03 April 2020

10 Random Things for Friday

  1. Yes - this is my first random-ish post during quarantine. I'll admit I like staying home and sleeping in, but I hate cooking every day all meals. Take-out is an option, but I feel safer staying here. I have used a couple meal delivery things so far - we did Dinnerly last week, and I got a box from Hello Fresh today.
  2. Hubs thankfully still has his job and is working from home so far. He set up his computer and monitors in the basement (which is finished, anyway, if a bit chillier than the rest of the house) so he can stay away from our noise and chaos.
  3. I really, super-much need the weather to warm up. It was up to around 60 yesterday, so I sat out on the porch to read for a bit, the rest of the family went for a long bike ride, and then my daughter and I went for a walk after dinner.
  4. As much as I would love to say I'm getting more reading done, I'm totally not. I think I may be just about holding up my regular pace. The distractions of having everyone at home, as well as the obsession with knowing what's going on has really overshadowed my 'free' time.
  5. I keep watching all the negativity and finger-pointing and blaming. Everyone is criticizing other's choices. And I'm included (obviously. LOL). It's like COVID-19 is in a war with us all. So we're rocking the fight-or-flight thing, but there's no one to fight with besides the other victims of the virus. It sucks. It's an instinct that isn't doing much to save us from anything. That being said, I'm just being liberal with my 'unfriend' button. ;)
  6. So thankful for the friend who finally told me that Disney+ isn't a channel, it's its own app! So we downloaded it just like our Netflix and our Hulu, and the kids are THRILLED with lots of Disney content to watch. Tonight we get to see Onward (that kind of made the decision easy, since we'd been trying to decide on when to see it in the theater before this all went down).
  7. Have you watched any of the Ryan Reynolds' interviews or videos since quarantine started? I like him even more. Here's the first one, reminding us all to stay at home. You need to listen to all of his commentary :)
  8. The other population really being inconvenienced is house cats. They are no really cool with this much company. Just sayin.
  9. I'd love to say something not about quarantine, but it's sort of taken over our whole lives, amiright? I talk to a couple people from time to time on the phone, and it feels like that's all there is - no plans, limited memories, just getting through each day, together yet apart.
  10. Wishing you and yours peace, good health (both physical and mental), and a pleasant, stress-free time away from the regular pressures of normal life.

23 March 2020

Ninth House - Book Review

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Publication date: October 28, 2019
Pages: 459 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary, Magical realism
Rating: 5/5 stars ✰✰✰✰✰
Strengths: Magical realism, intricate plot and background, interesting characters
Weaknesses: Lots of detail, ending without closure

I really loved this book. Magical realism is my jam, and the way this intricate story is presented feels like it could be real life disguised as fiction, right? I've never been to New Haven or Yale, but I sort of want to visit now.

While I don't feel that the main character, Galaxy (nickname Alex) is supposed to be exactly likable, I liked her anyway. She fought her way through a life of struggle, and dealing with her unique 'gift,' and still wanted to do right, especially for those wronged by others.

The ending was the biggest problem with this book, because I NEED to know what happens next. We were definitely left with a bit of ambiguity and loose ends. I think I know what direction some of it is moving toward, but while a sequel has been confirmed by the author, no expected date has been given yet.

I would definitely recommend this book for those who appreciate paranormal fiction. I gave this 5 out of 5 stars and will probably read it again.

22 March 2020

Sunday Post - 22 March 2020

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted at the Caffeinated Reviewer. It's a chance to share news ~ a post to recap the past week on our blogs and showcase books and things we have received, while also sharing news about what is coming up on our blogs in the next week.

What a week, amiright? No matter where you live, the pandemic is currently rocking your world, and probably not in the best way.
While I will never deny enjoying sleeping in, there's an underlying anxiety that distracts from everything while I'm awake. I have a constant need for more information. Instead of reading for the hours available to me each day, I'm distracted and wandering, and my reading pace is suffering. Weird.

Last Week on SweetlyBSquared

Okay, maybe my reading pace isn't suffering, but I still feel like I'm wasting a lot of time...

Book reviews: The Grace Kelly Dress & The Henna Artist (each 3.5/5 stars),
This One Summer (a not-YA graphic novel), and
The Sea Glass Cottage (a pleasant story of three generations of women over a couple months).
And I played along with some Friday Book Memes.

This Week on SweetlyBSquared

I just finished reading Ninth House (LOVED it!) last night and plan to get a review up for that tomorrow.
I just started reading Tigers, Not Daughters (so far, so good!) and have promised a review on Books I Think You Should Read for Friday, March 27.
I also need to get reading The Darkness We Hide (I've read this author's books before and they're usually quick page-turners) to review that one early the following week.

New Arrivals at SweetlyBSquared

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez (expected publication April 7, 2020) - received through Netgalley for review

The Lost Orphan by Stacey Halls (expected publication April 7, 2020) - received through Netgalley for review

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev (expected publication May 26, 2020)- received through Netgalley for review

So - that's all she wrote for now. Back to reading (books and blogs), hopefully sitting down to pick up my counted cross-stitch again (after more than a year!), and following news updates. Tomorrow I've got a box of goodies from Amazon coming - yay!! Take care of yourself, take care of each other, and try to find something to enjoy and appreciate each day.

20 March 2020

Friday Book Memes

I feel like my random Friday would be pretty lame. In the last week, I went to get groceries once (last Saturday), had to report to a work meeting on Monday, and then went to the meat processing plant today (to pick up a 1/4 of a cow - yay!). Ten random things of my week of mostly reading would be really lame. LOL Instead, let's stick with the books :)

Today I'm joining in on the Book Blogger Hop from Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer.

If you could add one interactive feature to reading books, what would it be?

Well, my first thought is a way to look up the meanings of words, except I bet my kindle could do that and I just don't know how. LOL If that already exists, I guess next it would be awesome to have access to pictures of things, and not just definitions. For example, I recently finished reading The Grace Kelly Dress, and it would have been cool to have a photograph of the real Princess Grace in her wedding dress. Or when I'm reading books based in other countries (like The Henna Artist in Jaipur), pictures of some of the home or clothing design features that I wasn't familiar with.

Next up is the Book Beginnings Meme from Rose City Reader. Right now I'm reading Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. Before the map of Yale, there are two passages. The first one is in something that isn't English (maybe Spanish?), and doesn't seem to translate to the second passage. So for this meme, I'm sharing the second passage, which I suppose is technically before the beginning of the book, but I like it anyway.
There is a girl, a girl who does not fear death
Because she has her father and her mother and her twelve hunter brothers,
A home of three floors and a barnyard farmhouse,
In the middle of the farm, an apple tree that gives love apples in the winter and summer.
In the farm there are seven grottos,
Each and every grotto secured....
Death was light and slipped in through the lock.
--Death and the Girl, Sephardic ballad

Last but not least (maybe I should mix up the order next time?) is the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

Here's my chosen excerpt from page 56 of Ninth House:

She glanced back at the Grays gathered around Payne Whitney. Was it her imagination or was there something in the bent of their shoulders, the way they huddled together by the gymnasium doors? Alex knew better than to look too closely, but in that fleeting moment she could have sworn they looked frightened. What did the dead have to fear?
She could hear Darlington's voice in her head: When was the first time you saw them? Low and halting, as if he wasn't sure whether the question was taboo. But the real question, the right question, was: When was the first time you knew to be afraid?Alex was glad he'd never had the sense to ask.

That's it for my Friday - I'm 26% through Ninth House so far and excited to get back to reading! Here in Michigan, we're still practicing social distancing, so it's the perfect time to read! Wishing for the very best for you and yours :)

19 March 2020

The Sea Glass Cottage - Book Review

The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne
Publication date: March 17, 2020
Pages: 384 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance, contemporary fiction
Rating: 3/5 stars ✰✰✰
Strengths: Believable and likable characters
Weaknesses: Predictable

I enjoyed this book about three generations of women, learning about themselves and sharing their secrets with each other and those they love. We've got Juliet, the matriarch who runs the family's garden shop since she was widowed years ago. She's the mother of Olivia, a successful tech business owner living 12 hours away in Seattle. The third generation is Caitlin, Olivia's niece who has spent her 15-year-life so far with Juliet.

Caitlin has been snooping around, trying to find clues to who her father is, since her mother died of an overdose before Caitlin could get to know her. And Juliet has been hiding secrets about her own health, which may come to a head quickly after she falls from a ladder at the garden center, breaking her hip and some ribs. Olivia has decided she is the one who needs to hold them all together now, but she's still a little nervous about being in public after witnessing a very public crime a week or so earlier.

I found Juliet and Olivia's stubborn independence a bit relatable, but could also understand the healthy dose of teenage attitude that Caitlin was dishing out without telling anyone why. The men they interacted with sometimes seemed like just props in the journey of the women to be find their way through their own circumstances and trust each other with their truths and their hearts.

Overall, I'd give this book 3 out of 5 stars. I really didn't want to believe one of the things that was revealed, and kept waiting for an alternative truth, but otherwise the story was pretty predictable.

Thank you to Harlequin and Netgalley for letting me read this book in exchange for my honest review.

17 March 2020

This One Summer - Book Review

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Publication date: May 6, 2014
Pages: 320 pages
Genre: Graphic novel (not YA)
Rating: 3/5 stars ✰✰✰
Strengths: Evocative illustrations that communicated emotion well
Weaknesses: One-dimensional story

This book definitely wasn't what I was expecting, mostly in a good way. I've been trying to read more graphic novels lately, and this one is required as part of our local adult battle of the books. There was definitely more depth of emotion than I perceived from other graphic novels, especially conveyed through the illustrations.

While I could tell there was a lot of emotional impact from some of Rose and Windy's summer experiences, and how they might be feeling, the limited text left a lot to my imagination. The drawings helped fill this in to a large extent, but I'm used to reading the words in the book, and imagining the pictures instead of the other way around. I don't know if this is from my limited graphic novel experience, or the point of all graphic novels.

I would not recommend this book for young adults or middle-grade readers, which is a bit complicated, as my kids think they should read any graphic novel I do. Not in this case, kids. Our main character, Rose, and her younger friend, Windy, are dealing with a potentially traumatic summer. Rose's parents are fighting a lot - in part because of her mother's adult experience the summer before. In addition, when they escape to the convenience store to just get away from things and rent movies, the teenagers there are embroiled in their own drama. What they overhear is definitely not stuff that early teens or tweens should be trying to understand without adult guidance.

Overall, I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars, and I'm sure I'll be paging through it several more time to keep my eye out for more details that may be useful in the upcoming trivia competition. I'm excited to see what the judges think are the important points of the text and the illustrations.

16 March 2020

The Grace Kelly Dress AND The Henna Artist - Book Reviews

The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz
Publication date: March 3, 2020
Pages: 384 pages
Genre: Historical fiction, contemporary romance
Rating: 3.5/5 stars ✰✰✰✰
Strengths: Great characters, believable plot
Weaknesses: Predictable

I really enjoyed this book. The journey of the dress from 1950s Paris, to 1982 and then 2020 in/around New York told a beautiful story of three generations of women. The good things and bad things in their lives made them more believable characters.

While I wanted to pick a favorite character, I really liked each of them for different reasons. My favorite part was probably when they all tied together at the end.

Overall, I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was a great light read for nearly any adult age. I liked the references from 1950s Paris, 1982, and the current day bride-to-be. While it didn't have a lot of steamy sex, there were other adult themes.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
Publication date: March 3, 2020
Pages: 368 pages
Genre: Historical fiction, India
Rating: 3.5/5 stars ✰✰✰✰
Strengths: Great story and main characters
Weaknesses: Some loose ends

This book got me excited about the local India festival in August again. The descriptions of much of the Indian culture were beautifully detailed. The prologue threw me off for a bit, but I loved when it tied in with the rest of the story later in the book.

The story of Lakshmi's determination and hard work to overcome her obstacles was inspiring. And watching her willingness to keep adjusting those plans made my heart happy in the end. The plight of women in the 1950s in India was just as heart-wrenching as it is in many cases in current culture.

I gave this book at least 3.5/5 stars - maybe even 3.75? The story felt very relatable even more than 50 years later. The aspects of Indian culture and castes that I may not fully understand were explained clearly with what I needed to know.

Thank you to Mira, Harlequin, and Netgalley for the advance copies of these books to read in exchange for my honest reviews.