Monday, June 29, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #12

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:

 The Body Double by Emily Beyda

When a famous actress has a mental breakdown, her team hires a body double to take her place in public.  Amazing premise, but the reviews are not great for this one - pass!
 The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden

In this story, social media is monitored by the Hive, and if you cause too much trouble, it's legal for a group of people to hunt you down and teach you a lesson.  This just sounds a little too eerie for me - pass!
 Twenty by Debra Landwehr Engle

After a woman decides to end her life in 20 days by taking a mysterious bottle of pills, she realizes her life is worth saving.  Even though this deals with a lot of heavy topics, I think (and hope) that ultimately this will be an uplifting story.  Keep!
 The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott

In the wake of World War I, a woman searches for her husband with the help of his brother.  I love the sound of this one, definitely keeping it!
 The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

A woman running from her past starts receiving books on the mail, and she thinks they're from the man who was part of her downfall.  Although I love books about books, for some reason this one isn't grabbing me.  Pass!
 One More River to Cross by Jane Kirkpatrick

This story follows a group of people heading west in America in 1844.  This isn't a setting I come across a lot, so I think I'll keep this one!
Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie

A woman faces the loss of her Hollywood lifestyle when her producer husband kicks her out of their home.  The low ratings on Goodreads are not inspiring confidence for me - pass!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Mini-Reviews: Time Travel Romances

Virginia and The Vagabond by Skyler Frey (2020)

Thank you to Stephanie at Bookfever for the recommendation!

After being accidentally transported back to 1912 England, Virginia is stunned to meet Eric Rylander, a famous actor from her own time.  The two have an instant connection, but there is more than one hurdle to their relationship.

I'm always up for a good time travel romance, and this was a good one.  I enjoyed the twist of Eric being a famous actor in his own time and then becoming one again over 100 years earlier.  Virginia and Eric's relationship, although it moved quickly, made sense - they can relate to each other and share a different world.  I did think Virginia's character was a bit muddled - in some ways her modern instincts come through, but in others she seems overly traditional.  I loved the inclusion of a big historical event and couldn't read fast enough to see how the characters would come out of it.  There were a few too many typos for me, but the story did set itself up nicely for the next installment with the addition of a rather sinister-sounding Network of time travelers running around.  3.5 stars

Across Time by Elizabeth O'Roark (2019)

Time traveler Amelie, plagued by dreams of her deceased sister, decides she needs to find fellow time traveler Marie in pre-war France and help her in some way.  While there, she also finds herself falling for Marie's brother, Henri.

This book has stellar reviews on Goodreads, so I feel like a bit of an outlier because I didn't love this one.  The pacing was really off.  For a good chunk of the book, it felt like nothing was happening to move the story forward.  I also didn't think some things were explained well.  There are lots of time travelers, but they seem to be disappearing, including Marie's mother and Amelie's aunt.  There's some sort of prophecy involved?  I don't know, I just wish more time had been spent on worldbuilding.  Amelie goes back to her own time for a bit, and that was just so confusing.  I did enjoy the way Henri challenged Amelie and really made her think about her life and the choices she was making.  Maybe more will be explained in the second book in the duology, but I'm not sure if I'll be reading it.  3 stars

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Lions of Fifth Avenue

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

The Lions of Fifth Avenue
Fiona Davis
Expected publication date: July 21, 2020
In nationally bestselling author Fiona Davis's latest historical novel, a series of book thefts roils the iconic New York Public Library, leaving two generations of strong-willed women to pick up the pieces.

It's 1913, and on the surface, Laura Lyons couldn't ask for more out of life--her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, allowing their family to live in an apartment within the grand building, and they are blessed with two children. But headstrong, passionate Laura wants more, and when she takes a leap of faith and applies to the Columbia Journalism School, her world is cracked wide open. As her studies take her all over the city, she finds herself drawn to Greenwich Village's new bohemia, where she discovers the Heterodoxy Club--a radical, all-female group in which women are encouraged to loudly share their opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women's rights. Soon, Laura finds herself questioning her traditional role as wife and mother. But when valuable books are stolen back at the library, threatening the home and institution she loves, she's forced to confront her shifting priorities head on . . . and may just lose everything in the process.

Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she's wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie's running begin disappearing from the library's famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-adverse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage--truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library's history. - from Goodreads
Fiona Davis has become one of my favorite authors, and I love how she always focuses on a unique NYC landmark in her books - this time, it's the New York Public Library!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday Turns 10 - Beach Reads!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week marks TTT's 10th birthday!  TTT is a feature I've enjoyed participating in since I started blogging over four years ago, so to celebrate, I decided to revisit the first TTT post I ever did, which you can check out here.  The topic that week was beach reads, and I made a list of my favorite books to read at the beach.  Today I have a collage of beachy/summery covers from my TBR, which I'll have to enjoy reading from my house, because let's face it, I'm probably not going to the beach this summer!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, June 19, 2020

Retellings Mini-Reviews

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra (2019)

I haven't read Little Women yet, but this contemporary retelling, focusing on older sisters Meg and Jo, appealed to me anyway!  Meg and Jo are now grown adults leading very different lives - Meg is a stay-at-home mom in North Carolina and Jo is a line cook and secret food blogger in NYC.  However, when their mother gets sick, all the sisters come home to help.

I really enjoyed Kantra's writing; it's very readable and relatable.  The story is told from the alternating POVs of sisters Meg and Jo, with appearances by their younger sisters.  I loved Jo's story - trying to make it as a journalist in NYC, she ends up falling for her chef boss who doesn't know she's also a food blogger.  However, I felt her "friendship" with childhood friend Trey was poorly explained and executed.  Meg frustrated me a bit - she's the type of person that would rather do everything herself because she doesn't trust anyone else.  I felt so bad for her husband!  As much as I loved the March sisters and mother, their father made me angry - he does important work, but neglects his own family.  Overall, though, a great story about family!  4 stars

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl (2020)

In this anthology, 10 authors re-imagine the legendary character of Elizabeth Bennet in a series of sequels, prequels, and retellings.  Even though I'm normally not a fan of short stories, I can't resist a good P&P retelling!

I wish there had been more variety in the stories.  A couple of them felt like they could have been chapters in the original story (Darcy fighting Wickham, Elizabeth touring Pemberley).  A couple took place in the times right before or right after the events of P&P.  I wish there had been more stories set in different times and places; to me, those were more creative and interesting.  Elizabeth as an electrical engineering student in the 80s; Elizabeth as a stage actress in the 1920s; and Elizabeth and Darcy going on a blind date in the present day - these stories show how timeless the classic really is.  While the writing was generally good in all the stories, none really stood out to me as completely amazing.  I often seem to have this issue with short story collections, though.  However, if you're a P&P fan, you might want to give this one a chance.  3.5 stars

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: A Sweet Mess

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

A Sweet Mess
Jayci Lee
Expected publication date: July 14, 2020
Bake a chance on love.

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as sharing a villa.

When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart. - from Goodreads
How adorable does this sound??

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our summer TBR.  I was total garbage at my spring TBR - with my library being closed and having to rely on ebooks and audiobooks, it just didn't work out so well.  I'm hoping I'll be able to get to all these books, and I've already put myself on the wait list for a few of them!

Where should I start first?

Friday, June 12, 2020

Mini-Reviews: Upcoming June Releases

I was lucky enough to win both of these books from Goodreads giveaways - here are two quick mini-reviews for them, both of which are scheduled to be released on June 16th!

How The Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior

Veronica wants to leave her fortune to a group studying penguins in Antarctica, but she demands to visit and see their research first.  Around the same time, Veronica finds out that she has a long-lost grandson, Patrick.

This was such a charming and heartwarming story.  Veronica has not had an easy life - from her old diary entries, we find out what happened to her during WWII.  Now that she's 85 years old, she wants to do something good with the wealth she's amassed, and after seeing a documentary on TV, she decides that penguins are it.  Veronica can be prickly, stubborn, and too forward at times, but she knows what she wants and how to get things done.  I loved watching her interact with the scientists in Antarctica.  And when she decides to save an orphaned penguin, we see a whole other side of her.  As much as I adored Veronica,  I wasn't sure about her grandson Patrick at first.  He didn't seem to have much ambition, but I enjoyed his growth over the story and how the two managed to overcome their first impressions of each other.  A lovely story about family! 4 stars

We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall

We Came Here to Shine follows two young women working at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City.  Vivi is an actress who is now performing in the synchronized swimming show, and Max is a journalism student working at the fair's paper.

First off, I loved the setting of the World's Fair.  The scale and the wonder of the fair both came through really well.  Vivi and Max were interesting characters and had a lot in common - both were strong women whose livelihoods unfortunately were dependent on the men around them, which was typical for the time period.  I think Vivi handled herself much better - she made the best of bad situations.  Max, however, was too impulsive and angry, constantly trying to find ways to make herself seen.  I know the way she was treated was unfair, but she didn't really help herself, either.  The decisions made by both of them near the end of the story seemed a little implausible and nonsensical, though.  The random third person omniscient POV was a little jarring at times, but overall the writing was good.  3.5 stars

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Her Last Flight

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

Her Last Flight
Beatriz Williams
Expected publication date: June 30, 2020
In 1947, photographer and war correspondent Janey Everett arrives at a remote surfing village on the Hawaiian island of Kauai to research a planned biography of forgotten aviation pioneer Sam Mallory, who joined the loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War and never returned. Obsessed with Sam’s fate, Janey has tracked down Irene Lindquist, the owner of a local island-hopping airline, whom she believes might actually be the legendary Irene Foster, Mallory’s onetime student and flying partner. Foster’s disappearance during a round-the-world flight in 1937 remains one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

At first, the flinty Mrs. Lindquist denies any connection to Foster. But Janey informs her that the wreck of Sam Mallory’s airplane has recently been discovered in a Spanish desert, and piece by piece, the details of Foster’s extraordinary life emerge: from the beginnings of her flying career in Southern California, to her complicated, passionate relationship with Mallory, to the collapse of her marriage to her aggressive career manager, the publishing scion George Morrow.

As Irene spins her tale to its searing conclusion, Janey’s past gathers its own power. The duel between the two women takes a heartstopping turn. To whom does Mallory rightfully belong? Can we ever come to terms with the loss of those we love, and the lives we might have lived? - from Goodreads
I have loved Beatriz Williams' books for years; this one sounds a little different but just as amazing as her previous books!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Quotables #17

I don't think this is too much to ask!  I can always count on my husband to bring me a treat when I've had a bad day.

This is so true - we all think when we get older, we'll be wiser and know what to do all the time and how to fix things.  But when you're an adult, there's just bigger and more complicated problems to deal with!  We're all just trying to get through the day.

I think this is a really admirable ambition and one we should all strive for!  It doesn't have to be something big, but we should all try to make the world a better place.

Which of these is your favorite?

Friday, June 5, 2020

May Quick Reviews

With a Twist by Staci Hart (2015)

Lily has had a crush on Blane for years, and she finally gets her chance when he and his long-time girlfriend break up.  But their relationship isn't everything she dreamed it would be - and maybe the best person for her has been right in front of her all along.

This was a really cute friends-to-lovers romance, although it took most of the book for Lily and her best friend West to get together!  Seeing how much of a jerk Blane was to Lily, I was really rooting for Lily and West the whole book.  I wanted her to stop giving Blane chances and realize that she and West were perfect together.  I loved their big, supportive group of friends, and I also really enjoyed the inside look at Lily's career as a ballerina - she's really committed to her craft.  I guess my one issue would be that everyone (besides Blane) seemed just a little too perfect - no one has any bad qualities!  4 stars

 Regretting You by Colleen Hoover (2019)

I am quickly becoming a huge Colleen Hoover fan, and this book solidified that for me.   Although this book had some tough topics in it, it didn't feel overwhelmingly heavy like some of her previous books.  In Regretting You, readers follow a mother and daughter pair as they navigate life after the death of their husband and father.

Clara is at that age where it seems like most teenagers don't get along with their mother, but their problems are further exacerbated by the fact that her father Chris is killed in a car accident, and now her mother seems to be hiding things from her.  It was hard to see Clara and her mother Morgan not communicate with each other, but I could understand Morgan's perspective - she didn't want to taint Clara's memories of her father.  I loved that the story was told from both Clara and Morgan's POVs, and as always, Hoover's writing is so smooth and readable, I couldn't put this down.  4 stars

No Winter Lasts Forever by Jonathan Epps (2019)

I received this book for free from Goodreads giveaways.  After a high school shooting inspires a copycat killer in his community, a man becomes obsessed with finding those responsible.  Ugh, such a good premise but ultimately a letdown. 

The writing is stilted, with run-on sentences and paragraphs.  The story is muddled and not quite sure what it wants to be - a commentary on gun violence, a thriller, a family drama?  The main character obviously has anger issues, but his emotions also completely run the gamut, from anger, to depression, to euphoria, so quickly it felt like whiplash.  The pacing is poor; there's a lot of action right at the beginning, but then it felt like the main plot was put aside in favor of these random scenes.  It ping-pongs from one topic to the next with little connection.  2 stars

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Mexican Gothic

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

Mexican Gothic
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Expected publication date: June 30, 2020
From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel, a story about an isolated mansion in 1950s Mexico -- and the brave socialite drawn to its treacherous secrets.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find -- her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough, smart, and has an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind. - from Goodreads
First off, this cover - I am just obsessed with it!  I also cannot resist stories that are Gothic and revolve around some sort of creepy estate - I'm in!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Month in Review: May 2020

Hmm... what can I say about May?  It was such a quiet month!  Between working, reading, and going for walks, there wasn't a whole lot else!  My new job has been going ok.  It's been interesting doing all my training through Skype.  Thankfully, my sister has been really patient with me, since whenever I have a question, I immediately call her!  There is still so much to learn, though.

We did another Zoom birthday singalong, this time for my 93-year-old grandfather.  We had even more family on the call this time, so that was really fun! 

We've been attempting to do some yardwork, but I am realizing that even after a couple years living in this house, I still don't have a knack for it.  Our landscaping looks out of control!  And I haven't gone out to get flowers for our pots yet, so it's looking a little bare. 

We watched way too much TV this month - we've gone through both seasons of Jack Ryan, and now we've become obsessed with The Great British Baking Show.  I love a good reality competition show, and everyone on this one is just so pleasant.  It's the perfect show to watch during these weird times! 

It's hard to believe we've been home for well over two months now.  It doesn't even seem weird anymore.  Honestly, it's nice having all this time with Tom.  Our schedules are normally very off (he leaves for work super early, so he goes to bed early), so it's been really great to spend more time together.  I know we'll be going back to work sooner rather than later, so I'm just very grateful and taking advantage of it while I can. 

The Books

Bellewether // Of Curses and Kisses (audio) // Husband Material // The Girl Who Reads on the Metro

With a Twist (review to come) // The Last Anniversary // Regretting You (review to come) // The Duke and I (thank you to Christina at Confessions of a Book Addict for the recommendation!)

When We Left Cuba (audio) // You Asked for Perfect // Fairest of All // Meg & Jo (review to come)

Winter (reread) // Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl (review to come) // Open Book (audio) // No Winter Lasts Forever (review to come)

How The Penguins Saved Veronica (review to come) // Virginia and The Vagabond (review to come) // We Came Here to Shine (review to come) // Across Time (review to come)

Blood Orange

The Posts and Reviews

So, how are YOU doing?