Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Last Debutantes

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Georgie Blalock 
Expected publication date: August 24, 2021
Fans of The Kennedy Debutante and Last Year in Havana will love Georgie Blalock’s new novel of a world on the cusp of change...set on the eve of World War II in the glittering world of English society and one of the last debutante seasons. 

They danced the night away, knowing their world was about to change forever. They were the debutantes of 1939, laughing on the outside, but knowing tragedy— and a war—was just around the corner.

When Valerie de Vere Cole, the niece of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, makes her deep curtsey to the King and Queen of England, she knows she’s part of a world about to end. The daughter of a debt-ridden father and a neglectful mother, Valerie sees firsthand that war is imminent.

Nevertheless, Valerie reinvents herself as a carefree and glittering young society woman, befriending other debutantes from England’s aristocracy as well as the vivacious Eunice Kennedy, daughter of the U.S. Ambassador. Despite her social success, the world’s troubles and Valerie’s fear of loss and loneliness prove impossible to ignore.

  How will she navigate her new life when everything in her past has taught her that happiness and stability are as fragile as peace in our time? For the moment she will forget her cares in too much champagne and waltzes. Because very soon, Valerie knows that she must find the inner strength to stand strong and carry on through the challenges of life and love and war. - from Goodreads

You all know I can't resist a WWII novel, and the way this mixes debutante culture with a country on the brink of war is really appealing!  

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our most anticipated releases for the second half of 2021.  There are a lot of incredible-sounding books coming out later this year, and these are just a few of the ones I'm most looking forward to!

Are you looking forward to any of these books?

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

Friday, June 25, 2021

Mini-Reviews: Pride & Prejudice Retellings

As much as I love P&P retellings, this one fell way short for me.  Trisha is a successful neurosurgeon who has been somewhat estranged from her family for almost 15 years.  DJ Caine is a chef whose sister is being treated by Trisha.  The two have their issues from the start, but might they be able to overcome their first impressions?  I did enjoy some things - I loved the culture and the food, and the way the author played with elements of the original story (the two leads are kind of swapped) without tying herself down with trying to incorporate everything.  Unfortunately, there was a lot I didn't like - first, the book was way too long (almost 500 pages!).  It could have easily been 100 pages shorter.  There was so much extraneous background information on so many of the characters.  I just didn't need it all.  I hated the way Trisha's family treated her.  They were basically gaslighting her for something that was in no way her fault (and it also happened when she was a teenager - they need to get over themselves).  The romance was lacking - I know P&P is a slow burn, but to not get a payoff on the romance until literally the last few pages in a book this long was frustrating.  Finally, the writing was very repetitive.  The author would constantly detail what the characters wanted to say in a heated conversation followed by what they actually said.  It was very confusing and I had to keep rereading sections to figure out what was actually happening.  2.5 stars

A modern take on Pride & Prejudice between two Civil War historians at a small Mississippi college.  Ransom and Shelby's first meeting doesn't go well after he writes a terrible review of her book in a national magazine.  Her blunt honesty and his stoic nature find them in one misunderstanding after another but they eventually get to know each other better.  Although I didn't love this book, I thought there were things to enjoy.  One thing I had an issue with was how nasty some of the characters were to Shelby, and it felt completely unwarranted.  Her department head is constantly finding ways to undermine her, for instance.  I also felt like there were scenes and plot threads that went nowhere.  But I did enjoy the way the author took elements of the classic novel and adapted them to a more modern setting.  She didn't use every character and situation, but the ones she did are easily identifiable.  I also liked the college setting and the fact that the two main characters are historians.  The little touches of Southern history were really interesting.  I didn't realize this book was Christian fiction, so the story was fairly clean and the romance very simplified, but it worked here.  3.5 stars

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Her Heart For A Compass

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York
Expected publication date: August 3, 2021
London 1865

In an attempt to rebel against a society where women are expected to conform, free-spirited Lady Margaret Montagu Scott flees the confines of polite society, and an arranged marriage. But Lady Margaret’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, as close friends with Queen Victoria, must face the public scrutiny of their daughter’s impulsive nature, and Margaret is banished from polite society.

Finding strength amongst equally free-spirited companions, including Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise, Margaret resolves to follow her heart. On a journey of self-discovery that will take her to Ireland, America, and then back to Britain, Lady Margaret must follow her internal compass and search for her place, and her own identity, in a changing society.

Incorporating research into her heritage and drawing upon her own unique life journey and experiences, the Duchess pens a fictional account of the life of her great-great-aunt, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott. Rich in historical detail, Her Heart for a Compass offers a compelling look at Victorian England and the fascinating journey of a woman, born into the higher echelons of society, whose only desire is to follow her heart.

With co-writer Marguerite Kaye, an accomplished Mills & Boon historical author, The Duchess has created a breathtaking romantic novel of daring to follow your heart against all odds. Set amongst the drawing rooms of Victoria’s court, and the grand country houses of Scotland and Ireland. - from Goodreads

I'm pretty obsessed with royalty, so a book BY someone royal modeled on their own ancestor, a member of high society herself, of course has made its way onto my TBR!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Quotables #19: The Bookish Edition


I love all of these quotes for basically the same reasons - they all perfectly capture the different ways that books touch our lives.  Books are reliable and can be an escape.  We can relate to the characters and see ourselves in them.  Books never judge us and can also make us see ourselves in different ways, even if only within its pages and in our minds.

Which one of these is your favorite?

Friday, June 18, 2021

Romance Quick Reviews

The Boy Toy by Nicola Marsh (2020)
Samira has returned to Australia to help her cousin launch her new business, and after many years of relationship troubles, she finds herself having a fling with a younger man - but could it be something more?  I really wanted to like this book, but a few things just held me back.  I was expecting a sweet and sexy romance, which it was for a little while, but then things got real serious and the whole tone of the book changed.  It felt unrealistic and unnecessary.  I liked the inclusion of Samira's Indian culture, even though it was frustrating that her mother and her friends judge Samira's worth on marriage and children, completely ignoring the amazing career she's built.  Rory is a total sweetheart, and I loved his story of overcoming childhood issues to get to where he is today.  But my big issue with the book is that Samira is 10 years older than Rory and they are constantly referencing that fact.  Samira is the exact same age as me, and they were making her sound ancient - harsh!  3 stars 

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens (2020)
Minnie and Quinn were born at the same hospital on New Year's Day, but because Quinn was born just minutes earlier, his family won the cash prize for the year's first baby born.  Minnie thinks her bad luck stems from this day, and she's resentful of Quinn, until they run into each other on their 30th birthday and she finally gets to know him.  I thought this was such a sweet and charming story.  Quinn has become this almost mythical figure in Minnie's mind, but when they actually start spending time together, she realizes his life isn't as charmed as she thought it would be.  I could have used a bit more romance in this book, but I enjoyed Minnie's growth throughout the story as she finally takes control of her own life.  I also liked the flashbacks to other New Year's Eves, where we see all the times Minnie and Quinn have run into each other without realizing it.  It really made it feel like these two were fated to be together!  4 stars

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Madness of Crowds

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #17)
Louise Penny
Expected publication date: August 24, 2021
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns to Three Pines in #1 New York Times bestseller Louise Penny's latest spellbinding novel

You're a coward.

Time and again, as the New Year approaches, that charge is leveled against Armand Gamache.

It starts innocently enough.

While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.

He's asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting Professor of Statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.

While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.

They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson's views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it's near impossible to tell them apart.

Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.

Abigail Robinson promises that, if they follow her, ça va bien aller. All will be well. But not, Gamache and his team know, for everyone.

When a murder is committed it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.

And the madness of crowds. - from Goodreads

Every year I look forward to a new installment from Louise Penny in her Inspector Gamache series, and this sounds like it will be another incredible story!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

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 only read about 70% of my spring TBR, so, not great!  I haven't been going to the library much lately, so for my summer TBR, I'm going to mainly focus on books I already own (physical and ebook).

Where should I start first?

Friday, June 11, 2021

Review: Friends With Benedicts

Staci Hart
Published June 8, 2021
Timing is everything.

Presley Hale and Sebastian Vargas are no strangers to goodbye. Their high school summers were spent wrapped up in each other until she would inevitably go home to California. One season after college, Sebastian finally escaped the little Texas town to travel the world, and they said goodbye for what they thought might be the last time.  Sebastian went one way. Presley went the other.

For the first time in five years, they’re both in town, but the timing is no better than ever. So the only thing to do is what they do best. Keep it casual.

Friends with benefits.

They’ve done it before—doing it again will be easy.

But their hearts don’t get the memo.

When the lines of their arrangement blur, Presley and Sebastian are faced with decisions they’ve avoided for years. And that’s not even their biggest problem.
A small town in danger of failing.

A secret that could tear them apart.

And two hearts that can’t hide anymore.

They’ve shared so many summers, but none compare to what they’ll face.

Timing is everything.
And their time is almost up. - from Goodreads
Thank you to the author for providing me with a complimentary ARC of this book.  All thoughts are my own.
Presley and Sebastian spent summers together for years when she returned to his small Texas town to visit her family but haven't seen in each other in awhile.  Now, she's back in town and eager to reconnect, but a secret she's held onto for years could derail everything.

I loved Sebastian and Presley - Presley is so good-hearted and positive, and Sebastian is a good mix of serious and silly.  The chemistry between them leapt off the pages - you could tell each wanted to make their "friends with benefits" situation more permanent, but both worried the other one wouldn't want it.  The miscommunication was a little frustrating, but they did explain themselves well.  After Presley revealed her secret to Sebastian, it made me root for them even more.

A fun cast of supporting characters surround Presley and Sebastian; they're fleshed out enough so that I felt invested in them, but they also never felt like they were overpowering the story.  They added just enough!  Hart does a great job of creating the small-town atmosphere, where everyone knows each other and their business!  There's an additional storyline where the town's small businesses are being threatened by the possible arrival of a big box store, and it was great to see everyone come together and fight.

I always love Staci Hart's stories, and this was no exception.  I breezed through this story in just a couple days and it was exactly what I needed at the time.  A sweet romance, with some steamy scenes and just enough drama to keep things interesting!
4 stars

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: For Your Own Good

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Samantha Downing
Expected publication date: July 20, 2021
USA Today bestselling author Samantha Downing is back with her latest sneaky thriller set at a prestigious private school—complete with interfering parents, overeager students, and one teacher who just wants to teach them all a lesson…

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn't be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It's really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost. - from Goodreads

Samantha Downing always has the best blurbs that will shock you and draw you in, and her stories don't disappoint either!

Monday, June 7, 2021

Battle of the Book Covers #5

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!)
For this edition, I'm going back to 2010 with The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, one of my favorite books! 

2010 United States // 2013 Serbian // 2011 Norwegian

2013 Bulgarian // 2013 French // 2011 Dutch

2012 Portugese // 2011 Italian // 2010 German

2013 Romanian // 2012 Spanish
This one is really hard, because there are so many to choose from - I wasn't expecting that!  I think I'll go with...

 The 2011 Norwegian cover!  Although I like the ones that show some version of the castle, I feel like the open gate is calling to me, telling me that there's some sort of secret or mystery behind it!

Which one is your favorite?

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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Blog Tour + Review: So Happy Together

Thank you to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for So Happy Together by Deborah K. Shepherd!  I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Deborah K. Shepherd
Published April 20, 2021
As her stultifying marriage is unravelling, and in the midst of mourning the loss of her creative self, Caro Tanner has a nightmare about Peter, an old love whom she hasn’t seen in twenty years. She takes this as a sign he still needs her. With her three children safely off to summer camp, Caro embarks on a pre-Facebook, pre–cell phone road trip to recapture who she once was and what she thinks she once had.

Set in the sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll ’60s in Tucson, Arizona―when Caro and Peter were kooky, colorful, and inseparable drama students―and in the suburban ’80s, when Caro’s creative spark has been quenched to serve the needs of her husband and children, So Happy Together explores the conundrum of love and sexual attraction, creativity and family responsibilities, and what happens when they are out of sync. It is a story of missed opportunities, the tantalizing possibility of second chances, and what we leave behind, carry forward, and settle for when we choose. It sits in that raw, messy, confounding, beautiful place where love resides. - from Goodreads
Caro, unhappy in her long marriage to Jack, decides to take a road trip to visit the man she never forgot about, her first love and college sweetheart, Peter.  Along the way, she revisits her past, which makes her reconsider her future.  I'm torn on how to rate this book, because I love the premise of trying to rediscover who you once were, perhaps feeling like you've lost parts of yourself over the course of a long relationship, but I also felt like Caro was holding onto a past that didn't necessarily exist.

Some things I didn't enjoy:
- I felt like Caro's recollections of the past were sometimes viewed through rose-colored glasses.  She recounts her time at college in the late 1960s, experimenting with sex and drugs, and ultimately her relationship with Peter, which seemed to define her time there.  Something about the relationship felt off to me from the start, and when it was revealed why, it made sense.  I felt sad for Caro that she could never have the relationship she truly desired from Peter, but also frustrated that she was so focused on getting one thing from him.  Knowing what she does about Peter, it's kind of hard to understand her motivations for getting up and leaving her husband one day, thinking that everything will be different with Peter.

- I wanted more of Caro's life with Jack.  We get bits and pieces of how her life changed after she met Jack (the nose job, giving up her dreams for a career), but most of the book focuses on her time with Peter, decades earlier, and I felt like I needed to know more of why she felt so dissatisfied in her marriage.

Some things I did enjoy:

- The writing.  Caro was an actress and budding playwright, and I think Shepherd captured that so well in her writing.  From the touches of drama to the imagined scenes in her head, you can tell that Caro is an intelligent, thoughtful woman who clearly hasn't lost her touch for the stage.

- Caro's love for her children.  Despite her issues with Jack, Caro never forgets about her children and worries how this upheaval in her life will affect them.

- Even though I had issues with the Caro/Peter relationship, I loved the way Peter always accepted Caro for exactly who she was.  He loved and supported her, and I think that's why she still thought about him years after their relationship ended.

3.5 stars

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Month in Review: May 2021

May turned out to be a pretty quiet month.  We celebrated Mother's Day at my mom's house and ordered in a late lunch.  Most of our month was taken up by house projects.  We had some more landscaping done and the top of our front stoop needed to be redone.  Of course, when they took the top off, it turned out to be a much bigger (and more expensive!) job than we anticipated!  So, it was several days of a lot of noise and dust, but it's all repaired now, which is good. We had a barbeque on Memorial Day and were able to have most of our family over.  Even though it rained the whole weekend and the actual day started out a little cloudy and windy, it turned out to be a beautiful day.  It was so nice to have everyone over - it's been so long!  Most of our families are vaccinated; Tom is also fully vaccinated, although I'm not yet.
The Books

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