Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Review: The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms

Pages: 280
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "A young painter, Lily has reached a crossroads in her life. Her career hasn't taken off, her best friend may no longer be the trusted friend she thought, her boyfriend is a disappointment, and now she can't keep up with the rising cost of living in the city. With no one to turn to, Lily is forced to move from her beloved apartment, but while packing she comes across a piece of mail that had slipped to the back of her junk drawer: a letter detailing further action needed to finalize the annulment of a quickie Vegas wedding. Ten years ago!  Lily decides it's time to turn over a new leaf and the first item on her list of things to fix is getting the annulment... but you can't just send a reply ten years later, "Hey by the way we are still married." This is something that must be addressed in person. Lily takes to the road to track down her husband - the charming, fun, and sexy man she connected with all those years ago - Ben Hutchinson.  Ben Hutchinson left a wealthy dot-com lifestyle behind to return home to his family and the small town he loves, Minnow Bay. He's been living off the grid and the last thing he expects is a wife he didn't know he had to show up on his doorstep. By chance, Lily arrives at the magical Minnow Bay Inn, and there she will discover not just a place to lay her head, but new friends, a thriving art community, and maybe even the love of her life."

Lily is struggling in every aspect of her life. She is an artist and hasn't sold a painting, which means she can't afford to live in Chicago and in turn must leave the city. Her boyfriend is a big disappointment and it's starting to get awkward regarding how many times she has to ask for the people in her life to bail her out.  As she is packing up her apartment, she comes across paperwork for an annulment regarding a quickie Vegas wedding. But this quickie wedding isn't just for anyone, it's regarding HER wedding nearly ten years ago! She realizes she needs to actually file the paperwork this time, and goes to see her husband in person. He now lives in Minnow Bay, Wisconsin, which is pretty much the most quaint town of all time. When she finally sees Ben Hutchinson, her husband, things don't go well initially. It appears he has changed tremendously and is no longer the charismatic guy she once knew.  The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms is a heartwarming beach read about figuring things out for yourself and second chances. 

Lily is sort of a hot mess in The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay. She really is the quintessential struggling artist. More times than not, she has asked for the people in her life to bail her out of her financial problems and to top it off, she isn't even really on top of her finances.  When she visits Minnow Bay, she sees it as an opportunity to start fresh even though she doesn't hit it off with Ben initially. She can't help but feel something for the friendly and adorable small town of Minnow Bay though.  

There's so much more to Ben than Lily initially thought in The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay. He used to be a successful businessman, but has moved back home. There's more to this story than meets the eye and as Lily gets herself reacquainted with Ben, I enjoyed their relationship more and more, especially the flashbacks to their initial meeting in Vegas. Although I wanted a bit more swoon-worthy moments in the novel, I still appreciated their relationship.

Minnow Bay was like another characters in The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay. This small town was my favorite aspect of the novel. It reminded me of Stars Hollow, the setting for Gilmore Girls. Everyone knows everyone's business and there are a ton of meddlers; however, I really enjoyed Harms' portrayal of an adorable town.  I ended up even enjoying the many townspeople that popped into Lily's life and left an everlasting impression. With their help, Lily realized that perhaps her life back in Chicago isn't worth salvaging. On top of it, her boyfriend and her best friend aren't exactly the people she thought they were.  Maybe she really could start over in Minnow Bay?

So, if you are looking for a cute beach read this summer, check out The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay. Many people have suggested it's similar to a Hallmark movie and I agree wholeheartedly and in the best way possible. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Interference

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

Interference by Kay Honeyman
Pub. Date: September 27, 2016

Goodreads says, "As a Congressman's daughter in Washington, DC, Kate Hamilton is good at getting what she wants -- what some people might call "interfering." But when her family moves to West Texas so her dad can run in a special election, Kate encounters some difficulties that test all her political skills. None of her matchmaking efforts go according to plan. Her father's campaign gets off to a rough start. A pro tip for moving to Texas: Don't slam the star quarterback's hand in a door. And whenever Kate messes up, the irritatingly right (and handsome) Hunter Price is there to witness it. But Kate has determination and a good heart, and with all her political savvy -- and a little clever interference -- she'll figure out what it takes to make Red Dirt home."

I love the sound of this one. Nothing like the mention of some high school football to get you ready for the fall. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been on My Shelf For Years

I am sure we are all guilty of it....buying books, because you just HAVE to read them and then said books sit on your shelf for years collecting dust. I am so very much guilty of this, so much so that I started a feature called Dust Off the Shelves a few years ago in an attempt to read all the books sitting sadly on my shelf (or virtual shelf!); however, I have only read a total of four of those books. I need to do better!  Here are a few of the books that have been collecting dust on my shelf. Let me know if there are any I must read immediately!

1.  Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - I can't bring myself to read this book, yet I know I need to.

2.  Soulless by Gail Carringer - Many people have recommended this series to me, but I am hesitant to read it for fear that I will add yet another fantasy series to my TBR pile. But a Victorian era Steampunk novel sounds brilliant, right?

3.  Elizabeth Chadwick novels (The Greatest Knight, Shadows and Strongholds, The Scarlet Lion) - I hear I would love her historical novels and this year I vow to finally read one of them!

4.  The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty - A few years ago, I actually read the first few chapters of this book and loved it, but had my first son and then obviously got sidetracked. I would love to find the time to finish this!

5.  Mariana by Susanna Kearsley - I read The Winter Sea and enjoyed it, so I would love to check out her other novels. This one sounds pretty great.

6.  Sarah Dessen - I have read all of her novels except for Keeping the Moon and What Happened to Goodbye. I would love to find time to read these, especially Keeping the Moon, which I hear is great.

7.  Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - I have heard great things about this novel and rushed out to buy it years ago, but have yet to pick it up despite some raving reviews.

8.  Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta - I read Jellicoe Road and enjoyed it (probably not as much as I thought I would though), and everyone says this book is a must read, especially if you enjoy YA fantasy.

9.  Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty - Gosh, I love this series, but I am afraid to see how it all ends.

10.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier - This is one classic that I have been meaning to read for years. I love a good Gothic novel.

So, what books have been sitting on your shelves for years collecting dust? I recently blogged about how I want to take time to read more of these books in the future, so where should I start? This meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

Pages: 304
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Other Books By Author: Born Wicked
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?  But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past…."

Ivy is a Milbourn, which means every female in her family is exceptional, including her mother who is known for her beautiful voice.  Except Ivy doesn't really know her mother; she left Ivy with her grandfather at the age of two.  Ivy is tired of trying to figure out her exceptional talent; so, this summer is going to be all about having fun.  Her grandfather, a professor, wants her to be more and to do more. He encourages her to live up to the Milbourn legacy, but Ivy thinks it's a curse as some of her female relatives have died tragically.  Her summer is thrown off course when her mother reenters her life and moves back home along with her Ivy's sisters that she didn't even know existed.  Ivy's mother, Erica, is abrasive and secretive and worse off, she doesn't even seem to care about Ivy. In fact, she told her other daughters, Grace and Isobel, that Ivy is their aunt and not their sister! All of these secrets can't be hidden forever and Ivy has to figure things out for herself in Wild Swans, an entertaining coming-of-age tale that fans of contempary fiction will enjoy.

Ivy is my kind of gal in Wild Swans. She is athletic, smart, independent, and loves books. Who doesn't love a good bookworm?  Her relationship with her mother is a sad one though. My heart really went out to her, especially when she tries to navigate through their tumultuous relationship.  On the other hand, I loved her relationship with her grandfather even though he can be controlling at times.   Anytime there is a grandparent figure in YA, I really appreciate that. 

Ivy's relationship with her mother in Wild Swans can be very upsetting. Erica, her mother, is an alcoholic and is verbally abusive.  To be honest, Ivy is better off without her. But at the core of the situation is the fact that Ivy now has two sisters and she really wants to help them out, but her mother is a complete degenerate and sabotages her attempts.  The way that Ivy's mother speaks to Ivy is really disrespectful; needless to say, Erica isn't my favorite character. 

Ivy meets Connor, one of her grandfather's best students, and sparks fly in Wild Swans.  Connor is everything a nerdy bookworm would love. He loves to write poetry, is a stellar student, loves to read, and is an all-around good guy.  The chemistry between Ivy and Connor is undeniable and I loved watching their romance bloom. The other secondary characters are just as endearing. I especially liked her best friend and feminist, Claire. Her one-liners had me laughing out loud. 

So, if you are looking for a "beach read" that features a coming-of-age tale that has a lot of heart and a strong heroine, definitely check out Wild Swans before the summer is over.

Friday, August 19, 2016

It's Not You, It's Me (18)

It's not you, it's me."  Some books just don't work for me, whereas other readers may have really enjoyed them.  This feature will be showcasing books that I never finished or reviewed; you know…...the dreaded DNF.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Goodreads says, "Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?  Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other. Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite. Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?"

My Thoughts: Surprisingly, Liane Moriarty is a new-to-me author this year. I just read The Husband's Secret a few months ago and was impressed. I planned on reading Big Little Lies next, but when I heard she had another novel coming out this summer, I was excited to get my hands on a copy. That is until I read the first fifty pages. Wow. Not what I was expecting. I actually fell asleep reading it. In the book's defense, I am a bit sleep deprived as I have a three month old at home, but seriously. It wasn't good. The first fifty pages were so damn slow it took me a few days to get through them and I had to keep going back and re-reading. I wasn't even sure where she was going with the conflict....I needed more than just a very, very slow reveal. So, needless to say, I put this one aside. I hear Big Little Lies is better anyway, and plan on checking that one out soon.   

A lot of "big time" authors have let me down this summer, including Elin Hilderbrand, whom I normally love. I am not sure if my expectations are just very high or if these authors' latest books just aren't that good.

What do you guys think? Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts. What's the latest book that you added to your did-not-finish pile?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Book Review: When We Meet Again by Kristin Harmel

Pages: 365
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Emily Emerson is used to being alone; her dad ran out on the family when she was a just a kid, her mom died when she was seventeen, and her beloved grandmother has just passed away as well. But when she’s laid off from her reporting job, she finds herself completely at sea…until the day she receives a beautiful, haunting painting of a young woman standing at the edge of a sugarcane field under a violet sky. That woman is recognizable as her grandmother—and the painting arrived with no identification other than a handwritten note saying, “He always loved her.”  Emily is hungry for roots and family, so she begins to dig. And as she does, she uncovers a fascinating era in American history. Her trail leads her to the POW internment camps of Florida, where German prisoners worked for American farmers...and sometimes fell in love with American women. But how does this all connect to the painting? The answer to that question will take Emily on a road that leads from the sweltering Everglades to Munich, Germany and back to the Atlanta art scene before she’s done.  Along the way, she finds herself tempted to tear down her carefully tended walls at last; she’s seeing another side of her father, and a new angle on her painful family history. But she still has secrets, ones she’s been keeping locked inside for years. Will this journey bring her the strength to confront them at last?"

Emily Emerson has some baggage. Her dad left her and her mother when she was just a little girl and then her mother died when she was seventeen years old.  She always thought her father would step in and take over, but that never happened. Her grandmother took care of her and recently, she has passed away.  On top of it, she lost an important job.  So, things are looking pretty grim for Emily, that is until a mysterious package arrives at her house from Germany.  Emily comes to realize it is a painting of her grandmother and the note says, "Your grandfather never stopped loving her."  Emily's grandmother never really talked about her husband, so this confuses Emily and she begrudgingly reaches out to her father.  Emily's father is pleased by this as he has been trying to make amends for quite some time.  As Emily searches for answers, she learns many family secrets and even repairs things with her father.  Kristin Harmel's When We Meet Again is a compelling family saga that has fans of historical fiction will enjoy.

Emily has built up walls to keep out the pain and protect her in When We Meet Again. When looking at her past, you can see why she acts the way she does, but slowly through studying her family's history, the walls come down. As they do, I enjoyed Emily more and more.  I liked her connection with her grandmother and the idea of someone researching and trying to figure out the truth about their family. Personally, I love researching family history, so this aspect of the book was right up my alley.

Hamel alternated each chapter with Emily's point of view and then jumps back into the past, so we can slowly figure out what Emily's grandmother is hiding.  I liked how she linked the generations and along with Emily, we slowly learn the truth as well.

I love historical fiction, because I always end up taking something away from it, something I wasn't aware of that happened in history.  That is the case in When We Meet Again as well. I had no idea there were German prisoners of war living in the US and working at internment camps during WWII.  This is the kind of stuff that they either gloss over in history class or straight up don't mention.  I also really enjoyed the setting of Orlando and Hamel's vivid details, especially when she flashed back to Orlando in the past.

If you enjoy family sagas that span generations, you should definitely check out When We Meet Again. It's my kind of historical beach read.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Whole Thing Together

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

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
Pub. Date: April 25, 2017

Goodreads says, "Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met. Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past. The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control…or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love."
I am excited that Ann Brashares has a new novel coming out; I really liked The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. This one sounds like a great summer novel. What do you guys think?

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