Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Club Reviews: A Fall of Marigolds

Book Title: A Fall of Marigolds
Author: Susan Meissner
Publication Date: 2014
Genres: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.11 Stars 
Book Club Rating4.5 Stars

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away....

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries …and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her? 

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers …the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?

1. Multiple POVs. All in all, we liked BOTH characters that we met. The story shows very little of Taryn (the present-day character), with just a chapter at the beginning and middle and a few chapters at the end, but we really wanted more. Not that we wanted to take away anything from Clara's story. Really, we just wanted the book to be longer.

2. The history. In a previous book club, we read historical fiction that talked about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which is one of the most deadly fires in US history, and one that still manages to elude our history classes. This novel takes us back to that day and parallels the Triangle fire to 9/11. Most of us love historical fiction, and this novel definitely made history seem so relatable.

3. The growth. This whole story is not a romance story. Sure there's some love connections going on, but overall, this is a story of personal growth and overcoming major obstacles. These characters are FLAWED, but you're cheering for them the whole way, and they grow so much from the beginning to the end of the story.

1. The setup. It took us a while to figure out how the setup works. I found myself flipping forward chapters to see when we would be switching point of views again.

2. The sad. But it's definitely not the saddest book we've ever read in book club. Like I said, it's much more about facing obstacles and overcoming them, so the sad is mostly in the beginning before the characters begin to push forward.

"Great book. I only cried twice!" 
- Kayla

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February Wrap-Up

February just flew by! We had a week off for Mardi Gras and a few surprise days off because of the weather, so my first month of work has been so short. February has also been filled with SO MANY awesome visits with friends that I've lost touch with during graduate school. Hooray for free time and no more studying!

February in One Word: Reunited (So many catch up sessions with old friends and family!)

My Favorite Memories in February 2015:
  • Super Bowl Sunday supper with Mom and Steph to celebrate Steph's birthday
  • Starting my new career!
  • Celebrating the wedding of a dear college friend
  • Signing up for my very own health insurance, a whole 2 months before I turn 26
  • The most wonderful Valentine's Day
  • A long, productive, relaxing Mardi Gras holiday
  • Coffee date and shop talk with an awesome teacher friend
  • 6 hour catch up session with one of my oldest friends
  • Beginning to plan the wedding!
Books I Read this Month: (8!!!!!)
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Review)
  • Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (Review)
  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (Review)
  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman (Review)
  • Just One Year by Gayle Forman (Review)
  • Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
  • A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
  • Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Articles from Around the Web:
Current Obsessions:
  • Gilmore Girls and binge watching Netflix
  • Date nights with my favorite CPA fiancĂ© (ok, it's a continuing, if not renewed, obsession)
  • The library, because they have a limit of 50 books and I'm currently at 20 checked out
3 Things I'm Sad to See Go with February:
  • Week long holidays and surprise days off
  • Valentine's Day (which has quickly become my favorite holiday)
  • Cuddle times with the fur kids
    3 Things I'm Looking Forward to in March:
    • Busy Sundays with birthday parties and wedding showers
    • Bridal Expo with my favorite ladies
    • So many fun work events coming up, including cheerleading tryouts (yep, I'm going to be the coach!)
    Favorite Quote from a Book I Read this Month:

    “This felt like the way you get nervous right before something exciting happens-the moment when you're balanced on the top of the roller coaster, the hush before the surprise party, the second after the diving board but before the water, when you can close your eyes and imagine, for just a second, that you're flying. The feeling that good things were coming, almost here, any moment now.”
    Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015

    Guest Post: Top 5 Fantastical Characters

    Hi everyone! My name is Kayla and I blog over at Caught Between the Pages! I talk all about books and writing on my blog, so today I wanted to share with you my top five fantasy characters!

    5. Jesse from The Mediator series by Meg Cabot. This is an oldie but one I think more people need to know about, read, and appreciate. What's better than a hot, Spanish-speaking, old-fashioned ghost? This is one ghost story with a spunky heroine (who's pretty human, so I decided she didn't count for the list) and a heart of gold. Or.. It would be, if he was still alive.

    4. Alina from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Oh, yeah, this trilogy was SO good, I recommend it to everyone! And the character development in it is great, as Alina goes from timid and weak to... Well, you'll see for yourself. I love how she's always supportive of her friends, even if they don't turn out to be who she expected them to be. She's also much stronger than she looks and uses that underestimation to her best advantage. I love how she isn't the typical heroine and she's made it to becoming one of my favorite characters, forever.

    3. Cinder from Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I'm a sucker for any retold fairy tale and this cyborg version of Cinderella is smart, sassy, and ready to save the world. I love these books because I can't predict anything about them-- I love Cinder because I can't quite figure her out, either. She's a great fighter and is super inventive but she also has so many problems she needs to face that it's difficult to tell what exactly she'll end up doing next.

    2. Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordian. Of course my favorite demigod had to make the list! I practically grew up with Percy, even though I didn't discover the Olympians series until I was a little older. The great thing about these books is that any age can read and love them. Percy has such a weird sense of humor that I absolutely love. He's also loyal to his friends, wants to make the world a better place, and tends to outwit villains rather than fight with only his strength, which makes for a very entertaining read.

    1. Akiva from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor. Okay, honestly this is my favorite book (even though I haven't had a chance to read the third one yet!) so I had to limit myself to only picking one, or else there was a chance that every character on this list would be from the series. I just love Laini Taylor's writing style--and of course her characters, too. I love how complex yet completely lovable Akiva is. Plus, he's an angel, and it's not often that I find angelic characters in YA fantasy to be well done and badass. I have so much love for him (and everyone else in the books!) I can't recommend them enough!

    Hope you enjoy my recommendations!

    Thursday, February 19, 2015

    Series Review: Just One Day Series by Gayle Forman

    “Part of me knows one more day won't do anything except postpone the heartbreak. But another part of me believes differently. We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.” 
    ― Gayle FormanJust One Day

    Series Title: Just One Day
    Books in Series: Just One Day and Just One Year
    Author: Gayle Forman
    Publication Date: 2013
    Genres: YA Fiction, Realistic Fiction
    Goodreads Rating: 4.05 Stars 
    My Rating: Stars

    A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know. The first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story is Just One Year.

    The series is written so that in Just One Day Allyson shows her point of view for the day her and Willem met and the year following that fateful day. In Just One Year, we see Willem's point of view for the year following the day they met up until they meet again.

    1. Disappointment. Ok, so I've heard nothing but AMAZING things about this series, and I really liked If I Stay (and I loved Where She Went) so I was hoping for the same kind of deal with this series. The Just One Day series is set up like the If I Stay series in that one book is told from the girl's perspective, while the other is told from the guy's. That's really where the similarities end. (Although, in Just One Year, Willem is listing to Adam Wilde's CD. I love that.)

    2. Blame the characters. I really connected to Allyson. Just One Day is told from Allyson's point of view, and that was awesome. Until it wasn't. I don't want to kill the plot for any of you who haven't read it, but I will say that there are some missed communications and a lot of anger and heartbreak in the second half of the book. When it came time to read Just One Year, I hated Willem. So reading from his perspective was not fun. I just didn't care about the agony he was going through. Until I did.

    3. Needless to say, this series was a roller coaster. But not the fun kind. The kind you wish you weren't on. I alternated between loving the characters (during the first part of Just One Day when their romance was blossoming and swoon-worthy) to hating Willem and the way Allyson was reacting to everything back to loving them both and hoping for them to get back together.

    4. So why is it 3 stars? Honestly, there was a lot to like in this book, besides the frustrations I had with the plot and characters. The writing, of course, was excellent. The character development was also wonderful. It was inspiring to watch both characters fall to the depths of despair, then find themselves and rise above the sadness to really grow into the people they were meant to be. Plus, the millions of references to Shakespeare really pulled at me.

    Although I wasn't a huge fan of the plot lines, the writing and character growth really saved this book for me. 

    “Sometimes the best way to find out what you’re supposed to do is by doing the thing you’re not supposed to do.” 

    “And that's when I understand that I have been stained. Whether I'm still in love with him, whether he was ever in love with me, and no matter who he's in love with now, Willem changed my life. He showed me how to get lost, and then I showed myself how to get found.” 

    “I think everything is happening all the time, but if you don't put yourself in the path of it, you miss it.” 

    “Traveling's not something you're good at. It's something you do. Like breathing. You can't work too much at it, or it feels like work. You have to surrender yourself to the chaos. To the accidents.” 

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    Mardi Gras Fun

    Hey y'all! It's Mardi Gras, which means that I'm probably in my pjs watching Gilmore Girls right now. Sure, I'm from Louisiana, and Mamou at that (arguably one of the most famous Mardi Gras in the world), but I've never been a fan of Mardi Gras celebrations. Just give me all of the king cake and a week off of school, thanks.

    Hope your Tuesday is fat and happy (and warm!).

    Thursday, February 12, 2015

    Series Review: All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

    Just because something seems impossible doesn't make it untrue.” 
    ― Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches

    Series Title: All Souls Trilogy
    Books in Series: A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life
    Author: Deborah Harkness
    Publication Date: 2011, 2012, 2014
    Genres: Adult Fiction, Fantasy
    Goodreads Rating: 3.98 Stars 
    My Rating: 4.5 Stars

    The All Souls Trilogy follows the story of Diana Bishop, a historian and reluctant witch, as she solves the mystery of Ashmole 782, falls in love with a mysterious vampire named Matthew Clairmont, and learns how powerful it can be to accept who you are.

    Disclaimer from Me: These books sound like the Twilight series. The first one (with the love story) even seems a bit like the same story. IT IS NOT. I repeat: These books are Twilight but sososososo much better. If you (think you) liked Twilight, you will love these books. And if you didn't like Twilight at all, you will probably still love these books.

    1. Diana Bishop is awesome. The main character of this novel is Dr. Diana Bishop. That's right. The main character has her Ph.D. and is tenured at Yale. The major difference between these books and the Twilight series is that Diana is NOTHING like Bella. Diana is strong, kick-ass, and talented in her own right, as she descended from Bridget Bishop (who you may know from the Salem Witch Trials). Diana isn't needy or whiney or depressive, but rather, she pushes forward and, without spoilers, is the opposite of a Damsel in Distress.

    2. Everyone is so darn smart. I learned so much about genetics, alchemy, and history through reading these books. Deborah Harkness, the author, is a historian and scholar, and the fact that she wrote two nonfiction books about both alchemy and the scientific revolution before writing fiction shows that she knows what she's talking about.

    3. The writing in these books! Ok, so, the writing in here is phenomenal. I know you are thinking to yourself, "Why is she writing a review on all three books?" Um, because I read them all within one week. No, I didn't clean or cook or even pretend to be a human. I just got suckered into these books. Trust me, make sure you have the sequels ready after you read the first one.

    These books wrapped me up and sucked me in, even though they are completely different from the books I normally read. 

    “In this room we understand why this war might be fought…it’s about our common belief that no one has the right to tell two creatures that they cannot love each other–no matter what their species.”

    “It begins with absence and desire.
    It begins with blood and fear.
    It begins with a discovery of witches.” 

    “Somewhere in the center of my soul, a rusty chain began to unwind. It freed itself, link by link, from where it had rested, unobserved, waiting for him. My hands, which had been balled up and pressed against his chest, unfurled with it. The chain continued to drop, to an unfathomable depth where there was nothing but darkness and Matthew. At last it snapped to its full length, anchoring me to a vampire. Despite the manuscript, despite the fact that my hands contained enough voltage to run a microwave, and despite the photograph, as long as I was connected to him, I was safe.”

    “As fast as I can tell there are only two emotions that keep the world spinning year after year…One is fear. The other is desire.”

    Tuesday, February 10, 2015

    Top Ten Tuesday: Character Romances

    It's Valentine's week! I have a date booked for Saturday (and it's been booked for weeks), which means that miracles do happen. In the spirit of the day of love, I'll be getting mushy on the blog this week!

    Looking at my Goodreads, I realized that, um, I don't read a lot of romances. Books that I usually pick up involve mystery, friendship, family life, or internal struggle, with a bit of romance on the side. However, I was able to find 10 couples that had interesting relationships. While not all of them are the most healthy relationships in the beginning, the characters intrigued me, and I loved watching their relationships develop.

    What are your favorite character romances?

    Thursday, February 5, 2015

    Book Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

    She was my heart, she was half of me, and nothing, certainly not a few measly hundred miles, was ever going to change that.” 
    ― Morgan MatsonSince You've Been Gone

    Book Title: Since You've Been Gone
    Author: Morgan Matson 
    Publication Date: 2014
    Genres: YA Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction
    Goodreads Rating: 4.16 Stars 
    My Rating: 3.5 Stars

    The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. 

    But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.

    Apple Picking at Night? Okay, easy enough.

    Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

    Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

    Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

    Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

    1. Maybe this wasn't the best way to end my I'll Give You the Sun hangover. The two books are in the same genre, but they are miles apart. This novel features a mostly normal semi-popular girl who generally let's her best friend make decisions for her. While I can appreciate the normal-ness of the character, it took me a while to like her because she was so... blah (especially compared to I'll Give You the Sun).

    2. Thankfully, the book picks up. In the beginning, I was just not into it. It was... whatever, and if I didn't finish it, I wouldn't have thought about it again. However, as Emily makes more friends, becomes more brave, and pushes through more challenges, I started to really cheer for her. I began really connecting to her character and to her friends, and my heart beamed with pride watching her grow.

    3. It ended so beautifully. This book is a champion of love and of friendships. By the end of the novel, I was happy, content, and impressed. Morgan Matson really wrapped up the novel well, and if you're the type of person who hates books with unresolved endings, this novel will satisfy you.

    After a slow start, this novel really picked up, and it ended beautifully. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a light and friendly read.

    “All the stuff you can’t wait to get away from, until it’s not there anymore, and then you miss it like crazy.” 

    “This felt like the way you get nervous right before something exciting happens-the moment when you're balanced on the top of the roller coaster, the hush before the surprise party, the second after the diving board but before the water, when you can close your eyes and imagine, for just a second, that you're flying. The feeling that good things were coming, almost here, any moment now.” 

    “I don’t think you have to do something so big to be brave. And it’s the little things that are harder anyway.” 

    “I was still a little amazed that this was happening. That this, the thing that had seemed so impossible, so terrifying, so utterly beyond me, was happening. I was having fun. And that I was the one who made it happen. "I did it," I said out loud, sendind my voice up to the stars above me, not really caring if the others heard me.”