Sunday, September 22, 2019

Stacking the Shelves (105)

Audio Book Review: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn 
Can't Wait Wednesday: Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey

This week I am sharing my thoughts on The Mistress of the Ritz, which I really, really liked.  If you enjoy historical fiction, be sure to keep your eye out for my review this week.


The Map From Here to There by Emery Lord - Thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley
The Queen's Secret by Karen Harper - Thanks to William Morrow and Edelweiss

All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Karen White, and Lauren Willig - Thanks to William Morrow and Edelweiss

Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts. This meme is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Audio Book Review: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

Genre: Adult Fiction/Romance/Audio Book
Pub. Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Recorded Books
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "Simon Basset, the irresistible Duke of Hastings, has hatched a plan to keep himself free from the town's marriage-minded society mothers. He pretends to be engaged to the lovely Daphne Bridgerton. After all, it isn't as if the brooding rogue has any real plans to marry - though there is something about the alluring Miss Bridgerton that sets Simon's heart beating a bit faster.  And as for Daphne, surely the clever debutante will attract some very worthy suitors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable. But as Daphne waltzes across ballroom after ballroom with Simon, she soon forgets that their courtship is a complete sham. And now she has to do the impossible and keep herself from losing her heart and soul completely to the handsome hell-raiser who has sworn off marriage forever!"

Simon Basset should have had a childhood set in the lap of luxury, but instead, he grew up with affection only from his nanny as his mother was dead and his father resented him.  The resentment began when Simon had trouble talking as a young child.  This was a colossal embarrassment to the Duke, so instead of helping his son, he made it Simon's nanny's problem and even told people that his heir was dead.  This obviously broke Simon's heart, especially as he got older and realized the severity of the situation.  Simon used his horrible childhood to create a life a different life for himself. While he did get a stellar education, he then decided to travel abroad and live life according to his own rules.  After his father dies and he reluctantly becomes the Duke of Hastings, so in turn, he returns to society and returns to all the scheming mothers, too.  Simon's good friend from school, Anthony Bridgerton, has told him that his sisters are off limits, but when Simon meets Daphne Bridgerton by chance, they realize that they undeniable chemistry.  Plus, maybe Daphne could help Simon ward off all of the mothers who think their daughters would be an excellent Duchess of Hastings.  In turn, Simon would help catapult Daphne's depressing social life into one that has many possible suitors.  Julia Quinn's The Duke and I is a fun historical romance that I loved getting lost in; it was the perfect escape.

Daphne is everything you could want in a romantic heroine in The Duke and I . She is beautiful, but doesn't know it, she is smart, but not obnoxious about it, and while she does adhere, mostly, to the norms of the time period, she can break a rule or two.  This is especially true when it comes to her interactions with Simon.  Although they meet under tense circumstances, from that moment forward, they both can't deny the spark between them.  There is one problem though. Simon truly doesn't want to marry, at least he thought he didn't.  Daphne is getting up there in age and she needs someone to jump start her social life.  Her overprotective brothers don't help matters for her, but thankfully, Simon will help her out with that.  Obviously we know where this is going, but I didn't mind its predictability as it was so much fun to get there.

Simon is the perfect romantic suitor in The Duke and I   Obviously he is a duke, so he has a ton of money, but his past is super complicate. His childhood will no doubt tug on your heartstrings and the fact that he is a rake should turn Daphne away, but perhaps she will be the one to change him?  Once they do start to get serious about one another, other issues arise. I don't want to give much away, but for awhile there, I thought things were definitely doomed between them.

At the time, I needed a light, romantic, but funny audio book to listen to and The Duke and I  was the perfect escape. I loved getting lost in the Bridgerton's world and the rules of Regency England. The dialogue between the family was hilarious at times.  It was a nice break from the seriousness of life and sometimes we need that, right?  Plus, Netflix and Shonda Rhimes will be adapting this book for TV and Julie Andrews is attached to it, so I knew I had to read it before it hit the small screen.

The narrator for The Duke and I  audio book is Rosalyn Landor and she is fantastic. She's one of my favorite narrators so far.  Landor was able to voice both Simon and Daphne very well; it felt authentic and not jarring. It was almost like I was listening to a BBC show.

So, if you want to try a historical romance that isn't overly saccharine, but just enough to make you smile and not roll your eyes, definitely give The Duke and I  a try. While it didn't feel that void left by Downton Abbey like I was hoping, I will definitely be continuing with the series and can't wait to see what it's store for the Bridgerton family.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday: Feels Like Falling

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

Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Pub. Date: April 2020

Goodreads says, "It’s summertime on the North Carolina coast and the livin’ is easy.  Unless, that is, you’ve just lost your mother to cancer, your sister to her evangelical husband, and your husband to his executive assistant. Meet Gray Howard. Right when Gray could use a serious infusion of good karma in her life, she inadvertently gets a stranger fired from her job at the local pharmacy.  Diana Harrington’s summer isn’t off to the greatest start either: Hours before losing her job, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of their shared house with only a busted Impala for a bed. Lucky for her, Gray has an empty guest house and a very guilty conscience.  With Gray’s kindness, Diana’s tide begins to turn, but when the one that got away comes back, every secret from her past seems to resurface all at once. And, as Gray begins to blaze a new trail, she discovers, with Diana’s help, that what she envisioned as her perfect life may not be what she wants at all.  In her warmest, wittiest, and wisest novel yet, Kristy Woodson Harvey delivers a discerning portrait of modern womanhood through two vastly different lenses. Feels Like Falling is a beach bag essential for Harvey fans—and for a new generation of readers."

Peachtree Bluff fans, rejoice! If you are still sad about the series coming to an end, have no fear.  There's a new beach read coming out this spring!  Don't you love the cover?  What do you guys think?

Monday, September 16, 2019

International Giveaway and the End of the Summer Kickoff Feature

I had a blast this year sharing my favorite beach reads for 2019 with you guys. I can't believe it's my 8th year of the Summer Kickoff Feature. I hope you got some good ideas as to what bring along on vacation this summer or which book to take with you to the pool.  I didn't read nearly as many as I was hoping, so you know what that means? I hope to read a few over the winter and daydream about the warm sunshine on my face.  

As a thank you for following along this summer, I am giving away one of the beach reads I featured here during my Summer Kickoff.  This giveaway is open internationally, but please make sure that Book Depository can ship to your location.  Also, please refer to my giveaway rules.   More importantly, thank you to all my blog readers for all the comments and recommendations this past summer. I truly appreciate it!

Books Featured During My Summer Kickoff:

Book Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren 

Book Review: The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves 

Book Review: Cape May by Chip Cheek 

Book Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton 

Book Review: Drawing Home by Jamie Brenner 

Book Review: You, Me, and the Sea by Meg Donohue

Book Review: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Book Review: The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Book Review: Summer of '69 by Eilin Hilderbrand 

Book Review: Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews

Book Review: The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Book Review: Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Book Review: Montauk by Nicola Harrison

Book Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory 

Book Review: The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis

Book Review: Surfside Sisters by Nancy Thayer 

Book Review: The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore

Book Review: Start Here by Trish Doller 

Book Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Book Review: Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand 

Book Review: Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

What was your favorite book of the summer? Which one would you love to win? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Book Review: Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: October 9, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: Summer of '69 Beautiful Day, 
The Islandand The Perfect Couple
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Spend the coldest days of winter on a Caribbean beach with New York Times Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand.   Join New York Times Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand on the stunning beaches of St. John for the beginning of her thrilling new winter series-The Paradise. Welcome to Paradise, the first book in the Paradise series, has everything that readers have come to know and love about an Elin Hilderbrand novel, plus a healthy dose of intrigue. Irene Steele’s idyllic life-house, husband, family-is shattered when she is woken up by a late-night phone call. Her beloved husband has been found dead, but before Irene can process this tragic news, she must confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death. He was found on St. John island, a tropical paradise far removed from their suburban life. Leaving the cold winter behind, Irene flies down to the beautiful Caribbean beaches of St. John only to make another shocking discovery: her husband had a secret second family. As Irene investigates the mysterious circumstances of her husband’s death, she is plunged into a web of intrigue and deceit belied by the pristine white sand beaches of St. John’s. This exciting first book in the Paradise series will transport readers to a new beach locale-another world that Elin knows as well as her beloved Nantucket-and have them longing for winter."

Irene Steele has it all.  She is a magazine editor, she has two sons, a doting husband, and a gorgeous historical home that she has been renovating for years.  However, she's spending New Year's Eve without her husband, Russell.  He explained that he had a last minute work trip and since Russell travels all the time, it did not seem out of the ordinary.  Russell is very successful and is often courting clients in Florida or other beautiful locations, but Irene never tags along. She is busy with her own job and redoing their gorgeous home.  The next day Irene receives a phone call from Russ's company explaining that he died on the island of St. John aboard a helicopter.  What on earth was he doing on the island of St. John?  Very quickly, Irene and her two sons board a plane headed to St. John to figure out what the heck happened to Russell.  Once they land, they realize he owed (yes, owned!) an multi-million dollar villa with breathtaking views of the water, a wine cellar, a huge pool, and more.  What was Russell doing on this island?  Why was he in a helicopter? Why was it a secret all these years? Elin Hilderbrand doesn't disappoint with Winter in Paradise, which is the start to an exciting new series.

Irene is a woman that many can relate to in Winter in Paradise. She's a good mother of two sons, Cash and Baker. Irene has a steady job, but she feels like she is starting to get pushed aside in it, especially as she gets older.  Her friends have always thought that Russ adores her and whether he travels a lot or not, he has always been there for her.  The story takes us back to when they first met in college and everything seems picture perfect. So, what went wrong? Why would he withhold so many secrets from Irene?

I really enjoyed the characters of brothers Cash and Baker in Winter in Paradise.  Baker is the older brother who is a businessman turned stay-at-home dad.  His marriage to a successful doctor is struggling, so despite the horrible circumstances that having him going to St. John, it should be a nice reprieve from his everyday life.  Then there's Cash, who isn't nearly as responsible as Baker. The stores that his father helped him start up in Colorado went under and now he is broke. He isn't going to bring this up to his mother now though!  So, each brother is harboring his own secrets while on St. John and things get even more complicated when they meet the locals as well as learn more about their father's double life.

Russ is also an interesting secondary character in Winter in Paradise. Although he only exists in flashbacks, I loved trying to piece together what exactly happened on St. John and trying to figure out his secrets. While I could see where Hilderbrand was taking us, I nonetheless enjoyed the ride. I had to find out what Irene was going to do.

St. John is an incredible setting for a beach read. You can really tell that Hilderbrand knows her stuff about the island; she brought it to life beautifully. It made me want to plan my own trip to St. John.  Only someone who lives there for part of the year, like Hilderbrand, could provide so many descriptions and realistic details. Needless to say, St. John is on my list of places to visit in the Caribbean.  

Guys, Winter in Paradise isn't a perfect book by any means whatsoever, but I loved it. It had everything I could want in a beach read. A HUGE mystery, some romance, a memorable tropical setting, family secrets, and characters that I genuinely cared about.  I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of book two, so I can hopefully answer some of the questions that I still had at the end of Winter in Paradise.  Thankfully, we don't have to wait long as What Happens in Paradise comes out in a few weeks. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Guinevere Deception

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

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
Pub. Date: November 5, 2019

Goodreads says, "From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.   There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.  Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution--send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name--and her true identity--is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.   To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old--including Arthur's own family--demand things continue as they have been, and the new--those drawn by the dream of Camelot--fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur's knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.  Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?"

Calling all Camelot fans! Don't you just love the sound of this retelling? I can't wait! What do you guys think?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Book Review: Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

Pages: 448
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: August 6, 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: If You Only Knew
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck with That comes a new novel about a blue-blood grandmother and her black-sheep granddaughter who discover they are truly two sides of the same coin.  Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.  When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.   So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?"

Emma is a single mother with a complicated past.  You see when she was much younger, she lived with her wealthy grandmother who took her in after a family tragedy.  During her senior year of high school, Emma found herself pregnant and since she didn't take her grandmother's advice, her grandmother threw her out.  She hasn't spoken to her since that fateful day, but that is ok with Emma, because she has rebuilt her life and she doesn't need her grandmother anymore ---even her gobs of money.  One day Emma gets a phone call from her estranged grandmother, Genevieve saying that she is dying and she'd like another chance at a relationship with her great-grandaugther and with Emma.  Emma is obviously reluctant, but her daughter, Riley, who has been dealing with some mean girls at school, is showing some interest in who her famous great-grandmother is, as well as a summer in Connecticut. So, Emma agrees to go along with her daughter and her maternal grandfather to Connecticut for the summer.  Emma's grandmother, Genevieve London, is, essentially Martha Stewart. She's got an amazing lifestyle and clothing brand, not to mention one of the biggest estates in Connecticut. But under all the glamour is just an ordinary person with a very difficult past of her own.  Can the London family reconcile before all is lost?  Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins is a complicated family drama filled with everything I like in a beach read. There's family secrets, trials and tribulations, strong women, as well as forgiveness.  If you like beach reads with substance, look no further.

Emma is someone I admire in Life and Other Inconveniences. She rebuilds her life from rock bottom and makes it into something anyone could admire.  She doesn't need the London family money or approval and I like that about her.  Her relationship with her daughter Riley is a realistic one and I also loved exploring her complicated relationship with Genevieve.

Genvieve is a very complex character in Life and Other Inconveniences.  She is so much more than just a fashion icon.  Her back story is heartbreaking in every sense and her relationship with her one living son is also a hard pill to swallow.  The loss of her eldest son and her husband has made her strong, but you can still see all the cracks in her facade. I did feel badly for her even if I didn't always agree with her decisions.  Plus, dealing with the type of cancer she is dealing with will definitely tug on your heartstrings.

I do love fluffy beach reads and while I thought this Life and Other Inconvenienceswas going to be a little more relaxed, I am glad it wasn't.  Like I said, it dealt with some serious family issues: death, cancer, resentment, grief, tragedy, longtime grudges and more, but I liked going on the journey with the London family as they tried to navigate through things that one summer in Connecticut.  There were heartbreaking moments, lovely moments, and some funny ones too; so, if you enjoy a heartfelt beach read, definitely give Life and Other Inconveniences a try before summer comes to an end.

Are you a fan of Kristan Higgins? Have you read this novel? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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