Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Good Widow, by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke {ends 8/28}

But in moments like these, this man's love, or lust, or even his affection—she was never quite sure what to call itbuoyed her. When he looked at her just like that, she knew she'd do anything he asked. She might have even jumped off that bridge with him, as long as he'd held her hand on the way down. She questioned him almost as much as she revered him. But right then, in the Jeep hugging the side of this mountain, the unpaved road so riddled with potholes that she was getting carsick, she felt like they could overcome anything together. That the world could be theirs.

That's probably why she took off her seat belt. And decided to lean in close and breathe her secret into his ear. She could have simply called out her confession over the wind, but she needed to deliver the news gently. The rest of their lives together depended on it.

I had been wanting to read The Good Widow (and it has been sitting in my TBR pile for a while, too) because I am a big fan of Fenton and Steinke's other books - I really enjoyed The Status of All Things, which I read two years ago, as well as Your Perfect Life. Although I didn't like The Good Widow as much as Status, it's still an interesting read.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Good Widow, by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancé. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…


The book is told from a few different characters' perspectives, both past and present, which is what keeps it intriguing. We open with Jacqueline ("Jacks," to her friends) finding out that her husband has passed away in a car accident—and, oh yeah, it was in Hawaii, and he was supposedly in Kansas, on a business trip. She quickly finds out that he was having an affair, with a younger woman named Dylan, and soon Dylan's fiancee, Nick, shows up at her doorstep.

He proposes that they go to Maui together and try to retrace James and Dylan's last steps, in order to attempt to find out more about the affair and how they ended up careening off a steep cliff into the water below.

Kind of crazy, right? Jacks needs answers, though, so she agrees to go with him.

There's a twist at the end of this novel that I sort-of saw coming, but the way the authors laid it out was pretty good. It was interesting to see Jacks' chapters from before the accident, too, as well as when she first met James—we hear from both her and Dylan, and we see how Dylan ended up meeting James and how their affair started.

I did feel like this novel wrapped up a little too neatly at the end, but I can see how it would logically end that way, as well.

3.5 stars out of 5
{Click here to purchase - free for Kindle Unlimited users!}

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

GIVEAWAY:

Two of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Good Widow - enter in the widget below.

Giveaway will end on Monday, August 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

2 paperback copies of The Good Widow

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Address, by Fiona Davis {ends 8/27}

Review by: Karen Doerr

“You must have seen many changes during your stay here.”
“More than you know. This place used to have a tenants’ dining room, down on the main floor, though the food got less interesting after the war, and they eventually closed it down. By then the tailor had moved out, as had the laundry and maid service. No one valued what a special place this was. In the sixties, I remember, before it became a co-op, you could rent a seventeen-room apartment with six bathrooms and eight working fireplaces for six hundred and fifty bucks a month.”


I had a hard time putting this book down. This is my first experience with Fiona Davis’ work. According to an interview, she was influenced by the Goethe quote “Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music.” The author added another layer to this by turning the architecture of The Dakota into prose.

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Address, by Fiona Davis
Official Synopsis:
After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else...and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in...and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City—and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.


If somebody had told me I’d enjoy a book based around a building in New York, I would have thought that they were nuts. I had never heard of The Dakota before this, although I took some time to read over its history after I finished The Address. While I enjoy historical fiction, I tend to stay with the stories based around more famous periods of time.

The author sets up two timelines, one from the 1880’s and the other from the 1980’s. One could argue that the death of John Lennon, which happened in 1980, is the Dakota’s greatest claim to fame. However, I found the older setting more interesting. Maybe it’s due to my lack of knowledge about this era in general, but I found myself drinking in every little detail about a world where the Upper West Side is considered the middle of nowhere. While I did find the modern story arc more relatable, I rushed through those chapters trying to get back the more alien world of the 1880’s. But one does not need to be a history nerd to enjoy it. I would recommend this book to anyone who, at some point, felt like they were in a situation that they did not deserve.

My only complaint about The Address was how one timeline got a fairy tale ending. We went into the story knowing that one of the main characters would have a tragic outcome, so I can understand why the author would want the other be a contrast. However, both have a very extravagant feeling to them. I think a sharper distinction would have been made had the more upbeat ending been a bit more realistic and less sunshine and roses.

4 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

Karen K. Doerr is a vocal advocate of the “It’s Called Soda, Not Pop” movement of Southeast Michigan. She can usually be found in Korean barbecue restaurants.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of The Address!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, August 27th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of The Address

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Quick Pick book review: Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker

Book Review: Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker
  • Opening lines: We believe what we want to believe. We believe what we need to believe. Maybe there's no difference between wanting and needing. I don't know. What I do know is that the truth can evade us, hiding behind our blind spots, our preconceptions, our hungry hearts that long for quiet. Still, it is always there if we open our eyes and try to see it. If we really try to see.

    When my sister and I disappeared three years ago, there was nothing but blindness.
  • Reason I picked up the book: SheSpeaks gave me a free e-copy of the book, and the synopsis sounded interesting.
  • And what's this book about?
  • From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back...

    One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes psychological mysteries, or stories about dysfunctional families. 
  • Favorite paragraph: I stood frozen in the woods, filled with terror that I would fail. And there was so much as stake. They had to believe my story. They had to find Emma. And to find Emma, they had to look for her. It was all on me, finding my sister.

    They had to believe me that Emma was still alive. 
  • Something to know: I really, really enjoyed this book - I read it over the course of two 1.5 hour plane rides this past week. There is a twist that the end that I kinda/sorta saw coming, but the details of it were very well-thought out. 
  • What I would have changed: Nothing that I can think of.
  • Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Sandcastle Empire, by Kayla Olsen {ends 8/20}

The enemy wore sheep's clothes for many years before it bared its fangs and went for blood.

Fathers. Brothers. The barista who made your daily latte, the guy behind the fish counter at the grocery store, the girl in Sephora who taught you how to line your eyes. All seemingly unconnected, until one day they were a force.

After Zero, it all made sense: the neon fliers stapled to telephone poles, the #wolfpack hashtag everyone assumed was a fandom of some sort, the pendants people wrote off as a passing trend. The signs were all around us, but we were too wrapped up in our own lives to really question them.

Which, I guess, was their point. It was a good point, at its heart, albeit a bitter one—that too many people were out of touch with reality, floating on the hard work of others who were killing themselves just to survive. That too many of us were too entitled, too ungrateful. Too used to all we touched turning to gold.

They weren't altogether wrong. 

This is a long book (about 455 pages) so I will admit that it took me a few weeks to finish; however, some twists pop up near the end of the novel that caught my attention, and the book does finish strong.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Sandcastle Empire, by Kayla Olsen
Before the war, Eden’s life was easy. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. And even though Eden has lost everything to them, she refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves. But the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.


In the author Q&A I received for this book, it was compared to The Maze Runner meets Lost - although I have only seen one episode of Lost, I would definitely compare it to The Maze Runner. It's a dystopian novel that starts at the beginning of the war: a group called the Wolfpack has taken over what I assume to be the U.S. Eden, whose father once worked for a group that eventually helped start the war, knows she has to escape, and she makes it to an island that her father has talked about.

However, the island has its own surprises, which she and a few tag-a-longs must deal with; she'll also find out some interesting truths about her lineage and also the Wolves, the group of terrorists who has taken over the U.S. 

It took me a really long time to get through this novel. The novel also leaves the ending open for a sequel, but I don't think there is going to be one, it seems (from my Googling, anyways). Around 2/3 of the way in to the book, the author throws some twists and wrenches into the plot, which compelled me to keep reading the novel; some you probably could have guessed, but I did not see them coming. 

The Sandcastle Empire has also been optioned for film by Paramount, with Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way to produce, but no release date or casting has been set yet. 

If you like dystopian books, I can recommend this novel—just be prepared for a longer than usual read.

3 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}


GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the widget below. Two of my lucky readers will each win a hardcover copy of The Sandcastle Empire!

Giveaway will end on Sunday, August 20th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of The Sandcastle Empire

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Quick Pick book review: Cream of the Crop, by Alice Clayton

Book Review: Cream of the Crop, by Alice Clayton
  • Opening lines: "Can you raise the blinds a little bit? The sun is setting; it makes for a nice view," I directed.

    "While you reel them in?" Liz teased, letting the soft atfernoon sun up into the conference room.

    Forty-seven floors up, you got a helluva nice sunset across the Hudson River. It made the room seem warm and inviting, and with the powerful backdrop of Manhattan behind me, what client would dream of saying no?
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a fan of Alice Clayton's books, and this is book #2 in the Hudson Valley series; book #1 is called Nuts, and I reviewed that one too. The characters from that book are also recurring characters in this installment.
  • And what's this book about?
  • Manhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is... cheese.

    Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his,
    ahem, milk can.

    Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it be... love?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes a fun romance story, with a bit of small-town Americana woven in. 
  • Favorite paragraph: Size-eighteen women weren't supposed to show off their legs, which I did. They weren't supposed to show off their cleavage, which I did. Size-eighteen women were supposed to wear trench coats in the winter, long sleeves in the summer, and somebody better cancel Christmas if they wore a dress that showed off some cleavage. Size-eighteen women were supposed to dress like they were apologizing for taking up too much space. Fuck that noise. I took up space. I took up space in a city where space was at a premium, and I never apologized for it. And right now, I knew exactly how much space I was taking up, strutting down Fourteenth Street to the song playing in my head, with a bag full of delicious and already fantasizing about my favorite pastime.

    Oscar the Dairy Farmer. 
  • Something to know: I LOVED that the main character, Natalie, was a size 18, and that the author mentions it (see above paragraph). Finally a romance novel featuring a curvy girl like myself!
  • What I would have changed: Nothing that I can think of.
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.
*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Royally Roma {ends 8/1}

Julia pulled the hood of her own green rain poncho over her upswept hair. The silly ensemble suited her a fair bit better than it did him. She looked rather cute, actually. Misty-eyed, rain-kissed, and infinitely kissable. Or maybe Niccolo was still drunk. It was the only explanation for the vexation that had crept upon him since she'd first come into view on the hotel's piazza.

She blinked up at him, seemingly oblivious to the effect she was having. "Okay, then. Shall we get started on our adventure?"

Above them the umbrella pines swayed. The bruised sky wept misty Roman tears. And Niccolo got the distinct feeling that he was only beginning to know what it meant to truly lose himself.

"Absolutely."

This book is actually only available in e-book format, but I was able to read it in paper galley format (and if you win a copy of the book, you will receive it in paper galley format, too, unless you prefer an e-book). It's loosely based on the movie Roman Holiday, and it's a cute summer/beach read.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Royally Roma
In this charming, modern retelling of the classic Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday, a royal prince tries to escape his hectic and rigid life and ends up leading a young graduate student on a chase through the Eternal City.

Julia Costa is too busy trying to complete her Ph.D. while also holding down a full-time job as a private tour guide in Rome to keep up with celebrity gossip. So when she crosses paths with a real, actual prince, she mistakes him for a client and takes him on a daylong tour of the city.

Intrigued by the idea of spending time with someone who obviously has no idea who he is, and delighted at the prospect of a day free of royal obligations, Niccolo La Torre, Crown Prince of Lazaretto, acts on impulse and assumes the role of Julia’s client. He swears to himself that he’ll return to his royal duties after only half a day ... but he’s having the time of his life.

Until Julia presents him with the bill. Since he snuck out of the hotel without so much as a dime, he tries to escape, only to discover that she won’t let him out of her sight until he can pay her back. She’s determined to get her money ... and perhaps more, from the handsome stranger she’s fallen for.


Italy has been on my bucket list for forever, so it was fun to kind-of experience it in this book, as Julia is a tour guide who leads Niccolo around Rome. Because Julia doesn't really use social media, she doesn't recognize that Niccolo is a prince (not of Rome, but of a different city), and he's able to go incognito with her during the tour. 

The problem comes at the end, when it's time to pay for the tour, as Niccolo never keeps cash on him ... 

I found this to be a fun read—it's ideal for the beach or for a quick summer read. Some of the writing, especially near the end, was rather cliche, but we get extensive backstories for both Julia and Niccolo, which is helpful. This book is the first in The Royals series, the second being Royally Romanov, which I also have in my possession to review. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book if you're looking for a quick, not-too-serious read.

3.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a print galley of this book!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, August 1st, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Royally Roma print galley

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: My Last Continent, by Midge Raymond {ends 7/16}

Thom and I stand together on the rear deck, watching the Australis moving in the distance like a time-lapse image of a drifting iceberg: slow, massive, inevitable. In one of the articles I'd read about the ship, a spokesman for the parent cruise company had bragged about how the Australis would cruise to every last inch of the planet, that no place was off-limits to a ship this invincible. It reminded me of what people once said about the Titanic.

This novel actually debuted last summer, and now it's out in paperback. I did a giveaway last month for a signed copy, but that was before I had actually read the book; now I have both a review of the book and another giveaway (for *another* signed copy!) for one of my lucky readers to win.

I'm a big fan of shipwreck movies, such as Titanic, and this book was similar. It was also interesting to learn more about Antarctica and penguins.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: My Last Continent, by Midge Raymond
An unforgettable debut with an irresistible love story, My Last Continent is a big-hearted, propulsive novel set against the dramatic Antarctic landscape—“original and entirely authentic love story” (Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project).

It is only at the end of the world—among the glacial mountains, cleaving icebergs, and frigid waters of Antarctica—where Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For the few blissful weeks they spend each year studying the habits of emperor and Adélie penguins, Deb and Keller can escape the frustrations and sorrows of their separate lives and find solace in their work and in each other. But Antarctica, like their fleeting romance, is tenuous, imperiled by the world to the north.

A new travel and research season has just begun, and Deb and Keller are ready to play tour guide to the passengers on the small expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But this year, Keller fails to appear on board. Then, shortly into the journey, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from the Australis, a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters of the Southern Ocean. Soon Deb’s role will change from researcher to rescuer; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller.

As Deb and Keller’s troubled histories collide with this catastrophic present, Midge Raymond’s phenomenal novel takes us on a voyage deep into the wonders of the Antarctic and the mysteries of the human heart. 
My Last Continent is packed with emotional intelligence and high stakes—a harrowing, searching novel of love and loss in one of the most remote places on earth, a land of harsh beauty where even the smallest missteps have tragic consequences—“Half adventure, half elegy, and wholly recommended” (Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves).

This book was very well-written, and part of the reason why is because it jumps back in forth in time. We see how Deb originally started penguins, and the author even takes us back to her college years for this. We see how she and Keller first met, and how they fell in love; I would argue that a companion novel could be written from Keller's point of view, actually, since this novel is written from 1st person POV from Deb's perspective.

In the present, Deb is back in Antarctica, but Keller isn't on their ship - she later finds out he's on the Australis, a huge cruise liner that shouldn't even be in the same waters as her ship, as it's not equipped to do so. Later, when they get the distress call that the Australis has taken on water and is sinking (much like the Titanic, IMO), of course her first thought is of him, and she desperately wants to make sure he is fine. 

I have never been to Antarctica and now I'm a little scared to do so after reading this book, ha - between the ice and the frigid temperatures, it does sound like a beautiful continent, but also quite dangerous. I'll stick to visiting Alaska at some point instead.

4.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers has yet another chance to win a SIGNED copy of this book!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, July 15th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

My Last Continent paperback

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Quick Pick book review and GIVEAWAY: The Nearness of You, by Amanda Eyre Ward {ends 7/14}

  • Opening lines: (Prologue) The girl in the bed was close to death. There were no flowers on the bedside table, no balloons. It had been a pale day. A final strip of sun light up the girl's motionless hands. Her fingernails were painted rose.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I have read another of Amanda Eyre Ward's books, The Same Sky, and it was one of only three books that I gave 5 out of 5 stars to in 2015.
  • And what's this book about?
  • In this profound and lyrical novel, acclaimed author Amanda Eyre Ward explores the deeper meanings of motherhood—from the first blissful hello to the heart-wrenching prospect of saying goodbye.

    Brilliant heart surgeon Suzette Kendall is stunned when Hyland, her husband of fifteen years, admits his yearning for a child. From the beginning they’d decided that having children was not an option, as Suzette feared passing along the genes that landed her mother in a mental institution. But Hyland proposes a different idea: a baby via surrogate.

    Suzette agrees, and what follows is a whirlwind of candidate selections, hospital visits, and Suzette’s doubts over whether she’s made the right decision. A young woman named Dorothy Muscarello is chosen as the one who will help make this family complete. For Dorrie, surrogacy (and the money that comes with it) are her opportunity to leave behind a troubled past and create a future for herself—one full of possibility. But this situation also forces all three of them—Dorrie, Suzette, and Hyland—to face a devastating uncertainty that will reverberate in the years to come.

    Beautifully shifting between perspectives,
    The Nearness of You deftly explores the connections we form, the families we create, and the love we hold most dear.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes a good story.
  • Favorite paragraph: "Has the young runaway turned up?" asked Meg.

    Suzette shook her head. "Where is she?" she said. "How can this be happening?"

    "It's just a matter of time," said Meg. "They're going to find her, Suze. We're going to be sitting here tomorrow and everything will be fine. I promise."

    "I already feel like the baby is mine," said Suzette, somewhat stunned to acknowledge this, even to herself. "I thought it would feel so great, Meg, but this is the worst."

    "Welcome to parenthood," said Meg.  
  • Something to know: I thought this was only the second book by Amanda Eyre Ward, but she's actually written a few more. 
  • What I would have changed: There's a bombshell that we learn at the end, and then the book finishes shortly thereafter. I would have explored this new info a bit more - let's just say that a new character is thrown into the mix, and a central character doesn't even get much "page time" with him before the book ends. 
  • Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to purchase on Amazon. 

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book for reviewing from NetGalley. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own. 


GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Nearness of You!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Friday, July 14th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be chosen the next day and notified via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Nearness of You book

Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Dating You / Hating You, by Christina Lauren {ends 7/7}

"Hi." I hold out my hand. "I'm Evie."

"Is that short for Evil?" He pretends to be scared as he tentatively returns the handshake. "Are you sure you're Griffindor? Your laugh makes me think you have a secret lab and are building an apocalyptic robot dog that's going to eat every smug person here. Slytherin for sure."

"It's short for Evelyn. The cackle is my gift. It keeps the delicate ones away."

"I'm Carter." He points two thumbs at his chest. "Not delicate, I promise."

Is he ... flirting? I consider the rolling tumbleweeds of my dating life and marvel that I can't even tell anymore.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I'm a huge fan of anything by Christina Lauren, and this novel was no different. It's actually their (they are an author duo) first standalone novel, and I loved that it jumped between the two main character's points of view.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Dating You / Hating You, by Christina Lauren
All’s fair in love and work. The first standalone romance by New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Beautiful Bastard) is a sexy, compulsively readable romantic comedy that dives headlong into the thrill and doubt of modern love.

Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals—so why can’t they act like it?

Can Carter stop trying to please everyone and see how their mutual boss is really playing the game? Can Evie put aside her competitive nature long enough to figure out what she really wants in life? Can their actor clients just be something close to human? Whether these two Hollywood love/hatebirds get the storybook Hollywood ending or just a dramedy of epic proportions, you will get to enjoy Christina Lauren’s heartfelt, raucous, and hilarious romance style at its finest.


There were a lot of elements in this novel that were very "real-life," which I liked - Evie doesn't want to just throw her job away for Carter, and the two of them are very competitive, so when they're pitted against each other for the same job, they put aside their romance and go for it. 

Also, Evie is a bit older than Carter - I think she was 32 or 33, and he was 26 - and she agonizes over that a bit too, not wanting to appear like a "cougar," ha. 

Overall, this is a very cute story that has a lot of real-life elements in it. Carter and Evie both have great friend groups, too, who advise them what they should do in their situation, and although they do listen to them, sometimes it's better for them to just take thing into their own hands.

4 stars out of 5.

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

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a paperback copy of Dating You / Hating You!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Friday, July 7th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be emailed the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Dating You/Hating You book

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon {ends 6/20}

"So, you think Ashish is going to come stay with you?"

"Probably. To be honest, I think he's mostly just interested in ogling college girls rather than checking out the merits of the campus." Rishi rolled his eyes.

"Oh, like that thought never occurred to you when you were coming here," Dimple said.

The doors opened to an empty elevator, and both of them stepped in. Rishi turned to her as the doors closed. "It didn't," he said seriously. "I was only thinking of you."

This is probably one of the cutest YA books I've read in a while. I was intrigued by both the premise and the cover (an Indian girl drinking Starbucks or some sort of other drink, who is obviously a bit younger) and the novel did not disappoint.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon
A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers ... right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Signed copy of My Last Continent, by Midge Raymond {ends 6/14}

My Last Continent is now officially out in paperback, and I have a signed copy to give away to one of my lucky readers!

GIVEAWAY: Signed copy of My Last Continent, by Midge Raymond About the book:
An unforgettable debut with an irresistible love story, "My Last Continent" is a big-hearted, propulsive novel set against the dramatic Antarctic landscape original and entirely authentic love story.
It is only at the end of the world among the glacial mountains, cleaving icebergs, and frigid waters of Antarctica where Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For the few blissful weeks they spend each year studying the habits of emperor and Adelie penguins, Deb and Keller can escape the frustrations and sorrows of their separate lives and find solace in their work and in each other. But Antarctica, like their fleeting romance, is tenuous, imperiled by the world to the north. 

A new travel and research season has just begun, and Deb and Keller are ready to play tour guide to the passengers on the small expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But this year, Keller fails to appear on board. Then, shortly into the journey, Deb's ship receives an emergency signal from the "Australis," a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters of the Southern Ocean. Soon Deb's role will change from researcher to rescuer; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller. 

As Deb and Keller s troubled histories collide with this catastrophic present, Midge Raymond's phenomenal novel takes us on a voyage deep into the wonders of the Antarctic and the mysteries of the human heart. "My Last Continent" is packed with emotional intelligence and high stakes: a harrowing, searching novel of love and loss in one of the most remote places on earth, a land of harsh beauty where even the smallest missteps have tragic consequences. Half adventure, half elegy, and wholly recommended.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Public Relations, by Katie Heaney & Arianna Rebolini {ends 6/8}

What I knew about Archie Fox before walking into the meeting was as follows: He was twenty-four years old, British, and blew up about five years ago when an amateur video of one of his open-mike-night performances got a million views on YouTube within thirty-six hours. Unlike many YouTube sensations, however, he actually had the goods to support a career, and before the world even had time to process what was happening, his dimpled simple and shaggy hair were everywhere.
...
He seemed charming in person, speaking in a slow, deep drawl—though there was less of that now that he was ducking out of interviews, avoiding paparazzi, and blowing off red carpets. And that was kind of the problem.

This was a very cute book that's being compared to The Devil Wears Prada, though I have to say that the main character's boss in this novel is much nicer than Miranda Priestly. It gives an interesting look into the world of PR, and shows how many celebrity "relationships" are actually manufactured just for the press.

About the book:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Public Relations, by Katie Heaney & Arianna Rebolini
Young PR star Rose Reed is thrown into the big leagues when her boss leaves town the day of the firm's meeting with Archie Fox, a young, hot, internationally famous British singer-songwriter. The meeting is going badly until Rose suggests a staged romance with up-and-coming, young indie star Raya. He'll do it, but only if Rose becomes his publicist.

As the faux-mance begins to rehabilitate Archie's faltering career, Rose finds his herself having unexpected, inconvenient and definitely unprofessional feelings for the crooner. But do late night texts and impromptu burrito binges mean he feels the same? In the end, Rose will have to decide whether to let her fantasy crush go, or to risk her reputation to be with the charming, handsome, scoundrel-y but sweet pop star she's grown to love.


Rose Reed is good at her job - she got promoted at a young age, and currently is only 26. That being said, she's currently falling for her new client, the singer Archie Fox, which is a definite no-no, especially when you are trying to set him up with another new musician (for the press, of course).

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: City Mouse, by Stacey Lender {ends 5/22}

It was the bathroom that finally started us house hunting on the weekends up in Westchester. Sharon and Dave had just moved to Scarsdale from the city and I swear during brunch they slipped Aaron some suburban Kool-Aid with their day-old bagels. While the kids played on a giant plastic gym set in their cavernous empty living room, they proudly gave us a tour of their five-bedroom Colonial, closet by closet. Aaron seemed bored, as usual, but when we entered the en suite master bathroom, complete with double sinks and a rainfall shower, I heard him gasp. "A separate little room for the toilet!" he said, eyes glowing wide with bathroom envy. 

I was surprised to learn that City Mouse is the author's debut novel, as it was very good. It follows a woman and her family who decide to move to the suburbs from NYC, and who does so with doubts, as they she loves the city and doesn't know how she and her family will fare in the suburbs.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: City Mouse, by Stacey Lender
Priced out of their Manhattan neighborhood, Jessica and Aaron move with their young daughters to the one place Jessica swore she’d never go: the suburbs. But to Jessica’s surprise, life in the commuter belt makes a great first impression. She quickly falls in with a clique of helpful mom friends who welcome her with pitchers of margaritas, neighborhood secrets, and a pair of hot jeans that actually fit.

Still, it's hard to keep up in a crowd where everyone competes for the most perfectly manicured home and latest backyard gadgets. And what’s worse, as the only working mom in her circle, Jessica sometimes feels disconnected and alone. So she’s thrilled when she’s invited to a moms-only weekend at the beach, which she assumes will mean new opportunities for real talk and bonding. Instead, the trip turns into a series of eye-opening lessons, and Jessica must decide if she’s strong enough to be honest with herself about the sort of life she really wants.

City Mouse is an irresistible debut that examines what it means to find your place, revealing unspoken truths about motherhood, friendship, and the thorny pursuit to have it all.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Alex & Eliza, by Melissa de la Cruz {ends 5/16}

"I don't know why she cares so much," Eliza said now. "This is hardly the most prominent party of the year."

"Yes, but the Van Rensselaers are coming and the Livingstons, and, of course, that famous young Colonel Hamilton. Husband season is open. The hounds are on the loose."

Eliza's face brightened. "A good thing, then, that I have no intention of being a fox!"

I'm a huge fan of Melissa de la Cruz books, as well as historical fiction so it's not a surprise that I enjoyed this one. The novel focuses on Alexander Hamilton, who meets and later wooes Elizabeth Schuyler, and their romance, of which not much history is known about.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Alex & Eliza, by Melissa de la Cruz
Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Quick Pick book review: Confessions of a Domestic Failure, by Bunmi Laditan

book review: Confessions of a Domestic Failure, by Bunmi Laditan
  • Opening lines: Aubrey's ear-piercing cry rattled over the baby monitor yanking me out of a deep sleep.

    My eyes fluttered open. I looked at my phone's clock. No, no, no, no, no. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: Bunmi Laditan is better known as The Honest Toddler on Twitter (@honesttoddler), and her tweets are hilarious.
  • And what's this book about?
  • From the creator of The Honest Toddler comes a fiction debut sure to be a must-read for moms everywhere.

    There are good moms and bad moms—and then there are hot-mess moms. Introducing Ashley Keller, career girl turned stay-at-home mom who's trying to navigate the world of Pinterest-perfect, Facebook-fantastic and Instagram-impressive mommies but failing miserably.

    When Ashley gets the opportunity to participate in the Motherhood Better boot camp run by the mommy-blog-empire maven she idolizes, she jumps at the chance to become the perfect mom she's always wanted to be. But will she fly high or flop?

    With her razor-sharp wit and knack for finding the funny in everything, Bunmi Laditan creates a character as flawed and lovable as Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood while hilariously lambasting the societal pressures placed upon every new mother. At its heart, Ashley's story reminds moms that there's no way to be perfect, but many ways to be great.

  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes "chick lit," or really anyone that is a mom, that knows moms, or that ever wants to be a mom. 
  • Favorite paragraph: Two lactation consultants, bloodwork, a dozen delicious but ineffective lactation cookies, two boxes of lactation tea and a rented breast pump later, I gave in and bought my first tin of failure powder. That's what a mom from my online breastfeeding forum calls formula. Failure powder. For failures like me.
    .....
    One mom even asked - with tears in her eyes, no less - if she could breastfeed my baby for me. As if Aubrey is some malnourished third-world baby on television with flies buzzing around her emaciated body. I may have lied and said that she's allergic to human milk.

    Oh, and we stopped using the million-dollar-a-can organic formula blend when Aubrey was three months old. Now she's on the cheap brand stuff. She's the only eight-month-old I know with zero teeth - probably from all the trace minerals she's missing from my malfunctioning mammary glands. formula. When she drops out of community college, we'll all know why. 
  • Something to know: The "perfect mom" / "mommy-blog-empire-maven" that Ashley idolizes throughout the novel definitely reminded me of The Pioneer Woman, one of the first lifestyle bloggers who has now built an empire for herself, with a dash of Martha Stewart thrown in.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing that I can think of. I liked how the ending was realistic, for the most part, too.
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order on Amazon. The book will be released on May 2, 2017. 
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book for reviewing from NetGalley. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

GIVEAWAY - 2 books: The Outliers, and The Scattering, by Kimberly McCreight {2 winners, ends 4/26}

NEW GIVEAWAY: The Outliers, and The Scattering, by Kimberly McCreight.

The Outliers, by Kimberly McCreight, was released in May 2016 (and is only $1.99 on Kindle, currently!). Its sequel, The Scattering, will be released on May 2nd, and two of my lucky readers now have a chance to win both books!

About The Outliers:
It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help.

Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.

This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice: she has to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.

But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

About The Scattering:
New York Times bestselling author Kimberly McCreight raises the stakes in the second book of the heart-pounding Outliers trilogy, a uniquely speculative story about secrets, betrayal, and a world where one small group of people are blessed—or cursed—with an incredible power.

Wylie may have escaped the camp in Maine, but she is far from safe. The best way for her to protect herself is to understand her ability, fast. But after spending a lifetime trying to ignore her own feelings, giving in to her ability to read other peoples’ emotions is as difficult as it is dangerous.

And Wylie isn’t the only one at risk. Ever since they returned home, Jasper has been spiraling, wracked with guilt over what happened to Cassie. After all they’ve been through together, Wylie and Jasper would do anything for each other, but she doesn’t know if their bond is strong enough to overcome demons from the past.

It is amid this uncertainty and fear that Wylie finds herself confronted with a choice. She was willing to do whatever it took to help Cassie, but is she prepared to go to the same extremes to help complete strangers . . . even if they are just like her?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Used media sale: Bookstock at Laurel Park Place (Livonia, MI), April 23-30

Bookstock at Laurel Park Place (Livonia, MI), April 23-30

Before last year, I had never even heard of Bookstock - however, it's been going on for quite a number of years now, and it's back this year at Laurel Park Place.

Last year I wrote a post about it, which you can find here, and the post ended up being one of my most popular posts on the website! {I guess you guys like a deal, which I definitely agree with!}

This week, I was able to catch up with fellow bloggers at the WDIV Channel 4 studio in Detroit, and learn more about this year's event. I'm hoping to actually attend this year, as well - last year I was out of town during it. I have my eye on some of those $1 - $3 books!

About the event:
Bookstock’s back, offering incredible deals on used books and media Sunday, April 23 through Sunday, April 30 at Livonia’s Laurel Park Place.

Bargains abound at Bookstock, metro Detroit’s biggest and best used book and media sale, where proceeds benefit literacy and education projects in metropolitan Detroit. Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley and Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin are Honorary Co-Chairs of Bookstock and the Mike Morse Law Firm is Bookstock’s 2017 Presenting Sponsor.

Bookstock’s Pre-Sale will kick-off on Sunday, April 23 at 8:15 a.m. with a performance by Livonia’s Churchill High School Drumline. There is a $20 admission charge for the Pre-Sale only, which runs through 11 a.m. and offers savvy shoppers and collectors first crack at Bookstock’s treasure trove of bargains. Bookstock has over 200,000 donated used books, DVDs, CDs, books on tape, magazines and records for sale at bargain basement prices. The sale will continue through Sunday, April 30, running Sundays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 9p.m.

This year, Bookstock will feature six days of special sales:
    Bookstock at Laurel Park Place (Livonia, MI), April 23-30
  • Monday Madness – Monday, April 24: The first 1,000 shoppers will receive spectacular giveaways and one lucky shopper will receive a $500 VISA gift card.
  • Teacher Appreciation Day – Tuesday, April 25: Bookstock is celebrating teachers by giving 50% off to all teachers with a valid ID from 3–9 p.m. At 5 p.m., the Bookstock B.E.S.T.* Awards, (Bookstock Extraordinary Student/School/Teacher)will be presented to fourth grade students from Detroit Public Schools Community District who write the best essays entitled, “My Favorite Book Character…and Why.” A WDIV TV personality, will present the awards live,and cash prizes will be given to five students, their teachers and their schools.
  • Cookstock – Wednesday, April 26: Bookstock will feature the area’s largest collection of gently used cookbooks, and local TV celebrities Tati Amare (WDIV- 4), Carolyn Clifford (WXYZ-7) and Sherry Margolis (Fox 2) will announce the winners of the first Cookstock Recipe Contest at 5 .pm. at Bookstock, the first recipe contest to benefit literacy in Michigan!
  • Bookbuster Special Days – Thursday, April 27 and Friday, April 28: Buy three books and get the fourth book *free (*least expensive item) from 3 – 9 p.m. Spend $25 or more either night and be entered in a special drawing for: 
    • 4 tickets to a Red Wings game in the new Little Caesars Arena
    • A piece of the Palace floor signed by Pistons Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer
    • A two night stay and two rounds of Golf for two people at Treetops Resort in Gaylord
  • Half Price Finale, Sunday, April 30: All books and media will be sold for half price!
Bookstock at Laurel Park Place (Livonia, MI), April 23-30

Monday, April 3, 2017

Book Review: It Happens All the Time, by Amy Hatvany

He grunted and moaned as he stabbed himself inside me, not sounding like himself. This was some other man, some animal, not the boy I'd known and loved. He was a stranger violating my body, a monster taking what he wanted and not caring about the carnage left in his wake. 

This was me, having led him on to the point where he thought that it was okay to keep going, even after I told him to stop. 

This was me, opening my eyes and staring at the ceiling, my soul floating up above my body, trying to deny that I was being raped by my best friend. 

Wow, this was a great book. To be honest, I was asked to participate in a book tour for it, so I downloaded the e-galley and planned to read it in a few weeks; however, NetGalley had a preview of the book up on its site, and I read it and was immediately hooked. I ended up reading the entire book in only two days.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: It Happens All the Time, by Amy Hatvany
From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times betselling author)—comes a provocative and compelling novel about two friends whose lives are changed by a drunken kiss.

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

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.

GIVEAWAY:

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
credit: businessinsider.com

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.

Choose.

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.

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Elizabeth has read 2 books toward her goal of 70 books.
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