Thursday, March 23, 2017

Quick Pick Book Review and GIVEAWAY: In the Light of the Garden, by Heather Burch {ends 4/2}

Book Review: In the Light of the Garden, by Heather Burch
  • Opening lines: When Charity Baxter was little, she believed in fairies and pixies and the kind of magic that made unicorns and cotton candy. To her, Gaslamp Island itself was as magical a place as any in this world, except maybe for the one Alice found while chasing a white rabbit. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I received the book to review, and it looked interesting.
  • And what's this book about?
  • In the Light of the Garden is a novel about unearthed family secrets, the enchantment of past loves, and the indelible power of forgiveness. Inheriting her grandparents’ island estate on Florida’s Gulf coast is a special kind of homecoming for thirty-one-year-old Charity Baxter. Raised by a narcissistic single mother, Charity’s only sense of a loving home comes from childhood summers spent with Gramps and Grandma. But piercing her fondest memories is her sharpest grief—the death of her beloved grandmother, when Charity stopped believing in the magical healing power of the weeping willow that still casts a shadow on their property. Now that Charity has returned, she’s full of longing and regret, until she befriends her neighbor Dalton Reynolds, who has come to Gaslamp Island carrying his own heartache. As other exiles arrive—a great uncle harboring secrets, a teenage runaway—Charity begins to reconsider what makes a family. When her own estranged mother shows up in crisis, Charity is challenged to search her heart for forgiveness. But forgiving herself may require a little magic from the last place she’d expect to find it.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes a "summer read." 
  • Favorite paragraph: Far off the beach, a sailboat kissed the horizon, and all of Charity's excitement lulled into a sort of satisfied restfulness. The island was the best place in the world, and Charity would love it forever. How could anyone come here and not believe in magic?

    That was the year her grandmother died.

    That was the year magic ended for Charity Monroe Baxter.
  • Something to know: The island does have some magic, and it's interesting to see how that's incorporated into the book (it's done very realistically).
  • What I would have changed: The ending is very predictable, but I'm not sure what I would have done to change it. 
  • Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars. 
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to purchase on Amazon.
*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


I have one paperback copy of this novel to give away to one of my lucky readers!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, April 2nd, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. and Canadian residents only, please.

Good luck!

Paperback copy of In the Light of the Garden

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evelyn's mood turns a bit darker. "I'm not a good person, Monique. Make sure, in the book, that that's clear. That I'm not claiming to be good. That I did a lot of things that hurt a lot of people, and I would do them over again if I had to."

"I don't know," I say. "You don't seem so bad, Evelyn."

"You, of all people, are going to change your mind about that," she says. "Very soon."

I'm going to be honest and say that Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors nowadays, so when I was able to get my hands on a very early e-galley of her newest novel, I was quite happy. The good news is, this novel is just as good as her previous ones, and it was quite a compelling read.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Quick Pick book review: Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

Book review: Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty.
  • Opening lines: "That doesn't sound like a school trivia night," said Mrs. Patty Ponder to Marie Antoinette. "That sounds like a riot."

    The cat didn't respond. She was dozing on the couch and found school trivia nights to be trivial.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I've read a few of Liane Moriarty's books before (and reviewed two of them), and I knew the TV show would be on HBO soon.
  • And what's this book about?
  • Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

    Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

    Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.
    New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny.

    Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

    Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. 
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes murder-mysteries, or who is a fan of books like Gone Girl.
  • Favorite paragraph: For a moment, Celeste couldn't speak. Big blocky words filled her mouth. She imagined letting them spill out.

    My husband hits me, Renata. Never on the face, of course. He's far too classy for that. Does yours hit you?

    And if he does, and this is the question that really interests me: Do you hit back?

    "I'm fine," she said.
  • Something to know: Episode 1 of the HBO show aired last week, and so far I am liking it, although they've already changed some details from the book - the elementary school is called Otter Bay, rather than Pirriwee Public, for example. 
  • What I would have changed: Nothing that I can think of. I really liked how we flash back from present to past - we know one of the parents gets murdered, but we don't know by whom or what the circumstances are. The identity of the parent that gets murdered, as well as who was responsible, was something I didn't see coming, too. 
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to purchase on Amazon.
Shailene Woodley as Jane, Reese Witherspoon as Madeline, and Nicole Kidman
as Celeste, in HBO's Big Little Lies

Monday, February 20, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Lifeblood (Everlife #2), by Gena Showalter {ends 2/27}

Killian's words echo through my mind. If I fight for you, I help my realm lose the war. If I fight against you, I lose you.

No middle ground.


My tears—such silly, useless tears—spill over my cheeks, leaving hot, stinging tracks in their wake. I thought I was prepared to give up everything for my realm of choice. I thought I could live with any consequences.

But the cost is already too high. 

I reviewed Firstlife, the first book in the Everlife series, last March, and I gave it 3.5/5 stars. It was an intriguing read, and when I heard it was going to be a trilogy, I couldn't wait to read the next book in the series, Lifeblood. Although I found it to be a bit more confusing than the first book, overall I did enjoy it.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Lifeblood (Everlife #2), by Gena Showalter
My Firstlife is over, but my Everlife is only now beginning.

With her last living breath, Tenley "Ten" Lockwood made her choice and picked her realm in the Everlife. Now, as the war between Troika and Myriad rages, she must face the consequences.

Because Ten possesses a rare supernatural ability to absorb and share light, the Powers That Be have the highest expectations for her future—and the enemy wants her neutralized. Fighting to save her Secondlife, she must learn about her realm from the ground up while launching her first mission: convincing a select group of humans to join her side before they die. No pressure, right?

But Ten's competition is Killian, the boy she can't forget—the one who gave up everything for her happiness. He has only one shot at redemption: beating Ten at a game she's never even played. As their throw-downs heat up, so do their undeniable feelings, and soon, Ten will have to make another choice. Love…or victory.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Quick Pick: The Young Wives Club, by Julie Pennell

Book review: The Young Wives Club, by Julie Pennell
  • Opening lines: Two thousand, one hundred and fifty-four people live in my town. There are ten restaurants, two stoplights, one grocery store, and three schools - Toulouse Elementary, Toulouse Middle, and Toulouse High. Not the most creative names, I know, but that's Toulouse for you.

    Life here is simple. All we need is a nice white dress for church on Sundays, and a shaded porch on a hot summer day. For us, heaven on earth is a run-down restaurant with a sticky floor that serves crawfish and sweet tea.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I received an e-copy to review, and it sounded interesting. I also really liked the cover art.
  • And what's this book about?
  • In Toulouse, Louisiana finding your one true love happens sometime around high school. If you’re lucky, he might be the man you thought he was. But as four friends are about to find out, not every girl has luck on her side in this charming debut novel perfect for fans of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Desperate Housewives.

    Laura Landry’s quarterback husband was her ticket out of Toulouse. But when a devastating football injury sidelines him, they’re forced to move back to the small town she was so desperate to leave. As Brian starts drinking instead of rehabbing his knee, Laura must reevaluate what her future looks like…and if it includes her husband.

    For years, Madison Blanchette has been waiting for bad-boy musician Cash Romero to commit to her. When wealthy George Dubois asks her out, she figures she may as well wait in style. Life with George means weekend trips to New Orleans, gourmet meals, and expensive gifts. At first she loves how George’s affection sparks Cash’s jealousy, but when George proposes to Madison, she finds herself torn between two men…

    All Claire Thibodeaux wants is to be the perfect wife and mother. If she can do everything right she won’t end up like her mom, a divorced, single parent trying to make ends meet. But when Claire’s husband Gavin, a well-respected local pastor, starts spending late nights at work and less time in their bed, she can’t help but fear that history is about to repeat itself…

    Gabrielle Vaughn never thought she’d end up with someone like her fiancé. The son of a prominent congressman, Tony Ford is completely out of her league—which is why she lied to him about everything from having a college degree to the dark truth about her family. She knows she has to come clean, but how do you tell the love of your life that your entire relationship is a lie?
    As these young wives come together to help each other through life, love, and heartbreak, they discover that there are no easy answers when it comes to matters of the heart.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes "chick lit" or easy reads.
  • Something to know: The book revolves around 4 women - all of whom are 18 to 22 years old - who are either married or about to be married. 
  • What I would have changed: The men in this book are all awful, but I liked that the women are all strong women who eventually realized which men were good for them and which men were not (ie, their self-worth wasn't dependent on having a husband). I'm not sure what I would have changed, this book was a little TOO "beach read"-y for me but I still overall enjoyed it. 
  • Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order - this book will be out on February 14.

    *Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Quick Pick book review - Talking As Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything in Between), by Lauren Graham

Talking As Fast as I Can book review, by Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls
  • Opening lines: If you'd asked me back at the beginning of my career to guess which character I was most likely to return to, fifteen years after I'd played her for the first time, there would have been only one answer. Even back then I knew, from the very first time I read the script, that I had been given the opportunity to play someone very special. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a huge Gilmore Girls fan (although I binged the series on Netflix starting last year, and had not watched it while it aired). 
  • And what's this book about? In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

    Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

    In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic
    Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

    Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

    Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent
    Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.
  • Favorite paragraph: I wondered what it would be like to put someone I loved so much down for eight years and then pick her up again. I wondered if rebooting Gilmore Girls could be as gratifying as doing the series was for the first time, if the show would feel as fresh and quirky and smart and speedy as it had been, if returning to Stars Hollow after all those years would be as wonderful as I dreamed it would be.

    Spoiler alert: it was.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who is a fan of Lauren Graham's work (specifically, of course, Gilmore Girls, but there are some Parenthood nuggets thrown in here too) or wants to know more about her.
  • Something to know: I didn't know that Graham had a theater "internship" of sorts in Augusta, MI, for two summers (which is by Kalamazoo - I looked it up), which was interesting. There is also a lot of behind-the-scenes info on Gilmore Girls here which I liked. The book reads like Lorelai Gilmore is narrating it too (it's written very well in Graham's own voice, which is similar), which I loved. 
  • What I would have changed: Nothing I can think of.
  • Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Forever is the Worst Long Time, by Camille Noe Pagán

As I watched Kathryn's face twist as she drifted off, I thought, Yes, this is good, and it is easy. Easier than anything I'd ever known as an adult, and maybe would again. Of course, I didn't know or appreciate that then because I had no point of reference. In your twenties, it's easy to think most of your better days are still up ahead. But sometime around the point when you find yourself in a face-off with forty, time does a peculiar thing and unfolds at once, almost like a map, so that while you can see that you are no longer truly young and you are not yet old, it's quite clear that you will be very soon—if you're lucky.

So, writing this to you from that precipice, I will simply say: if you find yourself in an effortless position in life as I did beside Kathryn in bed that fall morning, enjoy it, but don't stop there. When something comes to you so easily, it may leave the same way, and you'll be left wondering if it ever was at all. 

I've been a big fan of Camille Pagán's books after reading Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, which I reviewed back in September 2015, and this novel was no different - the author is great at revealing her characters, as well as their motivations.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Forever is the Worst Long Time, by Camille Pagan
When struggling novelist James Hernandez meets poet Louisa “Lou” Bell, he’s sure he’s just found the love of his life. There’s just one problem: she’s engaged to his oldest friend, Rob. So James toasts their union and swallows his desire.

As the years pass, James’s dreams always seem just out of reach—he can’t finish that novel, can’t mend his relationship with his father, can’t fully commit to a romantic relationship. He just can’t move on. But after betrayal fractures Lou’s once-solid marriage, she turns to James for comfort.

When Lou and James act on their long-standing mutual attraction, the consequences are more heartbreaking—and miraculous—than either of them could have ever anticipated. Then life throws James one more curveball, and he, Rob, and Lou are forced to come to terms with the unexpected ways in which love and loss are intertwined.

I could very much relate to this novel, and I'm betting that others will be able to as well ... there's always been that one person that either "got away" or that you had a mad crush on, but weren't able to do anything about it. 

What was interesting about this book was that Lou and James do end up together, at one point, albeit very briefly ... and what happens next isn't your typical "HEA" (happily ever after), but it somehow works.