Geekerella is a fun modern-day twist on Cinderella

33224718Growing up, Cinderella was and still is one of my favorite Disney stories.  I love when an author takes an old story and puts a new twist to it.  Geekerella by Ashley Poston is a fantastic young adult story about Elle Wittimer who grew up watching an old popular sci-fi series with her father – Starfield.  She’s a huge fan and blogs about the show.  One morning her dreams come true when a new adaptation is announced.  But the excitement doesn’t last long when she finds out Prince Carmindor will be played by Hollywood’s up and coming ‘it’ boy Darien Freeman.  Elle quickly rants about casting on her blog (she doesn’t hold back how she feels) and overnight becomes an internet sensation.

Darien is also a huge Starfield fan but doesn’t want to let on that he was a big geek growing up.  In fact, when his casting is announced on a national morning show, he blows an answer to a trivia question even though it was a no brainer.

Elle’s father who has passed away, used to run a Comicon type convention called ExcelsiCon.  Darien has been committed to attend the convention but he hate them as he is supposed to meet fans and small when he really just wants to let his geekiness come out.  After texting the phone number he thinks is for the organizer of ExcelsiCon, he ends up texting Elle.  This soon turns into a constant text conversation between the two.

Staying true to the Cinderella classic, Elle lives with her terrible Stepmother and stepsisters.  Elle decides to enter the Cosplay contest at ExcelsiCon in hopes to win the prize money and move to California, away from her evil Stepmother.  Just like the original Cinderella story, there is a “fairy Godmother” who is actually Sage, her young supervisor in the Food truck painted like a huge pumpkin and called what else, The Magic Pumpkin.

I loved this story!  This is such a fun twist on the Cinderella story with very modern day characters and modern situations.  The characters are fun and a little nutty.  I enjoyed Elle with her hopes and dreams and fandom of a sci-fi TV show.  I enjoyed Sage who doesn’t really give a crap and I liked Darien who you kind of wonder if some child stars or any celebrities have issues like he does.

I thought this was a lot of fun to read and it definitely can be read over a weekend because you won’t want to put it down.

The one thing I had an issue with is Elle and Damian talking to a stranger through text messaging.  With online pedophiles, I found this a little creepy as you don’t know who is on the other side.  Other than that, I recommend this book.  If I read books more than once, this would be on my rotation.

Book Description:
Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

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We Were the Lucky Ones follows one family through the Holocaust

33016939With everything going on right now with our current government, it’s not hard to see the destruction of our country looming with regulations being rolled back.  Telling the American people to only listen to the government, who are correct and not listen to the media, sounds a lot like Hitler.  Citizens during the Holocaust didn’t take Hitler serious at the beginning and then were surprised when things escalated.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is about the author’s family during the time of the Holocaust.  The story starts in Radom, Poland in 1939 with the Kurc family that consists of the parents and four adult children with the youngest son off in France when the war began.  The family is worried about what is happening in the world but are optimistic it won’t last long so they don’t think too much about what could happen to them.

The Jews in Radom are rounded up and placed in a guarded Jewish ghetto including several of the Kurc family members.  The adult children spread out to where they can make a living and a couple of them end up in Lvov, which is soon under Russian occupancy.  One of the daughters risks her life leaving the ghetto to make her way to Lvov to be with her fiancée.

The family becomes so separated that they lose track of each other over the years.  With no communications to keep in contact, there was no way to know who was alive and who was dead.  A few ended up in a Siberian prison camp and a prison in Northern Africa.

There is one scene that I read with my hand over my mouth the entire time.  The thought of people having to dig their own graves, disrobe so their clothes don’t go to waste then stand there with their children waiting to be shot in the back of the head so they fall in the grave is horrifying.

This is such a wonderfully written story.  Hunter does a great job bringing her ancestors to life as she tells their harrowing story as they try to survive Hitler’s reign.

My heart always breaks when I read about what happened during the Holocaust.  I recently visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, which I think everyone needs to visit.

Make sure to read the author’s notes at the end of the book as she details her research and talks about her family where they are now and what happened to those caught in Hitler’s madness.

Book Description:
Reading Georgia Hunter s We Were the Lucky Ones is like being swung heart first into history. . . . A brave and mesmerizing debut, and a truly tremendous accomplishment. Paula McLain, New York Timesbestselling author of The Paris Wife 

An extraordinary, propulsive novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War, determined to survive and to reunite

It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.

A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports readers from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow s most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can find a way to survive, and even triumph.

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I will Send Rain reveals the many layers of a family

28514471I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows introduces us to the Bell family who live in Mulehead, Oklahoma in 1934.  What is significant about this family, place and time is that it is the height of the dust bowl.  A horrible time when rain disappeared for months, making the ground so dry that dust storms were normal.

Dust was everywhere, in the hair, lungs, food, there was no escaping it.  This time was very devastating for families farming the land.  Their crops died, their animals starved and families were struggling to put food on the table.  It was so bad, they were shooting cows for a dollar to make money.  Lots of families couldn’t take it anymore and moved west or south without a word, they would just disappear.  Other families tried to survive hoping one day soon rain would arrive.

Samuel Bell is determined to stay on the land he acquired in the 1920’s during the great land grab when the federal government parceled Oklahoma farmland to individuals.  Some people in the small community think Sam has lost his mind as he builds a boat like Noah in anticipation of the great flood he has been dreaming about that is coming very soon.  His wife, Annie, questions if she should go back to her family in Chicago and leave Sam behind because he is no longer the man she married or stick it out because he is her husband.

The Bells have two children: Barbara Ann “Birdie” aged 15 and Fred aged 8, who is mute.  They had a daughter named Eleanor who died as an infant.  Eleanor’s memory still haunts Annie, which chips away at her self-esteem and affects her ability as a wife and mother.  Birdie secretly becomes engaged to Cy whose family disappears in the night headed for California leaving Birdie heartbroken and obsessed with following Cy and his family but she needs to finish school.  Fred is always exploring and soon becomes swept away in his father’s obsession and helps with the construction of the boat.

Meadows does a great job weaving a story highlighting how a family can become so wrapped up in their own personal lives and projects that they don’t see their entire family unraveling.  Since I grew up on a farm, I found this a fascinating story.  We had times when it wouldn’t rain for weeks and the dust from the gravel road next to our house would coat everything.  It would come into the house, it would turn the grass white.  It was everywhere.  So I found this a very interesting story.  Very well written.  I found myself right next to the characters as they each struggled with whether to stay or leave.

Book Description:
A luminous, tenderly rendered novel of a woman fighting for her family’s survival in the early years of the Dust Bowl; from the acclaimed and award-winning Rae Meadows.

Annie Bell can’t escape the dust.  It’s in her hair, covering the windowsills, coating the animals in the barn, in the corners of her children’s dry, cracked lips. It’s 1934 and the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma is struggling as the earliest storms of The Dust Bowl descend. All around them the wheat harvests are drying out and people are packing up their belongings as storms lay waste to the Great Plains. As the Bells wait for the rains to come, Annie and each member of her family are pulled in different directions. Annie’s fragile young son, Fred, suffers from dust pneumonia; her headstrong daughter, Birdie, flush with first love, is choosing a dangerous path out of Mulehead; and Samuel, her husband, is plagued by disturbing dreams of rain.

As Annie, desperate for an escape of her own, flirts with the affections of an unlikely admirer, she must choose who she is going to become. With her warm storytelling and beautiful prose, Rae Meadows brings to life an unforgettable family that faces hardship with rare grit and determination. Rich in detail and epic in scope, I Will Send Rain is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, filled with hope, morality, and love.

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You never know what really happens Behind Closed Doors

29437949There are all kinds of thrillers out there but I think my favorite is a psychological thriller.  This type of thriller reminds me that there are crazy people out in the world who actually do the things that are in these types of books.

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris is the type of psychological thriller that if I was at the stage of my life I was dating, I would probably scrutinize the men and wonder if they are stable individuals.

Grace loves her sister Millie who has Down Syndrome.  Because their crappy parents didn’t want Millie when they found out she had Down Syndrome, Grace stepped up and said she would parent Millie.  The two of them are so close.  While on an outing, Grace and Millie meet Jack.  Unlike all the other guys Grace had dates, Jack warmed to Millie and showed her respect.

Grace thinks she has found the perfect man who says once they are married, Millie will come live with them.  On their wedding day, Millie falls down the stairs, breaks her leg and misses the wedding.  As soon as they were married, Jack’s personality does a 180.  It’s like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  Jack is one creepy guy!

Paris does a fantastic job ramping up the element of fear that Grace experiences.  She brings us into the story so that we are right there next to Grace.  How is she going to get away from Jack and how is she going to keep Millie safe.

I really liked that each chapter alternates between present and past.  Paris does a great job with the slow reveal of why Jack is the way he is and how Grace tries to escape over and over and fails every time.

This is a book that I’m sure will be read in one sitting by many people because you will not want to put it down.  I found myself at work sitting at my desk wondering would anyone notice if I read at my desk.  I thought Criminal Minds mentally messed with me but Behind Closed Doors has left an imprint.

Book Description:
Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

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Quirky English female protagonists are my favorite characters

30634785I absolutely love Sophie Kinsella.  She can take a female character, make her quirky and insecure and by the end of the book, the protagonist is still quirky but has become a stronger woman.

In My Not So Perfect Life, Katherine/Katie Brenner has moved to London to make something of herself in branding (advertising).  Since she grew up on a farm, she has changed her name to Cat and has lost her Somerset accent.  After struggling in two unpaid internships, Katie/Cat has finally secured a paying position as an admin doing mindless things like entering names into a database or coloring her boss’ roots.  What Katie really enjoys is the creative aspect of branding and wants to share her ideas.

Katie’s boss is a real number.  Demeter comes across as a classic bitch boss who doesn’t even “see” her employees.  Then Katie meets a hot rich guy who she has chemistry with immediately.  A guy who is the son of the owner.  Someone who Katie feels is out of her league.

To make it seem like life in London is fantastic and that she has tons of friends, Katie takes pictures of other people’s food and drinks pretending on Instagram that she is having the time of her life.

Meanwhile Katie’s father and stepmother decide to set up a glamping resort on their farm.  Katie helps set up their website and creates a brochure that she shares with Demeter.  Soon she loses her job and after sending out tons of resumes, she heads back to Somerset to take a “sabbatical” for a few weeks until she can secure a job.

The glamping takes off and of course Katie’s former evil boss shows up with her family.  The book gets even more hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud.  This book is highly entertaining and even though sometimes I wanted to smack Katie on the back of the head, I was entertained the entire time.  If you like quirky English female leads and want to laugh, pick up this book.

Book Description:
Part love story, part workplace dramedy, part witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world, this is New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella’s most timely and sharply observed novel yet.

Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. The final, demeaning straw comes when Demeter makes Katie dye her roots in the office. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she’s desperate to make her dad proud.

Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.

Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the image.

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The Life of a Vaudeville Star

30320011I think Nicola Italia has become my new favorite romance writer.  This time in The Vaudeville Star, we are introduced to Ruby Mae Sutton, a southern belle from Mississippi who is sent off to finishing school in Connecticut when she is 15.

Ruby has been madly in love all her life with Ford Rutledge, who is engaged to her sister.  Ruby doesn’t want Ford to marry her sister.  She thinks her cold-hearted sister is very wrong for Ford.  So she decides to convince him, putting him in a compromising position, hence sending Ruby to finishing school.

While at the finishing school, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides she wants to be a vaudeville singer.  Ruby builds fans including the King of New York who becomes obsessed with Ruby.  This is also where Ruby meets Ford again and finds her love for him still exists.

The characters are well developed and their personalities came through strong.  As I was reading, I felt invested in the characters’ lives and was cheering for them.  At almost 300 pages, I thought there was more to tell.  I wanted more of Ruby, Ford, Bessie and the other Vaudeville performers.  This book was well worth my time and it will be well worth your time.  Pick it up today.

Book Description:
On a Mississippi Plantation, Ruby Mae Sutton throws herself into the arms of the only man she has ever loved, Ford Rutledge.  At fifteen years old, she has given her heart away and is not ashamed to brazenly declare her love to the twenty-five-year-old man, who is also the fiancé of her sister.

But Ford has no intention of taking advantage of the blond beauty, even though her reckless behavior causes his engagement to be broken.  Ruby is sent off in disgrace to a boarding school in Connecticut, where she remains for the next three years.

Once in Connecticut, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides to leave after graduation for the bright lights of New York and the vaudeville stage.  Ford also decides to make his home in New York and suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Ruby Sutton, the very grown and very beautiful rising star of the vaudeville stage.

As Ruby’s star ascends, she makes a huge conquest with the King of Manhattan: William Parker.  King Parker begins to take an interest in Ruby’s career, and more importantly Ruby herself, as Ford finally realizes he is in love with her.

King finances a tour to Europe as his interest in Ruby takes a turn toward the more obsessive.  Ruby finds herself torn between her true love for Ford and the obligation she owes King.  She must tread carefully between the two men, and the brutal murder of someone they all know causes everyone to wonder who had the motive.

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Find out what happened to two abducted best friends

25226082In Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson, Amy and Dee are abducted when they were 10 – and 12-years-old by a man named Kyle, who had a thing for dolls.  Six years later, Amy returns home but where is Dee?  Amy won’t tell anyone what happened over the six years and why Dee isn’t with her.  But slowly the story comes out.  This book is told from the view of Amy, or Chelsea as Kyle calls her.

Mary Thompson does a great job of showing what can happen to the mind when someone is kept in captivity by an abductor who is slightly off mentally and can be violent.  I really felt for Amy and her family and several times I was brought to tears.

When you are on the outside, you always wonder what an abduction and being held in captivity for years does to a person, how they can survive to live a normal life and what happens to the families left behind who don’t know where their loved ones are.

This was such a good story and well written that kept my attention.  I didn’t want to put the book down.  I’m glad I got the chance to read it through the Penguin Random House First To Read Program.

Book Description:
A bittersweet homecoming holds dark secrets in this heart-wrenching story of loss, love, and survival for readers of Room.

When sixteen-year-old Amy returns home, she can’t tell her family what’s happened to her. She can’t tell them where she’s been since she and her best friend, her cousin Dee, were kidnapped six years ago—who stole them from their families or what’s become of Dee. She has to stay silent because she’s afraid of what might happen next, and she’s desperate to protect her secrets at any cost.

Amy tries to readjust to life at “home,” but nothing she does feels right. She’s a stranger in her own family, and the guilt that she’s the one who returned is insurmountable. Amy soon realizes that keeping secrets won’t change what’s happened, and they may end up hurting those she loves the most. She has to go back in order to move forward, risking everything along the way. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee is a riveting, affecting story of loss and hope.

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