight, the smell of the damp soil, and the taste of superlative wine, The Road to Burgundy is a glorious celebration of finding one’s true path in life, and taking a chance—whatever the odds. 

My thoughts:

Who doesn't dream of one day quitting their job, following their dreams, and starting over? I know I do! And when that is rolled up into becoming a wine maker in France, the daydream gets even better.

Ray Walker wasn't a wine drinker. Growing up, he thought it was for snobbish people, and that it didn't taste very good to boot. However, his mind was changed one night in Italy, after drinking the house red at a small Italian restaurant. Walker discovered that wine wasn't bad, and didn't have to belong to primarily to the elite- it was a drink for everyman.

That night changed his life. He became an afficionado, reading and learning all he could about wine, and began to chase a dream of expensive Bordeaux, believing it to be the end-all be-all of wine. However, he was about to have his head turned again. Walker and his wife Christian headed off to a nearby Bordeaux tasting, to learn when they got there that they had missed it. Instead they were treated to Burgundy. And there in that tasting room, surrounded by bottles and shelves of wines of all different types from all over the world, a dream was born.

Walker was bewitched. The taste of the Burgundy infatuated him. How could he go back to his job in the finance world, when there was a whole new world out there that he wanted to be a part of? The answer is, he couldn't. With the support of Christian, Walker quit his job to pursue his new purpose in life - Burgundy. And he pursued this dream hard and tenaciously, running down every lead he could from their home in California, calling wine vendors in France, asking in his broken French for what he could. He joined online wine forums, he looked for investors. One day this hard work paid off, and he had financial backing. All he needed now were grapes.

The office walls gave way to grape vines, and Walker eventually headed to Burgundy alone, kissing his wife and baby goodbye, and set out to find grapes. He pounded the pavement, talking to everyone he could. The soles of his shoes wore out. But eventually he got what he needed - grapes and a space to work. This is where the real adventure begins. You will have to read to find out more!

I just want to say here, that his wife Christian seems like an amazing woman. I am not sure I would have the courage to allow my husband, the main bread winner in our household, to quit his job without knowing how it would turn out. Christian was patient and supportive, even when she was in the United States with their daughter alone. She gets huge props for this, in my opinion.

Now, I don't know much about wine or have much of a palette. I can kinda-sorta tell the difference between expensive and not, but..not really. I don't think I have ever tried to Burgundy, but after reading this book, I definitely want to. For those of you who may be like me, and need a little extra info, you can read more here.

This book is for anyone who has daydreamed of doing something different. For people who like wine. For people who like to read about the lives of other human beings. For people who applaud those who go after their dreams tooth and nail. For armchair travelers and bookworms. A book for everyone, really.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Today's topic is Bookish Confessions! 

1. If I don't like a book after 15 pages, I usually don't finish it. Sometimes I will go back to it at a later date and try again, but most of the time I don't.

2. I don't mind reading books in a series out of order. This weirds everyone out that I know.

3.  Sometimes classics or literary fiction that is being hailed as the second coming..bores me. Or I don't get why everyone raved about it. 

4.  I will write in my books if I like something written there. I hear a lot of people think this is a big no-no.

5. When I travel, I take at least 4 books with me, even if it is for just a night.

6.  Even though I spent a whole month telling the kids at my school to not judge a book by it's cover, I occasionally do it too. 

7.  There are days when I get sucked into a book and don't stop reading it until it is done. These are good days.

8. I don't always finish a book series or trilogy. 

9.  I blog best in the morning.

10.  I don't understand people who don't read, they don't like reading, and tell me they throw their books away after reading them. I just don't get it! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list.

I had a fun filled weekend! I hope that everyone, American or non-American, enjoyed their weekends, whatever you were doing or celebrating.  I spent a lot of time outdoors this weekend, soaking up the beautiful weather we have been having! I did get a bit behind on my reading though.

Has anyone else watched Friday Night Lights? We just started watching it on Netflix and are addicted!

Read Last Week:


The Road to Burgundy by Ray Walker: A delightful story of one American's journey to becoming a winemaker. Review Wednesday. 

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster: I picked this up at the library the other day. I have never read anything by Lancaster before, and I really liked this one!

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews: As always, I love Andrews and her books. They make me want to move to Savannah desperately though! Review Thursday.

Reading This Week:

The Hexed by Heather Graham: I didn't get to this last week, so it is first up this week. 

Lessons in French by Hilary Reyl: I am participating in the Paris in July meme, and I am reading this as part of it. I am loving this meme! Now, if only I could find some macarons... 

Conversion by Katherine Howe: I really enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and this seems to be along a similar vein. 

Posted Last Week: