Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wow, What a List!

I've had The Mason List by author S.D. Hendrickson, downloaded on my iPad's Kindle app for quite some time now.  Probably six months at least that I've had it actually, on the advice of several fellow book lovers.  I kept putting it off and putting it off for some reason.  I think that I wasn't sure what to expect with it, so I didn't feel any need to immediately jump right in and read it, so there it sat for months on end waiting for me.  The other day I finally decided to read it, mostly because it was just bugging me that I hadn't read it yet and remembered that lots of people liked it and told me how good it was.

The Mason List was an awesome read!  Before I say anything else about the story, I just have to tell you that I really really loved this story.  It all begins with Alexandra, waking up in a hospital after having some type of mental breakdown, before going back in time to when she was only eight years old.  We see her as a young girl, dealing with the impending death of her mother and all the things that come along with that, from her mother going to the hospital, to her father losing his job, and the aftermath of dealing with such a life-altering situation.  Enter Jessup Mason and his family. Jess is a rough and tumble boy of eight years who immediately takes a liking to Alex and they fast become the best of friends.

The book leads us through their friendship over the years and updating us every two years on what's happening with them, while slowly continuing to take us back to Alex in the hospital.  As readers, we're still not sure exactly why she's there or what has happened until finally they're past catches up to the present and we find that Alex remembers what caused her to land in the hospital, why she needs to leave, and who she needs to see.  (How's that for being vague? ;) )

I love the way this story was written with the going back in time and then leading us right up to the current day in the story between Alex and Jess.  I think Hendrickson did a fabulous job of really developing the main characters and building up their relationship. While reading, they felt so real and so alive to me that when they had a big fight, I was hurting for them, crying, because that wasn't how I wanted their story to end.  I didn't want them to say the mean words to each other and inflict more pain.  

I believe this is Hendrickson's first novel and I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed, not just because of the tremendously wonderful characters, but the story line was wonderful too.  I love that instead of the rich people looking down on the poor family that she switched it around and gave the poor girl a reason to dislike the rich.  It wasn't because they were mean to her or treated her badly, but simply because they were rich and could do what she and her family could not.

The only complaint I have is that I'm a HUGE stickler for endings and this did not end to my satisfaction.  It was abrupt and a bit cut off, like it was rushed to simply hurry-up-and-end-the-story-already.  I feel like with such a long and drawn out story, with such a giant build up, that to end it like that did a major disservice to the characters that the readers had grown to fall in love with.  Hendrickson is just lucky that she did such a great job on the other 90% of the story that this reader (and likely a couple others) is willing to let it slide, even if I don't like it.

I'm definitely hoping for good things from her next book, Waiting for Wyatt, which is yet to be released. 

Monday, June 22, 2015


I love doing this Pop Sugar Reading Challenge because it's really opened up my eyes to some books that I would've otherwise passed right by and probably not given a second thought to.  Then again, I sometimes fear I'll never actually finish it because sooooooooo many of the books I love to read, like YA and romance, are popping up every time I blink my eyes.  I'll never have a shortage of things to read, that's for sure!

Anyhow, one of the books for the challenge that I had to read is one that is "set in the future."  I chose the book Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, which is the first book in a trilogy that also includes Pretties and Specials.  I had never even heard of this one but the synopsis sounded really interesting.  

Uglies is set approximately 200 years in the future in a sort of dystopian world where everyone is "ugly."  Everyone waits for the day they turn 16 because then they get to have an operation to finally turn them pretty.  Pretties live in another part of town where they have parties all the time, have loads of fun, and everything in life is just perfect, including their looks.  The only problem is that the main character, Tally, meets a new friend, Shay, shortly before her 16th birthday who puts some doubts into her mind about whether being a Pretty is all it's cracked up to be.

When Shay runs away before her own operation, Tally must choose whether to go out into the Smoke to find her and turn her in or risk staying ugly forever.

I really liked this story and how the author developed his Tally character. She goes back and forth, and back and forth yet again like any teenager would in trying to figure out what to do.  She deals with real teen problems like love and best friends, loyalty and authority. Westerfeld does a nice job portraying her as the average teen and makes her a very real and believable character.

Although the concept behind the plot at times seems a little too "easy," I still think there's a lot behind it.  What we as a society feel is perfect and pretty isn't always so great behind the scenes.  There's something behind all that beauty that often times isn't so pretty at all and that's what the author is trying to get across.  He also tries to show us that being ugly is all a state of mind.  For instance, when David tells Tally how beautiful she is, she can't fathom that he could even think that because she's been told she's ugly her entire life.  David, however, never having lived in "Uglyville" knows and understands the true difference between being ugly and being pretty.

This is a great book and I could see it being a mandatory reading for high school literature classes.  I think a lot of teens could relate to this story and learn from it as well.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bring 'Em Back

I know we all have our favorite authors.  In fact, just the other day on my blog's Facebook page I was listing out my current faves.  The list was pretty long actually but included some fabulous authors, like Colleen HooverTarryn FisherMolly McAdamsJay CrownoverMelody GraceJessica SorensenKim HoldenJennifer Armentrout, and Courtney Cole.  I freakin' love these ladies!!  Like, I totally L-O-V-E them with a million trillion hearts love them!  If you're a total weirdo and have never read anything by them, please get up RIGHT NOW, march your ass to the library or the local bookstore and find one of their books and take it!  Well...maybe not "take it" like steal it (because that would be wrong and hurt my author friends) but borrow it, buy it, beg for it.  Trust me, you'll be happy with the results.  I promise!

Now, after listing all my favorite gals it got me thinking about some past favorite authors that I used to go ga-ga over too.  I did a little research (okay, fine it was a couple Google searches!) and low and behold, to my great surprise, I came upon several of them with upcoming releases.  Do you even GET how giddy that made me?  It felt like going back in time (like a couple years) and remembering why I loved the gals of yester year so much.  I sort of had a thing for English writers for a while, in case you can't tell.    

Judy Blume--In the Unlikely Event
     In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

Jane Green--Summer Secrets
    Living in London in her twenties, Cat had it all--a great job and wonderful friends. But with the good came the bad--a party every night, wreaking havoc, and blackouts. When she discovers the father she never knew she had, living in Nantucket, it sends her into a spiral, costing her the new family she had desperately craved. The drinking had always been a constant evil in Cat's life. Now in her late thirties, sober, divorced from the love of her life, and trying to make up for lost time with her teenage daughter, she's ready to make amends to those she has hurt. But facing the past and the unthinkable act she committed one summer night could change the course of her life forever.

Beth Harbison--If I Could Turn Back Time
     Thirty-seven year old Ramie Phillips has led a very successful life. She made her fortune and now she hob nobs with the very rich and occasionally the semi-famous, and she enjoys luxuries she only dreamed of as a middle-class kid growing up in Potomac, Maryland. But despite it all, she can't ignore the fact that she isn't necessarily happy. In fact, lately Ramie has begun to feel more than a little empty.
On a boat with friends off the Florida coast, she tries to fight her feelings of discontent with steel will and hard liquor. No one even notices as she gets up and goes to the diving board and dives off...
Suddenly Ramie is waking up, straining to understand a voice calling in the distance...It's her mother: "Wake up! You're going to be late for school again. I'm not writing a note this time..."
Ramie finds herself back on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, with a second chance to see the people she's lost and change the choices she regrets. How did she get back here? Has she gone off the deep end? Is she really back in time? Above all, she'll have to answer the question that no one else can: What it is that she really wants from the past, and for her future?

**And clearly I haven't been paying attention because she has like 3 others that have released within the past year that I haven't read either, and another coming out later in the summer!***

     An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

    In her own words, Stella Sweeney is just “an ordinary woman living an ordinary life with her husband and two teenage kids,” working for her sister in their neighborhood beauty salon. Until one day she is struck by a serious illness, landing her in the hospital for months.

After recovering, Stella finds out that her neurologist, Dr. Mannix Taylor, has compiled and self-published a memoir about her illness. Her discovery comes when she spots a photo of the finished copy in an American tabloid—and it’s in the hands of the vice president’s wife! As her relationship with Dr. Taylor gets more complicated, Stella struggles to figure out who she was before her illness, who she is now, and who she wants to be while relocating to New York City to pursue a career as a newly minted self-help memoirist. 

     Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.
But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

    The Bonneville Hotel is the best-kept secret in London: its elegant rooms and discreet wood-paneled cocktail lounge were the home-away-from-home for royalty and movie stars alike during the golden age of glamour. Recent years haven’t been kind, but thanks to events manager Rosie, it’s reclaiming some of its old cachet as a wish list wedding venue. While Rosie’s weddings are the ultimate in romance, Rosie herself isn’t; her focus is fixed firmly on the details, not on the dramas. She lives with a professionally furious food critic and works tirelessly toward that coveted promotion. But when the hotel owner appoints his eccentric son Joe to help run Rosie’s department, she’s suddenly butting heads with the free spirit whose predilection for the unconventional threatens to unravel her picture-perfect plans for the most elaborate—not to mention high-profile—wedding the hotel has ever seen, a wedding that could make or break not only the hotel’s reputation, but also Rosie’s career.  

**Two that I missed from this one as well.  :( **
     When the love you love is the one who got away…

Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are just eight years old when they meet late one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she's intrigued by the boy who shows up all alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to a doctor and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again.

Rachel grows up wanting for nothing in a fancy Florida suburb, the popular and protected daughter of two doting parents. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent that will let him become one of the best runners of his generation.

Over the next three decades, their paths cross in magical and ordinary ways. They make grand plans and dream big dreams as they grow together and apart in starts and stops. Through it all, Andy and Rachel never stop thinking about that night in the hospital waiting room all of those years ago, a chance encounter that changed the course of both of their lives.

**Again, this author's got 2 others out that I missed somehow too!  I'm really slackin'!**

Between this looong list of lovelies, the 50+ on my wish list, the 30 or so I've purchased in the past month and those on my Kindle that I've still yet to read, I have NO FLIPPIN' CLUE when I'll ever get to all of these.  One thing I can say for sure though is that I'm never lacking for some thing to read, or some place to escape.  :)

I'm so happy I get to bring back some of my old faves while still enjoying my newer faves too!  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Forever, For Always...For Sure!

I was asked by the author, Sabrina Quinn, to read an ARC of her newest book release Forever, For Always in turn for an honest review.  After being so pleased with and loving her first book, Can't Love You More,  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read this one as well.

Quinn's sophomore release was nothing short of delightful, combining her tried-and-true romantic style, along with a little touch of mystery.  I was very excited to see this author spread her wings a little bit and try something a little bit new while still staying true to her own writing style.  Not a lot of authors are brave enough to do that or succeed in doing so. Kudos!

Forever, For Always is a story of young Adeline who must change her life, run from everything and everyone she knows, to keep herself and the last part of Dominic that she has, alive. Fast forward four years and Adeline now goes by the name Vada Bruno and lives far from everything she grew up knowing.  She's changed her name, her hair, and moves around every couple of months to keep from being found.  That is, until she meets Isaac.

Isaac is a Miami cop that can't resist Vada, despite her not-so-subtle lack of interest in him. He continues to wear her down while she works in the cafe, trying to get her to go out with him, trying to get to know her.  Something about her is mysterious.  Something about her reminds him of his own past.

I really enjoyed reading this sweet story about Vada slowing letting down her defenses and allowing herself to love and be loved again.  She had a tough time and Quinn did a great job showing the conflicting emotions that Vada felt.  Another thing I enjoyed about this book is how it was written with alternating time frames, going from past to present to help tell the entire story.  It was written very well and was easy to follow.

I think it's safe to say that Miss Quinn is well on her way to establishing herself as a consistent  and reliable writer who produces solid material that us readers love to dive in to! 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Oh man, I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for Gus to be released.  Like, since only moments after putting down Kim Holden's  inspiring Bright Side book, I've been anxiously awaiting the follow up story of Gus and how he continues on with his life without Kate.

Gus picks up just weeks after where Bright Side ended, with the death of the amazing Kate. Her best friend in the whole world, Gus, is left with his life in shambles. Unfortunately, his mega successful band, Rook, is touring the world and he must follow.  While touring he uses his time drinking and basically whoring himself just to get through his grief, to get through each day without his other half.  

Throughout the story, we feel Gus' pain, his anguish, his heartbreak over and over again.  Holden does such an amazing job of taking us through his grief and allowing us to feel it with him and to experience that loss as well.  It's not pretty.  Sometimes it's the same feelings playing over repeatedly, but that's what makes it seem so very real.   Anyone who has lost someone so significant in their life would likely agree.   She helps us feel Gus' hopelessness, his confusion, and his ultimate sense of loss because he is simply lost without his Bright Side. He doesn't even know how to function without her.

Although we see that Gus relied on Kate (maybe a little to dependent actually!) to see the good in the world and to believe in himself, he slowly starts to come to his own epiphany. He begins to realize that HE is the one in control of his destiny.  HE is the one that decides if he's going to wallow in sadness forever or pull himself together not just for himself and his band, but also for Kate.  And maybe, also for someone else who enters his life...Gus realizes that sometimes doing epic isn't easy.  Sometimes it's making hard choices and breaking down barriers. Sometimes it's hanging on to that small life line when all you want to do is run.

I was so exited for this book to come out because I was just slayed by the emotion that Bright Side evoked in me.  This was my most anticipated book for 2015 in fact.  I felt so sad for Gus and wanted so badly for him to be able to have his happily-ever-after, after losing his first love.  I expected for Gus to come at me with a lot of that same powerful emotion, but it didn't.  I didn't find myself weeping inconsolably while reading this one, though it still tugged at me throughout.  I feel like it was absolutely appropriate in how it dealt with the aftermath of Kate's death and in still giving Gus an interesting story. 

The only thing I didn't care for in this story is how little of a part Keller was given.  I almost feel like if his role was so small that maybe it wasn't necessary at all.  Like, Holden just gave us this little teeny tiny taste and I wanted more.  Don't tease me with that piddly stuff!  I know she said she wasn't going to write a Keller book, but I still wish she would.  His story deserves to be told as well because we still don't really see or understand how he was able to heal after losing Kate.

I think overall though, I really liked this book.  It wasn't at all what I expected and this time, I'm okay with that.  I am happy that Gus found closure (and me too!) and even more so, I adore the fact that he was "healed" with love...because that right there is epic!