Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: The It Girls

The It Girls
Karen Harper
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017

One sailed the Titanic and started a fashion empire . . .

The other overtook Hollywood and scandalized the world . . .

Together, they were unstoppable.


They rose from genteel poverty, two beautiful sisters, ambitious, witty, seductive. Elinor and Lucy Sutherland are at once each other’s fiercest supporters and most vicious critics.

Lucy transformed herself into Lucile, the daring fashion designer who revolutionized the industry with her flirtatious gowns and brazen self-promotion. And when she married Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon her life seemed to be a fairy tale. But success came at many costs—to her marriage and to her children . . . and then came the fateful night of April 14, 1912 and the scandal that followed.

Elinor’s novels titillate readers, and it’s even asked in polite drawing rooms if you would like to “sin with Elinor Glyn?” Her work pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable; her foray into the glittering new world of Hollywood turns her into a world-wide phenomenon. But although she writes of passion, the true love she longs for eludes her.

But despite quarrels and misunderstandings, distance and destiny, there is no bond stronger than that of the two sisters—confidants, friends, rivals and the two “It Girls” of their day.- from Goodreads
I received an ARC for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

The It Girls tells the story of sisters Elinor Glyn, a boundary-pushing writer, and Lucille Duff-Gordon, a fashion pioneer, from their days as young girls on the brink of poverty through the success of their later years.  I expected a good historical fiction story, but the book lost me along the way.

The sisters are at the heart of this book, and their relationship was not an easy one.  At times, they were totally supportive of each other and stood up for one another through scandals; other times they were jealous of each other and argumentative, sometimes not seeing each other for years at a time.  I wanted a bit more interaction between Elinor and Lucille, but they each lead such interesting lives on their own that I could almost forgive this.  The biggest thing I knew about Lucille Duff-Gordon before reading this book was the scandal that erupted after the sinking of the Titanic, in which she and her husband were accused of bribing ship employees to not take more survivors onto their lifeboat, but I learned that both she and Elinor had many personal and professional successes and failures.

The writing is good, not great, but it's the dialogue that really hampered my reading experience.  It's cringe-worthy at times: totally too descriptive and too much telling rather than showing.  It's just not how real people talk; I think at times the author was using dialogue to fill the reader in on what happened during time gaps or to give more information, but it was hard to read.

The book covers several decades, so I expected that not everything could be covered in great detail.  However, sometimes several years pass with no warning.  For example, Lucille's daughter goes from a newborn to 7 years old in one turn of the page.  At the same time, I often felt that there was too much information.  It's obvious that Harper did extensive research on the sisters, but the inclusion of several random anecdotes made me wish she had been more discerning about what she chose to feature in the book.  These anecdotes didn't move the story forward in any way and weren't connected to anything else; they could have been left out without any effect on the story.

2.5 stars

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Expelled

Expelled
James Patterson and Emily Raymond
Expected publication date: October 23, 2017
A secret Twitter account
An anonymous photo
Everyone is a suspect


Will Foster's Twitter account used to be anonymous--until someone posted The Photo that got him and three other students expelled, their futures ruined forever. But who took the picture, and why are they being targeted?

To uncover the truth, Will gets close to the suspects: the hacker, the quarterback, the bad girl, the class clown, the vice principal, and...his own best friend. What secrets are they hiding, and even worse--what do they know about each other? The terrible truth will haunt them forever.

New York Times bestselling author James Patterson brings us another fast-moving tale of suspense, with danger, romance, and twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the very last page. - from Goodreads
I received an ARC of this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

It's books like this that make me glad I'm not in high school anymore!  I didn't even go to high school that long ago, but we didn't have all these social media issues like the ones in Expelled.  A crude photo of some students is posted on Theo's (it says the MC's name is Will in the blurb, but in my ARC, it's Theo) Twitter account, and because of the school's zero tolerance policy, Theo and the identified students in the picture are all expelled.  But Theo knows he's innocent, and he wants to prove it.

Patterson and Raymond have created a group of students that may seem at first glance like typical high school cliches, but they become much more than that as the book goes on.  Theo is kind of an average kid - he gets decent grades and he sometimes writes for the school paper, but he's dealing with a lot in his home life.  His best friend Jude is an artist, Parker is a jock with a huge secret, and Sasha is a tough girl.  I thought the authors did a great job in creating these distinct characters and actually making them realistic - they act and talk like real teenagers (although Sasha can get a bit pretentious at times).

Theo has the idea to prove his innocence by making a film, questioning his "suspects" and others in order to find out what really happened and why the picture was uploaded to his Twitter feed.  I guess he wanted proof on camera, but this plot device didn't work so well for me.

In any event, what Theo discovers in his investigation was actually not what I was expecting.  I appreciated that the authors tied in bigger issues and questions about doing what is right versus doing what is popular.  However, the book dragged on a bit after this revelation, and one big bombshell right at the end of the book was completely unnecessary, in my opinion.  In a book with a lot of heavy topics, that one felt like overkill.  Overall, though, I thought this was a quick-moving, well-written story.

4 stars

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Glamorous Dead

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Glamorous Dead
Suzanne Gates
Expected publication date: October 31, 2017
Set in the dream factory of the 1940s, this glittering debut novel follows a young Hollywood hopeful into a star-studded web of scandal, celebrity, and murder . . .
The chipped pink nail polish is a dead giveaway--no pun intended. But when a human thumb is discovered near a Hollywood nightclub, it doesn't take long for the police to identify its owner. Miss Penny Harp would recognize that pink anywhere: it belongs to her best friend, Rosemary. And so does the rest of the body buried beneath it. Rosemary, with the beauty and talent, who stood out from all other extras on the Paramount lot. She was the one whose name was destined for a movie marquee--not for the obituaries. And for an extra twist, now an LAPD detective thinks Penny is the one who killed her . .
Penny is determined to prove her innocence--with a little help from an unlikely ally, the world-famous queen of film noir, Barbara Stanwyck. Penny met "Stany" on the set of Paramount's classic comedy The Lady Eve, where the star took an instant liking to her. With Stany's powerful connections and no-nonsense style, she has no trouble following clues out of the studio backlot, from the Los Angeles morgue to the Zanzibar Room to the dark, winding streets of Beverly Hills. But there's something Penny isn't telling her famous partner in crimesolving: a not-so-glamorous secret that could lead them to Rosemary's killer--or send Penny to the electric chair . . . - from Goodreads
This sounds like a really fun mystery, and I love the 1940s Hollywood setting!

Monday, October 16, 2017

TV Shows I'm Obsessed With Lately #3

 
The Bold Type is such a fun show about three young women who work for a Cosmo-like magazine - one is a secretary, one is a social media coordinator, and one is a writer.  It's pretty cool to see some behind-the-scenes stuff about how magazines are run, and of course, there's always lots of personal drama as well!


Based on a novel by James Patterson, Zoo is about a group of people who investigate an outbreak of violent animal attacks around the globe.  We've been binge-watching the first two seasons on Netflix and, yeah, it gets a little outlandish at times, but it's so addictive!

 
It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of disaster stories, so when I heard about this summer series about an asteroid heading towards earth, I knew I had to watch it.  Government conspiracies, shady reporters, and confusing science abound - but if you suspend disbelief for awhile, it's actually a pretty fun show!


Are you watching any of these shows?  What have you been watching lately?
 


Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Summer House

The Summer House
Hannah McKinnon
Published June 6, 2017
Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.

No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves.- from Goodreads
Two words kept popping into my mind as I read The Summer House: relatable and nostalgic.  Flossy and Richard have invited their grown children, Paige, Sam, and Clem, to their summer house in Rhode Island to celebrate Richard's 75th birthday.  What their children don't know yet is that Flossy and Richard are planning to sell the house their family has spent generations vacationing at.

The first thing I could relate to in this book is the trouble with trying to get a lot of people together for a vacation.  In my family, sometimes we start planning a year in advance, making sure everyone can get their work and personal schedules coordinated.  It can be hard to get everyone together - people have a lot going on.  I thought Flossy was a bit hard on her kids, getting angry with them because no one had visited the shore house the previous summer.  But Clem had just lost her husband; Sam and his husband Evan are trying to adopt a baby; and Paige has a growing vet practice and some tension with her husband and teenage daughter.

The second thing I related to was the sibling relationships.  The bonds between Sam, Paige, and Clem felt so real - siblings can be best friends or worst enemies.  They know each other so well and they know what buttons to push. 

As I read this book, it brought back memories of visiting my grandparents at the shore: packing up all our stuff - snacks, chairs, and umbrellas - and dragging it to the beach.  The Merrill family has their own traditions that they lovingly follow each time they visit the summer house, like the first visit to the beach and going for a ice cream and a ride on the carousel.  No matter how long it has been since their last visit, they still follow their traditions, and these parts of the book brought out a feeling of nostalgia for me.

The beachy setting was so well-established in this book.  I felt like I was right there with the Merrill clan, smelling the salty ocean breeze, feeling the warm sand, eating the fresh seafood.  The story was very character-driven, and I loved getting to know all the members of the family.

So - this review seems a bit different from my normal reviews, but that's because this book felt like taking a walk down memory lane for me.  If you enjoy stories about families and have fond memories of your own childhood beach vacations, I think you'll love this book!

4 stars

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Unqualified

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Unqualified
Anna Faris
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017
Anna Faris has advice for you. And it's great advice, because she's been through it all, and she wants to tell you what she's learned. Her comic memoir and first book, Unqualified, will share Anna's candid, sympathetic, and entertaining stories of love lost and won. Part memoir, part humorous, unflinching advice from her hit podcast Anna Faris Is Unqualified, the book will reveal Anna's unique take on how to navigate the bizarre, chaotic, and worthwhile adventure of finding love.

Hilarious, authentic, and actually useful, Unqualified is the book Anna's fans have been waiting for. - from Goodreads
Anna Faris has been one of my favorite actresses for a long time.  She's hilarious but she also seems really down-to-earth.  And I have to admit, I was a bit upset when she and Chris Pratt announced they were separating!  I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say in her memoir.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall-Themed Covers


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week's topic is books with fall/autumn covers or themes.  Since I love fall and I'm a cover snob, I decided to make a collage of fall-themed covers.  This was surprisingly a bit difficult!  In the end, I found some covers that featured the red and orange colors of fall, some covers with leaves or fall landscapes, and even one with some seasonal fruit!



What are some of your favorite fall-themed book covers?
 


Monday, October 9, 2017

5 Reasons Why Taylor Jenkins Reid Has Become One of My Favorite Authors


One of my favorite parts about reading is finding new favorite authors, whether it's learning about them after they've written a few books (and then devouring their backlist) or discovering them with their debut novel and following their careers.  I love finding those authors I can rely on to bring something amazing with each new story.  I had never heard of Taylor Jenkins Reid before I started blogging, but when I saw her name popping up on many other blogs, it made me want to check out her books.  From the first one I read, I fell in love, and so here are the reasons why Taylor Jenkins Reid has become one of my favorite authors (and why you should check her out, too!).

1. Relatable characters
For the most part, her characters are somewhat close to me in age and stage of life.  In Forever, Interrupted, Elsie is a pizza lover, tv watcher, and reader - I can definitely relate to that!  Lauren and Ryan from After I Do are a married couple who met at 19 in college - which is the age I was when I met my husband, and we also met in college.  I enjoy reading about characters that I can see parts of myself in; it makes the story feel that much more real to me.

 

2. Relatable scenarios
When I read the synopsis for each of Jenkins Reid's books, one of the things that attracted me most was how realistic and relatable the plots were.  Whether it's a 20-something woman whose life could change drastically based on one decision she makes (and we get to see the fallout from that decision in Maybe In Another Life) or a marriage that's on the rocks, TJR has crafted stories that really *could* happen.  Sometimes the plots seem larger than life, such as the decision a woman has to make after her long-lost (and presumed dead) husband returns to find she has moved on to another man in One True Loves, but that just makes things more interesting (and honestly, that scenario isn't unheard of!). 

 

3. Big questions
Maybe it's because the scenarios are so relatable, but her books always seem to bring up what I consider to be "big questions" - those philosophical questions that force us to take stock of our lives and decisions.  Is there such a thing as a soulmate?  How big of a role does fate play in our lives?  When you've vowed to love someone forever, what happens if you fall out of love? How hard should you try to get it back? Is it inevitable that romance will fade over the years?  Are longer marriages better or more important than shorter ones?  Is there a time limit on grief?

4. Great writing
I like good, straightforward writing, writing that is honest and dialogue that feels like a real conversation.  There's nothing overly flowery or poetic about Taylor Jenkins Reid's writing; yes, that kind of writing has a place and I'm not trying to knock it, because in many instances I do enjoy it, but I appreciate that her books are very readable.  The stories flow so well and are so easy to read.

5. Something different for her latest novel
While her first four novels were basically contemporary women's fiction, Taylor Jenkins Reid's fifth novel was a bit of a departure.  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tells the life story of an aging actress, as told to a journalist.  Although it focused on relationships, it felt different than her previous novels.  Jenkins Reid went outside her box, and the result was something just as amazing as her previous works.  I'm so excited to see where she goes next!





So, have you read anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid?  Which of her books is your favorite?  What makes an author your "favorite"?


Friday, October 6, 2017

Review: Wild Mountain

Wild Mountain
Nancy Hayes Kilgore
Published October 1, 2017
Vermonter Mona Duval loves the covered bridge beside her store. She loves local history and the rugged, rural nature of her home state. But when an ice storm collapses the bridge, she is bereft. Frank MacFarland, a seasonal resident who is beguiled by Mona, lends his political expertise to help rebuild the bridge. But they meet with powerful opposition. Tensions arise in the town, compounded by resistance to the soon-to-be-voted on Freedom to Marry bill. And then, unexpectedly, Mona's abusive ex-husband arrives. Wild Mountain is a page-turning, beautifully written novel about the love between Frank and Mona, the love of place, freedom to marry, and freedom from the past, by a writer whose prose has been compared to Alice Munro’s. - from Goodreads
I received an ARC from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Wild Mountain is a slice-of-life look at a small town in Vermont in 2008.  The residents of the town are faced with both the collapse of a historic bridge and an upcoming vote on the Freedom to Marry bill, and these two issues bring out both the best and worst in the locals.

There are a lot of characters packed into this book, but the author was able to develop different personalities to represent the many sides of the local political scene.  Some of the characters had quite extreme views that I didn't always agree with; it was difficult at times to read their hateful words.

I enjoyed getting to know the main character, Mona.  She's a local woman with a deep love for her town; she's a bit of a historian (which I can relate to) and an expert on the covered bridge.  The loss of the bridge felt so personal to her; not only was it a relic of an earlier era, but it was also a physical connection between the two sides of town, meaning her general store suffered a bit because customers could no longer easily reach it.  Although I didn't always feel that Frank was the best match for her (I wasn't convinced he could give up his jet-setting lifestyle for small-town living), it was nice to see Mona grow and learn to trust someone in regards to her love life.

At times, it felt like there were too many storylines going on.  I thought the book was mainly going to be about the collapse of the historic bridge and the fight to recreate the bridge or find a cheaper alternative, but there seemed to be more about the Freedom to Marry bill than the bridge.  There was also a side story about Mona's ex-husband coming around town again and yet another about a hermit, Gus, who lives on the mountain.  With so many things going on, I felt the side stories suffered; some were left unresolved while others were quietly and sometimes too conveniently wrapped up.  If the bigger issues had been fleshed out further and the side stories left out completely, I think the entire story would have felt more cohesive.

However, the author did a great job in setting the scene.  As I was reading, I could picture this small town, the covered bridge, and the surrounding mountains.  It made me want to take a trip to Vermont! 

3.5 stars

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Tom and I recently took a walk through Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.


For more information, visit this website. 

The Great Swamp is an almost 8,000-acre wilderness area and refuge for many species of birds.  From the Wildlife Observation Center, you can take a boardwalk trail over the swamp out to observation/photo blinds to unobtrusively observe the nature and wildlife.



Then we ventured to another area of the refuge to walk some nature trails through the swamp.  The trails were definitely not what I expected - at best, they were very narrow, trodden paths; at worst, the paths were almost completely overgrown with barely a suggestion as to where we should head.  At least this area is very flat; it would have been pretty treacherous to climb up or down in these conditions.


I'm so glad I wore long pants the day we went.  At times, it felt like we were forging our own path and Tom said he couldn't even see me sometimes because the overgrowth was so tall.  My clothes were covered in leaves and any bare skin was scratched up by the time we were done.  Here are two pictures that show how crazy the trails were:

The trail runs right down the middle


We took the Orange Trail and on the way back veered off onto the Green Trail, which offered some relief.  The Green Trail conditions felt more familiar: more forest and wider trails, with some nice views out into the swamp meadows.



Despite the tough trail conditions, the Great Swamp was beautiful and peaceful - so much greenery and many different types of trees. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Afterlife of Holly Chase
Cynthia Hand
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017
On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn't.

And then she died.

Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . . - from Goodreads
This one sounds so fun, for both Halloween and Christmas!

Monday, October 2, 2017

5 TV Shows I Didn't Know Were Based On Books


There are tons of TV shows out there based on books - Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why, Gossip Girl, True Blood, Pretty Little Liars... the list goes on and on.  But I was surprised to find out recently that a show Tom and I were binging on Netflix was based on a book, so it got me thinking - what other shows out there are book adaptations and I didn't even know it?

 

Shooter - I knew of the movie of the same name that tells the story of a marksman framed for an assassination attempt on the President, but when we started watching season 1 on Netflix, I read an article about the upcoming season 2 that pointed out which books in the Bob Lee Swagger series by Stephen Hunter were being adapted for television.

 

Friday Night Lights - This is another one where I knew of the film but not the book, which is actually a non-fiction book that tells the story of a high school football team in Texas in the late 1980s.

 

Boardwalk Empire - The HBO drama is based on a true crime story written by a New Jersey judge about the politics and criminals of Atlantic City.

 

Longmire - This show, about a sheriff in a Wyoming county, is based on a series of mystery novels by Craig Johnson.

 

The Last Ship - This action/drama series about the aftermath of a global virus that kills most of the world's population, leaving a lone American naval ship to find a cure and save the world, is adapted from a post-apocalyptic fiction novel of the same name, although with some pretty big changes (namely, the book is about nuclear warfare, not a virus).


Have you ever watched a TV show not realizing it was based on a book?  What other shows out there have been based on a book or a series?

Friday, September 29, 2017

2017 Backlist Reader Challenge: September Roundup

Here are some mini-reviews for my latest reads for the 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by The Bookwym's Hoard!

The Long Way Home (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #10) by Louise Penny (2014)

In the 10th installment of the series, Armand Gamache has retired from the Homicide Division to Three Pines.  Resident Clara Morrow asks Gamache to help find her husband Peter, who failed to return home after a year-long trial separation.  Their search takes them deep into the psyches of artists and across Quebec.

I have to admit, this is the first time in the series that I wasn't completely enthralled.  Peter Morrow is one of my least favorite characters, so I really wasn't taken with the idea of an entire book centered around finding him.  Although the writing was incredible, as always, sometimes the story got a bit too cerebral for me and I found myself skimming.  Until the last 40 pages, when a murder mystery came out of nowhere and was quickly solved.  And the last chapter left me unexpectedly emotional.

Some other things that helped save the book for me were the descriptions of the Quebec wilderness and the secondary characters that came to the forefront in this installment, Ruth and Myrna.  Penny showed a different side of Ruth, and I enjoyed hearing more from Myrna.  3.5 stars

Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana Gabaldon (2014)

This book has been sitting on my shelf for probably two years.  For the most part, I've been enjoying the Outlander series, but the books are so long and such a commitment - I'm not going to lie, it took almost two months to read this book.

Like the previous books, there were a lot of storylines going on.  It was interesting to read about these characters in the context of the American Revolution.  Seeing real historical figures pop up and interact with Jamie and Claire was kind of fun, plus a part of this book takes place in New Jersey, so it was fun to read about places I recognized.

Brianna and Roger have their own issues in the 20th century, namely that they believe someone has kidnapped their son and taken him to the past.  This storyline had me on edge; I mean, how would they ever know where and when he was taken to?  I really could have done without so much of the character of William, Jamie's illegitimate son, who finally finds out the truth about his parentage.  William and his other family members just don't really interest me as much. 

Gabaldon's writing is, as always, flowing and easy to read.  I think she is quite proud of the fact that Claire is a doctor, but fewer gruesome scenes of medical emergencies would have been better.  If I didn't know that Gabaldon was working on the next Outlander story, I would have thought this would make a perfect series ender.  4 stars


The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison (2012)

Ben needs to get his life back on track after a devastating accident, so he trains for a job as a caregiver.  He finds a position with Trev, a young man with muscular dystrophy, and the two end up taking a road trip to visit Trev's father.

It's hard not to feel bad for Ben when you find out what happened to his family, and I was rooting for him in this new job, and friendship, with Trev.  It was interesting to see the juxtaposition between Ben and Trev's father, and I could understand why Ben wanted to give Trev's father the benefit of the doubt, even though he left his family after Trev was diagnosed. 

I haven't read a lot of road trip books, so this was a nice change for me.  The characters they meet along the way fill out the story nicely and add even more heart to the book.  I also enjoyed Ben's droll sense of humor as he slowly pulls himself together.  This book was made into a movie on Netflix, and since I watched that awhile ago, I read the whole book with Paul Rudd's voice in my head!  4 stars

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Things I'm Seeing Without You

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Things I'm Seeing Without You
Peter Bognanni
Expected publication date: October 3, 2017

Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler has just dropped out of high school. She can barely function after learning of Jonah’s death. Jonah, the boy she’d traded banter with over texts and heartfelt e-mails.

Jonah, the first boy she'd told she loved and the first boy to say it back.

Jonah, the boy whose suicide she never saw coming.

Tess continues to write to Jonah, as a way of processing her grief and confusion. But for now she finds solace in perhaps the unlikeliest of ways: by helping her father with his new alternative funeral business, where his biggest client is . . . a prized racehorse?

As Tess’s involvement in her father’s business grows, both find comfort in the clients they serve and in each other. But love, loss, and life are so much more complicated than Tess ever thought. Especially after she receives a message that turns her life upside down. - from Goodreads
This sounds like it might be a sad read, but I don't mind books that make me cry!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Quotables #5: All About Reading


I've been gathering up some quotes lately and so many of them seem to have to do with readers and reading specifically, so that's the theme for this installment of Quotables!


Why it speaks to me: I love going to the library and seeing all those books, just waiting for me to read them!  It makes me happy!


Why it speaks to me: I love that Kate Morton uses the word "journey" in this line.  So many of us readers use our books as an escape - we can travel anywhere in the world or in time, just being swept up in the stories.  I love when a book can really transport you to some place different.


Why it speaks to me: I love how this quote really focuses on readers and how we interpret books.  We all notice different things in a book, or a particular line will strike a particular reader differently, maybe based on their mood or experiences.  But that's the beauty of reading and how a book comes alive for each of us!


Which of these is your favorite?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: The Goddesses

The Goddesses
Swan Huntley
Published July 25, 2017
The Descendants meets Single White Female in this captivating novel about a woman who moves her family to Hawaii, only to find herself wrapped up in a dangerous friendship, from the celebrated author of We Could Be Beautiful.

When Nancy and her family arrive in Kona, Hawaii, they are desperate for a fresh start. Nancy's husband has cheated on her; they sleep in separate bedrooms and their twin sons have been acting out, setting off illegal fireworks. But Hawaii is paradise: they plant an orange tree in the yard; they share a bed once again and Nancy resolves to make a happy life for herself. She starts taking a yoga class and there she meets Ana, the charismatic teacher. Ana has short, black hair, a warm smile, and a hard-won wisdom that resonates deeply within Nancy. They are soon spending all their time together, sharing dinners, relaxing in Ana's hot tub, driving around Kona in the cute little car Ana helps Nancy buy. As Nancy grows closer and closer to Ana skipping family dinners and leaving the twins to their own devices she feels a happiness and understanding unlike anything she's ever experienced, and she knows that she will do anything Ana asks of her.

A mesmerizing story of friendship and manipulation set against the idyllic tropical world of the Big Island, The Goddesses is a stunning psychological novel by one of our most exciting young writers. - from Goodreads
When Nancy, her husband Chuck, and their two teenage boys relocate to Hawaii for Chuck's job, Nancy thinks this will be the new beginning they all need.  However, Nancy soon finds herself falling into her old habits, so she tries something different - a yoga class - where she meets Ana.  Nancy immediately feels a strong connection to Ana, so when she tells Nancy she has terminal pancreatic cancer, Nancy wants to do anything she can to help Ana live out her final days.

At first, Nancy helps Ana with some good deeds, like giving out sandwiches to the homeless.  But as Ana becomes more upset about her cancer fight, she decides she'd rather seek vengeance, and she pulls Nancy, and even her family, into her destructive behaviors.

Nancy was a relatable character, in the way that she wanted to reinvent herself in her new home.  She seemed a bit lonely, and the attention that Ana gave her was just what she was looking for.  At times I thought she seemed a bit naive, or maybe she just didn't want to see what was right in front of her.

I disliked the character of Ana almost right from the start.  Although her "yoga teacher" persona seemed authentic, I quickly learned that there was more to her and that she wasn't necessarily who she presented herself to be.  I found her to be totally manipulative and I didn't trust her.  The way she insinuated herself into Nancy's home and family so quickly was kind of scary.

The book had an easy, conversational writing style that moved quickly, but the author still managed to impart some keen insight into relationships, including about why we sometimes aren't totally honest with our loved ones and how we can so easily fall back into bad habits and patterns.  I expected going into the story that there would be some sort of destructive friendship between Ana and Nancy and while there is drama, I needed more; the story kind of fizzled out near the end for me.  I didn't feel like there was enough tension and the story didn't have that powerful "ah-ha" moment.

3.5 stars

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Invictus

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Invictus
Ryan Graudin
Expected publication date: September 26, 2017
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

In this heart-stopping adventure, Ryan Graudin has created a fast-paced world that defies time and space. - from Goodreads
This sounds like such a fun adventure story!  I'm so into time-travel books lately, and I love the reference to the Titanic!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week's topic is books on our fall TBR.  Here are some books I'm hoping to get to in the next couple months:



Have you read any of these?  Which one should I start with?
 


Monday, September 18, 2017

What Does It Really Mean To Be A Book Blogger?


Before I started this little book blog, I didn't really know what it meant to be a "blogger," and more specifically a book blogger.  I mean, yeah, I had an idea about what bloggers do, but once I really got into it, I started realizing all the hats we wear as book bloggers and all the work that goes into it!

  • First and foremost, we're readers.  Dedicated, obsessed, lose-all-sense-of-time readers.  Whether we're reading 20 books a year or 200, we all share a love of reading and it's our desire to talk about books with others that has brought us all here!

  • We're also reviewers.  We talk about books, things we loved within the pages and things we didn't.  We look at books critically and articulate what does and doesn't work.  And sometimes we just fangirl out or rant about a book we've recently read!

  • We're writers.  Hey, these posts don't write themselves (although sometimes I wish they did).  And not only blog posts - how many of you out there are working on your own original stories?

  • We're coders.  Whether it's building a blog from scratch or expanding upon an existing template.

  • We're editors.  We proofread everything that gets published on our blogs.  We decide what's going to get posted and when; we're in charge of planning out the schedule.  We make sure our blogs have a good flow and everything looks the way it's supposed to.

  • We're "chief content officers."  We come up with all the ideas and decide what we're going to talk about.  It's definitely not easy coming up with fun, unique posts all the time.

  • We're photographers and graphic designers.  A lot of work goes into making our sites look nice, from taking those perfect pictures to designing eye-catching graphics for our posts.

  • We're promoters, getting the word out about our favorite books, authors, and upcoming releases.  Giving and getting recommendations is a big part of book blogging, and it's because of you guys that I've found some new favorite authors!

  • We're active members of a huge book-blogging community.  Seriously, I did not even realize how many book blogs were out there when I started, but it's so cool because everyone has their own unique perspective!  I love the sense of community that everyone has, whether it's commenting on someone else's blog or participating in a reading challenge.

  • Some other skills we have?
    • Time management - For most of us, blogging is a hobby and we have to learn how to fit it into our lives already filled with families and jobs (and books!).
    • Social media savvy - Okay, maybe not me so much, but all of you bloggers out there on Instagram and Twitter!


What skills have you learned or honed as a result of being a book blogger?  What does being a book blogger mean to you?  Did anything surprise you when you first started blogging?



Friday, September 15, 2017

Review: Cocoa Beach


Cocoa Beach
Beatriz Williams
Published June 27, 2017
Burdened by a dark family secret, Virginia Fortescue flees her oppressive home in New York City for the battlefields of World War I France. Driving an ambulance for the Red Cross, she meets a charismatic British army surgeon whose persistent charm opens her heart to the possibility of love. As the war rages, Virginia falls into a passionate affair with the dashing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, only to discover that his past has its own dark secrets—secrets that will damage their eventual marriage and propel her back across the Atlantic to the sister and father she’d left behind.

Five years later, in the early days of Prohibition, the newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives in the tropical boomtown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, to settle her husband’s estate. Despite the evidence, Virginia does not believe Simon perished in the fire that destroyed the seaside home he built for her and their young daughter. Separated from her husband since the early days of their marriage, the headstrong Virginia plans to uncover the truth, for the sake of the daughter Simon has never met.

Simon’s brother and sister welcome her with open arms and introduce her to a dazzling new world of citrus groves, white beaches, bootleggers, and Prohibition agents. But Virginia senses a predatory presence lurking beneath the irresistible, hedonistic surface of this coastal oasis. The more she learns about Simon and his mysterious business interests, the more she fears that the dangers surrounding Simon now threaten her and their daughter’s life as well. - from Goodreads
Beatriz Williams is one of my go-to authors, so I eagerly snatched up her latest book, Cocoa Beach.  Taking a briefly-mentioned character from a previous novel, Williams has crafted a story of love, lies, and betrayal.

To escape her life in New York, Virginia Fortescue heads to France to become an ambulance driver in WWI, where she meets Simon Fitzwilliam, a charming British doctor.  Soon after they marry, though, Virginia discovers that Simon has lied to her about many things, and she flees back to the United States.  A couple years later, she is notified that Simon has died in a house fire in Florida and has left his entire estate to her.  When she goes to Florida to settle his affairs, she is confronted with a danger she never saw coming.

The story is told in a dual narrative, both from Virginia's point of view, with the first showing her meeting and marrying Simon and the second showing her time in Florida.  Sometimes it was hard to believe that it was the same character in both narratives; the younger Virginia is na├»ve, falling head over heels for the duplicitous Simon.  The older Virginia is a take-charge, no-nonsense mother.

I disliked Simon's character from the beginning.  Although he may come across as charming, I found him to be smarmy in the flashback chapters.  He's the type of man that acts first and apologizes later; he didn't seem sincere, and he lied to Virginia about so many things.  I didn't blame her when she bolted just days after their wedding.  He tried to make things right by moving to Florida and starting a business to provide for his family, but really, he ended up putting Virginia and her daughter in danger because of the highly illegal rum-running he got involved in.  Although he was maybe a bit redeemed by the actions of other characters, particularly his brother Samuel, I never had a good feeling about him.

The story moved at a slow pace and some of the writing was overly poetic.  Things ramped up a bit at the end, when Virginia discovers that Simon's siblings haven't been truthful with her, and there is sort of an underlying tension throughout the novel, like when you feel like someone is watching you.  I've been waiting for Beatriz Williams to dazzle me again like she did with her earlier novels; however, this didn't do it for me, and I was especially disappointed with where Virginia wound up in the end.

3 stars