Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Summers at Castle Auburn

Summers at Castle AuburnSummers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

AR Reading Level: 5.9
On the library stacks: YA Fiction/Fantasy/Adult Sci-Fi
Award: ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Corie is the illegitimate daughter of an important noble in the land of Auburn. Her Uncle Jaxon insists that she spend her summers at the castle, hobnobbing with the court and getting to know her half-sister. During the rest of the year, she lives with her grandmother in a rural village where she is learning herb-lore.

Corie's sister Elisandra has been engaged to the future king since birth. But there are many girls madly in love with Prince Bryan, including Corie herself. However, as Corie grows up and matures, she sees that Bryan is nothing like the man of her dreams. She becomes concerned about her sister's future as well as the fey creatures, the aliora, who are hunted and sold as slaves to the wealthy. In due time, Corie has the courage to be true to herself, and she is rewarded with her love match.

This is a cute fairy tale and a clean romance. However, some of the thematic elements surrounding palace intrigue and the political upheaval would make this a book better suited for older readers. I saw the plot twists coming a mile away but it was a fun beach read, perfect for this Spring Break.

Source: Gift

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Secret Daughter - TLC Book Tour

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Publisher: William Morrow
First published: March 9, 2010
Trade paperback: 368 pages
Price: $13.99
On the library stacks: Adult Fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's 1984 and Kavita is a poor young woman in rural India with the misfortune of giving birth to her second daughter. She knows that in order to save this baby girl's life, she must make the heart-wrenching decision to travel to Mumbai and deliver her to an orphanage.

Somer Whitman and her husband Kris Thakker are both doctors living in the San Francisco area. Somer has suffered two miscarriages and it becomes clear that she will not have any biological children of her own. She desperately wants to be a mother and decides to pursue adoption in her husband's homeland of India.

This is truly a moving story told mostly from the various perspectives of the women characters over a 25-year span. It is a richly descriptive novel and the characters are so real. They're flawed but realistically and even understandably so. At one point I was worried that the story was going to descend into silly coincidences, but it never did. The ending was just right in my opinion, and I even got a little emotional. This is a thought-provoking novel that I think book clubs might enjoy too. I loved it and look forward to reading more by this debut author.

You can find Shilpi at:
Please check out the other great reviews from bloggers participating in this tour.
    Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    The Goddess Test

    The Goddess TestThe Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

    Publisher: Harlequin Teen
    Publication Date: April 19, 2011
    Hardcover: 304 pages
    Price: $9.99

    On the library stacks: YA Fiction 

    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    Kate is a high school senior whose mother is dying from cancer. As part of her final wishes, she takes Kate to the small town of Eden, Michigan to live out her remaining days. Kate makes friends with a loner from school named James and seems to spark the ire of a beautiful, popular girl named Ava straight away. When Kate is forced to make the decision to save Ava's life, she unwittingly enters herself into agreement to live with Hades (named Henry) for the next six months, and possibly become his wife.

    This was kind of like Hades & Persephone meets Beauty & The Beast. I wanted to read this book because I was intrigued by the premise, but something was just off. I think the story needed to be more true to the accepted myths and personalities of the Greek gods. There needed to be more substance to the characters and their relationships, and more effort put into the world-building. The writing style was very simple, which seemed incongruous with the huge things happening in Kate's life.

    There were parts of this book that I found really entertaining and I was hopeful that things would take a different direction than they did. But in the end it was pretty predictable and the characters were more wooden than I would have liked. This is the first in a trilogy, but I don't think I'll be reading more.

    Source: e-copy provided by netGalley and Harlequin Teen for review purposes.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Charlotte's Rose

    Charlotte's RoseCharlotte's Rose by A.E. Cannon

    AR Reading Level: 4.1
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Charlotte Edwards is a 13-year old Mormon convert from Wales, traveling with her father to Salt Lake in 1856. On the way, a woman from their company gives birth to a little girl and dies shortly thereafter. The husband, stricken by grief, refuses to care for the daughter. So Charlotte steps forward and decides that she will carry the baby she names Rose to Zion herself.

    I really liked how this historical fiction novel was told from the perspective of a teenager because it's not a view I've often come across when reading about pioneers. Charlotte's story is sweet and I liked her spunky attitude. One thing that bothered me is that we are told that Charlotte cannot read nor write, and yet the book is told in diary form. But I like that this book that teaches courage and determination and it's one I'm happy for my daughter to read.

    Oh and I learned that A.E. Cannon is the daughter of LaVell Edwards reading this book!

    Source: Purchased

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    When Everything Changed

    When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the PresentWhen Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins

    On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction
    Series: Follow up to America's Women

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Gail Collins, a writer for the New York Times, has taken on the daunting task of recounting the history of women in America, from the very first days until the most recent events of the 2008 election. I really loved the first book, America's Women, which covers the Colonial Period until 1960. This book picks right up where she left off, on the precipice of the feminist movement.

    The bulk of the book is spent on the 1960s and 1970s, the events of which really paved the way for what has happened in the history of women in this country since. This book gave historical context to the lives of my grandmothers and my mother, which has in turn greatly affected my opportunities, choices, and value system. I appreciated getting an overall view of how much has changed in such a short period of time, and learning more about the individuals who spearheaded change.

    However, this book uses a lot of anecdotal evidence which is where is broke down for me in parts. I felt the format gave the author a chance to put a leftist spin on things and sometimes I really felt the opposing views could have been better represented. (It also seemed like all the women ended up in law school!) Having said that, I really enjoyed learning more about women and the Civil Rights movement and the catalysts for change in education, work and family life for women through the years.

    This book was not a page-turner for me, but it has certainly got me thinking. I know I'll enjoy discussing it with my book club.

    Source: BookMooch

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Russian Winter - TLC Book Tour

    Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

    Publisher: Harper Perennial
    First published: September 7, 2010
    Paperback: 466 pages
    ISBN: 9780061962172
    Price: $14.99
    On the library stacks: Adult Fiction

    Daphne Kalotay has created this beautiful novel with prima-ballerinas in Moscow during the 1950s, a Boston auction house with exquisite jewels, mysteries from the past, and love stories for the ages.

    Nina Revskaya is an aged ballerina who escaped the Bolshoi Ballet and defected to the West during the Cold War. Now living in Boston, she decides to put her jewelry up for auction, not realizing how the memories associated with those pieces will force her to confront her haunting past in Stalinist Russia.

    Drew Brooks is an associate at the auction house, struggling to find herself after her divorce. She has put the idea of true love to rest, and instead finds joy in her life's work. Together with Grigori Solodin, a professor who translates Russian literature, they unlock the secrets of the jewels.

    I love novels that transport me to a different time and place, and then alternate that experience with a modern-day storyline that interconnects in unexpected ways. I lost myself in the worlds of dance, literature, music, art, and languages that Kalotay explores. This is a rich novel that I found myself immersed in from the first page. This book would make a great book club discussion and a reading group guide is available.

    Daphne Kalotay can be found online:
    The paperback version of this book has been released today! Please visit the other tour stops over the next few weeks.
    Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.