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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 Goodreads.com: "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 Goodreads.com: "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 Goodreads.com: "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 Goodreads.com: "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 Goodreads.com: "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 Goodreads.com: "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 Goodreads.com: "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:

6

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 Goodreads.com: "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?:

Goodreads.com: "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 Goodreads.com: "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 Goodreads.com: "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!



Friday, March 13, 2020

HFVBT Review: The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

Title: The Lost History of Dreams
Author: Kris Waldherr 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Touchstone Books
Publish Date: April 9, 2019 (Out now in paperback!)
Source: HFVBT



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh's remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne's last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada's grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle's story of Ada and Hugh's ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

As the mystery of Ada and Hugh's relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert's own marriage--including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn't--things from beyond the grave."


My Two Cents:

"The Lost History of Dreams" is a delicious concoction of a gothic historical fiction book. Hugh de Bonne is a beloved poet with a very passionate following. When he meets his untimely demise, it is up to his cousin, Robert, to take care of his burial. Robert knows little of Hugh's life as he and Hugh have been estranged for a long time so when he travels to Hugh's residence, he is surprised to meet Isabelle, Hugh's niece, who holds the secret to the real relationship between Hugh and his wife, Ada. Filled with love stories and ghost stories in equal measure, this book was a great gothic story!

This is a very character-driven novel. Robert, Isabelle, Hugh, and Ada all are very complicated characters. I really thought the author did a good job of pulling back the layers of each character and weaving the detail into the story line to move it along. When the book opens, there is a lot of mystery surrounding each character. The readers are not privy to what is driving each of the characters. I was particularly struck by the story that unfolds about Robert and Sida and how it drives him to his occupation: post-mortem photography. More about this later!

The detail in the book was good! I loved the dark, moody feel of the entire book. As I mentioned before, Robert is a post-mortem photographer. This occupation is so specific to the Victorian era and I loved reading about it (even if it creeped me out a little bit - hah!). I also loved reading about Hugh's poetry, distinctly of the Romantic time period. The world-building in this book was really great!

The pacing of the book was good. It did get a little hung up for me as we are introduced to Isabelle and trying to figure out what made her tick and what she had witnessed between Hugh and Ada. Eventually the pacing evened out for me and flowed rather nicely. This was an interesting book and I would love to see what Waldherr writes next!


 

Wednesday, March 11, 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!
 
February went a little bit better!
 
I read books from this many countries in February:
7
You can check out my progress on my map or see a list of where and what I'm reading here.

I have read 144 books for this challenge so far.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Review: And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Title: And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis
Author: Stephanie Marie Thornton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: March 10, 2020






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.

But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend.
"


My Two Cents:

"And They Called It Camelot" is a fictionalized account of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and covers about 25 years in her life: from the early 1950s until the late 1970s. In that time, she goes from being a young woman courting one of the most eligible bachelors in the world to a twice-widowed woman who is carving out a life for herself in the best way she knows how. This is a woman that the world's spotlight always seemed to find, whether she wanted it to or not. Where many would have withered, she grew and stood tall and became a role model for so many, myself included.

When I heard that Thornton's latest book would take on Jackie O., I was terribly excited. I am so fascinated by Jackie and knew that she would be in really good hands with Thornton, who has created such wonderful stories about some truly phenomenal women. Turns out my excitement was very much warranted! I loved this fictionalized account of Jackie, a woman who had to reinvent herself so many times throughout the tumultuous period that this book covered and always came out looking like the very epitome of grace and strength!

The book opens with Jackie meeting Jack for the first time. It seems like they have an instant connection. Where other men seem intimidated by Jackie's sophistication and education, Jack seems intrigued. I love how Thornton was able to capture the sparks that flew between them from the very beginning. We also get to see just how complicated things were between them. Although it was clear that they loved each other, we see that Jack had a roving eye and always seems to have his eyes on another woman. I loved seeing how they were pulled apart and put back together again over and over again throughout the book.

The book covers all of the highlights of the Kennedy presidency, which seemed to breathe new life into the entire United States. I loved reading about the renovation and massive redecorating of the White House. Jackie definitely made it America's house and gave it a sense of grandeur deserving of its history. We see her triumph in France and charming De Gaulle. We get to see her in India receiving a veritable menagerie of animals and being awed by the Taj Mahal. The book flashes back several times to that fateful day in November that marred the entire country.

I feel like I knew less about her life after the death of Jack. We see her eventually marry Aristotle Onassis, Greek shipping magnate, just four years after the death of her first husband. This really seems to be the first time that Jackie finds herself on the wrong side of the press and it was so interesting to see how she grappled with that after being their darling for so long.

I really thought that Thornton did such an amazing job of giving Jackie a truly authentic voice. I felt as if I were talking to a friend who is ready to spill all of her secrets. This was a great book and a wonderful way to get a better understanding of a truly fascinating woman!



Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Giveaway Winner!

The "Fighting for Space" giveaway is over so...



Congratulations to the winner:
Cassandra D.

Monday, March 2, 2020

TLC Book Tours: Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job by Bruce Daisley

Title: Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job
Author: Bruce Daisley 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: HarperOne
Publish Date: February 25, 2020
Source: TLC Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "How does a lunch break spark a burst of productivity? Can a team’s performance be improved simply by moving the location of the coffee maker? Why are meetings so often a waste of time, and how can a walking meeting actually get decisions made?

As an executive with decades of management experience at top Silicon Valley companies including YouTube, Google, and Twitter, Bruce Daisley has given a lot of thought to what makes a workforce productive and what factors can improve the workplace to benefit a company’s employees, customers, and bottom line. In his debut book, he shares what he’s discovered, offering practical, often counterintuitive, insights and solutions for reinvigorating work to give us more meaning, productivity, and joy at the office.

A Gallup survey of global workers revealed shocking news: only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs. This means that burn out and unhappiness at work are a reality for the vast majority of workers. Managers—and employees themselves—can make work better. Eat Sleep Work Repeat shows them how, offering more than two dozen research-backed, user-friendly strategies, including:

Go to Lunch (it makes you less tired over the weekend)
Suggest a Tea Break (it increases team cohesiveness and productivity)
Conduct a Pre-Mortem (foreseeing possible issues can prevent problems and creates a spirit of curiosity and inquisitiveness)"

My Two Cents:

Bruce Daisley is the author of "Eat Sleep Work Repeat" and he is also the European Vice President of Twitter as well as the host of the podcast of the same title. He recognizes that many of us spend a lot of time at work and since we spend so much time at work, it's not worth being miserable. There are a few things that you can do, even if you are not a manager, to make the experience better for yourself and those around you. 

This book is broken down into great bite size pieces that give you suggestions of things to consider in order to improve your work environment as well as to help ensure that your team has what they need in order to achieve great things. In addition to suggesting what you can do, each section has concrete actions that you can take that would be easy enough to implement quickly. There are, of course, some things that are not necessarily in the everyone's span of control. For instance, for me and in my work environment, it would be very difficult to change anything having to do with space. We have the space we have and it really can't be changed. That being said, there are plenty of things that I can act on that will have the ability to make a big impact and they are pretty easy.

This is the kind of book that I want to get into everyone's hands that needs a little motivation. It seems like sometimes making changes at work may be super difficult, particularly when you're not the one in charge but this book has plenty of suggestions that you can use in order to make your own experience at work better and if you're having a better time of it, that can have a ripple effect throughout your entire unit. 

I love the tone that Daisley uses throughout the books. He's positive and motivational. He uses a broad range of examples and research that show the impact that some of the things that he suggests can have if implemented. I found the book to be a breath of fresh air and a great way to reframe some of the things going on in my own mind. This would be a great pick for anyone who finds themselves working in an office environment that needs a bit of a boost! I know this is a book that I am going to keep going back to for when I need a bit of a push!



Tour Schedule:

Monday, February 24th: Living My Best Book Life
Tuesday, February 25th: Man of La Book
Wednesday, February 26th: Tabi Thoughts
Thursday, February 27th: Instagram: @books_with_bethany
Friday, February 28th: Write – Read – Life
Monday, March 2nd: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, March 3rd: Run Wright
Wednesday, March 4th: bookchickdi
Monday, March 9th: PhDiva
Tuesday, March 10th: Wellreadtraveler
Wednesday, March 11th: Orange County Readers
Thursday, March 12th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Friday, March 13th: Amy’s Book-et List

Friday, February 28, 2020

Review: White Elephant by V.E. Ulett

Title: White Elephant
Author: V.E. Ulett
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: November 30, 2019
Source: Author



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "To keep her place aboard the airship Nonesuch, Miriam must complete another mission for Lord Q — persuade the first white rajah of Sarawak back to loyalty to the British Crown. When Nonesuch crash lands on the coast of Borneo, the mission changes to one of survival. In order to rescue her beloved Captain Maximus Thorpe and the crew of Nonesuch, Miriam must trek through the jungle guided by a team of traveling elephants to the would-be empire-builder's capital. But the jungle has its own laws, wisdom, and lessons, and Miriam may not emerge with her mission and loyalties unchanged."

My Two Cents:

"White Elephant" is the second book in V.E. Ulett's Code Black series. This book picks back up the story of fearless adventuress Miriam and the crew of the airship Nonesuch. They are on another adventure, this time to the jungles of Borneo. Lord Q has issued a new mission and the stakes are even higher as Miriam and the rag tag crew face new challenges and new dangers. February is the time when I begin to yearn for warmer days and far off adventures and since my feet have to stay where I'm at, living vicariously through Miriam was a great substitute!

As I mentioned, this book is the second book in the Code Black series. I suggest going back and reading the first book: "Golden Dragon." "White Elephant" starts with a bang and gets right into the action so reading "Golden Dragon" will give you a little more insight into the characters and a bit more of their origin story. Besides, it's an enjoyable read so go enjoy that adventure and then come right back to this one!

As with the first book, the descriptions and world-building are great. I loved being able to feel the hot, sticky air of the jungle in Borneo and to hear the waves crashing on the beaches. I loved getting more insight into how the crew of the Nonesuch keep getting themselves tied up in so many difficult situations and I loved all of the detail of the characters, both old and new!

The tagline for this book is "romance, intrigue, and elephants" and you definitely get all of that in this book! I particularly loved the elephants in this book. The descriptions of them were super vivid and you could almost feel them pushing through the dense forests. No wonder I as a reader was as taken with them as Miriam was in the book!

Steampunk isn't my usual genre but I loved this book and it provided just the very escape I was looking for!  



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