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Monday, June 24, 2019

On Vacation!

Hello, dear readers! I am on vacation and will return with more book reviews in July. I hope that all of your summers are starting out wonderfully!


Monday, June 17, 2019

Release Date Blog Tour: Love in the Afternoon by Karen Hawkins

Title: Love in the Afternoon
Author: Karen Hawkins
Publish Date: June 17, 2019 (Today!)

I am so excited to be a part of the "Love in the Afternoon" release date tour!



Book details
LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON
A Dove Pond eNovella
By Karen Hawkins
On sale June 17, 2019
eBook - Price: $1.99 - ISBN: 9781982105587


Book description
Young widow Sofia Rodriquez has just accepted the position of greenhouse manager for Ava Dove’s booming herbal tea business. Sofia is delighted to have found a job that will make use of her gardening skills and allow her to spend time with her son, Noah, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Adding to her joy is the charming farmhouse she’s renting on the edge of Dove Pond.

The only cloud on Sofia’s horizon is her next door neighbor, Jake, whose yard is a thorny jungle worthy of Sleeping Beauty. Soon enough, Sofia discovers that Jake himself is just as thorny and unpleasant as his yard.

After his fiancé left him, work-from-home IT whiz and game developer Jake Klaine has gone from Prince Charming to complete hermit. But Jake isn’t really alone; he’s living with a ghost: a (formerly) hairy man named Doyle who’s a fan of bad puns and who refuses to leave Jake’s bathtub. This is nothing new for Jake, as he’s been talking to ghosts since he was a boy. He finds real people harder to deal with, like the kid next door who won’t stop bugging him about the new game he’s developing.

Sofia and Jake know all too well that life isn’t a game. They’ve both lost the person they loved most. But under the watchful eye of the ghostly Doyle and Sofia’s new friend Ava, who has abilities of her own, Jake and Sofia decide to take a chance and let in an outsider. Soon they discover that, with a little magic, even the thorniest walls are no match for the innocent trust of a lonely child and the fierce determination of a woman wielding a razor-sharp pruner and a heart big enough to make even the most stubborn flower bloom.


About the author


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Karen Hawkins writes novels that have been praised as touching, witty, charming, and heartwarming. A native Southerner who grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee where storytelling is a way of life, Karen recently moved to frosty New England with her beloved husband and multiple foster dogs. The Dove Pond series is a nod to the thousands of books that opened doors for her to more adventures, places, and discoveries than she ever imagined possible. To find out more about Karen, check in with her at Facebook.com/KarenHawkinsWriter, @KarenHawkinsAuthor on Instagram, and at her website, KarenHawkins.com.

Excerpt

Sofia had never met anyone like her new boss, Ava Dove. Ava’s herbal tea business might be growing at an astounding rate but it was Ava’s knowledge of plants that intrigued Sofia. Ava spoke of the plants as if they were people, saying things like “Mint loves sunshine and Bach.” And “Rosemary may seem like a stiff, unyielding sort of plant, but she has a big heart.” If someone had heard Sofia saying anything like that, they would have called her crazy, but for some reason, when Ava said it, it made perfect sense.
And no one could say Ava didn’t know her plants. The greenhouses were filled with fat, happy, leafy plants. And when she walked down the aisles, it seemed as if the plants reached for her, wanting her attention.
It was weird, and yet so satisfyingly wonderful that Sofia found herself just accepting the fact that Ava loved her plants and they loved her back. If only all facets of life were that perfect and simple. In the meantime, Sofia was happy to learn what she could from her new boss and her wonderful greenhouses. The fresh scents made Sofia want to fill her lungs over and over, and the calmness of the space gave her the peace she’d been searching for since The Very Bad Day, while the flexible hours let her spend time with her son, Noah, whenever she wanted. This really is the perfect job.
When her cousin Juana had first suggested Sofia and Noah move from hot and crowded Orlando to quiet and peaceful Dove Pond, Sofia had been hesitant. At the time, she’d been in the middle of a messy, unresolved, painful divorce, and moving would have only complicated things. But Juana had persisted, which wasn’t surprising. Juana’s husband, Tony, said she didn’t know the word no, didn’t want to, and refused to hear it. So when Juana had repeatedly explained why Dove Pond was so perfect for Sofia, how the special education program at the elementary school Noah would be attending was amazing, the community welcoming and friendly, and the town itself “magical,” Sofia had found herself listening. And when the time had come, Sofia hadn’t thought twice—she’d packed up her and Noah’s things and moved here.
Of course she didn’t believe in magic, but she had to admit that so far, despite its slightly worn-out air, Dove Pond was casting a spell over her. She’d desperately needed peace and a place to get away, where she and Noah could heal and start fresh, and Dove Pond had delivered that and more. In fact, the second she’d put her foot outside her car and onto the pavement of Dove Pond’s historic downtown area, she’d felt as if she’d come home.

At first glance, the little town had seemed like every other small town in North Carolina, with two-story redbrick buildings lining an awning-festooned main street, charming tree-lined avenues with an impressive collection of large Queen Anne–style houses, and people more interested in the corn crop than in the sorry state of affairs in DC. But Dove Pond held surprises around every corner—treasures, really—each one a blessing for Sofia and Noah. And the first treasure had been Ava.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Review: The Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI by Lauren Johnson

Title: The Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI
Author: Lauren Johnson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publish Date: May 7, 2019
Source: PR



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Firstborn son of a warrior father who defeated the French at Agin- court, Henry VI of the House of Lancaster inherited the crown not only of England but also of France, at a time when Plantagenet dominance over the Valois dynasty was at its glorious height.

And yet, by the time he died in the Tower of London in 1471, France was lost, his throne had been seized by his rival, Edward IV of the House of York, and his kingdom had descended into the violent chaos of the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VI is perhaps the most troubled of English monarchs, a pious, gentle, well-intentioned man who was plagued by bouts of mental illness. In The Shadow King, Lauren Johnson tells his remark- able and sometimes shocking story in a fast-paced and colorful narrative that captures both the poignancy of Henry’s life and the tumultuous and bloody nature of the times in which he lived."

My Two Cents:

"The Shadow King" is an extensive look at the life of Henry VI, a monarch who came to power at a critical time in history. In his early life, he inherited both the crown of England and France. By the end of his life, England had fallen into chaos as warring factions fought over the throne in the War of the Roses. Between these two time periods lived a man who is sometimes characterized as a pacifist and sometimes mad. This book seeks to shed light on the in between with great success. This is a very thorough and well-written account of Henry VI's life and his death.

I think this is the first time that I've read a biography of Henry VI. What a complicated man! Depending on who was writing his story, you get a lot of different opinions. Because of his involvement with the War of the Roses, you get a lot of looks through a biased lens depending on who is writing about him. Was he well-intentioned? Why did he fail so badly? What led to such mismanagement and squandering of his power? Did he cause his own dark circumstances at the end of his life or was he more of a victim? I appreciated that Johnson shows so many sides of this man and the people that surrounded him. 

This book would be a great pick for those that know a lot about Henry VI and those, like me, who know very little. The writing style is very accessible for such a heady topic. I liked how Johnson was able to weave so much detail into something that felt almost story like. She describes Henry's circumstances in such a way that you can imagine what he and some of the secondary characters are going through as England descends into chaos. 

This book was absolutely fascinating! Johnson's portrait of Henry VI is well-researched and well-rounded. I am looking forward to seeing what else she writes!


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Review: Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

Title: Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune
Author: Roselle Lim 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: June 11, 2019 (Today!)
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "At the news of her mother's death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn't spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco's Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She's even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother's restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant's fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother's cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around--she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along."


My Two Cents:

Sometimes you're just looking for a cute read that feels like a warm hug and that is exactly what you get with "Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune." Natalie returns to her San Francisco Chinatown neighborhood after her mother dies. Stubbornness and friction kept them apart in life and now Natalie is looking for some sort of redemption and to feel closer to both her mother and grandmother's memory. This was a good, cozy read!

I loved Natalie! When Natalie inherits her grandmother's restaurant, she's stunned. She cut all ties with her mother when she wouldn't support Natalie becoming a chef. Natalie hasn't been back to San Francisco for years! We see how she struggles with seeing how her neighborhood has fallen: businesses are closing, people are moving out. She is incredibly driven and knows she wants to make things better for those she still loves in the neighborhood.

There is something special about foodie fiction and this book is most definitely foodie fiction! Natalie's recipes and love for food shines through in this book. I did wish that the book included actual recipes (all of the recipes have ingredients but no amounts). It would be a lot of fun to try to cook her recipes, even without the magical results!

And that brings me to another thing - I love magical realism and this book definitely has a dose of that! Natalie starts trying to make her grandmother's recipes in order to help her friends and neighbors. Things backfire at first until Natalie figures out what she's missing!

Overall, this was a good read with a lot of tasty treats!


 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

TLC Book Tours Review and Giveaway: The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

Title: The Woman in the White Kimono
Author: Ana Johns
Format: ARC
Publisher: Park Row
Publish Date: May 28, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Japan, 1957. Seventeen-year-old Naoko Nakamura’s prearranged marriage to the son of her father’s business associate would secure her family’s status in their traditional Japanese community, but Naoko has fallen for another man—an American sailor, a gaijin—and to marry him would bring great shame upon her entire family. When it’s learned Naoko carries the sailor’s child, she’s cast out in disgrace and forced to make unimaginable choices with consequences that will ripple across generations.

America, present day. Tori Kovac, caring for her dying father, finds a letter containing a shocking revelation—one that calls into question everything she understood about him, her family and herself. Setting out to learn the truth behind the letter, Tori’s journey leads her halfway around the world to a remote seaside village in Japan, where she must confront the demons of the past to pave a way for redemption."


My Two Cents:

"The Woman in the White Kimono" is a great historical fiction told in two different times. The first story line takes place in 1957 where Naoko is promised to the son of her father's business partner but instead she falls in love with an American sailor. Her family deems her relationship inappropriate and is anything but supportive. In the present-day United States, Tori is taking care of her ill father, who is still hiding secrets in the twilight of his life. These secrets will bring Naoko's and Tori's lives together with surprising results!

In historical fictions with a historical and a present-day narrative, I have a tendency to like the historical narrative better. While I was initially more drawn to what Naoko was facing in the late-1950s, I really liked reading about Tori and how she uncovered her father's past. The author gives you just enough detail in a really beautiful way to keep you reading. Both Naoko and Tori were such great characters. They are both very different but also very strong and you all already know I love a book filled with family secrets!

I loved the historical detail of Naoko's story. I haven't read a lot set in Japan in the post-World War II era. The ill feelings between the Japanese and Americans like Naoko's American lover are still very raw and definitely fraught. I loved watching the characters work through all of this throughout the book. I loved being introduced to this time period through these characters.

Overall, this was a great read!





Review:

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Friday, May 31, 2019

Review: Murder Knocks Twice by Susanna Calkins

Title: Murder Knocks Twice
Author: Susanna Calkins 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publish Date: April 30, 2019
Source: PR



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Gina Ricci takes on a job as a cigarette girl to earn money for her ailing father--and to prove to herself that she can hold her own at Chicago's most notorious speakeasy, the Third Door. She's enchanted by the harsh, glamorous world she discovers: the sleek socialites sipping bootlegged cocktails, the rowdy ex-servicemen playing poker in a curtained back room, the flirtatious jazz pianist and the brooding photographer--all overseen by the club's imposing owner, Signora Castallazzo. But the staff buzzes with whispers about Gina's predecessor, who died under mysterious circumstances, and the photographer, Marty, warns her to be careful.

When Marty is brutally murdered, with Gina as the only witness, she's determined to track down his killer. What secrets did Marty capture on his camera--and who would do anything to destroy it? As Gina searches for answers, she's pulled deeper into the shadowy truths hiding behind the Third Door."

My Two Cents:

"Murder Knocks Twice" is a story that takes place in Prohibition Era Chicago. Our heroine Gina gets a job at a speakeasy in order to bring a little money in for her and her father. Her employers Big Mike and Signora happen to be friends of her father and they begin to shed light on the many things that Gina never knew about her father. She also discovers that Marty, the photographer at the club, is a cousin of her mother's, who Gina never really knew. This is a solid kickoff to a new mystery series by Susanna Calkins. 

The characters in the book are great. We have a great heroine in Gina, who doesn't realize how dark things will get. Gina just wants to make some money but she didn't realize just how working in a speakeasy will upend her life. She is a little naive at first but as she starts uncovering what is really going on, her independent streak begins to shine through.

Mafia, speakeasies, flappers - there are few settings that have the sort of ambiance and excitement than the Prohibition Era. Having the book set in Chicago added a bit more excitement. I loved the detail that the author infused to really give the book a sense of place. I loved the cameos by the likes of Jane Addams and Amelia Earhart (one of my personal favorites). The setting definitely added to the book!

I liked the writing! It did take a bit to see where the story was going as there was a lot of explanation of Gina's employment and the murder mystery really doesn't hit for awhile. The book eventually hits a very nice pace and I was excited to see that Goodreads hints at this being the beginning of a new series - count me excited!


Thursday, May 30, 2019

HFVBT Tours Review: Gold Digger, The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor by Rebecca Rosenberg

Title: Gold Digger, The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor
Author: Rebecca Rosenberg
Format: ARC
Publisher: Lionheart Publishing
Publish Date: May 28, 2019
Source: HFVBT



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "One look at Baby Doe and you know she was meant to be a legend! She was just twenty years old when she came to Colorado to work a gold mine with her new husband. Little did she expect that she’d be abandoned and pregnant and left to manage the gold mine alone. But that didn’t stop her!

She moved to Leadville and fell in love with a married prospector, twice her age. Horace Tabor struck the biggest silver vein in history, divorced his wife and married Baby Doe. Though his new wife was known for her beauty, her fashion, and even her philanthropy, she was never welcomed in polite society.

Discover how the Tabors navigated the worlds of wealth, power, politics, and scandal in the wild days of western mining."

My Two Cents:

"Gold Digger" is the story of Baby Doe Tabor. She makes her way to the wilds of the Colorado mountains with her new husband trying to escape from a difficult family situation. She's abandoned and then falls for Horace Tabor, a prospector who is much older than her. Through gumption and resilience, Baby Doe keeps going to try to find happiness. This is a fascinating story about a strong woman and I enjoyed it.

I love reading stories about strong women and you definitely get one in Baby Doe. This woman is tough as nails and when she gets knocked down (and that happens a lot in this book), she gets back up stronger than before. She is truly a survivor! She goes through a failed marriage and then a lot of societal upset when she remarries. She is never afraid of going against societal norms if it means she can survive. 

I was actually born in Colorado and much of my family still lives there although I've been an East Coaster since I was four. Colorado is such a great setting and I love how it is shown in this book. The gold rush in Colorado really made it live up to the nickname of the "wild west." So many made their own rules in seeking fortune and fame. I loved reading about all of these towns that I've visited with my grandparents. The author does a great job of creating a sense of place throughout the book.

The writing of the book was good! I really enjoyed the author's book "The Secret Life of Mrs. London" and was happy to see the strong writing here. I did wish that the book explained a little more about some of the motivations of the secondary characters but overall, they were written pretty solidly. Overall, this was a good read about a fascinating lady who has largely been lost to history.


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