Showing posts with label 4.5 stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4.5 stars. Show all posts

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Book Review: Happy Place by Emily Henry


Pages: 400
Genre: Adult Fiction/Romance
Pub. Date: April 25, 2023  
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: Beach Read,
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t. They broke up six months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends. Which is how they find themselves sharing the largest bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blue week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most. Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week… in front of those who know you best?"

 

Wyn and Harriet have always been a part of an amazing friend group since college. This group takes a vacation to their "happy place" every summer: a cottage in Maine. Except they find out that this year will be the last year there as the cottage is up for sale, so they are determined to make this the best summer yet. Major problem though. Wyn and Harriet have been together for years, but they broke up six months ago and haven't told their friends, because they know it will devastate them. They can't tell them now as it will for sure ruin the vacation. So, things get awkward when Wyn and Harriet have to share a room and pretend for the entire week that they are still together. As Harriet spends more time this week with Wyn, she realizes she still has strong feelings for him. Plus, there's more issues in the friend group and things are inevitably changing for them all. Emily Henry's Happy Place is one of my favorite books of the year. It's snappy and witty dialogue had me laughing out loud and the plot was swoon-worthy, not to mention the perfect location of the cottage in Maine. A stellar beach read!

I really liked Harriet from the start in Happy Place. I think Henry creates such a realistic character in Harriet. She is a surgical resident and is constantly stressed, so she is really looking forward to her vacation in Maine, but is shocked to see Wyn there. This obviously complicates things and brings her romantic feelings for him to the surface. She tries to so hard to make things perfect for her friends as this is there last summer there and managing everyone's emotions takes a toll on her. Plus, there's the underlying issue of does she really want to be a doctor? Is this what she wants for her life or is this what her parents want for her? Does she want to be with Wyn? I couldn't help but wonder what happened to their relationship? I was hoping they could get a second chance at love.

Then there's Wyn. He is perfect. He is flawed, don't get me wrong, but he is a perfectly developed character that I was rooting for. I adored Henry's portrayal of their relationship and how it evolved in Happy Place. The then/now narrative really worked in giving us the full picture slowly. Wyn is such a complex character; he feels such a strong responsibility to his family and is dealing with a lot. Just like in Meet Me at the Lake, Henry tackles mental health issues that many people face and can relate to.

The best part of Happy Place was Henry's depiction of coastal Maine and the vacation. The restaurants, the cold white wine, the lobster, the quaint shops, and rowdy bars were so much fun and reminded me of my lazy days at the beach with friends. Combine all this with a wonderful romance and you've got yourself a winner of a beach read. I have to say that this is my favorite of Henry's novels to date. 

Have you read Happy Place? Are you a fan of Emily Henry? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Mini Reviews: Historical Fiction Edition


 
Today I'm sharing two historical fiction novels - one being a new release and the other is one that has been on my bookshelf for quite awhile and instantly became one of my favorites. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
 
 
Code Name Sapphire by Pan Jenoff
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 7, 2023
Publisher: Park Row
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Lost Girls of Paris and   
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 
 
 

 

Goodreads says, "A woman must rescue her cousin's family from a train bound for Auschwitz in this riveting tale of bravery and resistance, from the bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris 1942Hannah Martel has narrowly escaped Nazi Germany after her fiancĂ© was killed in a pogrom. When her ship bound for America is turned away at port, she has nowhere to go but to her cousin Lily, who lives with her family in Brussels. Fearful for her life, Hannah is desperate to get out of occupied Europe. But with no safe way to leave, she must return to the dangerous underground work she thought she had left behind. Seeking help, Hannah joins the Sapphire Line, a secret resistance network led by a mysterious woman named Micheline and her enigmatic brother Mateo. But when a grave mistake causes Lily’s family to be arrested and slated for deportation to Auschwitz, Hannah finds herself torn between her loyalties. How much is Hannah willing to sacrifice to save the people she loves? Inspired by incredible true stories of courage and sacrifice, Code Name Sapphire is a powerful novel about love, family and the unshakable resilience of women in even the hardest of times."

 

 

Hannah Martel and her fiancé, Issac, printed satiric cartoons from an underground newspaper in Berlin in 1942. Unfortunately, Issac is killed by Nazis and this leaves Hannah on the run. She boards a ship bound for America, but the ship isn't allowed entrance and it returns to Europe. Hannah finds solace at her cousin Lily's in Brussels and while there she learns about the resistance. The Sapphire Line, a resistance group, is run by Micheline and even though Hannah would love to be out of Europe, she realizes that if she can't be in America, she will help. Things get very dangerous for Lily's family and this leaves Hannah in a tough spot. Does she have what it takes to save them? Pam Jenoff's Code Name Sapphire is based on real-life events and is a well-researched historical novel that fans of the time period will appreciate.

Jenoff is known for her memorable WWII novels and this one is no different. It tugged on my heartstrings and while Code Name Sapphire didn't pack the emotional punch like her other novels, it was still a moving read and a reminder of how women and courageous people have stepped up to the plate time and time again. It's inspiring.

 


The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 2, 2010
Publisher: Atria
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 
 

 

Goodreads says, "When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.  Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk."

 

 

 

Lavinia and her family are aboard a ship to take them from Ireland to America. Tragedy strikes on the ship and Lavinia's parents die. All she has left is her brother, but she is separated from him when the ship's captain takes Lavinia back to his plantation to make her an indentured servant. She is just seven years old, so she needs a lot of support and finds a family in the slaves at the plantation, Tall Oaks. Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, reluctantly takes Lavinia under her care and before Lavinia knows it, she feels a sense of family in Mama Mae, Papa George, Ben, Uncle Jacob, and the other slaves. As the years go by, this creates some difficulty for Lavinia as she tends to straddle both worlds: the kitchen house with the slaves and the big house with the other white people. To make matters more complicated, Martha, the lady of the house, is struggling as she is an addict, and takes to Lavinia and enjoys her company. Then there's Rankin, the overseer, who is a horribly cruel man making problems for all the slaves and after the master's son, Marshall, endures various forms of trauma, becomes Rankin's sidekick. With the captain gone for long periods of time and Martha incapacitated, Rankin runs the plantation. Cue the drama. Even though The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom could be very melodramatic at times, it was still a hard hitting historical novel that felt more realistic than Gone with the Wind. It carried an emotional punch that will stay with me.

It's hard to tackle The Kitchen House in such a brief review as it's a sweeping family saga that covers a lot. It follows Lavinia's journey through the years and you can't help but root for her. Alternate chapters are narrated by Belle and I thought it was done very well. Grissom covers some upsetting topics, but does it in a way that is respectful. If you enjoy hard hitting historical novels and haven't checked out The Kitchen House yet, please do so! I am mad I didn't pick it up sooner as it is one of my favorite historical novels I've read in quite awhile. I can't wait to read more from Grissom in the future.


So, have you read these two novels? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Friday, January 20, 2023

Book Review: The Queen: Her Life by Andrew Morton

Pages: 441
Genre: Biography
Pub. Date: November 15, 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "#1 New York Times bestselling biographer Andrew Morton provides the definitive, most comprehensive account of Queen Elizabeth II's legendary reign.  Painfully shy, Elizabeth Windsor’s personality was well suited to her youthful ambition of living quietly in the country, raising a family, and caring for her dogs and horses. But when her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated, she became heir to the throne—embarking on a journey that would test her as a woman and queen. Ascending to the throne at only 25, this self-effacing monarch navigated endless setbacks, family conflict, and occasional triumphs throughout her 70 years as the Queen of England. As her mettle was tested, she endeavored to keep the monarchy relevant culturally, socially, and politically, often in the face of resistance from inside the institution itself. And yet the greatest challenges she faced were often inside her own family, forever under intense scrutiny; from rumors about her husband’s infidelity, her sister’s marital breakdown, Princess Diana’s tragic death, to the recent departure of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Now in The Queen, renowned biographer Andrew Morton takes an in-depth look at Britain’s longest reigning monarch, exploring the influence Queen Elizabeth had on both Britain and the rest of the world for much of the last century. From leading a nation struggling to restore itself after the devastation of the second World War to navigating the divisive political landscape of the present day, Queen Elizabeth was a reluctant but resolute queen. This is the story of a woman of unflagging self-discipline who will long be remembered as mother and grandmother to Great Britain, and one of the greatest sovereigns of the modern era."

 

Andrew Morton, most notably known for his explosive biography written with Diana's cooperation, Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words, now focuses his latest biography on none other than Queen Elizabeth II and her remarkable 70 year reign. Morton starts with Elizabeth's childhood, her budding romance with Philip, her family dynamic, and her sooner than expected rise to the throne due to her father's illness.  Morton gives us a glimpse of Elizabeth as a young woman and especially focuses on her relationship with her mother and sister, which I found fascinating. Her mother can be overbearing and extremely lavish, which I wasn't aware of know about. Often times, Elizabeth would try to avoid confrontation (now is a great time to take her dogs for a walk, yes?) than actually face her mother or other family members. I think this behavior definitely carried over into motherhood and beyond. As the years progress, Morton takes us through her marriage, her responsibilities as a new sovereign, and how she had initially had difficulty balancing it all. Morton continues highlighting Charles marriage to Diana, the subsequent unraveling of their marriage, Camilla's hold on Charles, and the behind the scenes events at the palace after Diana's untimely death. Lastly, Morton continues on to William, Harry, and the latest events in the Royal Family including Prince Andrew's debacle. All in all, it was a comprehensive, well researched biography that kept me flipping the pages. Although I have read a few biographies on the Queen, I felt Morton provided some insights that other biographies didn't. The Queen: Her Life shouldn't be missed by Royal family lovers! 

It's hard to comment on every aspect of The Queen: Her Life as it was a long biography that spans almost ninety years, but a few things really stuck out for me. The portions focusing on Prince Philip were very well done and I always appreciate all he did for Queen Elizabeth. Playing a supporting role isn't always easy, but he did it very well and for many years. Also, the section regarding Elizabeth and her part with the ATS during WIII was very interesting and provided some details I wasn't aware of. I also found the section focusing on Charles and his upbringing very telling. It definitely shed some light as to his behavior and actions later on in life as well as the current rocky relationship with Harry. The section focusing on Diana's death and how the Palace reacted was also very insightful. There were a lot of blunders that went on behind the scenes and it was interesting to see how the Queen went on to correct them or minimize the damage. I think ultimately all of the Queen's struggles humanizes her and makes her relatable as a mother, a wife, and admirably, a woman with extreme dedication to her country. 

Despite her many successes over the years and her great working relationships with many a prime minister, her family had many difficulties over the years. Morton takes us through each scandal in The Queen: Her Life and how the Queen reacted. Readers can't help but feel for all the drama she had to endure through the years. Could you imagine dedicating your life to service and always trying to do the right thing, but your family around you are behaving like imbeciles half the time and constantly bringing all the drama to your doorstep. It had to be trying. Also, I read The Queen: Her Life before I listened to Prince Harry's Spare and it definitely gave me another perspective to some of the scenes he laid out in his memoir.

One thing is for sure, I have always respected, admired, and been a fan of Queen Elizabeth II and after reading The Queen: Her Life, it has given me even more of an appreciation of her 70 years of service. Fans of the Royal Family will definitely want to add this memorable biography to their collection.

So, are you a Royal watcher? Is The Queen: Her Life on your TBR list? Are you a fan of Morton's previous biographies? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Audio Book Review: Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Genre: Audio/Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: October 4, 2022
Publisher: Random House Audio
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life - living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher - was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father's beekeeping business. Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start. And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely.... Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her. 'MAD HONEY' is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves."

 

Olivia McAffee is a single mother with a difficult past. She was married to a very successful surgeon in Boston and has a beautiful son, Asher, but her husband was horribly abusive. She and Asher left Boston and her husband behind for a more quiet life in New Hampshire where she is a professional beekeeper. Fast forward many years and Asher is well adjusted, plays hockey, has a girlfriend, and things seem pretty normal. That is until they aren't. Asher's girlfriend, Lily, also had a difficult past. Like Olivia, Lily has left behind some difficult things for a fresh start in this sleepy small town. Recently, Lily and Asher had a fight like many high school couples, and afterwards Asher went over to check on her. Shockingly he finds her dead at the bottom of the basement stairs. Even though Asher is the one who found her body, he's arrested and then everyone is accusing him of murdering his innocent girlfriend. Enter a very contemptuous courtroom case that exposes so many secrets. There are secrets about Lily, secrets about Asher, and even secrets that Olivia was trying to escape when she left Boston. Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan is one of my favorite books of 2022---100%, without a doubt, it's compelling fiction!

Olivia is an interesting character in Mad Honey. I listened to the audio version of this book and was totally absorbed in it, especially since the fantastic Carrie Coon was the narrator of Olivia's chapters. Olivia is a bit of a fragile person escaping a difficult past and making a new life for herself in New Hampshire. She thinks she knows her teenage son, but after Lily's tragic death, new secrets start floating to the surface that make her not only question her son, but also how their difficult past may have impacted both of them.

The chapters in Mad Honey alternate between present day (Olivia) and then Lily's chapters give us insight into her life before he death. Lily is a character that tugged on my heartstrings. She, like Olivia, did not have it easy and I was rooting for Lily to find some happiness. Slowly through Lily's chapters we learn more about what her life was like before Asher, her interests, her experiences, and maybe some clues leading up to her death. As Picoult and Boylan insert a jaw dropping plot twist that I didn't see coming a mile away, I then started questioning Lily, her death, and her murder. Let's just say things weren't looking good for Asher.

Picoult and Boylan really do a great job with the courtroom trial in Mad Honey; in fact, some of the court scenes were my favorite part of the novel. The suspense, the line of questions, the plot twist, and the slow discovery of the truth were all outstanding. 

Mad Honey is such a fantastic novel that touches on such important and timely issues. I don't want to give anything away, but it was such a memorable read and one that truly opened my eyes to some of the issues many people face today. I learned a lot, which I didn't think was possible from a contemporary fictional novel, but I did, and the lessons will stay with me for sure.

So, are you a fan of Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan? Have you read Mad Honey? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Book Review: The Palace Papers by Tina Brown

Pages: 573
Genre: Non-fiction/Biography
Pub. Date: April 26, 2022
Publisher: Crown
Source: Library
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "The gripping inside story of the British royal family’s battle to overcome the dramas of the Diana years—only to confront new, twenty-first-century crises  “Never again” became Queen Elizabeth II’s mantra shortly after Princess Diana’s tragic death. More specif­ically, there could never be “another Diana”—a mem­ber of the family whose global popularity upstaged, outshone, and posed an existential threat to the Brit­ish monarchy. Picking up where Tina Brown’s masterful The Diana Chronicles left off, The Palace Papers reveals how the royal family reinvented itself after the trau­matic years when Diana’s blazing celebrity ripped through the House of Windsor like a comet. Brown takes readers on a tour de force journey through the scandals, love affairs, power plays, and betrayals that have buffeted the monarchy over the last twenty-five years. We see the Queen’s stoic re­solve after the passing of Princess Margaret, the Queen Mother, and Prince Philip, her partner for seven decades, and how she triumphs in her Jubilee years even as family troubles rage around her. Brown explores Prince Charles’s determination to make Camilla Parker Bowles his wife, the tension between William and Harry on “different paths,” the ascend­ance of Kate Middleton, the downfall of Prince An­drew, and Harry and Meghan’s stunning decision to step back as senior royals. Despite the fragile monar­chy’s best efforts, “never again” seems fast approaching. Tina Brown has been observing and chronicling the British monarchy for three decades, and her sweeping account is full of powerful revelations, newly reported details, and searing insight gleaned from remarkable access to royal insiders. Stylish, witty, and erudite, The Palace Papers will irrevoca­bly change how the world perceives and under­stands the royal family."

 

Tina Brown, veteran journalist, breaks down all the royal scandals as well as live events surrounding many important figures in the British Royal Family. It touches on Prince Philip, and a little bit about Princess Margaret. There's a deep dive into Queen Elizabeth, as you would expect, Kate Middleton's rise, Meghan Markle's entrance, Diana's struggle, William and Harry's heartbreaking stories, Andrew's debacle, Camilla Parker Bowles's long journey, and more.  If you are a Royal lover, this book shouldn't be missed. The Palace Papers by Tina Brown was irresistibly entertaining and one of my favorite books of the year.

The one thing I loved about The Palace Papers was the way that Tina Brown organized this huge tome. I thought she did a great job jumping around, but keeping everything coherent.  She gives us just enough information about each Royal family member that it felt like I was pulling up a set at the bar, grabbing my favorite cocktail, and getting the inside scoop. I have read a lot of books about Diana and Queen Elizabeth, but this book brings up things I didn't know, especially when it came to Camilla, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and of course, Prince Andrew. Somehow The Palace Papers got me sympathizing a bit with Camilla (who would have known!) and I liked the dive into Kate's background and her early days with William. I am a huge Kate Middleton fan, so I really enjoyed learning more about her family, her childhood, her incredible mother (!), and her school days. I also enjoyed learning more about Harry and his relationship with Meghan Markle, but I have to say, this book didn't make me feel much sympathy towards Meghan's issues and how she handled things. That's all I'm going to say about that.

I do appreciate Brown's insight into Camilla and her struggles in The Palace Papers. It definitely made me sympathize with her a bit more and appreciate the long journey she took to get to where she is now as Queen consort. I also felt like Brown dropped a ton of bombs about Prince Andrew and his fiasco. Whoa! I knew the basics, but the details surrounding this corrupt scandal are very upsetting for sure. I also learned a lot about Fergie. I knew the basics surrounding her story, but The Palace Papers took readers through it all, which was very eye-opening to say the least. Lastly, the book also touched on Prince Philip, which I found utterly fascinating as his background is compelling. He was quite the character!

If you are gearing up for a new season of The Crown and you love the Royals, you must pick up a copy of The Palace Papers. It was juicy, gossipy, and salacious in the best way possible. My review doesn't do it justice. It was utterly compelling and one of those non-fiction books that reads like your favorite novel. I highly recommend it!

So, are you a Royal watcher? Have you read The Palace Papers? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  

 

Friday, September 2, 2022

Book Review: The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden


 
Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "An uplifting novel about a heartbroken young pie maker who is granted a magical second chance to live the life she didn't choose. . . . from the bestselling author of The Enlightenment of Bees. Lolly Blanchard's life only seems to give her lemons. Ten years ago, after her mother's tragic death, she broke up with her first love and abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant in order to keep her family's struggling Seattle diner afloat and care for her younger sister and grieving father. Now, a decade later, she dutifully whips up the diner's famous lemon meringue pies each morning while still pining for all she's lost. As Lolly's thirty-third birthday approaches, her quirky great-aunt gives her a mysterious gift--three lemon drops, each of which allows her to live a single day in a life that might have been hers. What if her mom hadn't passed away? What if she had opened her own restaurant in England? What if she hadn't broken up with the only man she's ever loved? Surprising and empowering, each experience helps Lolly let go of her regrets and realize the key to transforming her life lies not in redoing her past but in having the courage to embrace her present."

Lolly is bored of doing the same thing everyday in her life. There's no excitement; she's in a rut.  She is thirty-two years old and helping run her family's diner. Not only does she work there, she also helps bake their famous lemon meringue pies. Her dad, who also runs the diner, is hesitant to make any sort of changes, so the diner is struggling a bit as the culinary world is evolving. One day Lolly comes across her seventh grade journal and she finds a list of life goals.  She hasn't accomplished any of them. Where did she go off course? Since her mother's untimely death, she has stuck around to help her dad with the family's diner and help raise her younger sister.  But what about what she wants? What about her dreams? Lolly's Aunt Gert is a mystical, yet highly educated woman who has lived an adventurous life. She presents Lolly with three enchanted lemon drops that will allow her to live one day in an alternate version of her life to sort of help her figure out what she truly wants. As you might have guessed, these three lemon drops change her life forever. The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden is such a heartfelt book that had me tearing up. It included wonderful life messages, beautiful moments, and the kind of situations that gut a reader. I adored it and it's one of my favorite books of the year.

Lolly is a wonderful character in The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie. How could I not like her? She is loyal, dedicated to her family, and a good friend. Told through flashbacks, we get to know what her life was like as a young girl when she meets her first and only love, Rory. She has never really gotten over him and their relationship did get quite serious as the years went by. Slowly, Linden fleshes out the character of Lolly and explains her complicated (yet romantic) relationship with Rory, who is an all-around great guy.  Oh, did their relationship tug on my heartstrings! Which leads me to the lemon drops.

Lolly is faced with the exciting task of deciding where she wants the lemon drops to take her. She definitely has plans to fix things with Rory in one of her alternate lives, but what about the other two lemon drops? She refers to her seventh grade list and is inspired to hit up some of those goals and also spend more time with her mom, who tragically died a few years ago. Oh, my heart! Once again, Linden really cracked it open and I felt so much for Lolly's alternate lives. She travels to Hawaii and England and I loved every second of it all. Linden made it feel real. I didn't doubt it once, which is unusual for a book with magic in it, but I fell for it completely -- hook, line, and sinker. I mean who hasn't thought about an alternate life or a path you didn't take? What would it have been like to not lose a person you loved or to not get seriously sick or to take that job or move across the country? Instead of these questions plaguing us at night, Linden deep dives into them and explores these themes along with the difficult task of letting go. 

What really struck me about The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie was Linden's beautiful writing. She doled out some great advice through Aunt Gert and her mother's musings. I adored it and it really spoke to me. When I first sat down with The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie, I didn't expect to be moved so completely by Linden's words. I paused and really marinated in them; it was truly a pleasure. Here are two of my favorite lines:

    "Happiness is fleeting, fickle, often based on our circumstances."  Aunt Ger waved a hand dismissively. "If you chase happiness, you will more often than not end up disappointed by the very nature of life.  Life is hard, brutal at time, and often unfair.  But following your bliss, that's entirely different.  It means facing your present reality with honesty and courage, and, in the midst of it all, continuing to pursue each spark of joy, even if it is a tiny pinpoint in the darkness of your life. Do not give up.  Continue to look for the light in your life---it is always present somewhere, some small things to be grateful for, something to celebrate, a away to give joy to others, a new way to grow.  Move toward the light in life; seek it out no matter what.  This is the essence of what it means to follow your bliss.  You must be honest. Pay attention.  Seek joy." 

*****

Aunt Gert sat in silence for a long moment, then cleared her throat.  "Some things aren't meant to be mended," she said finally. "Sometimes it's in the breaking that the light can finally shine through."


I highly recommend Lolly's story for fans of books are moving, heartfelt, and employ magical realism. This would be the perfect book to accompany you this Labor Day Weekend and to close out summer. I, for one, will have my eye on Linden's future novels; I'm a fan!

So, have you read The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie? Are you a fan of Rachel Linden? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  


 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Book Review: Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid


 
Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine
Pub. Date: August 30, 2022
Other Books By Author: Malibu Rising,
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "In this powerful novel about the cost of greatness, a legendary athlete attempts a comeback when the world considers her past her prime—from the New York Times bestselling author of Malibu Rising. Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two. But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan. At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever. In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells her most vulnerable, emotional story yet."

Readers of Malibu Rising may remember Carrie Soto, an accomplished tennis player.  This book dives into her life and her tennis career.  It starts with Carrie as a child, living with her father, Javier, who also lives and breathes tennis. He used to have a successful tennis career, but is now coaching and instructing at clubs.  He has big plans for Carrie and even as a child, she is determined to be the best. As the years go by, she finds much success (thanks to her commitment and determination) and Carrie and her father have always made the greatest team. Fast forward many years later, Carrie is a retired tennis player and holds the record for winning the most Grand Slams. But then comes along a much younger Nicki Chan who might very well break her record. Carrie decides to come out of retirement to defend her record, along with her father as her coach.  Carrie has always been a fierce competitor, not to mention her difficult personality, so will people root for her comeback? And quite simply, at thirty-seven, can Carrie even do it?   Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a phenomenal sports book, but even readers who don't enjoy tennis will be sucked in by this unputdownable novel.

I really liked Carrie Soto in  Carrie Soto Is Back. I know she can be brash, difficult, a sore loser, and brutally honest, but I liked that about her. I enjoyed her determination and resilience. Reid created such an interesting character and one that felt so real that I found myself trying to google Carrie. She has to be real, right? Maybe not, but Reid really brings it when it comes to character development.  Carrie practically leaped off the page.  As the years go by, she reconnects with fellow tennis player Bowe and I really enjoyed their relationship and watching it progress, especially as they started training together. Lastly, Carrie's relationship with her dad was a memorable one and truly tugged on my heartstrings.  I adored his coaching and his perspective on things.

Reid must have done a ton of research regarding tennis or she must be an avid tennis player herself, because I felt like I was watching a tennis match when I was reading Carrie Soto Is Back. It was so real, so immersive, that it made me want to dust off my old racket and get back out there. It's never too late, right? I don't know how she does it, but Reid took a sports book and made it so much more.  So, you don't need to enjoy tennis or be a sports fan to appreciate Carrie's journey. 

Carrie Soto Is Back is one of my favorite books of the summer, as well as the year. At this point, I'll read anything Reid writes; she is one of the best writers of our time.  So, are you a fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid? Do you plan on reading Carrie Soto Is Back? Are you a tennis fan? Let me know in the comments below.


Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Book Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston


 
Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 28, 2022
Source: Publisher for review
Publisher: Berkley
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 


Goodreads says, "A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston. Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead. When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father. For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it. Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is. Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories."

 

Florence Day used to be a romantic, after all, she is a ghostwriter for a well known romance author.  The latest book she is writing is dragging though; she is feeling entirely uninspired after the breakup with her boyfriend. Perhaps true love doesn't exist and happily-ever-afters aren't for everyone? Now she is late for her deadline and her editor, Ben, isn't having it.  Then Florence receives a phone call that rocks her world. Her father has unexpectedly died and she must return home. Of course Florence drops everything to be home with her family and they ironically own the town's funeral parlor. You see, Florence has always been able to see and communicate with ghosts, an ability passed on from her father. She is hoping to connect with him, but instead, up pops her editor, Ben.  He has shockingly died the day after she met with him. Ghosts have unfinished business; what could Ben's possibly be? Now Florence has to deal with her father's last wishes and Ben following her around, sometimes to the most unfortunate of places, such as the shower. While home, Florence deals with her grief as well as with the hometown that she left long ago, all while getting to know Ben better. What blossoms between them is so much more than friends- they have a true connection, but what's the point? He is dead and it's heartbreaking.  Ashley Poston's adult debut, The Dead Romantics, is such a fun take on the usual paranormal romance; I adored it!

Florence is someone I liked right from the beginning of The Dead Romantics. I truly felt for her when her father died, because you could really tell that she had a close relationship with him. When she returns home, readers get to know her family much better, including her eccentric sister, Alice, and I really enjoyed the other Day family members as well. I think Poston portrays dealing with the ups and downs of death accurately, but she does so in a manner that it doesn't make it too dark and depressing.  The death of her father is counterbalanced by her relationship with Ben. Although he is a ghost, it felt like so much more.

Ben is a delight of a character in The Dead Romantics. I enjoyed his relationship with Florence and how it evolved. I appreciated their love of books and all the nods to publishing within the novel. There were some real laugh-out-loud moments between them and moments that truly tugged on my heartstrings. It really made long for Ben and Florence to have a real chance at love, but how could they if he is dead? As time progresses, readers will wonder what Ben's unfinished business is and what he wants from Florence. Slowly, Poston connects the dots and I absolutely adored the mystery and the subtle plot twists.

Also, Poston did a fabulous job of bringing a sleepy southern town to life. I loved all of her descriptions of the nighttime sounds, the graveyard, her memories of growing up down south, the big funeral home, the wildflowers, and even the nosy townspeople. It was definitely reminiscent of Stars Hollow.

If you like a good paranormal romance, look no further. The Dead Romantics was surprisingly good and I loved being lost in Florence's world. The Dead Romantics would make for a great vacation read! 

So, are you a fan of paranormal romance? Have you read The Dead Romantics? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.  


 

 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Audio Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus



Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 5, 2022
Source: Personal Copy
Publisher: Random House Audio
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
 

 

Goodreads says, "A delight for readers of Where'd You Go, Bernadette and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this blockbuster debut set in 1960s California features the singular voice of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist whose career takes a detour when she becomes the star of a beloved TV cooking show. Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with--of all things--her mind. True chemistry results. But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America's most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth's unusual approach to cooking ("combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride") proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn't just teaching women to cook. She's daring them to change the status quo. Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist."

 

Elizabeth Zott is a household name. It's the 1960s and she is the star of a cooking show called Supper at Six.  Except Elizabeth isn't like Julia Child, she is more like Albert Einstein. Elizabeth is a chemist and has a brilliant mind. She once worked in a lab doing important work, but was let go due to an out of wedlock pregnancy. Yup. You heard that right. Cue the patriarchy.  While on her show, Elizabeth Zott gives women during the time period hope and her cooking show isn't just mix flour and sugar...viola! Elizabeth uses terms like lipids, sodium chloride, H20, and more jargon that empowers her viewers.  After all, cooking is a form of chemistry, right? Let's go back to how she ended up here. In the late 1950s, men were always taking advantage of her at work, stealing her ideas, etc, but she could always count on her boyfriend, Calvin Evans, a world famous chemist, for his respect.  Calvin was the love of her life and they have a daughter together, but the path of true love isn't a smooth one, especially for Elizabeth.  Bonnie Garmus's debut, Lessons in Chemistry, is such a laugh-out-loud brilliant book that would be perfect for vacation, especially if you love a smart, feminist read.

Elizabeth Zott. Just saying her name brings a smile to my face. I don't think I have rooted more for a protagonist than Zott in Lessons in Chemistry. I loved her mind, her spunk, and her determination.  As she navigates jerks at work and blatant sexism, I was rooting even more for her. How could I not? I also really liked her relationship with Calvin and learning more about his childhood in the orphanage, and of course, his dog Six-Thirty. As a dog lover, I really enjoyed the chapters that were from his point of a view--a fun touch to the story.

I listened to the audio version of Lessons in Chemistry and was hooked. The narrator, Miranda Raison, did a great job and I thoroughly enjoyed being lost in Zott's world.  It's a impressive debut from Garmus, and I definitely have my eye on her future work for sure.

Fans of quirky novels will especially enjoy Lessons in Chemistry, which will most definitely be one of my favorite books of the year. Have you read Lessons in Chemistry? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Book Review: The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani

Pages: 448
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 26, 2022
Publisher: Dutton
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "Matelda, the Cabrelli family's matriarch, has always been brusque and opinionated. Now, as she faces the end of her life, she is determined to share a long-held secret with her family about her own mother's great love story: with her childhood friend, Silvio, and with dashing Scottish sea captain John Lawrie McVicars, the father Matelda never knew. . . . In the halcyon past, Domenica Cabrelli thrives in the coastal town of Viareggio until her beloved home becomes unsafe when Italy teeters on the brink of World War II. Her journey takes her from the rocky shores of Marseille to the mystical beauty of Scotland to the dangers of wartime Liverpool--where Italian Scots are imprisoned without cause--as Domenica experiences love, loss, and grief while she longs for home. A hundred years later, her daughter, Matelda, and her granddaughter, Anina, face the same big questions about life and their family's legacy, while Matelda contemplates what is worth fighting for. But Matelda is running out of time, and the two timelines intersect and weave together in unexpected and heartbreaking ways that lead the family to shocking revelations and, ultimately, redemption."

This sweeping saga starts with Domenica Cabrelli and her friend, Silvio, on an adventure in coastal, Viareggio, Italy.  Domenica marches to her own beat as she is a woman during a time where they aren't afforded many options, but that doesn't stop her from dreaming big. Her best friend, Silvio, is the town outcast, as he is a bastard, but, again, that doesn't deter her from being good friends with him.  As the years go by, Silvio and his mother leave the town, but Domenica never forgets him.  She starts to study to become a nurse and them gets herself into trouble with the powerful Catholic Church.  As her punishment, the church sends her away for a period of time to practice her nursing in France, so her world changes in the blink of an eye.  While there, she truly comes into her own and she also meets Captain John McVicars, a Scottish sea captain, and despite their differences a romance blooms. Meanwhile, things are getting dangerous as Italy is getting involved in WWII.  Fast forward to present day and Domenica's daughter, Matelda, is reaching the end of her life. She has stories that should be shared and family secrets that need to be told, especially as her granddaughter starts to question aspects of her life.  Adriana Trigiani's multi-generational saga, The Good Left Undone, won't disappoint fans and historical fiction lovers will be wholly entertained.

Domenica is a character I immediately enjoyed in The Good Left Undone. What a force to be reckoned with! I adored her fire, her grit, her spunk, and her intelligence. Her childhood time with Silvio warmed my heart and the coastal town of Viareggio was so beautiful.  As the years go by, women are still considered second class citizens and afforded very little options; however, Domenica wants to forge a different path for herself by becoming an educated nurse.  While offering advice to a young woman regarding her health, she gets into some trouble as this advice goes against the Catholic Church. God forbid women do any sort of family planning! So, then Domenica finds herself exiled to France working at a hospital. That's when her real adventure begins both in love and life.  I absolutely adored this part of the novel and her blossoming romance with John McVicars. I can't say enough about how Trigiani brought the time period to life so very well as the world was on the brink of war. Domenica longed to return home, but it was unsafe.

The present day story lines were also done well as they were about Domenica's family many years later. It was interesting to see how their story continued and what happened to the Cabrelli family.  Matelda, Domenica's daughter, wants to share the truth with her family and I adored her journey to get to that point. You know how certain books remind you of certain people? Whenever I crack open one of Trigiani's novels, I am instantly reminded of my grandmother and transported to another time.  I love that Trigiani can do this so very well and capture a bygone era.

As I mentioned before, Trigiani's settings in The Good Left Undone are fantastic -- some of her best!  I felt like I was there! Whether she was describing the beautiful coastal region of Italy, the rocky shores of France, or the beauty of rugged Scotland, I felt like I was there. I especially liked the descriptions of Scotland and really enjoyed being transported there. I did learn a lot about WWII and how it impacted the Irish Scots. I had no idea that they were basically rounded up and how dangerous things were for Italians that lived in Scotland or France. This aspect of the book definitely kept me turning pages.

Trigiani is one of my favorite authors and I adored The Good Left Undone. I know her legions of fans will enjoy it as well and I highly recommend it to them as well as fans of historical fiction, especially if readers enjoy stories about strong women as well as a multi-generational sagas that tug on your heartstrings.

So, are you a fan of Adriana Trigiani? Is The Good Left Undone on your TBR list or have you read it already? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 
 

 
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