Saturday, August 1, 2015

July Confessions

Can we all agree that summer needs to slow down? I did a lot of reading this month, thanks to me bringing my books everywhere. I read in the doctor's waiting room, before bed, during my kid's nap, at the beach, while on the exercise bike, while on the treadmill, in the car, etc. I read some amazing books this month!

Books Read in July:
1.  Forever for a Year by B.T. Gottfred - 3.5 out of 5 stars
2.  Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally - 3.5 out of 5 stars
3.  A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery - 3.5 out of 5 stars
4.  Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen - 4 out of 5 stars (a re-read for me!)
5.  The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig - 3.5 out of 5 stars
6.  The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis - 4 out of 5 stars
7.  First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano - 3.5 out of 5 stars (Review to come)
8.  The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff - 4.5 out of 5 stars (Review to come)
9.  The Uninvited by Cat Winters - 3 out of 5 stars (Review to come)
10.  The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick - 4 out of 5 stars (Review to come)

Didn't Finish:
Newport by Jill Morrow - I read about 25% of this book, but wasn't feeling it. I couldn't connect with the characters, so I had to put it down. It's a shame, because the time period of the Roaring Twenties is so much fun!

1. Favorite Book: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff - Guys, if you enjoy sweeping historical tales, you need to read this book. I especially appreciated the Philadelphia and Atlantic City settings.

2.  Biggest Surprise: Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen - When I originally read this book many years ago, I thought it was just ok.  I re-read it this summer for The Summer of Sarah Dessen and was able to make more connections to it and appreciate it more than before.

3. Biggest Disappointment: The Uninvited by Cat Winters - I loved The Cure for Dreaming and am looking forward to reading In the Shadow of Blackbirds, but this wasn't a YA novel like her others. It was an adult novel and for me it fell flat.

4.  Favorite Post: Book Review and Grand Giveaway for Ross Poldark - You have until 8/13 to enter this incredible giveaway. I am seriously drooling over the grand prize. 

5.  Favorite Part of July: Of course I am loving the lazy days I spend at the beach with my family.  I am going to miss that this winter. We also had so much fun celebrating my little guy's 3rd birthday. Time sure is flying!

Thanks for visiting,

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Five and a Giveaway (21)

Happy Friday! Sometimes I like to talk about what I am currently into that is not necessarily book related. Here's what I have been up to/thinking about/enjoying lately. Let me know what you think! 

1.  Back to School/Halloween Stuff - Guys, I know down South and maybe on the West Coast they start school much earlier than here in the Northeast, but it's still summer for us. Poor students and teachers still have almost a month of freedom. But no, come every July stores start pushing "Back to School."  Target is the worst with this, too. And don't get me started on the TV commercials. Anyone else have issues with this as well? It's like we can't possibly live in the present or at least agree to wait till August?

2.  Indian Summers on PBS - I have had my eye on this show ever since Leanna from Daisy Chain Book Reviews told me about it since it played over in the UK first. It will premiere here in the US in late September.  I hope it doesn't disappoint. It's about British colonial rule in India. What do you guys think?

3.  Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee - I bought this book weeks ago when it first came out, but I am terrified to read it. I originally thought that it was a sequel, but then I read some early reviews for it and people said it reads more like a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird or even like an alternate reality where Atticus is prejudice.  WHAT?!?! Has anyone read it yet? Thoughts? Entertainment Weekly gave it a D, people!?

4. The Republic of Tea - I feel like a traitor to coffee for even admitting this, but I love a good cup of tea now and then. I know I am late to the game, but I absolutely love this brand of tea. My current favorites: Downton Abbey English Rose and Banana Chocolate.  Both are great over ice as well! 

5.  Thanks to Penguin, I am sharing with you guys a giveaway for a signed copy of What I Thought Was True and an ARC of The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick.  Both are great reads for the summertime! There will be five winners and the deadline is August 15th. Please refer to my giveaway rules. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Friday,

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review: The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis

Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: July 7, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Cape Cod summers are supposed to remain reassuringly the same, but everything falls apart when three sisters and their families come together for their annual summer vacation—and they are carrying more secrets than suitcases. Maggie is the oldest. She feels responsible for managing the summer house and making sure everything is as it always has been. But she’s hurt that her parents’ recent divorce has destroyed the family’s comfortable summer routines, and her own kids seem to be growing up at high speed. Is it too late to have another baby? Jess is the middle sister. She loves her job but isn’t as passionate about her marriage. She’s not sure she can find the courage to tell Maggie what she’s done—much less talk to her husband about it. Virgie is the youngest, her dad’s favorite. She’s always been the career girl, but now there’s a man in her life. Her television job on the west coast is beyond stressful, and it’s taking its toll on her—emotionally and physically. She’s counting on this vacation to erase the symptoms she’s not talking about. The Herington girls are together again, with their husbands and kids, for another summer in the family’s old Cape Cod house. When their mother, Gloria, announces she’s coming for an unscheduled visit—with her new boyfriend—no one is more surprised than their father, Arthur, who has not quite gotten over his divorce. Still, everyone manages to navigate the challenges of living grown-up lives in close quarters, until an accident reveals a new secret that brings everyone together in heartbreak… and then healing."
Each July, the Herington sisters take off for their family's beach house in Cape Cod. There's Maggie, the eldest sister, who always tries to make everything perfect for the family.  Her twin, Jess, is also coming with her family, except things with her husband aren't good.  Then there's the younger sister, Virginia, or Virgie, who is always consumed with her job.  To complicate matters further, her parents are newly divorced and want to spend some time with them this summer, but thankfully, Maggie has them coming on different weeks in order to not make things completely awkward.  This is even more crucial when they find out their mother is bringing a male friend. But this summer is anything but easy. Many ups and downs occur for the family. For starters, Arthur, their father, is suffering from memory loss and showing many signs of hoarding since his marriage has been over. He wants Gloria, his ex-wife, to come back to him, but she has moved on.  There's also marital problems, issues with careers, illness, and a side of family drama all while the Heringtons try to enjoy their summer vacation.  The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis is a summer read with heart. It's not all rainbows in this book; the characters face some major issues that I think many people can relate to today.

The chapters alternate between Maggie, Jess, Virgie and Arthur, which I thought was well done. I could really get a sense of each character this way and I felt the most connected with Maggie, the type A character that sort of handles everything. She has a really great marriage, great kids, but now that her kids are growing up, she is thinking of adopting. This hangs over her head during their trip as she still hasn't approached her husband about it yet. 

Jess is a high school principal married to accountant Tim, but she is utterly bored by their marriage in The Summer of Good Intentions. They haven't truly connected in years and because of this, Jess finds herself looking elsewhere.  She hasn't told anyone this, but she knows she will have to confide in Maggie once she gets to the Cape.

Virgie is a workaholic who has recently been passed over for a really big job in The Summer of Good Intentions. She is hoping to relax a bit at the Cape, but things start to go down hill for her health wise. I don't want to say much more for fear of spoilers.

Francis' depiction of an elderly person dealing with dementia is spot on. I truly felt for Arthur and his family when dealing with all of his missteps. It was a very accurate portrayal and one that particularly tugged on my heartstrings.

Also, Francis also did a great job illustrating the joy of summer and that one place you go to escape.  There were many lines that really resonated with me where the characters just exhaled and relished life at the beach.

Although The Summer of Good Intentions was a tad more depressing and serious than I thought it would be, I still thoroughly enjoyed its message that life is complicated and can be messy at times, but in the end, it's beautiful.  If you enjoy family dramas with a beautiful beach setting, then this is the book for you this summer.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: DaVinci's Tiger

This is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  "Waiting on Wednesday" spotlights upcoming releases that I'm eagerly anticipating.

DaVinci's Tiger by Laura Malone Elliott
Pub. Date: November 10, 2015

Goodreads says, "Young, beautiful, and witty, Ginevra de’ Benci longs to take part in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence. But as the daughter of a wealthy family in a society dictated by men, she is trapped in an arranged marriage, expected to limit her creativity to domestic duties. Her poetry reveals her deepest feelings, and she aches to share her work, to meet painters and sculptors mentored by the famed Lorenzo de Medici, and to find love. When the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, arrives in Florence, he introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers—a world of thought and conversation she has yearned for. She is instantly attracted to the handsome newcomer, who admires her mind as well as her beauty. Yet Ginevra remains conflicted about his attentions. Choosing her as his Platonic muse, Bembo commissions a portrait by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them—one Ginevra can only begin to understand. In a rich and enthralling world of exquisite art, elaborate feasts, and exhilarating jousts, she faces many temptations to discover her voice, artistic companionship, and a love that defies categorization. In the end, she and Leonardo are caught up in a dangerous and deadly battle between powerful families. "
Guys, I will read anything that takes place in Florence, Italy, especially during the Renaissance.  What do you guys think?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

This week's Top Ten Tuesday focuses on characters who are fellow book nerds.  Here are my favorites: 

1.  Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - Anne is my all-time favorite bookworm and will probably always be.  If you have read the novels, you know her love for books is hard-core.

2.  Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I also really love Elizabeth Bennet. She can always be found with her nose in a good book. She's a smart protagonist with opinions and I like that!

3.  Hermione Granger from Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - I dressed up as Hermione one year for Halloween...that's how much I love her!  She's the quintessential bookworm. 

4.  Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Jo is an aspiring writer, so her love of books knows no bounds. 

5.  Paige Hancock from The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord - Paige is one of my "new" favorite characters. I found her easy to relate to. She likes books (makes a ton of literary references!), TV, and is a loyal friend.

6.  Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - Some of my favorite quotes about reading come from this book.  Betty Smith knows what's up.  

7.  Belle from Beauty and The Beast by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont - Ok, so this is probably cheating since in my mind I am referring to Belle from the Disney movie, but how could I not include her? She dances and sings in bookstores! Truly a girl after my own heart.

8.  Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl - I remember when I read this many, many years ago, I LOVED Matilda. Her to-be-read pile is just as big as mine! 

9.  Lara Jean Song from To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han - Jenny Han created a memorable character for me. She's a bit of a homebody and would rather hangout with her sisters than go gallivanting throughout the town. She likes books and writing, so she gets a spot on my list.

10.  Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Scout is one of my favorite literary characters ever. In fact, I named my dog after Scout! I love that she asks the tough questions.

So what literary characters are your favorite bookworms? Let me know what you think in the comments below! This meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

Pages: 304
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: July 21, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Ashford Affair and
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Raised in a poor yet genteel household, Rachel Woodley is working in France as a governess when she receives news that her mother has died, suddenly. Grief-stricken, she returns to the small town in England where she was raised to clear out the cottage...and finds a cutting from a London society magazine, with a photograph of her supposedly deceased father dated all of three month before. He's an earl, respected and influential, and he is standing with another daughter-his legitimate daughter. Which makes Rachel...not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past-even her very name-is a lie. Still reeling from the death of her mother, and furious at this betrayal, Rachel sets herself up in London under a new identity. There she insinuates herself into the party-going crowd of Bright Young Things, with a steely determination to unveil her father's perfidy and bring his-and her half-sister's-charmed world crashing down. Very soon, however, Rachel faces two unexpected snags: she finds she genuinely likes her half-sister, Olivia, whose situation isn't as simple it appears; and she might just be falling for her sister's fiancĂ©... From Lauren Willig, author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Ashford Affair, comes The Other Daughter, a page-turner full of deceit, passion, and revenge.
The year is 1927 and Rachel Woodley is a governess to three spoiled children.  She gets word that her mother is gravely ill and by the time she reaches her side, it's too late. Her mother has passed away and Rachel has even missed the funeral.  While she is cleaning out her mother's house, she finds a photograph of a man that looks exactly like her deceased father.  This sends her for a tailspin, obviously, as she has always been told her father is dead.  After more digging, she finds out her father isn't dead; in fact, he is a earl with children of his own.  With the help of Simon Montfort, a journalist who has many connections, she plans on meeting the people who are her family except she'll be posing as someone else. She is not only curious about her new family, but she also wants revenge in a sense as she feels extremely betrayed. Lauren Willig's The Other Daughter is an entertaining historical read that brings the 1920s to life.

I felt for Rachel right off the bat in The Other Daughter. To rush home to help her ailing mother and then to find out she already passed away is a tough break. The only thing that I didn't quite understand was Rachel's reaction to it. It seemed sort of brushed over. I expected her to be way more devastated, but I guess she becomes distracted by the possibility that her father is still alive and is not only alive, but is an Earl.  

Needless to say, The Other Daughter is chock full of family drama and secrets. As Rachel assumes a new identity and enters the world of the Bright Young Things, she learns more and more about her new family. Some of it's good, but some of it's bad as she is starting to have feelings for her sister's fiance.  Cue the awkward tension.

Willig does a fantastic job bringing the time period to life. It felt very authentic.  From the slang, to the descriptions, to the British aristocracy's was all very well done. 

Willig's The Other Daughter is a very character driven historical read that I think fans of Willig's previous novels will enjoy. Although I liked The Ashford Affair  a bit better, I still recommend this one to fans who like quiet historical reads with a touch of romance.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Pages: 281
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 1, 1998
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Truth About Forever, Saint Anything
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The world is a terrible place not to have a best friend. Scarlett was always the strong one.  Halley was always content to follow in her wake. Then Scarlett's boyfriend died, and Scarlett learned that she was pregnant. Now Halley has to find the strength to take the lead and help Scarlett get through it. Because true friendship is a promise you keep forever."

Halley has always been a "good girl." You know the kind. The kind of girl that who doesn't do anything rebellious, the kind that hangs out with her mother and tells her everything. Well, as she gets older, this is changing.  Halley is starting to hangout more with her best friend, Scarlett, and popular cheerleader Ginny.  She even dumps her nerdy boyfriend, which has become awkward since it's the son of her mom's best friend.  Her mother starts to worry about her, especially when she starts hanging around Macon, a well-known bad boy.  To complicate matters further, Scarlett's boyfriend Michael is killed in a motorcycle accident, which really sends everyone for a loop, especially when Scarlett finds out something else. She is pregnant. With Michael's baby. Scarlett is going to need Halley more than ever now.  Sarah Dessen's Someone Like You is a coming of age tale that fans of Dessen will enjoy and is a great addition to your beach bag this summer.

I really loved Halley in Someone Like You. Dessen has a knack for creating characters that seem so real. She has always followed the rules and done the right things, but she is starting to sow her wild oats a bit.  I think this is only natural for a teenager and instead of her mother understanding this, she tries to hold onto her tighter, which only backfires. I thought the relationship between Halley and her mother was a very, very realistic glimpse into the mother-daughter struggle most of us have experienced in high school.  Halley needs to learn things for herself without her mother hovering over her every move. 

Scarlett and Halley are best friends in Someone Like You and they truly turn to each other for support during this challenging year.  I loved their true friendship and the portrayal of what it's like to grow be sort of in between adolescence and adulthood. Since Scarlett is pregnant, this pushes her to grow up even more than before and both girls examine the consequences of unprotected sex.

I read Someone Like You many, many years ago, so I was excited to dive back into it for The Summer of Sarah Dessen. What is so interesting about re-reading this novel are the different things I noticed from last time. For example, Halley's relationship and her mother's relationship with their aging Grandmother really struck me this time. I could personally connect to this at this point in my life and Dessen really did a fantastic job depicting how an aging family member can impact a family.

Although Someone Like You isn't my favorite of Dessen's novels, I still thoroughly enjoyed it; in fact, I think I liked it more the second time around.  Dessen truly captures family dynamics and what it's like to be a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood.  

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