Monday, August 30, 2021

Battle of the Book Covers #6

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 2018 with Verity by Colleen Hoover! 

2018 US paperback // 2020 Spanish // 2019 Portuguese

2020 German // 2019 Polish // 2020 Danish

2020 French // 2020 Estonian

This is a hard one, because they're all so different!  I've always liked the original US cover, but I also like the way the Portuguese edition incorporates the story.  I think I'm going with...

The 2020 Estonian cover!  To me, it's just so creepy and totally captures the eerie vibe of the book!

Which is your favorite?

Friday, August 27, 2021

Review: The Queen

Matthew Dennison
Expected publication date: September 1, 2021
Monarchy in Britain is a mindset – sociological and emotional – seldom scrutinised save by diehard supporters or detractors.

Matthew Dennison's new biography of Elizabeth II offers to evaluate a magisterial reign now spanning seven decades and the Queen’s record as practitioner of monarchy. The person of the monarch is the closest an ethnically and culturally diverse society comes to a visible representative of past, present and future, although population changes since 1945 have made it impossible for Elizabeth II convincingly to embody the wide-ranging outlooks and aspirations of a muddled demographic. Instead she is understood as the champion of a handful of ‘British’ values endorsed – if no longer practised – by the bulk of the nation: service, duty, steadfastness, charity, stoicism: a visible definition of an aspect of ‘Britishness’. - from Goodreads
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

In The Queen, Matthew Dennison offers a comprehensive biography of Queen Elizabeth II, from her birth to the current coronavirus pandemic, and shows how her strong values have influenced her reign.  Although it's not a perfect book, there is a lot to enjoy about this biography.

Cons:  The writing is very dense.  Long sentences in even longer paragraphs, coupled with a formal writing style, sometimes made it a bit difficult to get through at times.  Although Dennison includes many interesting details, I didn't need to know about every portrait that the Queen has sat for in her life.  Also, maybe it's just my bias and being interested in the events that have taken place during my lifetime, but it felt like the last 40 years or so were kind of rushed through.  There is quite a bit about Princess Diana, but I wanted more detail and analysis of how major social, technological, and family changes have affected her reign in more recent years.

Pros:  Dennison isn't afraid of including the good and the bad.  This isn't a glowing biography that glosses over criticism, but rather a balanced look at the Queen's life.  He discusses times when the Queen seemed out of touch with the general public and how her duties as monarch sometimes got in the way of being a more present mother.  Dennison's research is impressive, and he includes many quotes that really added to the narrative.  I think Dennison also did a great job showing time and again how the Queen's life has been shaped and guided by tradition and values.  From a young age, she learned the importance of duty, and when it came time for her to be Queen, she brought a sense of honor and desire to serve her people as monarchs before her had done, even if these notions made her seem somewhat old-fashioned and sometimes detached.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful overview of the astounding life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, a must-read for any royal fan.

4 stars

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Wicked Widow

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Beatriz Williams
Expected publication date: October 12, 2021
Gin Kelly, the wicked redhead, is back! Readers will delight in next installment of the Wicked City series by New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams.

June 1925. Audacious Appalachian flapper Geneva "Gin" Kelly prepares to trade her high-flying ways for respectable marriage to Oliver Anson Marshall, a steadfast Prohibition agent who happens to hail from one of New York's most distinguished families. But just as wedding bells chime, the head of the notorious East Coast rum-running racket--and Anson's mortal enemy--turns up murdered at a society funeral, and their short-lived honeymoon bliss goes up in a spectacular blaze that sends Anson back undercover...and into the jaws of a trap from which not even Gin can rescue him. As violence explodes around her, Gin must summon all her considerable moxie to trace the tentacles of this sinister organization back to their shocking source, and face down a legendary American family at a rigged game it has no intention of losing.

June 1998. When Ella Dommerich's ninetysomething society queen aunt Julie ropes her into digging up dirt on Senator (and Presidential candidate) Franklin Hardcastle in order to settle old family scores, she couldn't be less enthusiastic. Pregnant Ella's recently ditched her unfaithful husband and settled into cozy--if complicated--domesticity with her almost-too-good-to-be-true musician boyfriend, Hector. But then the Hardcastle secrets lead to a web of shady dealings Ella's uncovered in her job as a financial analyst, and the bodies start to tumble out of the venerable woodwork. With the help of her ex-husband and her mysterious connection to a certain redheaded flapper, Ella digs up more than mere dirt...only to discover herself standing alone between a legendarily ruthless family and the prize it's sought for generations.

What ugly secrets lurk in the opulent enclaves--and bank accounts--of America's richest families? And can two determined women from two different generations thwart the murderous legacy of the demon liquor? - from Goodreads

Two books from Beatriz Williams in one year?  She is too good to us.  I don't even need to read blurbs for her books anymore - she always delivers!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Cape May Point State Park

Wow, it has been a minute since I posted anything travel-related, but earlier this month, we took a short vacation to Wildwood and Cape May, New Jersey.  My grandparents lived in Wildwood Crest for a good portion of my life, so we spent many summer weekends there when I was a child.  I have so many happy memories from those times, so it was nice to be able to spend an extended amount of time there after being away for so long.  My sister invited us along on her vacation, and we were lucky to have mostly beautiful weather while we there, especially the day we decided to go for a walk at Cape May Point State Park!


Cape May Point State Park has a little something for everyone - bird watching, trails, beaches, dunes, ponds, a WWII bunker, and the Cape May lighthouse, which you can climb for a small fee.  For more information about the park, visit this site.  The park has three trails: Red (0.5 miles), Yellow (1.5 miles), and Blue (2 miles).  They somewhat overlap, so we started with the Blue Trail, with the dunes on one side and two ponds on the other.  The trail here is a sandy, rocky mix.

The beach is just on the other side of the dunes and there is a connector trail.

There are great views of the lighthouse from everywhere along the trail!

Once we moved away from the dunes/beach, the trail turns into a combination of boardwalk and dirt path, and the feel of the park sometimes even feels like forest.

The Red Trail is a short offshoot from the Blue Trail and is quite shady until you reach a bird blind/viewing area.  There are a couple other bird blinds/viewing areas along the Blue Trail.

These flowers called swamp rose-mallows were in bloom during our visit.  They were enormous and beautiful and everywhere!  Even though the trails weren't long, Cape May Point State Park was a great place to meander for a little while.  The trails are all flat, making them easy for all levels of walkers/hikers.  There's also no entrance fee, which is nice.  Definitely a must-see when you're in the area!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Quick Reviews

With her career as a chef sabotaged, Sophie heads to France to help her ailing grandmother with running her chateau and finds her dreams for the future may be changing.  A foodie book set in France?  I couldn't resist, although I didn't love this one as much as I'd hoped to.  The thing I enjoyed most was Sophie's journey and growth - she loses so much confidence after being sabotaged by a coworker that she can't even trust herself in the kitchen, but as she takes on more responsibilities at the chateau, she realizes her capabilities and begins to think that France is actually the place she is meant to be.  The food descriptions were also mouth-watering!  However, I wasn't crazy about the one-dimensional side characters, and while there were bits of drama, they were overcome way too easily.  It lacked depth at times.  3.5 stars

The Key to Love by Betsy St. Amant (2020)

Bri works in a small-town bakery in Kansas, and Gerard works for a travel magazine.  He is sent to write a piece on her bakery after its love lock wall (modeled after the one in France) goes viral.  Gerard isn't impressed by love and romance, but maybe Bri can change his mind.  This book had some cute moments but still suffered from some misses.  I loved the small-town feel, where everyone knows everyone else's business.  I loved watching Gerard's feelings for Bri evolve over the course of the story, as he gets to know her better.  I didn't realize this book was Christian fiction when I picked it up, but the religious tones weren't too overwhelming.  I though Bri's character was a bit erratic - overly emotional while making poor decisions.  I wanted more background of her parent's marriage; she seems to hold them up on a pedestal as the perfect couple, yet what little we learn of them didn't sound all that happy.  Overall, it's a pretty predictable story that still holds some charm.  3.5 stars

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

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Death of Jane Lawrence

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Caitlin Starling
Expected publication date: October 19, 2021
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.

By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished. - from Goodreads

How perfect does this sound for fall?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Places to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our favorite places to read!  I could probably read practically anywhere, but there are a few places that stand out!

  1. My living room couch is probably the place I do most of my reading, sometimes while my husband is playing video games, sometimes late at night with the tv on as background noise.
  2. The comfy reading chair in my office/library.  It's right in front of the window, so it gets great light.
  3. On our back patio.  We have a cute little setup with Adirondack chairs and a small table, so when the weather is nice and the chairs are in the shade, it's a great place to read with a nice view of the backyard.
  4. In bed.  I've embraced using my Kindle so I can comfortably read in bed and not bother my sleeping hubby.
  5. When I was in college, I spent many Friday nights reading and lounging on the couches in the student center.  Yep, I was THAT kid.
  6. I also loved reading in the campus library.  It was so quiet, and there were tons of little nooks and crannies to hide and read in.
  7. On vacation.  It really doesn't matter where we go, there's just something so satisfying about being able to read and knowing you don't have any other responsibilities to get in the way.  
Where are some of your favorite places to read?


Friday, August 13, 2021

Romance Quick Reviews

Ever After Always by Chloe Liese (2021)
Freya and Aiden, married for almost 10 years, have decided to start a family, but Aiden is struggling and doesn't want to tell Freya.  With the help of her family and a tropical vacation, can they put their marriage back together?  This is the third book in the Bergman Brothers series and probably my favorite so far.  The idea of working to save a marriage and dealing with the anxiety of starting a family really resonated with me.  I enjoyed both Freya and Aiden's POVs - Aiden's anxiety about being financially secure and Freya's feelings that her husband is drifting away and not communicating.  I loved the way the Bergman clan has totally embraced Aiden as one of their own, although I was kind of getting "Bromance Book Club" vibes for awhile.  Like the previous books, Liese weaves in mental health issues, and here it felt the most natural.  Overall, a good mix of drama, steamy scenes, and family hijinks.  4 stars

Manor For Sale, Baron Included by Esther Hatch (2021)

Faced with a series of estates that are quickly losing money, Lord Farnsworth has to do what he never wanted - sell his late mother's home.  But when he finds out the beautiful and intelligent Sally Duncan wants to buy it, he hatches a scheme to sell it to her, then court her, thus getting his home back.  Sally, however, has other plans.  I absolutely loved this charming Victorian rom-com!  The book starts out rather lighthearted, and I loved Farnsworth's awkward courting attempts and Sally's refusal to be won over.  For a quick read, there was surprisingly a lot of depth later in the book, as we learn more about Sally and Farnsworth's backgrounds - his unhappy childhood and her desire to help her sister.  The writing is so well done and the secondary characters add humor and heart.  And of course there's a happily ever after, but I liked that it took an unexpected route to get there!  4.5 stars

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Collector's Daughter

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Gill Paul
Expected publication date: September 7, 2021
Bestselling author Gill Paul returns with a brilliant novel about Lady Evelyn Herbert, the woman who took the very first step into the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, and who lived in the real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, and the long after-effects of the Curse of Pharaohs. 

Lady Evelyn Herbert was the daughter of the Earl of Carnarvon, brought up in stunning Highclere Castle. Popular and pretty, she seemed destined for a prestigious marriage, but she had other ideas. Instead, she left behind the world of society balls and chaperones to travel to the Egyptian desert, where she hoped to become a lady archaeologist, working alongside her father and Howard Carter in the hunt for an undisturbed tomb.

In November 1922, their dreams came true when they discovered the burial place of Tutankhamun, packed full of gold and unimaginable riches, and she was the first person to crawl inside for three thousand years. She called it the “greatest moment” of her life—but soon afterwards everything changed, with a string of tragedies that left her world a darker, sadder place.

Newspapers claimed it was “the curse of Tutankhamun,” but Howard Carter said no rational person would entertain such nonsense. Yet fifty years later, when an Egyptian academic came asking questions about what really happened in the tomb, it unleashed a new chain of events that seemed to threaten the happiness Eve had finally found. - from Goodreads

I love historical fiction, and this sounds like it's going to be an incredible read!

Monday, August 9, 2021

Guest Blogger: Release Day Musings

My sister Michele is back today with another discussion guest post!  (Honestly, we talk so much about books, this might have to become a regular feature!)  Today, Michele is talking about authors' feelings on publication day, specifically how they might feel about being asked about their next book when their current story is just making its way into the world!  It's exciting to think about what might come next, but do you think it bums authors out a little if they just want to talk about this current book that they've spent so much time and energy on?


One of the bright spots over the past year has been authors doing more book release events via avenues such as Zoom. No longer do you need to live close to your favorite author to attend their in-person release party. Authors are teaming up with libraries and book sellers across the country to celebrate their newest releases and readers have been able to take part in these events from the comfort of our own homes.  
The format of these events is usually similar – a greeting from the host, a discussion between our author and a moderator (usually another author who writes in a similar genre or is actually friends with the guest of honor) and a session dedicated to questions from the fans. Inevitably, someone wants to know what the author is working on next and I feel like this can create two different scenarios for the author.
On one hand, their career is based on fans continuing to buy their books. That kind of enthusiasm lets them know people are invested in what they do and want to continue to support them. On the other hand, it can create a ton of pressure. As someone who works in a decidedly uncreative field, it amazes me how authors can continuously generate new stories, worlds, and characters. Releasing one book into the world and celebrating that achievement while also being questioned on what is next seems so overwhelming to me. Perhaps authors want to allow their current book to live, breathe and find its success before the readers rush to worry what we will consume next.

Have you attended any author events via Zoom, Facebook or Instagram? If you could ask a question to your favorite author during an event like that, what would it be?

Monday, August 2, 2021

Blog Break + Month in Review: July 2021

Just a quick note that I'll be taking a brief break from the blog this week!  Now, onto what happened in July!

We celebrated an early 4th of July at my mom's house - my sister, aunt, uncle, and a couple of my cousins and their families came, too, so it was a full house!  The weather was a little cooler, which was nice, and we all had fun catching up, playing cornhole, and watching the kids play some water games.

My sister had a delayed birthday/pool party for her daughter (our niece), Luna.  Her birthday is in January, so it definitely wasn't a great time to have everyone over.  She was able to have it outside now, so everyone was able to spread out and the kids (and my stepbrothers!) enjoyed the pool.

I attended my second bookish event of the year when I watched Penny Reid on Amazon Live.  I've only read a couple of Penny's books, but I have a couple more on my Kindle and I just think she's a really fun and smart author and person.  I love this bookish world she's created and how she's expanded it to allow other authors put their spins on it.  Smartypants Romance is a really cool publishing vehicle.  The live event was a lot of fun, as Penny was interviewed about her newest release and viewers could submit questions and comments.  She even shared some top-secret info!

Lastly, we went to our local movie theater to see Black Widow - it was the first time we were in a movie theater this year!  The movie was great, and it was nice to be able to see a Marvel movie on the big screen again!
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