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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#CoverReveal: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

I am so excited to be a part of the cover reveal for The Rose Code by Kate Quinn! Check it out!

Synopsis: The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter--the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger--and their true enemy--closer...

·         Book details: THE ROSE CODE by New York Times bestselling author Kate Quinn (Morrow; on-sale March 9, 2021)

·        Pre-order here:

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Hello, it's me!

The pandemic has been weird, everyone! Some days I feel like everything is going okay and I'm hitting a groove and then I'll go through weeks and weeks where everything feels super terrible and I feel like I'm stuck in a rut. And the past several weeks have been just that: I've been putting a lot of hours in at the day job as we're in a busy period.  I've been trying to keep the kids entertained and because I'm feeling super guilty about having to work so much, I'm trying to throw myself into making this weird time that we're living in *MAGICAL* for the children. I'm trying to do all the things while not being able to focus or feel like I'm doing anything well. I also lost my sweet 18 year old kitty, Totoro. He was my buddy through so much all the way since college. And reading, which is my usual oasis, has been so hard to focus on. I find my mind wandering as soon as I sit down to start reading. I think the late June - July period is the longest that I've had this rut during the past few months and it has sucked.

Last week, I finally felt a bit of relief. I don't know where it came from, which is making it hard to know how to hang on to this feeling but I'm trying to be in the moment and ride the waves as they come at me. One, well two, small reasons could be our new additions. We adopted two kittens (I never wanted kittens and suddenly we have three kitties in our house). They are so sweet and so fun and they are keeping us all on our toes. We named them Amelia (calico) and Fred (orange) after Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. They're bringing a lot of joy to the whole family at this ridiculous time. I know there are probably going to be more trying days ahead but I'm trying to find happiness in the everyday. So I'm back here again!

What are you all doing to maintain your sanity during these trying times?

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Review: Your Ad Could Go Here: Stories by Oksana Zabuzhko

Title: Your Ad Could Go Here: Stories
Author: Oksana Zabuzhko
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Publish Date: 2014 (original, now in translation)
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Oksana Zabuzhko, Ukraine’s leading public intellectual, is called upon to make sense of the unthinkable reality of our times. In this breathtaking short story collection, she turns the concept of truth over in her hands like a beautifully crafted pair of gloves. From the triumph of the Orange Revolution, which marked the start of the twenty-first century, to domestic victories in matchmaking, sibling rivalry, and even tennis, Zabuzhko manages to shock the reader by juxtaposing things as they are—inarguable, visible to the naked eye—with how things could be, weaving myth and fairy tale into pivotal moments just as we weave a satisfying narrative arc into our own personal mythologies."

My Two Cents:

"Your Ad Could Go Here" is a collection of short stories by Ukrainian author, Oksana Zabuzhko. In this book, she explores everything from siblings, to what it means to be a woman, to the political turmoil of her home country. I had a chance to visit Ukraine in 2011 and it holds a special place in my heart so I am always looking for ways to get back to Ukraine, at least through reading if I can't visit. This book was a great taste of Ukrainian life.

The subject matter of these stories explored so many different areas and some of the stories could be quite difficult for sensitive readers to get through. I, on the other hand, really appreciated the rawness of the stories. The author doesn't flinch from the difficult and sometimes runs head first into some dark territory. It did take me a bit to get into some of the stories but there were others that were rather gripping. My favorite of the book was the story that the book is name for - it was very good!

One interesting thing about this book is that each of the stories seemed to have a different translator. It made me wonder about that choice: was it a conscious choice or just a coincidence? Would any of the various translators translate the story differently. This had absolutely no bearing on my feelings about the book but it is interesting to think about!

This would be a great pick for someone who wants to explore parts unknown with an author that forces you to keep your eyes open!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

HFVBT Review: The Highlander's English Bride by Vanessa Kelly

Title: The Highlander's English Bride
Author: Vanessa Kelly
Publisher: Zebra
Publish Date: May 26, 2020
Format: Paperback
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Lady Sabrina Bell has never been so embarrassed in her life. Not only did her new suitor fail to appear for their morning rendezvous in Hyde Park, but a thief pushed her into the Serpentine. Being rescued by a burly Highlander just adds to her humiliation. Nor is he content with rescuing her just once. Even when Sabrina travels to Edinburgh as part of King George's entourage, Graeme Kendrick is there, interfering, exasperating, and so very tempting...

Once notorious for being the most unruly Kendrick brother, Graeme now runs dangerous missions for the King's spymaster. Yet nothing has prepared him for Sabrina. The only child of a wealthy earl, and the pampered goddaughter of the king himself, she is stubborn, impetuous, and far too good for him. He doesn't deserve her, but he can protect her and then send her safely back home. But the bonny Sassenach has her own ideas—and a plan for seduction that no red-blooded Highlander could resist..."

My Two Cents:

"The Highlander's English Bride" is the story of Lady Sabrina who finds herself being rescued from the most embarrassing situation when she goes to meet her suitor, the Marquess of Cringlewood, in the park only to find herself alone and under attack. Luckily for her, Graeme Kendrick is there to hear her cries and rescue her. When he finds out who she is waiting for (the very same man that has threatened his family), Graeme is ready to walk away but he can't just leave once he meets Sabrina. This event kicks off a chain that will bring Sabrina and Graeme together in new and surprising ways.

This book is the third book in Vanessa Kelly's Clan Kendrick series. Graeme is the brother of the starring heroes from the first two books. I really liked getting to see what his family was up to! Although this book is the third in the series, you will have no problem picking up right from this book. You get a chance to catch up with everything that happened in the previous books. Some of this detail bogs down the story but is useful if you are not familiar with the previous books!

I really liked the romance between Graeme and Sabrina. They were never supposed to meet and they definitely were not supposed to fall in love but when they meet, the chemistry between them very quickly turns into something that neither of them can walk away from. It takes awhile for the romance to really heat up between them as they are both initially fighting their attraction as much as they can. Falling for each other eventually feels inevitable as neither one can stay away. This book fit the bill for me when I was desperately seeking a comfort read! I'm interested to see where this series goes next!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

We Need Diverse Books!

I have often been at a loss of words over the past few weeks. What happened to George Floyd was devastating and so needless. Even before this event, I had been thinking a lot about inequality with regard to the pandemic. The pandemic is affecting various groups of people differently with regard to things like who is affected by COVID-19, who has health insurance, and who holds which jobs. When the world began to think about reopening, many of the jobs that were or are in the first phase of reopening fall to many occupation holders with few safety nets (grocery store, public transportation workers, etc.). These first phase workers are somewhat canaries in the coal mine, who knows what could happen with COVID-19. So you have all of this going on and then you have the tragedy that happened in Minneapolis and it is no wonder that everything boiled over.

I'm angry. I'm angry (but not surprised) about George Floyd. I'm angry that we as a society constantly seem to be prioritizing things over people. I'm angry that things are so disparate for different people. I'm angry about the crackdowns on free speech that we've seen over and over again the past few days. I don't have all the answers (in fact, I doubt that I have any of the answers) but I know that things need to change.

If you found this blog, you probably already know that I make sense of my world through books.  And that's what I have been desperately trying to do to make sense of all of this: I'm trying to read books that shake me awake, shake my beliefs, shake my assumptions, shake my prejudices. I want to learn. I want to be a better person and a better ally to those suffering. I see you. I stand with you. I am here for you.

I want to fix this so badly. I want my generation to be the generation that finally stands up and says enough, let's make things right. I don't have all the answers (I'm really not sure I have any of the answers) but in the words of one of my favorite bands, "to change the world, it starts with one step, however small." My small step may not change the world but it is something. We need diverse books. Books allow us to see ourselves, and perhaps more importantly, others in a new light. Books help us understand familiar and unfamiliar situations better. They help us to take a walk in someone else's shoes. It is so powerful and empowering to be able to see yourself in the pages of a book. Reading a book is a low-risk way to allow you to get to know people both familiar and unfamiliar to you. Books make you more empathetic. They have the power to thrust you in the middle of someone else's struggle and see things in a new light.

Particularly with my Around the World Reading Challenge, I have become even more painfully aware of how far we have left to go to literature reflecting the world around us, particularly in the realm of adult literature. This is why things like the Walter Grant make me so excited. The Walter Grant is a grant for writers and illustrators who fit in one of these categories:
    • Person of color
    • Native American
    • LGBTQIA+
    • Person with a disability
    • Marginalized religious or cultural minority
  • The Walter Grant is a small way to move towards more diverse books. What does having more diverse books do for us? It makes it so anyone can pick up a book and see themselves in it. It makes it easier for someone to take that proverbial mile in someone else's shoes. It ensures that more voices are heard. It ensures that more people are able to tell their own stories in their own voices. Representation is super powerful. More diverse books certainly does not fix everything but perhaps it is a start.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Review: Little Sister: A Memoir by Patricia Walsh Chadwick

Title: Little Sister: A Memoir 
Author: Patricia Walsh Chadwick 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Post Hill Press
Publish Date: April 28, 2020
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Imagine an eighteen-year-old American girl who has never read a newspaper, watched television, or made a phone call. An eighteen-year-old-girl who has never danced—and this in the 1960s.

It is in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Leonard Feeney, a controversial (soon to be excommunicated) Catholic priest, has founded a religious community called the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Center's members—many of them educated at Harvard and Radcliffe—surrender all earthly possessions and aspects of their life, including their children, to him. Patricia Chadwick was one of those children, and Little Sister is her account of growing up in the Feeney sect.

Separated from her parents and forbidden to speak to them, Patricia bristles against the community’s draconian rules, yearning for another life. When, at seventeen, she is banished from the Center, her home, she faces the world alone, without skills, family, or money but empowered with faith and a fierce determination to succeed on her own, which she does, rising eventually to the upper echelons of the world of finance and investing. "

My Two Cents:

In "Little Sister," Patricia childhood is spent in a cult called "The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart." Started as a sect based on Catholic doctrine, the cult is led by a priest who will be excommunicated and a couple of... accomplices (I can't think of what else to call them). The group takes their beliefs to the extreme and everyone is expected to do what the leader, Leonard Feeney, says they must do in order to save their souls, even if it means giving up their children. Patricia is one of these children. This book provides an unflinching look at a terrible situation but it's also a story of great resilience!

As a parent, it is so hard for me to put myself in the shoes of a parent who would be willing to give up their children. Patricia's parents are so moved by what they think this group offers that they are willing to give their children over to essentially be raised by other adults in the group beginning at age 3. They go from being the primary parents to only seeing their children on rare occasions when Patricia and her siblings have to refer to their parents by new names doled out by Feeney. It was so hard to read about how Patricia tries to get used to this new world.

I am always impressed by writers who are able to write about really difficult situations, particularly when they are first-person accounts. I felt for Patricia throughout the book. She goes through so many things that seem just so hard to believe. She and the other children in the book go through a lot of abuse and mistreatment that was sometimes hard to read about.

Her story is inspiring and it was really wonderful to read how she comes into her own as a young adult. She is able to overcome so much. Humans are just so amazingly resilient. This was a riveting memoir and would be a perfect pick for anyone looking for a story of triumphing over what could have ended tragically!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Title: The Jane Austen Society
Author: Natalie Jenner
Format: ARC
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: May 26, 2020 (Today!)

What's the Story?:

From "Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England's finest novelists. Now it's home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen's legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen's home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society."

My Two Cents:

"The Jane Austen Society" is the story of a group of people brought together by their love and appreciation of the beloved author, Jane Austen, in order to try to save her legacy. The book largely takes place in the mid-1940s just as England is beginning to come out of World War II. The quiet novel is the story of how different people with singular goal in mind can come together to do something wonderful.

The group that comes together comes from all sorts of backgrounds that don't seem to have much in common with each other: a laborer, an actress, a doctor, a widow, and many others. I loved how this book shows how these people are able to find common ground and organize to do something wonderful. This was certainly comforting to read during these uncertain times when it seems like in many ways, people are having difficulty coming together!

While the Jane Austen Society is the center of the book, there are lots of different offshoot story lines between all of the characters in the story, which added some interest to the book. There are love stories and mysteries and many of these stories are often seen through the lens of Jane Austen's stories, which I enjoyed as a fan of Austen's work.

Chawton, Jane Austen's home is at the center of the book. It's a place that I dream about being able to visit someday! And since I can't go anywhere now, I loved reading about it and how the group of characters come together to save such a great place. This book is a very cozy read. It's not flashy, nor fast-moving but it is comforting, like a perfect cup of tea.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Review: The Way You Burn by Christine Meade

Title: The Way You Burn
Author: Christine Meade
Format: ARC
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publish Date: April 14, 2020
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "When David approaches his New Hampshire cabin one cool October night to find it engulfed in flames, he knows his girlfriend Hope set the fire. At least, he’s pretty sure he knows.

David first decides to upend the creature comforts of his post-collegiate life and try roughing it for a year after he inherits two acres of land and a rustic cabin from his deceased grandfather. Life at the cabin proves to be more difficult than expected, however, and it all starts with the woman he loves—Hope—whose dark past is written in the twisting pink scars covering her body. Their relationship is challenged after his car slides through an intersection one dark night and, later, his realization that someone is out there, watching him through the trees

Over the course of five seasons, David struggles to maintain his relationship with Hope. Ultimately, in an attempt to understand the sacrifices she has had to make, he decides to rewrite their story. In doing so, he explores the lessons he’s left with--after everything he thought mattered is gutted or burned away—and the surprising bits of wisdom he finds in the ashes."

My Two Cents:

"The Way You Burn" thrusts us into a scene where our main character, David, is watching his grandfather's house burn to the ground. David now lives there in rural New Hampshire after his grandfather gave it to him in his will. David looked at the cabin as a fresh start, both for him and his girlfriend, Hope. Fresh starts don't always come so easily though and David is beginning to see that the proverbial writing on the wall may have been there with Hope the whole time!

First off, I love the way this story unfolded. I love that we initially get to see the aftermath of the other events in the book. Arriving at the fire right away really made for a good entry point into figuring out where the characters stood with each other. I found myself wondering how everything collapsed so spectacularly! Talk about leaving you wanting more!

As the story rewinds, we see how David is desperate for a new start. He can't figure out why his grandfather gave him the cabin in the first place but he recognizes that it may give him the independence he is seeking just entering adulthood. Enter Hope. She's witty, funny, and she makes David feel so very happy... at first at least. Hope is hiding a lot of things from David and she may not be who she says she is. I really loved watching the relationship between them unfold. The author gives us a lot of small details to keep us going throughout the book and I couldn't wait to see what dropped next.

I also really liked the family secret at the center of the book. Between the mystery of David's grandfather and the relationship between David and Hope coming together and then falling apart, you have a really great thriller that kept me reading!


Friday, May 8, 2020

Review: The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Condé

Title: The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana
Author: Maryse Condé
Format: Ebook
Publisher: World Editions
Publish Date: May 5, 2020
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Born in Guadeloupe, Ivan and Ivana are twins with a bond so strong they become afraid of their feelings for one another. When their mother sends them off to live with their father in Mali they begin to grow apart, until, as young adults in Paris, Ivana’s youthful altruism compels her to join the police academy, while Ivan, stunted by early experiences of rejection and exploitation, walks the path of radicalization. The twins, unable to live either with or without each other, become perpetrator and victim in a wave of violent attacks. In The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, Maryse Condé, winner of the 2018 Alternative Nobel prize in literature, touches upon major contemporary issues such as racism, terrorism, political corruption, economic inequality, globalization, and migration. With her most modern novel to date, this master storyteller offers an impressive picture of a colorful yet turbulent 21st century."

My Two Cents:

"The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana" is the story of fraternal twins born on the island of Guadeloupe to a single mother. Their father, a famous musician in Mali, looms larger than life, over their childhood as their mother has imparted that if their father had just stayed that Ivan and Ivana would have had a much better life. The twins are closer than close (this is reiterated often throughout the book). They will travel from their island home to their father's homeland of Mali to Paris. This book is explores what happens when a seemingly unbreakable bond is broken by terrible events.

The highlight of the book for me was all of the detail about the various locations throughout the book. Guadeloupe and Mali were new-to-me locations in terms of reading about them. I really liked how the author brought both of these to life for me. You can feel the breeze in Guadeloupe and see the stores and restaurants in Mali. You get a good sense of how Ivan and Ivana see Paris.  The places almost become characters in the book, which I really liked.

The relationship between Ivan and Ivana is so incredibly close, particularly with regard to how Ivan sees Ivana. Parts of this were definitely out of my comfort zone but I think the idea was to just show a general closeness or essentially one being in two bodies. In particular, Ivan's romantic ideas about his sister are reiterated over again throughout the book (perhaps to exhaustion). The repetitive nature did take something away from the story, however, the closeness sets the scene for just how devastating the later events of the book are.

What kept me reading is the good writing and pacing. While the subject matter was uncomfortable, Conde's details kept the book flowing.  

Thursday, May 7, 2020

TLC Book Tours: Dali Summer by T.J. Brown

Title: Dali Summer
Author: T.J. Brown
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Publish Date: May 5, 2020
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Nothing is more important to prim, colorblind Dolors Posa than family and living down the shame of her illegitimate birth, but when the sudden onset of fantastical visions threaten her sterling reputation, she must search for answers before the inhabitants of the tiny village of Cadaqués brand her as demente— crazy like her mother. In a quest to stop her hallucinations, she befriends a beautiful, intoxicating fortune teller and her handsome anarchist brother, as well as becoming a reluctant muse for thirteen-year-old Salvador Dali. In a summer that changes everything, Dolors must choose between her family’s reputation and a life filled with adventure, friendship, rapturous color and the possibility of love."

My Two Cents:

In "Dali Summer," Delors is consumed with the idea of ensuring that her reputation escapes the fate of her mother's. She has unexplainable visions and she isn't sure what to make of her color-blindness but it frightens her. She will thrust herself into new situations, in part because she is running away from her past and her fears of what her future may look like! Summer is a time of freedom and Delors finds it in the form of a beautiful fortune teller and her brother. She will also become the muse of a young Salvador Dali. This book has lovely detail and a thoroughly engaging story line - a treat for sure!

This book pulls you in right away as you find out about Delors and her background. She is trying so hard to escape her past and trying to outrun family secrets, sure that they'll knock her down just as they had her mother. You're pulling for her so hard to be able to find her own footing and a better way forward than living in fear of the past and her future.

The detail in the book really made it shine. During these times when we can't travel, I have been doing a lot of traveling through books and I loved visiting sun-dappled Spain through this book. The  lower clamber of revolution and war is in the air and acts as a background beat to the story. I also really loved the glimpse that we get of Salvador Dali. I'm a huge fan but I don't recall having read a lot about him as a young person so seeing him as he is so inspired by Delors was great!

This book was a perfect escape, filled with great romances and great detail!


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

TLC Book Tours: The Last Blue by Isla Morley

Title: The Last Blue
Author: Isla Morley
Format: ARC
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publish Date: May 5, 2020 (Happy book birthday!)
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "In 1937, there are recesses in Appalachia no outsiders have ever explored. Two government-sponsored documentarians from Cincinnati, Ohio—a writer and photographer—are dispatched to penetrate this wilderness and record what they find for President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration.

For photographer Clay Havens, the assignment is his last chance to reboot his flagging career. So when he and his journalist partner are warned away from the remote Spooklight Holler outside of town, they set off eagerly in search of a headline story.

What they see will haunt Clay into his old age: Jubilee Buford, a woman whose skin is a shocking and unmistakable shade of blue. From this happenstance meeting between a woman isolated from society and persecuted her whole life, and a man accustomed to keeping himself at lens distance from others, comes a mesmerizing story in which the dark shades of betrayal, prejudice, fear, and guilt, are refracted along with the incandescent hues of passion and courage."

My Two Cents:

In "The Last Blue," Jubilee Buford definitely stands out. Her coloring is blue and she comes from a family that has some members who have had this distinctive coloring and have been the subject of a lot of scrutiny and intolerance at the hands of others in their small Kentucky town in the middle of Appalachia. Clay Havens, a photographer, finds himself in the middle of Appalachia to document everyday life for President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. What he will find, or rather who, will be anything but everyday. This book tackles a fascinating bit of history with a wonderful romance at the center of it!

Initially this book sort of almost has a magical realism vibe to it. Jubilee truly has a blue hue to her skin. When she goes out, she can't be missed. Her family is often equal parts protective and mystified by her condition. Because of her blue skin, she has bared the brunt of so much hatred and misunderstanding by those who won't even begin to give her a chance. I felt so bad for her throughout the book. It's clear that she is a really kind and decent person but she is often not given the chance to just be a normal person. The hate she faces is so raw and so devastating and so maddening.

Jubilee hates herself for what she looks like and she hates how much attention her looks bring her. When Havens first meets her, he is of course drawn to her because of what she looks like and as a photographer, he can't help but to want to take pictures of her. As he gets to know her, he sees that she is both beautiful inside and out and he falls so hard for her. I really loved the romance between Havens and Jubilee. They both initially come together with some trepidation but that quickly melts away as they get to know each other as people. The detail of how they fall for each is really amazing and I love how the author got us to cheer for this unlikely pairing.

I've said it before and I'll say it again but I love how historical fiction can introduce readers to things that they've never read about before. There really were blue people in Kentucky and they faced a lot of the things that Jubilee faced. This bit of history makes a great basis for a story that was really all-consuming for me. And the writing, oh, man, the writing! There are some amazing scenes throughout the book that really took me from the highest highs to the lowest lows and back again! I loved how much of a ride this book was! A mark of a good book for me is when I can't stop thinking about the story or the characters after I close the pages and these characters and their story are very much stuck to me!


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Review: Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Title: Feels Like Falling 
Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: April 28, 2020 (Happy Book Birthday!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "It’s summertime on the North Carolina coast and the livin’ is easy.

Unless, that is, you’ve just lost your mother to cancer, your sister to her extremist husband, and your husband to his executive assistant. Meet Gray Howard. Right when Gray could use a serious infusion of good karma in her life, she inadvertently gets a stranger, Diana Harrington, fired from her job at the local pharmacy.

Diana Harrington’s summer isn’t off to the greatest start either: Hours before losing her job, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of their shared house with only a worn-out Impala for a bed. Lucky for her, Gray has an empty guest house and a very guilty conscience.

With Gray’s kindness, Diana’s tide begins to turn. But when her first love returns, every secret from her past seems to resurface all at once. And, as Gray begins to blaze a new trail, she discovers, with Diana’s help, that what she envisioned as her perfect life may not be what she wants at all."

My Two Cents:

 In "Feels Like Falling," the book opens as Gray is feeling pretty low. Her husband has just left her for another woman and she's trying to navigate what her life is going to look like now that she feels like everything is in shambles. Enter Diana, a down-on-her-luck woman, who is hoping that her life will turnaround and that she can finally find some firmer footing. And then, of course, she loses her job at the accidental hand of Gray. These two woman will join forces, along with a great cast of secondary characters, to find a new sense of normal.

When the story opens, Diana believes that Gray has no cares in the world and Gray thinks Diana's life is much simpler. As the book unfolds, they both realize that the grass isn't always greener on the other side and they also realize that even the hardest things are a little easier when you have a good friend by your side. I loved both of these characters - the way the author weaves together details of their personalities and their back stories as well as the situations that happen in the book is really great.

This book is a great celebration of friendship and how it has the power to get all of us through some pretty tough times when it seems like everything is falling apart. I have really enjoyed Harvey's other books and this book is definitely full of the same warmth that drew me to her other books! I have been craving comfort reads and this book definitely fit the bill!

Monday, April 27, 2020

TLC Book Tours: The German Heiress by Anika Scott

Title: The German Heiress
Author: Anika Scott 
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: April 7, 2020
Source: TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins

What's the Story?:

From "Clara Falkenberg, once Germany’s most eligible and lauded heiress, earned the nickname “the Iron Fräulein” during World War II for her role operating her family’s ironworks empire. It’s been nearly two years since the war ended and she’s left with nothing but a false identification card and a series of burning questions about her family’s past. With nowhere else to run to, she decides to return home and take refuge with her dear friend, Elisa.

Narrowly escaping a near-disastrous interrogation by a British officer who’s hell-bent on arresting her for war crimes, she arrives home to discover the city in ruins, and Elisa missing. As Clara begins tracking down Elisa, she encounters Jakob, a charismatic young man working on the black market, who, for his own reasons, is also searching for Elisa. Clara and Jakob soon discover how they might help each other—if only they can stay ahead of the officer determined to make Clara answer for her actions during the war."

My Two Cents:  

"The German Heiress" is the story of Clara, the daughter of an iron business empire, who took over the reins of her family's company as Germany crumpled into chaos during World War II. Held high by the Third Reich, she rose to infamy during the war as her family's company turned to supplying with the tools of war that allowed the Nazis to get as far as they were able to get in the war. Was she a victim or an active participant? How thin is that line? Does it even matter? All of these questions and more are explored in this great book that explores the devastating aftermath of WWII.

With as much World War II fiction as I have read, I feel like I have not read a whole lot set in the direct aftermath of the war. Even those that escaped the war were deeply affected as they tried to put their lives back together again. Clara wants a new start but as the book opens, we see her pulled very quickly back to a place where she will most definitely be under suspicion of being a war criminal as she led her family's business during the war. I've read plenty of books about those that did good during the war and those that were pure evil but what about those that were in the middle? Are they complicit? Are they victims of the time? How does self-preservation factor in?

I love when my emotions are tugged in many different ways and this book certainly did that for me. This book definitely explores a lot of gray areas and I loved how it was able to change my emotions towards the characters as we the readers get to uncover what truly happened during the war. The tug of war over Clara and how bad to feel for her was a really fantastic journey that I definitely enjoyed.  

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Review: The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo

Title: The Borgia Confessions
Author: Alyssa Palombo 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: February 11, 2020
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare's lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets, and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition."

My Two Cents:

"The Borgia Confessions" is a historical fiction tale told from two perspectives that looks at the infamous Borgia family. Cesare is the son of Rodrigo Borgia who is now pope. It is up to Cesare to help his father maintain power over the various factions that threaten to take him down. It is a heavy responsibility but Cesare is driven to do whatever it takes to succeed. Maddalena is employed as a servant but quickly become integrated into the some of the deepest secrets of those that occupy the Vatican. These two points of view breathe new life into a well-trodden topic and show why the Borgias continue to fascinate and titillate people still to this day.

I really liked that the story was told through alternating points of view between Cesare and Maddalena. You get both an insider's and outsider's point of view. The detail included really helped me get into the story and to understand what was going on and all of the palace intrigue included in the book. Cesare is hyper-focused on the power structures of the Vatican and how he maintains his family's power. Maddalena finds herself in a brand new world where she is still very much trying to learn the power structures and who can pull which levers.

This is a book where you definitely want to make sure that you read the Author's note at the end of the book. It gives a lot of insights into the decisions that Palombo made to shape the story, including some of the big events that occur throughout the book (I don't want to give away any of the surprises). Some of the choices go against some of the general conventions about some of the Borgia history but it works well for this story.

This is a great pick for when you just want to get a fresh perspective on an infamous family! 


Monday, April 20, 2020

Reading Challenge Update!

As a reminder, I am aiming to read a book from or set in each country the Department of State recognizes, which is 195 countries!

Well, this is my March update and it's almost the end of April! Although we've been spending a lot of time at home with the quarantine, I still feel like I'm trying to find a rhythm with everything.

I read books from this many countries in March:


You can check out my progress on my map or see a list of where and what I'm reading here.

I have read 153 books for this challenge so far.

The good news about my update being so late for this month is that I can tell you about Amazon's Read the World promotion. From now until April 24, you can download nine different Amazon Crossing (their internationally focused imprint) for free! Unfortunately none of the selections cover countries that I still have left to go in my reading challenge. Of course, I'm still going to download a few because they look really good! Check out the selections here!

Friday, April 17, 2020

TLC Book Tours: Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

Title: Simon the Fiddler
Author: Paulette Jiles
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: April 14, 2020
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins 

What's the Story?:

From "In March 1865, the long and bitter War between the States is winding down. Till now, twenty-three-year-old Simon Boudlin has evaded military duty thanks to his slight stature, youthful appearance, and utter lack of compunction about bending the truth. But following a barroom brawl in Victoria, Texas, Simon finds himself conscripted, however belatedly, into the Confederate Army. Luckily his talent with a fiddle gets him a comparatively easy position in a regimental band.

Weeks later, on the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon and his bandmates are called to play for officers and their families from both sides of the conflict. There the quick-thinking, audacious fiddler can’t help but notice the lovely Doris Mary Aherne, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel’s daughter.

After the surrender, Simon and Doris go their separate ways. He will travel around Texas seeking fame and fortune as a musician. She must accompany the colonel’s family to finish her three years of service. But Simon cannot forget the fair Irish maiden, and vows that someday he will find her again."

My Two Cents:

In "Simon the Fiddler," Simon has had the fortune to escape being conscripted into the military during the brutal Civil War due to his youthful looks and slight frame. At the tail end of the war, his luck runs thin and he is conscripted and fights in one of the final battles of the war. Luckily, he is still able to keep up his music and playing his beloved fiddle. This book covers the dying days of the war and the dawning of the aftermath through a unique perspective woven together with music. It's a tale of resilience and love that covered a time period that I still have not read much about!

The Civil War and the years after are such a difficult time in American history. The war and its aftereffects upended so many different things. I really liked seeing what it would have been like to live through those unprecedented times. Because Simon is a musician, he has a very unique perspective on the war and what it will mean for those around him. We also get to see how healing he believes music is and how it can effect people for the better.

I also loved the romantic aspect of this book. Simon is playing a show and spots a young woman, Doris Dillon, and falls for her hard. She is indentured to a powerful officer and must follow him and his family around when all she dreams of escaping. Both Simon and Doris's lives are not their own in many ways and I loved seeing how they are able to make the best of it and to take a leap that might land them in trouble. I really loved seeing how the story unwound between them!

You all know that I love historical fiction and I really love when authors explore some of the hidden corners of history. Like with her previous novel "News of the World," this is exactly what Jiles does again in "Simon the Fiddler." This book is a great pick for readers looking for a different perspective on the aftermath of the Civil War.


Friday, April 10, 2020

TLC Book Tours: The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman

Title: The DNA of You and Me
Author: Andrea Rothman
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: March 12, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?: "Emily Apell arrives in Justin McKinnon’s renowned research lab with the single-minded goal of making a breakthrough discovery. But a colleague in the lab, Aeden Doherty, has been working on a similar topic, and his findings threaten to compete with her research.

To Emily’s surprise, her rational mind is unsettled by Aeden, and when they end up working together their animosity turns to physical passion, followed by love. Emily eventually allows herself to envision a future with Aeden, but when he decides to leave the lab it becomes clear to her that she must make a choice. It is only years later, when she is about to receive a prestigious award for the work they did together, that Emily is able to unravel everything that happened between them."

My Two Cents:

In "The DNA of You and Me," Emily comes to New York City from the Midwest to take on a role in a lab doing research that really excites her. She deeply believes that she was born to do the kind of research that she finds herself enveloped in. She is ambitious and she knows that she is good at what she does. When she meets Aeden, she is determined to not let him distract her but she falls for him. Will she choose love over career or career over love or can she find a way to have both?

I really liked that Emily was allowed to be unabashedly in love with her career. It seems all too often that female characters are not allowed to be ambitious or so secure in their desires to be successful (hmm, art meet life, no?). This book weaves in a lot of the author's real life scientific experience, which was great and added a nice flavor to the story. The research that Emily and Aeden were working on was definitely fascinating. I really thought the detail added an air of reality to the story. I was very drawn to learning more about this aspect of the book!

This was an interesting rumination on female success and the choices that women are so often asked to make between their career and love life. The relationship between Emily and Aeden fell a bit flat for me. I wanted to understand the emotional bond between the two of them rather than what seemed like a simple convenience but I suppose convenience is a fine driving factor as well.

Overall, this was a debut author that will be great to watch as she moves forward!


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Title: Darling Rose Gold
Author: Stephanie Wrobel 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: March 17, 2020
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she's forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling...

And she's waited such a long time for her mother to come home."

My Two Cents:

In "Darling Rose Gold," Patty has just gotten out of jail for an alleged case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy against her very own daughter Rose Gold. Their small community has totally turned again Patty but it is the only place she knows so when she is released, it is where she wants to be. When Rose Gold offers to take Patty into her home, the very same home that Patty grew up in, it seems like the perfect way for Patty to mend to her relationship with Rose Gold and perhaps even rehabilitate her reputation at the same time. In this thriller, old secrets are around every corner and old hurts are hard to fix. The past is merely prologue.

This book is a portrait of a super complicated mother-daughter relationship. In the beginning of the book, I was firmly on the side of one character (I won't tell you as you should make the decision for yourself) and by the end, everything I felt in the beginning was flipped, which I loved. I loved how this book jerked around my emotions.

One of the big factors that led me towards the emotional whiplash I felt throughout the book was due to how drawn in by the characters I was. The story feels ripped from the headlines and both Patty and Rose Gold are exactly the kind of characters that would make good fodder for the tabloids. They are neither 100% good or 100% bad. They are both somewhat sympathetic characters at certain points throughout the book. They both have difficult back stories with a lot of layers that are uncovered throughout the book.

This book had plenty of twists and turns that sucked me in! The book is definitely unsettling but if you're looking for a thriller, this is a solid pick!


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Love in the Time of Corona!

Hi all! I hope you all are doing well in these unsettled times. I know that it took me awhile after beginning social distancing to get back into the reading groove. My anxiety was just heightened and I just felt... well... unsettled. Luckily, I've gotten into the new routine and my reading has returned to normal and a part of me loves that I have even more time to read now. Hah, I'm all about silver linings. I hope you all have found ways to settle into a good book and have been able to find comfort among the uncertainty.

How are you all doing?

Friday, March 27, 2020

TLC Book Tours: Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living by Kris Bordessa

Title: Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living
Author: Kris Bordessa
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Publish Date: March 24, 2020
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?

From "Whether you live in a city, suburb, or the country, this essential guide for the backyard homesteader will help you achieve a homespun life--from starting your own garden and pickling the food you grow to pressing wildflowers, baking sourdough loaves, quilting, raising chickens, and creating your own natural cleaning supplies. In these beautifully illustrated pages, Kris Bordessa offers DIY lovers an indispensable home reference for sustainability in the 21st century, using tried-and-true advice, 50 enticing recipes, and step-by-step directions for creating fun, cost-efficient projects that will bring out your inner pioneer. Filled with 340 color photographs, this relatable, comprehensive book contains time honored-wisdom and modern know-how for getting back to basics in a beautiful, accessible package."

My Two Cents:

I began reading "Attainable Sustainable" just as we started staying home from work due to the threat of covid-19. We have a lot of time on our hands now and a lot of time to try out some of the tips found in this book. This book is jam packed with ideas of how you can make yourself more self-sustainable. While the idea of self-sustainability itself may be daunting, this book breaks a bunch of initially complicated-seeming things into super approachable steps. Author Kris Bordessa acts as a wonderful coach towards making sure you feel well equipped to tackle the projects in the book.

This book has tips on just about everything you could think of: growing and raising food, cooking, making different household good, cleaning, etc. You can either read this book straight through like I did or treat it as an encyclopedia of sorts. Either way, I know this book is one that I want to keep on hand so that I can reference it whenever I want to try something new.

Not only is the book super useful but it is very pretty as well. It's chock full of tons of gorgeous pictures that not only show you finished projects but also gives you some instruction on how to accomplish some of the various projects. If you're interested in sticking your toe in the self-sustainability pool or if you're a newbie ready to fully dive in, this book is a great start!

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