Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: This Time Around

This Time Around
Tawna Fenske
Published April 4, 2017
Allie Ross is not living the life she once dreamed. Her law career ended before it ever started, her parents landed in jail for running a Ponzi scheme, and she just inherited her grandmother’s B&B—which is nice, even if it is full of extra-toed cats. As for her love life…she’d rather not talk about it.

When Jack Carpenter reaches out to reconnect with Allie, the girl who broke his heart in college, his plan is to impress her with the adult he’s become. Sure, he was a deadbeat then, but life has forced him to grow up. And it’s a relief to find out that things didn’t necessarily go the way Allie expected either.

As Allie and Jack get reacquainted, they rediscover the things they loved—and hated—about each other. But who they are now isn’t who they were then, and secrets—old and new—will test whether they have a future together, or if the past is destined to repeat itself. - from Goodreads
I don't generally read a lot of contemporary romance books, but I really liked the sound of this one and I was not disappointed!

Allie and Jack dated as teenagers, eventually getting engaged early in college.  But then they break up and don't see each other for 16 years, until Jack moves back to town and gets in touch with Allie.  The spark is still there, but could a relationship between them work now?

A huge part of the story is who Jack and Allie were the first time they dated versus who they are now.  Back then, Allie was the organized, responsible one, with dreams of going to law school and getting married, and she came from a wealthy family who didn't approve of Jack, who was basically a slacker with no real ambitions and terrible with money.  Fast forward 16 years, and the two have basically switched places in life.  Allie never finished law school and has three more failed engagements to her name; her parents are now in prison.  Jack, however, really turned his life around - he eventually finished college, started a successful career, got married (his wife unfortunately passes away), and had a daughter. 

A lot of the issues that plagued their relationship as teenagers aren't really factors anymore, because of the benefit of time.  Allie and Jack have both grown up, and their experiences (plus the chemistry they always had) potentially make them better partners for each other now.  There's a sense of familiarity combined with chances to learn new things about each other.  But - and there's always a but - there's still some hesitation.  Maybe some of their old problems will resurface, or maybe there will be new ones...

Fenske has crafted a fast-moving, sexy, and mostly lighthearted second-chance romance.  Allie and Jack are relatable and realistic main characters, and there is a good cast of secondary characters that provide humor and heart.

4 stars

Thursday, July 20, 2017

TV Shows I'm Obsessed With Lately #2

Tom and I watched this show years ago and I loved it, so for Christmas he bought me the box set of the entire series and now I'm working my way through it again.  I'm just fascinated by the Tudors and I'll pretty much read or watch anything related to this family!

Tom watches BBC America for Doctor Who; I watch it for Graham Norton.  Graham Norton hosts a British talk show and he is just hilarious.  It's similar to our late-night talk shows here in the US: he does a monologue, chats with celebrities, and has a musical guest each week.

Ah, Neflix, you've done it again!  This series tells the story of a young woman starting her own online vintage clothing store.  It's just a really cute and fun show!  And it's based on the autobiography #GIRLBOSS, by Sophia Amoruso, which I really should read.  (Unfortunately, I just found out it's been cancelled and won't be getting a second season, but hey, at least you can binge this season.)

Have you watched any of these?  What shows are you watching lately?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Waiting on/Can't Wait Wednesday: The Address

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Address
Fiona Davis
Expected publication date: August 1, 2017
After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she'd make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility--no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one's station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey's grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won't see a dime of the Camden family's substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda--Camden's biological great-granddaughter--will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda's vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell's Island.
One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages--for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City--and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side's gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich--and often tragic--as The Dakota's can't hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden--and the woman who killed him--on its head.  - from Goodreads

Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer TBR Wipeout 2017: Update #1

Hey, all!  Hope you're enjoying your summers and getting some good reading in!  Two weeks ago I started the Summer TBR Wipeout 2017 hosted by The Candid Cover, so it's time to update my progress!


I started with Caraval by Stephanie Garber, which I've had on my TBR since last year.  I'd seen some mixed reviews on this one, but the magic and fantasy aspects drew me in (for some reason, this summer I've really been wanting to read a lot of fantasy stories!).  I loved the magical parts of this book - the idea of this fantastical game, the crazy buildings, the clothes that change according to your mood, the idea that NO ONE is who they say they are.  But, the writing was overly flowery with some strange descriptions (how can something smell like the moon or laughter?) and the main character Scarlett was kind of infuriating at times.  However, the epilogue did get me a bit excited, because it seems like the next story will be from sister Tella's POV, and she's definitely the more interesting of the two sisters!

Next, I moved onto Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman, a book I bought at B&N on a whim.  This story is about a woman and her husband who move to Virginia from NYC for a slower pace of life, but when her best friend is diagnosed with cancer, she goes back to NYC to help her out.  Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this one that much.  The story felt very disjointed - I would have preferred more of a "fish out of water" story set solely in Virginia.  The main character is obnoxious and grumpy, and the story is too heavy-handed with the topics of babies and pregnancy.


Then, I moved onto Last Summer by Holly Chamberlin, a story about two women, their daughters, bullying, and a ruined friendship.  I couldn't get into the stuffy writing of this book, so I DNFed at page 25.

Based on a great review from The Bookish Libra, I wanted to make sure I read The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti sooner rather than later.  I was impressed by this story about a father-daughter relationship.  Not only is it a great coming-of-age story for daughter, Loo, but it's also kind of a coming-of-age story for father, Hawley, too.  Flashbacks show Hawley's violent past but also how he has now evolved into a very protective and loving father.  And it was interesting to see how growing up with a father like Hawley has affected Loo (she's definitely not a meek character!).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: Sisters One, Two, Three

Sisters One, Two, Three
Nancy Star
Published January 1, 2017
After a tragic accident on Martha’s Vineyard, keeping secrets becomes a way of life for the Tangle family. With memories locked away, the sisters take divergent paths. Callie disappears, Mimi keeps so busy she has no time to think, and Ginger develops a lifelong aversion to risk that threatens the relationships she holds most dear.

When a whispered comment overheard by her rebellious teenage daughter forces Ginger to reveal a long-held family secret, the Tangles’ carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. Upon the death of Glory, the family’s colorful matriarch, and the return of long-estranged Callie, Ginger resolves to return to Martha’s Vineyard and piece together what really happened on that calamitous day when a shadow fell over four sun-kissed siblings playing at the shore. Along with Ginger’s newfound understanding come the keys to reconciliation: with her mother, with her sisters, and with her daughter. - from Goodreads
Hmm, I seem to be really into stories lately that feature dysfunctional families and the secrets they keep.  Sisters One, Two, Three tells the story of the Tangle family, which imploded after a deadly accident during a family vacation.

The story is told in a dual narrative, two different time periods but both from the point of view of oldest sister, Ginger.  One narrative shows Ginger as an adult, married with a teenage daughter (with whom she has a very tense relationship).  The other narrative takes place during the 1970s, leading up to the accident.  We know pretty early on that son/brother Charlie has died, but we don't know how, so I was on pins and needles waiting for it to happen.  I took everything as foreshadowing!

After Charlie dies, mother Glory has a bit of a breakdown, so it is decided that the family will never talk about what happened.  But of course, this is a terrible way to handle things, and the family continues to deteriorate, first with the death of father Solly.  Then youngest sister Callie is sent away to boarding school, and her sisters Ginger and Mimi don't hear from her for over 25 years, until after the death of their mother.  They don't know where she's been or what she's been doing.

After Callie returns, secrets are revealed as to where she's been all this time and honestly, I was kind of horrified to find that out.  It just seemed unusually cruel to me.  It was also cruel to find out that Glory had known for years where she was and kept that from the other siblings. 

It was interesting to see how Ginger's childhood affected the woman she became.  When we meet Ginger as an adult, she's an extreme worrier, way overprotective of her daughter, and definitely a planner in every aspect of her life.  As the book moves along, it's obvious that Glory was a pretty terrible mother - she lied about everything, she was often cruel to her children, and sometimes it seems like she forgot they were even there.  I wouldn't say it was abusive - Glory was just supremely selfish.  Ginger had to learn how to manage her mother's moods and watch out for her younger siblings, and she was deeply affected by her brother's freak accident.

The overall feel of the book was quite melancholy, so this wasn't quite the summer read I was expecting it to be.  I appreciated that the ending didn't just tie everything up in a happy bow.  It was actually pretty open-ended, leaving the reader to wonder where the characters go from here.

4 stars

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Waiting on/Can't Wait Wednesday: Emerald Coast

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Emerald Coast
Anita Hughes
Expected publication date: August 1, 2017
Lily Bristol arrives at a luxurious resort in Sardinia for the grand opening of her newest home furnishing store on the Emerald Coast. She's a successful business woman with an international chain of stores from San Francisco to Milan. Thirty-two and newly divorced, she's ready to handle things on her own. At least until her private butler, Enzo, escorts her to a beautiful suite where she notices a suspiciously familiar pair of men's slippers and shaving kit.

Lily is horrified. Her ex-husband Oliver moved out of their restored Connecticut farmhouse six months ago, but they booked this trip when they were trying to save their marriage and never cancelled the reservation. Oliver, a food critic for the New York Times, is here covering Sardinia's hottest new restaurant. The only other available room is the adjoining suite; and worse, Oliver isn't alone. He's brought a twenty-something named Angela with him.

Lily is determined to make do and enlists Enzo to find her a suitable man. But it's not as easy to find new love as they both expected. When Lily and Oliver find themselves alone on a very important night, they turn to each other. Sparks begin to fly, but can they be together without breaking each other's hearts?

Set on the glamorous Italian island, Emerald Coast is a touching and humorous story about marriage and the difficulty of finding love and happiness at the same time. - from Goodreads

Monday, July 10, 2017

What The Kids at My Old High School Are Reading This Summer

I remember having to do summer reading when I was a teenager, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at the current summer reading list for my old high school!

I personally think summer reading is a good idea (admittedly, I'm not a parent who is fighting with a kid the day before school starts to finish said reading).  It keeps kids in the mindset of learning and critical thinking.  It gives them something to focus on.  Maybe they'll realize that reading isn't so bad, after all!  I like when the schools give kids a wide range of books to choose from - the students can pick for themselves if they want something in their comfort zone or maybe out of it if they're feeling adventurous.

So, now for the specifics at the high school I attended (longer ago than I would care to admit to!): except for the AP students, who get a separate assignment, each student has to read two books this summer: one required book for each grade and an additional book from a list of suggestions, which are different for each grade.  Sounds pretty reasonable to me, for both students (who only have to read 2 books) and teachers - the teachers get the benefit of being able to discuss one book that everyone has read and then maybe everyone can be more creative for another assignment based on the suggested reading.

Here are the required books for each grade:
Of these, the only one I've heard of is The Kite Runner.  I'm kind of surprised that all of these are relatively recent books, and from my perusal of Goodreads, they sound really good.  Has anyone read any of these?

The lists of suggested titles for each grade offer anywhere between 26 and 29 choices, with at least a couple non-fiction titles, and this is where things get really interesting, at least from my perspective (I'm not going to list all the books, since I haven't even heard of a lot of them, just ones that stand out to me). 
  • The 9th grade suggested list includes Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  With the Netflix series being so controversial, I'm surprised yet not surprised to see this one.  I bet a lot of kids will be reading this and maybe it will spark some deep discussions.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky are just a couple of the YA titles on the 10th grade list, which I think is really fun!  There's even some fantasy YA with a book by Maggie Steifvater.  Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes and John Krakauer's non-fiction Into Thin Air (both of which I enjoyed) are some of the more adult titles on the list.
  • The 11th grade list starts adding in more classics, with titles by John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I thought a nice inclusion on the non-fiction side was The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story, since the movie version is coming out this year.
  • The 12th grade list also features popular classics like Emma by Jane Austen.  This list had quite a few titles that I recognized, like Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier and Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper.  Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone is also on the list, and I'm pretty sure the copy I have at home is the one I bought for my own summer reading a million years ago!

What do you think of required summer reading?  Did you have required reading when you were in school?  What types of books did you have to read?  If you have kids, what kinds of summer reading are they doing?