Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Smell Of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

I wanted to take a moment from posting about the books I read during my time away to present to you this new first-time novel. I was perusing Netgalley and telling myself to stop requesting and/or grabbing books I won't be able to read in a timely fashion. And...Alas! I found this gorgeous cover. (Isn't is so sparkly and pretty? I want to be in that cabin.) It was a 'Read Now' book. So I took the hint and read it NOW.

The Smell Of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Published: February 23rd, 2015
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Page Count: 240 (Kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
Find the Author: Website (social media links located there)

"In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger. Four very different lives are about to become entangled."- Nabbed from the Goodreads Blurb. 


I was drawn in from the first chapter. This is always, usually a good sign when commencing in reading a book. It's was definitely a good sign in this case. 

It wasn't the character or the story premise that caught my attention in the first chapter. It was the writing. I'm big on imagery - I like to have a clear image of the world I'm reading. I want a montage floating around in my brain of scenes and stories. An example of this (a excerpt that I remember) without a spoiler is...

"Rusty metal oil drums, blue plastic coolers, and whole cans of peaches and fruit cocktail from people's pantries bobbed down Second Avenue. Someone's red frilly slip got hung up in Mr. Peterson's climbing peas and made Lily laugh out loud until Gran shushed her. Gran's face was as red as an overripe raspberry. Even in a flood, underwear was no joking matter."

It's written in first person and bounces from one perspective to the next with each chapter. There are a lot of characters. Mostly because we're dealing with the lives of four young individuals who all seemed connected to each other. There's a handy little chart located in the front of the book to help you sort through the diverse cast. 

Characters are diverse and interesting. Events are a shared experience. Their lives connect in the oddest ways but it all makes sense. Each character has a unique background, a history of their own. But everyone is either connected to one another in the past or in the future.

Alaska in the 70's turned out to be a relatable and surprising setting. Things like the issue of statehood, poverty, religion, and traditions wove together. I never really thought about the Alaskan Statehood. I didn't even know when it happened. (1959, in case you were wondering). It is this issue that leads to the events that create the foundation of Ruth and other character's lives. Not the entire foundation - but a good corner piece just the same. I thought it was subtly enlightening on something that I had previously never thought about. Yet, the characters are just young adults figuring out their lives and dealing with relationships with their families and each other and where they come from. It's this relating that makes the setting less foreign and more familiar for the audience.

Ruth really stuck with me. Out of all the stories told, she was the one that began it and she was the one that closed it. She (and her origins) was the thread that stitched it all together.

The only things that distracted me from a five star enjoyment was the number of characters and the rotating voices. Like I mentioned before (up there ^^) it was written in rotating first narration. and each voice sounded like each other. The tone and word choices were the same. That and the amount of characters was a teensy bit confusing. If I stopped in the middle of a chapter to refill my coffee or answer the phone I would often have to go to the start of the chapter and double check what character I was listening to. It is, however, not enough of an issue to deter me from recommending this book. The voices might be the same but the writing itself delivered.

It's a first novel with a fresh setting and reflective perspective that you won't find elsewhere. I genuinely hope to read more from the author. Four out of five stars and a recommendation that you read it during a quiet weekend at home. Also...you are going to want to keep any and all empty alcoholic beverage bottles to fill with wild flowers after reading it. I don't even drink and I want to keep the next whiskey bottle that comes my way to fill with flowers. I'm just going to have to settle with a favorite coffee mug. Or possibly a left over Starbucks cup.

Until next time,

Jess

Monday, February 22, 2016

TTT : Top Ten Books Outside of Comfort Zone


The particular challenge for this weeks' topic is that - I like too many types genres and I don't normally pick up a book outside of my interests. That being said - it's not completely uncommon to have a book ninja up on me and be something surprising and better than I originally pegged it to be. I'll try to get to ten! 

Uprooted by Naomi Novak


I'm not done with this book yet! But, wow. Omg. It came out of nowhere. It's not at all what I expected. I can't wait to formally review it. Right now I'm taking my time with reading it to enjoy it better! 

Light Is The New Black by Rebecca Campbell


The past year I've been reading more and more non-fiction. I rarely pick up self-help new agey books. The farthest I've gone into that genre was Eat, Pray, Love and the Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I should review this formally. Seriously one of the most spirit-warming books I've read. I love what she has to share and I really responded to it. It surprised me! 



Not much to say about this other than it really helped me change my views on keeping my life neat. 



I don't normally get into autobiographies or non-fiction but...well. FELICIA DAY. :) Here's a link to my original review



It's not that hard to enjoy Meg Cabot. When I read this book I read it because I wanted to see the story continued. I didn't think I'd enjoy it so much because it's for...well...middle schoolers. YEA... IT'S ADORABLE. Olivia Grace is my new favorite long lost Rinaldi.

The Lunar Chronicles (#1, Cinder) by Marissa Meyer


I love fantasy and I love fairy tales and yet I'm not too big on science fiction. I enjoy it but I often get distracted. It's completely opposite from my tastes in TV/Film. I avoided The Lunar Chronicles for years because I didn't think I'd enjoy it. The Cinderella story kind of bores me at times. I had read so many incarnations. WELP. I was wrong. One of the best series out there right now. Read it. :)

And...yea, I'm out! That's all I can think of that's recent. I can't wait to see what everyone else came up with! :) 

Jess





Monday, February 15, 2016

TTT : Ten Songs I'd Like To Be Books!


Ok - I'm seriously excited about this week's topic. Music is my second love. And it's just a second love in comparison to my love for books by like...a mili-fraction. Books came first. Then came the music.

Please don't mock my musical tastes too much - it's a hit or miss thing. I just like what I like. I also tried to pick songs that had some sort of story or emotion to them. Or something that FELT like it could be a theme song to some great novel or story.

I warned you. 

I mean it. I really did. lol. 

(Also some of the youtube links are showing up - like the picture in the boxes - so I linked through the title of the song as well). 



1. Foreigner's God - Hozier 


Hozier's entire album should probably be on this list. I chose Foreigner's God because it's currently the recently most played song from it's selection. I'm having a hard time refraining from adding 'Work Song', "Jackie and Wilson".  So google them if you don't know Hozier and like the sound. 

2. Fear and Loathing - Marina and the Diamonds



Marina! My favorite pop singer. Ok, well...one of them. She's gorgeous and I love this song and I think it'd be a great emotional base for a book. Not necessarily about a pop singer or a famous artist. I think the message transcends this. 

3. I Need My Girl - The National 


Ok. The music video alone is enough to inspire a love story. It would be amazing. Touching and deep. I envision an outlaw. In love with a crazy girl. I really love this song. Literally just listened to it three times before typing it in. lol. 

4. Stand By You - Rachel Platten


Time to brighten it up! Stand By YOUUUU! Such a fun, happy song. I can see it being turned into a strong female-empowering story of friendship. Or about siblings. Or...anyone being fantastic friends with someone else. lol. 

5. Blue Jeans - Lana Del Rey


Ok. Happy times are over. Let's get back to the haunting melodies of lost love. I'm sensing a running theme here. Irony is - I'm a big fan of happy endings. But, if some of these songs were in novel format (and hit all the notes) I think I could read them and enjoy them. They'd just have to be written well. 

6. This Love - Taylor Swift (Sung by Ryan Adams in this version.)


ALL THE LOVE. I really should read more romance. I think that's what I'm learning from this experience. This would be happy though! Love REGAINED. Very romantic. See? I'm not at all completely depressing. ;)

7. Dustland Fairytale - The Killers


One of my all time favorite songs. I could listen to it over and over and over again. It's my song when I'm sad, when I'm happy, when I'm frustrated, when I'm excited, when I'm sleepy, when I'm wired. This is another one where the ending might have to be completely sad. 

8. Strange Love - Halsey


I could see this being a totally kick-ass main character's theme song. It has a very cool edge. This is like Hozier - I love Halsey and her entire Album. This just so happens to be the recently most played song from it's selection. I also could envision "Castle" and "New Americana" in novel format but those are two of her more popular songs. I wanted to put one down that isn't played as much.

9. Walking On Air - Kerli


I think this could be an adorably creepy and yet inspiring children's book. It sings to the strange little girl inside of us all. (I'm tried to think of a song that sounded like a story and came up with this). 

10. Renegades - X Ambassadors


I LOVE THIS SONG. And it's happy. And freeing. I love underdogs, new kids, the outlaws. Now, I put the lyric video because it goes straight to the song but I originally clicked the music video. It completely surprised me in a pleasant way! Go watch if you have time (Renegade Music Video). It's very cool.

And I'M OUT FOR THE WEEK. For Top Ten Tuesday, at least. What do you think? Any suggestions for me? What did you put up for this week? 

Until next time, 

Jess


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Four Books to Read This Valentine's Day

I'm stuck in the phase of reading like four books at once because this week has been the week of EXTREMELY POOR ATTENTION SPAN. Because of this - I'm dedicating this post to a small collection of books that should be read around this time of year. That being said - let's clarify that Valentine's isn't just about the romantical love. It's about all kinds of love. :)



The Love
Love lost, love gained, love unrequited, love won, love constant, and love breaking and making (but not literally making as it was published in 1811). Jane Austen is a easy reach for a romantic, love-filled read. I could have easily have put down any of her works. The reason I chose this one is because it was my first exposure to Jane Austen and it has so many types of love in it. The love between father and daughters, sister to sisters, mother to daughters, love to love. And in the end it is all where it should be.  



The Love
It's interesting to think that a book written from the perspective of Death is a book of love. But, Death - if we're honest- would have the most perspective on love. Love or the lack of it is shown in the final moments of life. The Love in this book is the love of family found and lost, friendship, and the kindling of very young love. And the Love that exists in all humanity. Oh. And the love for books. It's not a light read by any means but it deserved mention on the list. 



The Love
There's a variety of love in this story but it begins and ends with the love one has to have for oneself. Female friendships and relationships holds a large place in this book. It builds around the love that the main character has to learn to pour into herself. It's has some very dark elements but it's handled with purity and lightness while still giving the content the gravitas that is needed. The Love is good in this read. 



The Love
I can't refrain from thinking of a children's book to put on the list. I'm incredibly partial to Children's Literature - as it was my first love. Interesting enough - I never read this as a child. I read it when I was older. I think anyone who has read it (or watched the movie) knows what kind of love is in this. Friendship, parent to child, and the love that transcends all categories. The kind of love that is written about in prose, in religious texts, in accolades for the human experience. Love that is kindness, constant, true, forgiving, hopeful, and brave. Always remember - we are all Princesses. And Princes. ;) 

And thus concludes my Valentine's Reads list! It's short, semi-sweet, and to the point. I hope that you're Valentine's Day is full of love in all of it's forms and non-forms. 

Love, 

Jess

P.S. If you have a thought on this post or a book to add - comment below. :) 





Monday, February 8, 2016

TTT : Valentine's Freebie - Top Quotes of Loveeeeee!


1. Anne Shirley to Gilbert Blythe (Anne of the Island)
“I don't want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want YOU. [....] Sunbursts and marble halls may be all very well, but there is more 'scope for imagination' without them. And as for the waiting, that doesn't matter. We'll just be happy, waiting and working for each other—and dreaming. Oh, dreams will be very sweet now.” 

2. Perks of Being a Wallflower
I just want you to know that you’re very special… and the only reason I’m telling you is that I don’t know if anyone else ever has.

3. Gabriel Oak to Bathsheba Everdeen (Far From the Madding Crowd)
And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be— and whenever I look up, there will be you.

4. Augustus to Hazel Grace (The Fault In Our Stars)
“I'm in love with you," he said quietly.
"Augustus," I said.

"I am," he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. "I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.” 

5. Captain Wentworth to Anne (Persuasion)
You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.

6. Pooh to Piglet (Winnie the Pooh)
If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever. 

7.  Eleanor about Park (Eleanor and Park)
“Maybe Park had paralyzed her with his ninja magic, his Vulcan handhold, and now he was going to eat her. 
That would be awesome.”

8. Buttercup to Wesley (The Princess Bride)
I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm.

9. Rochester to Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre) 
“I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.”

10. Snape. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

Always.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sarah Addison Allen and the Comfort Reads.

Like I mentioned before in my previous TTT post - I spent some time in the hospital this past fall. Afterwards, there was quite a bit of time to heal up from the experience. Contrary to what you might think - it's like really hard to read when you're actually in a hospital bed with like a gazillion tubes attached to your limbs and your chest and neck. Plus, you know, my physical health was being all perilous and that can be exhausting. I spent most of my time watching the Hallmark Channel, sleeping, and listening to my Grammy read to me (a book I'll post about as soon as I find it and finish it for myself! We only got about a third of the way through. lol). Most of my reading happened in the after - when I was released.

The phrase 'Comfort Read' comes to mind.  That's what one does when one is healing up from a interesting if not Grey's Anatomy Shaming health crisis. And because it's me and I have a ready arsenal of comfort reads lined up on my bookshelf - I turned to one of my favorite authors. Sarah Addison Allen.

I visited a lot of my favorites the past few months. Sarah Addison Allen novels were some of them. Happy endings, food, beautiful imagery, and relatable and unique female characters. Basically a good recipe for the literary version of the Netflix Binge. And also - comforting reading.

Sarah Addison Allen

The first book I read of hers was her very first published novel :

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Published : August 28th, 2007
Publisher : Bantam
Page Count : 304 pages (Paperback, e-book)
Genre : Women's Fiction
Find the author : Look above, lol. 
"A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before. When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other. " - Borrowed from Amazon's Description. 

I've recommended this book in connection to Practical Magic often. Sisters, magic, love. However, I find this so much a brighter read than Practical Magic. This is something you want to pick up when you want your heart warmed. When you want to read a grown up fairy tale with real people touched with a bit of not so real but completely believable magic. Plus sisters. SISTERS. I am a huge sucker for stories about sisters. There is also an adorable little girl who I grew quite fond of. The best thing yet? SHE WROTE A SEQUEL. First Frost  (featuring said little girl as a little more grown up). I love when sequels happen. :)

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Published : May 20th, 2008
Publisher : Bantam
Page Count : 276 pages (Paperback, e-book)
Genre : Women's Fiction
Find the author : Look above, lol.  
"Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother…" - Nabbed from Goodreads blurb. 

Basically this is like reading a cup of hot chocolate while wearing a favorite, warm fuzzy red sweater on a snowy, cozy day. Like...literally. There's a bit of a twist that still sort of surprises me when I wander back to my well-loved paperback copy. I also appreciate the unique twist on Josey's character. Or more so - her past. I think so many authors want to make their heroines complex yet perfectly relatable. I couldn't relate to certain aspects to her background but I felt for her. I felt for her hard! I rooted for her from the beginning.

The idea of comfort reads, to me, is subjective to the reader. When I was a pre-teen I went through this interesting phase of reading these paperback teen horror books in the dark of the night because... it was comforting? That was my version of a comfy read. A spooky, suspenseful read. I have no idea why except that maybe they weren't that scary in hindsight. It actually seems kind of cute to me as an adult looking back. Either way - point made. What comforts me might not comfort you. You might like a good romance (if so, I'm right there with you). You might like a epic long historical series with finite detail to historical accuracy (if so, you have my admiration).

So don't take my recommendation too seriously. To each their own! But, definitely give her a try if her stories sound intriguing because the writing holds up, the plots are steady, and the characters unique.

Happy comfort reading!

Jessica






Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Historical Settings I'd Like To Read

She's back!

I realize my last post hasn't been since October. I spent about ten days in the hospital in November due to complications with my tracheostomy. After that, it took some time to recover and get back to normal and then there were the holidays! Also my birthday (January 12th). I've done a little bit of reading and have some great posts planned for the coming month! I'd thought the best way to jump back into things is to do my favorite meme!


I'm splitting the topic up today. Five for US-Centered History. Five for outside the US. 

1. Colonial Times

Please feel free to blame Felicity, American Girl Doll and my sister who lived in Williamsburg and talked constantly about it's history for my fascination with this time period. The intrigue, the tea throwing! The DRESSES. There's so many great female stories that could be told in this era. And, as I have ancestry from both sides of the war - I love learning about both sides. (The below GIF came from Poldark, by the way. A TV series spawned from a book series I do intend to read sometime in the near future). Like...British Officer falls in love with a rebel's daughter! Or Tory noblewoman runs off with a Patriot! 



2. The Civil War

Possibly not very original but this was such a dramatic time in US History. The end of slavery. Families against families. The stakes were high. I'm less interested in the battle-history and more interested in the female perspective and the African American perspective. While I love a good girl-dresses-up-as-soldier story...I like my perspectives to be almost average. Just a normal girl who doesn't bend the rules, who follows the rules - what was her perspective? Her challenges. And yes, yes - I've read Cold Mountain. (lol!). 


3. Western/Wagon Trail

Vengeance Road had me majorly geeking out over the western genre for a good while. That lead to me remembering my fascination with the Oregon Trail (inspired by the game, of course) as a young pre-teen. I've lost count of how many Oregon Trail books I read. Little House on the Prairie was a favorite growing up. And there was this one about a bunch of women who lose all their men and go west on their own. I lean towards the westerns with a strong, female lead. I'd love to read one with a disabled character too. I think that'd have great potential.     


3. Bomb Girls - 1940s.

I borrowed the phrase 'Bomb Girls' not only from history but from the Canadian TV Show (watch it, if you haven't!). I'm so interested in the women that worked in the factories - especially ammunition and explosives - in WW2. My great-grandmother worked in one and the health consequences on the workers was horrendous. She even wrote an article about it for a newspaper, I think. (Must ask Liza about that!).


4. The 1910-20's US Suffrage Movement

Mainly - about Alice Paul and her work. I didn't really know about her or what she and her organization did for the Suffrage Movement until I watched HBO's Iron Jawed Angels (which isn't on their subscription service, by the way - shame, shame!) with Hilary Swank and the most kick-ass collection of female actresses. They picketed a war-time President and got imprisoned for it. They kept picketing. While imprisoned they went on a hunger strike and were force fed as a result. A very grueling process often shortened the lifespan of the 'patient'. Pretty hardcore stuff, if you ask me. While they weren't formally credited for President Wilson's change of heart about the Suffrage Movement - after word got out about their treatment his administration was forced to release them. I haven't really seen much on them in the historical fiction genre. It's definitely something I keep an eye out for. 

5. 60's Counter Culture

There is so, so much potential there. I can't even. The Vietnam War. The protests. Civil Rights! The removing of one's bra and burning it! Also the hair! THE BEATLES. Just...I can't even begin to decide what I'd like about first.  

6. Historically Accurate Medieval Times, Please

I have this impression that most medieval set books are sort of...fluffy? I mean, there are some exceptions. (Catherine, Called Birdy. Pillars of the Earth. Etc). I just get in my head the countless romance novels I've read set in that time. I love a Troubled But Golden-Hearted Knight In Dented Armor and a Beautiful, Daring Lady Who Rebels Against The Patriarchy like the rest of us. But, for the most part it's just a mess of really ridiculous names and scrapes that don't quite add up. I don't mind a bit of lore and made-up characters - but I like to be submersed into the actual world as best as a reader can be. I want their troubles, their language, their often-narrowed mind-set. I want arranged marriages and babies dying! That sounds absolutely horrible but it's true. I'm all for triumph of the spirit and true love winning in the end (in fact, I insist on it) but I'd like for it to be natural and organic to the context of the world and society. 


7. Roman Empire

Much like my desire for an authentic medieval setting...I would love some authenticity. I, to be honest, probably need to lay off the historical romance and go for more actual historical fiction. Like most of my interests - I rather the ordinary female perspective. I'm of the stock that the ordinary perspective can be heroic - and the ordinary female perspective can be extraordinary while still being grounded in reality. The Roman Empire was such a force to be reckoned with - and I wonder...did they know it? I mean, they were kind of full of it and they did sort of conquer the world - but what did the every day person experience? What Gods/Goddesses did they worship? What did they do for a living? What was it like? What were their challenges? 

8. Ancient Egypt

One of my favorite books (The Red Tent) is partially set in Ancient Egypt. It's such a fascinating topic, a fascinating time. Exotic, beautiful, ancient. I used to read this picture book I had when I was a kid over and over again about Ancient Egypt. The mummification process and their idea of the after life fascinated me. Cleopatra was my favorite Royal Diaries book! (That and Princess Elizabeth, of course. And Marie Antoinette). 

9. Renaissance 

Now this is a time period that I'm so confident I can find good fiction for. I'm constantly running into something intriguing set in that time period. The music, the art, the advances. It's like the 70's for me...I can't decide what I'd want to read first. 

10. British Empire India

I can't put a finger on exactly what Era I'd like to explore - except maybe the time of Ghandi - but the forced marriage of the two vastly different worlds provides such a colorful backdrop. I'd prefer to read something realistic to the actual experience and the social issues. India was being dominated by a Western Empire - it wasn't all peachy keen. Yet, I wouldn't object to a sweeping romance either. The best of both worlds, please!



And that concludes my return to book blogging! Any suggestions based from my list? I can't wait to see what everyone else put this week. 

Jess