Friday, March 31, 2023

Fiction/Nonfiction Quick Reviews: The Hollywood Edition

You Can't Be Serious by Kal Penn (2021)

In You Can't Be Serious, actor Kal Penn shares his story, as the son of Indian immigrant parents, to fighting for his acting career, to taking a sabbatical and working for the Obama administration.  Even if you haven't seen a lot of him on screen, I think Penn is easily recognizable and his story is entertaining, frustrating, and heartwarming all at the same time.  A large part of his career has been spent facing and fighting racism, both overt and more subtle.  He describes his struggles in a clear manner, making the reader understand how atrociously people of color are treated sometimes.  It was a bit of a breath of fresh air to hear Penn talk about his time on the Obama campaign and later, give up his acting career for a time to work in the White House.  He doesn't get too political, you can really tell how important public service is to him and how he really just wants to help people.  Penn's writing style is very readable - he comes across as intelligent and charming and funny - plus, he's from my home state of New Jersey!  What's not to like about that?  4 stars

How To Fake It In Hollywood by Ava Wilder (2022)

At the advice of her publicist, a Hollywood actress starts a fake relationship with a reclusive former A-list actor, in order to raise her profile and help him make a comeback.  They soon realize their feelings are more than professional, but will his demons keep the two from finding their happy ending?  I really enjoyed this peek-behind-the-curtains look at the (fake) lives of celebrities - it was kind of giving me Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes vibes, with the age gap and the fame level of each person involved.  Ethan's strong feelings for Grey were kind of swoony, but I also had to keep in mind that he has addiction issues, which played a huge role in the story.  The Ethan that we get in this story - it was hard to reconcile that he was at one time one of the most famous and charismatic men in the world.  He could barely string a sentence together.  I was rooting for him to get better but wasn't convinced that Grey was the way to do it.  I appreciated her maturity, though.  Despite what the cover may convey, this definitely wasn't a lighthearted rom-com - there are a lot of dark, heavy topics, but fans of the fake dating trope will appreciate this one.  4 stars

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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Such Good Friends

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Stephen Greco
Expected publication date: May 23, 2023
Reveling in the star-studded parties, fashionable restaurants and gilt-edged inner circles of its most exclusive events, Truman Capote and his flock of glamorous socialite "swans" rule the highest echelons of 1960s and 70s high society New York. Stephen Greco brings this scandalous world to life in a fascinating recreation of the tumultuous friendship between Capote and his most elegant yet unconventional swan: princess and sister of Jackie Kennedy, Her Serene Highness Lee Radziwill.

On a Thursday morning in May 1961, a well-mannered twenty-one-year-old named Marlene enters the Fifth Avenue apartment of Lee Radziwill to interview for the position of housekeeper and cook. The stylish wife of London-based Prince Stanislaw Radziwill, Princess Lee is intelligent and creative, with ambitions beyond simply jet-setting. But to the public, she is always First Lady Jackie Kennedy's little sister.

As Marlene becomes a trusted presence in the Radziwill household, she observes the dazzling array of famous figures who flit in and out of Lee's intimate circle, including Gloria Vanderbilt, Rudolf Nureyev, Jackie and the President, Ari Onassis, Gore Vidal, Andy Warhol, and, most regularly, celebrated author Truman Capote. At the height of his fame following the success of Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman has granted Lee place of honor in his flock of glamorous socialite "swans."

Their closeness stems from an unexpected kinship. Both know too well the feeling of being second-best. Seeing his shadow in the woman he refers to as his most unconventional swan, Truman uses his influence and talent to try and make Lee a star.

Their bond deepens through the decade's extraordinary events, from JFK's assassination to the era-defining Black and White Ball. But Marlene, who Truman has taken under his wing as an aspiring writer, can see Truman's darker side--especially his penchant for mining his friends' private lives for material. And there are betrayals on either side that may signal the end not just of a friendship, but of the shared expectation that wealth and fame can shield against every heartbreak. - from Goodreads


Monday, March 27, 2023

Michele's Monday Picks #11

Angela is so generous to let me pop in with a new little series, Michele’s Monday Picks! I’m not a blogger or bookstagrammer, but I love getting excited about new releases with the rest of you. Here I’ll be sharing new books I’m really looking forward to! 

The Secret Service of Tea and Treason (Dangerous Damsels #3)

By India Holton

Expected publication: April 18, 2023

From Goodreads:

Two rival spies must brave pirates, witches, and fake matrimony to save the Queen.

Known as Agent A, Alice is the top operative within the Agency of Undercover Note Takers, a secret government intelligence group that is fortunately better at espionage than at naming itself. From managing deceptive witches to bored aristocratic ladies, nothing is beyond Alice’s capabilities. She has a steely composure and a plan always up her sleeve (alongside a dagger and an embroidered handkerchief). So when rumors of an assassination plot begin to circulate, she’s immediately assigned to the case.

But she’s not working alone. Daniel Bixby, otherwise known as Agent B and Alice’s greatest rival, is given the most challenging undercover assignment of his life— pretending to be Alice’s husband. Together they will assume the identity of a married couple, infiltrate a pirate house party, and foil their unpatriotic plans.

Determined to remain consummate professionals, Alice and Daniel must ignore the growing attraction between them, especially since acting on it might prove more dangerous than their target.

This series is such a gem – wit and romance and pirates and witches and magic!

Do you think you’ll be picking this one up?

Friday, March 24, 2023

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Last Lifeboat

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Hazel Gaynor
Expected publication date: June 13, 2023
Inspired by a remarkable true story, a young teacher evacuates children to safety across perilous waters, in a moving and triumphant new novel from New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor.

1940, Kent Alice King is not brave or daring--she's happiest finding adventure through the safe pages of books. But times of war demand courage, and as the threat of German invasion looms, a plane crash near her home awakens a strength in Alice she'd long forgotten. Determined to do her part, she finds a role perfectly suited to her experience as a schoolteacher--to help evacuate Britain's children overseas.

1940, London Lily Nichols once dreamed of using her mathematical talents for more than tabulating the cost of groceries, but life, and love, charted her a different course. With two lively children and a loving husband, Lily's humble home is her world, until war tears everything asunder. With her husband gone and bombs raining down, Lily is faced with an impossible choice: keep her son and daughter close, knowing she may not be able to protect them, or enroll them in a risky evacuation scheme, where safety awaits so very far away.

When a Nazi U-boat torpedoes the S. S. Carlisle carrying a ship of children to Canada, a single lifeboat is left adrift in the storm-tossed Atlantic. Alice and Lily, strangers to each other--one on land, the other at sea--will quickly become one another's very best hope as their lives are fatefully entwined. - from Goodreads


Quick Reviews

 Lucy on the Wild Side by Kerry Rea (2022)

Primatologist Lucy desperately wants to be promoted to senior keeper, and when a famed reality show chooses her zoo to film at over the summer, she sees a chance to show her love for her animals, despite her crippling fear of cameras.  What she doesn't expect are the complicated feelings she develops for Kai, the show's host - this summer might be one that changes Lucy's life forever.  This is Rea's second book and if I was worried about the second-book slump, I had no reason to be.  I loved this book and I love the characters that Rea creates.  Lucy was so relatable - she hates public speaking, is a bit afraid of stepping outside her comfort zone, sweats constantly, and has a complicated relationship with her mother.  Kai was also a well-rounded character - a celebrity who has his own issues with his mother (who just happens to be Lucy's idol).  The way the relationship bloomed between them was beautiful - moving from a bad first impression to finally understanding each other.  There's a bit of humor, not too much drama, but definitely some sad scenes - bring your tissues!  But overall, you're going to fall in love with Lucy, Kai, and all the gorillas.  4.5 stars

Hard to Handle by K. Bromberg (2020)

Dekker is a sports agent sent to woo a hockey player from his current agent, but things are complicated because she and Hunter used to hook up, and lately Hunter has been a mess, on and off the ice.  Can Dekker help him before he self-destructs, without crossing any professional lines?  I struggled with this one a bit.  The pacing is absolutely glacial for at least the first half of the book.  It felt like nothing was happening, and Hunter just kept alluding to *something* that happened with his brother.  I was getting so annoyed, like, just come out with it already!  Once more things were revealed, I got into the story more.  Even though I didn't 100% feel their connection, especially given their history, I appreciated how Dekker was really able to get through to Hunter, and by the end of the story, he seemed like a completely different person, a likeable one!  His family dynamics were heartbreaking, and for that reason I was rooting for him.  If you enjoy angsty, dramatic, second-chance romances, or sports romances, this might be one for you to check out.  3 stars

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Cuban Heiress

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: April 11, 2023
In 1934, a luxury cruise becomes a fight for survival as two women’s pasts collide on a round-trip voyage from New York to Havana in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton's page-turning new novel inspired by the true story of the SS Morro Castle.

New York heiress Catherine Dohan seemingly has it all. There’s only one problem. It’s a lie. As soon as the Morro Castle leaves port, Catherine’s past returns with a vengeance and threatens her life. Joining forces with a charismatic jewel thief, Catherine must discover who wants her dead—and why.

Elena Palacio is a dead woman. Or so everyone thinks. After a devastating betrayal left her penniless and on the run, Elena’s journey on the Morro Castle is her last hope. Steeped in secrecy and a burning desire for revenge, her return to Havana is a chance to right the wrong that has been done to her—and her prey is on the ship.

As danger swirls aboard the Morro Castle and their fates intertwine, Elena and Catherine must risk everything to see justice served once and for all. - from Goodreads


Monday, March 20, 2023

Michele's Monday Picks #10

Angela is so generous to let me pop in with a new little series, Michele’s Monday Picks! I’m not a blogger or bookstagrammer, but I love getting excited about new releases with the rest of you. Here I’ll be sharing new books I’m really looking forward to! 

Vacation Wars

By Meghan Quinn

Expected publication: April 18, 2023

From Goodreads:

From USA Today and Amazon Charts bestselling author Meghan Quinn comes a fun, sexy story about the family dynamics that can stand in the way of rekindling a romance.

Prepared for a good time, Tessa is thrilled to spend the weeks before her sister’s wedding at their family’s favorite vacation spot: Santorini. Sandy beaches, stonewashed houses, attractive men—it’s heaven.

But Tessa’s idea of a girl’s trip comes to a screaming halt when her sister thinks it’s high time Tessa finds some love herself. Unfortunately, Tessa forgot about the deal she made back in high school: she has to find her soulmate before her sister’s wedding. Or else.

As she dodges suitors and her sister’s pranks, Tessa finds an ally in the oh-so-dreamy Myles, her childhood crush who just so happens to work at the resort. But Myles is dealing with some family conflict of his own. He’s elated at being reunited with Tessa, but his father’s refusal to acknowledge his interest in the family business and relegating him to only grunt work casts a dark cloud.

As Tessa and Myles help navigate their way through their families’ antics, they begin to realize that their past feelings may have a future—if only they can turn their island fantasies into something real.

I just started getting into Meghan’s books and this one sounds fun!

Do you think you’ll be picking this one up?

Friday, March 17, 2023

Henry's Shelves #4


My little bookworm continues to love his stories!  I've been choosing a theme for each month and grabbing a good mix of library books and things from our own shelves.  I keep all of our monthly reads in a bin by our comfy reading chair, and Henry definitely lets me know which ones are his favorites!  Here are some of the ones we've enjoyed over the last few months.




Have you read any of these?

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring TBR


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our spring TBR!  Some of these books have been on my TBR for quite awhile, so I'm hoping that listing them here will give me the motivation I need to finally get to them!

What will you be reading this spring?

Friday, March 10, 2023

Quick Reviews

My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (2022)

The author trio is back with another series, this time focusing on famous Marys of history and literature.  Their first offering retells a period in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.  Although technically Queen of Scotland, Mary spent most of her life in France, betrothed to the dauphin, Francis, and this story looks at the time when Mary and Francis are wedded and soon after become rulers in their own right, although this Mary is hiding a big secret.  The Lady Janies was such a fun series, so I was happy to dive into this new book, which brings the whimsy and charm I've come to expect from the trio.  It also has some ties to the first Jane book, and it was great to revisit that world.  In this story, Mary has her flaws, but she's also determined to be a great leader, and she and Francis make a good pair.  I like how the authors make the "adults" in these books seem a little ridiculous and over-the-top while still somewhat staying true to the historical record.  They do take a lot of liberties (obviously, the real Mary, Queen of Scots did not have the ability to change into a mouse), and while I like that mostly everyone gets a happy ending here, the conclusion was a little jarring knowing how things really ended for Francis and Mary.  4 stars

The (Half) Truth by Leddy Harper (2019)
After her fiancé dumps her, chef Tatum is still working at the same restaurant as him, along with his new girlfriend.  One day she tells a little lie that she's seeing a new guy, who just happens to be her best friend's cousin that just arrived in town.  What will happen when Tatum's lies start to spin out of control?  This is why I need to write reviews right after I finish a book, because this one has almost completely faded from my memory already.  Maybe I misread the blurb, but I expected a fake dating scenario, and that's not what happened here.  Tatum concocts a story that she's dating Jason, never cluing him in on the scheme, while also starting a no-strings-attached relationship with him.  Tatum was just the most frustrating character.  She constantly lies and her awkward, bumbling personality wasn't cute, just obnoxious.  The person I felt for was Jason - Tatum's lies meant that other people got the wrong impression about him, and his cousin just kept bringing up his player days from high school (totally ignoring the fact that he just got out of a five-year relationship, so clearly he's changed).  Overall, just a miss for me.  2.5 stars

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl

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 25, 2023
It’s 1938, and a young woman selling face cream out of a New York City beauty parlor is determined to prove she can have it all. Her name is Estée Lauder, and she’s about to take the world by storm, in this dazzling new novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Social Graces and Park Avenue Summer.

In New York City, you can disappear into the crowd. At least that’s what Gloria Downing desperately hopes as she tries to reinvent herself after a devastating family scandal. She’s ready for a total life makeover and a friend she can lean on—and into her path walks a young, idealistic woman named Estée. Their chance encounter will change Gloria’s life forever.

Estée dreams of success and becoming a household name like Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, and Revlon. Before Gloria knows it, she is swept up in her new friend’s mission and while Estée rolls up her sleeves, Gloria begins to discover her own talents. After landing a job at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York’s finest luxury department store, Gloria finds her voice, which proves instrumental in opening doors for Estée’s insatiable ambitions.

But in a world unaccustomed to women with power, they’ll each have to pay the price that comes with daring to live life on their own terms and refusing to back down. - from Goodreads


Monday, March 6, 2023

Michele's Monday Picks #9

Angela is so generous to let me pop in with a new little series, Michele’s Monday Picks! I’m not a blogger or bookstagrammer, but I love getting excited about new releases with the rest of you. Here I’ll be sharing new books I’m really looking forward to! 

If Only You (Bergman Brothers #6)

By Chloe Liese

Expected Publication: April 11, 2023

From Goodreads:

Brace yourself for longing, laughter, and a swoony slow-burn in this brother’s best friend sports romance about scoring the love of your life when you least expect to.


I’m the youngest player on the National Soccer team, the baby of my family, and thoroughly sick of being underestimated, so I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands. Which is where my brother’s best friend and teammate, the infamous Sebastian Gauthier, comes in. 
Seb needs to rehab his reputation. I want to give mine an edge. So I propose a fake friendship with real benefits: spending time in the public eye, my good-girl image and his bad-boy notoriety rubbing off on each other. He’s my devious, dark-haired fantasy come to life, but his destructive ways make it easy to keep him in the (fake) friend zone. Or so I thought, until I start to see the heart of gold he’s been hiding beneath that sinister surface…


Like any self-respecting reprobate, I’ve been spiraling downward, and finally I’ve hit rock bottom. My hockey career and sponsorships are in jeopardy, and while I’m not ready to actually reform my ways, I’m happy to pretend that I have, to secure the life I’m on the brink of losing. 
So when my best friend’s sister, Ziggy Bergman, proposes a public “friendship” to revamp our reputations, it’s an offer I can’t refuse. Up till now, I’ve stayed away from Ren’s sweet, shy little sister to avoid any risk of ruining my one good friendship. But I reassure myself there’s no risk in our scheme. I’ll fake a friendship with Ziggy, fix my reputation, and get back to hockey, the one and only thing I love. At least, it was, until what began as a transactional arrangement became the most loving relationship I’ve ever known.

​If Only You is a brother’s best friend, (fake) friends with benefits to friends to lovers romance about a bighearted, quietly fierce soccer star on the autism spectrum, and a thoroughly unprincipled, almost irredeemable hockey player who has celiac disease. Complete with an absurd level of mutual pining, meddling family and friends, and a spicy slow burn, this standalone is the sixth in a series of novels about a Swedish-American family of five brothers, two sisters, and their wild adventures as they each find happily ever after.

I have loved every book in this series so far and Chloe Liese is one of my favorite authors - do you think you’ll be picking this one up?

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Month in Review - February 2023


February was a short month, but a lot happened!  Readers, we have a walker!  Henry had his last physical therapy session and during it took some short, unassisted steps!  Since then, he's been gaining confidence and taking longer walks around the house.  He's doing so great and it's so exciting!  Now I just have to figure out how to get him to wear shoes...

Unfortunately, we caught the stomach bug that's been going around; thankfully, only Tom and I got it, but it was not a fun weekend.  My boys spoiled me on Valentine's Day and I'm trying to make my candy last as long as possible!  My dad and stepmom came over to watch Henry while Tom and I went to a movie and lunch one Saturday.  We saw Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania - while not the best Marvel offering, it'll be interesting to see how this kicks off the next phase of movies and tv shows.

The Books

The Posts and Reviews

How are you doing?

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