Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2017 (so far!)

I'm sure this list will change as I read more novels this year, but here are my preliminary picks for best books of 2017. Something I've noticed is that my list is light on YA reads. Hmm. Not sure what that's about, but I haven't been enjoying YA reads as much this year. I am hoping the second half of 2017 will produce more compelling YA reads.


1.  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
2.  The Summer House by Hannah McKinnon
3.  The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable
4.  Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey
5.  Purple Hearts by Tess Wakefield
6.  The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White
7.  The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner
8.  Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani (Review to come!)


2.  Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
3.  Once and for All by Sarah Dessen (Review to come!)


1.  The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
2.  Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
3.  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4.  The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Children's Books:

1.  Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko
2.  Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney
3.  Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherry Duskey Rinker
4.  Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney
5.  Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel by Adam Rubin
6.  The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow (Republished this year!)

What are some of your favorite books of the year so far?  Let me know in the comments below.  This meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

Pages: 464
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Touchstone
Source:  Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.  After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.  Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.  The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap—testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love."

Beatrice is a dedicated neurosurgeon who hasn't had a vacation in years.  Her brother, Ben, is studying the history of the plague in Siena, Italy. He has encouraged her to come visit, but before she gets the opportunity, he suddenly dies.  Now she is headed off to Siena to go through his stuff and get his things in order. Surprisingly, she is intrigued by some of his theories surrounding the plague.   While continuing his research, she somehow time travels back to Siena during the 1300s.  She assimilates surpassingly well into medevial of life and even finds a job as a scribe where she copies manuscripts.  While there, she meets Gabriele and sparks fly.  This poses a problem as to which time period Beatrice truly belongs. Plus, there's the looming cloud hanging over them that is the plague, which can't be stopped. Melodie Winawer's debut, The Scribe of Siena, is an fanciful jaunt into medieval Siena. Fans of time travel novels as well as historical fiction will appreciate this book the most.

Beatrice is an interesting character and one whom I immediately liked in The Scribe of Siena. She is highly educated and has many interests, which I appreciated.  I loved how she jumped right into her brother's research surrounding the Black Plague. Some of the theories he proposes are pretty thought provoking as well.

When Beatrice sees her own face in one of Gabriele's paintings, that's when the real mystery starts brewing in The Scribe of Siena.  Although I didn't feel their blossoming romance quite as strongly as I would have liked, I still enjoyed the whole concept of their meeting.

Beatrice time travels to Siena right before the plague strikes, so that is always a cause for concern when reading The Scribe of Siena.  Even though Beatrice knows all about it, there's really no way to stop it.  What she is confused by is the fact that Siena suffered so much more from the plague than the other important Italian cities of the time. But why? And this is the overarching question her brother was researching and he had some possible theories. 

The best parts of The Scribe of Siena are Winawer's descriptions of Medieval Siena. They were some of the best that I've read in historical fiction. She truly brought the time period to life. It felt real and her descriptions were extremely vivid. I could tell that Winawer did an extensive job researching it all. 

My only gripe with The Scribe of Siena is the fact that it took me quite sometime to get into it. I think I was expecting more of an initial pull since time travel/time slip novels are my thing. Also, some critics are comparing this debut to Outlander and although it has a few similarities, it is a different type of novel in every sense.  So, fans of Outlander should be forewarned.  Nonetheless, if you love historical fiction and enjoy smart reads, I urge you to give The Scribe of Siena try this summer. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Post (33)

Book Review: Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe 
Waiting on Wednesday: More Than We Can Tell
Book Review and Giveaway: It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

I will be sharing my thoughts on the historical novel, The Scribe of Siena, which has time travel and a really vivid setting of Medeival Siena, Italy.  If you like historical reads that are smart, you'll definitely want to check out my review.  I will also be sharing my favorite books of 2017 so far as well as my thoughts on Adriana Trigiani's latest delightful novel, Kiss Carlo.  

Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne  - Thanks to Disney-Hyperion
The Lake Effect by Erin McCahon - Thanks to Dial 


The Dream Keeper's Daughter by Emily Colin - Thanks to Ballantine and NetGalley
No Easy Target by Iris Johansen - Thanks to St. Martin's

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

My son has started to show an interest in chapter books for the younger crowd, especially ones that have fun illustrations. Here are are the latest we have been reading together:

Dinosaur Trouble by Dick King-Smith

Rise of the Earth Dragon (Dragon Master #1) by Tracey West
Saving the Sun Dragon (Dragon Master #2) by Tracey West

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, June 23, 2017

Children's Book Roundup

Summertime means more reading with my little guys, which I absolutely love. We've been reading some new releases as well as some older backlist titles.  Here's a round-up of some of the latest books that we have been enjoying together. 

Board Books:

The Very Berry Counting Book by Jerry Pallotta  (May 2, 2017 - Publisher: Charlesbridge)
Summertime is synonymous with delicious fruits, especially fresh berries. My one year old loves this board book and not only does it expose him to different types of North American berries, it is an introduction to counting. The book is sturdy enough that he is able to flip the pages and we love looking at the beautiful illustrations together. The illustrations definitely have a vintage appeal to them. This book is a great addition to our collection of counting board books and is perfect for summertime.

Baby's First Book of Birds and Colors by Phyllis Limbacher Tides (May 1, 2017 - Publisher: Charlesbridge)
My little guy has just started to notice the various birds that visit our backyard bird feeders. He has started to point them out to me and has become very curious about them.  This board book is perfect for his age group, because not only does it introduce the various types of birds that a person may encounter, it also goes over colors.  We love reading this book together and looking at the vivid illustrations. With the warmer weather arriving and more birds visiting our garden, this makes for a perfect summertime read for little ones.

Pre-School/Picture Books:

Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber (June 6, 2017 - Publisher: Charlesbridge)
Although this book is being republished as a board book, it is perfect for preschool age children. The language is very poetic and it would be ideal for an end of summer/introduction to fall read aloud.  I love that it covers the various types of leaves that a person may come across. I especially appreciate this, since I definitely can't answer all my son's questions about various types of leaves. I also love how this book highlights one of my son's favorite fall activities: jumping in leaf piles. We will definitely be reading this book a lot come this fall.

The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow (May 16, 2017 - Publisher: Charlesbridge)
This book tugs on my heartstrings big time and I am so glad that Charlesbridge has republished this classic. I couldn't think of a better picture book about the beach that captures the beauty and the magic of a beach day. I also love that the story is all about a mother telling her son about the beach and imagining they are there. I know I have done this almost every winter myself, so I could relate to this story wholeheartedly. My son really likes the illustrations and the vivid details.  Zolotow describes the sound of the beach, the wind, the seashells, and other vivid details so well. If you are looking for a beach read for a little one this summer, look no further. This is a memorable tale for both the reader and the child.


We are in a Book! by Mo Willems (September 14, 2010 - Publisher: Disney-Hyperion  )
I can see why this particular book in the Elephant and Piggie series is so popular and has an award. It feels very interactive and my son absolutely loves the humor.  He says it almost feels like Elephant and Piggie are talking to you.  You can't go wrong with this series.

Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs by Eric Litwin (August 30, 2016 - Publisher: Orchard)
This is such a fun book, especially if you have a little one who loves dinosaurs as well as music. This story definitely has a musical quality to it. I also appreciate the overall message of sharing.  Apparently there are even Groovy Joe songs that you can download. How fun!

Pirates Don't Take Baths by John Segal (March 3, 2011 - Publisher: Philomel)
This is a fun read-aloud about a pig that really doesn't want to take a bath and his mom convinces him otherwise. The back and forth between the mom and her son is definitely something we can relate to here in my house. It made us smile. This book is now available as a board book, which I think is just perfect.

The Kraken's Rules for Making Friends by Brittany R. Jacobs (August 30, 2016 - Publisher: POW!)
I absolutely loved this picture book. It's not often that I fall in love with a book and my son does as well. The Kraken wants to make new friends, so the charismatic shark gives him some advice on how to make new fishy friends. Kids can really relate to this story and appreciate the overall message. The author gives young ones advice, but in a funny way, so it's not overly preachy. 


Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney (May 9, 2017 - Publisher: Little, Brown Books)
Pinkney has really outdone himself with this picture book. We absolutely loved it and the illustrations are fantastic. Pinkney has taken the classic Three Billy Goats Gruff tale and put a twist on it by addressing the important issue of bullying. It's perfect for a read aloud and a must-have for children's bookshelves and classroom libraries. Highly recommended.

Strega Nona Takes a Vacation by Tomie DePaola (May 12, 2003 - Publisher: Puffin)
My son loves the Strega Nona books (I do too!) and they make for fun read alouds.  I thought this book much be particularly fun to read this summer right before our own family vacation. Strega Nona is feeling overworked and one night she dreams of her Grandmother. In the dream, she is at her Grandmother's cottage by the sea.  So Strega Nona decides to go on a vacation there. It's a cute read for the summertime.

Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel by Adam Rubin (May 2, 2017 - Publisher: Dial)
My son absolutely loved the first book, so we were thrilled to check out this sequel. This one of course involves tacos, spicy salsa, and dragons, but this sequel has a time machine! It's a lot of fun and my son wanted to read it again and again. It also made him laugh hysterically.  It's a little bit on the silly side, but no complaints here.

The House Takes a Vacation by Jacqueline Davies (March 1, 2007 - Publisher: Two Lions)
This book was in the "Summer Reads" pile at the library, so of course it caught our eyes.  The people who live at the house take a vacation and in turn, the house decides he wants to go on vacation as well. The various parts of the house can't agree where to go though. It was an odd read that I really wasn't a fan of. The only thing that I truly appreciated were the very nice illustrations.  

Strega Nona Does It Again by Tomie dePaola (September 26, 2013 -  Publisher: Puffin ) - Normally I enjoy the Strega Nona books, but this one was a bit odd. It deals with an unwelcome guest and it happens to be Strega Nona's cousin's daughter. But she's wretched and straight up horrible. Of course Strega Nona has a solution, but it wasn't working for me at all. I didn't think this book was as good (or as funny!) as some of the other Strega Nona tales that we have read in the past. 

Have you read any of these children's books? Do you have any recommendations for me? We are always on the hunt for our next favorite read.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Gallery
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe returns to her beloved Isle of Palms to tell the poignant, charming story of two women, one summer, and one very special beach house. When Cara Rutledge rents out her quaint beach house on Isle of Palms to Heather Wyatt for the entire summer, it’s a win-win by any standard: Cara’s generating income necessary to keep husband Brett’s ecotourism boat business afloat, and anxiety-prone Heather, an young artist who’s been given a commission to paint birds on postage stamps, has a quiet space in which to work and tend to her pet canaries uninterrupted. It isn’t long, however, before both women’s idyllic summers are altered irrevocably: the alluring shorebirds—and the man who rescues them—begin to draw Heather out of the shell she’s cultivated toward a world of adventure, and maybe even love; at the same time, Cara’s life reels with sudden tragedy, and she wishes only to return to the beach house that had once been her port amidst life’s storms. When Heather refuses to budge from her newfound sanctuary, so begins the unlikeliest of rooming situations. While they start out as strangers, as everything around the women falls apart they learn that the only thing they can really rely on is each other. And, like the migrating shorebirds that come to the island for the summer, these two women of different generations must rediscover their unique strengths so by summer’s end they, too, can take flight in ways they never imagined possible."
Cara's mother left her a cottage, Primrose, on the Isle of Palms, South Carolina and even though it's quite old, she refuses to sell it (the land is worth a fortune!), because it means so much to her.  Cara and her husband rent out the house for the summer to an artist, Heather, who has the incredible task of painting shorebirds for postage stamps.  Heather struggles with some major social anxieties and normally keeps to herself, but that is hard to do on the Isle of Palms.  For starters, Bo Stanton is building a deck on the property and she sees him everyday.  Despite her major social issues, she can't help but feel a connection with him and the same goes for Bo.  He actually helps Heather move out of her comfort zone.  Then there's Cara who deals with a major and unexpected tragedy that shatters her once perfect world into a million pieces.  To recover from this major blow, she wants to find refuge at Primrose and ends up rooming with Heather.  In turn, an unexpected friendship forms and both women help each other through life's ups and downs.   Mary Alice Monroe's Beach House for Rent is a perfect beach read for fans who enjoy Dorothea Benton Frank's novels as well as beach fiction about female friendships.

I immediately liked the character of Cara in Beach House for Rent. I enjoyed learning more of her back story, especially about her childhood, and I liked her spunk.  On the other hand, I took a little while to warm up to Heather as she is a bit more rough around the edges.  As readers learn more about her past and as she slowly gets over some of her issues, I enjoyed her a bit more.  In fact, Heather's love interest, Bo, is very charming and I really liked their blossoming romance.

Apparently Beach House for Rent is a part of Monroe's Beach House series, but each book can be read as a standalone.  What is pretty cool is the fact that some of the characters are recurring, so I definitely want to check out the other books in the series to get more of a complete picture.  

Also, Beach House for Rent is my first novel that I've read by Monroe and I was pleasantly surprised regarding her incorporation of nature. I really appreciated all of her facts and descriptions of the shore birds as well as the turtles.  I read that the other novels in the series also highlight coastal wildlife as well as nature, which I really enjoy.  Also, her descriptions of the Isle of Palms were so beautiful as well the descriptions of Primrose.  It had me dreaming of a vacation down South and renting a gorgeous ocean front cottage with beautiful views and the sound of the waves lulling me to sleep at night.

So, if you are like me and beach reads are your thing, definitely check out Beach House for Rent this summer. It had a bit of everything that I like when it comes to vacation reading or lounging poolside with a great read.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: More Than We Can Tell

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

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer
Pub. Date: March 6, 2018

Goodreads says, "Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay...until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.  Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.  When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling."

Guys, I know next March is wayyyy off, but it's Rev's book!!!! I am thrilled he is getting his own book and if you haven't read Letters to the Lost yet, you must stop what you are doing and read it. It's one of the best YA books I've read this year.   What do you guys think?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It's Not You, It's Me (21)

It's not you, it's me."  Some books just don't work for me, whereas other readers may really enjoy them.  This feature will be showcasing books that I never finished or reviewed; you know…...the dreaded DNF.

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder  

Goodreads says, "Relationships are awful. They'll kill you, right up to the point where they start saving your life. Paul and Alice’s half-sister Eloise is getting married! In London! There will be fancy hotels, dinners at “it” restaurants and a reception at a country estate complete with tea lights and embroidered cloth napkins. They couldn’t hate it more. The People We Hate at the Wedding is the story of a less than perfect family. Donna, the clan’s mother, is now a widow living in the Chicago suburbs with a penchant for the occasional joint and more than one glass of wine with her best friend while watching House Hunters International. Alice is in her thirties, single, smart, beautiful, stuck in a dead-end job where she is mired in a rather predictable, though enjoyable, affair with her married boss. Her brother Paul lives in Philadelphia with his older, handsomer, tenured track professor boyfriend who’s recently been saying things like “monogamy is an oppressive heteronormative construct,” while eyeing undergrads. And then there’s Eloise. Perfect, gorgeous, cultured Eloise. The product of Donna’s first marriage to a dashing Frenchman, Eloise has spent her school years at the best private boarding schools, her winter holidays in St. John and a post-college life cushioned by a fat, endless trust fund. To top it off, she’s infuriatingly kind and decent. As this estranged clan gathers together, and Eloise's walk down the aisle approaches, Grant Ginder brings to vivid, hilarious life the power of family, and the complicated ways we hate the ones we love the most in the most bitingly funny, slyly witty and surprisingly tender novel you’ll read this year."
My Thoughts:
I love a good wedding story, so I had high hopes for this one. Plus, I've read some awesome reviews for this book, but ultimately, I just wasn't feeling it. I may pick it up at a later date, because it definitely has potential, but it was a bit too cynical for me. I like my summer reads a bit lighter unless they are thrillers.

Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney 

Goodreads says, "For the first time ever, the Weston sisters are at the same boarding school. After an administration scandal at Libby’s all-girls school threatens her chances at a top university, she decides to join Charlotte at posh and picturesque Sussex Park. Social-climbing Charlotte considers it her sisterly duty to bring Libby into her circle: Britain’s young elites, glamorous teens who vacation in Hong Kong and the South of France and are just as comfortable at a polo match as they are at a party. It’s a social circle that just so happens to include handsome seventeen-year-old Prince Edward, heir to Britain’s throne. If there are any rules of sisterhood, “Don’t fall for the same guy” should be one of them. But sometimes chemistry—even love—grows where you least expect it. In the end, there may be a price to pay for romancing the throne...and more than one path to happily ever after."

My Thoughts:
I love a good story about royals--usually they are my favorite, but this one with such hard-core sibling rivalry got old. I just couldn't stomach it. Also, I found it too Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for me and the dialogue was irritating.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins 

Goodreads says, "A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged. Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return. With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present. Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath."
My Thoughts:
I was so pumped for this book since I enjoyed The Girl on the Train, but this was a big epic fail for me.  I read about 100 pages and I was still so confused as to what was happening. And not in a good unreliable narrator kind of way. In the type of way that I was thinking to myself.... what is this story even about? Why am I reading it? Plus, there were about one million points of view, which made things even more confusing.

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green 

Goodreads says, "Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.   As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother's overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother's fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.   But now the Sunshine Girls are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own, their mother s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all."
My Thoughts:
In the past, I have enjoyed Green's novels, especially because they are perfect as beach reads, but this one didn't jive with me.  I was disappointed by how depressing it seemed.  The main character was pretty annoying and a total narcissist; plus, the subject matter was a bit too dark for me to bring it to the beach. I guess I was originally sucked in due to the beachy cover?

What do you guys think? Have you read any of them? What are some of the latest books that you DNF? Let me know in the comments.

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