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!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Excerpt: Bet The Farm by Staci Hart

Staci Hart has a brand new rom-com standalone coming January 23rd! Bet the Farm is a heartfelt, flirty story of opposites attract and today I'm very excited to feature a little teaser! 

Amazon | AppleBooks | Kobo | B&N | Goodreads

“You said you’d stay out of my way.”

He took a step closer. “And I have. But I said no goats.”

“What’s your problem with them?”

“You gonna clip their hooves? How about mend all the fences when they bust out, because they’re a pack of brainless Houdinis. How about deworming? And you’ve gotta breed. You ever smelled a goat buck? Tell me, smartass—have you ever seen goats mate?”

I shook my head.

“Let’s just say there’s a reason the devil has goat horns, and you’re gonna have a front row seat to the horror shop. If you knew anything about anything, you’d never have started all this.”

Another step, his arms folding across his expansive chest, which was covered. And thank God. I couldn’t think when he was shirtless.

Part of me thought he knew it too.

“Lemme tell you something, Olivia. It’s gonna be me who deals with the fucking goats, not you. And I told you no.”

“Fine. I hereby take all responsibility for the goats. All hoof clipping, fence mending, and deworming will be done by me.”

He stared me down for a second, and whatever he was thinking tugged at one corner of his lips for that whisper of a smile. He stuck his hand out for a shake.

I took it, aware of every nerve touching his skin. The rough of his calluses. The warmth in his palms. The odd sensation of my hand being almost completely enveloped by his.

I squeezed and pumped our hands once.

“Just promise me one thing,” he said, still holding my hand.


“Let me know when you’re clipping their hooves so I can make popcorn.”

Olivia Brent has one summer to save the dairy farm she just inherited.

But there’s one problem, and it’s not her lactose intolerance.

Jake Milovic.

The brooding farmhand has inherited exactly fifty percent of Brent Farm, and he’s so convinced the city girl can’t work the land, he bets she can’t save it in a summer. 

Determined to prove him wrong, Olivia accepts what might be the dumbest wager of her life.

His strategy to win seems simple: follow her around, shirtlessly distracting her between bouts of relentless taunting. And it’s effective—if his dark eyes and rare smiles aren’t enough to sidetrack her, the sweaty, rolling topography of the manbeast’s body would do the trick.

What they don’t know: they’ll have to weather more than each other. 

Mysterious circumstances throw the farm into disarray, and with the dairy farm in danger, Olivia and Jake have to work together. But when they do, there’s more to fear than either of them imagined.

Because now their hearts are on the line, and the farm won’t be the only casualty if they fail.

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life -- a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can't forget that. She's also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She's been a wife, though she's certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She's also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she's been drinking whiskey. When she's not writing, she's reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Blog Tour + Review: The Patriots

Thank you to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for The Patriots by Winston Groom!  I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Winston Groom
Published September 8, 2020
When the Revolutionary War ended in victory, there remained the stupendous problem of how to establish a workable democratic government in the vast, newly independent country. Three key founding fathers played significant roles: John Adams, the brilliant, dour, thin-skinned New Englander; Thomas Jefferson, the aristocratic Southern renaissance man; and Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the Caribbean island of Nevis. In this complex and riveting narrative, best-selling author Winston Groom tells the story of these men--all of whom served in George Washington's first cabinet--as the patriots fundamentally responsible for the ideas that shaped the foundation of the United States. Their lives and policies could not have been more different; their relationships with each other were complex, and often rife with animosity. And yet these three men led the charge--two of them creating and signing the Declaration of Independence, and the third establishing a national treasury and the earliest delineation of a Republican party. The time in which they lived was fraught with danger; the smell of liberty was in the air, though their excitement was strained by vast antagonisms that recall the intense political polarization of today. But through it all, they managed to shoulder the heavy mantle of creating the United States of America, putting aside their differences to make a great country, once and always. Drawing on extensive correspondence, epic tales of war, and rich histories of their day-to-day interactions, best-selling author Winston Groom shares the remarkable story of the beginnings of our great nation. - from Goodreads
In The Patriots, Winston Groom explores the lives of three of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, and how they worked together despite their differences to create a new nation.  I'm a history buff, so I welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the origin of the United States, through the focus of three remarkable men.

What I didn't love about this book:
  • The format.  Particularly at the beginning of the book, each chapter focuses on one man for a period of time.  The next chapter then basically resets and spotlights another man in the same time period.  Although each chapter features slightly different information, it often felt repetitive.  I also had to keep reminding myself where we were in the narrative.  I would have preferred more integration of the three men's lives, or at least a more chronological format.
  • The information is a bit dry at times, although the writing is very approachable and readable.  So much has been written about these men and the beginnings of the United States, so it's hard to impart anything truly "new."
What I enjoyed about this book:
  • The inclusion of information about the men's personal lives.  Hamilton, Jefferson, and Adams were so important politically and professionally, so it was nice to read about things that humanized them more - their wives, children, and homes. 
  • The book gives a well-rounded picture of the three men.  It doesn't ignore some of the "unsavory" (by standards of today and the past) aspects of their lives.
  • The book does a good job giving a comprehensive overview of the struggles these men, and others, faced in trying to establish a new nation.  They didn't always agree on things and in fact had some strong divides on certain topics.
4 stars
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon Sign-Up!

Believe it or not, I've never actually participated in a readathon before, but when I came across the Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer, I knew this would be a good place to start!  It'll be the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit, focusing on holiday and winter setting reads, starting today and going through November 30!  There will be challenges and prizes - for all the details, check out the announcement post here.

I have quite a few books I want to get to over the course of the readathon:

Home for the Holidays // One Way or Another // Dash & Lily's Book of Dares // All About Us

The Twelve Dates of Christmas // Faking Under the Mistletoe // Once Upon a Christmas // In a Holidaze

Will you be participating in this readathon?  What are some of your holiday reading recommendations?

** This post contains affiliate links.  As a affiliate, I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Layla

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Colleen Hoover
Expected publication date: December 8, 2020
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover comes a novel that explores life after tragedy and the enduring spirit of love.

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them. - from Goodreads

Colleen Hoover is an author I read for the first time this year, and now I'm hooked.  I'm really looking forward to her next offering!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Nonfiction November 2020: Seeking Royal Recommendations

It's Week 3 of Nonfiction November!  This week, hosted by Rennie at What's Nonfiction, is Be/Ask/Become the Expert.  This year, I'm asking for your royal recommendations!  I love reading about royalty in fiction, but I want to branch out and learn more about real-life royalty.  I've read pretty widely about the Tudor dynasty (Henry VIII's wives, Queen Elizabeth, and, tangentially, Mary Boleyn) and earlier this year I read two great nonfiction books about modern British royalty, from interesting perspectives:

A book I read last year, Princesses Behaving Badly, also inspired my desire to learn more about royalty:

So today, I'm asking for your favorite biographies about royalty - I'm not particular about the country or era, just something that's super interesting and informative!  Thanks in advance!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Quick Reviews: The Romance Edition

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai (2020)

After personal and professional disappointments, Layla returns home to San Francisco, where she discovers her father has set up several blind dates to find her a husband.  She also finds herself sharing an office with entrepreneur Sam, and sparks fly despite their differences.  This was a fun story full of love, family, and Indian culture.  It was interesting to see Layla, deciding that an arranged marriage is the best option for her, and Sam, distancing himself from his culture after his sister's disastrous arranged marriage, fall for each other, as much as they try to deny it.  Layla is surrounded by a huge, boisterous family and they provided a lot of colorful commentary.  I thought some of the dialogue got a bit silly at times, and Sam's character was sometimes inconsistent, but overall this was a quick, enjoyable read.  3.5 stars 

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle (2020)

Naomi and Nick are months away their wedding, but neither wants to go through with it anymore - however, whoever calls it off will be on the hook for all the expenses.  Each is now trying to force the other to cancel the wedding, but could they maybe find the love they used to share?  Although there was some humor and light moments in this book, I was struck by how real and deep this romance got at times.  The beginning of the book was almost hard to get through, because Naomi is so deeply unhappy and the issues they're facing (intrusive family, jobs) felt uncomfortably realistic.  Watching Naomi and Nick find their way back to each other was so sweet, as they started to put their relationship first and figure out all the things they could do to make it better.  I was really rooting for them!  I think the only thing that could have made this book better would be to have some chapters from Nick's POV.  We're in Naomi's head the whole time, and I'd like to know his take on some of the situations in the story!  4 stars
Carpentry and Cocktails (Green Valley Library #5) by Nora Everly (2020)

Willa has come home to Green Valley after a tough few years, but will problems from her past derail her potential relationship with Everett, her landlord, before it even starts?  I feel like we should all move to Green Valley, because it is completely inhabited by gorgeous and big-hearted men.  Everett's feelings towards Willa are so swoon-worthy; I loved how protective he is of her.  I also loved how Willa wanted to take time to figure out her stuff before getting into a serious relationship with Everett.  The issues with her ex-husband added layers to the story, and I really enjoyed the way Willa's family and friends rallied around her.  Her younger sister Gracie was a great addition to the story; she's so mature and low-key hilarious.  Overall, a sweet romance and a quick read - what more could you want?  4 stars

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Heiress Apparently

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Diana Ma
Expected publication date: December 1, 2020
The first book in an epic and romantic YA series following the fictionalized descendants of the only officially recognized empress regent of China

Gemma Huang is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Illinois, having abandoned plans for college to pursue a career in acting, much to the dismay of her parents. Now she’s living with three roommates in a two-bedroom hovel, auditioning for bit roles that hardly cover rent. Gemma’s big break comes when she’s asked to play a lead role in an update of M. Butterfly filming for the summer in Beijing. When she arrives, she’s stopped by paparazzi at the airport. She quickly realizes she may as well be the twin of one of the most notorious young socialites in Beijing. Thus kicks off a summer of revelations, in which Gemma uncovers a legacy her parents have spent their lives protecting her from—one her mother would conceal from her daughter at any cost. - from Goodreads

This sounds like it's going to be filled with drama and delicious secrets!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Nonfiction November 2020: Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings

It's Week 2 of Nonfiction November (this week is hosted by JulzReads), and this is my favorite week of the entire event - fiction/nonfiction book pairings!  I love pairing books like this throughout the year.  Here are the ones I've done this year: