Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: My Contrary Mary

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Expected publication date: June 22, 2021
Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens?⠀

Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she's a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an EĆ°ian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It's a secret that could cost her a head—or a tail.⠀

Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper's nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary's secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll. - from Goodreads

I really loved the Lady Janies series, and I can't wait to see what this trio of authors does with some famous Marys!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Month in Review: April 2021

April is one of my favorite months because there's usually a lot going on and we start getting out of the house more after a long winter, and this month was no exception!
My birthday happened to fall on Easter this year, so we celebrated both at my mom's house, with a cake for my sister and me and an egg hunt for my niece!  We got our landscaping cleaned up, and I'm excited to get all our furniture out and planters full and hopefully have some people over soon!  Tom and I took my mom axe-throwing one Saturday afternoon - of course she and Tom were great at it while I did terrible!  Although, the first time I actually hit the board was for a bullseye, so that was fun.  I also went to my first real event in a long time - my cousin's wife's baby shower!  It was held at a restaurant that had kind of an indoor/outdoor room (one of the walls completely opened up), which I thought was a great compromise.  It was a beautiful shower and so nice to see some family members we haven't seen in a really long time.  Lastly, my blog turned 5 this month!  I can't believe it's been that long already.  Thank you to everyone for your kind words and for entering the giveaway - the winner has been notified and their prize has been ordered!

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Friday, April 30, 2021

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Foodie Edition

I've watched Ree Drummond for years in The Pioneer Woman on Food Network, so I was really excited to read her new book all about life on her Oklahoma ranch, focusing particularly on marriage and motherhood.  It's a collection of memories and stories, some older ones repurposed from her blog and others brand-new (she talks about the effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on her family).

Ree's personality really comes through in this book - everything I've seen of her on tv and expect her to be.  She's relatable and personable, with an approachable writing style that feels like you're having a conversation with her.  And she's funny!  A little dry humor, sometimes self-deprecating, but I actually found myself laughing out loud at a story or two (especially the story about a doughnut).  I enjoyed reading about daily life on a cattle ranch, practically in the middle of nowhere - I can't imagine having to drive an hour or more to go to the store, and I could definitely do without all the critters she comes across on her property.  Definitely a must-read for fans or anyone who's wondering what it's like to live in the country!  4 stars

Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting (2020)
Blaire has just opened her cupcakes and cocktails cafe when Ronan opens his throwback sports bar on the same day, next door.  It leads to some competition between the two (and maybe some sparks), but when a bigger threat opens across the street, the two decide to work together to make their businesses a success. 

I didn't love this one as much as I thought I would.  I thought the idea was cute - these two business owners in competition with each other as they try to drum up customers realize they actually like working together - but the execution was lacking for me.  Ronan and Blaire felt like caricatures - him always in plaid, her always in '50s-style dresses.  The story, and especially the dialogue, were very repetitive - it seemed like they just kept having the same conversations over and over.  There was a distinct lack of drama - the competitor that moves in across the street is mentioned so little, they might as well not be there.  It just never felt like the stakes were that high and thus the story was very predictable.  However, I did enjoy the creativity in Blaire's cupcakes and the different events they held, and Ronan's grandfather was absolutely adorable; I loved learning more about his story.  3 stars

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Isn't It Bromantic?

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Isn't It Bromantic? (Bromance Book Club #4)
Lyssa Kay Adams
Expected publication date: July 20, 2021
With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad took up the pen to write a novel the Bromance Book Club would swoon over.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared after speaking out against government corruption, she escaped danger the only way she knew how. She agreed to marry her childhood friend, Vladimir, and move to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka The Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But after four years, it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance–both on and off the page.

The Bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love–and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s senior citizen neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves The Loners. Just when things finally look promising, the danger from Elena’s past life intrudes, and the book club will face their first-ever life-or-death grand gesture as they race to a happy ever after. - from Goodreads

The Russian is getting his own story.  I repeat, THE RUSSIAN is getting his own story!  Finally!

Friday, April 23, 2021

My 5th Blogoversary + Giveaway!

It's a little hard to believe, but my blog is turning five years old tomorrow!  It went by so fast!  I've had a lot of fun and interacted with so many wonderful people.  The book blogging community is an amazing place, and I hope to be able to talk with you all about books for a long time to come!

As a thank you to everyone who has supported this little space, I'm holding a giveaway for a $40.00 shopping spree from The Book Depository, as long as it ships free to your country.  The giveaway will be open until April 30, 2021, and the winner will be notified by email, with three days to respond.

Thank you and good luck! 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Blog Tour + Review: Le Deal

 Thank you to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for Le Deal by J. Byrne Murphy!  I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
J. Byrne Murphy
Originally published August 19, 2008
Le Deal is an adventure story involving raw entrepreneurship, high-level politics, and a young American family in foreign lands. It is the true story of Byrne Murphy, a businessman who abruptly moves to Paris with his wife and baby daughter in a quest to reignite his career and his fortunes. He quickly finds himself up against strange and powerful forces for which he is ill prepared.

Just days after landing in France, Byrne reads that the newly installed prime minister has declared a moratorium on all new retail development, apparently snuffing out Byrne’s proposed new venture---discount fashion malls---before it’s even started. He and his company will engage in a mano a mano struggle with the prime minister (which reaches all the way to France’s Supreme Court); encounter a ruthless political ambush in Germany by the soon-to-be chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder; and face a threatening (“Is this the Mafia?”) would-be partner in Italy. Counterbalanced against these are a series of mostly charming encounters with nearly all members of the British Royal Family, capped off by a tour with Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, which nearly ended in a royal embarrassment of epic proportions.

Byrne and his wife, Pamela, experience the joys and risks of living and growing their family in foreign lands. From proposals for dalliances to a harrowing experience with a local and dangerous disease during pregnancy, they are reminded time and again that surprises can be ever present in foreign cultures.

Over eight years the company (McArthurGlen Europe) grew from nothing to generating approximately a billion dollars in sales from 11 centers across Europe. Those efforts created nearly 8,000 jobs, opened 1,500 stores featuring 500 brands, attracted nearly 40 million shopping visits per year, and spawned an array of competitors. In short, an industry.

Along the way, the author learns what he, and Americans in general, do and do not know about life beyond our borders. The book ends with a message about the need for twenty-first-century Americans who work in international affairs to truly take “context” into account; to realize, in our quest to accomplish more in less time, that investing the time to understand the nuances of foreign cultures with which one may be working is a key to prospering in this multicultural, polyglot, interconnected, globalized world. - from Goodreads
Looking for new business opportunities in the early 1990s, J. Byrne Murphy joined McArthurGlen to help them launch their designer outlet model in Europe.  Since it had been so successful in America, he assumed the same would follow in Europe, but he and his team ran into more problems than they ever dreamed.
What I didn't love about this book:
  • Very little!  I may not have been the target audience for this book, as it may be more geared towards business-oriented readers, so in some areas the concepts went a little over my head.
  • A lot of the narrative focused on Murphy's work in France, trying to open an outlet in a small town, somewhat to the detriment of the rest of the book, as it felt like he glossed over or sped through his experiences in countries such as Germany and Italy.  I would also like to know how the company fared in other places that were only mentioned in passing.
  • There are a lot of people to keep track of; obviously, they're all important to Murphy and his experiences, but for someone on the outside, it was difficult at times to keep them all straight.
What I enjoyed about this book: 
  • Murphy has a great writing style.  It's very approachable and this memoir often reads like a novel.
  • While he shares his great successes, he isn't afraid to admit when he made mistakes.  He willingly points out his naivete about doing business in a foreign country and the things he wished he had known or taken the time to learn before diving in.
  • This book is a great inside look at what it's like to try to start a business in another country.  Murphy and his team learn that what works here in the United States doesn't necessarily work elsewhere.  He talks about the nuances of local politics, knowing the right people, and staying the course.  It was really amazing to see how some of the discount designer outlets took literally years to get up and running, and most ended up being wildly successful, even though there were a lot of local pressures and doubts. 

If you have an interest in business, and particularly what it's like to start one in a  foreign country, I'd highly recommend this book!  4 stars

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Our Woman in Moscow

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Beatriz Williams
Expected publication date: June 1, 2021
The New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Flight returns with a gripping and profoundly human story of Cold War espionage and family devotion.

In the autumn of 1948, Iris Digby vanishes from her London home with her American diplomat husband and their two children. The world is shocked by the family’s sensational disappearance. Were they eliminated by the Soviet intelligence service? Or have the Digbys defected to Moscow with a trove of the West’s most vital secrets?

Four years later, Ruth Macallister receives a postcard from the twin sister she hasn’t seen since their catastrophic parting in Rome in the summer of 1940, as war engulfed the continent and Iris fell desperately in love with an enigmatic United States Embassy official named Sasha Digby. Within days, Ruth is on her way to Moscow, posing as the wife of counterintelligence agent Sumner Fox in a precarious plot to extract the Digbys from behind the Iron Curtain.

But the complex truth behind Iris’s marriage defies Ruth’s understanding, and as the sisters race toward safety, a dogged Soviet KGB officer forces them to make a heartbreaking choice between two irreconcilable loyalties. - from Goodreads

Beatriz Williams is one of my favorite authors, so it's no surprise that I'm totally looking forward to this one - I preordered it back in February!