Friday, January 29, 2021

Romance Quick Reviews

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler (2020)

Unpopular opinion time, but I was a little disappointed by this book.  Graham runs a local diner in Alaska, and he's generally regarded as the resident grump, especially around tourists, until he meets Zoey, on her first trip to Alaska.  I feel like we were told so often that Graham is this cranky guy who hates tourists, but the second he meets Zoey, he falls for her and we don't see too much of his grumpy side.  The romance is sweet, but almost too saccharine and it definitely fell on the side of insta-love.  I thought the dialogue was cringey at times, especially all the pet names Graham has for Zoey after knowing her for two days, and there were too many side characters to keep track of.  I did, however, enjoy the Alaska setting and all the adventures we got to go on with Zoey (even if most of them ended in disaster!).  If you enjoy clean romances with little drama, this might be the read for you.  3 stars

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria (2020)
Soap opera actress Jasmine and telenovela star Ashton are cast in a romantic comedy show on a Netflix-like streaming service.  Both are hoping that this show will take their careers to the next level, so they begin to rehearse extra in private... which leads to a steamy affair.  However, their relationship could have disastrous consequences.  There was so much to like about this book.  I enjoyed the Latinx culture and representation and the behind-the-scenes look at the making of a tv show.  Ashton and Jasmine had so much chemistry, and I liked the way the romance played out (trying hard to ignore it at first, and then giving in to it).  The main characters each had a rich backstory outside of the romance, and their families were wonderful and helped keep them grounded.  I think at times the themes of the story were a little too heavy-handed, though.  4 stars

Head Over High Heels by Lila Monroe (2016)
A reality show TV producer needs a hit to save her career - and she thinks she's found it in Flint McKay, a country guy who knows how to swing a hammer and looks good doing it.  But will their feelings derail this home renovation show?  I love reality TV, so that aspect of the story really appealed to me.  The chemistry between Laurel and Flint was off the charts right from the beginning, so watching them try to fight it was interesting, although they both really needed the show to succeed so a relationship was out of the question.  Monroe is really good at creating strong, sassy female characters, and there was also lots of humor in this one.  I really enjoyed the part of the story that took place during filming in the Berkshires but felt like it took a couple weird turns once the action moved to LA.  However, this book was so readable and I found myself getting lost in it more than once!  Overall, this was a really steamy but really fun romance!  4 stars

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Chanel Cleeton
Expected publication date: May 4, 2021
At the end of the nineteenth century, three revolutionary women fight for freedom in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s captivating new novel inspired by real-life events and the true story of a legendary Cuban woman–Evangelina Cisneros–who changed the course of history.

A feud rages in Gilded Age New York City between newspaper tycoons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. When Grace Harrington lands a job at Hearst’s newspaper in 1896, she’s caught in a cutthroat world where one scoop can make or break your career, but it’s a story emerging from Cuba that changes her life.

Unjustly imprisoned in a notorious Havana women’s jail, eighteen-year-old Evangelina Cisneros dreams of a Cuba free from Spanish oppression. When Hearst learns of her plight and splashes her image on the front page of his paper, proclaiming her, “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba,” she becomes a rallying cry for American intervention in the battle for Cuban independence.

With the help of Marina Perez, a courier secretly working for the Cuban revolutionaries in Havana, Grace and Hearst’s staff attempt to free Evangelina. But when Cuban civilians are forced into reconcentration camps and the explosion of the USS Maine propels the United States and Spain toward war, the three women must risk everything in their fight for freedom. - from Goodreads

This sounds like it's going to be an incredible read - three amazing women, the Gilded Age - what more could you ask for?

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is new-to-me authors I read in 2020.  I actually read quite a few new authors in 2020 that I will definitely be seeking more from, some big names and some a little less well-known, so here's that list, along with the book that got me hooked on them! 

Chanel Cleeton - Next Year in Havana
Staci Hart - Work in Progress

Colleen Hoover - All Your Perfects
K.A. Tucker - The Simple Wild

Penny Reid - Truth or Beard

Did any of these make your list?
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Friday, January 22, 2021

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Pearl Harbor Edition

The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman (2019)
Nurse Eva Cassidy is on a ship bound for Hawaii when she meets Lieutenant Clark Spencer.  They each have their secrets but the attraction is undeniable.  Circumstances pull them apart when their ship docks, but the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor only days later causes their paths to cross again. 

I love stories set during World War II, and the concentrated timeline of this story (set in the days before and after the Pearl Harbor attack) really highlighted the intensity of this event.  Eva is a really interesting character; she's running away from something, but we don't find out what that is until later in the story.  She's torn about leaving her sister behind, but she knows she needs a fresh start.  Watching her find new companions in the other military nurses was great.  A major crux of the book is whether it was known that the Japanese were planning on attacking the United States or if it was a complete surprise.  Lt. Spencer discovers information about the movements of the Japanese, but what did his superiors do with the information?  Ackerman's descriptions of the attack and the aftermath drew me in, and I could really feel the heartache, pain, love, and courage felt by the characters.  This book had a lot of wonderful elements and is a great addition to the WWII historical fiction genre.  4 stars

In Countdown to Pearl Harbor, author Steven Twomey explores the 12 days (and beyond) leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the warnings and clues that were possibly missed. 

It is clear that Twomey did an extensive amount of research for this book.  Chapters alternately showed POVs from Washington, Hawaii, and the Japanese fleet.  The writing was very dense, unfortunately, and it took me awhile to get through.  There are a lot of players to remember, and although the book is set up chronologically, it doesn't always follow that.  But, the subject matter is fascinating.  Twomey looks at individual events that together added up to a disaster - a poorly worded memo, the mistaken belief that Pearl Harbor was too shallow for torpedoes, the assumption that "missing" Japanese aircraft carriers were still in Japan.  Perhaps the biggest issue of all was the underestimation of the Japanese military and thinking they would never attack America directly.  3.5 stars

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Social Graces

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Renee Rosen
Expected publication date: April 20, 2021
The author of Park Avenue Summer throws back the curtain on one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor's notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

In the glittering world of Manhattan's upper crust, where wives turn a blind eye to husbands' infidelities, and women have few rights and even less independence, society is everything. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor—the Mrs. Astor.

But times are changing.

Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America's richest families. But what good is money when society refuses to acknowledge you? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.

Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this is a gripping novel about two fascinating, complicated women going head to head, behaving badly, and discovering what’s truly at stake. - from Goodreads

Gilded Age New York City?  Yes, please!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Down The TBR Hole #19

Down the TBR Hole is a feature created by Lost in a Story (although the blog seems to be down).  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:
Race of Aces by John R. Bruning
Race of Aces is a nonfiction book about the WWII fighter pilots who battled to become the greatest American airman of the war, by shooting down the most enemy planes.  I'm always on the lookout for more nonfiction books, and the WWII era is one I enjoy both in fiction and nonfiction.  Keep!

Hannah's War by Jan Eliasberg
WWII historical fiction novel about a female German physicist on the brink of scientific discovery who later joins the Oppenheimer team at Los Alamos.  Keep!

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry
An artist writes letters to her ex-boyfriend (and roommate) while also trying to save the funky vibe of her hometown, Austin, Texas.  I don't know, this just sounds so weird and the name-dropping in the blurb is off-putting.  Pass!

The German Heiress by Anika Scott
I don't know how this happened, but this is the third WWII era book on this edition's list!  This one takes place in the post-war era - a German woman is searching for her friend while also trying to avoid the authorities.  Keep!

Oasis by Katya de Becerra
A group of young people working on an archaeological dig site are caught up in a sandstorm; when they come across an oasis, it turns out not to be the sanctuary they first imagine it to be.  The reviews are kind of putting me off this one - pass!

The Prized Girl by Amy K. Green
A teenage pageant queen is found murdered, and her sister starts her own investigation to find the killer.  This just isn't grabbing me.  Pass!

The Sunday Potluck Club by Melissa Storm
Women who meet in the cancer ward of a hospital (and have lost a loved one) start a support group.  I want to like this one, but the blurb seems a little scattered.  Pass!
Have you read any of these?


Friday, January 15, 2021

Time Travel Mini-Reviews

Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds (2019)

Thanks to Greg at Book Haven for the recommendation!
If you enjoyed the Netflix series Travelers, then you'll enjoy this novella that has a similar premise.  Decades in the future, humanity is on the brink of starvation.  A group of scientists seek to make a tiny change to history that they hope will save them.  They've discovered a way to transport a human consciousness into the body of another person in the past, and they plan to use that person to carry out their mission.  But they don't anticipate the problems they'll run into, both with the host mind and others who seek to stop them.

This was an amazing story, and I couldn't stop reading it, wanting to know if the scientists would succeed.  At less than 200 pages, the story moves quickly and the action never stops; nothing is unnecessary here.  Although some of the science stuff went over my head, I still thought the story was well-written and engaging.  The characters, both in the past and the future, are interesting.  I'm always drawn to time travel stories, because of the ethics, the implications - it's just fascinating.  This surprisingly heartfelt story is a great addition to the genre.  4.5 stars

Replay by Ken Grimwood (1987) 
Thank you to Dani at The Restricted Section for the recommendation! 

In 1988, Jeff Winston dies of a heart attack - and then wakes up in his college dorm room in 1963, with all his memories intact.  So begins a cycle in which Jeff relives these years of this life, only to always die in 1988.  
It did take me a bit to get into this book.  The writing is sparse, almost clinical, at the beginning, and transitions between events were practically non-existent.  But, the more I read, the more I got into it.  This was a really interesting take on time travel.  Jeff doesn't know why this is happening to him and he can't control it. So many questions were raised - if you could live your life again, would you do it differently?  Use your knowledge of the past to make a lot of money, have the family you always wanted, find a way to stop devastating events from happening?  But, would it be worth it knowing everything would reset upon your death and revival?  What would that do to your mental state?  For awhile, we follow Jeff through his life cycles, but then another character is introduced that changes everything, and that's where the story gets even more interesting!  I really don't want to give too much away, and I highly recommend experiencing this story for yourself!  4 stars

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: She's Too Pretty To Burn

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Wendy Heard
Expected publication date: March 30, 2021
An electric romance set against a rebel art scene sparks lethal danger for two girls in this expertly plotted YA thriller. For fans of E. Lockhart, Lauren Oliver and Kara Thomas.

The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot―full of adventure―and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect . . . one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.

Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, danger, and power. - from Goodreads

This sounds like it's going to be wild, and the Dorian Gray inspiration is really intriguing!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Resolutions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our resolutions and hopes for 2021 (bookish or not).  I almost feel like it's tempting fate to actually list some resolutions, considering what happened last year, but I do have a few bookish/blogging goals that I'd like to make happen this year!

  1. Bring back my Try It series.  I haven't done one of these since November 2019, so it's time to try some new genres!
  2. Read one book from my shelf of unread physical books per month.  This is a carryover from last year, but I want to make it a more specific goal of one per month to hopefully encourage myself to finally get to these books.
  3. Keep growing my Instagram account.  I'm having a lot of fun taking pictures and sharing what I'm reading, so I'm hoping to keep that going in 2021.  I'll definitely still be active here, though, since I feel like the blog and Instagram are two totally different ways to talk about books.
  4. Host a giveaway.  I haven't done a giveaway since my 3rd blogoversary in 2019, and since my 5th blogoversary is coming up in April, I'd love to do something to celebrate.  I recently started a little affiliate shop over on, and I'm hoping to use the commissions to support giveaways here on the blog.
  5. Attend at least 2 bookish events.  Virtual events are ok, but I would love to (safely!) attend some in-person events, too, if possible.
  6. Do more to promote books/authors I love.  This is kind of an amorphous goal!  Last year I was fortunate enough to have some new bookish opportunities come my way - I participated in my first blog tour (and a couple more after that) and I shared some cover reveals and excerpts.  These were fun because they provided some fresh, interesting content and I also felt really good about promoting authors I love and maybe even introducing them to readers that might not know about their work.  I think basically what it boils down to is that I want to be more involved in the bookish community!

What are your goals for 2021?

Friday, January 8, 2021

December Quick Reviews

Batter of Wits by Karla Sorenson (2020)

Grace is moving to Green Valley, but just outside town, her car breaks down.  Tucker stops to help her, and she takes an immediate dislike to him.  Those feelings don't last long, though, and soon the two are falling for each other - despite a lot of complications.  I really loved this book - there were so many elements beyond the romance, although that did take center stage.  Grace wants a fresh start in a new place; Tucker is unhappy in the life his father planned for him.  And then these two find each other, and wow - the sparks, the deep intense feelings.  They understand each other like no one else, but they can't be totally open with their relationship, and that's where the big issues come in.  Although I felt like their problems were solved a little too quickly and easily, and I wanted more development in Tucker's background, I couldn't read this book fast enough - I was so engrossed in this romance!  4 stars

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl (2016)
I don't know about you, but I felt very Marvel-deprived in 2020, so I was excited to come across this Black Widow novel.  Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, rescues a Russian girl from the same man who trained her to be a spy; several years later, Natasha and Ava must work together to bring him down again.  Although I felt the pacing was a bit slow, there was a lot to enjoy about this book.  It felt like kind of an origin story for Black Widow; we got a bit more of her background and some surprise twists regarding other characters in the book.  Natasha is not the sole focus of the story, as there is a lot from the POV of Ava and Alex, another teenager, but when Natasha shows up, she is in full spy mode and I loved seeing her do her thing, from working with S.H.I.E.L.D. tech to beating up the bad guys.  There's a cameo from Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, and his trademark snark came through in spades.  Overall, a fun read if you're missing seeing Marvel films in theaters.  4 stars

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (2019)

Alicia's life seems perfect - beautiful home, successful career, happy marriage - until the day she shoots her husband in the face five times and never speaks another word.  Psychotherapist Theo Faber jumps at the chance to work with the institutionalized Alicia, and the ensuing sessions will lead Theo - and readers - down an unexpected path.  I haven't been reading many mysteries/thrillers this year, but the premise of this one really appealed to me.  The story is told from the POV of Theo, interspersed with excerpts from Alicia's journal.  I can't say I liked Theo that much; he seemed very pompous and obnoxious.  But, the short chapters kept the story moving quickly, and there were enough "oh sh*t" reveals to keep me wanting more.  As the story unfolded, I really couldn't imagine where it would end up, which is definitely the mark of a great mystery.  It's best to go into this one as blind as possible!  4 stars

* This post contains affiliate links; I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Secret Recipe For Moving On

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Karen Bischer
Expected publication date: March 23, 2021
Ellie Agresti's not sure anything could be worse than being dumped by her boyfriend, Hunter, the first day of senior year.

But sharing a "life skills" class with him and his new girlfriend, Brynn? AND getting partnered with a "family" of misfits (A.J., the loudmouth; Isaiah, the horse-racing obsessive; and Luke, the tattooed stunt-biker)?

It's a recipe for certain disaster...until an in-class competition allows Ellie to channel her angst into beating Hunter and Brynn's team, and she unexpectedly bonds with her own group–especially Luke–in the process.

But as Ellie soon discovers, it will take more than classroom triumphs to heal her broken heart–and find herself again. - from Goodreads

This sounds really cute, and I'm looking forward to Ellie's journey!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Battle of the Book Covers #2

In Battle of the Book Covers, I pick one book, compile a bunch of different international covers, and choose my favorite - and I'd love for you to weigh in, too!  (Thank you to Heather at Random Redheaded Ramblings, who put together a list of 25 book blog post ideas, for the inspiration!)

This time I'm looking at Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton.  I finally read this book in 2020 and I absolutely loved it!  I think the original 2018 US paperback cover is very well-known, but can anything beat it?

2018 US // 2019 German // 2019 Croatian

2018 Bulgarian // 2019 Serbian // 2019 French

2019 Hungarian // 2020 Swedish // 2020 Macedonian

I think we all know I'm a sucker for a pretty dress on a cover, so a lot of these appeal to me; I also love the incorporation of architecture, beaches, and classic cars.  While I like the simplicity of the French cover, I think my favorite is...

The 2020 Swedish version!  I think it has a similar vibe as the original cover, but the realistic/photographic quality appeals to me just a little bit more!

Which one is your favorite?
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Friday, January 1, 2021

Month in Review: December 2020

All thing considered, December was actually a really fun month!  My sister organized a virtual crafting day, where a bunch of us got on Zoom and made wood sign boards together.  We also Zoomed with our nephews in Oklahoma and watched them open their Christmas gifts!  We got our first big snowstorm of the season (actually, the biggest we've gotten in probably a couple years), but of course our snowblower broke and we had to shovel out our long driveway - ugh!  We had an afternoon of cookie making at my mom's house, and my niece loved decorating with all the different colored sprinkles.  Tom finally found out that he got the job he applied for within his company back in October, so we went out to dinner to celebrate.  We spent Christmas day at my mom's with my sister, and Tom's parents came over to our house the next day.  Lastly, we went to the movies for the first time since February - we saw Wonder Woman 1984, which wasn't as good as the first movie, but it was fun to be back in a theater.  We'll probably try to stay pretty close to home for the next month or two, so it was nice to get out a couple times this month.

The Books



The Posts and Reviews
Happy New Year!
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