Monday, August 31, 2020

Month in Review: August 2020

August just flew by - I can't believe September (and fall!!) are right around the corner!  It was a pretty quiet month.  Tom and I both continue to work at home.  Sometimes I feel like I'll never wear real work clothes again!  

One of my brothers held a birthday party for his kids this month; their birthdays were actually in April, but obviously they had to hold off on a party.  They held it at a day camp that my brother and his wife work at - very small, family only, outdoors.  We all got temperature-checked before we went in and wore masks for a bit.  Thankfully, it was a nice day and everyone got to enjoy the pools.  It was the first time in a long time we'd all been together in person, so that was nice.

One of my favorite authors, Fiona Davis, released a new book this month (The Lions of Fifth Avenue), so I attended a virtual event with the New York Public Library, where the book also happens to take place!  Fiona is a great and engaging speaker and I always love attending her events.

Tom celebrated a milestone birthday this month (his 40th, shhh, he won't want people to know!).  He's been wanting to go to a Renaissance Faire for awhile, so we decided way back at the beginning of the year to go to the New York one to celebrate, but of course, it was cancelled.  We ended up spending a quiet weekend at home (what else is new?).  I feel bad that we couldn't do something special, but hopefully things will start easing up in the next couple months and maybe we'll be able to do something then.

The Books

The Posts and Reviews

How are YOU doing?

Friday, August 28, 2020

Quick Reviews: A Trio of Cinderella Retellings

 Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me by Julie Wright (2019)

Struggling writer Charlotte finally gets her big break with a self-help book inspired by her favorite fairy tales, but will the success be worth it if she has to completely change her image and hide her boyfriend?

This was a cute story, very loosely inspired by Cinderella.  Charlotte is a regular girl, but her publicist insists she needs a more polished image, including pretending she's single, just around the same time she and her best friend Anders decide to start dating.  Anders is a sweet guy, very traditional and family-oriented.  I liked the peek behind the curtain of the publishing industry, and I wish there were more scenes with a fellow famous author who takes Charlotte under her wing because she gave really good advice.  This is a "clean" romance, which is perfectly fine, but I also never really felt the spark between Charlotte and Anders and was hoping for a little more heat.  There were also some weird time jumps and sometimes it felt like more was happening off the page than on.  But, easy to read with some charming supporting characters.  3 stars

Rogue Princess by B.R. Meyers (2020)

Sci-fi Cinderella in space!  A princess who wants to marry for love!  A thief that helps her uncover a rebellious faction on their planet!  Practically the whole time I was reading this book, I got the feeling I had read it before - it's very similar to Marissa Meyer's Cinder, even little details like the tablets everyone uses, although this one is a gender-swapped retelling.  So, unfortunately, right from the start, I had issues because nothing felt new and fresh.  Delia, our princess, is bland and not too smart - when she first meets Aidan, our thief, his lies about who he was were so paper-thin, yet she never saw through them.  The world-building is not great, and even by the end of this rather short book, I was still questioning who some of the characters were.  But, there is a pretty good twist, and Delia's sister Shania is a bright spot in the story - she's spunky and I loved her attention to detail in analyzing all of Delia's suitors.  3 stars

Charlie Glass's Slippers by Holly McQueen (2014)

After his death, Charlie Glass's father leaves his luxury shoe company to her - instead of his ex-wife and two other daughters.  In addition to her new responsibilities, Charlie has also drastically changed her appearance, but finds it may not be worth the effort.

I thought this was a cute Cinderella retelling.  I loved the clever ways the the author incorporated important elements of the original story in a modern way - her glam up, the shoes, the evil stepmother, the prince.  Charlie has not had an easy life, but she's still upbeat and kind.  Even though she never worked at the shoe company before, she throws herself into it wholeheartedly, knowing it was her father's passion.  There's also a rom-com element to the story.  I think many readers will identify with her body issues, even after she loses a bunch of weight.  There is a lot of fat-shaming in this book, and my heart broke for Charlie every time her stepmother was cruel to her.  The book probably could have been a bit shorter - at times the pacing dragged and felt repetitive.  However, it was still light and entertaining.  3.5 stars

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: All The Devils Are Here

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

All The Devils Are Here (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #16)
Louise Penny
Expected publication date: September 1, 2020
On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand's godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man's life.

When a strange key is found in Stephen's possession it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Surete, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour d'Eiffel, to the bowels of the Paris Archives, from luxury hotels to odd, coded, works of art.

It sends them deep into the secrets Armand's godfather has kept for decades.

A gruesome discovery in Stephen's Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit. In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past. His own family.

For even the City of Light casts long shadows. And in that darkness devils hide. - from Goodreads
It's no secret that I absolutely love this series, and I'm excited that the next installment takes place in Paris!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Summer Book Haul

Although I've been trying to limit my spending on books, I still managed to acquire quite a few books this summer!  A couple giveaways, but also many new ones thanks to some Amazon gift cards!  Here's a look at the newest additions to my collection:



Friday, August 21, 2020

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Princess Margaret Edition

The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock (2019)

In The Other Windsor Girl, author Georgie Blalock explores the life of England's Princess Margaret, as seen through the eyes of her lady-in-waiting, Vera.

Romance novelist Vera has dreams of moving to New York City and writing a literary masterpiece, but after a chance meeting with Princess Margaret, she accepts a position as her lady-in-waiting, seeing it as a step up in life for her, at least for a little while.  While in service, Vera is witness to Princess Margaret's doomed love affair with Captain Townsend.  I liked this imagined insider look at royal life; the things I know about Princess Margaret mostly come from watching The Crown, and the book kind of went along with those.  Despite all her opportunity and wealth, the Princess seemed very adrift, unsure of her place in her family and in the world.  I appreciated the way Blalock found similarities between Vera and Margaret, despite being in such different stations in life - they both watched their sisters get married and start families, while their own relationships faced challenges.  Vera gave up years of her life to serve Margaret, and it was kind of frustrating to watch her give up on her dreams because she didn't want to give up her lifestyle or "desert" the Princess.  The writing was good, although the story started off slowly, and the ending, and especially the epilogue, came on way too abruptly and were a little too saccharine for my taste.  3.5 stars

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner (2020)

In Lady in Waiting, Anne Glenconner tells her life story as a member of the British aristocracy and in service to the Royal Family.

I thought this memoir was just going to be about Glenconner's decades serving as a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret, but it was so much more than that.  From her early years to the present, Anne Glenconner has lived an incredible life, and I loved this glimpse into it.  The writing style is easy to read and conversational, like you're sitting down to tea and sharing stories with her.  She seemed so matter-of-fact about even the most tragic events - her long yet troubled marriage to a mentally ill man, the struggles some of her children faced.  Of course, I especially enjoyed the stories about the Royal Family.  From playing together as children to serving as a companion to Princess Margaret until her death, the royals were a constant in Glenconner's life.  She shared personal stories but it never felt exploitative, always respectful.  I learned a lot about Princess Margaret and really admire her after reading this - although she had her eccentricities, she really seemed to love life and having fun, while also fulfilling her duties admirably.  4 stars

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Majesty

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

Majesty (American Royals #2)
Katharine McGee
Expected publication date: September 1, 2020
Is America ready for its first queen?

Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it can leave you breathless. Princess Beatrice was born with it. Princess Samantha was born with less. Some, like Nina Gonzalez, are pulled into it. And a few will claw their way in. Ahem, we're looking at you Daphne Deighton.

As America adjusts to the idea of a queen on the throne, Beatrice grapples with everything she lost when she gained the ultimate crown. Samantha is busy living up to her "party princess" persona...and maybe adding a party prince by her side. Nina is trying to avoid the palace--and Prince Jefferson--at all costs. And a dangerous secret threatens to undo all of Daphne's carefully laid "marry Prince Jefferson" plans.

A new reign has begun.... - from Goodreads
I really enjoyed the first installment in this series, and after that cliffhanger, I'm ready to see what happens next to Queen Beatrice and the rest of the gang!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #14

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 Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

A woman believes she escaped a killer years ago, but worries he has returned - or is she paranoid and delusional like her mother?  I love a good unreliable narrator, but this thriller isn't grabbing me.  Pass!
 Every Moment After by Joseph Moldover

Years after a tragic school shooting, two friends try to move on.  The ripped-from-the-headlines feel of this book is appealing, although the subject matter is unfortunately something too many of us can relate to.  Keep!
 Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Even though her mother faked Rose Gold's illness for her entire childhood, she takes her mother in after a stint in prison.  I feel like I've been drawn to this title and cover for months without ever really knowing what the book was about - but I am here for this!  Keep!
 No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

Five years ago, a woman's husband disappeared, leaving her with tons of questions.  Now that he has been officially declared dead, she thinks he may be back.  This thriller just doesn't seem that unique to me - pass!
 The Winemaker's Wife by Kristen Harmel

A dual timeline story that partially takes place in Champagne, France, during WWII.  I can't resist WWI historical fiction, so definitely keeping this one!
 Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

A prequel to the classic story Dracula, this book explores Dracula's origins from the point of view of Bram Stoker.  I've never actually read the original, but this sounds like it could be a fun one to read around Halloween!  Keep!
 Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

This story follows a parent and teacher as they each struggle with personal crises surrounding a privileged high school.  This sounds like it has a lot of potential - keep!

Have you read any of these?