Friday, December 4, 2020

Holiday Mini-Reviews

Home For The Holidays by Sara Richardson (2020)

I picked this book up on a whim - I loved the cover and the blurb, about three sisters coming together at their aunt's inn for Christmas, really appealed to me.  I'm happy to say this book really delivered!  
As children, sisters Dahlia, Magnolia, and Rose used to spend every Christmas at their Aunt Sassy's Juniper Inn, but it's been years since they all got together.  Dahlia is busy raising her children and getting over her divorce; Magnolia is running a bakery business while struggling with infertility; and Rose is planning a big Southern wedding, but she's not sure her fiance's society lifestyle is what she really wants.  
When the sisters arrive in Colorado, they immediately remember all the good times they had there; I loved hearing about their family traditions and seeing the way they worked together to bring that magic to the inn one more time.  There's a bit of romance and some family secrets to work through, but the main focus is on the sisters and how they each make realizations and plans for the future.  Although it was pretty predictable (and oddly, had quite a few typos), this was a heartwarming read about family, love, and the holidays.  4 stars

Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd (2019)
I seem to be in the minority, because this book has generally very high reviews on Goodreads, but this one did not work for me at all! 

Public relations intern Olivia loves everything about the holidays; during the company's seasonal events, she decides to act as her boss Asher's fake girlfriend, to make his ex jealous.  Along the way, she realizes she has feelings for him.  There was just so much about this book that felt off for me.  Olivia's character is so contrived; she seems to subsist on coffee and sugar (let me know how that works out for you when you hit 30, Olivia).  For awhile, I couldn't figure out how old Asher was (turns out he's 26/27), but the two of them together act like immature teenagers.  Their banter is not cute, witty, or sexy; it's often mean-spirited and awkward.  I don't think Olivia understands the concept of "fake girlfriend," as from the beginning she's constantly coming on to Asher even when his ex isn't around.  The whole vibe is unprofessional and inappropriate - in what universe is it okay to walk around in your underwear in front of your boss or use his credit card to send him unwanted items?  While the tone of the book is mostly light, the author then adds this subplot of sexual assault surrounding one of the PR firm's clients.  It felt completely out of place and seemed kind of ironic given Olivia's own behavior towards Asher.  2 stars

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Month in Review: November 2020


It seems like so long ago already, but the election happened in November!  Tom and I were glued to the TV for days, watching for updates and taking in all the craziness.  I just hope that come January, things will have calmed down and inauguration day will be peaceful.

After six months of working from home at my new job, I finally made my way into the office one day for a few hours to get my laptop tuned up.  There weren't a lot of people there, since most of us are still working from home, so it was really quiet, but I managed to get a few things done and then did some shopping for our company's holiday charitable giving initiatives!

We spent a quiet Thanksgiving at my mom's house, and my sister's family joined us, too.  We had all our traditional foods, and Tom concocted a delicious sangria.  

I did a lot of online Christmas shopping in November and a little bit in person.  The only people I have left are Tom and my dad - is it just me, or are men impossible to shop for??

I participated in my first readathon - I completed 9 books and novellas for the Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon.  It was a lot of fun and a great way to start the holiday season!


The Posts and Reviews
How are YOU doing?

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Monday, November 30, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #17

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:
Privilege by Mary Adkins
Privilege takes place on the campus of a Southern university and follows a couple students and a campus employee during an accusation of sexual assault.  This sounds like it's going to have some good themes - keep!

From a Distant Star by Karen McQuestion
A teenager's boyfriend returns from the brink of death, but could there be something more otherworldly about his recovery?  Although this has a unique angle, it sounds like it may skew a bit young for me.  Pass!

The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John
This book follows the lives of three women in 1950s Sydney, Australia who work in a department store.  This sounds like such a charming story - keep!

Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden
This story explores the lives of four teachers who work in an urban high school in Texas.  This one just isn't grabbing me - pass!

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
I feel like this book is constantly popping up on my radar, and it sounds adorable - a hand-lettering artist, a slow-burn romance, a New York City setting - keep!

The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr by Susan Holloway Scott
I love historical fiction, and this book imagines the real life of Mary Emmons, who worked for Theodosia Prevost.  Theodosia eventually marries Aaron Burr, and the story blends fact and fiction to talk about the relationship between Emmons and Burr.  Keep!

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman
Ok, this book has so many elements I love - WWII setting, a bookstore, Paris, dual timeline, New York City - how can I resist?  Keep!
Have you read any of these?


Friday, November 27, 2020

Nonfiction Quick Reviews

Braver Than You Think by Maggie Downs (2020)

As her mother suffered through the last stages of Alzheimer's disease, journalist Maggie Downs decided to take a solo year-long trip around the world, the trip her mother had always wanted to take and was never able to.  Although I questioned the timing of her trip (Downs was newly married; her mother's health was seriously declining and she actually ended up passing away while Downs was in Egypt), I appreciated the intent behind it.  The book is part memoir and part travel journal, so we not only get amazing descriptions of the some of the world's most beautiful locations, we also hear Downs' memories of her mother (both happy and sad) and lessons she learns and realizations she makes on her trip.  Downs' writing is so approachable and reads more like fiction than nonfiction.  Overall, a great read!  4.5 stars

At 54 years old, writer Dani Shapiro discovered through a fluke DNA test that her dad was not her biological father.  Inheritance follows Shapiro through her journey of discovery, questioning, and family.  Shapiro's story moves very quickly; within days of her discovery, she finds the man she believes to be her father.  In two ways, she's very lucky - that she had some clues and resources that most people wouldn't have access to and the response she got from the man and his family.  I really enjoyed Shapiro's writing; she's able to combine this narrative with memories of her parents and her deep feelings/thoughts/questions in a way that's easily followed by and relatable to the reader.  At times, it was difficult to read about Shapiro's impressions of her parents, her mother particularly (especially knowing both of her parents are deceased and can't add to the discussion or give any answers), but overall I thought this was an interesting look into how we as individuals define who we are and where we come from.  4 stars

In How To Be a Tudor, Ruth Goodman draws upon research and her own experiences to paint a picture for readers on what it was really like to live in 16th century England, during the Tudor era.  Chapters focus on how citizens started their day, what they ate for breakfast and when, what they wore, education, the differences between men and women's work, entertainment, and how they ended their days.  This book was so detailed and dense, it was hard to take in at times; that being said, I enjoyed the writing and thought it was entertaining.  Goodman mostly focuses on the lives of ordinary people, laborers and commoners, although she does point out differences between the classes (like what fabrics they were allowed to use or what they would most likely have eaten).  Goodman has spent time living on a recreated Tudor farm, so she actually has practical knowledge of day-to-day Tudor life.  I enjoyed reading about the skills she practiced and perfected.  3.5 stars

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Four Winds

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Kristin Hannah
Expected publication date: February 9, 2021
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes an epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America’s most defining eras—the Great Depression.

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation. - from Goodreads

Kristin Hannah is an author I've enjoyed for many years, and I really like the sound of this book.  The Great Depression/Dust Bowl era is not one I come across in books often, but it is so quintessentially American and I'm really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Bloggers I'm Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is a Thanksgiving/thankful freebie.  I think we can all agree that this year has been tough on everyone, and so I wanted to take this week to spread some love and give a shout-out to just a few of my favorite fellow bloggers!  I'm so grateful for the book blogging community, and the support that's shown through good times and bad is just incredible.  This list is in no particular order and although I limited it to 10, it could have easily been much, much longer!


Stephanie at Bookfever

Verushka at POP.EDIT.LIT

Lindsey at Lindsey Reads

Greg at Book Haven

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Nonfiction November 2020: New To My TBR!


I can't believe we've already come to the end of Nonfiction November 2020!  This final week is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey and is a chance to show off all the books we've added to our TBR this month.  Thank you to everyone who recommended and shared so many wonderful nonfiction titles!