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Review: Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Cover of Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews
3 Stars

Cara Kryzik has struggled to get her florist shop, Bloom, to a point where it's financially stable, but she finally seems to be getting there. She's landed some huge society weddings and her clients are spreading the word about her fabulous work. Unfortunately, some stiff new competition has just moved to town, and he's determined to be the top florist in Savannah at all costs.

While Cara's professional life is hitting some rocky ground, her personal life seems to be taking off. After a messy divorce, she's finally met a truly nice guy. She has a puppy that she adores, and her assistant is her best friend and sounding board. Until that all starts to go haywire too.

I really, really want to give Save the Date four stars, and I would have, but somewhere about halfway through I got fed up with Cara. Up to that point, she'd been such a little fighter that I'd been rooting for her all along. And sure, she has a lot on her plate, but then she goes looking for--and creates!--trouble where none needs to be. She has a huge blowup with someone that felt completely unrealistic and forced. Then she starts making other questionable decisions that seemed out of character for her and I got fed up. I knew I would finish the book, but I also knew that I'd lost all respect for Cara.

Jack, the love interest, on the other hand, is wonderful. He's got a little bit of a temper, but he's sweet and thoughtful. He's also willing to admit when he's wrong and give other people second chances. What more could a girl ask for?

I do wish that "the bad guy" had gotten more of a comeuppance. I do feel that Cara handled their final conflict the best possible way, but I wish someone else had stepped in and gotten him in some serious trouble. I don't have any patience for people who like to go around starting trouble.

The story itself was pretty cute. The stressed-out bride, the identical pups, the tyrannical landlady, the messy family dynamics that everyone seemed to have, the nasty ex-girlfriend, the nasty ex-husband, all created realistic tensions that most readers will probably relate to.

Kathleen McInerney read the book wonderfully, as always.

This isn't my favorite Mary Kay Andrews book, but it is good enough. I wish Cara's character had been a bit more consistent, but otherwise the story was fun. Fans of the author should give it try. I'd recommend that new readers start with a different one though.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Find author Mary Kay Andrews on her website, her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Save the Date at

Southern Literature Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cover of Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
4 Stars

I needed these Lunar short stories to get some closure after the emotional turmoil of Winter. (See my review. I was so angry at Levana that I almost gave up on the book. It was that torturous). When I realized that this book was happening, I jumped on it as soon as I possibly could at the library. Most of the stories are prequels to Cinder, but there is one that's simply set in the same world, and another that's a true sequel to the series.

"The Keeper" details how Michelle Benoit came to have care of both her granddaughter, Scarlet, and a young, comatose Cinder. I have always wished that we'd gotten to see more of Michelle in the actual series, so this story was a nice addition.

"Glitches" describes Cinder's trip to the Eastern Commonwealth with Garin and her reception in his household. I've read this story somewhere before. I liked reading about a young Cinder but I can't say that I felt the need to listen to it again.

"The Queen's Army" is about Wolf being torn from his loving family and transformed into an (in)human killing machine. Or not. Wolf's story has always broken my heart a little bit and this only made me feel worse for him.

"Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky"--I wish I could remember what he told us about his past with Kate because this is about his first meeting with her. I know he tells the story in one of the books but the details are long gone from my memory. Still, a young Captain Thorne is every bit as irrepressible as you would expect him to be.

"After Sunshine Passes By" left me incredibly angry at Levana again. A young, sweet, trusting Cress is chosen for a special assignment by Lady Sybil. I was almost in tears at the end.

"The Princess and the Guard" expands on one small story from Winter's life and explains why she chose to stop using her Lunar Gift. I can't make up my mind exactly how I feel about Winter or Jacin, but I did respect Winter more after listening to this story.

"The Little Android" was my second-favorite tale from the collection. None of the main characters show up in this Lunar retelling of "The Little Mermaid" but I appreciated the way that Meyer stayed so very true to the original story.

"The Mechanic" describes Cinder and Kai's first meeting from Kai's point of view. These two are so cute together that I just loved it.

"Something Old, Something New" was my absolute favorite entry. In this sequel, Scarlet and Wolf are getting married and I am finally, finally getting the happily-ever-after that I so desperately needed to read!

I would recommend reading this anthology after reading the other novels in the series, but definitely pick it up if you've enjoyed them. It was a nice way to check in with and say goodbye to characters that I've grown ridiculously attached to.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Check out my reviews of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, and Winter, the earlier books in the series.

Find author Marissa Meyer on her website, her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Stars Above at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Holy smokes. I didn't mean to take such a long break! The last time I posted was on February 21 but I have read quite a bit since then. I'm so brain-dead by the time I get home from work, I only want to veg out, which means either reading or tv. No staring at the computer and writing my own words. I went to San Francisco for a meeting one weekend in March. Usually I'm so busy at these things that I don't have time to explore. This time I flew across the country and stayed away for 3 days for a 5-hour meeting. Lots of time to play, even factoring in the two days of travel! I've visited the city before but my co-worker hadn't so we took a cruise of the bay and a double-decker bus tour of the downtown area. It was a nice trip!

Posted:
Nothing.

Read over the Past Six Weeks:
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews, read by Kathleen McInerney

Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer, read by Rebecca Soler

Guests on Earth by Lee Smith

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint, illustrated by Charles Vess

Magnolia Wednesdays by Wendy Wax

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle

Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim, read by Jane McDowell

Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina

Currently Reading:
Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden, read by Cary Elwes and many other cast and crew members (Yes, this is as much fun as you think it is)

Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian (My gym book, so it will take me a while to read)

Up Next:
I'm not sure. Possibly The Rag & Bone Shop by Jeff Rackham.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Well, it's been a rough couple of weeks. Just as I pressed the "Publish" button on my last Sunday/Monday post, my mom called to let me know that one of my grandmothers had passed away. Of course I'm upset and miss her, but when I step back to look at it, we were blessed to have her so long and she was blessed with a gentle passing. She was almost 94, she still lived at home with one of my aunts to help her, she hadn't been sick, and she just laid down for a nap and never woke up. She was a sweet, quiet woman who was full of grace and we'll all miss her terribly.

I did have several things scheduled to post, so it hasn't quite been a wasteland around here.

Posted:
Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, read by Ari Fliakos, Maggie Hoffman, Scott Shepherd, Scott Sowers, and Gary Wilmes--4.5 Stars

Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, translated by Frederick Amadeus Malleson--3 Stars

Read:
Cover of River Marked by Patricia Briggs
River Marked by Patricia Briggs


Cover of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Currently Reading:
Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint--This is a re-read for the umpteenth time of one of my favorite books. I'm slowly (re)reading all of the books set in this fictional world in order. They aren't necessarily a series but I am interested to see how they flow together. I originally read them as I could get my hands on them at the library and/or bookstore.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim, read by Jane McDowell

Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina--This is my read-at-the-gym book, so it will take me a while to get through it.

Up Next:
I might finish The Calligrapher's Daughter soon. If I do, I'll be in the mood for something fun like I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley or The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Thursday, February 11, 2016

4.5 Stars

Henry, Lee, Ronny, and Kip have been friends for ages. Even as Henry has stayed home in tiny Little Wing, Wisconsin to take over his parents' farm, Ronny hit the rodeo circuit, Kip moved to Chicago and started raking in money, and Lee hit the big time with his music, they've remained tight. Over the year or two chronicled in Shotgun Lovesongs, their lives hit roller coasters as marriages and breakups occur, arguments flare up, and their friendship is put to the test.

I'm sitting here thinking about what it was, exactly, that I liked about this book. I can't really say that it was about much of anything. It's just a slice of everyday life. But I think what stands out to me most is that this is a book about male friendship. Not "good buddies" or even battle-forged bonds. These guys just like and genuinely care about each other. They always have, more or less, as is true with friendships of any real length. When is the last time you read a book about male friendship? I'm sure they're out there, but I personally haven't come across many, if any. I like it.

The group really is put through the fire in this period of their lives though. They're all starting to kind of settle down now. Henry and his wife Beth, also a member of this tight group of friends, have been settled for a while. But now the others are coming home to settle too. So they're adjusting to having a more prominent position in each others' lives again. It takes some getting used to. Everybody pretty much fights with everybody else but then they settle down. And then the serious disagreement happens.

The ending sounds a bit far-fetched at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I wonder if this is based on an incident in the author's own life. It's so bizarre, it has to be true. And then I tried to picture my husband and his best friend getting up to mischief like that and I absolutely could. Well, up to a point. I just had to laugh.

I pretty much liked the characters. Solid Henry appealed to me most. I related to him. He's maybe not the most exciting guy in the group but he's the rock. Lee is world famous but he mostly hasn't let that change him. He knows that this landscape is what has shaped his music and his soul. He knows that he needs his friends to anchor him. Ronny isn't quite the same after a head injury years ago, but he's learned to appreciate the moment even while yearning for more. Kip is the weak link. He doesn't quite fit in with the others but he knows it. He tries too hard and manages to always do the wrong thing, even with the best of intentions. He has the most growing up to do.

I've kind of left Beth out of everything. I really liked her but I don't feel that she was necessarily any sort of real focus. She was the, well, not the outsider, but not one of the guys either. She gave us a different perspective on the group, both in their younger years and currently. She also added some tension and a whole other set of dynamics to the group.

And then there's small-town, Midwest America. Lee says something late in the book about how this is his America. Not the excesses and selfishness, but the sense of community and even the sense of connection to the land. Little Wing could be Every Town, USA. If you're lucky, you grew up in a place like this. If you're really lucky, you know how lucky you are to have roots there.

I really enjoyed the narrators who read the parts of Henry and Beth. Even Kip did pretty well. I didn't enjoy the narration for Lee and Ronny quite as much. It's still definitely a good choice in audio format but I wish the cast had all been equally strong.

I highly recommend Shotgun Lovesongs. It's one of those books that will sink into your bones and linger with you for a long time to come.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Find author Nickolas Butler on his website.

Buy Shotgun Lovesongs at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cover of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
3 Stars

Axel's uncle comes home one day with a rare Icelandic manuscript. In perusing the pages, they discover a coded message from a famous scientist living in the 1700s. They eventually crack the code, realize that they've been given directions for how to reach the center of the earth, and set out to accomplish it themselves.

Eh.

Axel was a whiny wimp who complained endlessly about having to go on the trip. The minute his uncle, Professor Liedenbrock, started to get the least bit angry with him over his dithering, Axel would cave and blithely go along with whatever ridiculous plan the professor has in mind. Axel was generally the one with the most sense but he didn't have a backbone at all.

I've decided the professor must be going through a mid-life crisis. Or maybe a career crisis. Or maybe both. Why else do you plunge yourself, your nephew, and your hapless guide into a volcanic crater, not even carrying a supply of water but rather only a supply of gin? My guess is that you're feeling your age and you're out to prove that you're just as virile--no, more so!--than your 20ish-something ward. He's a tyrant but I think I was supposed to like him after one or two incidents where he shows that he does actually care about Axel. Too little too late is all I have to say about that.

Hans, the poor guide, is really the hero of the story but since he's a barbaric Icelander (If that's not a description directly from the book, it's at least implied), he doesn't really count. He's just there to carry stuff. Lots of it. And build things that the two intellectuals can't. Oh, and save their useless asses multiple times. But he's barely educated so he doesn't matter.

There is so much potential for this plot but it mostly went nowhere. There are a couple of well-developed scenes and adventures but the things that would have interested me even more are cut drastically short. Like, "I think I saw this but I'm not entirely sure. And does this other thing I saw mean what I think it means?" short. There was too much buildup for not enough payoff.

This is a classic for a reason but it's not something that I'll remember. I don't regret reading it but the details will probably fade within a week. Other readers obviously disagree since this thing has been around since...1864.

Read an excerpt.

Buy Journey to the Center of the Earth at

Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader










I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

We've had a good week here. The weeknights were pretty low-key and yesterday we went to a local RV show and spent tons of our imaginary money. :-) That's the best kind to spend, right? We were just dreaming. Last night we went to see an 80s tribute band with a couple of good friends. They always put on a good show. Tonight we're heading to a neighbor's house for a Super Bowl party. I honestly couldn't care less who wins, even though I'm a North Carolina girl, but I do like watching the commercials and halftime show and I'm sure we'll have some good munchies. Will you be watching?

Posted:
Review: The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Edith Grossman--3 Stars

Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer, read by Rebecca Soler--3 Stars

Read:
Cover of Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz



Cover of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I also officially Did Not Finish
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, read by Clare Corbitt, India Fisher, and Louise Brealey

Currently Reading:
River Marked by Patricia Briggs

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina--This is my read-at-the-gym book, so it will take me a while to get through it.
Up Next:
I might get through River Marked since that series is usually a quick read for me. If I do, I'll move on to The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I had planned to pick this one up last week but a trip to the library derailed me a bit. I also need a new audio book since The Girl on the Train didn't pan out for me.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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