Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book Review: White Collar Girl

White Collar GirlAuthor: Renee Rosen
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: NAL

The latest novel from the bestselling author of Dollface and What the Lady Wants takes us deep into the tumultuous world of 1950's Chicago where a female journalist struggles with the heavy price of ambition...

Every second of every day, something is happening. There’s a story out there buried in the muck, and Jordan Walsh, coming from a family of esteemed reporters, wants to be the one to dig it up. But it’s 1955, and the men who dominate the city room of the Chicago Tribune have no interest in making room for a female cub reporter. Instead Jordan is relegated to society news, reporting on Marilyn Monroe sightings at the Pump Room and interviewing secretaries for the White Collar Girl column.

Even with her journalistic legacy and connections to luminaries like Mike Royko, Nelson Algren, and Ernest Hemingway, Jordan struggles to be taken seriously. Of course, that all changes the moment she establishes a secret source inside Mayor Daley’s office and gets her hands on some confidential information. Now careers and lives are hanging on Jordan’s every word. But if she succeeds in landing her stories on the front page, there’s no guarantee she’ll remain above the fold.…

“That’s not my plan.” It wasn’t. I didn’t even have a boyfriend. And yes, I was going to be the next Nellie Bly.

The WCG – White Collar Girl – column focused on stories for career-minded women, like secretaries and schoolteachers.

I couldn’t sleep that night. My mind was still back in the city room, my head full of typewriters plinking, telephones and news chatter.

Renee Rosen is at the top of my must read list. Whenever she publishes a new book, it will be on my to be read list and will not long after be in my hands. This book captures exactly what it is like to be a journalist in the 1950’s in Chicago. Rosen captures the time period in which she is writing about so well. Jordan Walsh is our leading lady; she is twenty-0ne and ready to prove herself to the world. She is the daughter of a journalist and a poet and wants to carry on the family tradition. Rosen’s world shows the way of life in the 1950’s better than any other I have read. Any journey that Rosen starts, please know that I will finish with her. I cannot say enough good things about her work. Jordan comes from a highly intellectual and literary couple, as I stated before, so I believe this is what allows me to connect with her even more. She was a phenomenal character and oh so beautifully written!

This historical fiction novel was just what I needed to kick off the holidays. It was cozy and made me really want to invest my time and interest into finishing the story. I found it hard to put the book down because the story was being so eloquently told. Another reason Rosen’s books speak so much to my heart is because she deals with gender politics and focuses on the way women were often viewed or treated throughout history. Jordan soon learns that she is living in a man’s world. The men that work with her think that she does not belong there and make life difficult for her. Jordan is also not given the opportunity to write or focus on the topics that she wishes to cover. She is made to write about Marilyn Monroe sightings, society news, juicy gossip, weddings, and more. This book was such a pleasure to get wrapped up in – I will do it again soon!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at NAL in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review: The Wild One

The Wild One (Brooklyn Girls, #3)Author: Gemma Burgess
Publication Date: November 10, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Series: Brooklyn Girls # 3

Sweet, innocent Coco has always been the good one. But when she catches her boyfriend cheating on her, she decides it's time to break bad.

Coco swiftly goes from spending all her time baking and reading to working nights in (and dancing on) a bar, falling in and out of love (and lust), stealing education - and along the way discovers that she is stronger than she ever knew… In a time when her best friends are suddenly plunged into break ups, break-downs, big breaks, and on the verging of quitting New York City altogether, it's up to Coco to keep them together and find herself along the way.

Gemma Burgess' The Wild One: A Brooklyn Girls Novel is the inspiring story about the turmoil, uncertainty, and heartache that every twenty something faces and survives - with the help of her friends.

As you might expect from a group of twenty-something girls, we spend the early part of the evening on an extended makeover session in Angie’s room, with alcohol.

Pia reaches out, takes Angie’s martini, and tips all of it back into her mouth. She hands back the empty glass and smiles. “Okay, ladybitches. Let’s have some fun.”

So from now on, I don’t want to be the good one. I’ll be the wild one.

Brooklyn Girls has been such an entertaining series to read, especially for a girl in my twenties trying to figure out life one step at a time. In Gemma’s stories not everyone has life all figured out; her characters struggle with love, jobs, friends, and just life in general. They are not perfect, but readers can revel in their flaws and will even find themselves connecting with one or more of the characters. If you know the series, then you know that each book follows one girl out of a group of best friends. The third installment follows Coco and her desire to find what makes her truly happy. Early on in the story Coco’s life takes a few dreaded turns and she is left feeling unhappy and unsure of what her future holds. It is then that Coco decides to start acting out; she is done being the “quiet” one, the “nice” one, the “shy” one, so she decides it is about time for her to be the “wild” one!

These books have been so relatable and I cannot believe that the series is finished. I was hoping that Burgess would write a story for each of the girls; there are five in total, and I am still holding out and hoping that she will. In some way, shape, or form I guarantee that all readers will be able to relate with at least one of the characters. Their struggles are part of the everyday, their relationships are not always perfect, and they constantly question their decisions. In each story we get to see all of the characters and learn how they have progressed since the last time we have seen them. Their dialogue is always very comical and realistic; I will probably find myself going back to this series very soon!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Griffin in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book Review: The Golden Braid

The Golden BraidAuthor: Melanie Dickerson
Publication Date: November 17, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.

Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man around. And her skills as an artist rival those of any artist she’s met. But for a woman in medieval times, the one skill she most desires is the hardest one to obtain: the ability to read.

After yet another young man asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides they need to move once again, but this time to a larger city. Rapunzel’s heart soars—surely there she can fulfill her dream. But Mother won’t let her close to a man. She claims that no man can be trusted.

After being rescued by a knight on the road to the city, and in turn rescuing him farther down the road, Rapunzel’s opportunity arrives at last. This knight, Sir Gerek, agrees to educate Rapunzel in order to pay back his debt. She just has to put up with his arrogant nature and single-minded focus on riches and prestige.

But this Rapunzel story is unlike any other and the mystery that she uncovers will change everything—except her happily ever after.

"When she had sung for several minutes, she stopped and whispered, "I will never sing for Mother again, but I will sing to you, God, as long as I have hope."

Mother just didn’t understand what it was like to be young and to want to do things, to learn things, to meet new people. Mother was content only to speak with Rapunzel, to be always with her.

Was she a bad person because she so enjoyed teasing this knight? Bad or not, she did enjoy it.
Fans of fairy tale retellings will love getting lost in this new rendition of Rapunzel. I have been following Melanie Dickerson’s retellings ever since I started my book blog. Dickerson’s story puts its own twist on a much loved story; her retellings are some of the best and I would highly recommend them to all. In this retelling of Rapunzel, we see Mother Gothel being overprotective, possessive as always. She moves Rapunzel from town to town and gets extremely irritated when the local village boys pay extra attention to Rapunzel. When they get close enough to propose, Mother Gothel knows it is time to go. Rapunzel is a character that goes with the flow, is courageous, and curious. This story takes more of a historical fiction route than a fantastical one, but the characters were so fun-loving and the romance was sweet and not too overwhelming.

 Rapunzel and Gerek make an outstanding couple and really complement each other on their journey. Rapunzel is warm-hearted and highly spirited, while Gerek is stand offish at first, surly, and a bit moody. Together they grow and build off of each other’s strengths. Mother Gothel was a hard read for me simply because I could not tell if she was the antagonist, like she is in other versions, or if she really intended to protect Rapunzel and keep her safe. Either way, she was beautifully written and added to the angst between Gerek and Rapunzel. The romance in this story did not outdo the action, adventure, and actual plot. I can always appreciate this greatly in a book!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book Review: Hotel Ruby

Hotel RubyAuthor: Suzanne Young
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Stay Tonight. Stay Forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn't have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she's met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

“Stay tonight. Stay forever” is typed in black on the side.

“And hon,” the cashier calls. I turn back to look at her, and she smiles. “Welcome to the Ruby.”

“It’s too soon for me to kiss you. I haven’t charmed you nearly enough.”

I usually stay away from horror books, and for good reason; they creep me out and keep me up at night. I didn’t really know what to make of this book when I first started reading it. I just knew that the story was interesting and I couldn’t resist turning the pages. I started out unsure of where the characters and story line were taking me, but quickly enough I wondered into a world of mystery and intrigue. This book has its faults, but it also has its redemption; it is twisted and takes many turns that, as the reader, you will never see coming. The best part of the story is that the Hotel Ruby is not even supposed to be the final destination for our main characters, but just like them you will find yourself trapped, or should I say mystified, by your surroundings. Welcome to the Ruby.

The setting, Hotel Ruby, was the best part of this novel. I felt like with all the mysterious and unexplained events, the hotel was its own character. I was completely caught up in this place that somehow had “trapped” the characters. Audrey, our leading lady, is just the perfect type of character to take us through a place like Hotel Ruby. She is curious, likeable, a bit jaded, and makes it clear that she trusts no one, so when she starts getting rather quickly attached to the people she meets at Hotel Ruby, readers know something is amiss. I guessed the huge twist pretty early on, but I was still glued to the pages just to make sure I did not miss anything else. Side note, there is a pretty steamy romance in this book; I do not always appreciate romance books, but Suzanne Young writes with such tact and really knows her way around a hot, passionate kiss!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Simon Pulse in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book Review: The Bronte Plot

The Brontë PlotAuthor: Katherine Reay
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious measures to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy's secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt, and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.

In a sudden turn of events, James's wealthy grandmother Helen hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy's predicament better than anyone else.

As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen's wisdom, as Helen confronts the ghosts of her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters' beloved heroines, who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of change.

Now Lucy must go back into her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that's been waiting for her all along.

“I mean that reading forms your opinions, your worldview, especially childhood reading, and anything that does that has an impact. So call them friends, call some stories enemies if you want, but don’t deny their influence.”

“Hope is a hard thing to share.”

“Don’t hang on to the past so tightly you taint the future.”

I cannot thank Katherine Reay enough for all of the wonderful adventures she has given me since I started reading her books. In her newest book, The Bronte Plot, I was dropped right into a cozy antique story filled with old furniture and stacks upon stacks of beautiful, rare, and classic novels. What I found different about this novel was that I was unable to connect to or even like the main character, Lucy, right from the start. Lucy makes a couple of bad life choices and lands herself in some hot water. Readers will probably find themselves very frustrated with her, but all will be better in the end; I promise. You might even find yourself feeling compassion for her and then admiration for all the gutsy spirit that she shows on her journey to redemption.

This story is really for anyone. We have all gone on some type of journey in our lives, whether physical, mental, or emotional, so this makes it even easier to relate to what Lucy is going through. However, you will not only fall in love with Lucy and James, and their tumultuous love affair, but also with so many other loveable characters like James’s grandmother, Helen. And on top of that, this is a book about books – we are readers of books, so this means we have found our own little wonderland. Katherine Reay truly is an artist with words. I am looking forward to what she comes out with next, and am just praying that I do not have to wait an entire year to read it!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book Review: After Alice

After AliceAuthor: Gregory Maguire
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow

From the multi-million-copy bestselling author of Wicked comes a magical new twist on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lewis's Carroll's beloved classic

When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860's Oxford react to Alice's disappearance?

In this brilliant new work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings — and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll's enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice's mentioned briefly in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late — and tumbles down the rabbit hole herself. 

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Euridyce can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is After Alice.

“The Queen has become quite raveled over the theft of her tarts,” insisted the Knight. “And you know what that means.”

“And what’s a Jabberwock, you ask?
To answer is a gruesome task.
It is not ape though ape it may.
To be a bee it cannot be.
‘Not carp?’ you carp; ‘Not carp’ I say.
Nor dog, though dogged, I decree.
It is not eve – how you amuse!-
Nor fish, although you fish for clues -“

“To whom much is given, much is expected of those to whom much is given,” replied the White Queen uncertainly. “I expect.”
Gregory Maguire wowed fans and readers with his reimagining of Oz, and now he takes those same readers on a journey to Alice’s Wonderland that will leave readers stunned and ready for more. Maguire tells the story from the point of view of Ada, Alice’s dearest and closest friend. Ada goes on a journey in search of Alice, who has been gone for quite some time now. Just like Alice before her, Ada finds the same portal that transported Alice to the whimsical and magical Wonderland. I was blown away with how much I enjoyed this book. Alice in Wonderland is one of my absolute favorites and I often find myself being overly critical of these types of retellings. Ada’s point of view was so unique and different and I greatly appreciated the change. Maguire does a wonderful job of making readers feel like they have entered Wonderland, but definitely through a new set of eyes.

The story was clever and the characters, both in the ordinary world and in Wonderland, were quirky and fanciful. I enjoyed the dialogue that took place between Ada and many of these characters, and I love how Maguire brought in some characters from Lewis Carroll’s book that often get left out in other retellings. This was an exciting new twist for me and really made me appreciate Maguire’s work all the more. I know you all are dying to know: do we get to see some of our most favorite, beloved characters? I am happy to report that yes, we see the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat, and even the March Hare, plus so many more. Please do yourself a favor and go out and get lost in Wonderland today!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at William Morrow in exchange for my honest review***