And the Winner Is…

And the Fangirl Winner Is...

…Maria M.! 🙂 So look for your gift card, Maria. And thank you to everyone who entered! We’re definitely going to hold more giveaways in the future if you all say you like them. So let us know in the comments, and happy 2015!

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Fangirl Book Club Pick of the Month: “Ragtime” by E.L. Doctorow

Ragtime by E.L. DoctorowEvery month, our club votes on which book we will read for that month. December’s winning book was E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime. The following review is based on an online discussion after Decemberr’s meeting.

Spoiler-­free Synopsis:

First published in 1975, Ragtime is an intricate tale of life in pre-World War I America. Expertly weaving together fiction and historical fact, Ragtime follows several seemingly unconnected characters. There is the “average” American family, only known as Mother, Father, Mother’s Younger Brother, Grandfather, and the little boy. The family lives in New York, in a three-story home at the crest of the Broadview Avenue Hill. Father owns a company that manufactures various “accoutrements of patriotism” such as flags, buntings, even fireworks. Next, we meet an immigrant family, also living in New York, sharing one room among the three of them – Mameh, Tateh, and The Little Girl. Tateh is an artist who tries to support his family as a peddler on the streets. Mameh and the little girl sew knee pants to make ends meet until they are informed that the little girl must attend school. Having lost the income the little girl provides, Mameh must find an alternative way to help her family survive. Other characters, both fictional and real, appear frequently throughout the book – a young African-American musician named Coalhouse Walker Jr. provides a detailed look at racial tensions in 1906. Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, and Henry Ford are given fictional connections to the story loosely based on actual events of the time.

Fangirls’ Analysis:

December’s hostess chose this book because she just loves it. “I think that it is timelessly composed, and beautifully demonstrates what a reflection of any society should look like.” Club members voted for it because of an interest in historical fiction and its purported similarities to other works (i.e. Fiddler on the Roof).

What We Liked:

Doctorow’s writing style in Ragtime included simple, matter-of-fact sentences that were no less eloquent for their brevity. His words evoked powerful imagery and we appreciated his ability to let us see early 1900s America from varying perspectives. He allowed us to experience a story of working class success a la Harry Houdini. Through eyes of the unreliable narrator we see characters reaching for the typical “American Dream” and then watch the way those dreams shift and adapt to unexpected circumstances. During the discussion, several parallels were drawn to goings-on in the 1970s, when this book was being written, as well as current events (particularly regarding race and gender equality).

What We Didn’t Like:

While this book was enjoyed by most who read it, others found it difficult to get into. Those who had little interest in the historical aspects found their attentions wandering depending on the subject matter. A few members disliked the unknown narration and the fact that some characters were not given names.

This book bored a couple of members to tears but was largely enjoyed, even loved, by most.

Fangirl Rating: 4/5 stars

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BLOG TOUR: Review of “Shattered Dreams” by Brenda Kennedy

Shattered Dreams A review by Vanessa.

Emma and Max are a typical young American military couple. With the arrival of their new baby James, they are ecstatic with joy. Their lives seem almost perfect. But when Emma loses Max to an unexpected bomb in Afghanistan, making Max a beloved hero to all who know him and Emma a widow and single mother, she must learn to live without him. Four years later, Emma and James have moved back to their home state of Florida to be near all of James’s grandparents and to try and move on with their lives. Alec is a handsome, athletic, tae kwon do-instructing doctor, with some sadness in his past and a daughter of his own. When these two single parents meet and keep bumping into each other, life seems to be setting itself right again. Their large and supportive families who care for them are cautious but hopeful that these two may find something in each other that they really need. Emma and Alec are hoping the same…

Shattered Dreams can definitely be categorized as touching and at times heartwarming. The readers’ experience reading the book however will depend heavily on their personal experience. Enjoyment of the book and engagement with the characters will be much easier for those who have shared experiences with the characters. Though Kennedy’s writing obviously reflects a connection to the specific circumstances in the story, and a desire to share emotions such as loss, grief, love, and hope, there lacks a deeper connection to those emotions. The writing itself feels as though it mostly embraces the same cliché of what a reader might typically find in any similar story. This could be a facet of the writing itself, as the word choices and sentence complexity rarely stray past the most basic. That aspect makes this read very clear and it makes understanding the motivation of the characters, and the point of the author, very easy. It also, however, makes the reading rather tedious. The overly brief, simply structured sentences have a more procedural and less emotional feel, and can stunt the reader’s ability to emotionally connect with the characters.

For those readers who have specific knowledge of what Emma and Max are going through with the birth of their son, or know what it is really like to lose a husband to war, or have specific experiences with being a single parent, the experience may be more engaging. Even so, most readers will be able to see how the subject matter is both heartbreaking, and heartwarming. Family moments are frequent in the book and reflect a feeling of home, family, and love that any reader can certainly appreciate. And the ending of the book contains a twist which I probably should have, but did not see coming. It might just be enough to make me pick up book number two.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Want to win this book? Enter this giveaway to win an autographed version of the entire Starting Over trilogy, along with other prizes!

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Review of “Dead Lies” by Cybele Loening

Dead Lies by Cybele LoeningA review by Maria.

First off, a big thank you to author Cybele Loening for allowing Fangirls Read It First to read an advanced copy of Dead Lies.

Web hears the unthinkable on a phone call with his sister – the sound of her murder. Police officer Anna Valentine, who moved to a small town to recover from a family tragedy, investigates the murder as her first big case in town. Older, seasoned detective Jerry Kreeger is lead on the case and takes Anna on as a partner. But solving the case will be far from easy, revealing twists and lies along the way.

Anna was a surprisingly self-conscious character, even though being a police officer usually comes with confidence. She had good instincts, but would often make mistakes in the move from NYPD procedure to the suburbs. She has baggage in the form of an addicted husband and a traumatized son. She also is still reeling from the death of her son’s identical twin. She’s self-conscious about her baggage and dating again. She also feels she not very attractive or desirable in general because of the bunions on her feet. She was very interesting and easy to relate to as the main character.

Web was a character who I didn’t initially like but as soon as his sister died he became a different person right away. He took stock in his life and those around him and began to live more for others instead of himself. It was very realistic, the grief he went through being so much deeper since he had lost a twin sister. Being a twin myself, I found that very easy to imagine. I liked how Loening added in the twin connection into his grief. He also became very charming and sweet with Anna and I found myself very torn between the love interests.

Jerry knows how old he is, and that he has no business crushing on his partner Anna. He feels old enough to be her father, but he still is attracted to her and scared to make a move. I liked the exchanges these two shared while working together on the case. A real partnership developed in this book and the two were able to lean on each other in the case and open up about their lives. I liked how, even though Anna would constantly make mistakes, Jerry would let her know she was busted but also let her recover and learn from them.

The pacing of this book was great, it was slow when it needed to be and still had fast paced moments. The mystery was excellent, full of plot twists that kept the reader second guessing everything. I liked how the author balanced insights into the mystery and character development at the same time.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

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GIVEAWAY—A Gift from All of Us, To You!

Fangirls Read It First Amazon Giveaway

We hit 200 fans on Facebook! So to commemorate the occasion, we’re giving away a $20 gift card to Amazon. You’ll be able to get a fair amount of books for the New Year with that much!

Enter below, and we’ll pick a winner randomly on December 31. You can boost your chances by checking out all of our various social media accounts, as well as giving us feedback on books we’ve already reviewed. So if you’ve always wanted to tell us what kind of books we SHOULD be reading, now’s the time to tell us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Remember, you can only enter until New Year’s Eve. We will be drawing a winner. May the odds be ever in your favor!

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Fangirls Read It First Is Looking For An Intern!

reader girl

Do people look to you for book recommendations? Are you a Goodreads devotee? Can you list the ways the Harry Potter films differed from the books?

If so, we want you as our marketing intern!

Fangirls Read It First is an all-women book club based in Portland, Oregon. We now have a book review blog, and we need help reaching out to writers and blog tour companies. The role of the marketing intern would be to reach out and streamline communication between the blog and interested parties.

This internship will last three months, and it will be unpaid. The selected intern will receive a letter of recommendation from at least the editor in chief. The club members all work in different industries; we’d all be happy to help out someone who does a great job.

The best part? You can work remotely! Weekly progress reports will be mandatory, but just one in-person meeting per month is required. We’re willing to work with someone who does other activities as long as they produce consistent work.

Interested? Drop the editor-in-chief a line at britmcginnis@gmail.com. Include a resume if you have one and/or three references. Happy reading!

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Review of “Plague Ship” by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul

Plague Ship by Clive CusslerA review by Steve.

Plague Ship is the 3rd installment of the Oregon Files series by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul. It continues on with the adventures of the CV Oregon, a merchant ship that is more than she seems, and its crew of mercenaries. When the entire population of a cruise ship dies under suspicious circumstances, the Oregon is dragged into a plot of planet- changing proportions. Led by Juan Cabrillo, chairman of the organization, this diverse and well fleshed out cast of characters brings suspense, curiosity, and action to the hearts and minds of the reader. Thrown into the mix are both historical and geographical descriptions that I believe are second only to museums and PBS broadcasts.

Cussler is a master of action and intrigue, creating well-rounded and engaging characters. His ability to make you empathize with the protagonist(s) and delight in their triumphs is reminiscent of Tom Clancy. He creates a world that you can dive into, learn, enjoy, and thirst for. I thoroughly enjoy all of his writing, including the Dirk Pitt and the Isaac Bell novels. From modern day technology and intrigue to turn of the century historical who-done-it, Cussler makes you want more.

My only major critique of the Oregon Files series is the sheer number of main and secondary characters. It can get somewhat confusing at times, trying to remember who does what and is where. It is nowhere as daunting as Game of Thrones by any means, but it still takes an organized and literary mind to process. The authors make a helpful addition in the front of the first two books by compiling a list of each main character and their job/ role about the CV Oregon. It makes keeping track a lot easier. He also throws you deep into their story while explaining each character’s background story well enough that you feel like you know them personally. Other than that, these books are well structured, imaginative, historically accurate (from everything I have researched), and very entertaining to enjoy both sitting on the beach or in front of a warm fireplace. Please pick up one of his books and read it when possible, because you will not be disappointed.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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