Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Big Lies in a Small Town

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

Big Lies in a Small Town
Diane Chamberlain
Expected publication date: January 14, 2020
North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies? - from Goodreads
Diane Chamberlain's last book, The Dream Daughter, was such a spectacular read, so I'm really excited to see what she does next.  I mean, small town secrets??  I'm intrigued!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors in 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week is a freebie, so I decided to spotlight authors I read for the first time in 2019.  I have my favorite authors that I tend to read a lot, but I'm always interested in trying authors that other bloggers are raving about.  Here are some new-to-me authors I finally read in 2019!






What author did you read for the first time in 2019?

Friday, December 6, 2019

Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The New York, New York Edition

The Plaza: The Secret Life of America's Most Famous Hotel by Julie Satow (2019)

Journalist Julie Satow details the history of the Plaza Hotel in New York City in this engaging and well-written nonfiction book.

I was drawn to this book because I love learning about iconic NYC locations, and it did not disappoint.   From its 1907 opening day to its current iteration as combination hotel and condominium building, Satow hits upon all the highs and lows the Plaza has seen during its over 100 years of existence.  Everyone from Truman Capote to F. Scott Fitzgerald to the Beatles have graced its halls.  At one point it was owned by Donald Trump, who has the unique distinction of being the only owner to bankrupt the historic hotel.  The book is very well-researched, but the writing never feels dry; Satow is able to inject a lot of heart and warmth into all the stories she relays. I also appreciated the way Satow placed the Plaza into a larger historical context, detailing the ways the hotel adapted and reacted to various major events of the 20th century, so the book becomes not just a history of the hotel, but also an intriguing view of New York City's history.  4.5 stars

The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World by Tom Roston (2019)

In 1976, Windows on the World restaurant opened inside the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Just 25 short years later, the restaurant would be destroyed in the September 11th attacks, but author Tom Roston has put together a history of and tribute to the famous restaurant in his new nonfiction book.

This book was a unique look inside how a restaurant is born - but not just any restaurant, one of the most well-known, beloved, and successful restaurants in the world.  Opening during a time of intense strife in NYC, Windows on the World helped transform the image of the World Trade Center.  It shared ups and downs with the city, including closing for a long period of time after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to reopen refreshed and to massive acclaim.  It was so interesting to learn how the consultants and owners put together this space that was literally a quarter mile in the sky - could they even run gas lines that high?  Roston also included great information about the many people involved, although he could get a little snarky at times.  Keep a tissue handy for the last 30 pages or so, as Roston details what happened at Windows on 9/11.   4 stars

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: All The Ways We Said Goodbye

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

All The Ways We Said Goodbye
Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig & Karen White
Expected publication date: January 14, 2020
The New York Times bestselling authors of The Glass Ocean and The Forgotten Room return with a glorious historical adventure that moves from the dark days of two World Wars to the turbulent years of the 1960s, in which three women with bruised hearts find refuge at Paris’ legendary Ritz hotel.

The heiress . . .
The Resistance fighter . . .
The widow . . .
Three women whose fates are joined by one splendid hotel

France, 1914. As war breaks out, Aurelie becomes trapped on the wrong side of the front with her father, Comte Sigismund de Courcelles. When the Germans move into their family’s ancestral estate, using it as their headquarters, Aurelie discovers she knows the German Major’s aide de camp, Maximilian Von Sternburg. She and the dashing young officer first met during Aurelie’s debutante days in Paris. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Aurelie and Max’s friendship soon deepens into love, but betrayal will shatter them both, driving Aurelie back to Paris and the Ritz— the home of her estranged American heiress mother, with unexpected consequences.

France, 1942. Raised by her indomitable, free-spirited American grandmother in the glamorous Hotel Ritz, Marguerite “Daisy” Villon remains in Paris with her daughter and husband, a Nazi collaborator, after France falls to Hitler. At first reluctant to put herself and her family at risk to assist her grandmother’s Resistance efforts, Daisy agrees to act as a courier for a skilled English forger known only as Legrand, who creates identity papers for Resistance members and Jewish refugees. But as Daisy is drawn ever deeper into Legrand’s underground network, committing increasingly audacious acts of resistance for the sake of the country—and the man—she holds dear, she uncovers a devastating secret . . . one that will force her to commit the ultimate betrayal, and to confront at last the shocking circumstances of her own family history.

France, 1964. For Barbara “Babs” Langford, her husband, Kit, was the love of her life. Yet their marriage was haunted by a mysterious woman known only as La Fleur. On Kit’s death, American lawyer Andrew “Drew” Bowdoin appears at her door. Hired to find a Resistance fighter turned traitor known as “La Fleur,” the investigation has led to Kit Langford. Curious to know more about the enigmatic La Fleur, Babs joins Drew in his search, a journey of discovery that that takes them to Paris and the Ritz—and to unexpected places of the heart. . . . - from Goodreads
I love when these authors get together and collaborate on a book!  And of course, WWII historical fiction will always draw me in!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Month in Review: November 2019

At the beginning of the month, my sister and I attended a Book Lovers Tea at one of the libraries in my county system.  Mainly we wanted to attend because author Fiona Davis was making an appearance!  The Tea was very fun - they had desserts and hot beverages available, and on each person's chair was a library tote bag with five ARCs in it, mostly 2019 releases!  I think every bag had different books, too.  One of the librarians talked first, about some of her favorite books of the year, and then Fiona Davis came on to talk about her new  book, The Chelsea Girls.   I had heard her speak at last year's Morristown Festival of Books but didn't get to meet her, so I'm so glad I had a chance to this time!

Also that weekend, one of my brothers hosted a s'mores and pumpkin carving party at his house (it was supposed to be before Halloween, but was rescheduled due to weather).  It was a fun afternoon, and we also got to celebrate my dad's birthday!  I was a little bummed that my pumpkin did not get a single vote, but admittedly, my carving was pretty pathetic.

Later in the month we went on a "North Pole Express" train ride with a bunch of my siblings, our parents, and some in-laws, too.  The kids got to meet Santa on the train and sing with the elves, and at the North Pole there was hot chocolate, cookies, and photo opportunities.  Everyone had a great time!

Work has been especially crazy this month with special projects, plus we've been down a couple co-workers.  It's meant some long hours and lots of stress, so I was really looking forward to Thanksgiving break!  I took the day before Thanksgiving off, so I could get the house ready, and Tom and I also went on  movie date to see Knives Out, which was a really fun murder mystery-type movie.  Tom's parents and sister came over for the holiday and it was just a nice chill day. 

Last thing, I promise!  The Project Linus chapter that I work with, Project Linus of Mercer County, NJ, is holding an online Barnes & Noble fundraiser from December 10 through 15.  If you're thinking about buying books or other items for the holidays, we would be so appreciative if you would consider supporting Project Linus on those days.  You can use Book Fair ID#12548046 during checkout to support this wonderful charity that provides handmade blankets to children that are ill or traumatized.  Thank you!

The Books

The Posts and Reviews

Friday, November 29, 2019

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The American Duchess Edition

American Duchess by Karen Harper (2019)

Consuelo Vanderbilt, of the famous Vanderbilt family, is forced into a marriage with an English duke by her mother - however, she won't let an unhappy marriage define her.

I am fascinated by the families of the Gilded Age - the wealth beyond belief, the spectacular homes, the extravagant parties - and Consuelo is the perfect example of daughters of the time period.  Even though her marriage to the Duke of Marlborough wasn't a love match, Consuelo found ways to enrich her life.   I admired her charitable spirit and how she helped, often hands-on, the people of her husband's estate and neighboring village.  She also wasn't afraid to divorce her husband, knowing that it might wreck her socially, although it took over 20 years of marriage, more than half of them separated, to do so.  After that, it really seemed that Consuelo started her second act, much happier and finally marrying for love.

The book was an easy, quick read, although the language and dialogue didn't feel particularly indicative of the era; at times it almost felt thoroughly modern.  While it was interesting to learn about Consuelo's life, it wasn't altogether riveting, although the last section of the book, set during World War II, did ramp up the action.  Apparently, Consuelo was on the Nazi ransom list and had to continue moving about to avoid kidnapping!  4 stars

The Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York by Anne de Courcy (2017)

At the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, an interesting social phenomena was occurring - American heiresses began marrying into the British upper class at a high rate.  Who were these women, and why was the British aristocracy opening itself up to an American invasion?

Anne de Courcy tackles this interesting subject in The Husband Hunters, but I can't say it was a total success for me, unfortunately.  I enjoyed learning about the individual American women, and I thought de Courcy did a great job delving into the reasons why these marriages occurred.  Some were love matches, but more were marriages of convenience.  Some American women wanted a title and others used the marriages to raise the social status of their families.  For the British men, the money these women brought to the unions helped save family estates, but there was also the allure of these "foreign" brides, so different from the women they had grown up with.  However, there were a lot of names to keep track of and the non-linear structure of the book was often hard to follow.  Also, for a short book, there was a lot of extraneous material.  I wanted more about the lives of these "American Duchesses" in England and less about their families in America and how much money they were spending on things such as lavish parties.  3.5 stars

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Lady Clementine

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

Lady Clementine
Marie Benedict
Expected publication date: January 7, 2020
New from Marie Benedict, the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room! An incredible novel that focuses on one of the people who had the most influence during World War I and World War II: Clementine Churchill.

In 1909, Clementine Churchill steps off a train with her new husband, Winston. An angry woman emerges from the crowd to attack, shoving him in the direction of an oncoming train. Just before he stumbles, Clementine grabs him by his suit jacket. This will not be the last time Clementine Churchill saves her husband.

Lady Clementine is the ferocious story of the brilliant and ambitious woman beside Winston Churchill, the story of a partner who did not flinch through the sweeping darkness of war, and who would not surrender either to expectations or to enemies. - from Goodreads
Winston Churchill is obviously a very famous historical figure, but I know nothing about his wife, so this novel sounds very intriguing!