Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Book Review: Montauk by Nicola Harrison


Pages: 388
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 4, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Montauk, Long Island, 1938.  A simple town on the brink of a glamorous future.  A marriage drifting apart.  A life on the edge of what is and what could be... An epic and cinematic novel by debut author Nicola Harrison, Montauk captures the glamour and extravagance of a summer by the sea with the story of a woman torn between the life she chose and the life she desires.  Montauk, Long Island, 1938.   For three months, this humble fishing village will serve as the playground for New York City’s wealthy elite. Beatrice Bordeaux was looking forward to a summer of reigniting the passion between her and her husband, Harry. Instead, tasked with furthering his investment interest in Montauk as a resort destination, she learns she’ll be spending twelve weeks sequestered with the high society wives at The Montauk Manor—a two-hundred room seaside hotel—while Harry pursues other interests in the city.   College educated, but raised a modest country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days are devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. She longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage she remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted. Despite lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor’s laundress whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was.   As she drifts further from the society women and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband –stoic, plain spoken and enigmatic. Inspiring a strength and courage she had almost forgotten, his presence forces her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and question her future.   Desperate to embrace moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting, she soon discovers that such moments may be all she has, when fates conspire to tear her world apart…"
Beatrice, although she grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, now lives a life of luxury along with her banker husband, Harry.  Harry wants her to spend her summer at Montauk Manor, where all the other well-to-do wives stay for the summer while their husbands toil away in the city.  Montauk, in 1938, is an up and coming sleepy fishing town that at least for the summer is filled with the city's finest, so the Manor ends up employing many locals.  While there, Beatrice finds herself gravitating to the wrong crowd as opposed to the other wealthy wives.  She finds herself especially drawn to Elizabeth, the Manor's laundress.  While spending time with Elizabeth, she meets the lighthouse keeper, Thomas.  Sparks fly and it leaves Beatrice wondering if perhaps she made the wrong choice in marrying Harry, who has essentially left her all summer and she comes to find that he is up to no good in the city. Well, you know what they say? While the cat is away, the mouse will play!  Harry wants Beatrice to focus on what he wants her to focus on this summer, so when she comes in contact with a Manhattan journalist who wants her to write an anonymous column about life in Montauk, she initially declines. As her summer goes on, she decides she might do it after all and highlight some of the ridiculous things the upper class partakes in while summering in Montauk.  Montauk by Nicola Harrison is a decent historical beach read and while I really enjoyed parts of it, such as the time period and the setting, a lot of the story ended up being just ok.

Beatrice, also known as Bea, is someone I really initially liked in Montauk.  I felt badly for her that she is trapped in such a horrible marriage, but summering in Montauk doesn't sound like a bad trade off, right? Wrong.  Bea is like a fish out of water in Montauk. She finds herself relating more to the "help" and the locals instead of mixing and mingling with the upper class like her husband wants her to do to help his business.  Harry at first seems like a good guy, but once you peel back the layers of their relationship you see inside is a rotting piece of fruit.  He ends up being a pretty toxic character and in turn a bit of a caricature at times.  Even though I wanted Bea to escape his clutches, I didn't necessarily agree with her interest in Thomas.  I mean she is upset her husband is having an affair in New York City, so should she stoop to his level and do the same thing? Or perhaps this is true love?  Is this risk worth losing it all?

The setting of Montauk in 1938 is my favorite aspect of the novel.  I loved the time period, the Manor, and the dynamic between the locals and the wealthy.  The crazy antics that they partake in, such as mailing dirty diapers home to be cleaned is just unbelievable.  Rich people problems, I suppose?  I also enjoyed how Bea started working for a Manhattan newspaper and anonymously exposing some of Montauk's secrets.  The events at the Manor, the dinner parties, the cocktails, the lighthouse, the quiet fishing village, and beaches were all well done and my favorite parts of Montauk.

While Montauk was entertaining enough, I do wish that Harrison would have explored the characters a bit more and fleshed out some of the plot points.  I felt like Bea and especially Harry became a bit derivative at times.  Oh, and that ending!! It was over the top depressing.

Nonetheless, if historical beach reads are your go-to summertime read, then give Montauk a try, especially if you like a story that examines the important question of whether it's worth it to risk everything for love or is money more important?


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Stacking the Shelves and Giveaway Winner (101)


Blog Tour and Giveaway: If I Were Human 
Can't Wait Wednesday: Reputation
Book Review: The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams 




I'll be sharing my thoughts on Montauk by Nicola Harrison, which was a decent historical beach read. I liked the setting, but I felt a few things needed to be fleshed out a bit more.  





Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin  - Thanks to Delacorte
Tidelands by Philippa Gregory - Thanks to NetGalley and Atria




 


Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey - Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley
Reputation by Sara Shephard - Thanks to Dutton and NetGalley




Congrats to the following winners:
The Monster Catchers - Cassandra
Beach Read Giveaway - Tina

I hope you enjoy your books!

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, July 18, 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway: If I Were Human


So far this summer I've been featuring great new picture books to share with the little ones in your life and I've been hosting some fantastic giveaways.  I'm sharing another exciting one today! 

Do you have a dog lover at home?  If so, then you'll definitely want to enter for a chance to win this fun prize package.  I am hosting a giveaway for the picture book, If I Were Human by W.B. Tyler and it's perfect for emerging readers!  My boys are always wondering what our dog, Scout, is thinking and what it'd be like to be a dog. This picture book highlights that very idea and makes you wonder what exactly your dog is thinking! If I Were Human is all about Brina, a Scottish terrier, who wonders what it would be like to be a human. After thinking about it further, she realizes how special it is to be a dog.  

Learn More About If I Were Human:



"Publisher’s Synopsis: Brina, a Scottish Terrier, has lots of fun thinking about what she would do if she were a person! But when she shares those ideas with her friends, she begins to realize just how special it is to be a dog. The simplicity of If I Were Human makes it ideal for early readers, but with its imaginative story and entertaining illustrations, adults and children alike will love it. And who knows―you just may discover that you’d rather be a dog!"
Ages 5-6 | Publisher: wbtylercom, llc | July 1, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1543972351 You can purchase If I Were Human at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. You can also learn more about W.B. Tyler by visiting his website and you can find him on Instagram.

The Giveaway:



I've partnered with The Children's Book Review and W.B. Tyler to share with you guys an amazing giveaway.  One lucky winner will win a signed copy of If I Were Human by W.B. Tyler and an 8" plush toy Scottie dog and an 8" plush toy Westie dog.  How cute, right?  

Nine winners will receive an signed copy of If I Were Human.  The giveaway ends July 24, 2019 at 11:59 PM PST.  The giveaway is open to legal residents of Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and the 50 United States and District of Columbia, who are thirteen years of age or older in their state or territory of residence at the time of entry.  Void where prohibitied by the law.  W.B. Tyler is responsible for prize fulfillment and please refer to my giveaway rules.
Do you every wonder what your dog is thinking or do you have little ones at home who pretend to be dogs? Let me know what you think in the comments below and if you enter the giveaway, good luck!


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday: Reputation

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

Reputation by Sara Shepard
Pub. Date: December 3, 2019



Goodreads says, "In this fast-paced new novel from Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars, a tight-knit college town scrambles for answers when an e-mail hack reveals life-changing secrets and scandals.  Aldrich University is rocked to its core when a hacker dumps 40,000 people's e-mails—the entire faculty, staff, students, alums—onto an easily searchable database. Rumors and affairs immediately leak, but things turn explosive when Kit Manning's handsome husband, Dr. Greg Strasser, is found murdered. Kit's sister, Willa, returns for the funeral, setting foot in a hometown she fled fifteen years ago, after a night she wishes she could forget. As an investigative reporter, Willa knows something isn't right about the night Greg was killed, and she's determined to find the truth. What she doesn't expect is that everyone has something to hide. And with a killer on the loose, Willa and Kit must figure out who killed Greg before someone else is murdered.  Told from multiple points of view, Reputation is full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. It's a story of intrigue, sabotage, and the secrets we keep—and how far we go to keep them hidden. Number one bestseller Sara Shepard is at the top of her game in this brand-new adult novel."

Sara Shepard has another adult novel coming out late fall? Yes, please! The creator of Pretty Little Lies writes such deliciously fun adult thrillers. I really enjoyed The Heiresses, so I am looking forward to this one. It sounds scandalous, right? What do you guys think?


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! 


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