Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Pages: 432
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.  But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.  What could go wrong?  With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.  And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Zorie Everhart is someone who doesn't normally take chances, but when the opportunity comes to go "glamping" with her former good friend, Reagan, she uncharacteristically takes the chance as she desperately wants to get away from her dad and after her trip, she can meet her real friends at an astronomy get-together on a nearby mountain. Astronomy is her passion and she is excited to see a meteor shower with her fellow budding astronomers.  Meanwhile, it's the summer before senior year and instead of living it up, Zorie spends a lot of her time stressed out, thanks to her father.  Zorie was once really good friends with her neighbor Lennon, but there's a family feud going on currently and her father has forbid her to hang out with him; plus, there's the fact that he broke her heart.  To complicate matters further, she finds out that Lennon is going on this camping trip as well. Awkward much?  Jenn Bennett's Starry Eyes is such a great YA read. Books like this are why I still read YA fiction. 

Zorie is the type of character you might meet in a John Green novel and I mean this as a compliment. She's smart, awkward, quirky, and complicated in Starry Eyes. Her home life, at first, seems idyllic, but once readers scratch below the surface they see who her father truly is.  Even though Zorie has a great relationship with her step-mother, she wants to get away from her father and all the drama that unfolded this summer. Let's just say her father is a real jerk.  So, Zorie takes a chance and goes out of her comfort zone by going on this "glamping" trip to a fancy camping place in Northern California. The problem is Zorie isn't really a camper, a hiker, or even in good enough shape to be doing anything extremely rigorous like that, but her current crush is going on the trip, so she can suck it up, right? 

Enter Lennon. I absolutely loved him in Starry Eyes. He is so interesting and multi-faceted. I enjoyed every bit of this character and found myself wanting to learn more about him.  When Zorie finds out Lennon is also going on the trip, there's a lot of initial awkwardness.  You see Lennon broke Zorie's heart and she isn't quite sure what happened between them; plus, it ruined their friendship.  Zorie hasn't had any closure and there are many questions that she still has about what exactly happened.

The setting of the Northern California wilderness was fantastic in Starry Eyes. I am not a big camper, but I love hiking and exploring, so the adventure side of Starry Eyes really held my interest.  Zorie is a bit of a fish out of water, so I liked her seeing her push herself out of her comfort zone.  Plus, it didn't hurt that Lennon is, surprisingly, an expert outdoorsman.  

So, on their camping trip, there's a ton of drama, which is to be expected amongst high school students, which gives Zorie and Lennon a lot of alone time. I don't want to give too much away, but I loved them getting reacquainted with each other all while exploring nature.  You guys know I am a sucker for the whole friends-to-something more romance, so there was a lot of swoon on my part.

Also, it should be noted that Starry Eyes is for mature YA readers as there's underage drinking, sex, and other serious topics explored like affairs, betrayals, death of a loved one, and divorce.  I thought Bennett covered all of this very well though.

Starry Eyes is going down as one of my favorite YA novels of the year and after reading it, I immediately added Bennett's other novel, Alex, Approximately to my TBR list. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Stacking the Shelves and Giveaway Winners (68)

Book Review: The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner
Can't Wait Wednesday: Bellewether
Book Review: My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I'll be sharing my thoughts on two YA beach reads this week: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett and August and Everything After by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski.  Starry Eyes is about a friends-to-something more romance and outdoor adventure - it's a fantastic read and one of my favorites of the year!  August and Everything After is a darker beach read with a focus on grief as well as music set at the Jersey Shore.  Lastly, I'm sharing an awesome giveaway with Dover Books and it involves PBS's The Great American Read, which I am BEYOND excited for!


Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson - Thanks to Razorbill
From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon - Thanks to Simon Pulse

The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting - Thanks to Forever and NetGalley

Congrats to Tammy for winning ARCS of Everywhere You Want to Be and It Started with Goodbye by Christina June. I hope you enjoy the books!

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, May 17, 2018

Book Review: The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner

Pages: 334
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown 
Other Books By Author:  The Forever Summer
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When a young widow's reclusive life in a charming beach town is interrupted by a surprise visitor, she is forced to reckon with dark secrets about her family, her late husband, and the past she tried to leave behind.  Lauren Adelman and her high school sweetheart, Rory Kincaid, are a golden couple. They marry just out of college as Rory, a star hockey player, earns a spot in the NHL. Their future could not look brighter when Rory shocks everyone-Lauren most of all-by enlisting in the U.S. Army. When Rory dies in combat, Lauren is left devastated, alone, and under unbearable public scrutiny.   Seeking peace and solitude, Lauren retreats to her family's old beach house on the Jersey Shore. But this summer she's forced to share the house with her overbearing mother and competitive sister. Worse, a stranger making a documentary about Rory tracks her down and persuades her to give him just an hour of her time.  One hour with filmmaker Matt Brio turns into a summer of revelations, surprises, and upheaval. As the days grow shorter and her grief changes shape, Lauren begins to understand the past-and to welcome the future."

Lauren Kincaid married her high school sweetheart who is an up and coming hockey star.  After dating all through high school and college, they decide to make it official and get married. At this point, Rory, her significant other, is playing professional hockey, but after a few rough hits and some benching he is wondering if there is anything more out there for him than hockey super stardom.  Meanwhile, Lauren is pursing her dreams of being a journalist, but it's hard to do this when she is following Rory around and sometimes she takes jobs that are less than stellar.  To complicate matters further, Rory has confided in Lauren that he wants to enlist and serve his country.  Obviously, this terrifies Lauren as this is not the future she envisioned for herself and her hockey star husband.  When Rory is killed in action while serving in Iraq, Lauren's world is turned upside down not to mention all the media coverage has her freaked out since Rory's was a professional athlete.  She retreats to her parents' shore house at the Jersey Shore and pretty much goes off the grid.  After years of hiding out at the shore, she comes to find out that a filmmaker would like to do a documentary on Rory and despite Lauren's insistence that she doesn't want to work with him, he keeps showing up just about everywhere and has even interviewed her sister and others.  Matt thinks there is more to Rory's story than just a hockey star turned army hero and deep down Lauren knows there are many secrets, some that she isn't willing to tell. Or is she? Jamie Brenner's The Husband Hour is a delightful beach read that not only has the amazing setting of the Jersey Shore, but it also examines grief, family secrets, and essentially the idea of picking yourself up after tragedy and moving on.

Lauren is the kind of character you immediately feel for in The Husband Hour. She has been through a lot and has sort of folded into herself using the backdrop of the Jersey Shore to hide out even further.  I mean the shore in the winter is pretty much deserted, which is exactly what she wants.  Her hermit status falls to the wayside when her parents and her sister decide to spend the summer at the shore house.  What will become of her plans to be isolated with just her memories, her running routes, and her waitressing job?  Also, the arrival of Matt, the filmmaker, also complicates things, especially when he starts digging and doesn't take no for an answer.  

Slowly Brenner shares with readers flashbacks to Lauren and Rory's life as high school students as well as experiences throughout their relationship.  I simultaneously fell in love with their relationship as well as despised it as it evolved slowly into something complicated.  I think Brenner does a good job showing how things aren't always as they seem and relationships, although they appear to be perfect, sometimes aren't.  As we scratch the surface of who Rory actually is, readers can piece together a major issue just waiting to bubble over.   It's sort of heartbreaking actually.

I truly adored the setting of the Jersey Shore in The Husband Hour. You guys know that I have been going to the shore my whole life and I loved Brenner's depictions of Ventnor, Margate, and other shore landmarks.  She truly brought to life a Jersey Shore town and I wanted to hide out with Lauren as well, running on the boardwalks in the early morning with only the sounds of her footsteps, seagulls, and the crashing waves. I loved it!  Also, her flashbacks to Lauren's childhood in Lower Merion also tugged on my heartstrings as I grew up not far from there and was able to recognize many landmarks. Local readers will love this!

I also liked Brenner's portrayal of a family staying together at a shore house all summer long in The Husband Hour. Her parents also had issues they were dealing with along with her super complicated sister and her sister's son. It definitely kept me entertained!

If you like your beach reads filled with family drama and secrets that slowly rise to the surface, throw Jamie Brenner's novel, The Husband Hour, in your beach bag this summer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: Bellewether

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

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley
Pub. Date: August 7, 2018

Goodreads says, "It's late summer, war is raging, and families are torn apart by divided loyalties and deadly secrets. In this complex and dangerous time, a young French Canadian lieutenant is captured and billeted with a Long Island family, an unwilling and unwelcome guest. As he begins to pitch in with the never-ending household tasks and farm chores, Jean-Philippe de Sabran finds himself drawn to the daughter of the house. Slowly, Lydia Wilde comes to lean on Jean-Philippe, true soldier and gentleman, until their lives become inextricably intertwined. Legend has it that the forbidden love between Jean-Philippe and Lydia ended tragically, but centuries later, the clues they left behind slowly unveil the true story. Part history, part romance, and all kinds of magic, Susanna Kearsley's latest masterpiece will draw you in and never let you go, even long after you've closed the last page."

I have really enjoyed Kearsley's novels in the past and can't wait to dive into this one. I love how she combines history, romance, and usually some sort of fantasy, like time-slip, etc. I look forward reading her latest. What do you guys think?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Pages: 672
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: America's First Daughter
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.  A general’s daughter…  Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.  A founding father’s wife...  But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.  The last surviving light of the Revolution…  When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…"

Eliza, known as Betsy as a child, is the daughter of General Philip Schuyler. Out of all of her sisters, she is the one that is a bit of a tomboy and challenges conventions.  She has many admirers, but once General George Washington's aide, Alexander Hamilton, catches her eye she is smitten. After a courtship filled with some ups and downs, they decide to marry. This is big deal, because although Alexander Hamilton is an up and coming person in society, he isn't financially secure. But Eliza doesn't care; she is in love.  What ensues is a lifetime of adventure in politics, love, war, and romance.  Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie bring Eliza Schuyler to life in My Dear Hamilton and it was a thrilling and heartbreaking ride.

I absolutely love that Dray and Kamoie decided to make this a novel about Eliza. So often she is in the background - a supporting character - never in the direct spotlight. She was always the strong woman behind an even stronger man, but not in My Dear Hamilton. Here her story takes center stage and I am ecstatic about this.  I always felt like Eliza's story had so much potential as she lived a very interesting life filled with a lot more adventure than I initially thought.  Her young adulthood living at the Schuyler house and spending time with her father, who is a General, was very fascinating.  I also loved the relationship she had with her family, although her relationship with her sister, Angelica, was a little too close for comfort at times in my opinion. But nonetheless, I thought the Schuyler family was really intriguing and I liked learning more about them through Eliza's eyes.

Which leads me to Alexander Hamilton.....most people know his story and how he desperately tries to overcome his illegitimate birth and his rough childhood (all his Achilles' heel), but Dray and Kamoie bring him to life in a way that I really enjoyed in My Dear Hamilton.  Since this novel isn't from his point of view, readers are able to witness him in a different way, which I actually preferred. It really showcased not only his brilliant intellect, but also his shortcomings.

Speaking of shortcomings, I am sure you want to know how My Dear Hamilton depicts Hamilton's various affairs and yes, it is in the novel, but it is done very well. I truly felt for Eliza and I expected her to leave him, but things are very complicated between them.  Plus, they have so, so many children. Their family life seemed so idyllic at times and he seemed so devoted to her, but then I would second guess him.  Plus, there's the whole first major political sex scandal, which he was obviously involved in.

This novel isn't just about their marriage though. It involves a lot of politics and a lot of adventure. All the wars, the drama between the Founding Fathers, and need I mention the duels? Yes, more than one duel and it was heartbreaking, especially since one involved their child. So, if you like an edge of your seat historical read, more often than not, I was in a state of suspense reading My Dear Hamilton.   Also, it should be noted that this book as very well researched, so historical fiction fans, need not be worried.

My Dear Hamilton is quite a lengthy read, but the story kept me entertained.  Eliza's devotion to her family, to Alexander through all the drama, all while being a kick-butt and fascinating woman kept me glued to the pages. I hope Dray and Kamoie write more novels about women in the future, especially those who often stand on the sidelines in history, but are still very important. I am glad these women's stories are finally being told and I can't wait to see who they feature next.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Stacking the Shelves (67)

Book Review: The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

This week on the blog I'll be sharing my thoughts on My Dear Hamilton, which is a historical read that I really enjoyed.  It's from Eliza Hamilton's point of view, which was great as she so often is a "secondary character" in Alexander Hamilton's biographies, etc.  I will also be sharing my thoughts on The Husband Hour, which is a great beach read that takes place at the Jersey Shore! 

Shattered Mirror by Iris Johansen - Thanks to St. Martin's
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - Thanks to Disney-Hyperion

Tradition by Brendan Kiely- Thanks to Simon Teen
When We Caught Fire by Anna Godberson - Thanks to Edelweiss and Harper Teen

The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan - Thanks to Disney-Hyperion
The Big Alpha in Town by Eve Langlois, Milly Taiden and Kate Baxter - Thanks to St. Martin's

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, May 11, 2018

Friday Five and a Giveaway (46)

I'm kicking off the first week of my Summer Kickoff Feature with a fun Friday Five and a great giveaway. You'll definitely want to throw these two books in your beach bag this summer!  Here's what I have been up to/thinking about/enjoying lately.

1.  Hulu - We got rid of cable, because of the astronomical prices and I am happy to report I really don't miss it. I started using Hulu Live and am really impressed. Anyone recommend any shows on Hulu that you really enjoy? I'm loving that they have the full season of many of the shows I grew up watching (Dawson's Creek, 90210, Felicity!) and some of the Hulu Originals sounds pretty good.  Give me all your recommendations!

2.  Sweetbitter - I've been meaning to read this book, but I haven't gotten around to it. Have you read it? It's now a show on Starz and I am definitely intrigued. Did you see episode one? If so, let me know your thoughts!

3.  Howards End - I haven't read this classic novel, but I really enjoyed this mini-series on Starz.  The last episode covered a lot and it felt rushed, but other than that I thought the acting was fantastic! Did you watch this show? I wish Starz would have more period pieces!

4. The Great American Read - Did you guys hear about this show on PBS? It's a book lover's dream. For real! I am so excited to watch it! Did you see the list of books that made the cut? There are some on the list that aren't worthy (in my humble opinion), but so many great options!

5.  Giveaway - Thanks to Blink YA, I have ARCs of Christina June's YA novels that are perfect for the summertime: It Started with Goodbye and Everywhere You Want to Be.  Please refer to my giveaway rules and the giveaway is open to US readers only. Good luck! 

Happy Friday!

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