Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Anywhere But Here

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is a cover freebie.  January is one of the worst months, weather-wise, where I live - it's cold, dark, and gloomy a lot of the time, plus this year we've had lots of rain, too.  I decided to put together a little collage of covers from my TBR of places I'd rather be!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #7

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:

 One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase

I've enjoyed Bethany Chase's two previous novels, so this novel about friendship and love and betrayal is still high on my list - keep!
 Carnegie Hill by Jonathan Vatner

Carnegie Hill is about a 30-something woman who moves into a wealthy NYC building with her fiance and then begins to look to those around her to decide if she should marry him or not.  I thought this sounded cute when I added it, but I think this woman's lack of decision making will probably annoy me.  Pass!
 The Shortest Distance Between Love & Hate by Sandy Hall

I read Sandy Hall for the first time in 2019 and especially enjoyed A Prom to Remember, so I was excited to hear about this book that actually takes place in college, which I don't come across often.  This one is about a girl who realizes that the guy she's falling for is actually her middle school bully - how do these two not realize that immediately, I wonder?  The ratings on Goodreads are not great, so I think I will pass on this one!
 The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo

I love stories about weddings/wedding planning and stories about sisters, and this book combines both of those things.  Even though I can see from Goodreads that my own sister DNFed this one, I think I will keep it for now!
 The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

This book about family, a farm, and a brewery sounds really good, plus it takes place in the Midwest, which isn't the most common of settings, so I'm keeping this one!
 Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler

I've really gotten into science fiction, especially books about space.  This story is about a young girl's desire to become an astronaut, but also about her father's secrets.  Keep!
 First Cosmic Velocity by Zach Powers

Another book about space!  This is an alternate reality fictionalized account of the Soviet space program during the Cold War.  Keep!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Backlist Mini-Reviews

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber (2019)

Anna Kate travels to Wicklow, Alabama, after her grandmother Zee's death to settle her estate, which includes a stipulation that Anna Kate run her restaurant for two months.   Zee was known for her pies that many believed contained a bit of magic.  Also returning to Wicklow is Natalie, who has a family connection to Anna Kate and is healing from the loss of her husband.

I really enjoyed this story - it had a little bit of everything.  Magical realism, a small Southern town where everyone knows everyone else's business, family drama and secrets, and hints of romance.  It's told from two POVs, Anna Kate and Natalie, and each woman has her own obstacles to overcome.  Anna Kate is planning to go to medical school, but as the weeks pass at the cafe, she finds it hard to imagine a life away from it, and she has to decide if she'll keep a long-ago made promise or build a life in Wicklow.  Natalie is dealing with many family issues, but she also has her young daughter to think about.  Surrounding these two women are a cast of (mostly) charming people and hints of whimsy.  Magical realism doesn't work for every reader, but I thought it was a nice addition to the story.  4 stars

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton (2018)

Marisol travels to Cuba after her grandmother's death to honor her last wishes, and there she learns of secrets her grandmother kept.

This book was so hyped and that normally puts me off from reading a book, but I'm glad I finally took a chance on this one.  I really enjoyed this dual timeline story that highlighted the difficulties faced by the people of Cuba, both in the 1950s and today.  In 1958, Elisa Perez's family is part of Cuba's high society, yet she finds herself falling for a revolutionary.  I think Cleeton did a fantastic job bringing to light the fears and dangers of this period of Cuban history, although some aspects of this storyline were a bit predictable and cliche.  In 2017, Marisol is able to travel to Cuba as a journalist; her storyline also served to show how many Cubans found a home in America, yet still felt a strong connection to their homeland.  There was a bit of suspense in Marisol's story that I wasn't expecting, as well.  Cleeton's writing is strong and emotional, and the themes of family and identity really shone through.  4 stars

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: A Witch in Time

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

A Witch in Time
Constance Sayers
Expected publication date: February 11, 2020
A young witch is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist, in this haunting debut novel.
In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother -- a witch -- attempts to cast a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly summons a demon, binding her daughter to both the artist and this supernatural being for all time. Juliet is fated to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history. The demon -- who appears to Juliet in all her reincarnations as a mysterious, handsome, and worldly benefactor-has been helplessly in love with her since 19th century France, even though she forgets him each time she dies. He falls for her in 1930s Hollywood, in 1970s Los Angeles, and finally in present-day Washington D.C. -- where she begins to develop powers of her own. In this life, she starts to remember her tragic past lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle...
A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of Witches, Outlander, and The Time Traveler's Wife. - from Goodreads
The idea of this love affair playing out time and time again across the ages is really intriguing!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Book Haul #6: The Christmas and Kindle Edition

The end of the year always seems to be a big time for me in acquiring new books, and this most recent holiday season was no exception.  I received a few of my favorites of the year (which I won't recap here), but I was also gifted a few surprise books that will be really helpful in the coming months.  Plus, as a new Kindle owner, I went a little crazy downloading some books courtesy of some Amazon credits!  Here are some new additions to my shelves and where I got them from:



 Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win (my sister) // Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Little Free Library) // Little Women (purchased)

As for my Kindle acquisitions...



Have you gotten any new books recently?

Friday, January 17, 2020

Review: What I Carry

What I Carry
Jennifer Longo
Expected publication date: January 21, 2020
For readers of Robin Benway's Far From the Tree, a powerful and heartwarming look at a teen girl about to age out of the foster care system.

Growing up in foster care, Muir has lived in many houses. And if she's learned one thing, it is to Pack. Light.
Carry only what fits in a suitcase.
Toothbrush? Yes.
Socks? Yes.
Emotional attachment to friends? foster families? a boyfriend? Nope!
There's no room for any additional baggage.
Muir has just one year left before she ages out of the system. One year before she's free. One year to avoid anything--or anyone--that could get in her way.

Then she meets Francine. And Kira. And Sean.

And everything changes. - from Goodreads
I received this book for free from Goodreads Giveaways.

This book gave me mixed feelings - on one hand, there were aspects I really liked, but on the other, I had some issues with it.  Perhaps a pros and cons list will help better explain!

  • Muir has been in foster care her entire life and she's developed her own coping mechanisms, which for her include never staying too long in one placement.  I cannot even pretend to understand Muir's life, but to me it didn't make sense that she would choose to leave situations or homes that were decent places.  At various points throughout the book, she would describe to the reader some of the items in her suitcase and the stories behind them, so we got only glimpses of what her childhood was like.  By the time we meet her, at 17, she has almost completely closed herself off from any type of relationship, believing that there is no one she can rely on but herself.  It was kind of frustrating, and also heart-breaking.
  • The characters are a little too perfect.  It was almost too big of a coincidence that in her last placement before aging out, Muir lives with the perfect foster mom, meets the ideal boyfriend, and gains a best friend, all within days of moving in.  She never really had anyone before, besides her social worker, and suddenly she has all these people - in addition to also finding the perfect job at a wilderness camp.
  • There's not much drama.  In a book about a girl who is about to be thrown into the adult world all alone, there is surprisingly little conflict.  Muir's best friend, Kira, has some tough stuff in her background and is bullied at school, but "bad" things are solved so quickly it's almost like they didn't happen.
  • As much as I was frustrated by Muir at times, I also had to admire her.  She's so independent and down-to-earth; she gets good grades and is polite to pretty much everyone she meets.  I admired the decisions she made, even as a young child, to be a good person and not create unnecessary drama or conflict for herself, knowing how difficult her life already was.
  • Even though I mentioned above that it was a con that there wasn't much drama, this really was a feel-good book that had me rooting for Muir to accept the love and help that Francine, Sean, and Kira were trying to give her.
  • The author's adopted daughter was born into foster care and was in a few placements before coming to the author, so the story was written for her.  I feel like I learned a lot about the foster care system, and it was nice to see the "good" side of the system, since mainly you only hear about the horror stories.
3.5 stars

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Straight on Till Morning

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

Straight on Till Morning
Liz Braswell
Expected publication date: February 4, 2020
What if Wendy first traveled to Neverland… with Captain Hook?

Sixteen-year-old Wendy Darling's life is not what she imagined it would be. The doldrums of an empty house after her brothers have gone to school, the dull parties where everyone thinks she talks too much, and the fact that her parents have decided to send her away to Ireland as a governess-it all makes her wish things could be different.

Wendy's only real escape is in writing down tales of Never Land. After nearly meeting her hero, Peter Pan, four years earlier, she still holds on to the childhood hope that his magical home truly exists. She also holds on to his shadow.

So when an opportunity to travel to Never Land via pirate ship presents itself, Wendy makes a deal with the devil. But Never Land isn't quite the place she imagined it would be. Unexpected dangers and strange foes pop up at every turn, and a little pixie named Tinker Bell seems less than willing to help.

But when Captain Hook reveals some rather permanent and evil plans for Never Land, it's up to the two of them to save Peter Pan-and his world. - from Goodreads
I've really been loving this Twisted Tale series, which asks What if... questions and reimagines your favorite Disney movies - now it's time for Peter Pan!