Monday, September 28, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #15

Down the TBR Hole is a feature created by Lost in a Story (although the blog seems to be down recently).  I've seen it on a few other blogs and thought I would try it out myself!  It seems like a really good way to cull your TBR of those books you're no longer interested in.  So, how does it work?

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
Here are the books I'm looking at this time:

 Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz

This book, I think, is about a kidnap victim who returns to her previous life.  It seems from the blurb that there are some revelations and twists associated with the kidnapping.  Interesting premise, but I think I'll pass.
 The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

In 1960, a woman wakes up in a hospital, remembering nothing.  She finds a letter from someone imploring her to leave her husband.  In 2003, a journalist finds the letter and begins a search to find out what happened to the woman in 1960.  I love Jojo Moyes, and since this is one I haven't read from her yet, I'm definitely keeping it!
 The Second Home by Christina Clancy

Three siblings have to decide what to do with their family vacation home on Cape Cod, 15 years after a summer there changed their lives.  I've seen some mixed reviews for this one, but I'm still intrigued.  Keep!
 Followers by Megan Angelo

This sci-fi book is about two women who want to be famous and how their actions affect literally the entire world decades later.  This sounds fascinating - keep!
 All about Evie by Cathy Lamb

A DNA test reveals long-hidden family secrets and leads Evie on a path of discovery about her past.  There's a lot going on the blurb, and it sounds a little too quirky for me.  Pass!
 Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin

A young musician is hired by a group of wealthy New York City mothers to sing to their children and gets herself a front-row seat to their drama-filled lives.  I love stories like this, that give an insider view on how the uber-wealthy live - definitely keeping this one!
 The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan

Thirty years after her beloved nanny disappears, a woman discovers that her family (and maybe her nanny) were keeping lots of secrets.  This one just isn't grabbing me - pass!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, September 25, 2020

Mini-Reviews: The "What If?" Edition

You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley (2020)

For years, Mia has had dreams about a man she doesn't know.  However, she meets him in real life when she and her husband move to a small Pennsylvania town.  When Oliver reveals he's been dreaming about Mia, too, they begin to search for answers.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  I really liked the premise, but as the story went on, I worried that it would take a too-predictable turn.  There was so little happiness in this book (Mia and her husband Harrison are struggling to start a family; Harrison also has work issues), and at times it felt like the story was taking advantage of all these conveniently timed issues to move towards one conclusion.   That's the part I wasn't crazy about.  Thankfully, the author did surprise me a bit in the end.  I also have to say, I don't think I loved any of the characters.  I sympathized with Mia, but she also annoyed me a bit.  Oliver felt flat, and I feel like Harrison was a good guy but I was steered to feel differently about him for a majority of the book.  However, the writing was good and I might seek this author out again.  3 stars

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (2020)

Lawyer Dannie Cohan has it all - her dream job, a proposal from her dream guy, and a plan for her future - until a too-realistic dream, showing her in five years with a different man in a different apartment, makes her start to question everything.

I love a premise like this - it really makes me think about things like fate.  Is Dannie's future set in stone?  Can she change it, or is everything she tries to do to avoid it just bringing it closer?  I had some issues with this book.  I wasn't a fan of the writing, which felt very choppy.  I also didn't really like Dannie - she's pretentious and superficial, and there was too much name-dropping.  However, there's an unexpected plotline that actually takes the story in a totally different direction than what I thought it would be from the synopsis - I won't say what it is, because it's better to go in blind, but I will say that it changed the tone of the book and made me care about the characters more.  I was even more interested to know how things would play out.  3 stars

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: In A Holidaze

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

In A Holidaze
Christina Lauren
Expected publication date: October 6, 2020
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but thirty-year-old Maelyn Jones is in the midst of a major crisis. She’s living with her mom, hates her boring job, and has yet to make any romantic progress with Andrew, the friend she’s been in love with for the last thirteen years.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born. Devastated as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple wish to the universe: show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows there’s a screech of tires and metal, followed by Mae gasping awake…on an airplane bound for Utah. Now Mae has the chance to live the holidays all over again but with one disaster after another sending her repeatedly back in time, she has to figure out how to end this strange holiday loop and get Andrew under the mistletoe. Otherwise, she’s going to need a miracle.

With Christina Lauren’s trademark “heartfelt and funny” (Kirkus Reviews) prose, this swoon-worthy romance will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays. - from Goodreads
I'm always on the lookout for holiday-themed books for my winter TBR, and I can't resist the writing duo of Christina Lauren, so this sounds perfect for me!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our fall TBR.  Normally I am pretty bad at completing my seasonal TBRs (as much as I love putting them together), but I actually read all the books on my summer TBR!  I have high hopes for this one, too - lots of highly anticipated books that I've been dying to read!

Where should I start?

Monday, September 21, 2020

Blog Tour + Review - Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art

Thank you to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour for Nancy L. Pressly's Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art!  I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Nancy L. Pressly
Published May 5, 2020
While recovering from a near fatal illness, Nancy Pressly discovers a treasure trove of family material stored in her attic. Haunted by images of her grandparents and her parents in their youth, she sets out to create a family narrative before it is lost forever. It takes several more years before she summons the courage to reconstitute a path back to her own past, slowly pulling back the veil of amnesia that has, until now, all but obliterated her memory of her childhood.

In this sensitive and forgiving meditation on the meaning of family, Pressly unravels family dynamics and life in a small rural town in the 1950s that so profoundly affected her—then moves forward in time, through to her adulthood. With an eye attuned to visual detail, she relates how she came into her own as a graduate student in the tumultuous sixties in New York; examines how she assumed the role of caretaker for her family as she negotiated with courage and resilience the many health setbacks, including her own battle with pancreatic cancer, that she and her husband encountered; and evokes her interior struggle as a mother as she slowly traverses the barriers of expectations, self-doubt, and evolving norms in the 1980s to embrace a remarkable life as a scholar, champion of contemporary art, and nationally recognized art museum strategic planning consultant. Full of candor and art-inspired insight, Unlocking leaves the reader with a deep appreciation of the power of art and empathy and the value of trying to understand one’s life journey. - from Goodreads
During her cancer recovery, Nancy Pressly found a trove of family photos and documents in her attic, prompting her to put together a family history, explore the childhood she thought she had forgotten, and reflect on her life as a whole.

I love the idea of creating a comprehensive family history filled with facts and memories.  I think a lot of us kind of forget that our parents and grandparents were young at one point, with their own lives before we came along.  It's so important to keep these memories alive and write them down before it's too late.  I really enjoyed this portion of Nancy's story and wished it had been longer.  She also explored memories of her own childhood.  I almost expected her to reveal a traumatic event that caused her to repress much of her early years, but that didn't really seem to be the case.  She does talk about her first love and how that relationship caused some fractures in her family.

The bulk of this memoir is spent on Pressly's education, her marriage, her career, and her son.  I think there are aspects of her life that many women can relate to.  Pressly loved her chosen field of art history and her work in museums was very interesting, but early on in her career, she had to learn that it was okay for her as a woman to express her intelligence and leadership qualities.  One big theme was the idea of "having it all" - while she wanted a career, she also felt guilt about being away from her son during his formative years.  She had an intense love for homemaking and cooking and had to figure out how to reconcile her professional and personal lives - is it possible to be successful at both?  Her relationship with her husband, though, is one to be admired - they obviously love and respect each other, enjoy their time together, and make sacrifices for each other.

Pressly a talented and engaging writer.  The memoir flowed nicely, but although it was brief (about 200 pages), I felt it could have been edited better.  There was information that felt almost too personal or extraneous.  Overall, though, this was an interesting memoir, a look at an impressive woman, career, and family.

3.5 stars

Friday, September 18, 2020

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Debutante Edition

Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (2018)

Eighteen-year-old Sawyer Taft and her mom have been estranged from their family her whole life - until her grandmother approaches her with an offer.  She'll pay for Sawyer's education, if Sawyer joins her high-society life and completes debutante season.  Sawyer becomes friends with some of the other debutantes, but also becomes involved in more than one scandal.

For some reason I thought this was going to be kind of a fluffy read set in the world of debutantes, with pretty dresses and good manners.  It definitely was not, but I still enjoyed it!  Our main character Sawyer is a reluctant deb - she's gritty and sarcastic.  Her main motivation for accepting her grandmother's offer is to find her biological dad, thinking it might be someone in the society set.  Although we see the girls attend a few deb events, it's more about what happens between those scenes and the trouble the girls (and their elders) get into.  So many scandals, so many secrets!  I loved the snappy writing, the quick pace, and all the banter.   There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and how they're all related to each other, but it was a fun ride!  4 stars

The Season by Kristen Richardson (2019)

In The Season, Kristen Richardson explores the history of the debutante ritual, from its beginnings in England to its spread to the American colonies and beyond.

Although rather short, I thought this was an interesting social history and look into a world that most people will never experience.  Richardson looks at how initially the debutante ritual was a way for young women to find husbands as they were introduced into society and later began to include a charitable element.  I enjoyed the exploration of the ways the tradition differed between the American north and south in the antebellum period and late 19th century.  I also enjoyed her look at current trends in a couple American cities.  I did think she got a little snarky when describing her experience attending a debutante ball; she herself refused the opportunity, and I kind of felt like she was judging others for choosing to do it.  3.5 stars

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
V.E. Schwab
Expected publication date: October 6, 2020
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name. - from Goodreads
This sounds incredible - I can't wait to read about the life Addie LaRue has lived over these 300 years!