Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Coming Up for Air
Author: Miranda Kenneally 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publish Date: July 4, 2017
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love?"

My Two Cents:

Maggie eat, breathes, and dreams of swimming. She doesn't do much else because she doesn't have time. Her friends are mostly other swimmers, including her very best friend, Levi. Maggie suddenly finds herself attracted to Levi but isn't sure that she wants to mess up their relationship or take away from practicing for a spot on the Olympic team. 

It took me awhile to warm up to Maggie. She is obsessed with learning to "hook-up" and it felt a little bit forced. She at first seems to choose Levi just because he is the closest person around but eventually they seem to get a little closer and their relationship begins to fill a little more filled out, if you will. Their relationship becomes something that felt a little more real and caring, it just takes a bit to get there.

I loved the swimming aspect of the book. Although I was never gunning for the Olympics, I did swim in high school and I thought that the book captured the camaraderie and almost family-like atmosphere of swim teams. During swim season, you are with your team all the time. My school didn't actually have a pool so we'd drive to practice together. You hang out with each other before, during, and after practice and then there is the whole idea of "swimcest," which is a real phenomenon! Maggie is torn between trying to forge ahead with things outside of swimming while always being pulled back to her passion.  

Overall, this was a good first experience with the Hundred Oaks series.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

Title: What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism
Authors: Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publish Date: November 7, 2017
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

"At a moment of crisis over our national identity, venerated journalist Dan Rather has emerged as a voice of reason and integrity, reflecting on—and writing passionately about—what it means to be an American. Now, with this collection of original essays, he reminds us of the principles upon which the United States was founded. Looking at the freedoms that define us, from the vote to the press; the values that have transformed us, from empathy to inclusion to service; the institutions that sustain us, such as public education; and the traits that helped form our young country, such as the audacity to take on daunting challenges in science and medicine, Rather brings to bear his decades of experience on the frontlines of the world’s biggest stories. As a living witness to historical change, he offers up an intimate view of history, tracing where we have been in order to help us chart a way forward and heal our bitter divisions."

My Two Cents:

If you're feeling a little down and out by everything that is going on in our world right now, particularly in the United States, and you want a little inspiration, this is a great book for you. I have always liked Dan Rather. He seems like very much an old-school newsman who deals in facts and analysis while providing comfort in difficult times. I have loved following his News and Guts page on Facebook so I was excited to read this book and I was not disappointed!

Dan Rather looks at our American patriotism from many different angles. Where did we come from? What is important to us? What do we take pride in? Where are we striving for more? His mini-essays in this book are incredibly thought-provoking and are meant to be meditated on. This is definitely not a book that you should rush through - there is so much to think about here! I love books that bring up strong emotions for me and this book definitely did that!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Title: My Not So Perfect Life
Author: Sophie Kinsella 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publish Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie's life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle--from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she's trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud.

Then, just as she's finding her feet--not to mention a possible new romance--the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family's farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away--until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie's future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life."

My Two Cents:

"My Not So Perfect Life" is the story of Katie, whose life is falling apart even if she keeps making things look really, really good on her Instagram account. When she gets let go from her job in London, she ends up back at home in the countryside where she helps her parents set up a place for city folks to go glamping. When her old boss shows up and has no idea who she is, Katie decides to have a little fun and get some revenge. 

We all know that social media can be deceptive. Katie sees all of her friends' feeds and is incredibly jealous of what they have. She is incredibly jealous of her ex-boss who seems to have the perfect life and little regard for Katie's talent and ideas even when they are really good. This is a book about how looks can be deceiving! I really liked this story. Sophie Kinsella is always one of my go-to writers when I want something fun, light, with a lot of heart. This book definitely fit the bill.

I loved the journey of self-discovery that Katie goes through in the book. I know that social media can be deceiving but it can be so hard not to get sucked into endless comparisons with what other people are doing. Katie realizes eventually that sometimes showing a little more reality is more endearing and helpful than showing the picture perfect all the time. This is a good lesson for us all!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Review: Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood

Title: Mrs. Hemingway
Author: Naomi Wood
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: May 2014
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Paula McLain's New York Times bestselling novel piqued readers' interest about Ernest Hemingway's romantic life. But Hadley was only one of four women married, in turn, to the legendary writer. Just as T.C. Boyle's bestseller The Women completed the picture begun by Nancy Horan's Loving Frank, Naomi Wood's Mrs. Hemingway tells the story of how it was to love, and be loved by, the most famous and dashing writer of his generation. Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary: each Mrs. Hemingway thought their love would last forever; each one was wrong.

Told in four parts and based on real love letters and telegrams, Mrs. Hemingway reveals the explosive love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway's marriages. Spanning 1920s bohemian Paris through 1960s Cold War America, populated with members of the fabled "Lost Generation," Mrs. Heminway is a riveting tale of passion, love, and heartbreak."

My Two Cents:

"Mrs. Hemingway" is the story of the four wives of Ernest Hemingway: Hadley, Fife, Martha, and Mary. All four of these women were very different but inextricably linked because of their husband. This story focuses on the beginning and the end (mostly the end) of each of their relationships with Ernest. I am fascinated by Hemingway and his life so this was the initial draw for me.

It is so interesting that the author chooses to focus mostly on the ends of the relationships but it works really well. Ernest Hemingway is a man who loved passionately and seemed to be drawn to the flame of the butterflies you feel when you first fall in love. He loved each of these women for different reasons but his relationship chasing always seemed to come down to him not being able to be by himself, quite the juxtaposition from the tough guy persona that he seemed to like to show off in all other aspects of his life as a novelist, journalist, and soldier and all of the other roles that he played throughout his life.

Like I said, I am fascinated by Hemingway so I have read a lot about him and his family. Those that don't know about him may have a little trouble getting into this book because of how it jumps in to the middle of his relationships before going very quickly to the end. '

The writing was good. I liked the detail that the author put in the book. I also really liked the experimental take on talking about Hemingway from the women's points of views at the end of each tumultuous relationship. This really made for an interesting read!


Monday, November 26, 2018

Review: How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don't by Lane Moore

Title: How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don't
Author: Lane Moore
Format: ARC
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Lane Moore is a rare performer who is as impressive onstage—whether hosting her iconic show Tinder Live or being the enigmatic front woman of It Was Romance—as she is on the page, as both a former writer for The Onion and an award-winning sex and relationships editor for Cosmopolitan. But her story has had its obstacles, including being her own parent, living in her car as a teenager, and moving to New York City to pursue her dreams. Through it all, she looked to movies, TV, and music as the family and support systems she never had.

From spending the holidays alone to having better “stranger luck” than with those closest to her to feeling like the last hopeless romantic on earth, Lane reveals her powerful and entertaining journey in all its candor, anxiety, and ultimate acceptance—with humor always her bolstering force and greatest gift."

My Two Cents:

"How to be Alone" is a memoir by Lane Moore, most well known as an advice columnist or as the host of "Tinder Live." This memoir is filled with different stories from Moore's life that run the gamut of emotions, from heart-wrenching to hilarious. I didn't know what to expect from this book but was happy that I picked it up!

The book opens with a particularly sad story about how Lane Moore feels terribly alone to the point where she has no idea who to put down for an emergency contact. She feels like she is still trying to recover from her childhood as an adult, which broke my heart. It was interesting to me that she led off with this story. It was effective in getting me to read on but I did have to wonder how dark the book was going to be because of the story. It could be a pretty difficult read for some.

Moore also tells some pretty funny stories that had me laughing out loud and cheering her on. I do have to admit that the cover makes this book look very different than what it is, which was a little interesting to me. Overall, this book had a great way of leading me through all sorts of emotions!


Thursday, November 22, 2018


Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May your day be filled with loved ones, warm thoughts, yummy food, and of course, books!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

HFVBT Review: Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea by Eileen Stephenson

Title: Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea
Author: Eileen Stephenson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Eileen Iciek
Publish Date: April 24, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "At the center of Byzantine society, fifteen-year old orphaned Anna Dalassena lives with her grandparents among the most powerful men and women in Constantinople. But the cutthroat politics of the Great Palace sends the family into exile in a distant corner of the empire. Her bleak situation finally turns promising after meeting a handsome young soldier, John Comnenus, and his brother Isaac, before they are finally permitted to return home.

The vicious power struggles, uprisings, and betrayals at the highest levels of the empire push Anna and John unwillingly into its center as they struggle to deal with their own tragedies. When rebellion puts her life and those of everyone she loves at risk, is the reward-- a throne for her family--too big a gamble?"

My Two Cents:

"Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea" is the story of Anna. Although when the book opens, Anna is an orphan, her star rises throughout the book. Taking place in the 11th century Byzantine Empire, this book is full of palace intrigue and interesting characters. Anna is a great character to follow through all of the difficulties that her family faces. I really enjoyed this book!

Anna and the other secondary characters were great. I loved seeing how things shifted for Anna and her family throughout the book. We get to see the triumphs and the tragedies. I loved following Anna. Although on the surface, particularly in the beginning of the book, it doesn't seem like Anna has much of a choice rather than following wherever the wind might take her but we soon see that she understands her power well and is able to use it in such a way to move through the world successfully. 

I loved all of the drama of the book. Anna and her family are intrinsically connected to the leaders and politics of the day and this really drives the story line throughout the book. Although this is quite a large book, reading about the intricate power struggles of the Byzantine Empire kept me interested and wanting to see how things turned out for some key characters.

This was a fascinating book! I don't know much about the Byzantine Empire during this time period and I loved the way that Stephenson used historical detail to create a very vivid setting, which I loved. I was impressed with how much historical detail the author was able to pack in without the book feeling like a laundry list of what Anna's world was like. This is a great book with fantastic detail! What a treat for historical fiction lovers!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Review: New Erotica for Feminists by Caitlin Kunkel, Brooke Preston, Fiona Taylor, and Carrie Wittmer

Title: New Erotica for Feminists
Authors: Caitlin Kunkel, Brooke Preston, Fiona Taylor, and Carrie Wittmer
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Plume
Publish Date: November 13, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Imagine a world where erotica was written by feminists: Their daydreams include equal pay, a gender-balanced Congress, and Tom Hardy arriving at their doorstep to deliver a fresh case of LaCroix every week.

Both light-hearted and empowering, New Erotica for Feminists is a sly, satirical take on all the things that turn feminists on. From a retelling of Adam and Eve to tales of respectful Tinder dates, New Erotica for Feminists answers the question of “What do women really want?” with stories of power, equality, and an immortal Ruth Bader Ginsburg."

My Two Cents:

"New Erotica for Feminists" is a hilarious collection of stories and vignettes. It's a really quick read but it's very funny. It's broken into several different topical sections. My favorites were the literary and parenting sections. I know this is a book that I will go back to and plan on getting for a few of my friends as a stocking stuffer this year. It's a lot of fun!


Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: Raven Dock by Sara Caldwell

Title: Raven Dock
Author: Sara Caldwell
Format: Paperback
Publisher: White Bird Publications
Publish Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Seventeen-year-old Harper Duncan never fit in anywhere her family moved…and they moved a lot. But after her parents and brother die in a tragic accident, she finds out she’s adopted, and her birth mother lives in a remote retreat called Raven Dock. Harper ventures north and discovers a dark family secret: her birth mother is a witch. And she’s one too. As Harper Learns about her own hidden powers, will she choose to embrace her chilling heritage, or return to the safety of the ordinary world?"

My Two Cents:

"Raven Dock" is the story of Harper, a teenager who loses her family in a tragic accident. Harper thinks that she is all alone until her mysterious aunt reenters her life. Harper goes to live at remote Raven Dock where things are not always what they seem. Harper will uncover a lot of secrets of her own origins! This book is a promising start to a planned series but I wanted a little more detail.

The story line of this book is intriguing. I always like a good fish-out-of-water story and you definitely get that with Harper. She has absolutely no idea that her birth mother was a witch and that she may have powers herself. She didn't know about her aunt and had always thought that it was her immediate family that she had in the world. I also liked Raven Dock itself, a super mysterious place that added a good dose of atmosphere to the book.

In many ways, this book felt like an introduction and sort of an appetizer to a much larger story. It is a very short book and so I felt like there could have been room for more detail and more exploration of Harper's background and origin. I wanted a little more detail to go on. There are a lot of set ups for really interesting backstories into the witches and what it means for Harper that she is a descendant of witches. I wanted to know more about the legends behind it. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from here!


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review: Wherever You Are: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, and Brain Injury by Cynthia Lim

Title: Wherever You Are: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, and Brain Injury
Author: Cynthia Lim
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Camel Press
Publish Date: September 1, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Cynthia Lim thought she had the perfect life: a husband who was a successful attorney, a fulfilling career in education, two teenage sons in private school, and a home in Los Angeles rich in books, music, and art. Then in 2003, her husband Perry suffers a cardiac arrest and brain injury, lingering in a coma for ten days before slowly awakening. A different person emerges, one who has lost his short-term memory and is fully dependent on others. Married for twenty years, she doesn't know how much of his former self will return as she fights for the treatment and care he needs.

She struggles with caregiving and working full-time while finding connection with the man she once knew and loved, whose brain will never again function as it did before. While wrestling with the urge to leave him in an institution and walk away, she discovers the strength and resolve that will allow her to build a new life. Wherever You Are is the story of a marriage after a spouse is forever changed by a catastrophic event. It is a story of redefining life with disability and discovering the real truth of love and marriage."

My Two Cents:

In "Wherever You Are," Cynthia Lim and her husband seem to lead a pretty good life. When a sudden health situation leaves her husband with a brain injury where one of the major symptoms severe short term memory loss, Lim discovers her own resilience and strength to come to terms with her and her husband's "new normal." This is a powerful memoir!

This memoir goes through everything that Cynthia and Perry, her husband, go through. Everything is covered from what happened to Perry to Cynthia having to navigate a new life and figure out how best she can care for her beloved husband. Caretaking is a very difficult job under any circumstances but Lim captures how difficult it is to be a caretaker for someone who once was self-sufficient. Lim also has to learn to be a partner to someone with whom she once had a very equal partnership with but that is no longer possible.

The writing is good. This is a hard subject and I did find myself wanting more detail on thoughts and feelings happening throughout the events in the book rather than just what was happening. This is a heart-wrenching story and I think it will be helpful to so many to have such a great example of strength!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

HFVBT Interview: Carrie Callaghan, Author of "A Light of Her Own"

I am thrilled to welcome Carrie Callaghan, author of "A Light of Her Own" here to A Bookish Affair!

What inspired you to write "A Light of Her Own?"

Judith’s self-portrait. My writing is just an excuse for me to research the heck out of something, and when I first saw her paintings in 2009, on the occasion of her 400th birthday, I was smitten. I needed to learn about this woman who painted with such passion, and how she succeeded at a time I thought of as being hostile to women. I learned, in the course of my research, that gender roles were a lot more complicated than I had assumed.

What was your favorite scene in the book to write?

I love the moment when Judith applies for membership in the Guild. Crowd scenes are a major challenge – figuring out how to help the reader keep track of a bunch of new faces is hard. But I also love the swirl of political ambition, hostility, and support that surrounds Judith as she’s putting herself out there for this most terrifying moment. And of course, I love the painting that she selects as her application piece. (When I wrote that scene, I had to guess which painting she used. Later, I spoke to a leading scholar who told me that recent scholarship indicated that she had indeed used the painting I had guessed!)

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

I love Judith for her dedication and her spirit, but I am probably most like Maria, with her deep emotions and propensity toward self-doubt. I’m going to cheat a little here and say my favorite character is their friendship – the complicated love, anger, and support that arise between them.

What was the strangest/ most interesting thing you found in your research?

The small details of daily life four hundred years before our times are, of course, drastically different from our own electrified, internet-bound, modern lives. Even though I knew that their lives would have a different rhythm than ours, I was still surprised by some of the small things I learned in my research. How going out after dark was virtually impossible, and anyone out after a certain time was required to have a lantern. And that lantern didn’t have glass panes, like we might imagine, but tin walls with punctures to let the light shine through. Or how door decorations advertised both new births and stillbirths.

If you could bring three people, fictional or non-fictional, with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

If I were a braver person than I am, I’d swipe three modern-day villains away from their current
misdeeds and drop them onto my island, where their evil could be constrained. But more likely, in
the selfish hopes of some good conversation and an eventual rescue, I’d bring the poet Sappho
(assuming I can understand her ancient Greek) to tell me what life was life two thousand years ago,
Langston Hughes to compare poetry with Sappho, and Falkor (the dragon from The Neverending
Story) to fly us away. What do you mean Falkor’s not a person? Oh, fine. Svanhild from Linnea
Hartsuyker’s The Sea Queen, to help us build a ship, sail away, and fight any pirates who get in our

(Note from Meg: Falkor TOTALLY counts!!!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

HFVBT Review: A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan

Title: A Light of Her Own
Author: Carrie Callaghan 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Publish Date: November 13, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "In Holland 1633, a woman’s ambition has no place.

Judith is a painter, dodging the law and whispers of murder to become the first woman admitted to the prestigious Haarlem artist’s guild. Maria is a Catholic in a country where the faith is banned, hoping to absolve her sins by recovering a lost saint’s relic.

Both women’s destinies will be shaped by their ambitions, running counter to the city’s most powerful men, whose own plans spell disaster. A vivid portrait of a remarkable artist, A Light of Her Own is a richly-woven story of grit against the backdrop of Rembrandts and repressive religious rule."

My Two Cents:

In "A Light of Her Own," it's 1633 and Judith Leyster dreams of being admitted to the Haarlem artist's guild. Although this would be quite a feat for a woman, Judith isn't fazed. She is secure enough in her skill that she believes she is worthy of such an honor and will do what she must to realize this dream. Being able to get into the guild would have been an incredible boon for any artist, let alone a woman artist. I loved getting to know Judith on her journey through this book!

I have always liked Judith Leyster's self portrait, which hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Admittedly, the Dutch masters are not my favorite (I may struck with lightning with that disclosure, no?). So many of the portraits while realistic seem sort of dark and perhaps a bit drab to me. Leyster's self-portrait has a spark that makes the painting of her painting really interesting to me. She has a gleam in her eye and I thought that the author did a good job of capturing that light and that drive that shines through Leyster's paintings, particularly her self-portrait.

This book has so much going for it. You all know that I love historical fiction but I particularly love historical fiction when it includes art. I love the stories behind all of the paintings we know and love. I loved seeing Judith's story. She has to be very strategic throughout the book in order to follow her dreams in a time where women were supposed to be in the home. There is a great feminist theme present here, which is very much down my alley. I loved following her journey!

Another thing that I really liked in this book was the friendship between Judith and Maria. Both women are struggling with different problems but they are able to come together and support each other. This book had a very nice rumination on the importance of friendship. I thought the author did a good job of capturing the thoughts and feelings of both women.

Overall, this was a good book and a great debut! It will be such a treat for my fellow historical fiction lovers.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Spotlight and a #Deal: Literary Book Gifts

Everyone! As soon as Halloween hit, it struck me that the holiday season will soon be upon us. Add to that the fact that I have more travel coming up before Christmas gets here and I am very ready to dive into my shopping. Now I have to imagine if you are here visiting my blog, maybe you like books? Maybe you think books are the best kind of gifts? Maybe you think that book related gifts run a close second?

If so, enter Literary Book Gifts. The lovely proprietor has some gorgeous designs for shirts and tote bags.

Like look at this one. This one is a design built around one of Emily Dickinson's most famous poems:

What about this one? An homage to my beloved Jane Austen - oh, I love it!:

How about this homage to Ulysses?:

There are so many more designs and you can check them out here! Maybe you can find something for your favorite book blogger???

Also, I have a promo code for you all for the site. It's good for 20% off and it never expires:


Enjoy and let me know what you pick!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Review: The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Title: The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Author: Hiro Arikawa
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: October 23, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he's going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru's old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There's even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species. 

But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won't say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break..."

My Two Cents:

In "The Travelling Cat Chronicles," Nana was a stray cat once but now he is a beloved pet. He is traveling with his owner and Nana is enjoying the ride but he is confused as to where he is going. He doesn't understand why he and his owner are visiting so many of the owner's friends. The truth will break Nana's heart. This book made me cry (a tall order for any book) and is a great story that will appeal to my fellow animal lovers!

Told from the perspective of Nana himself, this book is for every person that realizes the power of the special relationship between pets and their owners. I loved seeing things through Nana's eyes. He is a very easy character to want to follow and very easy to love. I thought the author did a good job of writing about the things that Nana would and would not notice. 

This book broke my heart in the very best way. I am an animal lover! I have always had pets and think that they make my life so much better. They definitely become a part of the family. You feel for Satoru's plight (I really, really don't want to give anything away) when it comes to Nana. Satoru wants to do everything to make sure that Nana has what he needs. This story felt really close to home for me because of this. I would do anything for my animals! This was a great story!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Review: The Highlander Who Protected Me by Vanessa Kelly

Title: The Highlander Who Protected Me
Author: Vanessa Kelly 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Zebra
Publish Date: October 30, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Lady Ainsley Matthews, heiress and darling of the ton, was expected to make a magnificent match. Instead she’s hiding on a remote Scottish estate, terrified that her vicious former fiancĂ© will use her pregnancy to force her into marriage. One man can help her—Royal Kendrick, son of a distinguished Highland clan. Though a mistake drove them apart long ago, Royal is the only person Ainsley trusts to protect her baby—even if that means agreeing to never see either of them again . . .
Scarred in body and soul by war, Royal suddenly has a purpose—caring for an innocent babe and thereby helping the woman he can’t stop loving. But when Ainsley ultimately returns to Scotland, determined to be a real mother to her child in spite of the risk, there’s only one solution: marriage. And only one likely outcome: surrendering to the desire that’s simmered between them for so long, no matter how dangerous it may be . . ."

My Two Cents:

In "The Highlander Who Protected Me," Ainsley realizes that she needs to revisit her painful past in order to save her future. Ainsley and Royal have always had an interesting relationship but when Ainsley ends up pregnant, she quickly realizes that she needs to put the past behind her in order to save her baby.

This book is part of a new series by Vanessa Kelly and was a spinoff of "The Highlander's Princess Bride," which I have not read yet. I am wondering if I would have gotten into this book quicker if I had read the previous series. The chemistry between Ainsley and Royal starts quickly with no build up. We know that they have met in the past but I didn't feel like I got a clear picture of how much that meeting meant or what it was like or how it would affect the characters.

That being said, I did like the chemistry between Ainsley and Royal. It definitely kept me wanting to read more. Royal is such a good character. He's strong, sensitive, and a great romantic lead. Ainsley is sassy and although she doesn't have much power as a woman, she uses everything she has in order to do what she needs to do in order to protect her daughter and find true love. I loved how Ainsley really shapes the relationship between Royal and herself. 

Overall, this book started slow to me but became exciting as secrets were revealed and our main characters began to understand their past a little more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review: The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George

Title: The Splendor Before the Dark
Author: Margaret George
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: November 6, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendor. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is unquestioned.

But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumors of Nero's complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace--and the politicians... 

For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome's--and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible. 

Nero will either survive and be the first in his family to escape the web of betrayals that is the Roman court, or be ensnared and remembered as the last radiance of the greatest dynasty the world had ever known."

My Two Cents:

"The Splendor Before the Dark" is the second book in Margaret George's duology about Roman Emperor Nero. It also is one of my most eagerly anticipated releases for 2018. I loved the first book and couldn't wait to dive into this one. It was well worth the wait and as this book shows, there is a good reason that Nero's name is still so well known out of all of the other Roman emperors. 

Although this book can definitely work as a standalone, I suggest you go back and read "The Confessions of Young Nero." It is a great book and why would you deprive yourself of such a good read? It will allow you to greater appreciate the heights Nero reaches in "The Splendor Before the Dark."

This book covers the last four years in Nero's life. Although he has already been in power for awhile, this book provides a few opportunities for Nero to show his mettle to his people. One of those that I found most interesting is the Great Fire of Rome. Rome is basically destroyed and it is up to Nero to rebuild. He comes up with a bold plan to remake Rome to an even greater city than it was before. I really liked seeing his new plans and how he sells everyone around him on his huge plans, which make a mark for centuries to come.

Margaret George is on my must read list always. In her books, you always know that she is going to give you great characters and rich detail to lend to fantastic world building. This book is no different and makes for a satisfying conclusion for the duology. I can't wait to read what she comes up with next!

Monday, November 5, 2018

November is Family Literacy Month!

Zulily is doing it again! For every kids book you buy, they are donating one to those less fortunate through First Book!
  • When: Nov 1 - Dec 12, 2018
  • Where:, zulily app & zulily social channels
  • What:
    • Special sales events launched during the campaign will feature a curated selection of children’s books and each Penguin Random House book purchased labeled with the “BUY 1, GIVE 1” badge will trigger a new children’s book donation, up to 100,000 books, from Penguin Random House to First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and other essentials to children in need nationwide.
    • Shoppers can visit zulily’s owned social channels to engage in a social call-to-action, through comments, likes or shares to also spark the “Give One” book donation from Penguin Random House to First Book.

Review: Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Little White Lies
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Format: ARC
Publisher: Freeform
Publish Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother's "society" might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father's identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn't expect to find is friendship, but as she's drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn't the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother's glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer's search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning."

My Two Cents:

Street-smart Sawyer is used to taking care of herself. Her mom is mostly absent and she doesn't think she has any family around. At least her mother won't tell her about any of her family. So when a chance meeting puts Sawyer back in touch with her mysterious grandmother, Sawyer is surprised. This chance meeting will open Sawyer's life to family secrets and a glittering world that she couldn't have dreamt up.

There's a reason that "fish out of water" books are so attractive. It's always interesting to see a character like Sawyer, who is very used to a gritty lifestyle, entering the world of debutantes. She doesn't get it at first but it was so much fun to see her be totally bewildered and then fall into place in this new world.

The other part that I really liked are all of the family secrets. Sawyer knows barely anything about her mother's family and absolutely nothing about her father's family and nothing about her father himself. I don't want to give anything away but this book definitely has some twists when it comes to these secrets that kept me wanting to read.

This book is definitely a slow burn and I thought it could be a little streamlined to focus on the action. I did like how the action flashed back and forth between the present and the past. I really liked how that shaped the story. This is only the first book in the series and I think it shows a lot of promise!

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