Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ari Dante Cover

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Pages: 368

Genre: YA

ISBN: 9781442408920

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 

Rating: 4-Stars

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

I decided to read this novel after I joined Caught Read Handed’s Blogger’s Book Club. This was the novel featured for the month of May, and I’m so glad that I decided to join that book club.

Quite often I start reading a book without ever reading previous reviews, and many times I don’t read the book jacket—If a book has a good title and a good cover, then I’m bound to give that book a try. So, this was the case of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Not only this book has an interesting title, but it also has a great cover to go with it.

This is such a beautifully written novel by Benjamin Alire Saenz, and it completely took me by surprise. Saenz prose is magical! This book was such a pleasure to read, and I loved the two characters—Ari and Dante. A coming-of-age story with a twist; The author captured the angst and despair of a fifteen-year-old in a simple, but by no means simplistic way.

I loved how he tackled the topics of sexuality and puberty, and how he questioned traditional roles without making it too dense. In fact, this is a beautiful story of love, friendship, acceptance and discovery.

“The problem with my life is that it was someone else’s idea.”

I definitely recommend this book to pretty much anyone with an open mind.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Review: Storm Rising by Rachael Richey

Storm RisisngTitle: Storm Rising (NightHawk Series)

Author: Rachael Richey

Pages: 288 (Kindle format)

Genre: Romance

ISBN:9781628307665

Publisher: Wild Rose Publishing

Rating: 4-Stars

Read: April 2015

Frontman of the grunge rock band NightHawk, Gideon Hawk has had enough of the rock star life. He is jaded, disillusioned, and haunted by the memory of an unresolved heartbreak…

The book starts with Abigail Thomson (Abi) attending the funeral of her mother, and from then on you get a sense that something really bad happened in Abi’s life to explain her troubled relationship with her father and her estranged mother. While at her parents’ house, Abi makes a discovery that will lead to a series of life-events and twists changing the course of Abi’s life forever.

Gideon Hawk is this 29-year-old sexy rock star who is just about done with the fame and limelight of his rock star life. After declaring he is leaving his band–while on tour in the U.S.–Gideon flies back to England in hopes to reconnect with Abi and somehow bring some resolution to an unresolved heartbreak that separated them ten years earlier.

This is Rachael Richey’s first novel in the NightHawk Series. I really liked the way Richey weaved romance with a rock star twist. I was a huge Grunge music fan, and reading this novel brought back lots of memories of being a teenager and dreaming of rock stars. I have to say that it took me a few chapters to get into this book, but then—oh! Was I hooked? I read this book in one sitting, and I LOVED it. I’m looking forward to the next books in this series.

I’d like to thank the author for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

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Review: Truly, Madly, Greekly by Mandy Baggot

Book Cover

Title: Truly, Madly, Greekly

Author: Mandy Baggot

Pages: 331

Genre: Chick Lit/Romance

ISBN: 9781909490994

Publisher: Bookouture

Rating: 4-Star

Read: April 16,2015-April 18, 2015

Sun, sea and a sexy stranger – a whole lot of fun just got a lot more complicated…

Capable, confident and career-driven, Ellen had her dream job and a marriage proposal from boyfriend Ross. Life was good, her future set. Until it wasn’t and everything fell apart…Whisked off to the beautiful island of Corfu to plan her sister Lacey’s big, fat, Greek wedding, Ellen is hoping some time out will help clear her head and heal her heart.

But letting go of her past is not going to be easy. With Lacey in full on Bridezilla mode, Ellen is soon distracted from her own problems. And when the all-inclusive treats on offer at hotel Blue Vue include one gorgeous, brooding Adonis – Yan – Ellen finds him difficult to resist. But Ellen isn’t looking for love or lust, or anything involving too much ouzo…or is she?

Lacey is planning a wedding in the beautiful island of Corfu and brings her older sister Ellen along for the ride. The Blue Vue Hotel is an all-inclusive resort in the Greek Island of Corfu, in the Ionian Sea, surrounded by the Albanian Mountains. What the girls were not expecting was the other perks that came with the package. Yan and Sergei are two dazzling handsome and sexy guys who run the animation team of the hotel. Soon the sisters were carried away from their original plans to embark on an adventure that neither one was ever expecting.

This was my first book by author Mandy Baggot, and I have to say, WOW, I loved her style! This book is a great spring/summer read, with just the right amount of fun, romance and adventure. It was such a change of pace for me. After reading deeper and serious topics found on my other reviews: Ruby and I Am Forbidden; I truly, madly, loved this book. I’m looking forward to reading more books from this author.

I would like to thank Bookouture and Netgalley for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is scheduled to be published on May 22, 2015.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Review: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Ruby

Title: Ruby

Author: Cynthia Bond

Pages: 368

Genre: Fiction/Literary

ISBN: 978-0-8041-8824-1

Publisher: Hogarth

Rating: 2-Stars

Read: April 8, 2015 – April 16, 2015.

“Hell ain’t nothing strange when Colored go crazy. Strange is when we don’t.”

The debut novel by Cynthia Bond takes place in Liberty, Texas. It’s the story of Ruby Bell and Ephram Jennings, who has been in love with Ruby since they were children, and has never forgotten the girl with long braids running though the piney woods. “Ruby was the kind of pretty it hurt to look at, like candy on a sore tooth.” The book starts when Ruby returns to Liberty after having lived a few years in New York. Ruby has long been considered the town whore used by the town’s men and ignored and shunned by the town’s women. Kind-hearted Ephram never left liberty and lived all his life with his pious and controlling sister Celia. The book switches back and forth between when they were children and the haunting memories of that time, and the present and the chance of reacquainting with each other.

I have very mixed feelings about this novel, and I had a real hard time finishing this book. I’m writing a review because there were aspects of this book that I liked very much. Cynthia’s prose is poetic and lyrical. Her vernacular is vivid, bringing her characters to life.

“She felt a thousand lavender flowers erupting from the edges of her fingers. She felt them playing a delicious melody that scented the wind and called striped bees and hummingbirds…”

“…For the next weeks Ruby walked through the Big Thicket, becoming. The loose black clusters of muscadine grapes on the vine. The egg-shaped seeded maypop fruit. Pecan trees, horsemint, stones and mud puddles.”

But unfortunately, there were also many aspects I didn’t care about this book. The excessive accounts of violence, rape, pedophilia and sexual abuse against children (boys and girls) were very difficult and disturbing to read. I would not recommend this book to the more sensitive readers.

Ruby is a story about love, redemption, social issues and racism at its worst form.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

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2 star

Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies Photo

Title: Big Little Lies

Author: Liane Moriarty

Pages: 480

Genre: Fiction/Mystery

ISBN-13: 9780399167065

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Rating: 4-stars

Read: April, 2015 – I own a copy.

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . .  A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?”

Set in suburban Australia, Big Little Lies is the fifth book of bestseller author Liane Moriarty. It follows the lives of three women, their struggles, and events that lead to a death at Pirriwee Public School trivia night.

The book follows these three different women as they meet at a kindergarten orientation at school. Madeline, who’s just turned forty, and her daughter Chloe. The young and single mother Jane, who had recently moved to Pirriwee beach with her son Ziggy; and the beautiful Celeste with her twins Max and Josh.

When Jane’s five-year-old son Ziggy is accused of choking and bullying another child, some of the parents immediately take a stand against the boy triggering hysteria and a series of playground politics and drama.

What I absolutely loved about this book was how easily Moriarty weaved the lives of these complex characters and tackled hard topics such as murder, bullying, infidelity, domestic abuse, and violence against women in a humorous and fun way, but without ever losing the severity of these social issues. She managed to write an extremely well plotted and engrossing story. I simply could not put this book down. It kept me up till late hours of the night dying to get to the end of the book, not so much to find out who did it, but who dies?

I laughed; I cried; and now I’m very sad that it ended. Oh calamity…

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

The Goldfinch-An Audiobook Review

goldfinch

Unabridged (32 hours and 29 min)

Author: Donna Tartt

Narrated by: David Pittu

Rating: 3-stars

Listened: April 1, 2015-April 7, 2015

About 3 months ago, a friend persuaded me to start listening to audiobooks. In all  fairness, in the beginning I was a bit reluctant. My experiences with audiobooks were lukewarm at best. I found that I would get distracted half-way through the narration and would end up having to go back and re-listen to an entire segment because I spaced out.

So when about a few weeks ago I started a membership with audible, The Goldfinch was one of the first titles to grab my attention. The Goldfinch had already been in my TBR list for quite sometime, and I had plans to read it, but since I was already reading another book, and I had a five-hour trip to California; I decided to give the audiobook version a try and here are my thoughts.

From audible: The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

I have to say that I was extremely excited about this book. There was so much buzz about it and the synopsis sounded very promising. This was my first audiobook and what I really enjoyed about this book was David Pittu’s narration. Pittu does a fantastic job narrating in different accents and voices ranging from teens to young adults. This was a very long book both to read as well as to listen. I’m more accustomed to reading seven hundred or so pages, versus listening to a thirty-two plus hour audiobook.

I would recommend this audiobook despite the fact that the book fell a bit short of my expectations. Especially after having read all the raving reviews, and indeed Donna’s prose is beautiful, but too wordy. You can easily fast-forward the last two hours of the book. The dialogue with Theo by himself in a room in Amsterdam felt interminable. The characters were rich and compelling, but Boris, the Russian friend, was a richer character than Theo–in my opinion.

I believe that this book could have removed a good two hundred pages and it would still have been an extremely compelling novel. As for the audiobook, thanks to the excellent narration by David Pittu my trip to California was an audible delight.

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3 star

Review: The Daughter by Jane Shemilt

The Daughter

Title: The Daughter

Author: Jane Shemilt

Pages: 352

Genre: Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Rating: 3-Stars

Read: March 3, 2015-March 10, 2015 – I own a copy.

Jenny is a successful family doctor in England, who seems to have everything, a perfect job, perfect marriage, and the perfect family. When Jenny’s fifteen-year-old doesn’t return home after a school play, Jenny’s life starts to crumble. Naomi seems to have vanished, and the authorities have no clue how to find her. As the weeks and months after Naomi’s disappearance go by, Jenny starts to discover information that shows a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

My thoughts: 

The Daughter is Jane Shemilt’s debut novel, and for a first novel it did not disappoint. While the book was a suspenseful page-turner that kept me up until late hours of the night, there were a few problems for me. The flow of the narrative was not continuous. Shemilt switched back and forth between the days/weeks leading up to the daughter’s disappearance to a year after her disappearance. My problem with that type of narrative structure was the fact that all the leads and suspects that you learned about in the days and weeks coming up to the disappearance, if they were still present in the novel a year later, then you knew they probably weren’t involved in the disappearance, so that broke the flow of suspense to me. Although I enjoyed the book, I did not really like any of the characters and could not truly sympathize with any of them. I couldn’t stand the mother’s naiveté about her children’s lives to the point of denial. The father’s cold and detached personality, and the twin brothers’ rich and spoiled behavior. As for Naomi, we only get to know her initially by Jenny’s eyes, and obviously the mother was oblivious to Naomi’s lifestyle and affairs. Naomi being such a central character was never truly developed, and her actions at the end of the book seemed random, leaving the reader begging for more explanations. The daughter is a novel that ponders on topics of betrayal, guilt, truth and family, and asks the question: “Can we have extremely busy careers and still be truly involved in our families’ lives?

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3 star