Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Beach Read

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

Beach Read
Emily Henry
Expected publication date: May 19, 2020
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They're polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really. - from Goodreads
This sounds like the perfect summer read and I love that these two authors are going outside their writing comfort zones!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Missed As A Kid

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is books I wish I had read as a child.  I have always been a huge reader, but there were still books, classics and otherwise, that I missed.  Other than Little Women, which I haven't gotten to yet, I read all the rest of these as an adult, but I know my younger self would have loved them!  And just to make myself feel super old, some of these came out when I was already a teenager, so... yeah.

What children's books did you not read until you were an adult?

Friday, April 24, 2020

Mini-Review: Everything Beautiful in Its Time

Everything Beautiful in Its Time
Jenna Bush Hager
Expected publication date: April 28, 2020
Jenna Bush Hager, the former first daughter and granddaughter, bestselling author, and coanchor of the Today show, shares moving, funny stories about her beloved grandparents and the wisdom they passed on that has shaped her life

To the world, George and Barbara Bush were America’s powerful president and influ­ential first lady. To Jenna Bush Hager, they were her beloved Gampy and Ganny, who taught her about respect, humility, kindness, and living a life of passion and meaning—timeless lessons that continue to guide her.

In Midland, Texas, Jenna’s maternal grandparents, Harold and Jenna Welch—Pa and Grammee—a home builder and homemaker, lived a quieter life outside the national spotlight. Yet their influence was no less indelible to their granddaughter. Throughout Jenna’s childhood and adolescence, the Welches taught her the name of every star in the sky, the way a dove uses her voice—teaching her to appreciate the beauty in the smallest things.

Now the mother of three young children, Jenna pays homage to her grandparents in this collection of heartwarming, intimate personal essays. Filled with love, laughter, and unforgettable stories, Everything Beautiful in Its Time captures the joyous and bittersweet nature of life itself. Jenna reflects on the single year in which she and her family lost Barbara and George H. W. Bush, and Jenna Welch. With the light, self-deprecating charm of the bestselling Sisters First—cowritten with her twin sister, Barbara—Jenna reveals how they navigated this difficult period with grace, faith, and nostalgic humor, uplifted by their grandparents’ sage advice and incomparable spirits.

In this moving book, Jenna remembers the past, cherishes the present, and prepares for the future—providing a wealth of anecdotes and lessons for her own children and all of us. Poignant and humorous, intimate and sincere, Everything Beautiful in Its Time is a warm and wonderful celebration of the enduring power of family and an exploration of the things that truly matter most. - from Goodreads
After reading and enjoying Jenna Bush Hager's Sisters First, co-written with her twin Barbara Pierce Bush, I was very excited to win a copy of her upcoming release from Goodreads giveaways!  Jenna's writing is warm and sincere, and her personal stories are always so heartfelt.

In her new book, Jenna Bush Hager invites us in to learn even more about her family.  She tells stories about her daughters and new son; dedicates a chapter to her husband, Henry; and shares more stories about her sister Barbara.  The bulk of the book is spent reliving memories of her grandparents, particularly former President and First Lady George and Barbara Bush, but also her maternal grandmother (and namesake), Jenna Welch.  As she lost all three of these family members in the span of about a year, it is a particularly poignant book.

Even though the Bush family has been in the public eye for decades, Jenna manages to include many little-known memories and stories of her famous relatives.  It's obvious from her writing that the family is extremely close and have many happy traditions.  I loved reading about her grandparents' house rules, and they were never stingy with praise.  They taught Jenna that it's okay to show emotion, even tears.  From writing letters back and forth, to spending hours fishing, to meeting their great-grandchildren, the memories included in the book's several essays were sometimes humorous, sometimes heart-wrenching, but always touching.  I actually found myself tearing up many times while reading this book.

Although I wish there were more stories about her maternal grandparents, this was a beautiful tribute to Jenna Bush Hager's beloved family members and one I think I will return to again and again.

4.5 stars

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Real Men Knit

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

Real Men Knit
Kwana Jackson
Expected publication date: May 19, 2020
When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop, while dealing with life and love in Harlem.

Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.

Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit. - from Goodreads
How utterly adorable does this sound??

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Friday, April 17, 2020

Backlist Mini-Reviews

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza (2018)

I'm not usually one for political novels, but I actually really enjoyed this story about Charlotte Walsh, a Silicon Valley COO who returns to her home state of Pennsylvania to run for Senate.  There aren't enough women in politics in general, so to have a book about the behind-the-scenes of a female candidate's campaign is refreshing. It was interesting to see what kinds of things the media focuses on for female vs. male candidates.  Charlotte's clothes, and especially shoes, are constantly critiqued, and pregnancy speculation abounds.  Her husband was so hot-and-cold; one minute very supportive, but also always reminding her that he didn't choose this campaign life.  There were a few family secrets that Charlotte was afraid would come out and derail her campaign.  One involved her brother Paul; he was just the most despicable character.  It never occurred to me that Charlotte was also hiding a big secret.

I've read a couple of Jo Piazza's books and I always enjoy her writing.  It flows nicely and is easy to read.  The pacing was great, and I liked that some of the chapter titles included how many more days until the election.  If you dislike open endings, this may not be the book for you; I, however, appreciated that the reader can imagine all the possibilities of what may have happened on election night and after.  4 stars

 The Prenup by Lauren Layne (2019)

Charlotte wants financial independence by way of her family trust and Colin needs a green card; their solution is to marry each other, after which she moves across the country and they never speak again.  Ten years later, Colin wants a divorce, but there's a catch in their prenup - they must live together for three months first.  Charlotte moves in with Colin, but after really getting to know each other, is a divorce something they actually want?

I really wanted to like this story; I was rooting for two people who marry for convenience to discover that they're actually perfect for each other.  Unfortunately, it was just kind of a meh read for me.  For most of the book, Charlotte is so whiny and immature; she's all like, "Why does Colin hate me??  Wah!"  For his part, Colin is like a robot.  I never really got a good read on him.  I wish Colin had come right out at the beginning and said why he wanted a divorce; I mean, it was a darn good reason, although Layne twisted it enough so that we knew immediately it would never work.  While the romance didn't work for me at all, I did enjoy Charlotte's story outside of the marriage issue.  Her move back to NYC gave her some perspective to see that she wanted to make changes in her life, that it was time to grow up.  She did evolve by the end of the book, and I appreciated that.  3 stars

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Summer Longing

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

Summer Longing
Jamie Brenner
Expected publication date: May 5, 2020
When a baby is left on the doorstep of a Cape Cod beach house, an unlikely group of women risks all they hold dear to harbor and protect her in this page-turning story from a USA Today bestselling author. Ruth Cooperman arrives in beautiful beachside Provincetown for her retirement, renting the perfect waterfront cottage while she searches for her forever home. After years of hard work and making peace with life's compromises, Ruth is looking forward to a carefree summer of solitude. But when she finds a baby girl abandoned on her doorstep, Ruth turns to her new neighbors for help and is drawn into the drama of the close-knit community. The appearance of the mystery baby has an emotional ripple effect through the women in town, including Amelia Cabral, the matriarch who lost her own child decades earlier; Elise Douglas, owner of the tea shop who gave up her dream of becoming a mother; and teenage local Jaci Barros who feels trapped by her parents' expectations. Ruth, caring for a baby for the first time in thirty years, even reaches out to her own estranged daughter, Olivia, summoning her to Provincetown in hopes of a reconciliation. As summer unfolds and friends and family care for the infant, alliances are made, relationships are tested, and secrets are uncovered. But the unconditional love for a child in need just might bring Ruth and the women of Provincetown exactly what they have been longing for themselves. With heartfelt storytelling, Summer Longing is Jamie Brenner's eagerly anticipated return to Provincetown; another unforgettable tale about motherhood, friendship, and finding your way home. - from Goodreads
Jamie Brenner has become a go-to summer author for me, and this sounds like it's going to be another fantastic read from her!

Monday, April 13, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #10

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:

 Faker by Sarah Smith

Emmie, the lone woman working at a power tool company, is being forced to collaborate with a coworker who seems to dislike her on a charity project.  This just doesn't sound very appealing to me anymore.  Pass!
 Mind Games by Shana Silver

A sci-fi story about hacking, sharing, and deleting memories.  The synopsis also refers to a "hot stranger" - ugh, nope!  Pass!
 A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell

A woman's fling is now stalking her and may even have killed her husband.  Just not super into thrillers right now.  Pass!
 The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo

I really enjoy historical fiction and the infamous Borgia family of Italy is one I haven't read enough about.  Keep!
 The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

This love story about two rival dating app creators sounds fun and light - keep!
 A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth

Although the synopsis is a little vague, I'm intrigued by this story about magical houses in England, plus I really enjoyed Weymouth's last book - keep!
 Westering Women by Sandra Dallas

Historical fiction books can be comfort reads for me, and I like the sound of this story about the women who traveled west in search of husbands in California's gold country.  Keep!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, April 10, 2020

March Quick Reviews

Here's a quick review round-up of some of my March reads!

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (2018)

Essie is a preacher's teenage daughter, a preacher who also happens to have his own popular reality show, starring his family.  Essie's pregnancy wouldn't be good for the family's image, so a plan is hatched for her to marry a classmate of hers, Roarke Richards.   But, is her family hiding more than Essie's pregnancy?

I really enjoyed this book.  Essie was a lot smarter and more calculating than I thought she would be.  The behind-the-scenes look at the filming of a reality show was fun.  The story ended up being a lot darker than I expected, and I appreciated seeing it all play out from both Essie and Roarke's POV.  There's also another POV, reporter Liberty Bell, and while I didn't think her backstory added a ton to the plot, it was nice for Essie to have another form of support.  4 stars

On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves (2012)

T.J. and his tutor Anna are flying to his family's vacation home in the Maldives when their plane crashes and the two are stranded on a deserted island.  As they struggle to survive, they begin to fall in love, despite their age difference.

I love a good survival story, so that aspect of the book really drew me in.  Although it felt a little repetitive at times, I liked the way Anna and T.J. worked together to survive on the island.  They each had strengths and were a good team.  The romance felt like it progressed naturally.  Minor spoiler: they do make it off the island and then have to adjust to life back home, where their relationship is questioned.  Again I felt like the story was a bit repetitive, and Anna and T.J. just kept facing the same issues without the story moving forward enough.  The ending was a bit quick and tied everything up a little too neatly for my taste.  3.5 stars

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms (2019)

When Amy Byler's estranged husband offers to take their two children for the summer, Amy takes the opportunity to visit NYC, where she indulges in some self-care and even a little dating.

Although it took me a little bit to get into this book, I ended up really loving it.  At first, the characters just felt like a little too much - too snarky, too quirky.  But, the story quickly found its groove and I couldn't stop reading.  Amy has been a single mom for three years after her husband walked out on the family, but he seems serious about reconnecting with the kids for the summer.  Amy finally gets a break - to read tons of books, get some nicer clothes, and do things on her own schedule.  I think lots of moms will be able to relate to Amy and her devotion to her kids, while still wanting some alone time, but even readers without kids can identify with Amy's feeling that she has lost herself in the mundane of everyday life.  Plus, Amy is a huge bookworm and her devotion to her job as a librarian is really awesome.  At times both wildly funny and very emotional, this book was a real winner.  4.5 stars

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Betrothed

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

The Betrothed
Kiera Cass
Expected publication date: May 5, 2020
When King Jameson declares his love for Lady Hollis Brite, Hollis is shocked—and thrilled. After all, she’s grown up at Keresken Castle, vying for the king’s attention alongside other daughters of the nobility. Capturing his heart is a dream come true.

But Hollis soon realizes that falling in love with a king and being crowned queen may not be the happily ever after she thought it would be. And when she meets a commoner with the mysterious power to see right into her heart, she finds that the future she really wants is one that she never thought to imagine. - from Goodreads
I am always here for more books from Kiera Cass!  I love a good royalty story and this cover is beyond gorgeous!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Book Haul #7: Kindle Freebies

Ever since I got a Kindle for Christmas, I've been kind of obsessed with scouring Amazon for Kindle ebook deals. I've managed to find quite a few books that sounded really appealing to me and were also free!  Here are some of the ones I've grabbed recently:



Have you read any of these?  Where should I start first?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Review: The Floating Feldmans

The Floating Feldmans
Elyssa Friedland
Published July 23, 2019
Sink or swim. Or at least that's what Annette Feldman tells herself when she books a cruise for her entire family. It's been over a decade since the Feldman clan has spent more than twenty-four hours under the same roof, but Annette is determined to celebrate her seventieth birthday the right way. Just this once, they are going to behave like an actual family.

Too bad her kids didn't get the memo.

Between the troublesome family secrets, old sibling rivalries, and her two teenage grandkids, Annette's birthday vacation is looking more and more like the perfect storm. Adrift together on the open seas, the Feldmans will each face the truths they've been ignoring--and learn that the people they once thought most likely to sink them are actually the ones who help them stay afloat. - from Goodreads

In honor of Annette’s 70th birthday, she gathers her entire family for a Caribbean cruise. However, it’s not the relaxing trip she expected, as long-held grudges and new secrets threaten to derail the vacation. I love stories about families, so this book really appealed to me; its mix of tough topics and humor, as well as the cruise ship setting, made for an enjoyable read.

Three generations of Feldmans come together for the trip. Annette and her husband David; their daughter Elise with her husband Mitch and children Rachel and Darius; and their son Freddy, with his much-younger girlfriend, Natasha. The family is not particularly close and actually haven’t all been together in the same room for years, so immediately things are awkward, plus there’s the fact that almost everyone is keeping a secret. Mitch and Elise are heading towards becoming empty-nesters, but they’re approaching that in very different ways. Rachel has gotten into some trouble and hasn’t told her parents. Freddy is hiding what he does for a living. David has perhaps the saddest secret of all, and I wished he would just tell everyone.

For most of the story, I really didn’t like any of the characters. Annette was too blunt and harsh, and both Elise and Freddy are still holding onto childhood hurts, despite being middle-aged. The grandchildren were just kind of middle-of-the-road. However, as the story progressed, I at least began to relate a little to the characters, even as I wanted to scream at them to just communicate with each other.

I enjoyed Friedland’s writing; it was very readable. Her commentary on cruise ship vacations (the multitude of activities, the never-ending buffets) was a bit exaggerated but still fun to read. The ship, although huge, forced the family to spend time together and heightened emotions. The pacing of the story was good, despite mostly taking place over the 4-day trip. In addition to the Feldmans, the author also introduces the cruise director, Julian; these were the only parts that I felt the story slowed a bit. Although he interacts with the family, his story still felt so separate. There were so many other characters and things going on that I don’t think it was necessary to add so much of his story in.

3.5 stars

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Month in Review: March 2020

Wow, what a difference a month makes, huh?  At the beginning of March, obviously people were talking about COVID-19, but now we're in the midst of a pandemic.  I've never experienced anything like this, even in the days after 9/11.  Here in New Jersey, we have been hit really hard.  We're currently under a stay-at-home order and most non-essential businesses are closed.  At the beginning of the month, we were seeing daily totals of new positive tests in the 30s, and that sounded like a lot; now we're at over 2,000 new positive tests a day.

Talk about bad timing - I put in my two weeks' notice at the beginning of the month and was planning to start a new job, which had all been in the works since February.  Right after my last day, the governor closed all businesses, so now I'm in this weird limbo state.  The start date for my new job has been pushed back indefinitely and my old job wouldn't let me stay on.  I'm waiting to see if I qualify for unemployment.  I hate even complaining about this, since so many others are in much more dire circumstances, but this is just where I'm at right now.

So, I'm just waiting it out at home: doing lots of reading, working on this impossible jigsaw puzzle, cleaning and organizing the house, trying not to eat something every time I walk into the kitchen, and getting outside for walks when the weather allows.  My husband finally got the order to work from home, so at least I'm not alone all day.  I have a lot to be thankful for right now, and I hope you're all staying safe and healthy!

The Books

The Posts and Reviews

So, how are YOU doing?  What's your current situation?