20 January 2020

The Wicked Redhead - Book Review

The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams
Publication date: December 10, 2019
Pages: 432 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 3/5 stars ✩✩✩
Strengths: Engaging characters for both time periods/plotlines
Weaknesses: Loose ends

I really enjoyed reading this book. The storyline and viewpoints went between Ella in 1998 and Ginger in 1924 or so. I liked both women.

Ella had just left her husband, after she caught him screwing around. She'd moved into an apartment building in Greenwich and connected with the tenant on the 5th floor. After moving in, she finds a postcard with a picture called 'Redhead Beside Herself.' A nude woman is posing in the picture, alongside a painting of the same woman in the same pose. Ella feels compelled to find out more about the redhead in the picture.

Ginger seems to be starting a new life in Florida, after fleeing tragedy and loss in New York. But then the man she loves goes back to New York, and his mother insists she return as well. Ginger seems to have a much more interesting history and future, but we don't learn about very much of that. Since this is the second book in The Wicked City series, maybe the first book could answer some of my questions? But the description of the first book now sounds kind of boring, since I know how it ends based on how the second book starts.

Overall, the book and stories were very engaging, but seemed sort of pointless by the end. I didn't like the loose ends, but maybe another book is following this one too? For someone interested especially in Prohibition and the 1920s, this would be a fun read. I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book to read. The opinions expressed in this review are not influenced by having received the book for free.

19 January 2020

Sunday Salon - 19.Jan.20

What a week! I'm checking and and wrapping it all up while pairing with Readerbuzz for the Sunday Salon.
It finally looks like winter here! And feels like it! Brrr...... We got around 6 inches of snow yesterday, and then it snowed some more today (although today's wasn't even forecasted). We keep teasing the kids that there probably won't be school tomorrow (spoiler alert: there is no school for students tomorrow as it's a teacher professional development day). But even though we don't have school, I did schedule dentist appointments for us starting at 9 am. At least that will be done again til June, right?

What I Read

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

I purchased and read this one for my daughter's middle school battle of the books. I really enjoyed this middle grade fantasy book. While the title character was far from my favorite character in this book, I did like some of the fairy characters much better. If I had more time on my hands, I would totally look forward to reading more books in this series. I will definitely see the Disney movie based on this book, once it's released. I'd give Artemis Fowl 4 out of 5 stars.

Currently Reading

The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams

I'm really enjoying this one so far. I think I've just got a couple hours left. I'm equally engaged with 1998 Ella's story, and the story of Ginger from the 1920s. According to the Goodreads listing, this is the second book in the Wicked City series! Once I wrap up this post, I'll be able to snuggle in and finish this up. Watch for my review here and on NetGalley within the next few days. Thanks to NetGalley for my electronic copy of this book.

The Witch of Delray: Rose Veres & Detroit's Infamous 1930s Murder Mystery by Karen Dybis

I haven't started this one yet, but I've been on the waiting list through my local library and finally got it! I live about an hour out of Detroit and I'm looking forward to this intriguing local-ish history.


In other bookish news, I just got back home from our first meeting for our adult battle of the books team. So fun!! I don't have a lot of real-life friends and activities on a regular basis, so I'm really looking forward to hanging out with these ladies and working our way up to this event! I think the other three on our team feel the same.
We had a great time this evening hanging out at a local restaurant, sharing some appetizers, and talking about lots of books. Our next meeting is in mid-February, and we've talked about actually reading one of our assigned books by then - We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

Off the Blog

This month is kind of crazy busy (okay, next month too). Tomorrow my 12-year-old daughter has a performance with her acappella group for the Martin Luther King Jr community event. Then she has play practice Monday - Friday for her middle school's production of The Wizard of Oz: Deleted Scenes. She is the Snicker Bird and Army Bird One. She is also participating in a Young Americans weekend camp the first weekend in February (oh, and that's the weekend for her battle of the books too). As soon as her play performances are done (February 20 & 21), she has a choir concert and a baton competition the following week.
My 8-year-old son is super excited for his Pokemon club to start this month, and will also be auditioning with a spoonerism for his school's variety show at the end of this month. The actual variety show isn't til March.
What an exciting spring!

17 January 2020

10 Random Things for Friday

F  R  I  D  A  Y

  1. Have I mentioned that I'm ready for spring? Of course I have. I'm cold. I'm always cold. So I'm always ready for spring. Ugh.
  2. And to add insult to injury (or whatever), they're forecasting a big ole blizzard for tomorrow morning. My plans for tomorrow now include staying home, inside, reading (thanks for the idea, Jana & Steph!)
  3. This was the school's second week of five days IN-A-ROW! It's tiring, apparently especially for kindergarteners, who were dropping their full lunch trays left and right! I don't know how many ways I can say, "Hold on with both hands!" before people hear me.
  4. I was all excited to sleep in for three days in a row (with school closed Monday) until I got an email this morning reminding me of the dental appointments I made. For 9am. On Monday.
  5. My husband may have laughed at my other wonderful project idea for this weekend. We have a corner next to our kitchen table where I used to keep my gorgeous aquarium and fish. Now it has a pile of art supplies. Regardless of my plan, the art supplies are moving. But I'd like to get a little table or bookshelf and put a cd player and some of our cds there. We must have several hundred cds downstairs, and I haven't stopped liking the music they play.
  6. Have you seen any good family movies lately? The kids and I like to do 'pizza and a movie' on Fridays. We pick up a pizza at Hungry Howies, and a movie from the nearby Redbox. But it just seems like there haven't been many good family films coming to Redbox lately...
  7. I've finished six books so far this year/month. I was thinking that was pretty good, but last January I finished 11! The month feels almost over - I hope all the hours I'm working don't detract too much from my reading time ;)
  8. Honestly, it's a very un-winter winter here. There was snow in November for what, a week? While I hate feeling cold, I am very relieved to not feel trapped like I do when the roads are slick and snowy.
  9. I am so grateful for my job. And I love the fact that I feel less pressured since I'm only truly committed to working two hours/day, but can always work more to make more money. Which I always do (work more hours, I mean). Knowing it's my choice is kind of empowering and keeps me from complaining (too much?) about all the hours I work.
  10. So tomorrow we ride out the snow, Sunday I have a middle school and an adult battle of the books meetings, and Monday is the dentist and a MLK day ceremony that Maggie's choir group is performing in. What's on your schedule?

14 January 2020

Show Us Your Books - January 2020

Welcome to Show Us Your Books for January - find other participating blogs at Life According to Steph and Jana Says.
Even more importantly, visit Steph's or Jana's site for info on the readathon this Saturday - and there are prizes! Who doesn't love another excuse to spend the day reading, right?

Going back to work after the holidays is really cutting into my reading time (and my blogging time, and my sleeping time...). I've finished five book so far in January (okay, one was actually a picture book, but it was for review, and it's adorable!). I'm partway into one of the books for my daughter's middle school battle of the books, and I'm hoping to finish that one plus at least five more from my TBR/review list. Here's the deets:

Finished reading:

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I'm so glad this was my first finished book for 2020. It was fabulous, and I loved every minute of it. 5 out of 5 stars from me. The sequel to this one is Practical Magic, and I immensely enjoy both the book and the movie.

I borrowed this one from the library for my kindle, so it was just the wait list that had me waiting so long to finally read it.

Fly, Fly Again by Katie Jaffe & Jennifer Lawson

This is an absolutely adorable picture book. I received a pdf copy of it and read it to review for Books I Think You Should Read. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars. If you have little people in your life, click through before January 18 and enter to win your own copy of this great book.

Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2) by Alexandra Bracken

The first book already has a movie, and I hope this one gets one too! I borrowed this book from the library for my kindle. I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

I received a copy of this one from NetGalley to review. While I felt engaged and enjoyed the characters, the story felt a bit loose in places. Check out my full 3.5 out of 5 stars review here.

The God Game by Danny Tobey

I finished this one on Sunday. It was definitely a page-turner, and I was eager to find out how it would all end! I gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars. My full review will be published soon.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley to review it.

Currently Reading:

I'm currently partway into Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. I expected to enjoy it, as it is the first of what I've heard as a popular series, and it's soon to be a major motion picture from Disney (I do love book/movie pairings). So far, so good. I was a little worried as some of our team members have struggled to get into it. Luckily it seems up my alley.

Planning to Read:

Next up I have a few more NetGalley reads.
The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams
The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick
All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, & Karen White
18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb
Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith

If these go quickly, I'd love to try and squeeze in another YA from the battle of the books list.

13 January 2020

Books - December 2019

Whew. 2019 sounds like so long ago! I finished TWELVE books in December, but I just want it to be over with, so I'm skipping the summaries from Amazon. Here are the covers/names/authors of the books I read, with their title linking to GoodReads, and either a link to my review, or a quick stars (out of 5) rating from me. Enjoy!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I read this one strictly because it was so popular. I borrowed it from the library for my kindle, and waited quite a while for it. I've already forgotten most of it and would give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Christmas in Silver Springs by Brenda Novak

Check out my full review on my blog here. I gave this one 3 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley for my e-copy of this book. Receiving this book for free did not influence my review or opinions.

Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich

It hadn't occurred to me that this novel is based on the musical, instead of the other way around. Mind. Blown. LOL

I waited a long time to borrow this one from the library for my kindle.

That being said, I enjoyed the story and would give the book 4 out of 5 stars for really making an impression. I would love to see the musical, although I've heard that it's depressing. Kind of the nature of the story, folks.

Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

I think I liked this one the best out of the holiday books I reviewed. Find my full review here. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley for my e-copy of this book. Receiving this book for free did not influence my review or opinions.

An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow

This was the least-holiday of my holiday reads, but that was okay. I still gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars. Check out my full review here.

Thank you to NetGalley for my e-copy of this book. Receiving this book for free did not influence my review or opinions.

The Kill Club by Wendy Heard

I read this one to review on Books I Think You Should Read (where most of my reviews appear) and gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars. It was also on my Best of 2019 list. Yeah. Still thinking about this one.

Thank you to NetGalley for my e-copy of this book. Receiving this book for free did not influence my review or opinions.

Husband Material by Emily Belden

Read my full 3 out of 5 star review here.

Thank you to NetGalley for my e-copy of this book. Receiving this book for free did not influence my review or opinions.

Journey to Jo'Burg by Beverley Naidoo

This is a middle-grade reader, so definitely a break from my norm. I'm still undecided if I'll donate the copy I received to an elementary or middle school. The writing is more of an elementary level, but the subject matter is a little more mature.

I reviewed it here and gave it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

I did receive a free copy of this book, but it did not influence my review or opinions of the book.

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars here. Thank you to NetGalley for my e-copy of this book. Receiving this book for free did not influence my review or opinions.

A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison

My full review with my 3 out of 5 star rating is here. I received a copy of this book to review from NetGalley. This did not influence my review or opinions.

Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg

I received a copy of this book to review for Books I Think You Should Read. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. I have enjoyed all the books I've read by Lee Goldberg.

Receiving this book for free did not influence my review or opinions.

First Cut by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

This is truly a great forensics/medical examiner story that hopefully will develop into a series. I rated it 3.5 out of 5 stars here.

Thank you to NetGalley for my e-copy of this book. Receiving this book for free did not influence my review or opinions.

11 January 2020

A Beginning at the End - Book Review

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen
Publication date: January 14, 2020
Pages: 400
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 3.5/5 stars ☆☆☆☆
Strengths: Believable and diverse characters, nice location details
Weaknesses: Plot details and backstories

At the beginning of this book, the four main characters are just casual acquaintances at best (well, except the father and daughter). They're all living in the San Francisco Metro after a widespread pandemic forced them into quarantine and then out into the world to start over with essentially nothing. Most of the population suffers from PASD (Post-apocalyptic Stress Disorder) and many people avoid interaction with others. Those are just the facts.

Our involvement with the story starts when the wedding planner (Krista) leaves her client (Moira) and ends up stuck in the elevator with Rob (one of Moira's co-workers, and Sunny's dad) during a power outage. Their familiarity with each other is now established, and the plot can proceed.  They all become closer with each other over time (a few weeks, maybe?) until everything escalates at once. They work together through an unexpected crisis during another possible pandemic outbreak to try and achieve the happily-ever-after we all want.

I enjoyed the characters a lot, and they are why the overall rating made it to 3.5/5 stars. I did wonder form time to time at the lack of impact on their lives from the first pandemic. Yeah. the quarantine and starting over changed all their lives greatly, but despite somewhere in the book giving a fatality rate of a lot from the illness, only one character talks about an actual interaction with someone sick. I'd say it was still mostly believable, but I'm just surprised that an illness causing the 'end of the world,' isn't more noticeable.

I'd still recommend this book for fans of dystopia. Also, there is only super-minimal romance, so that may be a plus or a minus, depending on your tastes.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book to read in advance of its January 14, 2020 publication. The opinions expressed in this review are not influenced by having received the book for free.

09 January 2020

ADULT Battle of the Books

Seeing my library post a few days ago about an adult battle of the books trivia contest was seriously the highlight of my year so far. And I was planning on it being the highlight for most of the year - or at least until the actual battle in April.
But then it took me about three days to form our fantastic four-person team, and then the registration link said the event was full.
I drove straight to the library after I found out. I needed better information than that! Yes, the librarian told me, there were 11 teams registered and the event was full. Ugh!! Did I mention this event is co-sponsored by three different libraries? So they planned on less than four teams per library? They were greatly underestimating our enthusiasm. They added me to the waiting list.
My persistence and dedication to procrastination paid off. While I was supposed to be doing something else, I clicked through the registration link a couple times yesterday. And the second time....wait for it...it let me register! So now we're in :)

I am so excited!! (and so are my other team members!!)

The trivia contest focuses on these four books (one non-fiction, one graphic novel, and two fiction). The rules say that a team can have from two - six members, and each team must have a cell phone at the competition, which lasts for two hours. Amazon gift cards will be prizes (shh... don't tell them I would have participated even if there weren't prizes!).

Here's link to GoodReads for each book, and a little of my preliminary thoughts:

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - Uh-oh. This non-fiction is one of very few books that I've picked up in the past, but never finished. I suppose I'm finally gonna read it all the way through!

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki - I've never considered graphic novels to be very strong for me, so I may have my daughter read this one with me (after I make sure it isn't too adult, but the description sounds teen-ish).

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo - This one sounds good, and also carries with it a GoodReads Choice Award from 2019. That many readers can't be wrong!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson - This one also sounds really good to me! I love gothic stuff, and this old novel will really fit the bill. All the reviews talk about it being really creepy - yay!!

Hopefully our team is diverse enough to cover each others' weaknesses and we can do well when it comes time to test our trivia knowledge. In the meantime, it'll be fun to hang out with some adults and talk about books!

Have you ever done anything like this? I've worked with my daughter a few times for her battle of the books events. There was one in 5th grade (which I show the books in my books read list, but not an overall post about the event), one in 6th grade, and this year's battle which takes place next month.