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My Progress:

5 / 30 books. 17% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama
- Alaska
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- California (1)
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- Delaware
- Florida
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- Idaho (2)
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- North Carolina (1)
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- Washington, D.C.*

- Australia (1)
- England (3)
- Ireland (1)
- Scotland (1)
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My Progress:

9 / 51 states. 18% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

6 / 50 books. 12% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

12 / 50 books. 24% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

20 / 52 books. 38% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 40 books. 40% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

13 / 40 books. 33% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

2 / 25 books. 8% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

11 / 26.2 miles. 42% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

11 / 100 books. 11% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

24 / 104 books. 23% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

23 / 52 books. 44% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

23 / 165 books. 14% done!
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

If It Weren't For Those Weird, Awkward Scenes ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With the threat of nuclear war hanging in the balmy air, the summer of 1962 feels unlike any other.  Scott Porter spends the long, school-free days doing what he's always done—playing baseball with his friends, spying on girls, trying to stay out of trouble—but the 11-year-old goes home to alarming newspaper headlines and hissed, heated discussions between his parents.  To the endless amusement of their less-paranoid neighbors, Scott's dad has built a bomb shelter for his family.  If worse comes to worst, the Porters will have everything they need to survive underground for two weeks, the time it will take for the radiation-saturated air to clear.  Scott hopes there will never be a need to use the shelter, but as global tension intensifies, he can't be quite sure there will be a tomorrow at all.

When the unthinkable happens, Scott finds himself crammed into the shelter, not just with his family but also with six of his disbelieving neighbors.  The supplies Scott's father stocked can't last for long, not with ten people using them.  And civility's running out even faster.  As the days wear on, the shell-shocked refugees must learn to survive—not just whatever happened in the outside world, but everything that's taking place inside the crowded shelter.  With tempers flaring, food being rationed, and cabin fever taking its toll, busting out of the shelter is looking better and better.  No one knows what's happened to the New York they left above ground.  Do the terrified shelter-dwellers dare to emerge?  What will they find if they do?  Which will kill them faster—radiation, starvation or each other?  Scott's about to find out.

Everything about the premise of Fallout by Todd Strasser appeals to me.  An imminent apocalypse?  Check.  Neighbors pitted against neighbors in a desperate bid for survival?  Check.  A tense, psychological examination of people's actions in a time of crisis, told from a child's point-of-view?  Check, check.  Because, apparently, I have a warped sense of what is entertaining, I really, really wanted to read this book.  So, I did.  Is the story as fascinating as it sounds?  In a word: yes.  Fallout tells a tense, compelling tale that kept me burning through the pages to find out the fate of the survivors.  If it weren't for some weird, awkward discussions about naked women (including the boys' mothers), I would have really enjoyed this one.  Given those odd scenes, plus the fact that Fallout is (naturally) quite depressing, this novel turned into just an okay read for me.  Ah, well.            

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of other books about groups of people struggling to survive crises in enclosed spaces like Trapped by Michael Northrop; The Compound by S.A. Bodeen; and The Diary of Anne Frank; also of Countdown by Deborah Wiles, which is also about the Cuban Missile Crisis)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, sexual innuendo and mature themes

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Fallout from the generous folks at Candlewick Press.  Thank you!
Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: A Bookish Gratitude List

With Thanksgiving only a couple of days away, it's natural that this week's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the lovely ladies at The Broke and the Bookish) subject would be gratitude.  It goes without saying that I'm thankful for the usual things—a happy marriage, healthy kids, goodly parents, food on the table, etc.—but since this is a book blog, I decided to stick with the subject and tell you about the Top Ten (Bookish) Things For Which I'm Thankful:

1.  Books That Make Me Laugh:

2.  Books That Make Me Think:

3.  Books That Make Me Swoon:

4.  Books That Make Me Cry:

5.  Books That Make Me Appreciate My Not-All-That-Important-in-the-Grand-Scheme-of-Things Problems ('Cause, You Know, Things Could Always Be Worse ...):

6.  Books That Inspire Me:

7.  Books That Make Me More Empathetic:

9.  Books That Fuel My Imagination:

10.  Books That Make Me Fall In Love With Reading—Again:

How about you?  What are you thankful for this year, bookish or otherwise?

As much as I adore books, I'm most thankful for you, my readers.  You make this "job" so much fun!  I love your comments, your support, your kind words, and your enthusiasm for reading.  I'm also thankful for the authors who work so hard to write books for impatient, demanding readers like us to adore.  I'm especially grateful for those writers who trust me to review their literary "babies"—and don't hate me when I point out a few flaws.  Without all of you, this blog wouldn't exist, let alone thrive.  Thank you so much for going along with me on this crazy, exciting adventure.  I hope you'll stick around for a long, long while.

Happy Thanksgiving!  

* All images from Barnes & Noble
Monday, November 25, 2013

Fortunately, It's Another Drop of Quirky Goodness from Gaiman

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If his children ran out of milk for their cereal, most fathers would just tell them to eat toast.  Or eggs.  Or pancakes.  Or fruit.  Or just about anything that didn't require a trip to the store.  Not the dad in Neil Gaiman's new children's book, Fortunately, the Milk.  He heads right out to save the day.  Well, breakfast, at least.  

Of course, the story wouldn't be any fun if the dad simply drove to the store, picked up some milk and came home (even if he grabbed a dozen doughnuts to go with it).  And, considering the author of this little tale, we know it's going to be—above all—fun.  So, instead of encountering minor troubles like traffic jams or rude drivers or inflated prices at the supermarket, this heroic father faces off with ferocious aliens, a burbling volcano, and a bossy pirate queen.  To name just a few of the hurdles in his quest to save his children's breakfast.  After all, it is the most important meal of the day.  The big question is:  Can he do it?  Or are his kids doomed to eating their cereal with, gulp, pickle juice?  No child deserves that terrible fate ...

As you can probably tell, Fortunately, the Milk is everything we've come to expect from the always quirky Neil Gaiman.  The tale's outrageous and silly and fun and just a delight all around.  Most of all, it explains one of the great mysteries of the universe—why do parents take so long to complete a task as simple as bringing home a carton of milk?  Kids will be mesmerized by this short, funny adventure (made even more amusing with illustrations by Skottie Young).  It might just entertain their parents, too.  Unless, of course, they're out fighting otherworldly creature in order to save their children's breakfasts.  Then, it might hit a little too close to home :) 

(Readalikes:  Nothing I can think of ...)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Fortunately, the Milk from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!

Friday, November 22, 2013

What's the Most Difficult Kind of Review to Write? This Kind.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Jaycee Draper will be forever haunted knowing she received a text for help from her estranged best friend right before she died.  A text Jaycee never answered.  Now, plagued with guilt and remorse, she's doing the only thing she can to help her former BFF—she's looking for answers.  The police have declared 16-year-old Rachel Sanchez a victim of a random act of violence; Jaycee knows better.  Discovering a trail of clues Rachel left for her only confirms Jaycee's suspicions.  Rachel wanted to tell her something, something important, something about who killed her and why.

Part of the puzzle, Jaycee knows, has to do with a terrible encounter the two friends experienced in an old, abandoned house.  It's a night both tried to block from memory, a time to be forgotten, never discussed.  Jaycee hates reliving that nightmare, but she knows she must.  It doesn't help that someone's intent on stopping her little investigation.  And will do whatever it takes to end her inquiries, especially as she gets closer to discovering the identity of her friend's killer.  Can Jaycee solve the mystery before it's too late—not just for Rachel, but for herself as well?

It's tough to diss a book when you request it from an author (who also happens to be related to a friend of yours), she gladly sends you one of her last copies, and is just super sweet about the whole thing.  This is the hardest part of reviewing for me—wanting to be honest without offending kind, hardworking authors.  It's most important, though, for my readers to trust me, so here we go with the honest-even-though-I-don't-want-to-be review: 

I really, really, really wanted to love Dead Girls Don't Lie, Jennifer Shaw Wolf's second novel.  But I just didn't.  Since I grew up in a small town in rural Washington State, I did like the book's familiar setting as well as the conflict between Mexican migrant workers and small-minded local yokels (not that I like that kind of conflict, I just like that it's fresh, something I haven't encountered before in YA lit).  It's a current kind of problem, one I observed firsthand while growing up; it's a hot topic even now, especially in states like Arizona (my current location), which border Mexico.  The whole gang plot, though, seemed a little too melodramatic for rural Washington.  It didn't ring very true to me.  I also had a problem connecting to the characters in Dead Girls Don't Lie.  None of them struck me as particularly likable.  They didn't seem to like each other much either, as I felt little warmth between any of them.  Add that to a far-fetched plotline with some big holes, and yeah, this one just didn't do a lot for me.  Wolf's got lots of potential, though, so I'll keep an eye on her.  Hopefully, her next venture will be a little more to my liking.

(Readalikes:  I'm sure there are many, but nothing's coming to mind ...)

If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Dead Girls Don't Lie from the very generous Jennifer Shaw Wolf.  Thank you!
Thursday, November 21, 2013

Crash! Boom! Bang!: McMann's Visions Series Just Keeps Getting Better

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Bang, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Crash.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Now that things have gotten back to normal (whatever that is) for 16-year-old Jules Demarco, she should be happy.  Especially since her new normal includes being Sawyer Angotti's girlfriend.  He's the guy she's been dreaming about forever, the guy who helped her make sense of her terrifying visions and stop a deadly car crash.  So what if both the Demarcos and the Angottis are dead-set against their relationship?  Romeo and Juliet made it work.  Um, yeah.  

If only that were the only complication facing the new couple.  It's not. Not by a long shot.  Through some cruel twist of fate, Jules has passed her psycho vision-seeing powers on to Sawyer.  Now he's wracked with terrible glimpses of a shooting so horrific he can barely talk about it.  Jules knows there's only one way to make Sawyer's waking nightmares, which are reaching a fever pitch, go away—they have to use the clues in the visions to stop the tragedy from happening.  But making sense out of the confusing scenes isn't easy, especially when the constant examination of them is taking such a heavy toll on Sawyer's psyche.  Jules hates to torture the boy she loves, but if they don't solve the puzzle soon eleven people are going to die.  They can't let that happen.  They won't.  No matter what the cost.   

Lisa McMann knows how to write action-packed, addicting novels.  That's an undisputed truth.  Her skill's especially apparent, though, in her Visions series.  Crash kept me thoroughly engrossed and salivating for a sequel.  I'm happy to report that Bang does not disappoint.  Not at all.  It's just as compelling, just as exciting, just as pulse-pounding as its predecessor.  Jules' pitch-perfect voice makes the series all the more enjoyable, as she manages to be funny, endearing and sympathetic all at the same time.  Is it too early to start begging for another sequel?  I think not.

(Readalikes:  Crash by Lisa McMann; also her Wake series [Wake; Fade; Gone]; and a bit like The Body Finder series [The Body Finder; Desires of the Dead; The Last Echo; Dead Silence] by Kimberly Derting)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, sexual innuendo/content and violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

With Nothing Fresh or New to Offer, It's Just Another So-So Teen Vampire Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Being human in a world ruled by vampires isn't quite as hellish as one would think.  Not if you follow their rules, anyway.  But Allie Sekemoto's never been keen on doing what she's told, especially not when obedience means offering herself as a "blood cattle" to her thirsty leaders.  She'll die rather than kow-tow to the smug, powerful vamps.  Even if survival in the Fringe means scavenging for food, fighting off rival gangs and hiding from rabid, feral vampires.  

Then, the unthinkable happens and Allie has to make a life-altering choice.  As she slowly turns into one of the creatures she hates most, she'll have to learn to cope with the requirements of her new identity, including drinking human blood.  Angering a group of ruthless vamps doesn't make things any easier.  With enemies stalking her every move, Allie will have to find her place—and fast.  Before her fang-dripping comrades destroy everything, and everyone, she cares about. 

If the plot of The Immortal Rules, the first book in Julie Kagawa's popular YA vampire series, sounds a bit familiar, that's because originality is really not its strong suit.  It's pretty much the same as every other YA dystopian/horror novel out there.  Without fresh, vivid prose or vibrant, unique characters, this one just doesn't bring anything memorable to the genre.  It's action-packed, that's for sure, but, at 504 pages, the novel definitely starts to feel very, very long.  I'm not going to lie, The Immortal Rules kept me turning pages.  Still, nothing about this one stands out as new or different.  In the end, I found it to be only a so-so read.

(Readalikes:  the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence/gore and mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Monday, November 18, 2013

Disturbing Courtroom/Family Drama Not Perfect, But Decent

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Scandals aren't something that usually happen in the small town of Arbor Valley, Michigan.  So, when a popular high school math teacher gets arrested for criminal sexual conduct against a student, the news sends waves of shock throughout the community.  Especially since the victim, 17-year-old Morgan Monetti, insists T.J. Hill is no criminal, that their relationship was entirely consensual.  Hill agrees he's innocent, just not for the same reason.  He claims Morgan's a disturbed, obsessive young woman who's making up stories to get attention.  Who's telling the truth?  That's the million dollar question.

Morgan knows how she feels about Mr. Hill.  What happened between them wasn't just real, it was special.  And she'll defend him to her dying day.  She doesn't care if she loses every friend she has, alienates her parents, or gets bullied at school—she's standing by her man.  Morgan's always been told she's "mature for her age" and "an old soul," so why won't anyone take her seriously like the adult she knows herself to be?

No matter how defiant her daughter's been lately, Dinah Monetti refuses to believe Morgan's anything but the unfortunate target of an older man's manipulation.  She'll see T.J. Hill jailed if it's the last thing she does.  In the meantime, Dinah has to keep her cafe running somehow, worry about her twin sons, and deal with her husband, an assistant principal who's terrified of losing not just his reputation, but also his job at the school.

Rain Hill can't believe her loving husband's been accused of such heinous acts against a child.  He'd never do such a thing.  Would he?  Rain knows her staunch determination to have a baby despite multiple failed attempts has driven a wedge between her and T.J., but she still knows—and owns—his heart.  Doesn't she?

A heated courtroom battle will decide T.J. Hill's fate.  As the fight rages on, three women will launch their own quests for truth.  Questioning themselves and those they love will bring heart-wrenching revelations, life-changing decisions and mind-bending arguments about guilt vs. innocence, maturity vs. naivete, and childhood vs. adulthood.  Only one thing is guaranteed:  none will come out of the situation unscathed.

By now, you're probably thinking the premise of The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle sounds a little ... disturbing.  You'd be right.  The novel examines an uncomfortable subject, for sure.  And while it does it thoroughly, I'm not sure it does it satisfactorily.  I think my reluctance has to do with T.J. and Morgan, neither of whom really earned my sympathy.  Neither were particularly likable and yet, I definitely cared about what happened to them, if only because of Dinah and Rain, the characters with whom I did feel empathy.  The story's compelling, though, so much so that I had trouble putting it down.  It's also depressing and lacking in subtlety.  Perfect, the book is not; still, it's engrossing, thought-provoking and a decent read overall.  

(Readalikes:  The story format reminds me of a Jodi Picoult novel; the subject matter recalls Defending Jacob by William Landay; House Rules by Jodi Picoult; and Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder invectives), sexual content and depictions of underage drinking/partying

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Whole Golden World from the generous folks at Harper Collins via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!
Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cults + Dystopian Should = A Uniquely Intriguing Read, Right? Yeah, Not So Much.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Life in the Community is peaceful, serene.  Not like the outside world where violence reigns and children—like Layla Hamilton's little sister—can be stolen from their front yards, never to return.  The Hamiltons feel privileged to be among the Chosen, one of only 20 families selected by Pioneer (through visions from God) for salvation.  Their devoted leader knows the end of the world is nigh; he instructs his people to stockpile food, practice shooting to kill, and keep the Silo—their underground fortress—a secret from anyone outside the Community.  

Fifteen-year-old Layla, who's lived under Pioneer's protection for the last 10 years, is content with her cloistered life.  Mostly.  She's looking forward to the End with more excitement than trepidation.  In the meantime, she's thankful to be matched for marriage with her best friend Will.  Maybe her heart doesn't skip a beat when he walks in the room, but she feels comfortable with him.  Truly, there are worse ways to spend her last days on Earth.  

A chance encounter with a boy from the Outside who questions the ways of Pioneer and his Community makes Layla's head spin.  She can't believe someone as nice as Cody Crowley could be evil, deserving of an apocalyptic death.  And the things he's saying about Pioneer—could they possibly be true?  What if he's not receiving divine revelations at all?  The more Layla thinks about it, the more disturbed she becomes.  With Pioneer's predicted apocalypse right around the corner, she must decide what she believes, where she stands and what to do with the time she has left.  At the risk of losing everything that's most important to her.  Forever.  

I don't know why, but I find cults totally intriguing.  That, coupled with my morbid love for dystopian novels, made Gated, a debut novel by Amy Christine Parker, a natural reading choice for me.  Even though the premise sounded a little too familiar, I figured the cult aspect would make the story unique.  Yeah, not so much.  The world of the Community just isn't developed well enough to be believable.  Nor is Pioneer himself.  He might even be the least dynamic of all the characters in the book.  Nothing about him convinced me that he could entice an entire group of people to follow him.  As far as plot goes, there's little here that I haven't seen before.  What does the novel having going for it, then?  Well, it's definitely a quick, exciting read.  It's also a clean teen book, which is something of a rarity.  Layla's questions also made me think about the differences between selfless leaders and egotistical dictators, prophets and imposters, and faithful following vs. blind obedience.  Overall, though, Gated just didn't do a whole lot for me.  I wanted to like it a whole lot more than I did.  Ah, well, such is my reading life.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams; The Hallowed Ones and The Outside by Laura Bickle; and a bit of The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and intense situations
To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When You Just Ain't Got a 'Knack for Holiness,' What's the Use Anyhow?

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's tough being a preacher's kid, especially in a tiny town where sharp eyes detect your every coming and going.  And even sharper tongues report suspicious movements to your father.  Anyway, it's not like 10-year-old Robbie Hewitt goes looking for trouble—it just seems to find him.  He's tried to turn from his wild, mischievous ways, yes he has, but it's not working.  A boy like him just isn't meant to be cooped up in church all day, not when there are trees to climb, fish to catch and bloomers to run up the flagpole.  Still, Robbie knows he has to be careful since his Pa's overly-forgiving nature is already making his position as preacher of the Congregational Church precarious; a few too many misdeeds from the youngest Hewitt could lead to Pa's unemployment.  Then, where would Robbie's family be?   

As the 19th Century winds down, bringing the end of the world with it (at least according to Reverend Pelham), Robbie begins to wonder—what's the point of trying to be a good Christian, anyway?  It's way too much of a burden for someone like him, someone who, "let's face it, ain't got the knack for holiness" (19).  He decides, instead, to become a "heathen, a Unitarian, or a Democrat, whichever was most fun" (19) and to pack as much riotous living as possible into the last months of 1899.  

Even Robbie's surprised by the scale of adventure that comes his way.  But when the young rapscallion finds himself in way, way over his head, he has no idea what to do or who to trust.  Can the avowed "apeist"What' find his faith once more?  Can he fix the messes he's made without getting his Pa fired?  And, most importantly, what exactly will happen to Robbie Hewitt come January 1, 1900?

There's a lot to love about Preacher's Boy, the newest middle grade novel by renowned author Katherine Paterson.  Robbie's a funny narrator, whose rebellious-but-repenting nature makes him both sympathetic and genuine.  His antics made me laugh out loud.  Literally.  The story itself, though, feels a little clumsy to me.  There's not a lot of originality to it, nor is there a strong plot to give meaning to all of Robbie's various exploits.  The characters are vivid, though, as is the disapproving small-town setting.  All in all, the book's entertaining.  Not shout-it-from-the-rooftops amazing, but not a bad yarn either.  

 (Readalikes:  Reminded me of Mark Twain's classics Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; etc.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language and intense situations

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Preacher's Boy from the generous folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Thank you!
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a CD Review on BBB ... Wait a Minute, What??

If you're wondering why the "book" cover above looks kind of odd, it's because it's not a book cover at all.  It's a CD.  Don't worry, you're not on the wrong blog!  I just decided to change things up a little today.  Even though I don't talk about music much here at BBB, I listen to a lot of it.  And guess what?  My taste in music is just as eclectic as my taste in books.  Give me an upbeat Owl City song or a soulful Goo Goo Dolls ballad or a classic Simon and Garfunkel ditty—I love it all.  So, when Kathy of I Am A Reader Not A Writer offered me the opportunity to review a CD from a new singing group, I decided why not?  

Hudson Lights is made up of four men from the Rocky Mountains, three of whom are former Vocal Point members.  The quartet, whose sound has been described as "a fresh fusion of contemporary pop and jazz music" has given several notable performances in Utah.  Their self-titled debut album, which releases today, features covers of popular songs made famous by performers like The Beatles, U2 and Frank Sinatra.  It also includes two original tunes, Good to Me and Hold on To Me.  

So, what did I think of their first CD?  I liked it, overall.  Hudson Lights has a nice, mellow sound that's upbeat, but still soothing to the ears.  Their album offers a wide variety of songs, ranging in style from the catchy Hold On to Me to the lullaby-like Love Never Fails to a Big Band-ish Eleanor Rigby to a Groban-esque rendition of Brave.  The mix is a little strange, but I think it works, making the listener wonder what's coming up next.  Is the group's sound unique enough to make it stand out?  I'm not sure it is.  I'll have to see what they do with their next album.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying their debut.  A screaming, slobbering, die-hard fan I'm not, but I'll definitely be keeping my ear out for more from Hudson Lights.  

How about you?  Take a listen for yourself and let me know what do you think of this new singing group:

To the FTC, with love:  I received a complimentary Hudson Lights CD from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain Records in exchange for an honest review (via a blog tour coordinated by Kathy at I Am A Reader Not A Writer)  
Monday, November 11, 2013

As Much as I Adore the Author, I Just Don't Love the Series ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for The Supreme Macaroni Company, it may inadvertently spoil plot surprises from earlier novels in the Valentine trilogy.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Despite her reservations about the union and an ill-timed kiss with an old friend, 35-year-old Valentine Roncalli is set to marry Italian tanner Gianluca Vechiarelli on February 14.  In six weeks!  Between now and then, Valentine hopes they can straighten out a few major tangles.  Where to live, for instance.  Valentine can't imagine leaving Greenwich Village, where her family set up its now famous shoe company over 100 years ago.  But Gianluca hates the city, much preferring the gentle Italian countryside.  Valentine wants children; Gianluca already has a grown daughter.  Even after she's married, possibly with kids, Valentine will need to work at a frantic pace to keep the Angelini Shoe Company solvent; Gianluca wants a traditional Italian wife, one who has time for him.  Valentine's solution?  Ignore the problems.  The happy couple can work out all the snarls after the marriage.  Right?

Trouble begins even before the couple's honeymoon in the Big Easy finishes.  It seems as if they don't agree on anything!  Valentine's already considering an annulment.  The pair work things out, but the tension between them doesn't fully dissipate, especially when some surprise twists and turns force them to face their worries, fears and stresses head-on.  Is their marriage strong enough to withstand it all?  Or was their tumultuous union doomed from the beginning?  

As much as I adored Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap series, I've had trouble getting into this newer series.  For one thing, Valentine's troublesome as a protagonist—her brash personality, fickle nature, and selfish choices often make her difficult to love.  Indeed, I've often wondered why the story's cast adores her so.  Also, the books in this series seem to get too bogged down in detail, making the plots sag.  As for a central conflict that keeps the tale on track, always steering it toward an exciting conclusion, The Supreme Macaroni Company doesn't really have one.  It's more episodic, the only real question being if Valentine and Gianluca will stay married.  In short, it's a little dull.  Even the melodramatic finale doesn't have quite the impact it should.  On the bright side, Trigiani knows how to write about families in a way that's warm, funny and always authentic.  And, if you're a fan of what I call the Trigiani Trifecta (Italian families, Italian food, and New York fashion), you'll find plenty of it here.  I just wish I enjoyed this series more.  Ah, well.

(Readalikes:  Very Valentine and Brava, Valentina by Adriana Trigiani; also her Big Stone Gap series [Big Stone Gap; Big Cherry Holler; Milk Glass Moon; Home to Big Stone Gap])


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs) and sexual innuendo/content
To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Supreme Macaroni Company from the generous folks at Harper Collins via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!

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