January 31, 2014

Sage's Book Tour: Invoking Nonna by Sage Adderly

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If you can imagine two witches living under the same roof, but neither acknowledging the other's practice of witchcraft, then you'll be able to get a glimpse into my life. My name is Maggie, and I am a teenage witch. My mom, Laura, is also a solitary witch, but we don't talk about it. I know it sounds weird and maybe a bit impossible, but we pull it off.
-from Invoking Nonna by Sage Adderly

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Amazon | Goodreads

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Maggie Sloan is a free-spirited teenager growing up in rural Georgia. Unlike her peers, Maggie is a witch and so is her mother. In addition to normal teenager rites of passage, she must learn about her family lineage and witchcraft. Her mother, Laura, keeps a tight lid on their family secrets - like the mysterious life and death of her grandmother who passed away before Maggie was born.

Practicing the craft will test solid friendships and introduce Maggie to new realms. While seeking the truth about herself and her family, Maggie is faced with danger from churchgoing classmates who will stop at nothing to make sure she is found out. Laura and Maggie strengthen their bond through witchcraft and work together to overcome their enemies. Are their magical gifts enough to keep them safe?

I don't have a lot of experience reading paranormal, so Invoking Nonna by Sage Adderly was a little bit outside my comfort zone; however, it was an enjoyable read with a lot of themes common in YA literature that made it completely identifiable to me as a reader, no matter the genre. While Invoking Nonna could be classified as your standard YA coming-of-age story about a teenager dealing with friends, family and identity issues, the special twist is that Maggie is a witch and she must come to terms with that and how it affects every other aspect of her already complicated teen life.

I found that the real heart of this story are the mother-daughter relationships, which were my favorite parts. I enjoyed seeing how Maggie's evolution into witchcraft opened up her relationship with her mom, Laura, so much that the adjustment almost seemed painful in reflection of how cold and closed off her mom was before. Their commonality of being witches creates a whole new relationship for them. I look forward to seeing how this is fleshed out in the sequels and if there will be more understanding for why Laura guarded herself from her daughter before. Additionally, Maggie is able to learn more about her family, especially her grandmother Sophia, than ever before. I really enjoy how Sophia's history is presented as a journal that she left behind; this was a very creative way of lending her a voice amongst the narratives of her daughter and granddaughter. I also look forward to learning more about Laura and Sophia's mother-daughter relationship and how it shaped Laura to be Maggie's mother.

The characters I didn't care for very much were Maggie's friends. Even Ruby, who the reader is supposed to love, was not as likable as I feel was intended; she felt very dull and one-dimensional. Ruby kind of annoyed me while the other friends amongst Maggie's group were more interesting despite being less likable. Another problem I had with the friends is that I didn't find their chapter point-of-views necessary. I would have preferred only hearing Maggie, Laura and Sophia's perspectives; I think readers would be able to decipher what the minor characters' perspectives contributed to the story through Maggie and/or Laura's retelling of the events. It might have even seemed more mysterious and fulfilling.

While I didn't love the characters of the friends, I did appreciate what they stood for in the craftmanship of the book. Aside from exploring the relations between the women in Maggie's family and the difficulty growing up a witch, this book explores spirituality versus religion; more specifically witchcraft/Wicca versus Christianity. I was a little bit nervous about this because I'm an inclusive Christian and was worried this book might smear religion as a whole using the label of Christianity. But it doesn't do that at all; in fact it uses Maggie's friends to show that not all are created equally under the blanket of religion: As Christians Ruby symbolizes the loving nature of religion and Gillian symbolizes self-righteous religion. Even Rhiannon seemed to present a well-intentioned albeit misguided symbol of religiosity. For this, I appreciate the minor characters in the story, I just wish I enjoyed reading about them as much as the mother-daughter storyline.

I really enjoyed the premise and ideas explored in this story, especially with all of the loose ends that excite me to hear what will happen next. However, there are a few things I think could be improved upon. First, I didn't care for the dialogue in this story, there wasn't enough use of contractions so it didn't sound like real people talking. Even the narrative could have used a more casual voice or else be changed to third-person. It felt very sterilized, like it wasn't a real person telling the story. Secondly, I didn't find that the different point-of-views sounded distinct; they all sounded like they were the same character. For as many narrators as there are, I hope the next book infuses some personality into their distinct narrative voices.

Overall, I think this is a great beginning to an exciting series. I especially enjoy the idea that one must navigate through their past to enhance the experience of the present. I think Maggie has a lot to learn from her mother, Laura, and her grandmother, Sophia. As someone who doesn't ordinarily read paranormal YA, I can recommend this as a great book to get your feet wet in that genre. It's even piqued my interest to read more paranormal books!

Bottom Line: If paranormal YA isn't your thing, this book is still a safe bet for the themes of identity, family, friendship and spirituality. It handles religion respectfully and looks to be the beginning of a great series! 3.5/5 stars

About the Author:
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Sage Adderley is a single (and very busy) mom of three humans and one cat. She is passionate about kindness, coffee, mental health, fat activism, and the DIY lifestyle. Sage is the owner of Sweet Candy Distro & Press, Sage's Blog Tours, and writes the zines Tattooed Memoirs and Marked For Life. She is also the creator of FAT-TASTIC! Sage currently resides in the magical land of Olympia, Wa.

January 27, 2014

Monday's Reading Recap

I never got a chance to let everyone know that my birthday was INCREDIBLE!! I celebrated the last day of my 20s at Groundlings with a group of friends, I ran my first 5k at Disneyland with my fiance...
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I Disneybounded as Ariel, hence that "coral" in my "hair" lol! :)
I had lunch at Disneyland, finally saw Frozen, and my incredible cousin, mom and fiance threw me a surprise party the night of my birthday! I WAS SHOCKED!

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My sister-in-law, niece and nephews were even there from out of town and we went to Disneyland together! SO PERFECT! I really should post this stuff over on my personal blog, but The Book Barn is where my heart is right now, so there! ;)

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So anyway, all that said: I didn't finish any books the week of my birthday! NONE! Can you believe it?! So sad! I tried to make up for it this past week. At least I'm way ahead in my 2014 reading already! I've almost already made a Bingo for the Book Bingo Challenge in which I'm participating! If only I could bring myself to read something non-fiction! ;)

Last Week I Finished Reading: Sailing Out of Darkness by Normandie Fischer, Faking It by Elisa Lorello (re-read) and Paper Towns by John Green (FINALLY! I feel so bad it took me so long because my future-SIL let me borrow it! Sorry, Deanna!)

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This Week I Plan on Reading: I'm not completely sure, but perhaps Finding It by Cora Carmack and Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi if they become available through the library.  Or else Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis!

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This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: Invoking Nonna by Sage Adderly

What are you reading? 

January 24, 2014

TLC Book Tour: Sailing Out of Darkness by Normandie Fischer

Did ex-wives and ex-lovers attend some sort of twelve-step program? Or did they just evolve and explore until they found new ways to cope? New words to define themselves after all the old ones failed. / Maybe this could be her Betty Ford Clinic Abroad.
-from Sailing Out of Darkness by Normandie Fischer

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Initially I thought this book was going to be a pretty standard love story in the same vein as Under the Tuscan Sun or another travel-abroad whirlwind romance story. While it does maintain its roots in romance, Normandie Fischer's Sailing Out of Darkness proves to be anything but "standard". This Christian based novel is the story of Samantha Ransom's redemption. Recently divorced, Sam becomes romantically and sexually entangled with a childhood friend, Jack, who is already involved with another woman. When Sam becomes mysteriously targeted by someone damaging her property, she realizes she suspects it's Jack's ex-girlfriend and knows she must separate herself from Jack once and for all. She flees to Italy to gain her independence, but instead meets Teo, an American writer in Italy who makes Sam feel things she's never felt before. But the adventure doesn't stop when Sam meets Teo; readers also experience some mystery, some super-natural and a lot of faith-infused lessons that enrich the reading experience.

What I loved most about Sailing Out of Darkness was it's ability to touch on a lot of tough issues while still being an accessible and somewhat light read. It asks the question of what happens to divorcees, how do they recover with feelings of rejection and an unfulfilled future? Sam's experience also poses the question as to whether or not independence means isolation. Can she be an independent woman in a relationship? Or does she need to isolate herself from others romantically in order to grow? The answers are not black and white, but what Fischer presents is a lesson about loving and forgiving oneself that any reader who picks up this book is sure to appreciate.

Another of the many lessons Fischer touches on is that of mental and emotional health. Between Sam's emotional distress and the culprit who is harassing her, the reader gets a picture of various degrees in which people require help. One of my favorite parts of this book is the acknowledgements in which Fischer extends her hope that this book will help us recognize those who are hurting. I think this is an important part of this book and it's something I will take with me long after this book has been read and this review has been posted. 

For the English major in me, I was pleased to recognize the use of metaphors and symbolism throughout this book (whether intentional or not). Samantha's sailboat Alice became a metaphor of Samantha herself, floating on the sea of life, adjusting no matter where the wind takes her. Like Sam, Alice even has her fair share of holes. Similarly, I found Teo's character Sophrina from his novels to symbolize a dependable, secure and controllable relationship that fulfilled Teo in ways real women did not.

My biggest complaint about the book were that there were so many characters so early on, I couldn't decipher who was important to note and who was not. I feel some of them could have been eliminated or consolidated, for example Rhea, even though I felt she symbolized the Christian conscience. Speaking of Christianity, this book was lightly seasoned with Christian teachings, which might rub some readers the wrong way. For me, it did not at all, but this might be important to note. I think Christian readers, even those with a very basic relation to Christianity will enjoy the spiritual component.

One final note: this book will make you hungry! It will also make you want to travel to Italy! Anybody want to sponsor my honeymoon?? Anybody?? ....*crickets*... okay... ;)

Bottom Line: I enjoyed this book and would probably have enjoyed it more if I were older with the experience of marriage and children. I think I might not have been the target audience, but it was a nice read nonetheless! Especially recommended if you've struggled with divorce, relationships and/or self-acceptance. 3.5/5 stars! (Rounding up on Goodreads and Amazon because I wasn't exactly the target audience.)

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About the Author

Normandie Fischer writes from on board her sailboat or from on shore in coastal NC -- stories of women and families and the things that get to them.

January 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: She Has Your Eyes by Elisa Lorello


I don't usually participate in Waiting on Wednesday because I have so many books on my TBR list that I try not to hype myself up over books that aren't even out yet! But there are a few books I'm looking forward to this year and the biggest one is probably She Has Your Eyes by Elisa Lorello, the third installment in Andi Cutrone series. Faking It is one of my favorite chick lit books and Elisa Lorello has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I had no idea there would be another book about Andi, but I am so absolutely pleased and excited for it!! We're less than a month away!!!

 photo 18318647_zpsfb2114f3.jpgShe Has Your Eyes (Andi Cutrone #3)
Author: Elisa Lorello
Expected Publication: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Pages: 314

The heartfelt sequel to Kindle bestsellers Faking It and Ordinary World will have readers in stitches and in tears, all over again.

Andi and David have settled happily into Andi’s Northampton home, but David wants more. He wants them to get married. Their discussion is put on hold when Wylie, a fifteen-year-old girl, shows up in their backyard, bearing news that takes David’s mind off the future and sends it spiraling into the past.

Reeling from David’s news, Andi receives a startling announcement of her own, one that leads to a relationship with her estranged mother. As Andi and her mother get closer and Wylie weaves her way into their lives, Andi finds solace in an old comfort: her ex-fiancĂ©.
With the past threatening to eclipse their future, the timing for a wedding is all wrong. But if Andi knows anything about timing, it’s that there’s no time to waste.

Make sure you read Faking It and Ordinary World first! I'm re-reading them right now! :)

January 17, 2014

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) by Betty White

When you're blessed to do the thing you love to do and you're making a lot of money at it so you can benefit your passion, that's a pretty good formula. Appreciate it. Don't abuse it. If you're not enthusiastic, just lie down and close your eyes and be very quiet.

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I'm fortunate enough to share a birthday with Betty White and it just happens to be today! Happy birthday to me and Betty White (only 62 years apart. Yes, I turn THIRTY today!). It's only appropriate that I share a review for her advice book, If  You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't), which I listened to via audio book read by Betty herself.

If You Ask Me covers a wide range of topics in which Betty gives advice ranging from everyday advice about relationships, health and growing old, to advice about show business and that relating to her career. There is also plenty of information about White's famous love for animals. I especially love her advice on maintaining her weight, which is that she weighs herself every day and if she gains a pound, she simply does without some treat that day. Some of the topics might be repetitive from her previous books (which I have not read), although it sounds like White tries to make a point to let you know when she's already mentioned things in greater detail in previous works.

Don't read this book if you want to hear all about her life in detail, I have a feeling she covers her biography more extensively in her other books. In fact, it's possible that this book might be viewed as just another repetitive way to make money; but being that I had no frame of reference with her other books, I enjoyed it perfectly fine with the limited information White gives. However, do be aware that this book has plenty of references to White's current work at the time of publication in 2011; that means more about Hot in Cleveland and that damned Jennifer Love Hewitt movie The Lost Valentine than I personally cared to hear about (I haven't seen either show or movie, I just can't stand JLH). I'm sure if she had a million Golden Girls references I wouldn't have minded! ;)

I highly recommend the audio book because it's read by Betty herself which simply sounds like an older friend giving you sage advice with accompanying funny anecdotes. I feel like everyone loves Betty White, and this book is a classic example of the warmth, humor and wisdom that make her an icon that spans generations.

Bottom Line: If you love Betty, you'll love this light and witty book! Especially recommended on audio since Betty narrates it! 4/5 stars.

January 15, 2014

TBR Pile Challenge Checkpoint #1

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If you haven't already noticed, I added a tab above for Challenges that I'm participating in this year to better monitor my progress. I utilized the Bout of Books Read-a-thon to make a solid dent in my reading goals and that includes Roof Beam Reader's TBR Pile Challenge! So far I've finished 2 books out of the required 12.

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - finished reading 1/7/14
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett - finished reading 1/12/14
I haven't posted my reviews yet, but I'll be sure to include links to them on the Challenge tab once they're completed and posted. I was really glad to read Fahrenheit 451 since it's a classic I hadn't yet read (embarrassing for an English major, I know!).  And The Help! What an incredible and fulfilling book! This is the first book I've read in 2014 where I really miss the characters now that I've finished reading about them. I can't wait to watch the movie!

Looking ahead this month, I plan to focus more on my Winter TBR list since I haven't knocked off enough books from there yet. But I'm really looking forward to making the time for some of the books on my TBR list, namely The Book Thief by Markus Zusak so I can see the movie!

How is your 2014 reading going?

January 13, 2014

Monday's Reading Recap + Bout of Books Recap

I barely conquered my Bout of Books Read-a-Thon goal, and it was only because I practically ignored Tyler all weekend listening to my audio book of The Help to reach my goal of 5 books. I'm so glad I finally read The Help, by the way! Such a wonderful and powerful book! I'm also glad I participated in this read-a-thon because it definitely kick started my 2014 reading in a great way!

This week I'm not holding myself to too much reading since it's a busy week for me (my first 5k and my "second 29th birthday" and all...), but I DO want to read a lot of books that I've promised others I would read.

Last Week I Finished Reading:Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, Fahernheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, Invoking Nonna by Sage Adderly, and The Help (audio book) by Kathryn Stockett

These are also the 5 books I completed for the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
Two from my Winter TBR list and 2 from my TBR Pile Challenge list

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This Week I Plan on Reading: Paper Towns by John Green and Sailing Out of Darkness by Normandie Fischer

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This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) by Betty White
{in honor of both our birthday being Friday!}

What are you reading this week? 

January 10, 2014

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

She did not know that the wolf was a wicked sort of animal, and she was not afraid of him.
-from Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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Marissa Meyer does it again. In this action-packed sequel to Cinder, readers meet Scarlet, an 18-year old girl from France in search of her missing grandmother. When Scarlet learns that a young street fighter named Wolf may be able to help her find her grandmother, they pair up. This book also chronicles Cinder's escape from prison with fellow fugitive, Captain Thorne. The perfect blend of a sequel and companion novel, Marissa Meyer's Scarlet brings everything you loved about Cinder and more.

Similar to Cinder, I just adored the fairy tale allusions in this story! I wasn't sure I would enjoy a Little Red Riding Hood-esque story versus a popular princess like Cinderella, but Meyer definitely delivered! I found myself loving Wolf, despite his flaws; however, the part of me that knew the wolf in the original story was the villain made me extremely cautious of this character. I won't spoil Scarlet, but I definitely felt the trust vs mistrust Scarlet must have felt and I really love that Meyer had me so emotionally invested in second-guessing myself.

The romance in this story was a little heavier than Cinder, and I found it the only thing that was hit-or-miss for me. I enjoyed it, but perhaps it was a little too much and/or not so believable. It wasn't a deal-breaker or anything, but I didn't gush over it like I did with Cinder and Kai's budding romance, which seemed easier to love.

The story overall is a constant puzzle quickly fitting together as the adventurous momentum builds. Between Cinder's escape and Scarlet's hunt for her grandmother, the action never ceases. I was impressed by how much I cared for the characters and how that impacted my response to the adventure they experience. Much like the previous installment in this series, Scarlet is full of lively dialogue that inject personality into every character. Captain Thorne was an especially fun addition to the cast of characters and I think every reader will enjoy his comic relief against Cinder's focus.

On one hand I can't believe I waited so long to read this series! But on the other hand, I have much less time to wait for the next book in the series, Cress, coming out on February 4. I'm really excited to see how Meyer integrates another character into this mix and how she will impact the story!

Bottom Line: A must-read for any fairy tale lovers! But I highly recommend starting with Cinder! 4/5 Stars.

January 9, 2014

Another Bout of Books Update

Bout of Books

My overall goal is to read 5 books: 3 out of 5 completed
2 of 2 books from my Winter TBR list complete
1 of 1 books from my TBR Pile Challenge complete

Alright guys, I'm back in the saddle! I am closer to booking my wedding venue, although it's not official yet. {UGH}. However, I did read This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales in one sitting and it revived my ability to escape reality through a good book! I highly recommend it! Afterwards, I went to start reading another classic from my TBR Pile Challenge list, but then I realized that right now I need entertainment more than an educational and enlightening novel. And sometimes that's just the way it is!

Here's my daily progress: 

  • Finished Invoking Nonna by Sage Adderly
  • I think I'm going to begin Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 

January 7, 2014

Bout of Books Update

Bout of Books

My overall goal is to read 5 books: 2 out of 5 completed
1 of 2 books from my Winter TBR list complete
1 of 1 books from my TBR Pile Challenge complete

 I started off strong with this read-a-thon, but right now I'm not feeling so hot. I am completely overwhelmed with the fact that I'm turning 30 in less than 2 weeks and it's hit me way harder emotionally than I expected. I know I have nothing to complain about, but still. Top that off with the fact that I seriously need to plan my wedding and book a date because every 2014 date I want is already booked and the ones I don't want aren't going to be available much longer either! Ugh! I keep reminding myself what my grandma says: May all my problems be so small. But when I'm sitting here trying to read Fahrenheit 451 and the words aren't captivating me enough to distract me from my stress, it's not a good sign! Hopefully I'll book the wedding venue within the next 24 hours and I won't be so stressed. But I also said that a month ago... :x

Here's my daily progress: 

  • Finished Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (from my Winter TBR list)
  • Began Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    January 6, 2014

    Monday's Reading Recap

    I DID IT! I read 70 books in 2013!!! I spent six hours on New Year's Eve cramming like crazy and I swear my brain is still a little bit numb from racing to finish. While my 2014 goal is to read 60 books, I'm pretty sure I'm just going to want to top myself from 2013, although hopefully it won't mean overdoing it at the very last minute again!

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    For the record, after finishing book #70 I did go out and have fun NYE: we went to Disneyland and it was a ton of fun, despite being PACKED with people! The next day we went and saw the Rose Parade floats on display in Pasadena. So 2014 has been really great already!

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    I hope you all had really great New Year's Eve celebrations, no matter what you did!

    Last Week I Finished Reading: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

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    This Week I Plan on Reading: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, Fahernheit 451 by Ray Bradbury,  A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, and some TBD books for the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon!

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    This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

    What are you reading this week?