Sunday, January 26, 2020

Stacking the Shelves (116)

Audio Book Review: Highland Crown by May McGoldrick 
Book Review: Husband Material by Emily Belden
Can't Wait Wednesday: Island Affair
Blog Tour and Review: Sanditon by Jane Austen and Kate Riordan 

I'll be sharing my thoughts on You Were There Too, which is a delightful romance. It's the perfect kind of book to snuggle up with during the wintertime.   I'll also be sharing my thoughts on All the Ways We Said Goodbye, which I absolutely loved. Historical fiction fans won't want to miss this one!

Belladonna by Anbara Salam - Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley
The Second Home by Christina Clancy - Thanks to St. Martin's and NetGalley


American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett 

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!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Audio Book Review: Highland Crown by May McGoldrick

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction/Romance
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Pub. Date: April 30, 2019
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Inverness, 1820 - Perched on the North Sea, this port town―by turns legendary and mythological―is a place where Highland rebels and English authorities clash in a mortal struggle for survival and dominance. Among the fray is a lovely young widow who possesses rare and special gifts.  WANTED: Isabella Drummond - A true beauty and trained physician, Isabella has inspired longing and mystery―and fury―in a great many men. Hunted by both the British government and Scottish rebels, she came to the Highlands in search of survival. But a dying ship’s captain will steer her fate into even stormier waters. . .and her heart into flames.  FOUND: Cinaed Mackintosh -  Cast from his home as a child, Cinaed is a fierce soul whose allegiance is only to himself. . .until Isabella saved his life―and added more risk to her own. Now, the only way Cinaed can keep her safe to seek refuge at Dalmigavie Castle, the Mackintosh family seat. But when the scandalous truth of his past comes out, any chance of Cinaed having a bright future with Isabella is thrown into complete darkness. What will these two ill-fated lovers have to sacrifice to be together…for eternity?"

Isabella isn't your usual woman living in the early 1800s. She is a trained doctor, which is unusual for the time period.  She finds herself on the run from the British government and ends up saving Captain Cinead Mackintosh, who was essentially dying after his ship's demise.  Now that Isabella has saved his life, he feels like he owes her to keep her save since he made her dire situation even more complicated.  There's an undeniable attraction between the two that neither person can ignore.  Cinead takes her to Dalmigavie Castle, where his family resides, with the hopes of keeping her safe. However, once there they find much more is in store for these star-crossed lovers, not to mention the fact that Cinead's relationship with his family isn't great as they essentially abandoned him.  If you love historical romances that remind you a bit of Outlander, then check out Highland Crown by May McGoldrick, which is the first book in a historical romance series.

So, Isabella sounds familiar, yes? A beautiful doctor amongst a bunch of Scots? She's definitely got a Clarie Fraser from Outlander vibe going on and I appreciated it.  Like Claire, Isabella isn't some young naive teenager; she is an experienced woman and an educated physician. She was married previously to an older man (a marriage of convienance), so her feelings for Cinead take her by surprise.  It's not something she is used to.  Speaking of Cinead, I wish McGoldrick would have developed their relationship a bit more. There's a bit of insta-love going on in Highland Crown, but I guess that should be expected when reading a romance novel? Once I looked past the insta-love, I was able to enjoy their romance.

Speaking of romance, I am not a romance reader by any means. I dabble in the historical romance genre from time to time, and I decided to pick up Highland Crown as I heard it's a good choice for Outlander fans. I never got around to reading my review copy, so I decided to listen to the audio book and I was thoroughly pleased by the narrator, Saskia Maarleveld. I also loved the excerpts read from Sir Walter Scott's poetry at the beginning of each chapter. They were read by Raphael Corkhill, who read it with a beautiful Scottish accent. It definitely added to the story and was a nice touch! Both narrators did a great job and in turn, they made the story felt very authentic.

Highland Crown had a lot more action in it than I expected.  So, if you like your romance novels action-packed, look no further.  While this wasn't on the same level as Outlander, it was a fun romp through the Scottish highlands filled with a delightful romance, action, and historical events. 

Do you like historical romances? Have you read this series? Let me know some of your favorites in the comments below.  

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Book Review: Husband Material by Emily Belden

Pages: 304
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: December 30, 2019
Publisher: Graydon House
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Sometimes love is unpredictable…  Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it.  Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not. But soon a shocking secret surfaces, forcing Charlotte to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at new love arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart."

Charlotte Rosen lives a pretty normal life in LA with her roommate.  She works at a social media firm and her work is her life.  Her passion lies in a dating app she is creating that pairs people based on their compatibility and social media profiles.  No one knows anything about her past, which is just how she likes it, because Charlotte is hiding a major secret. She is a twenty-something widow.  She may never really be over her husband's unexpected death, but just when she least expects it, a package arrives at her apartment.  It's her husband's ashes! His mausoleum burned down and now she is faced with his death all over again.  Charlotte is having a hard time dealing with this unexpected "visitor" not to mention the fact that everyone knows her secret now.  This forces Charlotte to have to deal with her grief all over again and now her controlling mother-in-law has reappeared in her life along with her husband's best friend. Charlotte is forced to face some issues she may have ran from last time and she comes across some shocking secrets as well.  Husband Material by Emily Belden is a fun romantic comedy that's perfect for snuggling up with this winter.

Charlotte is an interesting character in Husband Material. She is a control freak, but can you blame her after what she has been through? The flashbacks to her relationship with Decker, her husband, are heartbreaking, because readers can see how perfect their lives truly were and how in love they were.  Then it jumps to present day where Charlotte deals with anxiety, panic attacks, and tries to control every aspect of her life even her possible dates.  It's heartbreaking.  Readers also learn more about her relationship with Decker's best friend as well as her former mother-in-law once Decker's ashes show up on her doorstep and let's just say that both relationships are really complex.

But Husband Material is not just a tearjerker. It had me laughing out loud as well and reminded me of a Meg Ryan romantic comedy. Charlotte finds herself in situations that are cringe-worthy and readers can't help but laugh.  

I think Husband Material tackles the serious topic of grief and rebuilding your life, but it's also a light-hearted read and one that will put a smile on your face. If you love romantic comedies that tug on your heartstrings, pick up a copy of Husband Material this winter. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Can't Wait Wednesday: Island Affair

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

Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
Pub. Date: April 28, 2020

Goodreads says, "Sought-after social media influencer Sara Vance, in recovery from an eating disorder, is coming into her own, with a potential career expansion on the horizon. Despite the good news, her successful siblings (and their perfect spouses) have a way of making her feel like the odd one out. So, when her unreliable boyfriend is a no-show for a Florida family vacation, Sara recruits Luis Navarro—a firefighter paramedic and dive captain willing to play the part of her smitten fiancĂ© . . .  Luis’s big Cuban familia has been in Key West for generations, and his quiet strength feeds off the island’s laidback style. Though guarded after a deep betrayal, he’ll always help someone in need—especially a spunky beauty with a surprising knowledge of Spanish curse words. Soon, he and Sara have memorized their “how we met” story and are immersed in family dinners, bike tours, private snorkeling trips . . . sharing secrets, and slow, melting kisses. But when it’s time for Sara to return home, will their island romance last or fade with the stunning sunset?"

Does this sound like the perfect spring break read or what? Also, the synopsis had me at the Florida Keys. What do you guys think?

Monday, January 20, 2020

Blog Tour and Review: Sanditon by Jane Austen and Kate Riordan

Pages: 400
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: December 10, 2019
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "A novelisation of ITV's lavish period drama, Sanditon, adapted for television by Emmy and BAFTA-Award winning writer Andrew Davies and based on Jane Austen's unfinished novel.  When a chance accident transports Charlotte Heywood to the seaside town of Sanditon, her life changes forever. And when she meets the charming and slightly wild Sidney Parker, she finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of romance, betrayal and changing alliances - nobody in Sanditon is quite as they seem.  Discover the world Jane Austen left behind and meet the characters brought to the page by Kate Riordan. Every coastal town has its secrets - but Sanditon has more than most!"

Charlotte Heywood lives a pretty simple life in the country with her family,  that is until one day an accident occurs by her house and in turn, she meets the Parkers who are now indebted to the Heywoods for their hospitality.  Mr. Tom Parker invites Charlotte's father to his new seaside community, Sanditon, but her father doesn't enjoy traveling and turns him down. Naturally, Charlotte jumps at the chance to visit Sanditon and spread her wings a bit. So, they agree to let her go, but her father gives her a stern warning that Sanditon is going to be very different than the sleepy hamlet she grew up in where everyone knows everyone. There will be strangers and people from different backgrounds, so she should be careful.  While there, she meets Tom Parker's brother, Sidney, who immediately catches her eye. However, based on their first few interactions, things are off to a rocky start.  While in Sanditon, there's quite a cast of characters: Lady Denham and her companion, Clara, and there's the rakish Sir Edward and his scheming sister.  Lastly, we can't forget Miss Lambe, an heiress, who is also Austen's first African American character.  Even though parts of Sanditon didn't entirely feel like Jane Austen herself, it was wholly entertaining novel and very delightful to be back in an Austen inspired world. Fans of the show on PBS won't want to miss Sanditon by Kate Riordan.

Charlotte Heywood reminds me so much of Elizabeth Bennet, so I immediately enjoyed her character in Sanditon.  She arrives at Sanditon and is very naive, but she is comfortable sharing her opinion, which I enjoyed. In fact, many innuendos are thrown her way and allusions to various inappropriate topics and she is very confused by this. How endearing! However, Sanditon opens with her hunting with her many siblings, so she isn't some shrinking violet.  When she meets Sidney, he is very off-putting.  I was wondering why on earth he would be the love interest for Charlotte? Couldn't she find a decent guy who doesn't yell at her at a ball? But then I remembered Austen loves a brooding, mysterious hero, so hopefully Sidney will redeem himself by the end. Fingers crossed.

The secondary characters are all very interesting in Sanditon.  I think that the show made have made them a little more eccentric and unconventional than Austen may have initially wanted, but I welcome this modern change.  I especially appreciated Miss Lambe and the diversity she brought to Austen's world. She is an heiress of a large fortune, so of course, all the gentlemen were chomping at the bit to have an introduction.  I can only wonder what plans Austen initially had for Miss Lambe, but I think Kate Riordan and the Sanditon TV show (Andrew Davies) did her justice.

My only issue with Sanditon is the fact that there were some parts that I felt weren't very Austen-esque, (especially that ending!), but once I let go of my expectations, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel.  So, hard-core Janeites, keep this in mind!

If you are an Austen fan and love Austen-inspired novels, pick up Sanditon this winter. I really enjoyed revisiting Austen's world where no one is as they seem and balls are always a fun event where someone usually and very dramatically ends up in tears.  I read Sanditon before watching the TV show on PBS and I am so glad I took the opportunity to do so as it makes it that much more enjoyable to see the book come to life and get more of an in-depth look at the characters.

Are you a Jane Austen fan? Will you be reading Sanditon? Are you watching the show? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Stacking the Shelves (115)

Audio Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater 
Can't Wait Wednesday: The Ancestor by Danielle Trussing 
Book Review: Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen

I'm part of the blog tour for Jane Austen and Kate Riordan's Sanditon, which is based on the PBS show that is currently airing.  I read the book before I watched the show and I'm sharing my thoughts on this Jane Austen inspired novel.  I'll also be sharing my thoughts on Husband Material, which was a delightful romantic comedy filled with some touching moments.  


Lucky Caller by Emma Mills - Thanks to Macmillan and NetGalley
The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley - Thanks to Macmillan and NetGalley

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarak Pekkanen - Thanks to St. Martin's and NetGalley
The Betrothed by Kiera Cass - Thanks to Harper Teen and Edelweiss


The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo- Thanks to St. Martin's and NetGalley
Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield - Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley

The Summer of Impossibilities by Rachael Allen - Thanks to Abrams and NetGalley

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, January 16, 2020

Audio Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”  It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.  Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.  His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.  But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.  For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore."

Blue lives in a small Virginia town and is the daughter of the town psychic.  She's been told her whole life that if she kisses her true love, he will die.  Pretty ominous, right? Blue isn't a psychic like her mother, but when she is nearby her, she helps to strengthen her powers.  As legend would have it, on the night of St. Mark's Eve, you will see a spirit for two reasons: either you're his true love or you killed him.  She is in the graveyard with her mother on that very night and she sees a ghost who speaks to her and she realizes that he is a boy, Gansey, who goes to the private school in town.  Normally Blue stays far away from these guys (The Raven Boys), but can she make an exception this time? Once she meets Gansey in person, she can't help but be drawn to him.  But Gansey isn't your average Raven Boy. He is on a quest with his friends that involves an ancient Welsh king who may or may not be buried in Virginia.  This quest involves a few of his other Raven Boy friends and Blue inevitably gets involved as well.  Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys is an expertly written fantasy that fans will thoroughly enjoy.

Blue is such an interesting character in The Raven Boys. Stiefvater always writes such complex characters that really stay with you.  As the story progresses, I got wrapped up in the boys' quest, but hanging over Blue's head the entire time was the premonition about her true love.  It definitely keeps the tension building throughout.  The narration also jumps to Gansey who is so much more than a trust-fund kid.  His quest to find the Welsh King is all-consuming at times.  His crew of friends: Adam, Ronan, and Noah are also very interesting in their own right and truly added to the story.

Stiefvater does a brilliant job molding The Raven Boys into a compelling fantasy filled with magic all while making it quite possible that something like this *could* happen.  There were some unexpected twists and turns throughout that I thought were also well done and most definitely took me by surprise.

However, I listened to the audio book of The Raven Boys and was a bit disappointed though.  As an actor, I really like Will Patton, but for me at times I thought his narration was grating, especially when he performed the voices for females. It was rough at times.  Nonetheless, Stiefvater's story was so well done, that I didn't let the (sometimes) difficult narration deter me from finishing the audio book.

So, if you are a fan of Stiefvater and love a good fantasy novel, check out the audio book The Raven Boys. I am so glad I finally got around to starting this much-talked about series and I can't wait to revisit the gang sometime soon.

Are you a fan of this series? Have you read it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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