Monday, July 15, 2019

Book Review: The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Pages: 480
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: July 9, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives and A Certain Age creates a dazzling epic of World War II-era Nassau—a hotbed of spies, traitors, and the most infamous couple of the age, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?  Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glister of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies an ugly—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau seethes with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle of it all stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of tremendous charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the willful and wounded Lulu falls in love.  Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting coverup reeks of royal privilege. Benedict Thorpe disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London and beyond to unpick Thorpe’s complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a mother from whom all joy is stolen.  The stories of two unforgettable women thread together in this extraordinary epic of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and human courage, set against a shocking true crime . . . and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple. "
Lulu, a young widow, is on the gorgeous island of the Bahamas working for an American magazine.  The British Royal family is all the rage in the 1940s, especially Edward VIII and the woman he left the crown for--Wallis Simpson.  Lulu infiltrates their social circle one socialite at a time all while dealing with spies, politics, the ongoing war, and of course,  a budding romance.  The story jumps back to Switzerland and slowly shares the tale of Elfriede von Kleist who is stuck in a health clinic due to her postpartum depression.  Her husband, a Baron, has put her in this clinic indefinitely due to events that are slowly shared.  While there, Elfriede hits it off with Wilfred Thorpe, a solider recovering from an illness.  After their time together, they can't forget one another, but Elfriede is still married despite the fact that she never sees her husband or her young son.  At first, Elfriede and Lulu's story seem worlds apart. It's almost as if the stories will never collide, but Beatriz Williams slowly and surely weaves them together expertly like a tapestry whose picture slowly comes to fruition.   If you love war time stories featuring romance, a breathtaking tropical setting, espionage, and politics, you must read The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams this summer.  

I was very interested in Lulu's story and was completely captivated story in the Bahamas.  I loved that she was a journalist sharing the activities of the Royal Family and I also enjoyed her moxie.  While in the Bahamas, she meets Benedict Thorpe and they quickly become a couple. But Benedict is often gone for periods of time and he is holding a secret from Lulu.  Is he really who he says he is? The setting of the Bahamas in The Golden Hour was picture perfect. Williams captured the tropical island so very well, but also kept a dark cloud overhead with mentions of the war and the political intrigue.  Also, Williams' portrayal of the Windsors was fantastic.  I have always been really interested in Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson's story and I loved that they are featured in The Golden Hour.

Williams' depiction of the Bahamas in the 40s was done so well that I often felt like I was watching a classic movie like Casablanca.  There were so many cocktails that needed filling, thunderstorms rolling in, atmospheric bars filled with interesting people, spies, parties, and plenty of cigarettes.  I couldn't get enough of the setting in The Golden Hour.

Williams does switch back to Switzerland forty years earlier and Elfriede's story.  To be honest, I found myself not as interested in her as Lulu.  In fact, I was getting some of the characters confused. My advance copy didn't include a family tree, but I would have definitely benefited from one.  Once I realized that Elfriede's story was important to the overall story, I found myself having more patience.  Be forewarned, you must give The Golden Hour time to unravel this secondary plot line. Trust that it will all make sense eventually.

If you enjoy historical beach reads with dual narratives, definitely give The Golden Hour a try this summer.  It will have you daydreaming of spending the afternoon under a palm tree in the Bahamas.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy 4th of July and a Blog Break

Happy 4th of July to my American friends! I hope it's a happy one filled with bbq, family, a fun cocktail, sunshine, and maybe a book or two.

I'm going to be on a blog break the next week, because I am going on a family vacation to the beach.  It's tough to decide what book to bring.  Help me decide! What will you be reading this holiday weekend?

What should I read on vacation?

Surfside Sisters by Nancy Thayer
Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank
Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore
One Night on the Lake by Bethany Chase
Created with PollMaker

While on vacation, you can still find me on Instagram.  Also, don't forget to visit my giveaway page. I currently have three giveaways going on!

Happy 4th of July and see you the week of the 15th!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book Review: Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand

Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 18, 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Beautiful Day, The Island
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century! It's 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother's historic home in downtown Nantucket: but this year Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, a nursing student, is caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests, a passion which takes her to Martha's Vineyard with her best friend, Mary Jo Kopechne. Only son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother who is hiding some secrets of her own. As the summer heats up, Teddy Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, a man flies to the moon, and Jessie experiences some sinking and flying herself, as she grows into her own body and mind.  In her first "historical novel," rich with the details of an era that shaped both a country and an island thirty miles out to sea, Elin Hilderbrand once again proves her title as queen of the summer novel."

Exalta is the matriarch of the Foley family and every summer the family stays at their historic home on the beautiful island of Nantucket.  This year, Kate Levin, Exalta's daughter, is staying there with her youngest daughter, Jessie, but Kate is having a hard time coping. She should be happy to be on Nantucket for the summer, but there's a dark cloud following her everywhere she goes and that dark cloud is the Vietnam War. Kate's only son, Tiger, has been drafted and to cope with the horrors of the news regarding the war she takes to drinking.  Her oldest daughter, Blair, is spending the summer in the city with her new husband and trying to start a family.  Her middle daughter, Kirby, is a bit of a wild child and wants to spend the summer working on Martha's Vineyard.  So, that just leaves Kate, Exalta, Jessie, and the caretaker of the house for the entire summer.  Kate's second husband and Jessie's father, will visit on weekends, but his relationship with Katie is strained the more she takes to drinking to cope.  The summer of '69 tends to be a life-changing summer for the Foley-Levin family and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. If you like historical beach reads you won't be disappointed by Elin Hilderbrand's Summer of '69.

I love how Hilderbrand captures the dynamics of a large family, especially when it comes to the strong women in Summer of '69.  Kate is an complex character; my heart went out to her. While I didn't approve of how she was dealing with her depression, I can't imagine what she is going through with her son at Vietnam and having to listen to the news surrounding the horrific war.  Her preoccupation with this means she isn't spending enough quality time with her thirteen year old daughter, Jessie.  The relationship with her mother, Exalta, also proved to be stressful at times despite having the whole house to themselves.  Jessie is also a character that tugged on my heartstrings. Thirteen is such a tough age and Hilderbrand captured it so very well.  Jessie has been going through a lot especially when her mother turns the other way. She has a new found freedom, she makes mistakes, there's her first crush and testing her boundaries.....all while dealing with the fact that her older brother is at war.  I liked that Tiger often wrote to Jessie and Hilderbrand highlighted their relationship through those letters. 

Then there's Blair and Kirby in Summer of '69. I was really drawn to Kirby's storyline as she is a pretty fascinating feminist whereas Blair's plot really made me sad.  Blair should be a happy newlywed married to Angus, an astrophysicist. I mean what an exciting time to be married to someone who is working on things in space, especially since man first walked on the moon that summer.  But ultimately, Angus is a jerk.  I won't go into it too much, but it depressed me that Blair sort of adhered to his rules and essentially changed herself for him.  Their relationship is super complicated, especially since Angus is dealing with his own issues. On the other hand, Kirby's plot is a little more interesting in that she is hiding a secret. She got into some trouble (arrested protesting the war!) and is withholding some other secrets from her family.  She wants to make a fresh start in Martha's Vineyard and work at the hotel, which will definitely make for an interesting summer. But no matter how far she goes from home, she still needs to face her past.

Summer of '69 is so much more than just a fluffy beach read featuring family drama.  There's major issues that Hilderbrand tackles in this novel - everything from antisemitism, Teddy Kennedy's car wreck, mental health, feminism, racism, and so much more. I was rooting for the Foley-Levin family and desperately wanted Tiger to be ok.  Although some of Hildebrand's previous novels (Here's to Us) were a bit of a disappointment, I can confidently say Summer of '69 is not. It's beach reading at its finest! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

What I'm Reading Next (23)

Oh, of my favorite months. The summer days seem to stretch on endlessly and they are filled with so much promise. But the big question is...can I actually find time to sit and read amidst all the other summer events? Fingers crossed I have a better reading month than last month.  Here are the books that are on my TBR list for this month. I surely won't get to them all, but these are the books I am picking from.

Surfside Sisters by Nancy Thayer 

You can always count on Nancy Thayer for giving you a good beach read.  Usually her novels aren't absolute hits for me, but they are perfect for a lazy day at the pool or beach. This one is about a woman who returns home to Nantucket to face her mother, her ex-best friend, and her former crush. It sounds like the ingredients for a delightful beach read!

Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank

Same as Nancy Thayer, Frank's novels have been hit or miss for me, but I just have to give this one a try.  It's about a woman who moves to Sullivan's Island to start over. I'm a sucker for a coastal Southern setting. How gorgeous is this cover?

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

I love all things Grace Kelly. I find her life really fascinating and I am excited to dive into this historical read.

You guys know I love a good historical read in the summer and I think this one sounds really intriguing. It involves dark family secrets and a Southern cotton town in the 1920s.

Fellow bookworms, how cute does this one sound? It involves an introvert, Nina, whose father dies and she finds out that she has another family that she didn't know about that lives nearby. 

Next Year in Havana by Chantel Cleeton

I read her most recent novel first (which I probably shouldn't have) and I thought it was pretty good. I am really curious about this one. 

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo 

I have the paperback of this book and it's been collecting dust. I may throw it into my beach bag this vacation, because I like paperbacks at the beach over my e-reader.  I've heard this one is a bit of an emotional read; I like the star-crossed lovers vibe. 

I also didn't get to a few from June's TBR list: The Islanders, One Night at the Lake and The Orphan's Song.  I hope to read them by the end of the summer.

What do you plan to read this month? Are any of these books on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Love Big

Summertime is the perfect time to share new picture books with the children in your life and I always appreciate a picture book that has a good message to share.  Love Big by Kat Kronenberg came out this past winter and it is set in Africa on the Savannah. Animal lovers will enjoy that! The overall message of the book is to be kind to one another and the importance of building a WE community.  Also, Love Big was a 2018 Mom's Choice Awards Gold Award recipient.

Learn More about Love Big:

Publisher’s Synopsis: "The once thriving, African savanna has turned dry and desolate. Baboon watches animals who are so hungry that they seek only their own interest. Rhinoceros destroys Termite’s castle in his race to find food. Hare chooses not to share food with her family, and Lion steals from his pride. But after Baboon sees Rhinoceros give Hare his snack-on-a-stick, everything changes! Baboon realizes that a transformative power exists between the animals and the stardust that surrounds them once they share smiles and truly believe in themselves and each other. Read on to see if Baboon can save the savanna with this new secret and a very stinky, unlike hero…"
Ages 3-10 | Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press | January 8, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1626346000
You can purchase Love Big at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound. You can learn more about Love Big on Kat Kronenberg's website and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Giveaway: 

Today I partnered with The Children's Book Review and Kat Kronenberg to share with you guys a fantastic giveaway for a signed copy of Love Big and a school visit* from the author valued at $550.  In addition to winning a signed copy of the book and the author's visit, one winner will also receive Kat's new light-up Heart of Stars plush toy and all the downloadable activities and extras from her website. How fun is that?  Also, five winners will receive a signed copy of Love Big plus the light-up Heart of Stars plush toy.  

The giveaway begins June 20, 2019 and ends July 20, 2019 11:59 PM PST. The giveaway is open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 17 and older.  Kat Kronenberg is responsible for prize fulfillment.  

*Date, time, and school for the visit is to be worked out between the winner and Kat Kronenberg.  The school must be within 2 hours driving distance of any major airport on the mainline.  Parents at the school must be offered a change to buy Love Big so that their students have the opportunity to take home an autograped copy with their name in it.  Kat Kronenberg must be able to set up at least one more school visit in the area.  Click here for all the giveaway rules.

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Good luck and thanks for visiting!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

June Confessions

The warm weather is here (finally) and that means patio reading, poolside reading, and beach reading season are here! I'd like to say that I read a lot this month, but sadly, I really didn't. I was very busy with end of the school year activities with my oldest son, sports for both of them, and weekend trips to the Pocono Mountains as well as the beach.  Busy, busy, busy! I better find more time to read next month, especially while I am on vacation.  Did you guys find more time to read this month or do you find that the summertime is just too busy?

Books Read in June:
1.  Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews (Adult Fiction) - 3.5 out of 5 stars
2.  The Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy (Audio Book/ Non-Fiction) - 4 out of 5 stars
3.  The Monster Catchers by George Brewington (MG Fiction) - 3.5 out of 5 stars
4.  Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand (Adult Historical Fiction) - 4 out of 5 stars (Review to come!)

Chapter Books:
1.  Ramona the Brave by Beverly Clearly

1.  Favorite Book: Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand is my favorite book of the month. It's a fantastic beach read and you guys know I love my historical beach reads.  I'm hoping she continues writing historical fiction, because I thought she captured the time period very well.

2.  Biggest Surprise: The Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy was a big surprise for me. I listened to it as an audio book and since it's non-fiction I thought I wouldn't be as engaged as the other audio books I've listened to this year. That was definitely not true! This was very interesting and there's a lot of juicy details to keep you entertained.

3.  Biggest Disappointment:  Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews ended up being just an ok read for me. I was expecting so much more, but it was more of a mystery than of a beach read, which took me by surprise. I mean look at the cover?! The last novel I read by her was like this as well, so perhaps this is her new thing?

4.  Favorite Post: Blog Tour and Giveaway: Montauk

5.  Favorite Part of June: We love visiting the shore on the weekends and spending time with family, but we tried something new this month. We took the kids to the Pocono Mountains as they have never been there. It was a lot of fun to try something new, enjoy the lakes, and the mountain life. Have you visited the Poconos before?

What was your favorite book you read this month? Which one was disappointing? Let me know your thoughts!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Friday Five and a Giveaway (50)

It's Friday and I'm kicking off the weekend with a fun beach read giveaway and sharing my current favorite things that aren't necessarily book related. Welp, most of them are.  Let me know what you think!

1.  The Spanish Princess on Starz - Guys, I loved Philippa Gregory's The Constant Princess which focues on a young Catherine of Aragon and this show is based on that book.  I remember I read it on the beach years ago and devoured it. It brought a whole new light to Catherine instead of this matronly curmudgeon that I envisioned, thanks to Anne Boleyn, she was once a powerful young woman.  The show on Starz truly captures this and although the first few episodes were pretty rough, it definitely got better. I am excited to hear that there will be a season two. Did you guys watch the show? Have you read the book?

2.  Elin Hilderbrand + TV - Did you guys hear that a few of Elin Hilderbrand's beach reads are going to be adapted for TV? I am thrilled! They are adapting The Identicals, The Matchmaker, and The Blue Bistro, but I haven't read any of these! I have The Matchmaker on my shelf, so I may start there. Did you guys hear this news? Have you read these books? Let me know your thoughts.

3.  Favorite Book of the Summer (so far!) - I loved Hilderbrand's Summer of '69, Dessen's The Rest of the Story, Christina Lauren's The Unhoneymooners, and Tracey Garvis Graves' The Girl He Used to Know. I have read so many amazing novels so far and I look forward to reading more beach reads this summer. What's been your favorite book of the summer so far?

4.  Beatriz Williams + TV - I also heard that Beatriz Williams' The Summer Wives will be adapted for TV, which is THRILLING. If you know me, you know I am a huge Beatriz Williams fan. I really enjoyed this book, so it will be fun to watch it come to life. Have you read it? What do you think about this news?

5.  Beach Read Giveaway - I want to kick off the weekend with a giveaway for a beach read. One winner will pick one of the ARCs from my stash.  

This giveaway is open to US residents only and please refer to my giveaway rules. Good luck!

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Have a great weekend,

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