Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: A Well-Behaved Woman

Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
Pub. Date: October 16. 2018

Goodreads says,"The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.  In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt's Fifth Ave. costume ball--a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family's good name useless on its own. Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, a union contrived by Alva's bestfriend and now-Duchess of Manchester, saved the Smiths--and elevated the Vanderbilts.  From outside, Alva seems to have it all and want more. She does have a knack for getting all she tries for: the costume ball--no mere amusement--wrests acceptance from doyenne Caroline Astor. Denied a box at the Academy of Music, Alva founds The Met. No obstacle puts her off for long.  But how much of ambition arises from insecurity? From despair? From refusal to play insipid games by absurd rules? --There are, however, consequences to breaking those rules. One must tread carefully.  And what of her maddening sister-in-law, Alice? Her husband William, who's hiding a terrible betrayal? The not-entirely-unwelcome attentions of his friend Oliver Belmont, who is everything William is not? What of her own best friend, whose troubles cast a wide net? Alva will build mansions, push boundaries, test friendships, and marry her daughter to England's most eligible duke or die trying. She means to do right by all, but good behavior will only get a woman so far. What is the price of going further? What might be the rewards? There's only one way to know for certain..." 

I absolutely love books based on real women from the past and I find the Gilded Age to be such a compelling time, so this one is definitely on my TBR list. What do you guys think?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood

Pages: 320
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Other Books by Author: Born Wicked and Wild Swans
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "One summer will challenge everything the Garrett sisters thought they knew about themselves—and each other.  Kat lands the lead in the community theater’s summer play, but the drama spills offstage when her ex and his new girlfriend are cast too. Can she get revenge by staging a new romance of her own?  Bea and her boyfriend are heading off to college together in the fall, just like they planned when they started dating. But Bea isn’t sure she wants the same things as when she was thirteen…  Vi has a crush on the girl next door. It makes her happy and nervous, but Cece has a boyfriend…so it’s not like her feelings could ever be reciprocated, right?  As the oldest, Des shoulders a lot of responsibility for her family and their independent bookstore. Except it’s hard to dream big when she’s so busy taking care of everyone else."

The Garrett sisters live in Remington Hollow, Maryland, a small, quiet coastal town reminiscent of Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow.  There are four Garrett sisters. First there's Des, the oldest, who feels a lot of pressure to help out her grandmother, who has fallen ill and is the sole caretaker of the girls, and she also feels a responsibility towards her younger siblings.  Then there's Bea, who just graduated high school and is trying to figure it all out. She is questioning things and asking herself what she really wants.  Next up is Kat, who is all about the community's theater program, but things don't go as planned when her ex-boyfriend is casted in the play as well.  Lastly, there's Vi, who is a lesbian and has strong feelings for someone, but will they like her back?  Can she put herself out there? The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls has something for every YA reader and it makes for a heartwarming beach read.

All four Garrett girls are memorable in their own right, but I found myself very interested in Des, the oldest.  Her struggle between helping her family and doing what she wants is something that many people can relate to.  I also really liked how the author switched the points of view between each girl so we could get to know them individually. I also really liked the chapters in The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls that focused on Vi and I think it's good that Spotswood included a gay character that wasn't just a caricature.   I also appreciated Vi's love of YA books as well as her references to books. Bookworms will absolutely love this! I found myself nodding my head a lot when she would talk books; I would so want to be friends with her!

The setting of The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls was so darn cute. It was very Stars Hollow and I love that! Everyone in town knows everyone else's stories and the fact that it's on the coast added to the town's charm.  Also, the Garrett family owns an independent bookstore that Des helps run and this was just a cherry on top of the sundae for me.

This was a quiet sort of summertime read and one that I think many YA female readers will appreciate this book the most, especially the bookish sort. Plus, The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls has a feminist vibe to it, which I also found to be delightful. We need more of that in YA literature and less damsel in distress type of females.  So, if you are looking for coming of age/feel good story this summer, add this one to your TBR list.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Stacking the Shelves (72)

Book Review and Giveaway: Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger

This week I'll be sharing my thoughts on the YA beach read, The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood. I loved the Little Women and Gilmore Girls vibe to this novel. 


The Address by Fiona Davis - Thanks to Dutton
Double Blind by Iris and Roy Johansen - Thanks to St. Martin's

The winner of Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett goes to.......

Kim K.  

I hope you enjoy the 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.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Children's Book Roundup (8)

I love reading year round with my kids, but there's something special about reading a book together over the summer. We love chapter books, but we have been enjoying a lot of picture books lately. Here are my thoughts on the latest:

A House in the Sky and Other Uncommon Homes by Steve Jenkins - If you have a non-fiction lover at home, they will appreciate this beautifully illustrated book all about where different animals live. It covers turtles, beavers, kangaroos, and more. My youngest appreciated the pictures of the animals and seeing their homes, whereas my oldest was able to fully comprehend more of the details on the page that feature the different animal homes and the characteristics of each one.  This book quickly became a favorite in our house. 

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems - Will we ever tire of Mo Willems? Probably not. This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious! It's about Pigeon who wants a cookie just like little duckling. He can't understand why the duck always gets things, yet he doesn't. 

I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien - This is such a timely and important read. I loved sharing it with my oldest son. The story features three immigrants that are new to their American school. They must learn the English language, how to write/read, and make new friends, etc. This book feels like its ripped right from the headlines and because of that, I felt like it was a powerful read.  It teaches little ones empathy towards any new students in class and especially those that may come from other countries. Teachers will definitely want to snag a copy for their classroom libraries.  

Hansel and Gretel by Jane Ray - This is one of my favorite fairy tales, but this version was a little weird. For starters, the illustrations were a little strange and did not really enhance the story. Also, there were some major inconsistencies in the text. The story refers to a character as their mother one minute and then their step-mother the next.  I'd look elsewhere for a version of this classic tale.

The Loathsome Dragon by David Wiesner - This is a gorgeous retelling of a traditional English tale and I absolutely loved the illustrations.  If you love fairy tales, definitely give this picture book a try as it has everything I love about fairy tales: a brave knight, castles, enchantresses, dragons, suspense, and more. My only gripe is that the female in the story often needs rescuing, which I guess is a reflection of the traditional genre.

Trapped! A Whale's Rescue by Robert Burleigh - This picture book is based on a real-life story of a whale caught in a fishing net and the people that helped him to escape in order to avoid an untimely death.  My sons love sea animals, so we really enjoyed this story. It also became something they could reference when the same thing happened to a whale off the NJ coast this past week.  I love that this book is more than a survival story in that it talks about humpback whales at the end of the book, which is great for curious little minds. 

Sophie's Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli - This was a strange picture book, but in a good way if you can follow me. It's about Sophie, a spider, who makes beautiful creations. One day she makes a most important creation as well as her final masterpiece for a very special occasion.   It's a quirky type of tale, but one that I felt was really heartfelt. I am not sure my sons appreciated it as much as me though.  

Life by Cynthia Rylant - I feel like the world needs more picture books like this. Although the big message may have been lost on my boys, I still appreciated this book and I felt like it spoke to me. Don't you love when picture books do that? It's about how tough life can be, but there's always something to be happy about - something to love. It's a stunning book and definitely a good one to share with little ones as it leads to much discussion and gives us all some hope. 

Woof: A Love Story by Sarah Weeks - This is a cute story about a dog who loves a cat, but the cat can't understand the dog's barking as he tries to profess his love. Essentially, it's a story about the power of love and although it's a little strange, I liked the overall message. It would be a cute one to share on Valentine's Day.

What picture books have you been reading? What are some of your favorites? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments below. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Witch of Willow Hall

Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
Pub. Date: October 2, 2018

Goodreads says,"Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.  Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.  New Oldbury, 1821  In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.  The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.  All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…"

I know it's way too soon to start thinking about books for the Fall, well, at least for me it is, but this one seems absolutely perfect for October. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My Favorite Historial Beach Reads for 2018

I've shared my favorite historical beach reads in the past, so this post will focus on my favorite historical novels (that I read this year only!) that would be perfect for the beach.  

Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger  - I shared my thoughts on this historical beach read this past week and am giving away a copy! I was most drawn to the storyline that follows Violet, a former beauty queen and aspiring Hollywood Starlet, who lived in the 1940s.  I enjoyed the Old Hollywood vibe as well as the beachy setting of Santa Cruz.

The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable - If you love all things Kennedy family, then you'll want to check out this novel that is inspired by one of Jack's alleged affairs with a Polish immigrant who ends up being a wealthy socialite.

Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana Gabaldon - I finally got through this whole series (at least until she writes #9) and I have to say I loved this addition to the Outlander series. It had a little bit of everything and I was completely enthralled. If you haven't caught up in the series yet, what are you waiting for? 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - Hannah really knows how to write a compelling historical novel and this one takes place in the wilds of Alaska during the 1970s. It's not really a beachy setting, but it's so very compelling and would make for a great vacation read.

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams - Williams is the queen of historical beach reads. I am currently reading this one now and she doesn't disappoint. If you love historical beach reads, start with Beatriz Williams.

On My TBR List: 


Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann 
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonsson

The Secret of the Irish Castle (Deverill Chronicles #3) by Santa Montefiore
Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman

In Another Time by Caroline Leech
Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine

The Address by Fiona Davis
Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Looking for other historical beach reads? Don't forget to check out my list of favorites.  What are some of your favorite historical beach reads? Have you read any of the historical novels on my TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 19, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "What happened on that long-ago summer? In this riveting novel from the author of The Dressmaker’s Dowry, an aspiring Hollywood actress makes a shocking choice in 1940, and seventy years later, a young mother sets out to discover what happened …  Summer, 1940: When Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss Bathing Beauty in her hometown of Santa Cruz, she’s determined to see herself on the silver screen. But Violet’s pageant victory comes with a price—cracks appear in her seemingly perfect marriage…and she quickly discovers Hollywood is not the glittering escape she dreamed of. So she makes a shocking choice, leaving her name in headlines and creating a mystery surrounding her fate.  Summer, 2007: Single mother Marisol Cruz lives in a charming seaside cottage that belonged to her grandfather, Ricardo, once a famed performer on the Beach Boardwalk. Drawn to the local history of her town, Mari discovers her grandfather’s connection to a beauty queen who died too young. She embarks on a journey that uncovers his lifelong secret—Ricardo’s connection to Violet…a story of tragedy and courage that will forever transform her."

It's 1940 and Violet Harcourt has entered the Miss California contest. Her ultimate goal is to become an actress in Hollywood. But there's one problem. You have to be single to be Miss California and well, she isn't.  She is married to Charles, a good looking and wealthy businessman who seems to be perfect, but underneath the facade is an abusive jerk.  Once he finds out that Violet is competing, he is going to make her pay.  Fast forward to 2007 and we meet Mari Cruz, a young single mother who works with the local museum in Santa Cruz. Officials want to tear down the town's historic gazebo, but it holds a special place in Mari's heart as it's part of her family's history.  When studying her family's history as well as the town's, she comes across information about her grandfather and his connection to a beauty queen, Violet Harcourt.  Violet made headlines when she died an untimely death in Santa Cruz.  How is her grandfather connected to Violet and what exactly happened to her? Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger has everything that I enjoy in a historical beach read.

When authors have two different storylines that they weave together, I oftentimes find myself drawn to one character over another and that was the case here in Boardwalk Summer. I found Violet's storyline to be way more compelling than Mari's.  Who doesn't love an Old Hollywood vibe and that was definitely present in Violet's plot.  Once things start to become clear regarding who Charles really is and what kind of husband he is, I was hooked. I wanted Violet to escape his clutches, but I knew it wasn't going to be easy.

Mari's storyline just wasn't as compelling, which is why I didn't give Boardwalk Summer a higher rating. It felt a little bit unbalanced.  You can't really complete with a budding Hollywood starlet can you? So, Mari was definitely in Violet's shadow. What I did want to know was how Mari's grandfather had a connection with Violet and what exactly happened to her?

I did like the coastal setting of Santa Cruz and I appreciated Mari's interest in the town's history as well as her family's history.  Santa Cruz seems like the quintessential California coastal town steeped in history and beauty.

Jaeger does weave togther the two storylines well and things do come together for the reader. While I didn't appreciate Mari's storyline as much as Violet's, I did like how she tied it all together. I think fans of historical beach reads will appreciate Boardwalk Summer the most.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and William Morrow, I am giving away my ARC to one lucky US reader. Please refer to my giveaway rules and good luck!

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