Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Five and Giveaway (23)

Happy Friday! Sometimes I like to talk about what I am currently into that is not necessarily book related. Here's what I have been up to/thinking about/enjoying lately. Let me know what you think! 

1.  Harlequin's If You Only Knew NYC Contest - Isn't this the coolest giveaway?  You and a friend could win a three night/four day trip (including air and hotel) to NYC with $1,000 spending money.  How fun is that? Check out the contest here and if you missed it, you can check out my review of If You Only Knew here.

2.  Downton Abbey Season Six Trailer - Cue all the sobbing.  Why must they play with my heart like this? This version of "Time to Say Goodbye" is heart wrenching.

3.  Fall TV - What new TV shows are you looking forward to this fall? I feel like I haven't heard of many really, really good ones (other than the new shows coming to PBS) and I am kind of bummed. I like the sound of The Man in the High Castle coming to Amazon though.

4.  Carmel Apple Dip- I came across this recipe a few days ago and I really want to make it. How awesome does this sound?

5.  My Giveaway - Happy Labor Day, everyone! I am giving away a few gently used MG/YA books.  In your package, there will be an ARC of The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle, a hardback copy of The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen by Katherine Howe and a hardback copy of Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.  The giveaway is open to US readers only and the deadline is open till September 14th. Please refer to my giveaway rules.

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Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Book Review: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: September 1, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail. Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot - and women - forward. The King's scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters:sweet, naive Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne, will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power. In the tradition of The Other Boleyn GirlThe Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie's stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood; of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough."
The Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne all become entangled in the Court of Louis XV at glittering Versailles.  King Louis has always been faithful to his wife, but she is starting to age and he is starting to stray.  First, he shows interest in newly married Louise who is trying to find her way at court.  Once she becomes his mistress, she realizes that she has actual feelings towards him and he, apparently, feels the same way.  For many years they are together, that is until her sister, Pauline, writes begging to come to court.  Louise finally lets her come, thinking nothing will come of it as Pauline is not the prettiest girl, but apparently the entire court is enthralled with her personality and charm, including King Louis. So, Louise is cast aside like a day old bagel and she never really recovers from her sister's betrayal.   As time goes on, four of the five sisters end up in the arms of King Louis and I'd say the competition brings out the worst in all the girls.  The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie is the start of a new trilogy that is not only well researched, but very entertaining. You can't make this kind of drama up.

Out of all the sisters, I felt the most for poor Louise in  The Sisters of Versailles . She gets married and she realizes that her husband is sort of an ogre and then finds herself as Louis' mistress. She is finally happy (for once!) and then her world starts crumbing down when Pauline arrives at court.  She never really gets over Louis and goes back to him many times in her life.

I couldn't get over how vicious some of the sisters were, especially Pauline. Yikes. Talk about mean girls?! Some of these sisters would stab you in the back without even hesitating. What is even more intriguing is the fact that these sisters are based on the real-life Nesle sisters, which I absolutely love.

The setting of Versailles was really captivating in  The Sisters of Versailles . I usually read about the Tudor Court, but I must say that King Louis XV's Court definitely gave the Tudor Court a run for its money.  The wealth, the fashion, the women, the was all there!

Although I enjoyed  The Sisters of Versailles , I have to say that it lacked that something extra special that would bump it up to four stars. While I thought it was entertaining enough, I felt like I could care for the sisters just a bit more.

Nonetheless, if you are looking for a historical read with a gorgeous backdrop filled with a lot of sisterly drama, then you'll want to check out  The Sisters of Versailles this fall.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Love, Lies & Spies

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

Love, Lies & Spies by Cindy Anstey
Pub. Date: April 19, 2016

Goodreads says, "Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research. Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself."
I love the sound of this one and the setting of the 19th century. Plus, how cute is this cover?? 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August Confessions

Is it me or does summer get shorter every year? I can't believe August is over and before we know it there will be pumpkins, mums, and falling leaves. Even some of the leaves on the trees in my backyard are starting to turn colors and fall. While this is all very pretty, the summer girl in me is devastated. I could use a few more months of summer! Anyway, I had a pretty good reading month.  There wasn't a book that was especially stellar; in fact, there were a lot of middle of the road books. I guess not every book can be five stars, right?

Books Read in August:
1.  The Blue by Lucy Clarke - 4 out of 5 stars
2.  The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle - 3.5 out of 5 stars
3.  The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki - 4 out of 5 stars
4.  Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas - 4 out of 5 stars
5.  If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins - 3.5 out of 5 stars
6.  Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead - 3.5 out of 5 stars (review to come)
7.  The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie - 3.5 out of 5 stars (review to come)
8.  Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams - 4 out of 5 stars (review to come)
9.  The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen by Katherine Howe - 3.5 out of 5 stars (review to come)

Did Not Finish:

  • Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford and Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines - For my reasons why, check out my It's Not You, It's Me post
  • Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius - I just couldn't. This contemporary retelling of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII did not shine for me. I couldn't get past the casting of Katherine of Aragon as a blonde devious cheerleader. That's not how I see her at all. She's more like a Catholic schoolgirl, if you ask me, but more on this later.

1.  Favorite Book: Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams - Although I didn't love this one as much as A Hundred Summers and The Secret Life of Violet Grant, I still thoroughly enjoyed this Kennedy-esque tale.  Review to come in September.

2.  Biggest Surprise: The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki - I really enjoyed learning more about the Hapsburg Court and Empress Sisi. Fascinating stuff!

3.  Biggest Disappointment: There were three books I DNF this month.  They definitely are my biggest disappointments. I just don't have time for books that don't immediately draw me in. I want to be "wowed" and that doesn't seem to be happening much lately.

4.  Favorite Post: If You Love Stories About Royals...

5.  Favorite Part of August: My favorite part of August would have to be pushing myself to get back into running.  It feels good to hit some goals, especially when you didn't think you could do it. I love proving myself wrong! 

So, what is your favorite book that you read this month? What was your favorite part of August? Are you looking forward to September? Let me know!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Pages: 304
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Pub. Date: August 4, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: When You Reach Me
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Bridge is an accident survivor who's wondering why she's still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody's games--or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade? This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl--as a friend?  On Valentine's Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?"
Bridge, also known as Bridget, is a seventh grader growing up in New York City.  When she was a child, she was hit by a car and nearly died. The doctors tell her that she beat the odds.  She has a small group of best friends: Emily and Tabitha.  They have been friends since childhood and pride themselves on never fighting.  Seventh grade brings changes though.  Emily has a new curvy body that gets a lot of attention.  Tabitha tells it like it is and has many interests that her friends don't always support.  Then there's Sherm, who is also going through his own issues with his family, but when he meets Bridge, they form an unexpected friendship and maybe even something more.  Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead examines how middle school is a turning point in many people's lives. It's a tough sea to navigate and Stead gets that about middle school students.

Bridge is a fun and very eccentric character in Goodbye Stranger. She likes to wear cat ears (and not just on Halloween) and is a good friend. I loved her friendship with Tabitha and Emily, even though seventh grade can shake things up a bit socially.  I also loved the character of Sherm. Readers get to learn more about him through his letters to his grandfather who has disappointed him. It felt very raw and real.

Goodbye Stranger also examines how social media can negatively impact a person's life. In the novel, one of the girls makes a mistake with social media and has to live with the consequences.  I can't imagine how hard it must be growing up with the internet, Facebook, Instagram, etc, and I think many teenagers today can relate to this part of the plot.

In typical Stead fashion, there are three points of view that tell the story of Goodbye Stranger. One is even in second person, told by a mysterious person on Valentine's Day.  At first, I imagined middle school students having a hard time wrapping their heads around this, but if they just go with it, I think they would enjoy the novel's overall message.

Stead captures middle school so very well.  The drama, the problems that occur that seem life threatening (but aren't) and the ups and downs of friendship.  Sometimes Stead's novels make me scratch my head in confusion, but if you just go with it, you'll be rewarded in the end.  Plus, there's no denying that this Newbery author is a brilliant writer.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (85)

Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus - Thanks to St. Martin's and NetGalley
All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani - Thanks to Harper and Edelweiss

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro - Thanks to Katherine Tegen and Edelweiss
The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins - Thanks to Harper Teen and Edelweiss
Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan - Thanks to Harper Teen and Edelweiss

So what do you guys think? Have you read any of these books or are they on your TBR list? Let me know! This meme is hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: August 25, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate understands the happily-ever-after business, yet somehow she's still involved in her ex-husband's life. In fact, Owen's new wife may—inexplicably—be Jenny's new best friend. Sensing this, well, relationship isn't helping her move on, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she'll be able to bask in her sister Rachel's picture-perfect family life…and hopefully make one of her own.  Her timing couldn't be more perfect, since Rachel will need her younger sister. Her idyllic marriage has just fallen to pieces in spectacular fashion after she discovers her husband sexting with one of his colleagues. Second chances aren't in Rachel's nature, but the desire for an intact family has her rethinking her stance on adultery, much to Jenny's surprise. Rachel points to their parents' "perfect" marriage as a shining example, but to protect her sister Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship­—and reveal a secret about their family she's been keeping since childhood.  During this summer of secrets and lies, temptation and revelation, Jenny and Rachel will rely on each other to find the humor in their personal catastrophes, the joy in their triumphs…and the strength to keep hanging on."
Jenny, a wedding dress designer, used to have it all, that is until her husband decided to leave her for someone else. Except she never really got "rid" of him and even remained his friend in the aftermath. To make matters worse, she even befriended his new wife and has to witness her ex-husband, Owen, riding off into the sunset with her and their newborn daughter.  She realizes it's time for a change and leaves Manhattan for the suburb of Cambry-on-Hudson in order to be closer to her family, including her sister.  Jenny plans on starting over and she's hoping her wedding dress business will be a success in this wealthy suburb.  Her sister, Rachel, is going through her own problems despite the way her marriage looks from the outside. From the outside, it appears Rachel has it all...triplet girls, a successful husband, a beautiful home and great friends, but that isn't the case at all.  Rachel discovers a "sext" on her husband's phone and from this day forward, Rachel's world is turned upside down and she'll need her sister more than ever.  If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins is a delightful beach read that examines sisterhood as well as the "perfect" life. It reminds us that things aren't always what they seem.

The point of view in If You Only Knew switches from Jenny to Rachel, so readers get to know each woman and their struggles very well.  Jenny is starting over and I desperately wanted her to forget about Owen, his new wife and their new baby, but she couldn't make a clean break. That really drove me nuts, because Owen can't have her as a best friend. No. I was raging.  I did enjoy Jenny's attempts to start over in the suburb with her store and building her clientele.  Also, I enjoyed her budding romance with Leo, a piano teacher, that lives in her building. 

Rachel's chapters were tough to read in If You Only Knew. I hate "cheating" plots (usually) and this one was a tough pill to swallow, mostly because Rachel would take one step forward and three steps back. At times, she didn't want to believe that her husband cheated on her; she was in complete denial.  When all the signs kept popping up, she chose to believe him....that is until the other shoe drops.  Rachel was very dedicated to her three daughter and the life she created with her husband; she deserves someone better than her husband. 

If You Only Knew makes for a great beach read. There's family drama, secrets, betrayal as well as loyalty amongst sisters.  If you are looking for a beach read that packs an emotional punch and you enjoy women's fiction,  check out If You Only Knew

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