2016 Book #39 – The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

51rcOvLvuTL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Art of Not Breathing
Author: Sarah Alexander
Date finished: 4/26/16
Genre: Young adult
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Pages in book: 288
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE:I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Since her twin brother, Eddie, drowned five years ago, sixteen-year-old Elsie Main has tried to remember what really happened that fateful day on the beach. One minute Eddie was there, and the next he was gone. Seventeen-year-old Tay McKenzie is a cute and mysterious boy that Elsie meets in her favorite boathouse hangout. When Tay introduces Elsie to the world of freediving, she vows to find the answers she seeks at the bottom of the sea.

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Elsie Main. The story mostly centers around the history behind Elsie’s missing brother, Eddie. Eddie was either autistic or mentally challenged and walked off into the ocean at age 9 and hasn’t been seen since. Elsie starts remembering things about that day and when she starts “free-diving” at age 16 she starts having vivid recollections of time that had been missing from her memories of that day. During this time she begins to fall in love with a boy names Tay, who unfortunately is hiding a few things from Elsie.
Overall this was a good book. It was an interesting story and I liked learning about free-diving since I had never heard of it before. I think the story just didn’t really appeal to me and I had some trouble connecting with the characters and the story line. There were some good conflicts within the plot and goo amount of tension between characters, it just wasn’t one of my favorites personally.

The bottom line: I thought that the free-diving information in this story was interesting but other than that I had trouble connecting to the characters. Was a good story, just wasn’t one of my favorites. I would still recommend though!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

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2016 Book #38 – White Hot by Sandra Brown — PLUS Movie Review!!

51Gi0Iy4cvL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_Title: White Hot
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 4/23/16
Genre: Fiction, romantic suspense
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2004
Pages in book: 419
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Amazon – purchased

Blurb from the cover:

When she hears that her younger brother Danny has committed suicide, Sayre Lynch relents from a vow never to return to Destiny, her small Louisiana hometown. Planning to leave immediately after the funeral, Sayre instead finds herself drawn into the web cast by Huff Hoyle, her controlling and tyrannical father, who owns the town’s sole industry and, with her older brother, runs the lives of everyone who lives there. But underneath the Hoyles’ rigid control, trouble is brewing. Old hatreds foster plans for revenge, past crimes resurface, and a maverick deputy sheriff determines that Danny’s death was not suicide. Tensions mount, threatening to ignite a powder keg of long-held hostility.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will count towards my Book Riot 2016 Read Harder reading challenge, marking off the “read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie and debate which was better” since that is exactly what I did. So if you read my blog you know that overall I am definitely a fan of Sandra Brown. Her novels are always enthralling, drawing me in from the first page. I try to only read her books on my days off or vacation days because I know once I start reading it I won’t be able to put it down. So when I saw that one of her books was being made into a movie on the Hallmark channel, well my gosh I was ecstatic. Unfortunately I don’t get the specific channel on my house that it was being aired on, but luckily my mom does and was nice enough to tape it for me! I finished the book Saturday and then watched the movie. The book (and the movie) are about the Hoyle family and all their drama. The book is full of revenge, deception, murder, and ultimately some romance.
Overall I liked this book a lot. I don’t think it was one of my favorites of Brown’s but as always she crafts a masterful story. There aren’t many authors that I read where there are plot twists that I don’t see coming but Brown always seems to catch me unaware. While I really liked the book, the movie just did not hold up to what I expected after reading the book. There were so many plot points from the book that didn’t make it into the movie that it almost would have been better had I watched the movie without ever reading the book. It was pretty much 2 different stories. I was really disappointed how different Sayre was in the book and the movie. In the book she was portrayed as this bad-ass red head who had survived a lot to become the successful person she was today. But the Sayre from the movie pretty much just cried all the whole time, it was awful. I was so much looking forward to the movie version of a good book but I ended up just being disappointed.

The bottom line: This was a great read. There were definitely some plot twists I did not see coming and the ending was what I wanted though it was slightly abrupt. The movie honestly was such a let down. It was almost nothing like the book, while most of the words were similar they were told in a different location and in a different order and some of the plot points are just completely skewed and half of them are missing. I would recommend the book definitely but would probably say skip the movie.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #37 – I Know What I’m Doing — and Other Lies I Tell Myself by Jen Kirkman

51kB0uOLqhL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Title: I Know What I’m Doing — And Other Lies I Tell Myself
Author: Jen Kirkman
Date finished: 4/22/16
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 12, 2016
Pages in book: 240
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

New York Times bestselling author and stand-up comedian Jen Kirkman delivers a hilarious, candid memoir about marriage, divorce, sex, turning forty, and still not quite having life figured out.
Jen Kirkman wants to be the voice in your head that says, Hey, you’re okay. Even if you sometimes think you aren’t! And especially if other people try to tell you you’re not.
In I Know What I’m Doing—and Other Lies I Tell Myself, Jen offers up all the gory details of a life permanently in progress. She reassures you that it’s okay to not have life completely figured out, even when you reach middle age (and find your first gray pubic hair!). She talks about making unusual or unpopular life decisions (such as cultivating a “friend with benefits” or not going home for the holidays) because you don’t necessarily want for yourself what everyone else seems to think you should. It’s about renting when everyone says you should own, dating around when everyone thinks you should settle down, and traveling alone when everyone pities you for going to Paris without a man.
From marriage to divorce and sex to mental health, I Know What I’m Doing—and Other Lies I Tell Myself is about embracing the fact that life is a bit of a sh*t show and it’s definitely more than okay to stay true to yourself.

My rating: 2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. Also, this book will count towards my “PopSugar 2016 Checklist” reading challenge, marking off the “a book written by a comedian” since this book was in fact written by a stand-up comedian. This book is about Jen Kirkman’s experience with marriage, divorce, and what comes after. It is an honest look at what she thinks of the institution of marriage and about her life. Since she is a comedian, as you can expect there is a slightly sarcastic and humorous voice as our narrator. Many times I found myself laughing out loud while reading this book.
So I would like to preface the rest of what I’m going to write by saying that I don’t think I am the target audience for this book. At all. This book talks a lot about how awful marriage is and while that wasn’t the only point that this book was trying to make or the only thing discussed, it really turned me off to some large parts of the book. While I get that marriage isn’t for everyone, the author talked a lot about how when she was contemplating divorce she got tired of married people telling her that marriage is hard and that she should try to work harder at it. Obviously I don’t know her exact situation and no one outside of your marriage can really decide for you whether its something that is right for you, her married friends were telling the truth. Marriage is hard. It isn’t all rainbows and being madly in love all day every day for your whole life. Marriage is a lot of work. I mean think about it, you have to spend 50 years of your life attached to one person. During that 50 years countless other people are going to come in and out of your life, changing who you are as a person. Even ignoring that, people usually change over time, so during 50 years you could change who you are as a person entirely. Sometimes you change too much and your marriage doesn’t work out but otherwise you have to work at it. You have to work to find time for each other and continue to make each other feel special and just a whole lot of other crap that takes a lot of work emotionally. So suffice it to say I didn’t agree with a lot of the things the author discussed in the book. And trust me, I am not dependent on my husband in any way shape or form, I am very independent. And I am not with him because “society” thinks I need to be married or because I want someone to cook for. I am with my husband because we have fun together (some times) and because I like what he brings to our relationship. He interests me as a person, and he has since the moment I met him.
Wow that was quite the rant. Anyways, the author also discusses that marriage is awful and married people can’t understand why she doesn’t want to get married and that people with kids only care about their kids. So if hearing about any one of those things appeals to you then I would read this book. Other than that you might find it a tad frustrating, but still funny as well.

The bottom line: I just couldn’t really get into this book. It was definitely funny, there were some parts that made me laugh out loud. But I’m a married woman who is looking to have children so I think I just wasn’t in the target audience for this book that makes fun of married woman who have/want to have children for 200 pages. Was a funny read but I would probably only recommend it to people who are divorced or who have no interest in getting married or who have no interest in having children.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #36 – The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

51vl1T1gaGL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Year We Turned Forty
Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Date finished: 4/19/16
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Pages in book: 319
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future.
Jessie loves her son Lucas more than anything, but it tears her up inside that he was conceived in an affair that ended her marriage to a man she still loves, a man who just told her he’s getting remarried. This time around, she’s determined to bury the secret of Lucas’ paternity, and to repair the fissures that sent her wandering the first time.
Gabriela regrets that she wasted her most fertile years in hot pursuit of a publishing career. Yes, she’s one of the biggest authors in the world, but maybe what she really wanted to create was a family. With a chance to do it again, she’s focused on convincing her husband, Colin, to give her the baby she desires.
Claire is the only one who has made peace with her past: her twenty-two year old daughter, Emily, is finally on track after the turmoil of adolescence, and she’s recently gotten engaged, with the two carat diamond on her finger to prove it. But if she’s being honest, Claire still fantasizes about her own missed opportunities: a chance to bond with her mother before it was too late, and the possibility of preventing her daughter from years of anguish. Plus, there’s the man who got away—the man who may have been her one true love.
But it doesn’t take long for all three women to learn that re-living a life and making different decisions only leads to new problems and consequences—and that the mistakes they made may, in fact, have been the best choices of all…

My rating: 4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I actually won a free copy of the ARC by entering a contest on their Facebook site and was so excited to read it! Also, this book will count towards my “PopSugar 2016 Checklist” reading challenge, marking off the “a book with a blue cover” since this book has a blue cover. This book was about three best friends: Gabriela, Claire, and Jessie. In some way or another their lives all change on their fortieth birthday that affects them for the next ten years. We next meet them in Las Vegas on their fiftieth birthday when they are offered the chance to travel back in time and relive their fortieth year, thereby possibly changing things for the better by doing things differently this time around.
Things don’t go quite as they expected though. Gabriela, who always wished she had a baby, has trouble conceiving. Claire repairs her relationship with her daughter but comes close to losing her again. And Jessie has managed to hold onto her husband Grant but only by keeping a huge secret from him, and how long can she really expect to keep him in the dark? The three friends journey through their fortieth year (for the second time) hoping that the mistakes their making this time somehow turn out better for them than the mistakes they made the first time. It almost reminds me (very loosely) of when you’re taking a multiple choice test and you have the option of a, b, c, or d and you have no idea which one it is. So the first time you guess a and get it wrong so the next time you guess b and hope its right but have no way of knowing. Gabriela, Claire, and Jessie had no way of knowing how their actions would affect not only themselves this time but all the loved ones that surrounded them as well.
Overall I really enjoyed this book a lot. I thought the plot line was immensely creative. It was heart-wrenching to see the characters struggle through the challenges in their relived lives but at the same time it allows the reader to connect more with the characters and their emotions. The ending was heart-warming and moving and I didn’t want to put the book down until I found out what happened. I also thought that this book dealt well with a variety of relationship issues, including husband and wife and parent and child in many different forms. I loved one of Jessie’s “lessons” from her relived life, that you should learn to love and appreciate what you have instead of always looking for the next thing that will help you be happy. I think that is an important thought since many people are continually trying to buy the next released phone or the next gaming system or the next whatever to gain some sort of happiness. But happiness is something that comes from being content in who you are and what you have and who is in your life. An important concept for people to think on nowadays.

The bottom line: I really liked this book, this one was definitely a tear-jerker and hit me hard in the feels. Definitely have a couple tissues handy. This was such a moving book though and was such a creative plot idea. Great book and a definite must read for summer!!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #35 – Amazonia by James Rollins

51ErSB9e29L._SX277_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Amazonia
Author: James Rollins
Date finished: 4/16/16
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: July 2003
Pages in book: 510
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library 

Blurb from the cover:

The Rand scientific expedition entered the lush wilderness of the Amazon and never returned. Years later, one of its members has stumbled out of the world’s most inhospitable rainforest–a former Special Forces soldier, scarred, mutilated, terrified, and mere hours from death, who went in with one arm missing . . . and came out with both intact.
Unable to comprehend this inexplicable event, the government sends Nathan Rand into this impenetrable secret world of undreamed-of perils, to follow the trail of his vanished father . . . toward mysteries that must be solved at any cost. But the nightmare that is awaiting Nate and his team of scientists and seasoned U.S. Rangers dwarfs any danger they anticipated . . . an ancient, unspoken terror–a power beyond human imagining–that can forever alter the world beyond the dark, lethal confines of . . .

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I read this book for the Terryville Library’s Fiction Lover’s Book Discussion group discussion for this month (April). I haven’t ever read anything by this author and I didn’t really think that this author would be one I’d try reading, but one of my friends picked this for book club. And honestly I am really glad I read this, I will probably even try reading more by this author in the future. Also, this book will count towards my “PopSugar 2016 Checklist” reading challenge, marking off the “a book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with” since this book contains a lot of (admittedly fictional) information about the Amazon tribesman. It was really interesting to hear about the native tribes and their way of life in the Amazon jungle. In this book, Nathan Rand goes into the jungle to try and find out what happened to his father’s research team when they disappeared over four years ago. Along their journey, they encounter a number of mutant scary things and a lot of people die. Like almost everyone. Overall I really liked this book though I was a little tired of all the casualties by the time we got to the end. There were a good amount of twists and turns in the plot and a lot of excitement. I would definitely recommend giving this one a try if you like thrillers, it was definitely what I would want in a thriller.

The bottom line: I did not expect to but I really liked this book! It was fast paced and constantly kept me on my toes. There was a lot of crazy stuff going on and it was really thought-provoking. I would recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Book of the Month Club

2016-03-29-18-43-20

I recently got an email that the Book of the Month Club was running a special during April for a 3 month membership for 50% off. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this site, it is a subscription site that offers 5 hot new reads each month to pick from. A normal 3 month subscription is $45 so the 50% off price was $22.50, which includes 3 books that I get to pick and shipping. Not only that but the Book of the Month site will also ship you an additional two books from either the current month or prior month’s listings for only $10 each. So for April I picked up The Nest by  Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and No One Knows by J.T. Ellison (both April picks) plus The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee (a March pick).

These were all already on my TBR list and I’ve heard a lot of good things about them so I can’t wait to read them. Amazon retail prices of these books as of today totaled $52.97 (I’m not even considering cover price totaling $81 because no one pays cover price for hardcovers). Considering I paid $20 for the two extra books and 1/3 of my subscription cost ($7.50) I ended up with a fairly good deal! Plus each book comes with a cute knick-knack. The Queen of the Night came with a temporary tattoo and the April books came with something else. I haven’t had a chance to inspect it closely enough to decide what it is yet but its just nice to get something extra with the book! 

If anyone else is interested, here is a link for signing up for the club at 50% off a 3 month subscription. Happy reading!!

2016 Book #34 – Dead Distillers by Colin Spoelman and David Haskell

51AjX++6X+L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Dead Distillers
Author: Colin Spoelman & David Haskell
Date finished: 4/14/16
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Abrams Image
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Pages in book: 224
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE:I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Founders and award-winning distillers of Kings County Distillery Colin Spoelman and David Haskell follow up their successful Guide to Urban Moonshining with an extensive history of the figures who distilled American spirits.
The book presents 50 fascinating—and sometimes morbid—biographies from this historic trade’s bygone days, including farmers, scientists, oligarchs, criminals, and the occasional US president. Readers may be surprised to find the names George Washington, Henry Frick, or Andrew Mellon alongside the usual suspects long associated with booze—Jasper “Jack” Daniel, Jim Beam, and Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle. From the Whiskey Rebellion to Prohibition to the recent revival of craft spirits, the history of whiskey, moonshine, and other spirits remains an important part of Americana. Featuring historical photos, infographics, walking-tour maps, and noteworthy vintage newspaper clippings, it’s a rich visual and textual reference to a key piece of American history.
Dead Distillers is a spirited portrait of the unusual and storied origins of forgotten drunkenness.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. The men in my family are all bourbon drinkers and I have recently discovered a great love for gin so when I saw this book available on NetGalley I was very interested. And I’m really glad that I requested it. This book was chock full of history and maps and charts and all the stuff that turns into a great story about distilleries. This book is mostly a compilation of a good number of short biographies of famous (and sometimes not so famous) American distillers. This book was compiled and written by two owners of the Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, NY. There was a lot of great historical information included in this book, as well as a few maps of cemeteries and other locations discussed in the book. There were also a lot of great pictures on the subject matter discussed, including a few awesome pictures of distillery fires.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. I normally don’t like reading historical non-fiction but the individual sections in this book were brief enough that they kept even my interest, and all the passages were packed full of information. I think this would make a great coffee table book and a great conversation piece. I personally am going to be using this as a birthday gift for a few people I know with upcoming birthdays! Anyone who drinks liquor should check this out.

The bottom line: I really liked this book a lot! There were a lot of interesting, almost scandalous stories included which hold the readers interest throughout the book. The book also included a lot of nifty maps for anyone interested in checking out the tourist locations which I loved. I would definitely recommend this one! Great addition for the home library.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page