Friday, November 16, 2018

Audio Book Review: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date:  April 24, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Personal Copy/Audio Book
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.  American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.  When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.  Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for. "

Ella Duran has always dreamed of studying at Oxford and her dream is finally coming true. She is there on a Rhodes scholarship studying literature, which is the complete opposite of her political job back in America.  Then she meets Jamie Davenport. At first, her impression of him is not good. Not good at all. At a restaurant, he spills his dinner on her.  Then to make matters even more awkward, she seems him again at Oxford. He is her professor! Cue the awkwardness.  As time goes on, she actually becomes friends with Jamie, along with her other quirky classmates.  Her friendship with Jamie blossoms into something more, but Ella knows that he has a reputation for being a flirt and he is never in serious relationships.  But this time he is.  What will happen when she has to leave Oxford in a year? And what is that big secret Jamie is hiding?  Julia Whelan's My Oxford Year is a charming audio book about love, loss, following your dreams, and what's really important in life.  

Ella is a character I really liked from the beginning in My Oxford Year.  She is brilliant (hello, Rhodes scholarship) and interested in many things like politics, education, literature, poetry, etc.  I found her to be an entertaining protagonist and someone I'd want to be friends with.  Jamie is also a swoon worthy character. He's smart, well-read, adventurous, good looking, but he is harboring a major secret.  They are both complex characters though and well-fleshed out.

So, I thought My Oxford Year was going to mainly be a romance and yes, I loved watching their relationship unfold, but things do get a bit dark about halfway through the novel. Be forewarned! It took a very Me Before You turn of events, which I am fine with, but didn't expect.  I thought it was handled very well though even if it was a bit sadder than I anticipated.

One of my favorite aspects of My Oxford Yearis the setting of Oxford. I truly enjoyed it and I felt Whelan brought it to life beautifully. I also really appreciated all the literary references made by the characters; after all, this is a group of academics! In fact, before each chapter started Whelan included a classic quote or excerpt from poetry.

I'm glad I listened to My Oxford Year, because Julia Whelan is an amazing narrator. I found her narration of to be one of my favorites so far.  She truly added to the story and enhanced it; it was never distracting.  I can see why she is an actress and award-winning narrator!

So, if you are looking for a charming audio book that will tug your heartstrings, give My Oxford Year a try. I already heard that its being optioned for film and I think it will translate to the big screen very well.  Have you read My Oxford Year? Let me know your thoughts! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: When We Left Cuba

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

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
Pub. Date: April 9, 2019

Goodreads says, "In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life--and heart--to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.  Beautiful. Daring. Deadly.   The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez--her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.  As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future--but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything--not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart... "

I love the sound of this one and look at that cover! Can I transport myself there? I haven't read Cleeton's Next Year in Havana yet, but I really want to.  Have you read it? Let me know your thoughts and if you'll be adding this book to your TBR list. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book Review: Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon

Pages: 299
Genre: Nonfiction
Pub. Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Touchstone
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Reese Witherspoon’s grandmother Dorothea always said that a combination of beauty and strength made southern women “whiskey in a teacup.” We may be delicate and ornamental on the outside, she said, but inside we’re strong and fiery.  Reese’s southern heritage informs her whole life, and she loves sharing the joys of southern living with practically everyone she meets. She takes the South wherever she goes with bluegrass, big holiday parties, and plenty of Dorothea’s fried chicken. It’s reflected in how she entertains, decorates her home, and makes holidays special for her kids—not to mention how she talks, dances, and does her hair (in these pages, you will learn Reese’s fail-proof, only slightly insane hot-roller technique). Reese loves sharing Dorothea’s most delicious recipes as well as her favorite southern traditions, from midnight barn parties to backyard bridal showers, magical Christmas mornings to rollicking honky-tonks.  It’s easy to bring a little bit of Reese’s world into your home, no matter where you live. After all, there’s a southern side to every place in the world, right?

Reese Witherspoon has always been one of my favorite actresses and I absolutely love her style, so when she wrote Whiskey in a Teacup, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy.  Reese covers a lot interesting topics like decorating, holidays, and entertaining, all while sharing personal stories about her family as well as her much loved grandmother.  You don't have to be Southern to appreciate Reese's stories and her advice in Whiskey in a Teacup.

The best part of Whiskey in a Teacup are the gorgeous full page photographs of Reese's home and her decorating style. You can get a lot of great ideas, especially if you like fun wallpaper, traditional homes with vintage touches.  I love antiques, wallpaper, books (obviously!) and all of that, so this was right up my alley. Reese also shares recipes from her grandmother and there were a few that I definitely took note of.  Who doesn't need a good sweet tea recipe in their life or applesauce cake? Yes, please!

I also loved her discussion on manners, etiquette, as well as her decorating style and her love for porches and a good book.  I love that Reese has this old soul vibe to her and she makes it hip and modern in a sense.  I completely agree with her sentiments regarding the importance of a thank you notes, which seem to have sadly lost their popularity in this digital age.  Also, Reese reminds us of the importance of a timely RSVP.  Can I get an AMEN? She's like this cool southern aunt that you've always wanted reminding you to do the right thing.

Some of her advice and recommendations were a bit over the top in Whiskey in a Teacup. I'm looking at you hot rollers as well as her strong opinions about never wearing workout clothes unless she's at the the gym. Yeah, that's not practical for most of us. I'm sure a few of the sections were meant to be strictly entertaining, but let's be honest.....I would love to roll up to my kid's school and take my hot rollers out and apply my lipstick all while in an adorable dress. However, in reality, I am wearing something causal and my hair is in a bun. A girl can dream though, right?

Whiskey in a Teacup isn't a read that is going to change your life, but it's a gorgeous coffee table book filled with some delectable southern recipes, some southern adages, and it's simply fun. If you are a fan of Reese or just the southern way of life, definitely check out this book. It would make a great gift this holiday season along with some sweet tea!

Are you a fan of Reese? Have you read Whiskey in a Teacup? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Stacking the Shelves (81)

Can't Wait Wednesday: All Is Fair 
Book Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I'll be sharing my thoughts on Reese Witherspoon's much talked about Whiskey in a Tea Cup as well as The Oxford Year by Julia Whelan. I listened to The Oxford Year as an audio book and thought Whelan was an amazing narrator, but more on that later!

Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller - Thanks to Feiwel & Friends and NetGalley
Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron - Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thorton - Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley
When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton  - Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

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, November 9, 2018

Children's Book Roundup (10)

It's time for another edition of Children's Book Roundup.  As always, we have been busy reading a lot of picture books and a few chapter books. With the colder weather and darker days, it has definitely made the perfect conditions for cozying up with a good book.  

Picture Books:

I Dig Bathtime by Brooke Jorden -  This is another gorgeous board book from Familus. I have a two year old son that adores trucks, so this book was a hit! This colorful board book goes through various trucks (excavator, bulldozer, etc) and how they all haver worked hard and need to now take a bath.  It's so much fun and perfect for the nighttime routine.  Also, if you have a reluctant bather, this book will definitely inspire him or her to bring his own trucks into the tub and get sudsy.

Lit for Little Hands: Peter Pan by David Miles and Brooke Jorden - This book is adorable and I love that it has different things for my child to interact with, such as tabs to pull that reveal Peter's shadow or a tab to make Tick-Tock's jaws open and close.  I also appreciate that the authors use lines from the classic novel within the board book.  It's a very well-made sturdy book that would make for a great gift this holiday season. Since I am a classic lit fan, I can't wait to check out the other board books in this series. Thanks to Familius for sending me a copy.

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee - Both of my boys really like this book and I have to say that it's pretty neat. It's a simple story about a wall, literally, in the middle of the book, but it's portrayed very visually and cleverly.  The knight is so sure his side of the wall is the safest and best side until, well, it isn't.  Maybe the other side of the wall isn't so bad?

Want to Play Trucks? by Ann Stott - I like that this book challenges readers to think beyond common stereotypes, but it felt a little preachy and I am not sure my sons actually understood the deeper meaning. They were thinking, ok, this guy likes dolls, big deal, and sort of went about their day.  Maybe the dolls should drive the trucks? Ok, cool. Either way, I think this would be a good read aloud for a preschool and a nice reminder to children about stereotypes. But most younger children, in my experience, don't really play into stereotypes just yet.

Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie by James Dean - My youngest loves Pete the Cat and in this book he is trying to be a good dancer. He steps on his friend's toes and does some other unfortunate things, but the owl reminds him to keep on trying and not give up. I love that the Pete books are always whimsical and encourage children to keep trying. Some critics have pointed out that Pete doesn't say he's sorry when he partakes in all these missteps; however, I don't think it's a big deal, at least with the way its presented in the story.

Once Upon a Twice by Denise Doyen - My oldest son was interested in this picture book as the illustrations are gorgeous, but I have to say I really did not enjoy this one. It was just weird like the Jabberwocky weird. The author uses a lot of nonsense words  in my opinion, she couldn't pull it off like Lewis Carroll.   I can't imagine a group of younger children necessarily appreciating this book. It would have to be older elementary grades for sure.

Biscuit is Thankful by Alyssa Satin Capucilli - This board book is pretty simple, but I guess that makes it perfect to share with little ones around Thanksgiving.  It's not my favorite of the Biscuit books, but it's cute. 

Pete the Cat: Robo-Pete by James Dean - Pete wants his friends to do what he wants to do, but they have other plans. So, he creates a perfect friend (that is just like him!), otherwise known as a robot. He comes to realize that this robot isn't as fun as his real-life friends. I love the message in this book!

Lifesize by Sophy Henn - I absolutely love this beautiful book. My boys have gone crazy over this one, because it brings to life the actual size of various animals. For example, one page is the size of the tiger's mouth. The other page is the size of a polar bear's paw. It's fun for kids to size up their own body parts; plus, it gives you a true respect for animals.  Animal lovers will thoroughly enjoy this book.  If you want a copy of your own, you can check out this UBAM book here.  

I am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems - You can't go wrong with Mo Willems. He is one of our favorite authors. In this book, Piggie is invited to her first party, but she doesn't know what to expect or what to wear. Elephant and Piggie come up with some hilarious costumes. This book will be sure to make your preschooler laugh.  

Chapter Books:

Beast Keeper by Lucy Coats - This is the first in a fun series all about Pan's son, Demon, and how he is in charge of taking care of the mythical beasts on Mount Olympus. If you have a child that is a fan of mythology, they will definitely appreciate this series. My son especially liked all the beasts (the hydra, griffin, etc) and how Demon had to help heal them. We also liked all the references to Hercules and his 12 Labors.  

Big Bad Detective Agency by Bruce Hale - I really enjoyed reading this aloud to my oldest son. It's a very entertaining start to the series and it was fun to see some of our favorite fairy tale characters like Cinderella, the Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, and others make cameos.  The Big Bad Wolf has been accused of a crime that he didn't commit, so he is on the hunt for the real culprit. It's actually a fun introduction to the mystery genre.  Some of the fairy tale characters are a bit cliche, but other than that, I enjoyed it. 

Let me know your thoughts on these books in the comments below and please share any recommendations with me. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: All Is Fair

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

All Is Fair by Dee Garretson
Pub. Date: January 22, 2019

Goodreads says, "When Lady Mina Tretheway receives a telegram at boarding school, she doesn’t want to read it. In 1918, with war raging, she dreads telegrams, knowing they never bring good news.  At first she doesn’t understand the cryptic message. Then she realizes it’s written in code, and the message leads her home to Hallington Manor. When Lord Andrew Graham appears with a dashing young American, Lucas Mueller, Mina learns that the two of them must work together on dangerous project for the war effort.  Thinking Mina is just a spoiled aristocrat, Lucas tries to complete the project alone, fearing her inexperience will give them away. But when the project goes very wrong, Mina and Lucas are thrown together to complete the mission before more soldiers disappear into the darkness of war."

You guys know I am always on the hunt for a compelling YA historical novel. I definitely think we need more historical fiction for young adults that really captivates and this one sounds promising. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Book Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Pages: 346
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Won from The Reader Bee
Other Books by Pekkanen: The Best of Us 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When you read this book, you will make many assumptions You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.   You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle Assume nothing.  Twisted and deliciously chilling, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen's The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage - and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love. Read between the lies."

Nellie is a preschool teacher by day, waitress by night, and engaged to Richard, a successful hedge fund manager in New York City.  Nellie left Florida behind and all the upsetting events that occurred to and when she restarted her life in New York City, she didn't expect it would be this amazing.  Richard has bought them a gorgeous house in the suburbs and her life looks like it is just starting to take off.  Then there's Vanessa.  Vanessa is Richard's ex-wife who also lives in New York City.  After her divorce, she moved in with her bohemian aunt.  Her life isn't so great as she is still reeling from her divorce from Richard.  She now has to work at the same store she used to shop in for designer clothes.  She drinks too much to forget and she can't seem to get her act together. To top it off, she is hyper focusing on the divorce and Richard's future wife. Vanessa wants to stop this marriage at all costs. Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendrick's The Wife Between Us is a fun twisty ride that kept me more than entertained.

Nellie is the sweet type of charater that you want to shake in order to wake her up in The Wife Between Us.  Sure, she is pretty aware of her surroundings since something traumatic happened to her back in Florida, but she doesn't notice the type of control freak that her future husband is. I mean he hasn't even disclosed information about the wedding so he can make it a "surprise," he wants her to quit her job, he shows up at various spots she is at, and seems to know where she is at all times.  At first it seems really protective in a nice way and then it seems a little suspicious.

Vanessa is a hot mess of a character in The Wife Between Us. She reminded me a bit of the main character from The Girl on the Train. I couldn't decide whether she was telling us the truth or not.  Perhaps her version of reality was skewed due to alcohol or possible mental health issues.  Regardless, I did feel for her in that she was left with next to nothing after the divorce and is having problems starting over....mostly because she is putting all her effort into stopping Richard's next marriage. But why? Does she still love him or is there more to the picture here?

Pekkanen and Hendricks make a good writing team in The Wife Between Us. I found it very entertaining, suspenseful, and twisty, but not overly dark like The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl. It was the right amount of seriousness mixed with a compelling mystery. I found it very readable and exactly what I needed at the time.   I definitely plan on checking out their next book, An Anonymous Girl, which is due out this Janauary. Have you read this book? Be sure to share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

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