Thursday, January 31, 2019

Review: A Sultry Performance by Jessica Lauryn

Title: A Sultry Performance
Author: Jessica Lauryn
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: December 4, 2018
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Chris Gordon, stage manager at Rabourn Theater, suspects his late wife’s hit and run was never an accident. He believes the man she was having an affair with, Oakley Sutherland, was responsible and he vows to get Evelyn justice, igniting a plot to ensnare Oakley, working through Oakley’s fiancĂ©e, Victoria.

A well-known exotic dancer by night, Victoria Morrow has been fighting to make a better life for herself, and she won’t be taken advantage of. But when the most handsome man at Rabourn Theater takes an interest in her, she finds herself spiraling down a path she never expected to. Can Victoria resist Chris’s charms? Or will both of them fall prey to the danger that lurks in the wings?"

My Two Cents:

Something about winter makes me crave romance! "A Sultry Performance" is the story of Chris, a man still reeling from the suspect death of his wife. He's bent on getting revenge on the man he thinks caused the accident. Things get more complicated when he falls for Victoria. This pairing has tons of chemistry and you can see why they fall in with each other so easily.

It took me a little while to get into the book but as you get into it, it's clear that this book is a slow burn. Once it gets going, it really gets going and I loved following all of the twists and turns. The author did a good job of creating some really exciting action in the middle of the book in order to keep readers on the edge of their seats. 

The highlight of the book for me was the relationship and chemistry between Chris and Victoria. You have a wounded hero who wants to protect his heart. You have a woman who just wants a new start but can't quite figure out how to get away from the controlling Oakley, the same man that he believes killed his wife. When Chris and Victoria get together,  it's clear how good they are for each other and the action is super hot. You're definitely rooting for them throughout the book!

Overall, this was a good romance! Once you get to the action, you don't want to let go!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

TLC Book Tours Review: Learning to See by Elise Hooper

Title: Learning to See
Author: Elise Hooper
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: January 22, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

In 1918, a fearless twenty-two-year old arrives in bohemian San Francisco from the Northeast, determined to make her own way as an independent woman. Renaming herself Dorothea Lange she is soon the celebrated owner of the city’s most prestigious and stylish portrait studio and wife of the talented but volatile painter, Maynard Dixon.

By the early 1930s, as America’s economy collapses, her marriage founders and Dorothea must find ways to support her two young sons single-handedly. Determined to expose the horrific conditions of the nation’s poor, she takes to the road with her camera, creating images that inspire, reform, and define the era. And when the United States enters World War II, Dorothea chooses to confront another injustice—the incarceration of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans."

My Two Cents: 

"Learning to See" is a fictionalized story of great American photographer Dorothea Lange. Even if you don't think you know her name, you probably know her work. She is best known for some of the work that she did capturing people in difficult circumstances during the early to mid part of the 20th century. This book gives a great picture of what Lange was like behind the scenes.

Well-researched, this book has so much good detail. We get to see how Dorothea goes from a fledgling photographer to a very sought after photographer, well known for her work. As she is starting her career, she meets the volatile artist Maynard Dixon and starts a family. I really appreciated her meditations on the difficulty of having a successful career (especially during a time where this was just not something a woman did) and balancing it with a family. Dorothea feels pulled in a million different directions and wants to find a way to make it all work.

I really liked the writing in this book. The descriptions are wonderful. We get to see the action through Dorothea's eyes, which I thought was super effective in pulling me far into the book. This is a little hard to explain but I thought the author did a really good job of moving us through the highlights (and lowlights) of Dorothea's career and her personal life. Lange feels more like a friend. I loved getting to know the back story behind some of her most iconic work. This book is a great tribute to her!


Review: When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland

Title: When Sadness Is at Your Door
Author: Eva Eland
Format: ARC
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 29, 2019 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?

From "Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who we are--an overwhelming, invisible, and scary sensation.

In When Sadness Is at Your Door, Eva Eland brilliantly approaches this feeling as if it is a visitor. She gives it a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. She suggests activities to do with it, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to "get over" it or indicates that it's "bad," both of which are anxiety-producing notions."

My Two Cents:

In my short journey in being a parent (my girls will be four years old this year), one of the most difficult things that my husband and I have been through is helping our girls with their emotions. Emotions are a part of the human condition but it can be hard to deal with them. "When Sadness is at Your Door" is a good primer on how even feelings like sadness have a place and shouldn't be pushed aside or forgotten. It is okay to be sad (oh, this is definitely a lesson that I am still learning as an adult).

2018 was a very challenging year for us as a family. When the tree fell on our house back in June, I so wish I would have had this book to help my girls see that it is okay to be sad. Sadness will eventually float away and it's important to embrace feelings as they come. My girls loved this book and it made for a good opener for the girls to ask a lot of good questions about feelings. Any book that can get us talking is a good one to me. I liked the philosophy of this book and how it was able to take a difficult topic and turn it into something that my girls could easily understand it and embrace the lessons!


Monday, January 28, 2019

Review and Giveaway: Annelies by David R. Gillham

Title: Annelies
Author: David R. Gillham
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: January 15, 2019
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The year is 1945, and Anne Frank is sixteen years old. Having survived the concentration camps, but lost her mother and sister, she reunites with her father, Pim, in newly liberated Amsterdam. But it’s not as easy to fit the pieces of their life back together. Anne is adrift, haunted by the ghosts of the horrors they experienced, while Pim is fixated on returning to normalcy. Her beloved diary has been lost, and her dreams of becoming a writer seem distant and pointless now.

As Anne struggles to overcome the brutality of memory and build a new life for herself, she grapples with heartbreak, grief, and ultimately the freedom of forgiveness. A story of trauma and redemption, Annelies honors Anne Frank’s legacy as not only a symbol of hope and perseverance, but also a complex young woman of great ambition and heart.

Anne Frank is a cultural icon whose diary painted a vivid picture of the Holocaust and made her an image of humanity in one of history’s darkest moments. But she was also a person—a precocious young girl with a rich inner life and tremendous skill as a writer. In this masterful new novel, David R. Gillham explores with breathtaking empathy the woman—and the writer—she might have become.

My Two Cents:

"Annelies" is an alternative history that looks at what would happened if Anne Frank, much remembered for her diary who was a victim of the Bergen-Belsen death camp during World War II, would have stayed alive and returned back to the Netherlands after the war ended. Anne Frank's diary is beloved worldwide and her diary continues to stand a valuable window into the lives of those who witnessed World War II.

Alternative histories can be tricky, especially when they take on well-known people. We all know what happened to Anne and the story of how her diary got published is fascinating. It is hard to write a different end for an end so ingrained into our collective memories. Anne Frank is incredibly well-known and her voice through her diary is distinctive. I thought that Gillham did a good job in this homage to her. To me, he captured her voice and gave her a fascinating alternate ending.

Had she lived, Anne would have still been quite young when the war ended. Much of this book is about survivor's guilt. In the book, Anne still loses her mother and sister in the concentration camp. She comes back home to an Amsterdam that is still not particularly welcoming in many ways. She wonders endlessly about why she was saved when so many other people didn't make it. Gillham does a great job of capturing her innermost thoughts and turmoil as she comes to terms with her new reality.

This was a great story that had me wondering "what if."


Want a chance to win this book? Just fill out the Rafflecopter below (U.S. only, please)!

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Giveaway Winners!: Everything is Beautiful

I am happy to announce the winners of the "Everything is Beautiful" giveaway!

I am happy to announce three winners today:

Danielle H. 
Courtney W.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Review: Sleepover at the Museum by Karen LeFrak

Title: Sleepover at the Museum
Author: Karen LeFrak
Format: ARC
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 15, 2019
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Mason couldn't wait to celebrate his birthday with a sleepover at the museum of natural history--his favorite place to visit.

Armed with headlamps for the dark hallways, a map, and a list of clues, Mason and his two best friends take off on a scavenger hunt through each hall of the museum. But they aren't just trying to solve the clues. They're scouting for the best place to spend the night.

Sleeping next to a T. rex in the Hall of Dinosaurs felt too scary. And sleeping with the monarch butterflies would probably tickle. This decision isn't as easy as Mason thought it would be....

Wherever they end up, the museum at night is the best place for a birthday adventure!"

My Two Cents:

"Sleepover at the Museum" is the story of Mason, a very lucky kid who gets to celebrate his birthday with his best friends with a sleepover at the local Natural History museum. A sleepover at a museum? Sign me up! Mason will get to go on a scavenger hunt and have the best birthday ever!

This book was a lot of fun! We loved playing along at home as Mason and his friends discover a lot of really cool things at the museum. We have the fortune of having easy access to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (when it's not closed by the government shutdown... ugh) and this book made for a good entry into talking about our own experiences at the museum as a family.

The illustrations in the book are good and colorful. My girls loved looking at all of the pictures, especially those of all the really cool stuff that Mason and his friends discover. The writing of the book was straight forward and accessible. This book would be great for the little museum lovers in your life!


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Review: The Suspect by Fiona Barton

Title: The Suspect
Author: Fiona Barton
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: January 22, 2019 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared?

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth--and this time is no exception. But she can't help but think of her own son, whom she hasn't seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling.

As the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think...

My Two Cents:

"The Suspect" marks the return of intrepid reporter Kate Waters. When two British girls disappear in Thailand, Kate is called in to report on what turns out to be a very sad story. What Kate doesn't realize is just how personally involved she will be in this particular case. Filled with Barton's trademark twists and turns, this makes for a good addition to the series.

Although this is the third book in the Kate Waters series, you really don't need to have read the other two books in the series in order to understand this one. The others are good thrillers so don't deprive yourself of the pleasure!

Kate continues to be a great character. In this book, she is really tested as she realizes that someone in her family might have been involved in the disappearance of the girls. We really get to see how Kate deals with stress and pressure in the face of the unimaginable. You really begin to care for her and want things to turn out okay for her.

The writing of the book was good. Barton is a master of giving clues a little bit at a time to keep you going. I also like that we got to see things from the perspective of Alex, one of the missing girls up until the day she disappears. This really added a lot to the narrative. The ending of the book felt a little bit rushed to me but not enough to really take away from my enjoyment of the book.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

TLC Book Tours Review: Something Worth Saving by Sandi Ward

Title: Something Worth Saving
Author: Sandi Ward 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: December 18, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "A boy and his cat. It's an unconventional friendship, perhaps, but for Charlie and Lily, it works beautifully. It was Charlie who chose Lily from among all the cats in the shelter. He didn't frown, the way other humans did, when he saw her injured back leg, the legacy of a cruel previous owner. Instead, Charlie insisted on rescuing her. Now Lily wants to do the same for Charlie.

She's the only one who's seen the bruises on Charlie's body. If she knew who was hurting him, she'd scratch their eyes out. But she can't fix this by herself. Lily needs to get the rest of the family to focus on Charlie--not easy when they're wrapped up in their own problems. Charlie's mother kicked his father out weeks ago and has a new boyfriend who seems charming, but is still a stranger. Oldest son Kevin misses his father desperately. Victoria, Charlie's sister, also has someone new in her life, and Lily is decidedly suspicious. Even Charlie's father, who Lily loves dearly, is behaving strangely.

Lily knows what it's like to feel helpless. But she also knows that you don't always have to be the biggest or the strongest to fight fiercely for the ones you love . . ."

My Two Cents:

"Something Worth Saving" is the story of Lily, a sweet, fluffy cat who loves her life with her family. Things are rapidly changing though. The parents are separated and getting divorced. Each of the three children are dealing with difficulties both inside and outside of the home. Lily wants to help but all she really has is the love that she can give each member of the family.

You all may know this from reading my blog but I am a huge animal lover so I was immediately drawn to this book. Animals are so special and the author definitely captures this in Lily and Gretel, the rescued police dog that she lives with. I loved seeing how Lily and Gretel both try to help their owners throughout the book. Time and time again, they use their love to make things better in some really difficult situations.

This book covers a lot of difficult subjects like bullying, abuse, bad boyfriends, and changing families. It was interesting to see it from the perspective of a savvy cat like Lily. The book goes in a lot of different directions and while I enjoyed seeing everything going on, I did wish there were some areas where there was a little more back story or explanation. That being said, overall, this was a sweet read that had a good mix of drama and goodness.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Review: Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Title: Love and Ruin
Author: Paula McLain
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: May 1, 2018
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, Key West, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Ernest make their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man's wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own."

My Two Cents:

"Love and Ruin" marks Paula McLain's return to writing about the life and loves of Ernest Hemingway. I loved "The Paris Wife" and couldn't wait to see what the author did with the love affair between Ernest and Martha Gellhorn. I was definitely not disappointed!

Martha Gellhorn was so much more than just one of Ernest's wives. She was made good on her dream of becoming a war reporter and this was during a time when women were supposed to be sitting on the sidelines. Martha would never be happy to do that as McLain shows us throughout the book. I liked how much detail McLain gave about Martha's dream and drive outside of Ernest. It made me feel for her a lot more because I felt I understood her better.

I loved the way that the author wrote how the relationship between Martha and Ernest unfolded. We get to see its whole lifecycle. The love between Ernest and Martha is exciting and full of adventure at first. Ernest wants to sweep Martha off her feet. She fits his ideal of what a woman should be and seems quite different from his previous loves. But what you think may be your ideal may not really work in reality.

This was a great book! It is easy to see why Ernest Hemingway and fantastic people like Martha Gellhorn continue to spark imaginations.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

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

What's the Story?:

From "The finish line is only the beginning.…

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

It’s mostly a breeze…

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

#Giveaway: Everything is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

Check out my review here!


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

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Review: We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

My Two Cents: 

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

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

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

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


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

HFVBT Review: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

In Dog We Trust by Beth Kendrick

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 7, 2019

TLC Book Tours: The Hollow Middle by John Popielaski

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Around the World in 2019!

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

Here are my rules:

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

What reading challenges are you taking on this year?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy 2019!

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

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