Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Review: Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

Monday, April 27, 2020

TLC Book Tours: The German Heiress by Anika Scott

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

My Two Cents:  

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

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

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

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Review: The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

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


Monday, April 20, 2020

Reading Challenge Update!

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

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

I read books from this many countries in March:


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

I have read 153 books for this challenge so far.

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

Friday, April 17, 2020

TLC Book Tours: Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

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


Friday, April 10, 2020

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

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

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


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

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

What's the Story?:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Two Cents:

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

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

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

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

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