Saturday, October 5, 2013

I've lost that bloggin' feelin'

Thank you to everyone who wished me well on my house move! It is exactly three weeks since we moved into our new home. The move has been one of the most stressful experiences of my life. Buying a home with your new husband really says, well I guess we are really in this for life! We left the big city we have loved for years (San Francisco) to move out to a town with significantly less happening, and significantly more crickets chirping. I've even seen a baby deer! We still work in the big city but that changes things too. Now we have a whole big commute routine and well life has just changed a lot. We both believe it was the right move, but it is still taking a lot to get used too.

However, while nothing physical was damaged in the move, something very real to me was. My reading and blogging mojo. Perhaps it was in packing up all of my books, I physically saw (and carried) just how many books I haven't had a chance to read that I really really want to because blogging always makes me read the newest and latest and I can't get to the one's that were even just from earlier this year! SO MANY BOOKs that I am dying to read are just tossed to the wayside to make way for the newest books that I am just dying to read. What has all of this done to me? Makes it so I don't even want to read anything. Kinda weird reaction I know.

In so doing, the thought of sitting down at the weekend when I used to blog is quickly overtaken by all of the hundreds (thousands?) of things we need to do to our new home. We bought a semi-fixer upper. It needs a lot of love, leaving me falling into bed at night exhausted and with little time for blogging.

What I do know is this: I've had dips in my reading and blogging before and I've always wanted to come back. I just think I need a break for a bit without deadlines and a pace that just allows me to read how little or how much I want and whatever I want, no matter the publishing date. Hopefully with that, my bloggin feelin will come back. In the meantime, know that I am still reading all of your blogs!

Love ya all,
Amused

Winners of my September Review Book Giveaway!

Thanks to everyone who signed up to win a book in my September Review Book Giveaway! Using random.org the winners are:



Monday, September 16, 2013

On the Move!

Hello Dear Readers!

This is just a friendly update to let you know that my husband and I are currently moving house and therefore my life is just a little messy at the moment. I would tell you how many boxes of books I packed up ... but that would be kind of embarrassing! I will tell you that even though I am stressed to the max with this whole move thing, I am still reading a ton. A girl's gotta have her escape right? So just as soon as I regain my equilibrium I will start posting reviews again. I am hoping in a week or two.

Love you all!
Amused

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book Review: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

'The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls'
Author: Anton DiSclafani

Format: ARC
Published: Riverhead Hardcover; June 2013
Pages: 400
Genre: Historical fiction
Grade: B
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. High in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty, and girls’ friendships, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea shared with her twin brother on their family’s citrus farm—a world now partially shattered. As Thea grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, she finds herself enmeshed in a new order, one that will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, her country.

Weaving provocatively between home and school, the narrative powerfully unfurls the true story behind Thea’s expulsion from her family, but it isn’t long before the mystery of her past is rivaled by the question of how it will shape her future. Part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is an immersive, transporting page-turner—a vivid, propulsive novel about sex, love, family, money, class, home, and horses, all set against the ominous threat of the Depression—and the major debut of an important new writer.


My Take: For me, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is one of those novels that sticks with you long after it has ended. So much occurs within the pages, and so much isn't revealed until the end that it calls for you to keep thinking about it. I actually had to sit on this review for a bit until I could fully formulate my thoughts! Let's hope I do a decent job.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is both a mouthful of a title and Anton DiSclafani's debut novel. Thea Atwell is our narrator and when the novel opens she is a young girl turning into a young woman who tells the story of her childhood by flashing forward and back. It can be slightly confusing but you soon get the hang of it. Basically, something has happened, and she is the cause of it, and it has turned her life upside down.

Thea was raised in Florida, and as the Great Depression hits her family is constantly reminded just how charmed their life really is. They live on a remote mansion and basically just have each other for company: Thea's mother, father, and her twin brother Sam. Occasionally they have visits from her dad's brother, his wife, and Thea and Sam's cousin George who is just a few years older.

When the story opens, we are all aware that something tragic has happened but we won't fully understand what that something is until close to the end. What we do know is that Thea is being punished by being sent to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, far away from her family and everything she has ever known. This camp is high up in the North Carolina mountains and is full of girls. Thea has never really been around other children besides her brother and cousin, both male, so she is completely overwhelmed by all of this femaleness. But what the camp does have is horse riding and Thea is a masterful horse rider.

What follows is Thea learning how to live away from her family and become a part of the camp. Also, how her family deals with the tragedy that befell them. This is not a happy feel good story. It is full of tragedy and sadness but it is fascinating and can fill your thoughts with how one mistake can ruin everything. I will warn you that if you don't like graphic love scenes this may not be for you. However, if you are looking for an interesting look into the life of a young woman who is set to learn the power of her actions, I would highly recommend The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. I also think this would make a fascinating read for bookclubs.

Cover Lust: I do love this cover. At first glance I thought it really fit the time period. However, at a second glance I noticed that the young woman on the cover is wearing jeans decorated with bows up the leg. Did they wear stuff like that in the early '30s? I didn't think they did and that inconsistency kinda bugs me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Winner of Me Before You!


Thanks to everyone who signed up to win a paperback copy of the fabulous Me Before You by JoJo Moyes! Using random.org the winner is: traveler!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Review: The Husband's Secret

'The Husband's Secret'
Author: Liane Moriarty

Format: ARC
Published: Amy Einhorn Books; July 2013
Pages: 416
Genre: Fiction
Grade: A
Source: SheReads

Synopsis: Australian author Moriarty, in her fifth novel (after The Hypnotist's Love Story), puts three women in an impossible situation and doesn't cut them any slack. Cecilia Fitzpatrick lives to be perfect: a perfect marriage, three perfect daughters, and a perfectly organized life. Then she finds a letter from her husband, John-Paul, to be opened only in the event of his death. She opens it anyway, and everything she believed is thrown into doubt. Meanwhile, Tess O'Leary's husband, Will, and her cousin and best friend, Felicity, confess they've fallen in love, so Tess takes her young son, Liam, and goes to Sydney to live with her mother. There she meets up with an old boyfriend, Connor Whitby, while enrolling Liam in St. Angela's Primary School, where Cecilia is the star mother. Rachel Crowley, the school secretary, believes that Connor, St. Angela's PE teacher, is the man who, nearly three decades before, got away with murdering her daughter—a daughter for whom she is still grieving. Simultaneously a page-turner and a book one has to put down occasionally to think about and absorb, Moriarty's novel challenges the reader as well as her characters, but in the best possible way. 

My Take: After reading and loving both The Hypnotist's Love Story and What Alice Forgot, I knew I had to read Liane Moriarty's latest novel The Husband's Secret. Holy crap, I was not disappointed! Moriarty's two previous novels were definite page-turner's. The story-lines lend themselves to wanting to know what happens next, and I can easily say that The Husband's Secret is her biggest page-turner yet!

The Husband's Secret centers around three women: Cecilia Fitzpatrick, Tess O'Leary, and Rachel Crowley. All three are tangentially related via the secret but when the novel opens they don't know that yet. The husband referred to in the title is the husband of Cecilia, John-Paul (fyi, I don't know why, but reading this hyphenated name over and over again really drove me crazy. Just call him JP people!). Cecilia and JP have three daughters and live a very happy, very suburban life. However, one day when JP is on a business trip, Cecilia stumbles upon a letter that was written to her when their first daughter was born by her husband to Cecilia to only be opened in the event of his death. Cecilia is shocked to find this letter and asks JP about it. Having made the decision not to open it already, when she talks to JP he is so weird about the whole thing that she knows what is in the letter has to be damaging so now she really wants to open it. Contained within is the secret and holey moley people, what an earth-shattering secret it is!

Meanwhile, Rachel Crowley works at the school where Cecilia's three daughters go. Rachel's daughter used to attend this same school as well, but then she was murdered when she was just a teenager. They never caught the murderer and Rachel has been haunted by this the rest of her life. She is consumed by it. 

Finally, we have Tess O'Leary. She too is happily married with one young son. One day her husband and her best-friend/cousin, Felicity, announce to Tess that they have fallen in love. Naturally, this shatters her world and she grabs her son and flees to her mother's house and quickly enrolls her son in the same school where Rachel works and Cecilia's children attend.

All three stories I found equally fascinating and once the secret is revealed you really want to understand how the women deal with it. Who knows how you would react to something equally earth-shattering. It's hard to explain how emotional this book is without revealing too much but I am trying to do my best. Let's just say when you read it, you want to talk about it. I was telling my husband the plot and his eyes were getting bigger as he was finding it more and more fascinating and twisted. This book would be perfect for a movie! Please, I urge you, read this book, you will not be disappointed!

Don't just take my opinion for it, check out the whole She Reads Tour.

Cover Lust: This cover is fine but it doesn't really paint a good picture of what's inside. Sure the smashed hydrangea is probably symbolic but it doesn't really grab me.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Winner of the Girl You Left Behind!

Thanks to everyone who signed up to win The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes! Using random.org, the winner is: Jenny!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book Review: The Lake House

'The Lake House'
Author: Marci Nault

Format: Paperback
Published: Gallery Books; May 2013
Pages: 400
Genre: Women's fiction
Grade: C
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: VICTORIA ROSE. Fifty years before, a group of teenage friends promised each other never to leave their idyllic lakeside town. But the call of Hollywood and a bigger life was too strong for Victoria . . . and she alone broke that pledge. Now she has come home, intent on making peace with her demons, even if her former friends shut her out. Haunted by tragedy, she longs to find solace with her childhood sweetheart, but even this tender man may be unable to forgive and forget. 

HEATHER BREGMAN. At twenty-eight, after years as a globe-trotting columnist, she’s abandoned her controlling fiancĂ© and their glamorous city life to build one on her own terms. Lulled by a Victorian house and a gorgeous locale, she’s determined to make the little community her home. But the residents, fearful of change and outsiders, will stop at nothing to sabotage her dreams of lakeside tranquility.

As Victoria and Heather become unlikely friends, their mutual struggle to find acceptance—with their neighbors and in their own hearts—explores the chance events that shape a community and offer the opportunity to start again. 

My Take: Looking at this cover I knew this was a book I just had to read this summer (note that the day my reviews post and the day I finish the book are often far apart!). To me, this cover says laying by the beach reading a story about friends that grew up together. And that is what it is, but also it isn't. Are you confused yet?!

The Lake House is Marci Nault's debut novel and really focuses on the lives of two very different women who both find themselves living in the seemingly idyllic community of Nagog, MA. The first woman we meet is Victoria. She was raised in this community but left to find her own way and has now returned in her 70s to repair the friendships she hurt along the way. For some history on this community: it is a community of beautiful old homes that have been passed down among the same families for years, all centered around a lake. Where once it was a young community, full of families with kids, its now almost a retirement community as the older inhabitants decide they don't want to leave and their children have made lives elsewhere.

As a teenager, Victoria and her friends experienced the turmoil of WWII. However, it gave some of the inhabitants a feeling that there may be more to life than what could be found in this community. Victoria decided that for her, that meant moving to Hollywood and becoming a star. Her need to showcase her fabulous new life through the years to her friends from childhood didn't necessarily win her any favors. Now that she is older she realizes that these people are the true ones who care about her, however she is finding living back in the community isn't as welcoming as it once may have been.

One of the homes in Nagog has been sold to a newcomer though (much to the chagrin of many of the inhabitants). Its new owner, Heather, has no idea that she essentially bought a home in a retirement community. All she knows is she wants to live on a lake, away from her controlling fiance. Soon Victoria and her friend Molly, decide Heather needs some friends. While it may seem odd that a 30 something and a bunch of 70 year olds hang out, it is actually a pretty sweet friendship.

Overall, I found The Lake House to be a nice, entertaining read. For me, the novel may have been just a little too long. I knew pretty quickly how it was all going to shake out and while sometimes that can make for a fun, easy read, 400 pages is just too long. 

Cover Lust: I ADORE this cover. It perfectly sets the stage for this novel.

Monday, September 2, 2013

September Review Book Giveaway!

I can't believe it's September already! Fall is always my favorite season. There is a bit of a nip in the air and it is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. In that spirit, I would like to offer these two books up as a giveaway! So without further ado, here's what's on offer this month, and as before, the titles link to my reviews.

The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman




















Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson




















All titles are ARCs, have been read once by me, and are in very good condition.

Giveaway Details!
The deadline for this giveaway is September 30th; entries open to those in the US.

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below, indicating which book(s) interest you and a way for me to contact you. You can enter for all but you will only win one.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate in the comments below that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
+1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet)
+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

Three extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST September 30th. I will draw the winners using random.org and announce them here on my blog. You will have one week to claim your prize. Good luck!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Winners of August Review Book Giveaway!

Thanks to everyone who signed u p to win in my August Review Book Giveaway! Using random.org the winners are:

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