Friday, July 28, 2017

2017 Backlist Reader Challenge: July Roundup

Here are some mini-reviews for my latest reads for the 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by The Bookwym's Hoard!

The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #8) by Louise Penny (2012)

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache travels to a remote monastery in the Quebec wilderness when the monastery's prior/choirmaster is found murdered.  Although this was a cool mystery (the suspect list is limited to the other 23 monks living there, the focus on Gregorian chants, and the vow of silence taken by the monks), sometimes it was a little hard to follow the religious terminology, at least for me.  I really had to concentrate on abbot v. prior, etc., because the monastery was split between the two spiritual leaders.

This installment of the series was a really interesting character study of these men who joined this monastery - how they came to be there, their roles in this mini-society.  But as always, I was drawn to Gamache and his second-in-command, Beauvoir.  I feel like we saw a side to Gamache that we hadn't seen before, especially when his superior, the Superintendent, comes to the island supposedly to help with the investigation.  Extra layers were also added to Beavoir's character, as he is now (secretly or not-so-secretly) dating Gamache's daughter, and he is still struggling from the after-effects of the foiled terror plot from a couple stories ago.

Even 8 books into the series, I still find Penny's writing to be magical - it's comforting yet suspenseful, building the mystery while never losing focus on the characters.  I feel like something big is coming in the series, and I look forward to the next installment.  4.5 stars

How The Light Gets In (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #9) by Louise Penny (2013)

Another masterful installment from Louise Penny.  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is back in Three Pines to investigate the murder of a friend of a Three Pines resident.  That friend turns out to be quite a famous person, although she had kept her true identity hidden for many years.

As interesting as this mystery was, I felt the bulk of the novel was devoted to increasing problems in the police department.  Gamache's team has been dismantled and he begins to suspect that things are more than what they seem.  As he uncovers major corruption, he's not sure who he can trust, but he knows he needs help.

The way Penny builds tension is just amazing - I could not put this book down. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out what happened to all the characters.  I loved how Penny incorporated the residents of Three Pines into the big scandal at the police department.  She really seamlessly brought together these two elements in a way that felt genuine.  4.5 stars

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sunshine Blogger Award

Thank you to Suzanne at The Bookish Libra for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award!  It really is such an honor to be thought of for things like this!

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

The Rules
  • Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog
My questions from The Bookish Libra
  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?  Paris, for sure.  I love reading books that are set in Paris.  It just seems like such a beautiful and historic city.
  2. If you were given a $50 gift card to your local bookstore, what books would you buy?  Lately, I've really been wanting to purchase some nice hardbound classics, so I'd probably get all the Oz books, maybe Alice in Wonderland.
  3. What do you wish you could change about yourself?  Physically, I wish I was taller - sometimes I feel silly standing next to my husband, who is a foot taller than me.  Personality-wise, I wish I was more outgoing.
  4. If you could meet any character from any book you’ve read, who would you want to meet and why?  Hmm, I'd have to go with Tyrion from Game of Thrones.  He's smart and cunning and just plain funny.
  5. What made you decide to start blogging?  Last year I was starting to read a lot of book blogs and I thought to myself, "I think I could do that, too!"  I wanted to share my thoughts about books and participate in some of the weekly features I saw other bloggers doing.
  6. What fictional character (books, TV, or film) is most like you?  In what ways?  I would say Elsie from Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  She's an ordinary girl who thinks the perfect Friday night is reading, watching tv, and eating pizza.  Sounds just like me!  Also, she can lash out and get a bit nasty when she's upset, which unfortunately is also like me!
  7. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?  Anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter.
  8. What makes you happy?  So many things!  My husband, my family, books, blue skies, pizza...
  9. If you had to describe yourself in one word, what word would you choose?  Sentimental.
  10. Are you a dog person or a cat person?  Definitely cat!  Although, we can't have one because of my husband's allergies.
  11. What is your all-time favorite book?  Oh, wow, that is difficult!  I think I would say Gone With The Wind - it's just such a classic, such an epic story.  Rhett Butler is probably my favorite character of all time, and even though she's spoiled and selfish at times, I can't help but love Scarlett.
Questions for my nominees

1.  If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only have 5 books, what would they be?
2.  If you could have a beer or coffee with any literary character, who would you choose and why? 
3.  What is your #1 blogging tip? 
4.  How has your blog changed since you started it? 
5.  What was the last movie you saw?
6.  What are some of your bookish pet peeves?
7.  What book setting would you most like to visit and why?
8.  What is your favorite post on your own blog, and which post has been the most popular among your readers?
9.  Are there any 2018 releases that you're already looking forward to?
10.  What book are you reading next, and how did you decide on it?
11.  What's your favorite comfort food?

My nominees (I'm going to nominate a few blogs that I really love, and I will not feel bad if you don't want to participate!)

A Magical World of Words
Somewhere Only We Know
Books & Beauty Are My Bag

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Waiting on/Can't Wait Wednesday: The Cottingley Secret

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Cottingley Secret
Hazel Gaynor
Expected publication date: August 1, 2017
The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story.

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself? - from Goodreads
I really enjoyed The Girl Who Came Home, so I'm interested to see what Hazel Gaynor does next!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Quotables #4: The Taylor Jenkins Reid Edition

I've finally gotten on the Taylor Jenkins Reid bandwagon and I am loving her books!  They're so relatable and so quotable!

Why it speaks to me:  Some people are always looking for the next best thing; they think "perfection" is out there and they have to find it.  But perfection doesn't exist and I think our happiness is what we make of it.  I'm not saying you should settle for a less-than-ideal job or a guy who kinda makes you happy, but I think we can find contentment in lots of things and make our situations work for us.

Why it speaks to me:  I'm not so sure I totally agree with this quote.  I believe in things like fate and karma, but I don't rely on those things to govern my life.  I'd like to think I have some say in what happens.  I don't think believing in fate means blindly doing whatever you want, regardless of consequences, "knowing" that things will work out the way they're supposed to.  It kind of sounds like a dangerous way to live.

Why it speaks to me:  I love this quote because it reminds me that beauty and excitement are all around us.  I dream of going to Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower or touring the historic sights of London, but there are so many things closer to home that can inspire just as much wonder. 

Which of these quotes is your favorite?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: This Time Around

This Time Around
Tawna Fenske
Published April 4, 2017
Allie Ross is not living the life she once dreamed. Her law career ended before it ever started, her parents landed in jail for running a Ponzi scheme, and she just inherited her grandmother’s B&B—which is nice, even if it is full of extra-toed cats. As for her love life…she’d rather not talk about it.

When Jack Carpenter reaches out to reconnect with Allie, the girl who broke his heart in college, his plan is to impress her with the adult he’s become. Sure, he was a deadbeat then, but life has forced him to grow up. And it’s a relief to find out that things didn’t necessarily go the way Allie expected either.

As Allie and Jack get reacquainted, they rediscover the things they loved—and hated—about each other. But who they are now isn’t who they were then, and secrets—old and new—will test whether they have a future together, or if the past is destined to repeat itself. - from Goodreads
I don't generally read a lot of contemporary romance books, but I really liked the sound of this one and I was not disappointed!

Allie and Jack dated as teenagers, eventually getting engaged early in college.  But then they break up and don't see each other for 16 years, until Jack moves back to town and gets in touch with Allie.  The spark is still there, but could a relationship between them work now?

A huge part of the story is who Jack and Allie were the first time they dated versus who they are now.  Back then, Allie was the organized, responsible one, with dreams of going to law school and getting married, and she came from a wealthy family who didn't approve of Jack, who was basically a slacker with no real ambitions and terrible with money.  Fast forward 16 years, and the two have basically switched places in life.  Allie never finished law school and has three more failed engagements to her name; her parents are now in prison.  Jack, however, really turned his life around - he eventually finished college, started a successful career, got married (his wife unfortunately passes away), and had a daughter. 

A lot of the issues that plagued their relationship as teenagers aren't really factors anymore, because of the benefit of time.  Allie and Jack have both grown up, and their experiences (plus the chemistry they always had) potentially make them better partners for each other now.  There's a sense of familiarity combined with chances to learn new things about each other.  But - and there's always a but - there's still some hesitation.  Maybe some of their old problems will resurface, or maybe there will be new ones...

Fenske has crafted a fast-moving, sexy, and mostly lighthearted second-chance romance.  Allie and Jack are relatable and realistic main characters, and there is a good cast of secondary characters that provide humor and heart.

4 stars

Thursday, July 20, 2017

TV Shows I'm Obsessed With Lately #2

Tom and I watched this show years ago and I loved it, so for Christmas he bought me the box set of the entire series and now I'm working my way through it again.  I'm just fascinated by the Tudors and I'll pretty much read or watch anything related to this family!

Tom watches BBC America for Doctor Who; I watch it for Graham Norton.  Graham Norton hosts a British talk show and he is just hilarious.  It's similar to our late-night talk shows here in the US: he does a monologue, chats with celebrities, and has a musical guest each week.

Ah, Neflix, you've done it again!  This series tells the story of a young woman starting her own online vintage clothing store.  It's just a really cute and fun show!  And it's based on the autobiography #GIRLBOSS, by Sophia Amoruso, which I really should read.  (Unfortunately, I just found out it's been cancelled and won't be getting a second season, but hey, at least you can binge this season.)

Have you watched any of these?  What shows are you watching lately?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Waiting on/Can't Wait Wednesday: The Address

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Address
Fiona Davis
Expected publication date: August 1, 2017
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.  - from Goodreads