Category Archives: Book Review

#FridayReads | Beach Read: No Breaking My Heart by Kate Angell

Happy Friday! no-breaking-my-heart

Hope y’all are having a good week and didn’t suffer through a holiday weekend hangover. Much of Labor Day weekend around here was wet, wet, WET. Though Hurricane Hermine brushed by with a few puffs of wind and showers, in the days after we got drenched. At one point, we got 3 1/2 inches of rain in just over an hour. Let me tell you, it’s fun to drain the pool in the middle of a deluge.

But Labor Day looked promising. After days of being stuck inside, we attempted a beach day. It sprinkled on us twice in the morning, but hey, we were wearing bathing suits anyway. The wind carried several people’s beach umbrellas and canopies away (including ours!). But then the sun came out, and we settled in for an afternoon of beach reading. Even the kiddo pulled out his book. Yes, we got some stares as all three of us sat in the shade with books in hand.manatee-hi

I took a break to test out the new paddle board in our secret manatee cove. The manatees must have known I was reading a romance, because they were feeling a bit…shall we say “frisky”. It was like paddling around hippos! At one point, I glided over a group who were blocking my boat ramp and rather…distracted by love pheromones. A startled, ginormous bull nearly swamped me when he came up! Luckily I was sitting on the board or I would have been in the water with a mess of randy thousand-pound manatees. Eek!

Despite the showers, mishaps, and animal close encounters, I had a much needed day relaxing with a fun beach read. How many people actually get to read beach reads at the beach?

No Breaking My Heart by Kate Angell

“Known for her charming beach reads.” —Kirkus Reviews

Relationship Status: Complicated

Professional baseball player Halo Todd doesn’t like failure, but he can never turn down a challenge. Especially when there’s a pretty woman involved. How else would he end up dressed as a rooster, helping a complete stranger compete on a wacky game show? Even when they’re eliminated after the first round, Halo isn’t about to lose the girl…

Alyn is stunned when gorgeous, generous Halo whisks her off for a dream vacation to the beach–she’s been let down by friends and even family so many times, she’s lost count. Later, he offers to lend a hand getting her vintage shop up and running. But his constant–and ridiculous–purchases are the last thing she needs. How can she convince the stubborn man that she doesn’t need his help–not when all she wants is his heart…

Series: Barefoot William Beach
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Kensington (July 26, 2016)

Books 1 -3 in the Barefoot William Series:

Up next in my TBR pile:

What’s your Friday read?

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#Friday Reads (& a listen): Let it Breathe and my Hamilton Obsession

tawna fenske let it breathe
I’ll admit, part of me just wanted to salivate over this picture taken on a recent lovely summer afternoon. Hurricane Hermine is currently slinging buckets of sideways rain outside. I’d snapped this pic with solid intentions to share my love of the book. I’m slightly belated.

Let it Breathe by Tawna Fenske is a recommended read–hold onto your funny bone and your heart, because it’s a delightfully zany and romantic ride!

The details:
Forbidden fruit can be downright intoxicating.

Vineyard manager Reese Clark is determined to bring her family’s Oregon winery into the big leagues, and she knows building a new tasting room and event pavilion is her ticket there. Having her ex-husband’s best friend—and her secret college crush—turn up to head the construction project, however, doesn’t pair well with her plans. Between her nauseating lovebird parents; her motorcycle-riding, pot-growing grandfather; and her pet alpaca, fond of head-butting groins, Reese has more than enough chaotic characters in her life.

Back in college, Clay Henderson was more likely to be sprawled over a bar than building one. But even if the new clean-living Clay has matured as deliciously as an oak-aged chardonnay, he’s still off-limits. As Reese’s well-laid plans for the winery crumble like bad cork, Clay the newly sober gentleman is sweet enough to rescue Reese from a wardrobe malfunction and still spicy enough to play “I Never” with her. Can he overcome his past rep to offer her a love too heady to ignore?

Let it Breathe by Tawna Fenske
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Released date: March 22, 2016

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No audiobooks for me this week, as I am currently obsessed with Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording).

I’d heard it was good, but holey sugar nuts, HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME HOW GOOD?

Yes, I’m late to the party, but what else is new? When I watched the Tony Awards in June, I knew I had to get my hands on the CD. I haven’t listened to anything else since my copy arrived.

Few videos of the show exist, at least on the legal internet, (trust me, I’ve looked) but below is a recording of the Tony performance of Yorktown.

I’m in love with HAMILTON as a writer, as the story flows with wit and clever turns of phrase. It’s poetry set to music.

I’m in love with HAMILTON because it vibrantly brings history to life for a new generation (and us old folks).

I’m in love with HAMILTION because it proves that rap can be eloquent and erudite, and through with the nimble tongues of the ridiculously talented Broadway cast, every world can be beautify enunciated and understood.

I’m in love with the catchy melodies that I cannot stop singing. (In my head. You do not want to hear me try to rap with a French accent–I’ll leave that to the brilliant Layette.)

I’m in love with HAMILTION because even though the events took place 240-or-so years ago, it feels fresh. Today we’re still dealing with dirty politics; immigrant, women’s, and  minority rights; and the continuous fight for freedom. Our county is still evolving and trying to figure out who it wants to be.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a bloody genius.

I NEED TO SEE THIS SHOW.

Alas, I searched for tickets in the oft chance we could take a family vacation to NYC next year. Cheapest seats found: $900 bucks a pop. Maybe not.

Oooh, but there’s a touring company! Closest stop: an eight hour drive to Atlanta.

Dear Hamilton Touring Production:

Please, PLEASE bring the show to Florida. We have many bright and shiny new performing arts centers that would love to host your production. We have beaches, theme parks, and outdoor activities galore, and I’m sure your cast and crew would appreciate some down time in the sunshine.

Please, I’m begging you. Give us some culture. We are desperate for entertainment that doesn’t involve sports, race cars, or theme park lines. And if you could keep the ticket prices less than that of a decent used car, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks!

Watch the video above. Then buy or borrow the full Broadway Cast Recording. Sit down with a decent pair of earbuds and two hours of quiet time to just listen. Be amaze-balls.

You’re welcome.

 

 

 

#FridayReads: Results May Vary and The View from the Cheap Seats

bal·ancebalancing act
/ˈbaləns/
noun – a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

As I struggled to describe how challenging it can be to find balance in life between work, family, passions, and sanity, my gaze fell on this lithograph by James Christensen hanging in my front hall. It sums the conundrum up perfectly. (Even the cat is a doppelganger of my own big tomcat reflected in the glare at the bottom of the photo. Wait, no, the beautifully rendered feline would have to be allergic to people and trying to lick himself into becoming a hairless Sphynx. See, messy life.)

To find balance in my life, I chose to drop the ball on blogging.

I must allow myself reading time to maintain my sanity. I have stacks of books I want to recommend, to shout their praises from the virtual rooftops so readers everywhere can enjoy them as much as I have. Though I no longer do formal reviews, I still need to share the love, not only to my patrons at the library, but with my friends out there in Internet Land.

This month I’ve met my writing word count goals (holler!) AND my workout goals, so it’s time to step it up with shaing-the-love goals. Expect to see something bookish, be it here on the blog, or on Facebook or Instagram each Friday.

Because you never know where you’ll discover your next favorite book or author.


Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

From Bethany Chase—whom bestselling author Emily Giffin calls “a great new voice in fiction”—comes a wise and delightfully relatable novel about a woman’s journey to rebuild her life, and her heart, after a stunning betrayal.

Can you ever really know the person you love?

She never saw it coming. Without even a shiver of suspicion to warn her, art curator Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man—a revelation that forces her to question their entire history together, from their early days as high school sweethearts through their ten years as a happily married couple. In her now upside-down world, Caroline begins envisioning her life without the relationship that has defined it: the loneliness of being an “I” instead of a “we”; the rekindled yet tenuous closeness with her younger sister; and the unexpected—and potentially disastrous—attraction she can’t get off her mind. Caroline always thought she knew her own love story, but as her husband’s other secrets emerge, she must decide whether that story’s ending will mean forgiving the man she’s loved for half her life, or facing her future without him.

Compassionate and uplifting, Results May Vary is a bittersweet celebration of the heart’s ability to turn unexpected troubles into extraordinary strength.

I devoured this book in two nights. One might imagine a novel about a woman’s betrayal would be a drag, but not in Bethany Chase’s deft hands. The well-crafted story is both charming and sweet. I couldn’t help but root for the multi-faceted characters on their journeys to not just grow up, but grow into themselves. Beautifully written.

Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 9, 2016


The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

My husband first introduced me to Neil Gaiman and his Sandman comics not long after we met. (It’s entirely possible he may have every graphic novel, comic, and work of fiction Gaiman’s every produced squirreled away in his library/office. He still reverently hand washes his faded and well-loved Sandman coffee mug several times a week.) While I have read and enjoyed several of Gaiman’s works, I’m generally not a fantasy or graphic novel novel aficionado. There are always exceptions. Neil is shining one.

View from the Cheap Seats is magic, especially if you listen to the audio book narrated by Neil himself, of course. It’s a love letter to the the craft of writing, to artists and creators in a multitude of mediums, and to the pure joy of reading.

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • 1st edition (May 31, 2016)

 

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Pokemon Chapter Books & Manga Kids Will Love

Pokemon chapter books and manga

Pokémon Go is taking the world by storm, a cultural phenomenon that has won the hearts and imaginations of players of all ages. Chances are that if you’re here, you have a Pokémon-loving child in your life that you want to encourage to read. What better way to entice kids read than to give them a book related to the current new craze?

But Pokémon is far from new. Since 1995, fans of all ages have enjoyed the video games, trading card game, and animated series. Pokémon’s appeal comes from the exciting stories and dynamic personalities of Trainer Ash, his friends, loyal Pikachu, and the other Pokémon (short for Pocket Monsters).

The books and Manga listed below have always been popular items at my library, but now, we can’t keep them on the shelves. Countless times each day, excited kids come in begging for Pokémon books.   Excited Kids + Books = Win for All

Check out these recommendations at your library or buy them for your Pokémon fan at your local bookstore, Amazon, or ebay. See for yourself what all the excitement is about!

Pokémon Chapter Books


These chapter books by Tracey West follow Ash as he sets off on his journey to collect all badges and become the World’s Greatest Pokémon Trainer. The series is loosely based on the television cartoon, so fans will find some familiar story lines. Each book is under 100 pages, and the recommended age range is 7–10. (Think equivalent of The Magic Treehouse series, therefore good for any young independent reader.) This series was introduced 15+ years ago, and my library’s copies are battered, worn, and very well loved. You can still find the books new and gently used via Amazon and Ebay.

I Choose You
Island of the Giant Pokemon
Attack of the Prehistoric Pokemon
Night in the Haunted Tower
 Team Rocket Blasts Off!
Charizard, Go
Splashdown in Cerulean City
Return of the Squirtle Squad 
Journey to the Orange Islands
The Secret of the Pink Pokemon
Race to Danger
Talent Showdown
Thundershock in Pummelo Stadium
Go West, Young Ash
Ash Ketchum, Pokemon Detective
Prepare for Trouble
Ash to the Rescue
Tough Enough
Winner Takes All

Pokémon Easy Readers (DK Readers)

Get to know Ash Ketchum, his Pokemon, and his friends in this DK READERS series, part of a multilevel reading program aimed at capturing children’s interest while developing their reading skills and general knowledge. Lively illustrations combine with engaging age appropriate stories. According to DK, Level 2 is ages 6–8, Level 3 ages 7–10, but many younger readers would be encouraged to read by these easy, under 50-page books.

Meet the Pokemon (DK Reader – Level 2)
Meet Ash (Pokemon (DK Reader Level 2)
Pokemon: Meet Ash’s Pikachu! (DK Reader Level 2)
& many more

 

Pokémon Manga

MANGA is a popular style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels that reads right to left. It sounds weird, but most readers have no problem adapting. Though geared towards children, it has garnered legions of tween, teen, and adult fans worldwide.

Pokémon X•Y by Hidenori Kusaka

This is the most recent Pokémon Manga series (2014 – current). The awesome adventures are inspired by the best-selling Pokémon X and Y video games. All the favorite Pokémon game characters jump out of the screen into the pages of this action-packed manga!

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 96 pages each
Reads R to L (Japanese Style)

Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 1
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 2
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 3
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 4
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 5
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 6
Pokémon X•Y Vol. 7 

 

Pokémon Adventures by Hidenori Kusaka

This MANGA series follows the adventures of Red as he tries to defeat all eight Kanto Gyms and the Elite Four. It sticks more to the video game story lines instead of the TV series (which is why the main character’s name is Red and not Ash). Many enthusiasts consider this their favorite Manga series, but please note that it’s slightly more violent, as some Pokemon actually die instead of just fainting.

Available individual editions or 7-volume boxed set.

Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Paperback: 208 pages each
Reads R to L (Japanese Style)

 

Pokémon Black and White by Hidenori Kusaka 

Meet Pokémon Trainers Black and White!

This Manga series, started in 2011, is very popular with kids at my library. His entire life, Black has dreamed of winning the Pokémon League! Now he embarks on a journey to explore the Unova region and fill a Pokédex for Professor Juniper. White has an exciting career as the Trainer of a talented troupe of performing Pokémon. She dreams of making her Tepig Gigi a star! Together, Black and White continue on their journey… What surprising new Pokémon—and people—will they meet next?!

Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Paperback: 80 pages
Reads R to L (Japanese Style)

Available individually or in boxed sets:
Pokemon Black and White Box Set 1: Includes Volumes 1-8
Pokemon Black and White Box Set 2: Includes Volumes 9-14
Pokemon Black and White Box Set 3: Includes Volumes 15-20

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Just for fun


Pokemon Go: Ultimate Pokemon Go Secrets

This beginner’s guide to Pokemon Go goes over the essentials of the wildly popular game. Know why Razz Berries are important? How about Stardust? This guide features tutorials with pictures that explain everything from how to set up your Pokemon Go account to fighting gym battles and farming XP.

All ages.

 

Pokémon Origami: Fold Your Own Pokémon!

Turn your favorite Pokémon into folded art with the easy origami projects in Pokémon Origami: Fold Your Own Pokémon! 80 full color pages featuring 48 pages of instructions and all the special sheets of origami paper needed to complete 10 Pokémon!

 

 



How to Draw Pokemon

Have an aspiring artist or Manga illustrator? Encourage them to grab a pencil. Pick up some paper. And get ready to draw the coolest, most action-packed Pokemon art ever. Catch step-by-step secret tips on drawing your favorite Pokemon, like Pikachu, Togepi, Chikorita, Meowth, Pichu, Houndour, Lugia, Cyndaquil, and more!

 


Pokémon Visual Companion

This is truly a must-have reference for every Pokémon fan, and is the ultimate reference to key characters, famous battles, and important places. Every region has been revised and updated, including new events, people, and Pokémon from Unova. You also meet Ash, trace his journey, and get to know his Pokémon, friends, and travel companions, as well as villains and rivals throughout the Pokémon world. This is the ultimate guide to the Pokémon animated series, guaranteed to delight any Pokémon fan!

 

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Pokemon chapter books and manga kids will love!  These books are perfect for ages 6-8, 9-12, and even tweens and teens love Manga.

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The Black Widow – When is fiction is too real to be entertainment?

At 12:56 a.m. a massive boom rocked my house, setting off every dog and car alarm in the neighborhood. After a few eternal moments, I remembered that a Space X rocket landing had been scheduled for the wee hours. Eventually, my pulse slowed.

It’s no wonder that window-shaking booms stop my heart. Eighty-five dead in Nice. Five officers gunned down in Dallas, another three in Baton Rouge. At least five injured in a knife and ax attack in Germany. In Turkey, 294 killed in a failed coup. A terrorist attack in Orlando: 49 killed, 53 injured, the horror that blooding the streets just a few miles away from my home. We’re talking just the last few weeks. Brussels. Paris. Who knows how many lives lost in the Middle East.

Every bang, pop, and crack make me jump. My nerves need a break. I hide from reality in books.

Maybe not this time…

Two minutes before the sonic boom, I’d ripped through the ending of THE BLACK WIDOW, the latest installment of Daniel Silva’s international thriller series featuring Israeli Master Spy Gabriel Allon. It’s a novel that pulls no punches regarding the brutality and ruthlessness of Islamic terrorists. It’s book about death and those who want to cause as much of it as possible. And in light of the world today, it didn’t read like fiction. It it felt all too real.

Now, THE BLACK WIDOW is an excellent novel. I’d give it a solid 4.5 stars, and only that low because it wasn’t my absolute favorite installment in the consistently strong Gabriel Allon series.

But honestly, this book kind of rocked me to the core.

I should have expected what was to come when I read the trigger warning. I raced to finish The Black Widow long past my bedtime, needing something more than the answers to who would live and who would die. (Answer: far too many people would die, far too close to home.) I needed to  escape from my escapism. I wasn’t reading for pure enjoyment. The story and descriptions zoomed over the line between fictional constructs of an author’s imagination and the evil and ugliness that is exploding across the globe now. I needed closure.

Heads strewn on balconies. Crucifixions. Beheadings. Limbs tangled in tree branches raining blood. Viscera on walls. Calculating scrounges of humanity systematically shooting the wounded and dying.

We desperately block these images from our imaginations. But many once ordinary people in places as civilized as Paris – as Orlando – will forever be haunted by such gruesome memories seared upon their souls.

Is art reflecting reality, or is reality reflecting art?

I need a break. Next up: a romance novel that guarantees a few hours of blissful escapism and a happy ending. I don’t think we’re going to find one in reality any time soon.

florida poisonous spiders, brown widow, brown widow florida, brown widow eggs

Did I mention I found  this BROWN WIDOW and her seven egg sacs on my porch Friday night?

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 #1 New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva delivers another spellbinding international thriller—one that finds the legendary Gabriel Allon grappling with an ISIS mastermind.

Gabriel Allon, the art restorer, spy, and assassin described as the most compelling fictional creation “since Ian Fleming put down his martini and invented James Bond” (Rocky Mountain News), is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.

Acclaimed novelist Daniel Silva has thrilled, entertained and educated readers with eighteen thoughtful and gripping spy novels featuring a diverse cast of compelling characters and ingenious plots that have taken them around the globe and back—from the United States to Europe, Russia to the Middle East. From its shocking opening to its explosive denouement in Washington, D.C., The Black Widow reveals itself as Silva’s most timely and powerful novel yet. Following the success of his smash hit The English Spy, this electrifying thriller showcases Silva’s consummate skill and brilliant imagination, and is sure to be a must read for his multitude of current and future fans.

 

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#Friday Reads — A Bollywood Affair, Frisky Business, and Tiny Beautiful Things

What a wonderful week for reading, full of laughter, love, and maybe, just maybe, a few tears. These three selections are highly recommended.

 

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

 

 
Frisky Business by Tawna Fenske

No more rich men for Marley Cartman. Absolutely not. Thanks to her dad, her ex-fiancé, and the overbearing donors she schmoozes for a living, she’s had more than her fill. From now on, she wants blue-collar men with dirt under their fingernails. But when Marley makes a break to handle donor relations for a wildlife sanctuary, she finds herself drawn to the annoyingly charming—and disturbingly wealthy—chairman of the board.

The kind of man she doesn’t want

Judging by his hipster T-shirts, motley assortment of canine companions, and penchant for shaking up stuffy board meetings, you’d never guess that William Barclay the Fifth is a brilliantly successful businessman. Will has good reason to be leery of scheming women, and as he and Marley butt heads over the wisdom of bringing grumpy badgers to charity events, he can’t help but wonder if his new donor relations coordinator is hiding something other than a perfect figure beneath that designer suit…

 

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills. And it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar-the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the best-selling memoir Wild-is the person thousands turn to for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things gathers the best of “Dear Sugar” in one place and includes never-before-published columns. Rich with humor, insight, compassion-and absolute honesty-this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

The audiobook is riviting, rich, and bursting with heartbreak and beauty.

She Reads Books of Fall

she reads newThough the calendar page announced fall’s entrance well over a month ago, the upper-eighties temperatures here in the Sunshine State have left me thinking it’s still summer. But now that holiday decorations have started taunting me from every store, I’ll accede to the truth: fall has arrived. In all of its blazing hot glory. (Seriously, I’ll need beach towels, on Thanksgiving Day!)

That means it’s time for the She Reads Books of Fall. Drop by She Reads for posts from all of the Books of Fall authors to get a glimpse into their writing processes and their writing spaces and discover how these diverse stories came to life. And, as always, gain access to the dozens of reviews from other She Reads book bloggers. You can find your new favorite Fall read!

And now, with out further ado, the Books of Fall:


The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Hawthorne family has it all. Supposedly. Great jobs, a fancy house, and three charming kids with perfectly straight teeth.

Only their lives take place inside a pressure cooker. (From an appropriately upscale store like Williams-Sonoma or such.) And untended pressure cookers have been known to explode.

It’s firstborn Angela’s senior year of high school. Her valedictorian status is under attack, her legs have started turning to led during track meets, and her extracurriculars and hours of AP class homework have left the perfect girl needing an extra edge to stay ahead. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, but her early admissions application is not going to write itself.

Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real-estate career where she caters to the mega rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, Maya, still can’t read at the age of eight; the middle-child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and the dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few rash choices crank up the heat on their pressure cooker lives, and the resulting mess is both achingly real and delightfully entertaining.

I zipped through this this almost satirical cautionary tale, both cringing and cheering as the Hawthorne family struggled with the thoroughly modern vices of over-scheduling, over-working, and under-appreciating each other while striving to achieve the perfect life. Recommended read.

 


The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

Most of us have a ghost from our past who still haunts us: a bully, a back-stabbing best friend, or some person who forever altered your place in the world. Perhaps you’ve dreamed of some ultimate confrontation when you finally stand up for yourself and made that person pay (I know I have!). So when meek mom Caroline Jacobs decides to take her childhood demon on—cashmere twin set and all—readers can’t help but root for her on her quirky and heartfelt comeback tour.

Caroline is a wife, mother (to a tattooed teenage daughter she avoids), Sears Portrait Studio photographer, and wimp. Asserting herself, taking the reins, or facing life head-on are not in her repertoire. So when Caroline suddenly cracks and screams (the F-bomb, no less!) at the PTA president, she is shocked. So is her husband. So is the PTA president. So is everyone. But Caroline soon realizes the true cause of her outburst can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, a scarring betrayal by her best friend Emily. This act changed Caroline’s life forever. So, with a little bit of bravery flowing through her veins, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and confront Emily. She busts her daughter Polly out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback, which is twenty-five years in the making. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets begin to rise to the surface, and Caroline will have to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

A heartwarming story told with Matthew Dicks’ signature wit, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is a deceptively simple novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives, and the bravery of one woman trying to change her life and finds true understanding of her daughter, and herself, along the way. Short but sweet recommended read.

 

::hanging head::  I haven’t squeezed in the last two She Reads Books of Fall, but they are on my TBR list. They’ve earned five-star reviews and accolades from many writers and reviewers I respect, so they are certainly worth a mention.  Both have elements of mystery and suspense, and both look like books to add to your TBR list.

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.


The Last September by Nina de Gramont

Brett has been in love with Charlie ever since he took her skiing on a lovely Colorado night fourteen years ago. And now, living in a seaside cottage on Cape Cod with their young daughter, it looks as if they have settled into the life they desired. However, Brett and Charlie’s marriage has been tenuous for quite some time. When Charlie’s unstable younger brother plans to move in with them, the tension simmering under the surface of their marriage boils over.

But what happened to Charlie next was unfathomable. Charlie was the golden boy so charismatic that he charmed everyone who crossed his path; who never shied away from a challenge; who saw life as one big adventure; who could always rescue his troubled brother, no matter how unpredictable the situation.

So who is to blame for the tragic turn of events? And why does Brett feel responsible?

 

Have any favorite fall reads yet?

#Friday Reads: Mary Kubica, Taylor Jenkins Reid, & Jane Graves

friday reads 2

I read too much. Wait, no, I retract that statement. You can NEVER read TOO MUCH. Though I work at a library fondling handling books all day, I never have an opportunity to crack open a cover while on the clock. And in my “spare time” at home I’m bouncing on my yoga ball while attempting to coax words onto the computer screen. So reading is saved for work breaks and nighttime relaxation. Usually.  I still manage to squeeze it in. Priorities.

My time to write glowing reviews is zilch, yet I’m still reading SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS! Friday Reads is my quick way to share a short snippet of the books that keep me reading well past my bedtime and urge me to continue on my own writing journey. If I include a book, I’m recommending it to friends. (And you, my dear readers.)

This Friday Reads highlights books I read in August. Though this post disappeared in my draft folder for a few months, these are books I thoroughly enjoyed, so I still want to share the love.  (See, I told you I’ve been short on time!)


Pretty Baby
by Mary Kubica

When a compassionate Chicago wife and mother sees a teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms, she is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

 

Genre: thriller
Print Length: 381 pages
Publication Date: July 28, 2015

 


Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Aimless wanderer Hannah Martin’s fate hinges on the choice she makes after bumping into an old flame one night in L.A. Uniquely told in alternating chapters, we see two possible scenarios unfold—with stunningly different results. As the two alternate realities run their course, we’re left to wonder if  anything is meant to be? How much in life is determined by chance? And is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Print Length: 353 pages
Pub Date: July 7, 2015

 

Baby, It’s You (Rainbow Valley #2) by Jane Graves

Runaway bride Kari escapes to the Texas Hill country and lands on a tall, dark, and gorgeous winery owner’s doorstep. All she needs is a job and a place to live until she can get back on her feet. Marc has devoted his life to managing the family wine business and being a single dad. Now with his daughter away at college and his brother taking over the winery, Marc is ready to enjoy his freedom, but when irresistible passion turns into something more, will Marc give up his future to take a chance on love?

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
Pub Date: May 27, 2014

What’s your Friday Read?

 

#FridayReads — Dangerous Books for Girls

Dangerous books for girls - the bad rep of romance explained

 

Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels ExplainedThe Book:

Long before clinch covers and bodice rippers, romance novels have had a bad reputation as the lowbrow lit of desperate housewives and hopeless spinsters. But in fact, romance novels—the escape and entertainment of choice for millions of women—might prove to be the most revolutionary writing ever produced.

Dangerous Books for Girls examines the origins of the genre’s bad reputation—from the “damned mob of scribbling women” in the nineteenth century to the sexy mass-market paperbacks of the twentieth century—and shows how these books have inspired and empowered generations of women to dream big, refuse to settle, and believe they’re worth it.

For every woman who has ever hidden the cover of a romance—and for every woman who has been curious about those “Fabio books”—Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained shows why there’s no room for guilt when reading for pleasure.

The Author:

Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence, and it wasn’t long before she was writing her own. She has received her BA and MA from New York University. Maya is now the author of multiple Regency historical romances. She lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.

 Dangerous Books for Girls Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Good Stuff:

Face it: romance gets a bad rap. Thanks to the Kindle, its selling hotter than every, but some say that’s because women can read romance in public without having to face embarrassment while discretely hiding that  classic clinch cover. They can read without being looked down upon.

Buy why does romance have such a bad reputation?

Everything you wanted to know about the romance genre and readers (but were afraid to ask) is stuffed inside the matte black covers of this book. If you write romance or you are considering it, read this book. It’s chock full of  insights about what the intelligent and affluent readers want. If you read romance, read this book. You will get a validation high. If you think you’re above those cheap paperback bodice-rippers (as I once believed I was), read this book. You will be proven wrong about everything.

The book is eye-opening, to say the least. As a new romance writer, I’ve been devouring every text about the genre I can find. Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained is well researched—it started as the author’s master’s thesis, then she added “a decade’s worth of” reading, studying, writing, surveying, and interviewing. There are stats (and really cool infographics) on the romance novel industry, the readers, it’s reputation and what readers want to see in heroes, heroines and yes, sex scenes.

It explains how romance provides more than a fluffy escape and actually should be considered feminist. Think about it: the industry is controlled by women, and the modern novels feature strong women who always get their way…and their pleasure. So, that infamous happy ending might not always happen in real life, but that’s one of the reasons romances are perfect nuggets of delicious escapism. When we’re drowning in stress from constantly taking care of our busy careers, needy families, messy households, and hectic lives, sometimes it’s a thrill to dive into a story where someone’s greatest desire is to take care of us. In every way imaginable. But only if we want them to.

I can’t remember how I heard about this book. When I noticed that it wasn’t in my library’s collection,  I requested the system order it. (BTW, this is a FABULOUS way for anyone to gain access to books and make sure others discover them.) And once I had the book in my hands, I could barely set it down.
Dangerous Books for Girls - The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels ExplainedThe Details:
Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels
by Maya Rodale
Release date: May 6, 2015

And if you’re looking for another article about How Romance Novelists Got Such a Silly, Sappy Rap, check out this one by Kelly Faircloth on Jezebel.

Now Read This: The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

happy pub day 2 pch

I’m sorry, I’m late, for a very important book date!  ::drum roll please::  I’d like to introduce you to Patti Callahan Henry’s latest release THE IDEA OF LOVE.

The Book:

“As we like to say in the south, ‘Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.’”

Blake is a Nicholas Sparks-esque screenwriter lacking inspiration in the wake of his divorce. He’s desperately in search of a love story beautiful enough to translate into big screen success. Disguising himself as a travel writer, he treks down the east coast to sleepy southern Watersend in search of a love story he can borrow.  When he speaks with the young and beautiful Ella Flynn, he’s convinced he has his screenplay: Ella’s beloved husband died in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her life. It’s the perfect love story for his audiences…and it’s also a lie.

Reeling from the shock of her very much alive husband’s affair, Ella is lost. When she speaks to Blake and dismisses him as a stranger she’ll never see again, she creates the life she wants and paints herself as a successful wedding dress designer recovering from her saintly husband’s sacrificial death.

In Ella, Blake finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It’s the stuff of epic films. In Blake, Ella finds possibility. It’s an opportunity to live out a fantasy – the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides, what’s a little white lie between strangers? But one lie leads to another, and soon Blake and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right?

Read an excerpt of  here.

pch

The Author:

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling storyteller of eleven books, including The Stories We TellBetween the Tides, and Driftwood Summer. Patti lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama with her husband and three children, where she is crafting her next story.

Follow Patti on social media— and be part of the
virtual celebration of THE IDEA OF LOVE:
Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads | Pinterest

The Good Stuff:

This is a short, sweet summer read that’s perfect to toss in your beach bag for a relaxing day of escapism. I read the whole book in a single afternoon while lazing on a pool float. Since both characters are lying to each other and themselves, it took a few pages to get to discover the “real” characters and bond with them, but don’t worry, you will. And Mimi, Ella’s neighbor, will leave you wishing you had a wise, old, ex-bookselling, poundcake-pushing neighbor yourself.

If you live in the southeast, check out Patti’s book tour dates here. If I wasn’t so busy at the library, I’d drive over to the coast for one of her Florida dates this week. Having met her before, I’ll tell you she’s an absolute delight, and if you live by one of the bookstores hosting her tour, don’t miss her!  (Plus who doesn’t love a freshly signed book?)

 

The Details:

The Idea of Love
by Patti Callahan Henry
St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover / 256 pages
Pub date: June 23, 2015