Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Pages: 336
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Putnam
Other Books By Author: Blue Bloods
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "1777. Albany, New York.  As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.   In the pages of Alex and Eliza, #1 New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz brings to life the romance of young Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler."
Alexander Hamilton is one of George Washington's most trusted men and known to be not only very smart, but handsome too.  He has the unfortunate job of telling Mr. Schuyler some bad news straight from Washington himself, but maybe things don't turn out to be so bad when he sets his eyes on Schuyler's daughter Eliza.  Not only is she politically aware, she is smart, beautiful, and charming.  Alexander finds himself rubbing elbows with society's elite at the Schuyler's ball, which is an ironic fact not lost on him as he comes from a very humble background as an orphan. After Alex and Eliza meet, the rest is history, but the course of true love never did run smooth and that is the case here with these two lovebirds.  Melissa de la Cruz's Alex & Eliza is an interesting glimpse into their young courtship.

I don't know much about the real-life Eliza Schuyler, but I really enjoyed her character as portrayed in Alex & Eliza.  I liked that she cared about more than just a pretty dress or an advantageous marriage; instead, she cared about the world around her. She truly is a perfect match for Alex.

Alex is portrayed as larger than life in Alex & Eliza.  I also love his background and his rags to riches story.  Although his young life isn't explored too much in this novel, it is often referenced as it obviously shaped who he is and makes him insecure from time to time.  Alex & Eliza focuses mostly on their courtship and the many ups and downs in the beginning.  My only issue was sometimes de la Cruz makes Alex seem to be some sort of a mythical being. There's one part where he saves Eliza just-in-time and that seemed a bit too good to be true.

My major issue with Alex & Eliza is whether or not it was well-researched.  I am not sure that is the case as de la Cruz has embellished or fabricated a few things to make her story work. I know that is the point of historical fiction, but it felt a little more contrived than I would have liked.  For example, there is one part involving Eliza's fiancee (not sure about this either!), Henry Livingston, that is a bit embellished and I am not sure it's based on fact at all.  Also, from what I understand, this novel is also very different than Hamilton, so fans of the Broadway show should be forewarned.

Other than those few minor issues I had, I thought it was a solid historical love story that fans of Alexander Hamilton can appreciate as long as you are able to get past some of the historical inaccuracies.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Post and Giveaway Winners (28)

I've been on a much needed blog spring break and it's been quiet around here except for my review of Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out. It's like Big Little Lies set in the South. It's one of my favorite books of the year. There's also an excerpt of the book included in my review and I'm giving away a copy of Karen White's Flight Patterns, which is perfect for the summertime and just came out in paperback. 

Guys, I am so excited! It's my favorite time of the year. It's time to start sharing all of my favorite beach reads for the summer of 2017.  This is my jam.  I have a fun summer planned!   The first book featured will be Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen. Are you surprised it's a Sarah Dessen novel? I adore her and she if the queen of summertime reads, after all! 

I will also be sharing my thoughts on Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz and I'll be hosting a giveaway for a really great book for all of those recent graduates in your life!  It should be a fun week! 

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave - Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster
Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams - Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and William Morrow
Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima - Thanks to HarperTeen

Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe - Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery 
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand - Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss
Emerald Coast by Anita Hughes - Thanks to St. Martin's and NetGalley

I also received a signed bookmark and postcard from Amber Mitchell, author of Garden of Thorns - Thank you!!

And the winner of Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz goes to....


Congrats! I hope you enjoy your book!

Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for visiting. This meme is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Book Review: The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White and Giveaway for Flight Patterns

Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: April 11, 2017
 Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It's not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren't helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.   Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee--something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.  Sugar's stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother's seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather's world.  In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee's house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women...."

Merilee, mother to Lily and Colin, leaves her cushy life behind after her divorce and moves into a cottage on a farm in Georgia.  Sweet Apple, Georgia is the quintessential Southern town and of course everyone knows everyone's business.  She is renting a charming cottage on Sugar Prescott's farm, an older woman who has a no nonsense reputation around town.  Merilee's children are starting over at a private school, but things are a bit different than she expected. The other moms are very high maintenance and are helicopter parents. Think Desperate Housewives meets Gone with the Wind.  While trying to figure out her place in all of this, Merilee meets another mother, Heather, who takes her under her wing. Heather is pretty much the Queen Bee of Sweet Apple and they surprisingly hit it off.  Thanks to Heather, Merilee finds her niche in the community, volunteers for a committee at school, and meets a whole new world of people.  This is all juxtaposed by Sugar and her way of life, which is entirely different than Heather's.  Sugar grew up when things were different in the South and is the polar opposite of Heather. Sugar is all about farming, home cooked meals, no technology, and other remnants of days gone by in Georgia.  Although Sugar doesn't take to many people, she cares about Merilee since she is a single mom just trying to get by.  Readers get to know a bit more about Sugar as we flashback to her memories of growing up on the farm and the various people that lived in Sweet Apple in the past.  But as things progress for Merilee, she comes to find that behind the perfect people that live in Sweet Apple are secrets and things aren't what they seem. Perhaps things aren't so perfect after all, especially if you dig a little deeper and look closely.  Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out is a fantastic novel. It has everything that I want in a read. There's a Southern setting, some romance, some flashbacks to the past, compelling charcacters, and an edge of your seat mystery.  

I adored Merilee from the beginning of The Night the Lights Went Out. Although she was pretty naive at times and too trusting of some of the women, I still felt for her situation. Her divorce wasn't easy; in fact, it was downright scandalous, so starting over and leaving all that behind is tough for her.   She also has an interesting past and is dealing with her own issues, especially when it comes to the untimely death of her brother.  When Heather takes Merilee under her wing, she relies on her much more than she should due to the place that she is at in her life. She also takes to Sugar, who she has a strong connection with. Even though Sugar is ninety some years old, she finds they have more in common than she thought.  

Which leads me to the character of Sugar....I loved, loved, loved her in The Night the Lights Went Out. White did such a great job bringing her to life and I adored the flashbacks to her life on the farm many years ago.  Her life was also filled with scandal, secrets, and many ups and downs. I thought White did a good job alternating the present with Sugar's past.  It was very compelling!

There's a mystery in The Night the Lights Went Out, which also kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn't see it coming, but I was able to figure out who not to trust.  Of course it takes some time for Merilee to figure out who is sincere and who is playing her, but that was part of the fun.  

White also incorporates a few chapters that are excerpts for the town blogger who shares some juicy gossip and words of Southern wisdom. I absolutely loved this and I thought it as a nice touch.  

So if you are looking for an atmospheric tale that has it all and will keep you on the edge of your seat, but also has some humor, history, and romance give Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out a try this spring. It reminded me of a southern Big Little Lies and it's definitely one of my favorite books of the year. If you aren't sold yet, check out the excerpt of The Night the Lights Went Out below.

And thanks to Berkely, I am hosting a giveaway for Karen White's Flight Patterns, which just came out in paperback last month and is perfect for your beach bag this summer. It seems like another great beach read and I plan on reading it as well as I am now a huge fan of Karen White.

"FLIGHT PATTERNS tells the story of Georgia Chambers, a fine china expert who left her family years before and is forced to return home and repair the relationships she’s carefully avoided. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep."

The giveaway is open to US readers and the deadline is April 23, 2017.  Please refer to my giveaway rules. Good luck! 

Excerpt from The Night the Lights Went Out:

"A cluster of moms stood in the parking lot surrounded by high-end SUVs following first day drop-off at Windwood Academy.  The women appeared to be listening with rapt attention to the tall blond woman in the center of their semi-circle, her hair arranged perfectly beneath her white tennis visor, her long and lean limbs brown and glowy.  Merilee noticed this last part only because her ex-mother-in-law had given her a bottle of glowy lotion for her last birthday and Lily had told her it made her look sparkly like Katy Perry in one of her videos.  Merilee had thrown out the remainder of the bottle, realizing she wasn’t the type anymore to look glowy much less sparkly.
But the blonde definitely was.  Her whole body glowed.  Her face glowed.  Even the hair visible beneath the visor appeared to be lit from within.  The woman looked vaguely familiar, and Merilee realized she’d probably been one of the mothers she’d met at the open house the previous week.  She’d only been to the one let’s-get-acquainted event, her work schedule precluding any of the various parties that were held almost exclusively on weekdays when she worked.  
Merilee was terrible with names, had been ever since she started dating Michael.  He was so good at it, always reminding her who everyone was when they were at a party, that she’d simply stopped trying.  She hoped she was only out of practice instead of permanently disabled.  Her children’s futures probably depended on it since Michael wouldn’t be there to make sure Merilee remembered the names of Lily’s friends who were or were not speaking to each other.  And which of Colin’s teachers appreciated his dreamy attitude and those who didn’t.  It had always been a game with them—her recalling every detail about a friend or teacher, details always overlooked by Michael—and then he’d fill in the missing part—the name.  But now she had to do it all on her own.
She smiled vaguely in the direction of the blond woman and her entourage and had almost made it to her van when she heard her name being called.
“Merilee?  Merilee Dunlap?”
Great.  The woman not only remembered her first name, but her last as well.  Forcing a warm smile on her face, Merilee turned.  “Oh, hello.  It’s good to see you again.”
The other women parted like the Red Sea as the tall blond walked toward Merilee and she remembered that the woman had been wearing a Lily Pulitzer sundress and two-carat diamond stud earrings when they’d met before.  But she didn’t remember her name.  “I thought that was you.  I looked for you in Mrs. Marshall’s homeroom.  I’m the room mother and wanted to welcome Lily myself.”
Merilee remembered the voice.  It was very Southern, heavily laced with dropped consonants and elongated vowels.  The most memorable part about it was that it sounded exactly like Merilee’s mother.
“We were running a bit late this morning.”  Feeling suddenly short and frumpy in her dark skirt and blazer, Merilee had the strong urge to explain.  “My son couldn’t find his new uniform shoes.  They somehow managed to find their way back into the box they came in and then got shoved so far under his bed that it took nearly twenty minutes to locate them.  And then Lily spilled her bowl of cereal and milk down the front of her skirt, and I had to quickly iron one of her other ones so she could wear it.”
The woman gave her a warm smile from behind dark Chanel sunglasses as if she knew exactly what it was like to be a frazzled single mother.  “Bless your heart.  And on the first day at a new school.  You’ll get used to the routine, I promise.  It took me a whole month to realize that I should have a skirt and blouse for every school day plus one, and have Patricia have them cleaned and ironed as soon as my girls dropped them on the floor.”
Not exactly sure how to reslake, Merilee picked out the first confusing part of the sentence.  “Patricia?”
“My house manager.  I couldn’t live without her.  You know how crazy busy it is with all of the kids’ schedules.”  She reached into her large handbag that was more briefcase than purse, with a designer’s logo sprouting over its surface like kudzu.  “I was going to stick this in the mail to you, but since you’re here I’ll give it to you now.  It’s a sign-up sheet for parties and field trips—it lists everything for the year.  Just let me know your availabilities and ask Lily to bring it in to school and give to Bailey as soon as you can.  Bailey is very responsible and will make sure it gets to me.”  The woman smiled, her teeth perfect.  “Only sign up for four—every mother wants to be at every single event, but then it just gets crowded—plus there won’t be room on the bus for the kids.”
“Only four…” Merilee took the list and looked at it, almost letting out an audible sigh when she saw the woman’s name at the top of the page, Heather Blackford, Class Mother, followed by three different phone numbers.  Now she remembered.  Heather had a daughter in Colin’s class, too, both girls’ names starting with ‘B’.  
“Yes.  And if you could turn it back in tomorrow that would be terrific.  I’ll have Claire put it all in a spreadsheet and I’ll email it to all the mothers.  Please write neatly—Claire has a way of butchering your name if she can’t read it.”
“My personal assistant.  She’s only part time but I would simply die of exhaustion without her.”
The ladies behind her all nodded in understanding.
“Yes, well, I’ll take a look at it and get it back to you tomorrow.”  Merilee was already wondering how she was going to approach her boss to ask him for more time off.  The divorce and move had already eaten up all of her vacation time, and although Max was kind and understanding, everyone had their limits.
“And don’t forget the ‘I survived my first week of fourth grade’ party at my lake house this Saturday.  I’ll be handing out disposable cameras to all the moms and dads to take pictures throughout the year at our various events—I like to do little photo albums for all the kids and the teachers at the end of the year.”  She beamed, like it was just a small thing.  “Oh, and I took the liberty of signing you up for a dessert because we’re overrun with vegetables and dip and pimiento cheese.  I figured you’d know how to make something sweet.”
“Oh…”  Merilee simply blinked her eyes for a moment, wondering if Heather had meant to be insulting.
“Because you’re from South Georgia.  You mentioned that when we met.  You said I had the same accent as your mother.”
Feeing oddly relieved, Merilee said, “Yes, of course.  Where did you say you were from?”
“Here and there—but mostly Georgia.  I can always tell a native Georgian.  Hard to hide it, isn’t it?  It’s almost like no matter how far you go in life, all you have to do is open your mouth and somebody knows exactly where you’re from.”
There was something in the way Heather said it that made Merilee pause.  “Yes, well, I’ll call my mother today and ask her what she might recommend.”
“Wonderful.”  Heather beamed.  She pointed a key fob toward a black Porsche SUV with vanity plates that read YERSERV, and the rear door slowly raised.  As the other mothers oohed and ahhed appropriately, Merilee stared into the trunk where fourteen metallic gift bags with blue or pink tissue paper expertly pleated at the tops were arranged in neat rows.
Heather moved toward the car.  “A little lagniappe—that’s Cajun for ‘a little extra’ to all of my Yankee friends—for the first day of school.  My treat.  I thought we could each give our children a bag at pickup today and then head over to Scoops for ice cream afterwards.  I’ve already reserved the party room at the back of the store.  Claire is picking up the helium balloons this morning and will have it all decorated in Windwood colors.”
“You are just too much,” one of the mothers said as the other women eagerly stepped toward the car and took a bag."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Blog Break!

Hey guys! I will be taking a blog "spring break" to spend time with my family, enjoy the Easter holiday, and prepare for the most wonderful time of the Summer Kickoff feature. I am beyond excited and can't wait to share my thoughts on the best beach reads for the summer of 2017.  

I will be posting once during my blog break as I am part of a blog tour for Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out. It's a fantastic read, so be sure to check out my thoughts on it this Thursday and there's a giveaway, too! Other than that post, it will be quiet around here. I'll be back the week of the 24th!

Happy Spring and thanks for visiting,

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Post (27)

Waiting on Wednesday: The Afterlife of Holly Chase
Book Review: The Freemason's Daughter by Shelley Sackier

For the next two weeks, I am taking a blog break to celebrate Easter with my family (my son is on spring break!) and also to prepare for my Summer Kickoff, which highlights beach reads for the summer of 2017.  It's my favorite time of the year!  

I will be posting once during the two week break to share my thoughts on Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out, because I am part of a blog tour that is already scheduled.  It's a really great book, so keep your eye out for my review and a giveaway!  


Purple Hearts by Tess Wakefield - Thanks to Atria and NetGalley
Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen - Thanks to Penguin

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen - Thanks to Penguin
Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green - Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani - Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss
It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell - Thanks to St. Martins and SheSpeaks Book Club 

Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for visiting. This meme is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Friday, April 7, 2017

When I'm Not Reading YA: Children's Books Edition (12)

Now that my oldest son is a preschooler, we have become more discerning readers in that certain picture books are much more enjoyable than others. He has formed opinions too regarding his favorites. Here are some of our recent reads along with my thoughts on the various books.


The Great Pie Robbery and Other Mysteries by Richard Scarry - My son loves to play detective, so when we came across this fun collection of mysteries, I knew we had to read it. I'm so glad we did, because it is absolutely fantastic. Not only is it a great read-aloud, it's pretty funny as the two detectives are always getting into hilarious situations.

Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble by Judy Schachner - My son has just started this series and to be honest, I really don't enjoy it. I find it really, really weird, but my son thinks it's hilarious. He is always laughing out loud and my husband loves it too. Perhaps it's a boy thing? Who knows, but anyway, it's about a Siamese cat that thinks he is Chihuahua at times and has a group of imaginary friends. When he is on this particular adventure, he finds himself in Ancient Egypt. You have to have a lot of prior knowledge of Ancient Egypt to enjoy this one though.

10 Step Guide to Living with Your Monster by Laura Numeroff - My son is really into monsters right now (thank you Monsters, Inc.), so he thought this was a fun read about taking care of your own monster.  Thankfully all the monsters depicted are friendly looking, so it's ok to read before bedtime.

The Berenstain Bears and the Week at Grandma's by Stan and Jan Berenstain - The Berenstain Bears are still a hit in this house and this particular book is just an ok addition to our collection. Basically the cubs stay at Grandma's while the parents go on a second honeymoon.   Of course the cubs have fun and realize being away from their parents once and awhile is ok. It's not my favorite of the series, but of course it has a good message.

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems - We absolutely love all the pigeon books and if you have a little one that loves to stay up late and make excuses as to why he/she can't go to sleep, you must check this book out. It's pretty funny, too, which I have come to expect from Mo Willems.

The Berenstain Bears No Girls Allowed by Stan and Jan Berenstain - I actually really like this one as it teaches how we should all play together and not exclude anyone. Preschoolers can really appreciate the message.

How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace - We read this over St. Patrick's Day and it's so much fun, especially if you use it as inspiration for making your own leprechaun trap.

Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker - This companion to the ever popular Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site just came out and it doesn't disappoint. Although I enjoy the first book a bit more, this one is just as fun as it revisits a lot of the same trucks along with some new female (!) trucks as well.  My son loves it and it's all about teamwork. 

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! by Supida Bardhan-Quallen - Of course I'm sharing another dinosaur book today.  This one is especially cute, because it depicts a bunch of dinosaurs at preschool. Unfortunately, the T-Rex keeps making a mess!

I Stink by Kate McMullan - All the little ones out there that love trash trucks will absolutely adore this book.  It's all about what the trash trucks do while we are sleeping.  I'd have to say it isn't my favorite trash truck book out there, but my son seems to enjoy it!

Just Me and My Friend by Mercer Mayer - The message of this book is really, really good, especially if you have a preschooler that is learning to make friends. Little Critter has a friend over, but things don't go as planned!

Board Books:

Happy Easter, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff - It's that time of year where we break out all of our spring and Easter books. This one is a favorite, especially because it involves mouse figuring out who is hiding the Easter eggs.

The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton - This is the latest addition to our Boynton collection and although this one isn't my favorite of hers, it is a cute read for bedtime.

Baby's First Side and See - Under the Sea by Fiona Watt - These Usborne books are incredible. This is our first Slide and See book and I have to say I am thoroughly impressed.  If you have a baby who loves flap books, but is always tearing the flaps, this is the perfect book to remedy that.  At first, my little guy just liked looking at the bright colors and seeing the different things on the page move, but now he can slide it himself, which is exiting! He absolutely loves this book!

Goodnight, Spot by Eric Hill - This is one of our favorite bedtime books. It's a cute one, easy to read and very short, which is good for my 11 month old.  He loves to hold this book in his hands as it's the perfect size for little ones.  

What are some of your favorite books to share with babies as well as pre-schoolers? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

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

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Pub. Date: November 7, 2017

Goodreads says, "On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.  She didn't.  And then she died.  Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.  Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable. But this year, everything is about to change."

I can't tell you how much I love the sound of this story. A Christmas Carol is one of my absolute favorite classics and this modern retelling sounds fantastic. Plus, it's by Cynthia Hand, author of the Unearthly series, which is one of my favorites.  What do you guys think?

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