Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

There comes a first for a lot of things and this is one of those.  I finally had a chance to watch the dreams and hard work come about for one of my close friends from high school, Jennifer Shaw Wolf.  Jenni, as I knew her in high school, was a great friend of mine.  We actually hung out in a small group of friends who shared a lot of hilarious, good times.  As she can attest, we spent many a weekend dragging main--which makes me laugh and smile now.  Would parents let their kids do that now with gas prices sky high and crazies out and about?  Who knows, but we sure had a fun time!

Anyway, I'm so excited to get to share Jenni's novel here on my blog.  Thanks for sending over a great book Jenni.  I'm so proud of you!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.

When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness."

Review:  In a time when teen novels are filled with pretty girls, magical powers, and popular crowds, Jennifer Shaw Wolf's novel captures a group of teens that feel more like the norm.  Allie, our main character, is flawed by the sadness and pain she carries after the loss of her boyfriend Trip.  She has a brother, Andrew, who has a disability that only draws the siblings closer together.  And Blake is the so-called "bad boy" in the story who proves to be more than what one sees.  Their story unfolds with a mystery that flashes back and forth between the present and the past, revealing even more about that fateful night when Trip died.

Since I'm not usually a mystery fan, I held my breath, and was nicely rewarded.  This is just a good story, with good writing.  I found myself flipping pages for the mere fact that I wanted to get to the heart of what really happened the night that turned every one's life upside down.  Allie is vulnerable, scared, angry, and frustrated, and yet her kindness towards the people she cares about seems to know no bounds.  It's interesting to see where that kindness takes her and how that affects her story.

In short, I really enjoyed Breaking Beautiful, with its character development, interesting relationships, and twisting plot lines.  The story is one that needs to be out there to open up the dialogue for anyone in an abusive relationship, and it is told in an interesting way.  What more can you ask for?  

Now, for the GIVEAWAY!  Enter below for a chance to win a hardback, signed copy of the novel.  The giveaway will run until 9/6 at midnight.  Good luck!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Re-Read Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

As a BAD book blogger, I haven't been supporting Utah Book Month as I should.  We really do have a lot of great authors here in Utah, many of whom come out and support our local get togethers and local events.  They are really awesome!  Right now I'm in the middle of reading Bree Despain's third novel in her Dark Divine series and I'm getting ready to read Shannon Hale's Midnight in Austenland.  Before I pick up Hale's next novel though, I went back to re-read Austenland so I could remember some of the details, and it was even better the second time through!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?"

Review:  This was a fun book to read from the get go.  I liked the it the first time, and I loved it on the second go around.  I distinctly remember not liking the Darcy-esque character in this novel, which is ironic, right?  Aren't we supposed to not like him and then realize how prejudice we were?  Yes, I do think that's the case.  The first time I read it, I just remember  being sucked into the re-enactment of our favorite, romantic read, Pride and Prejudice.  This time, I remembered some of what was to come and paid more attention to the characters that I knew were the nice guys--you know, the way you watch the romantic lead in a movie when you know that's how he'll end up?  You just seem to notice all the sweet things they do to show that they're not the person they are putting on.  That was the case in this re-read; I picked up on some fun interactions that I didn't the first time around.

As far as sweet escape reading goes, this is high on that list.  I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Austenland and its twist on the Jane Austen tale.  The ending is very reminiscent of a great chick film, which I loved.  I'm in need of another one of these, so I hope the film comes out soon!  On the whole, this was just a real delight to dive into and relive all over again!  Now I'm ready for the movie to come out, which I'm hoping will come out before the end of the year.  

All right.  Now I can head off to read Midnight in Austenland!

By the way, here is a fun film exclusive if you're interested in the movie that will be coming out.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Blatherings: I Need a Nudge...

I've been absent from blogging way too  much, and I do feel bad about it a bit.  With school starting back up again, and finishing up an online class I've been teaching this summer, I simply have been lazy.  This was the first summer where I felt like I didn't have much of a break at all--between teaching summer school, an online class, and taking four professional development courses and/or conferences, it just was a summer filled with way too many things. To top it off, I was told I have fibromyalgia.  Yes, I mentioned some health issues earlier this summer, but I quickly went into denial about it and didn't face it.  My mom has it, so I have had her support.  Other than that, I don't know what to think.  I haven't asked any more questions and I've brushed it aside.  I'm sure I'll learn more over time, but for now, I'm just going to try to do all the things we should be doing anyway--sleeping, eating well, and exercising.  What a novel idea, right?  :)

All of this has affected my blogging.  Thankfully, you can keep up great conversations and friendships via twitter.  I've always struggled to circulate the way I would like to.  Now, I keep up with people a lot through comments here and also through twitter links that pop up.  Outside of that, I haven't made the time for it as I once did.  It kind of makes me sad, but it's the truth.  Thankfully, book blogging has really just been about the conversation, so I was able to let go of the guilt when I haven't been able to post much.

Although the blog posts have died down, my reading has not.  I've actually read some really great stuff this summer!  Here are a few of the books that I have recently finished reading:

 At school we're asking the students to try to read 40 books over the course of the school year, which includes things like magazines, children's books, and graphic novels.  That means that I've had to search out some fun things to read.  I'm kind of excited to encourage a real love of reading into my students.  If they can just get through my class and not hate reading or not hate it as much as they used to, then I feel like I've done something really good.  Literacy has such a huge impact on the rest of their lives, that reading is just one of those things I'd love to get them all interested in.

Well, outside of all this work and personal stuff, I haven't done anything terribly exciting this summer; I've saved money, fixed up some things around the house, and done some canning and preserving.  I suppose my efforts to brush up on my Spanish might be entertaining, since I've been watching telenovelas such as the rebroadcast of Sertilegio so I can keep practicing.  I hate that I've lost so much of my Spanish.  Let's hope a drama-filled telenovela will help me brush back up on my second language.  (Besides, William Levy is pretty nice to look at, which makes watching even more entertaining, especially when I'm not sure what's going on!)

As usual, I've blathered on more than I really wanted to.  At least I feel like I've pushed my foot back in the door and I can try to get back to posting reviews!  Have you ever gone through a major blogging slump?  Did it feel hard to return?  Anyway, I'm off to NOT think about the fact that I have work in the morning.  I hope you all have a great week!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Utah Book Blogger Summer Party

Time to crawl out of my self-imposed blogging absence to share great news about another Utah Book Blogger get together.  This is a great time for bloggers, authors, and readers alike can get together for some good food and great conversation. 

Thank you to Enna for this great button that gives all the information.  Here are the details:

Utah Book Blogger Summer Party
When:  Friday, 8/24 @7 pm
Where:  Wines Park in Lehi--Pavilion #3, SW Corner
What to Bring:  A dessert to share & a book or books for an exchange

You might want to bring a camp chair or something of that sort, just in case the tables aren't enough.  Please pass this along and share with anyone you know who would be interested.  We hope to see you there!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Dietgirl by Shauna Reid

Synopsis:  In Goodreads, "In January 2001 Shauna Reid was twenty-three years old and 351 pounds. Determined to turn her life around, she created the hugely successful blog "The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl" and hiding behind her Lycra-clad roly-poly alter-ego, her transformation from couch potato to svelte goddess began. Today, 8,000 miles, seven years and 175 pounds later, the gloriously gorgeous Shauna is literally half the woman she used to be.

Hysterically funny and heart-wrenchingly honest, THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF DIETGIRL follows the twists and turns of Shauna's lard-busting crusade as she curbs the calories and learns to love the gym. There are travel tales from Red Square to Reykjavik, plus romance and intrigue as she meets the man of her dreams during a pub quiz in Edinburgh. As her UK visa rapidly runs out, will she be deported back to Australia or will love triumph?"

Review:  Like many readers, I picked this book up in the hopes of getting some inspiration from Shauna's story.  It's hard not to be inspired by someone who lost so much weight the hard, old-fashioned way through diet and exercise.  Shauna spent years and years, not weeks and months, to lose her weight, which feels more real than what we so often see in the media.  In this blog turned book, Shauna chronicles more about the head space she was in over the course of five or six years.  Yes, she learned to eat healthy.  Yes, she started to learn to exercise and love it.  However, the biggest factor always seems to be how she handled it when things went wrong.

This journey was not a fast one for Shauna, which I could appreciate.  It seems like too many people yo-yo up and down with their weight at insane speeds.  Realistically, it was nice to see what one person did, in a reasonable fashion, to lose a large amount of weight.  In fact, I mostly appreciated that her life went on and she lived it!  It can seem too unreasonable to expect someone to just stop their life to focus solely on weight (I guess that is unless you're on a TV show or something), so I thought the directions her life took--moving to the UK--was an interesting reality to her story.  

On the whole, this is an inspiring book if you want a realistic look at the ups and downs of one person's weight loss journey.  There isn't necessarily a lot about how she did it, outside of the common sense "eat less and exercise" mantra, but it does give you a lot about her mindset and how it changed over time.  Overall, this was a much more entertaining read than a mere self help book.  This is one of those books that anyone could read to appreciate.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a personal copy of the book.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Blatherings--Canning and Preserving

What a great week.  I am panicking just a bit though, since we're heading into those last two weeks before school is back in session.  The "gearing up" has begun.  There are things you have to do around the house that take precedence, and that's what I've been doing.  Reading?  Not so much.  I've been busy online during the day and then watching the Olympics at night.  I'm hoping to get back to my reading soon!

Here's what I've been doing this weekend:

My mother is here for a long weekend, so we canned tomatoes and made freezer raspberry jam.  Thank you to my aunt in Idaho for supplying the raspberries!  They are on a road trip to Iowa to drop off their eldest son and his wife to medical school, so she let us pick the raspberry patch.  I'm mad I didn't take a picture of the pretty raspberries when they were in process, but we were multitasking like crazy so we didn't end up canning until midnight.  You'll have to trust me that they were beautiful!  The tomatoes came from our local farmer's market, so we were bursting with produce yesterday. 

I don't think canning is a dying art, but I do know that a lot of my friends think it's crazy that I enjoy it.  We always canned each fall, so I have some pretty fond memories of spending time with my family, especially my short grandmother who would stand at the sink for hours on end without a single complaint of achy feet or pruned up fingers.  I really miss those moments!  Thankfully, my mother and I keep up the moments and continue the tradition.

Okay, so enough of that for today!  As you can see, it has been a busy weekend so far.  I'm going to kick back and enjoy a day off today.  Although, we did pick up some amazingly sweet and glorious little peaches that we're going to make into a peach pie later.  That's a good reason to not "kick back" all day, right? 

What are you doing today?