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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

Title: The Italian Party
Author: Christina Lynch
Format: ARC
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: March 20, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany's famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.

When Scottie's Italian teacher--a teenager with secrets of his own--disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael's dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth."

My Two Cents:

"The Italian Party" is a multi-faceted story about Michael and Scottie, a young American couple who plan to honeymoon in Italy, which is still getting over World War II at the time. After a honeymoon, they will settle in Italy while Michael sets up a store to sell tractors to the Italian farmers. On the surface, it seems idyllic but Michael and Scottie are both hiding a multitude of things that threaten to upend their marriage. 

This book had so much going for it! Our main characters, Michael and Scottie, are great. Both of them are trying to come to terms with who they are. To some degree, Michael is hiding much more. He's hiding his employment. He's hiding what brought them to Italy. He's trying to hide his lifestyle. It was fascinating to see how both of the characters deal with these things in very different ways.

Another thing the book had going for it I don't think I could ever tire of reading about Italy. I especially loved reading about Italy in the 1950s as I don't think that I have read much about the rebuilding of the country after World War II. The historical detail that the author weaves in is really good and really helped make it easy to picture Michael and Scottie's new world. I don't want to give anything away but the parts about how Michael's personal life affected his public life was especially gripping and disheartening!

And I have to mention the food. Oh, the food! The food is so not supposed to be the focus of this book and the story line can definitely hold it's own against the food but I have to mention it. The descriptions of the lunches and dinners in this book are just want you want descriptions of really delicious food to be!

Overall, this was a great story!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Title: Let Me Lie
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley,
Publish Date: March 13, 2018
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Two years ago, Tom and Caroline Johnson committed suicide, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their adult daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unable to comprehend why they chose to end their lives. Now with a young baby herself, she feels her mother’s presence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as Anna digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her. She soon learns that nothing is as it seemed."

My Two Cents:

In "Let Me Lie," Anna believes that she lost both of her parents to suicide with a few months between them. When mysterious things start happening, Anna believes that perhaps it wasn't suicide that took her parents but something completely different. This book is a thriller but has a very slow burn. It took me awhile to get into this one but if you hang in there, you'll be rewarded with an exciting second half of the book that keeps you on your toes.

I have enjoyed Mackintosh's other two books so I wanted to see what this one was like. It started much slower than the other two books and was dragging for me. It very slowly started to pick up and then was off like a flash once you figure out what happened to Anna's mother. I was so glad I hung in there. Once I hit that point, I couldn't stop reading. It was wonderful! 

Part of the problem that I had is that our main character, Anna, mostly seems to only be the vessel for the story. I wanted to know more about her and what kind of person she was. You don't really get that throughout the book as the book is more focused on the mystery. I wanted to know a little more about her and how she grew up in light of what we find out about her parents.

Overall, this was a good story; it just took a little while to heat up!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World by Mackenzi Lee (Goodreads Author), Petra Eriksson (Illustrations)

Title: Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World
Authors: Mackenzi Lee (Goodreads Author), Petra Eriksson (Illustrations) 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Abrams Books
Publish Date: February 27, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Based on Mackenzi Lee’s popular weekly Twitter series of the same name, Bygone Badass Broads features 52 remarkable and forgotten trailblazing women from all over the world. With tales of heroism and cunning, in-depth bios and witty storytelling, Bygone Badass Broads gives new life to these historic female pioneers. Starting in the fifth century BC and continuing to the present, the book takes a closer look at bold and inspiring women who dared to step outside the traditional gender roles of their time. Coupled with riveting illustrations and Lee’s humorous and conversational storytelling style, this book is an outright celebration of the badass women who paved the way for the rest of us."

My Two Cents:

Here's another great pick for Women's History Month: "Bygone Badass Broads." Not only does this book have a fabulous title but it has a great premise. Author Mackenzi Lee started a feature on Twitter to talk about all of these fantastic women from history that many don't know much (or anything!!!) about. History unfortunately has focused on white men. Lee is trying to get the stories of the amazing women that came before us out into the world and this book helps her do that!

I love history but am always very frustrated how one-sided it is. There are so many people out there that did wonderful things but because of what they were or who they were, we know very little about them and you won't find them in a standard history class. It's sad but luckily there are books like this one that want to change that. This book covers the gamut of politicians, inventors, rabble rousers, and many more who contributed something awesome to this world we live in.

Lee doesn't give us a boring account of facts and figures. No, she gives readers thoroughly entertaining and memorable stories. I found myself wondering over and over again about why the women in this book weren't more well known. I also found myself appreciating that there are people out there who want to spread the word about them!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Giveaway Winners!

I have two giveaway winners to announce today! 

Pitch Perfect 3:

The Child:

Congratulations again!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

Title: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.
Authors: Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "When Melisande Stokes, an expert in linguistics and languages, accidently meets military intelligence operator Tristan Lyons in a hallway at Harvard University, it is the beginning of a chain of events that will alter their lives and human history itself. The young man from a shadowy government entity approaches Mel, a low-level faculty member, with an incredible offer. The only condition: she must sign a nondisclosure agreement in return for the rather large sum of money.

Tristan needs Mel to translate some very old documents, which, if authentic, are earth-shattering. They prove that magic actually existed and was practiced for centuries. But the arrival of the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment weakened its power and endangered its practitioners. Magic stopped working altogether in 1851, at the time of the Great Exhibition at London’s Crystal Palace—the world’s fair celebrating the rise of industrial technology and commerce. Something about the modern world "jams" the "frequencies" used by magic, and it’s up to Tristan to find out why.

And so the Department of Diachronic Operations—D.O.D.O. —gets cracking on its real mission: to develop a device that can bring magic back, and send Diachronic Operatives back in time to keep it alive . . . and meddle with a little history at the same time. But while Tristan and his expanding operation master the science and build the technology, they overlook the mercurial—and treacherous—nature of the human heart."

My Two Cents:

So if you have been following my blog, some of you may know about one of my 2018 challenges, which was to read the favorite books of some of my friends. I am so happy that I am doing this challenge for books like this one. This book was suggested by my friend and a good author, Tinney Heath. I might have never come across it otherwise!

Imagine that instead of magic not being real, that it used to be real but now it has gone extinct. Imagine the U.S. government had a whole agency devoted to time traveling in order to figure out what happened to the magic and how to bring it back in the world. That is what this book is about. It's a perfect blend of sci-fi with some great historical fiction detail that pulls together so many of my interests in one hefty novel that I still didn't want to end even after over 750 pages.

In this book, we meet a ancient language linguist, Melisandre, and a military intel ops guy, Tristan, are thrown together by this super secretive agency. Melisandre doesn't get the full picture at first but she very quickly sees how her linguistic skills will be used by this agency. Tristan is excited about his new ventures. The main characters are great but there is a whole cast of secondary characters (witches from history and lots of stodgy military guys who are the complete opposite of the freewheeling witches).

Not only is the story good but it's dramatic and funny and kept me reading. Particularly some of the sections about the bureaucratic nonsense that rules the day at this agency for a seemingly silly bit of work. There were a couple parts about the bureaucrazy (ahem, cracy) that had me laughing out loud. I also liked how the authors explained how things worked when the past changes. This was a very original story line and I really enjoyed this read!


Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher

Title: Babylon Berlin
Author: Volker Kutscher
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Picador USA
Publish Date: 2007 (originally published)

Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "It’s the year 1929 and Berlin is the vibrating metropolis of post-war Germany – full of bars and brothels and dissatisfied workers at the point of revolt. The strangest things happen here and the vice squad has its hands full. Gereon Rath is new in town and new to the department. Back in Cologne he was with the homicide department before he had to leave the city after firing a fatal shot.

When a dead man without an identity, bearing traces of atrocious torture, is discovered, Rath sees a chance to find his way back into the homicide division. He discovers a connection with a circle of oppositional exiled Russians who try to purchase arms with smuggled gold in order to prepare a coup d’état. But there are other people trying to get hold of the gold and the guns, too. Raths finds himself up against paramilitaries and organized criminals. He falls in love with Charlotte, a typist in the homicide squad, and misuses her insider’s knowledge for his personal investigations. He gets entangled in the case more and more, dirtying his hands and eventually ending up as a suspect himself.

Volker Kutscher tells the story of a lonely and fiercely determined inspector in a city which, in all its restlessness and hedonism, appears to be astonishingly modern – and whose fate is already traced out."

My Two Cents:

"Babylon Berlin" is the first book in a series about Gereon Rath, a man who finds himself in the big city of Berlin after coming from a smaller city where he had to leave the police department in disgrace. He's looking to turn around his life in a new place: Berlin. There is so much going on in Berlin at this time (late 1920s). It's the time of the Weimar Republic and the crimes that take place there threaten to wrap up even those fighting for justice like Gereon. Will Gereon end up disgraced again?

I have been thoroughly enjoying watching "Babylon Berlin" on Netflix. It's an exciting show with a lot of gorgeous detail that transports you to Berlin. I was excited to see how the book stacked up with the miniseries. While there are some differences, the feeling between the miniseries and the book are the same. The miniseries is a little more glitzy, while still capturing the grittiness that weaves its way throughout the book. There are other differences in the story lines but I don't want to give anything away!

Gereon Rath is a great character. He is the kind of fallen hero that we all like to root for but he also has a lot of demons. He is flawed but you still want things to turn out okay for him. He goes through so much throughout the book and really grows and changes. It will be interesting to see where the future books take him.

I loved the setting! I don't know very much about the Weimar Republic years as they seem to largely set up for some of the later chaos wrought on Germany by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. I thought that the author did a great job of capturing everything that was going on.

The writing was good. It did get bogged down in a few places and I can't tell if it was the story or the way things were translated. The plot moves fairly well for the most part though. Overall, this was a pretty good story!


Friday, March 9, 2018

Review: Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore by Abrams Books

Title: Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore
Author: Abrams Books
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Abrams Books
Publish Date: February 27, 2018
Source: PR 

What's the Story?:

From "Dress Like a Woman turns that question on its head by sharing a myriad of interpretations across history. The book includes more than 240 incredible photographs that illustrate how women’s roles have changed over the last century. The women pictured in this book inhabit a fascinating intersection of gender, fashion, politics, culture, class, nationality, and race. You’ll see some familiar faces, including trailblazers Shirley Chisholm, Amelia Earhart, Angela Davis, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Michelle Obama, but the majority of photographs are of ordinary working women from many backgrounds and professions. Pioneering scientists and mathematicians, leading civil rights and feminist activists, factory workers and lumberjacks, stay-at-home moms and domestic workers, and artists and musicians; all express their individual style and dress to get the job done."

My Two Cents:

"Dress Like a Woman" is a perfect book to read for Women's History Month. It is a gorgeous book filled with pictures of women at work. Historically (and sometimes still in the present day), women have had to fight in order to be included in the workforce. Women have a huge role in making the world go around and this book celebrates that! Being a working woman, I loved seeing pictures of those who have come before me in order to allow me to do what I want to do with my career.

Although most of the pictures that it includes focuses on American women, there are still a bunch of photos dedicated to other parts of the world. I loved seeing the differences between women around the world and between women of different times. This is truly a beautiful book!


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Review: Death in Glenville Falls by Carol L. Wright

Title: Death in Glenville Falls
Author: Carol L. Wright 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Cozy Den Press
Publish Date: August 17, 2017
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Early September is a time for new beginnings in a college town, and Gracie McIntyre braces for hers.

Gracie left the practice of law eighteen years ago, after losing a client to an apparent murder/suicide. Since then, she’s been a stay-at-home mom and part-time professor at the local college. Now that her son has gone off to university and her daughter has started high school, she is ready for a new adventure. But opening a new-and-used book shop gives her more than she bargains for.

Days after her grand opening, she finds a threatening message outside her door. When she refuses to heed the warning, violence escalates. What’s worse, she suspects a police officer might be the culprit. She soon realizes she’s on her own to find a way to save her store—and possibly her life."

My Two Cents:

"Death in Glenville Falls" is the story of Gracie McIntyre, a woman who has my dream job: owning a bookstore. She is content with her life of creating a place for community in her small bookstore with the company of her orange kitty. Unfortunately, quiet is not the idea that fate has for her life. Gracie will get pulled into a mystery where her livelihood and her own life may be at stake.

This book was a first for me: a cozy mystery! I don't read a lot of mystery in general but I had never read a cozy mystery before. Cozy mysteries are like kinder, gentler mysteries: they aren't bloody because any violence happens offstage. I picked up this book for book club and the author is the mother of one of my book club friends. I love when my reading is stretched like this!

Gracie is such a great character. Not only does she make it her business to try to solve the mysterious circumstances that befall her bookstore but she balances it all with still being a good parent and a good friend. She is intelligent and kind. Because she is just an amateur sleuth, she thinks about things in a very different way that helps her solve the mystery at the core of the book (I don't want to go too much into this so I don't give anything away).

I also really liked the setting. Glenville Falls is a small college town. Everyone knows everyone and everyone is in everyone else's business. The town is full of quirky characters that come in and out of the book and made for a more entertaining experience!

This was a great foray into the world of cozy mysteries and I am looking forward to getting back to Glenville Falls soon!


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Giveaway: The Child by Fiona Barton

"The Child" by Fiona Barton is out in paperback as of March 6th (yesterday!). Thanks to Berkley, I am very excited to be able to give you all a chance to win a copy! Check out my review here!

Want to win a copy? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: Drive by John M. Nuckel

Title: Drive
Author: John M. Nuckel 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Thewordverve, inc.
Publish Date: March 6, 2018 (Today!)
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "In the late 1800s, a secret society is formed by a captain from Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders with the support of the nation’s leading industrialists and bankers. Over a century later, the tradition continues, in the same saloons and boardrooms of New York City where it all began.

In this crime thriller, where history and current events unite, Woodbury Kane, Jacob Riis, and Roosevelt himself fight the tyranny of Tammany Hall in the first mission of the Volunteers during the turn of the last century.

In today’s New York, the descendants of the Volunteers recruit Annie Falcone, a New York police officer, who takes the oath: Et Omnia Recta. She is to provide protection to one man, America’s top technological mind, from his longtime adversary, Sheng, China’s most brutal hacker.

Annie is unaware that she’s merely a decoy to draw Sheng out for the hit squad that was sent ahead of her. Her instincts alone will be the force behind the success or failure of the mission.

Like so many other Volunteers before her, Annie’s survival depends upon her courage, her skill, and her DRIVE."

My Two Cents:

"Drive" is a dual narrative set in the late 1800s/ early 1900s and the present day. The historical part of the book is all about a group of people with the likes of Teddy Roosevelt (I will read anything about this man) and infamous journalist Jacob Riis at the forefront of the fight against the Tammany Hall machine. They are the Volunteers and they seek to make the world a better, more fair place even if it puts them in danger. The present day is a more typical thriller where Annie, a young woman who finds herself suddenly working under the Volunteers is charged with a super dangerous mission and she will have to decide whether or not this is really the path she wants her life to go down.

Both story lines were very exciting to me; however, as with most dual narrative books, I liked the historical narrative better. First off, Teddy Roosevelt is one of my very favorite people to read about ever. He's my favorite President and I love reading about his time both before and after his presidency. There was a man who really knew how to shake things up and keep things interesting. I loved reading about what he was trying to do with the Volunteers and what he was like as a leader in the dual role that he had in this book.

On the other hand, I just really don't read that many thrillers like the present day story line. They just usually don't grab my attention. I liked the present day story line though and really feel that the historical story line got me into it and I really liked how it stretched me. Annie is a great character. I liked reading about her past and how she got to where she was. I also liked seeing how the Volunteers transformed over time while still sticking to the motto of "Et Omnia Recta" - to make things right.

The writing of the book was good. I thought the author did a really good job of bringing the real historical figures as well as the fictional characters to life. In both of the story lines, the author does a great job of infusing excitement throughout the story lines to keep you guessing where it's going to go. Overall, this was a good read!


Monday, March 5, 2018

Giveaway: Pitch Perfect 3

Pitch Perfect 3 is available on Blu-ray and DVD​ 3/20! I am so excited to be able to give you all a chance to win a copy thanks to Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Think Jam.

Want a chance to win? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please)!

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Friday, March 2, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge February Progress

As a reminder, I'm doing two challenges this year: The PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge and My Friends' Favorite Books Challenge.

PopSugar Ultimate Reading:
22 out of 50 books (4 in February)

Friends' Favorite Books Challenge:
3 out of 73 books

My reading really slowed down in February due to a crazy work schedule but steadily we roll along.
Interested in what I've read? Check out my tracker!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

TLC Book Tours: In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules by Karen Karbo

Title: In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules
Author: Karen Karbo
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: National Geographic
Publish Date: February 27, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Smart, sassy, and unapologetically feminine, this elegantly illustrated book is an ode to the bold and charismatic women of modern history. Best-selling author Karen Karbo (The Gospel According to Coco Chanel) spotlights the spirited rule breakers who charted their way with little regard for expectations: Amelia Earhart, Helen Gurley Brown, Edie Sedgwick, Hillary Clinton, Amy Poehler, and Shonda Rhimes, among others. Their lives--imperfect, elegant, messy, glorious--provide inspiration and instruction for the new age of feminism we have entered. Karbo distills these lessons with wit and humor, examining the universal themes that connect us to each of these mesmerizing personalities today: success and style, love and authenticity, daring and courage. Being "difficult," Karbo reveals, might not make life easier. But it can make it more fulfilling--whatever that means for you."

My Two Cents:

How fortuitous it is that I am reviewing this book for the first day of Women's History. There has been a slew of books for younger readers to introduce them to some really phenomenal women (and thank goodness for it!!!) but there seemingly not been a similar influx of books for adults. This book is a good fit for that deficit!

Each chapter focuses on a different woman and they range from politicians to judges to athletes to women who broke just about every barrier imaginable. And as the author constantly reminds us throughout the book: although they were great, because these women didn't fit the normal mold of what society tells us that women should be, every single one of them was considered difficult. It's totally unfair but such is our society.

This book is a total inspiration for those that want to shake things up a little bit and push boundaries further for women than they have ever been pushed before. Because each chapter deals with a different woman, it makes for a good book to read bit by bit. Or if you are like me and really like learning about amazing people, you read it in one fell swoop. All I can say is I now have a very long list of biographies and memoirs on and by the woman that appear in this book.

Tuesday, February 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, February 28th: Openly Bookish
Thursday, March 1st: A Bookish Affair
Monday, March 5th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, March 6th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, March 7th: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, March 13th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, March 14th: Doing Dewey
Thursday, March 15th: Bibliotica
Friday, March 16th: bookchickdi
Monday, March 19th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Tuesday, March 20th: 5 Minutes For Books

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