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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Little Lies ~ Heather Gudenkauf (earc) review [@hgudenkauf @HarlequinBooks @MiraEditors #HarlequinMIRA]

Little Lies (Little Mercies prequel)
March 1, 2014
45 pages
add to Goodreads/buy Kindle version

For me, at least, buying a book based on the cover (well first the cover, then the summary, as well) has never led to better results than with Heather Gudenkauf's The Weight of Silence.

Not only did I love, love The Weight of Silence (and its cover) but also her next two novels These Things Hidden, and One Breath Away. I have been checking for anything about a new novel from Gudenkauf probably much too frequently.

While Little Mercies won't be released until June, there is an ebook prequel novella, Little Lies is available now.
In this riveting prequel to her novel Little Mercies, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf explores how even the smallest lies can have far-reaching consequences.

When the body of a woman is discovered in a local park—with her bewildered four-year-old son sitting beside her—veteran social worker Ellen Moore is called in to assist in the police investigation. Positioned beneath a statue of Leto, the goddess of motherhood, the crime is weighted with meaning and, Ellen discovers, remarkably similar to one from a decade past.

Ellen's professional duty is to protect the child, but she's not equipped to contend with a killer. As she races to connect the dots, she knows her time is running out. And the stakes are high: if she fails, another mother is sure to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Little Lies is my favorite sort of prequel novella: it both introduces us to the upcoming novel's characters, Ellen in this case, and has its own little story.

A short, self contained murder mystery plays out in Little Lies. This seems to be a very good way to introduce readers to the character and world. We learn about Ellen's past, about her family and their life, and meet other characters who are likely to appear in Tender Mercies, too. As Ellen works to put all of the pieces together, we get a sense of how seriously she takes her job and the responsibility and of her character.

While Little Lies's story is concluded at the end of the novella, it will leave you anticipating Little Mercies release even more. Gudenkauf has a very compelling character in Ellen and I am very much looking forward to seeing her in a full novel.

From my These Things Hidden review:
In These Things Hidden, much like she did in The Weight of Silence, Heather Gudenkauf uses the relationships--and intimacy--of a family and a small town to weave a literary tale that feels so real you'd sear it has to at least be 'based on' a true story.
After we've met Ellen, her family and a co-worker, I am eagerly anticipating seeing how their lives all play out in Little Mercies - and any new characters and their role, their influence.

Rating: 9/10

review copy received from publisher through NetGalley

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Haven ~ Carol Lynch Williams (earc) review

The Haven
St Martin's Griffin
March 4, 2014
224 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

I tried my best, but the review likely contains some minor spoilers.

For the teens at The Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020. But The Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home. It is all they know. Everything is strictly monitored: education, exercise, food, and rest. The rules must be followed to keep the children healthy, to help control the Disease that has cast them as Terminals, the Disease that claims limbs and lungs—and memories.

But Shiloh is different; she remembers everything. Gideon is different, too. He dreams of a cure, of rebellion against the status quo. What if everything they’ve been told is a lie? What if The Haven is not the safe place it claims to be? And what will happen if Shiloh starts asking dangerous questions?

The Haven is one of the few books where I have liked the uncertainty, the not knowing. When the novel starts, we know Shiloh and the others in The Haven Hospital and Halls are Terminals. We don't, however, know just what Terminals are. It's clear that the way Shiloh interprets several things are due to what she's been taught to believe but as readers we see things more realistically. Not having an immediate, up front explanation of either The Haven or of Terminals did pull me more into Shiloh's story.

I noticed the differences in her interpretation of events and of the little, everyday things she saw so differently because I was still working to figure out The Haven's world.

In The Haven there was not quite enough plot for me. Even as it became clear that something big was going to take place - or, at least, be attempted - the how was never discussed. It's understandable, with the Terminals limited knowledge, but any sort of 'after,' even in their imaginations was so vague. I wish we had been given some idea as to what may happen - especially as this book is the only one.

The story tried to focus on the characters - something I usually love from the author - especially on Shiloh as she uncovers more and more of the truth. While this worked brilliantly in Williams's previous novels Miles from Ordinary and The Chosen One the premise seemed to get in the way a bit. The Terminals are supposed to be almost like mindless drones. They follow their rules, keep a strict schedule, don't rebel and lack emotion. Even Shiloh who is slightly different thanks to the memories she shouldn't have, can be very flat. It's hard to have an emotional connection with characters who don't have emotions.

If the plot of The Haven had been stronger, with more of a look at the outside world either through narration or information gathered in The Haven or, perhaps, a slightly different ending, I would have liked it more. As it is, there was not quite enough plot or quite enough to the characters to really work for me. I love the premise and really enjoyed how the book started - and that readers were a bit out of the loop to start.

Rating: 7/10

thank you to the publisher for my egalley to review; received through NetGalley

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Geography of You and Me ~ Jennifer E Smith (earc) review [@JenESmith @lbkids]

The Geography of You and Me
April 15, 2014
352 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon
free 5 chapter preview

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.
The Geography of You and Me is another fun, contemporary YA romance from author Jennifer E Smith. While it features different all different characters than her previous novels  This is What Happy Looks Like
and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, the three are very much in the same vein. (The latter and the new book, especially.)

The two characters, Lucy and Owen, are thrown together in unpredictable, extraordinary circumstances (a blackout in NYC), as in The Statistical Probability, that one meeting, that one night could be all they have. Only, they may not want it to be. Soon separated by great distance - and without much of any foundation to their relationship - the connection they each felt is tested.

Told through dual points-of-view, The Geography of You and Me alternates between chapters told from Lucy's perspective and those from Owen's. For this type of novel, for this story, it is the perfect way for the story to be told. We not only get to know what the narrating character is experiencing, but also how they're feeling about the other character. It adds that bit of tension, of drama, of hope and of frustration when one character misinterprets something or makes a decision that the other cannot understand.

Readers have all the benefits of a first person narration, yet there's almost a sense of an omnipotent narration when the second character's telling happens. It's great to see things from both sides.

The novel takes place over the course of a year. As Lucy and Owen are taken farther away from each other, they try to keep in contact while also trying to establish their new lives. It's the distance the new beginnings create between them that is both the most realistic and the most frustrating. As readers we're left to wonder if they really did have something that unique, that special . . . and if they did, will they recognize it and be able to make it work.

From the beginning, two teenagers stuck in an elevator in their NYC building, to where the novel ends, after each's geographical exploits, it's really enjoyable to see how each character grows. While you wonder if they will be together after all that's changed, it's still fun to read about their lives and adventures.

Rating: 8/10

egalley received from publisher, through NetGalley, for review

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Walter Mitty Short Story & Movie Comparison + Links [@WalterMitty #ProjectMitty @FoxHomeEnt @GooglePlay]

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
short story by James Thurber
add to Gooreads/read it/listen to audio version

film starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn
20th Century Fox; PG; 115 minutes
April 15, 2014 release
info on IMDb/buy in Digital HD/or BluRay
 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
(2013) on IMDb

“Life isn’t about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself.”
-George Bernard Shaw

Read the short story: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber on The New Yorker's site

The movie summary:
A day-dreamer escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, he takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.

Thanks to Fox and GooglePlay I was able to both read the “Walter Mitty” short story by Walter Thurber and view the 2013 film it inspired, starring Ben Stiller.

Both feature Walter Mitty, a man happy to let his imagination run away, to get lost in his daydreams. He gets so lost in his visions of being someone else, someone great, accomplished and impressive that it hinders his actual life.

However, there are quite a few differences between the story and the movie. The story, first published in The New Yorker in 1939, obviously shorter and focusing on a more select time period, has quite a different tone and different outlook than the movie. Married man, Walter MItty, is a downtrodden character, harangued by his wife who finds refuge in his imagination. His ‘secret lives’ are very much an escape.

In the movie, “The Secret Lives of Walter Mitty,” Walter is still that under appreciated character. Here he is single, with his sister and new boss taking the role of not respecting the man (in the story it was his wife and strangers).

It is here where the movie takes a more optimistic look on Walter's future than did the story. Movie Walter Mitty, is less resigned to his circumstance and trying to change things for himself. He is the guy who's never gone anywhere (literally or figuratively), who hasn't had adventure. Yet, here even if it isn't in his nature, or what he believes to be his nature, he's not going to give up.

Walter Mitty (in the movie) isn't going to accept things as they are and that's when his life really begins.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a fun, sometimes kind of wacky movie about a day-dreamer who maybe isn't as satisfied with his life in the doldrums as he thought. Walter's relationships, from those with his mother and sister to the work related and a possible romance, add something both to Walter's journey and the story. When you add in the really beautiful locations and filming, it's a movie you'll want to see.

I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on Digital HD, through the Google Play store. While I've watched shorter videos, trailers and clips through the Google Play store, this was the first time I watched a full length film.

I'm, actually, very glad I did and for several reasons. Movies like Walter Mitty available in Digital HD can be purchased and downloaded through several sources: the Play store, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, on Xbox and more. You not only get instant, sometimes early, access to the film but can view it on different devices.

I can watch my copy from Google Play on my Nook HD+ (they have the Play store), through the website or even on my phone if I want. The movie streams on my computer but can be downloaded or played on the Android devices.

The HD of Digital HD looked great both on my Nook HD and when played, through my computer, to the TV. Nooks, Kindles and iPads are, I believe, able to connect to TVs through HDMI ports. While I can't know for sure how image quality would transfer with that method, I am assuming it would be as good.

With the instant access, the streaming or downloading, and ability to view on multiple devices, I am, now, more interested in Fox's Digital HD and the Play store as well.

It's nice being able to read the short story or book that inspires a movie and then, on the same device, watch that movie in such great quality.

If you already have or plan to read the short story and see the movie: Do you think the differences are simply a case of updating, modernizing the tale? Or are they plot, character changes?

Which version do you prefer?

A copy of the film was provided for review and mentions of Google Play and Digital HD; thoughts are my own.
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