Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Breathe, Annie, Breathe
Author: Miranda Kenneally 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publish Date: July 15, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "The finish line is only the beginning.…

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can't escape the guilt that if she hadn't broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she's at war with her body, her mind-and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms...and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line."

My Two Cents:

"Breathe, Annie, Breathe" is a fantastic YA romance from Miranda Kenneally. Annie is trying to cope with a lot. After losing her ex, she decides to honor his memory by running a marathon. She knows it will be hard and she expects to hate every minute of training but she is committed. She wants to put herself through something in order to shake away all of the feelings she is coping with. She can't imagine how the whole process will change her life.

This book is a part of Kenneally's Hundred Oaks series, which you can pick up anywhere in and still follow along very easily. I loved Annie. It took me a little bit to warm up to her but as you get to know more about her complicated emotions and everything she has been through, you really get to understand her more. She is multi-faceted and she felt very real to me.

As Annie is coping with her feelings over the loss of her ex, she begins to fall for Jeremiah. Jeremiah is such a good love interest for Annie. The "will they or won't they" throughout the book really had me pulling for them. Annie is complicated and Jeremiah meets her where she is throughout the book.

To me, this is definitely Kenneally's best in the Hundred Oaks series. This book will stick with me for a long time!


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Review: What Could Go Wrong?: My Mostly Comedic Journey Through Marriage, Parenting and Depression by Brett Grayson

Title: What Could Go Wrong?: My Mostly Comedic Journey Through Marriage, Parenting and Depression
Author: Brett Grayson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Panman Press
Publish Date: January 15, 2019 (Yesterday!)
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "There comes a time when couples decide to create and raise tiny helpless human beings, hoping they one day become non-tiny and less helpless.

This is one family’s journey through ten months of pregnancy (isn’t it supposed to be nine months?), the first years of parental cluelessness, the terrible twos, threenagers, and the few years that follow when they begin to learn about a world that’s even crazier than they are.

Join the author and his wife as they navigate those ten months, from the always romantic conception, to her water breaking in the most unique way possible. Then watch them attempt parenthood, from the seemingly simple routine of dressing their kids for school, to the complex experience of teaching them to use public bathrooms.

It’s mostly a breeze…

No it isn’t. Pre and postnatal complications; battles with their own mental health; and those rapidly growing and irrational miniature versions of themselves. Some of it is devastating. Much of it is overwhelming. All of it challenges them to maintain their sense of humor.

And when they attempted to go on an airplane as a family... that was a sh*tshow."

My Two Cents:

"What Could Go Wrong?" is a funny memoir about a couple just trying to survive parenthood. Since becoming a parent, anytime anyone asks if I have any advice for new parents, I always say to just have a sense of humor about things. Parenting is difficult, fun, uplifting, heartbreaking, hilarious. The author touches on all of these throughout the book. This is a memoir that fellow parents will find a lot to love about.

Grayson covers a lot of ground in this book. He covers both the highs and the lows of parenting. What I really appreciated about this book is how real he was. Parenting can be amazing and it can be terribly humbling, sometimes at the same time. He covers how difficult it can be to take care of your partner through all of the difficulties that parenting can be. Both Grayson and his wife go through some mental health difficulties throughout the book, which I really appreciated him talking about.

This book made me laugh at some points and it made me nod my head in solidarity as Grayson hits some of the fundamental truths of parenting. I recommend this to other parents!


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

#Giveaway: Everything is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

Today is the paperback release day for Mira T. Lee's "Everything is Beautiful!"

What's the Story?:

From "Two sisters: Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister's protector; Lucia, the vibrant, headstrong, unconventional one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it's Miranda who must fight for the help her sister needs — even as Lucia refuses to be defined by any doctor's diagnosis.

Determined, impetuous, she plows ahead, marrying a big-hearted Israeli only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She will move with her new family to Ecuador, but the bitter constant remains: she cannot escape her own mental illness. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until inevitably, she crashes to earth. And then Miranda must decide, again, whether or not to step in — but this time, Lucia may not want to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans, but what does it take to break them?"

Check out my review here!


In celebration of the paperback release, I am pleased to be able to give away three copies of the book, thanks to the publisher! Interested? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 14, 2019

Review: We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Title: We Were the Lucky Ones
Author: Georgia Hunter
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: January 2, 2018
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

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

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

An extraordinary, propulsive novel, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can endure and even thrive."

My Two Cents: 

"We Were the Lucky Ones" is an amazing historical fiction book based on stories from the author's own family. When you read the book, you will appreciate the story even more! The Kurc family knows is watching as their rather idyllic life in Poland is quickly changing as the devastation of World War II comes to their doorstep. The parents and their five children and their own families will be spread all over the globe from Brazil to Siberia. Will they survive?

I fell in love with the whole family! You are pulling for all of them to survive. There is a mother and father, three sons, and two daughters. They are a tight-knit family and all of them are resourceful in their own ways. Addy, the middle son, is stuck in France when he realizes that he is not going to be able to make it back home. His journey will literally take him around the world (we find out later that Addy is modeled on the author's own grandfather!). I loved seeing how each person's journey panned out.

The writing of the book was really good! The author does a great job of creating separate personalities for each of the characters. They are all so different, yet you can still see similar family threads running through them. This book is based on the author's family stories but they have been fictionalized. I thought the author did a great job of weaving a really gripping narrative. I really liked that between each chapter, there were a couple bullet points about what was going on in the overall war at the time. It was nice to be able to keep the larger picture in perspective throughout the book!

I really loved this book and was sorry that I missed it when it first came out!


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Title: Marilla of Green Gables
Author: Sarah McCoy
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: October 23, 2018
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.

In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.

Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables."

My Two Cents:

Growing up, I was a huge Anne of Green Gables fan. I loved those books so much! Not only did I love Anne but I loved all the secondary characters to include staid Marilla, who took Anne in and was hard on her but truly loved her. When I heard about "Marilla of Green Gables," I was all over it. I wanted to dive in to this back story of one of the beloved series of my childhood.

This was a treat! McCoy gives Marilla a rich back story so that we can understand who she became in the Anne of Green Gables series and how she changed since she was younger. We get to see her hopes and dreams and her fears. One of the most striking things to me is how the author gave Marilla echoes of Anne and made the two of them seem that they may not be quite so different after all.

I also liked seeing Green Gables at a different point in time. In the original series, the setting almost feels like another character. It was interesting to see what it was like when Marilla was younger and also to see some familiar characters (or at least familiar families) in the book such as Marilla's love interest John Blythe (that last name rings a bell, no?).

Taking familiar characters and breathing new life into them in a book like this is always a gamble. You run the risk of people not liking how you wrote a beloved character. In this case, I think McCoy does a great job of sticking to the essence of Marilla and creating a lovely companion to the Anne of Green Gables series.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

HFVBT Review: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

Title: The Blue
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Endeavor Quill
Publish Date: December 3, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice.

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue…

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage.

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?

My Two Cents:

"The Blue" is the story of Genevieve, a feisty young woman who dreams of becoming an artist in 18th century London. During this time, women are expected to be homemakers and not independent but Genevieve is the kind of woman who won't take no for an answer. When she has an opportunity to become a real artist, she takes it even if it means doing the difficult and impossible. This is a great new story from Nancy Bilyeau and I really enjoyed it!

You all already know that I love historical fiction! I especially love historical fiction that has anything to do with art. The detail in this book about porcelain-making is fantastic. I had no idea how much of a craze it was. The name of the book refers to the central story line where Genevieve is embroiled in a mystery involving the blue color used for so much porcelain. It would have been easy for the author to overwhelm the reader with all of the detail and background behind porcelain and the color blue but she does a great job of weaving the detail into the story.

The characters in this book are great, especially our main character Genevieve. She is passionate and resourceful. I appreciated her drive to follow her passion. She is such an interesting character to follow as she tries to unravel the central mystery in the book. I wasn't ready to let go of her when the book ended!

Overall, this book has a lot of rich detail that made it a treat to read!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

In Dog We Trust by Beth Kendrick

Title: In Dog We Trust
Author: Beth Kendrick
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: January 8, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When everything has gone to the dogs . . .

When Jocelyn Hillier is named legal guardian for the late Mr. Allardyce's pack of pedigreed Labrador retrievers, her world is flipped upside down. She's spent her entire life toiling in the tourism industry in Black Dog Bay and never expected to be living the pampered life of a seasonal resident in an ocean side mansion, complete with a generous stipend. But her new role isn't without its challenges: The dogs (although lovable) are more high-maintenance than any Hollywood diva, the man she wants to marry breaks her heart, and she's confronted at every turn by her late benefactor's estranged son, Liam, who thinks he's entitled to the inheritance left to the dogs.

Jocelyn has worked too hard to back down without a fight, and she's determined to keep her new fur family together. As she strives to uphold the "Best in Show" standards her pack requires, Jocelyn finds love, family, and forgiveness in the most unexpected places."

My Two Cents:

"In Dog We Trust" is a sweet story about Jocelyn, who has a job taking care of a crotchety old man's pampered show dogs. When he suddenly dies, he makes Jocelyn the guardian of the dogs, which gives her a lovely new place to stay and endless money. Jocelyn can only begin to imagine how things might change.

This is the fifth book in Kendrick's Black Dog Bay series but you don't need to have read the other books in the series to be able to read this one (they are wonderfully sweet reads so you should eventually go back and read the other books). The cold weather months are the ones where I am craving cozy reads and between the sweet doggies in the book and an unexpected romance, this book certainly fits the bill as do the other books in the series.

I loved Jocelyn. She is warm, sweet, and totally unassuming with a bit of a wild streak when her back is pressed against the wall. She makes for a perfect foil for Liam, a seemingly cold man with money on his mind and a lot of hidden secrets and passions. I loved watching the tug of war between them throughout the book. This book definitely goes to show that things are not always what they seem.

This is a perfect book when you're looking for an unexpected but very happy ending!

Monday, January 7, 2019

TLC Book Tours: The Hollow Middle by John Popielaski

Title: The Hollow Middle
Author: John Popielaski 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Unsolicited Press
Publish Date: December 4, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "The Hollow Middle follows Albert Lesiak, an aging English teacher in Connecticut, who receives a windfall in delayed acknowledgment of the government’s complicity in his father’s cancer death and decides that it is time to live a different life on land he owns in Maine.

When his wife Mary suggests that they could foster or adopt autistic twin boys she fell in love with on a website and could use the stipend money in furtherance of Albert’s vision, Albert gradually perceives himself as possibly adapting to the role of patriarch.

A meditation on the curiosity of making sense and the dilemma of becoming true, The Hollow Middle ambles, mostly, and goes still for periods of various duration, acting like it’s not beholden after all to the rhetorical."

My Two Cents:

"The Hollow Middle" is the story of Albert, an aging English teacher, who is looking for a change of pace. When he comes into some family money, he wants to move him and his wife, Mary, to Maine for more space and a romantic ideal that Albert is chasing. Mary seeks a change of pace through wanting to adopt autistic twin boys. This book explores whether or not they will both find what they are looking for.

This was an interesting book - much of it is concerned with Albert's inner thoughts on a variety of topics that often don't seem to have much to do with the matter at hand. The writing of these thoughts give us a good sense of who Albert is and how he relates to the world. I did wish to see more about how Albert related to the events that happen in the book.

The part that most interested me and where the book hits a solid stride is Albert's musings on becoming a father at such a late stage in life when he thought that he would never become a father. It was particularly interesting to see how Albert and Mary figure out how to reach their sons and bring their voices out into the world.

This book is for those looking for a meandering reflection on a variety of subjects from an eccentric character.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Around the World in 2019!

Introducing my new reading challenge for 2019 (and potentially beyond)! I am aiming to read a book from each country the Department of State recognizes, which is 195 countries! It's ambitious but in my quest to read more widely, I think this is a good one. I had an opportunity to travel a lot in 2018, which really piqued my interest in reading more about the places I've been as well as those that I have not visited yet.

Here are my rules:

  1. The book can be by an author from the country.
  2. The book can be set in the country.
  3. Where possible, I want to read more fiction than non-fiction because non-fiction books are so much easier to find when it comes to the less well-known countries. 
  4. Memoirs definitely count!
  5. Travel guides are cheating (again, they are too easy to find)! 
  6. It is okay for me to read books set in countries that are no longer called the particular name found on the Department of State's list (e.g. The Soviet Union counts for Russia, Rhodesia counts for Zimbabwe, etc.).
You can check out my progress here!

What reading challenges are you taking on this year?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy 2019!

Here's to hoping for a peaceful new year for you and for me! I hope it's filled with books, light, and love!

I'll be back tomorrow to tell you about the reading challenges I'm taking on for the year!
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