Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: The High Season by Judy Blundell


Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 22, 2018
Publisher: Random House
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "No matter what the world throws her way, at least Ruthie Beamish has the house. Lovingly renovated, located by the sea in a quiet village two ferry rides from the glitzier Hamptons, the house is Ruthie's nest egg--the retirement account shared with her ex-husband, Mike, and the college fund for their teenage daughter, Jem. The catch? To afford the house, Ruthie must let it go during the best part of the year.  It's Memorial Day weekend and Ruthie has packed up their belongings for what Jem calls "the summer bummer" the family's annual exodus to make way for renters. This year, the Hamptons set has arrived. Adeline Clay is elegant, connected, and accompanied by a "gorgeous satellite" stepson.  The widow of a blue-chip artist, in a world defined by luxury and ease, Adeline demonstrates an uncanny ability to help herself to Ruthie's life. Is Adeline just being her fabulous self, or is she out to take what she wants?  When an eccentric billionaire, his wayward daughter, a coterie of social climbers, and Ruthie's old flame are thrown into the mix, the entire town finds itself on the verge of tumultuous change. But as Ruthie loses her grasp on her job, her home, and her family, she discovers a new talent for pushing back. By the end of one unhinged, unforgettable summer, nothing will be the same--least of all Ruthie.  In a novel packed with indelible characters, crackling wit, and upstairs/downstairs drama, Judy Blundell emerges as a voice for all seasons--a wry and original storyteller who knows how the most disruptive events in our lives can twist endings into new beginnings."

Ruthie's life is just about to get more complicated. It's Memorial Day weekend and that means she must leave her gorgeous beach house for the renters that are coming for the summer. This is how she affords to live in such a beautiful home. This year her beach house is being rented by a super rich woman and to top it off, her job is on the rocks.  Plus, her teenage daughter is getting herself into a bit of trouble.  Orient, her quiet beach town, is supposed to be way different than the glamorous Hamptons. In fact, it's two ferry rides away! But her summer is getting more dramatic by the minute, especially when you throw her ex-husband into the mix.  Cue all the drama and add in a side of some juicy secrets and you'll have yourself an entertaining beach read in Judy Blundell's debut, The High Season.

I think Blundell captures a middle age perfectly with the character of Ruthie in The High Season.  The drama that surrounds this summer and Ruthie is rather unfortunate, but I was rooting for her from the get-go. Her world is turned a bit upside down and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I also appreciated all the details of the art world, which is important to Ruthie as she works at a museum.  

Her daugtehr, Jem, is portrayed very realistically in The High Season. After all, Blundell is known for her young adult novels, so she especially did a good job with Jem's coming of age story.  I also appreciated the role of social media in this story, which his a very timely and important topic. 

The best part of The High Season is Blundell's portrayal of the beach town. Who doesn't love a good beach read that takes place in Long Island? There's definitely a divide amongst the rich vacationers and the local people in The High Season, but that's what makes this novel so juicy at times. I loved Blundell's descriptions of the simplicity of the town, which is the polar opposite of the glitzy Hamptons. Blundell describes Orient as "pies and parades and stony beaches that hurt your feet, banging screen doors and peaches eaten over the sink." I absolutely loved that line in the book!

I'm going to be honest though.....it took me quite awhile to get into The High Season; in fact, I almost put it down numerous times. Blundell introduced readers to many characters all at once and I had a hard time keeping them all straight.  Plus, I also wasn't invested in Ruthie's story as I would have liked. 

Many people said that The High Season was going to be THE beach read of the summer and while I liked it, it wasn't my absolute favorite. Entertaining? Yes! Memorable? Not so sure about that. Nonetheless, I will definitely check out Blundell's work in the future. 




Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: Serious Moonlight

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

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Pub. Date: April 16, 2019


Goodreads says, "After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.  Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.  In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.  To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel."
I love the sound of this one and am excited that Jenn Bennett has another novel coming out. I loved Starry Eyes and I have to say that she is one of my new-to-me favorite YA contemporary authors. What do you guys think?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review: The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable


Pages: 515
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 29, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Book of Summer
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "New York Times bestselling author imagines the affair between JFK and Alicia Corning Clark - and the child they may have had.  Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack.   Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his domineering father forbids the marriage. And so, Alicia trades Hyannisport for Hollywood, and eventually Rome. She dates famous actors and athletes and royalty, including Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn, all the while staying close with Jack. A decade after they meet, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other.   The Summer I Met Jack is based on the fascinating real life of Alicia Corning Clark, a woman who J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedys to keep quiet, not only about her romance with Jack Kennedy, but also a baby they may have had together."


Barbara, now Alicia Darr, has left Poland and arrives in the USA with many hopes and dreams in the 1950s. She rooms with another immigrant, Irenka, and they become fast friends.  Irenka takes a job on the East Coast working as a maid in the affluent town of Hyannisport for the famous Kennedy family.  Alicia follows Irenka to the Hyannisport and through Irenka she meets Jack along with the whole Kennedy clan. She is enamored with the family, but especially Jack's charm and larger than life attitude.  As time goes by, Jack is also very much into Alicia as she is unlike any woman he has met before.  Things become serious between the two, but will the Kennedy family truly accept Alicia into their family? Can Jack really defy his father? And just wait till the Kennedys find out who she truly is. The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable focuses not only Alicia and Jack's courtship, but Jack's political career as well as Alicia's amazing life. Fans of the Kennedys as well as historical fiction will absolutely love this "historical beach read."

Alicia Darr is such an interesting character. Her background story is slowly revealed to us as she isn't your "usual immigrant," which is why Jack is so attracted to her.  I also found her mesmerizing and wanted to know what secrets she was withholding about her life in Poland. My heart went out to her at various points in the story, whether it was dealing with the strong Kennedy personalities or dealing with the prejudices of her being an immigrant, Alicia definitely went through some hard times.  What I find to be the most fascinating about her is the fact that she is based on the real-life socialite, Alicia Corning Clark. It was interesting to see where this story and real life intersects.

I think it's hard to bring the Kennedy clan to life, but Gable did an excellent job.  Whether she was highlighting Rose Kennedy's stern behavior or dedication to Catholicism, Jack's magnetism, Joe's flirting, or simply the Kennedy family's boisterous personality, it was all very well done. I felt like I, along with Alcia, was meeting them for the first time and couldn't get enough.

I liked how Gable followed Jack's career through the years despite the fact that Alicia and Jack weren't always together. It definitely provided a different perspective of the Kennedys than some of the other novels I read. The Summer I Met Jack definitely kept me entertained even though I knew how things would end up for the Kennedys.

If you love a historical beach read, give this one a try this summer, especially if you are curious about the events surrounding Alicia Corning Clark and Jack Kennedy. This book definitely gives an interesting perspective. Don't you love when books do that?


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Stacking the Shelves and Giveaway Winners (70)


Book Review and Giveaway: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Can't Wait Wednesday: The Lost Queen



I'll be sharing my thoughts on The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable, which is another great historical beach read. It reminded of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo at times and I love all things Kennedy, so it was an entertaining read. 




  

The Witch of Willow Hall by  Hester Fox - Thanks to Graydon and NetGalley
The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory - Thanks to Gallery and NetGalley
The Lost Queen by Signe Pike - Thanks to Touchstone and NetGalley






I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien - Thanks to Charlesbridge
Trapped! A Whales Rescue by Robert Burleigh - Thanks to Charlesbridge
A House in the Sky and Other Uncommon Animals by Steve Jenkins - Thanks to Charlesbridge



Congrats to Cheyenne
She is the winner of From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon. I hope you enjoy the book!


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.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Children's Book Roundup (7)



Here are the picture books we have been reading lately. There's a good mix here of new releases along with some older favorites. 



Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel - I wasn't overly impressed with this book initially, but after a few re-reads (b/c my sons loved it!), I could see why it's a popular choice as it truly highlights the many beautiful creatures, some similar and some different, that are present in our world. The last few pages identify the animal was especially helpful.

Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers  - This absolutely gorgeous picture book is one of my current favorites. The book's overall message, Finn's relationship with his grandfather, and the imaginative details all really stand out in the book.





Bear Counts by Karma Wilson - We love the Bear books in my house and this board book, which reviews numbers one to five was really fun. 

Duck, Duck, Goose by Tad Hills - We have enjoyed the Duck and Goose stories in my house, but this one felt a little more abstract and challenging to comprehend than some of the other picture books. Essentially it's about Thistle, another duck, who comes along and stirs things up for Duck and Goose and he challenges their friendship. It was a bit over my youngest's head, but I think could be appreciated by an older crowd. 




Bear Feels Sick by Karma Wilson - I love Bear's books and this one doesn't disappoint. It's an especially cute tale if you have a little one at home who isn't feeling well.  

Night Out by Daniel Miyares - This book as received a lot of praise, but I just thought it was ok. It's about a friendless boy who lives at a boarding school and goes on an adventure one night (breaking curfew) and then makes friends the next day by telling his tale. I just didn't appreciate the book's overall message.




I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems - Can Elephant and Piggie do anything wrong? They are the perfect literary couple and this book had both of my sons laughing. We just love this series and hearing the convoluted story that Elephants shares with Piggie about his broken trunk.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Car by Kate Dopirak - My son loves all things car and this fun tale is inspired by the song "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."  I think the repetition in this story got a little old, but my son seemed to enjoy it. 



*How to Feed Your Cheeky Monkey by Jane Clarke - This is from that same "How To" series of Usborne Books and More. My youngest son is obsessed with monkeys, so this book seemed appropriate as toddlers can be oh-so-messy when they start to feed themselves. 

*How to Brush Your Teeth with Snappy Croc by Jane Clarke - My son loves this series from Usborne Books and More. It's a great series for toddlers who are learning about how to take care of themselves sand becoming a bit more independent. In this story it's all about how to brush your croc's teeth safely. It's helped my youngest son tremendously when it comes to learning how to brush his own teeth and not just chomp down on the toothbrush.  




On the First Day of Kindergarten by Rish Rabe - My son is starting kindergarten next year, so I was hoping this book would be a favorite, but it left me feeling a bit lukewarm. It's set to the whole "12 Days of Christmas" and it gets a bit repetitive. 

Surprising Spring by Jennifer Marino Walters - I loved this picture book! I think it perfect captures the beauty of spring, the new life and the promises that it holds. It's a great introduction to the season. 


 

Singing in the Rain by Tim Hopgood - I absolutely love this movie and song, so I was excited to see a children's picture book featuring this iconic song. The lyrics can be enjoyed by all ages and it will have you singing in no time! It's definitely a great book to share with a little one during the spring season. 

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers - there are some picture books that are good and then there's picture books that can be appreciated by even adults. This is the case here. I absolutely adored this book and really loved the illustrations. The Fan Brothers are my new favorite children's book authors. It's about a young boy, a mysterious gardener, and a town that is impacted by the beautiful topiaries. 


I'm always on the hunt for a memorable picture book to share with my boys. Let me know if you have read any of these titles or if you have any recommendations for me. Have you read any good picture books lately? Let me know in the comments.

*Also, If you want to buy these books or learn more about these particular titles, you can buy them through Usborne Books and More. Contact me for more information! 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Lost Queen

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

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike
Pub. Date: September 4, 2018



Goodreads says, "Mists of Avalon meets Philippa Gregory in the first book of an exciting historical trilogy that reveals the untold story of Languoreth—a powerful and, until now, tragically forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland—twin sister of the man who inspired the legendary character of Merlin.  Intelligent, passionate, rebellious, and brave, Languoreth is the unforgettable heroine of The Lost Queen, a tale of conflicted loves and survival set against the cinematic backdrop of ancient Scotland, a magical land of myths and superstition inspired by the beauty of the natural world. One of the most powerful early medieval queens in British history, Languoreth ruled at a time of enormous disruption and bloodshed, when the burgeoning forces of Christianity threatened to obliterate the ancient pagan beliefs and change her way of life forever.  Together with her twin brother Lailoken, a warrior and druid known to history as Merlin, Languoreth is catapulted into a world of danger and violence. When a war brings the hero Emrys Pendragon, to their door, Languoreth collides with the handsome warrior Maelgwn. Their passionate connection is forged by enchantment, but Languoreth is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of the High King who is sympathetic to the followers of Christianity. As Rhydderch's wife, Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way, her kingdom, and all she holds dear.  The Lost Queen brings this remarkable woman to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of the most enduring legends of all time."

Mists of Avalon meets Philippa Gregory?!? Yes, please! I love books that focus on "forgotten" women in history and Languoreth sounds incredible.  I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this one!  What do you guys think?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch


Pages: 320
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Love & Gelato
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.  So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.  And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.  That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way."
Addie's always been just Ian's little sister that is until she starts growing up. Ian's friends from football start to notice her, especially charismatic Cubby. Ian has warned Addie about Cubby, but she doesn't listen.  Her family travels to Ireland for their aunt's lavish wedding and while there, Addie has planned a mini-trip to Florence to visit her friend who has recently relocated.  All the while she has been fighting with Ian the entire trip over Cubby and over secrets.  It's driving the family crazy as Ian and Addie were once very close.  Addie's plans for a side trip to Italy are thwarted and she finds herself exploring Ireland along with Ian, Ian's friend, and a guidebook for the brokenhearted.  Addie's whirlwind trip through Ireland will sure be a memorable one, but can she repair things with Ian and will readers find out exactly what happened between Addie and Cubby?  Jenna Evans Welch's Love & Luck is a delightful read for young adults or anyone who can appreciate an adventure in Ireland.

Addie is a charming character who I enjoyed from the beginning in Love & Luck. She is an athlete and her sport comes first, but her mom says that in order to play next year, she must get along with her brother. Her relationship with her brother, Ian, is a complicated one. As readers find out more about what happened between Addie and Cubby, things start to make more sense.

I loved how Welch shared excerpts from the guidebook within Love & Luck. It was a nice touch and can be especially appreciated by the reader if he/she knows the various landmarks mentioned, such as the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, the Burren and more.

Obviously, the setting of Ireland was my favorite aspect of Love & Luck. It was so fun to revisit one of my favorite places and take part in some armchair traveling.  Nothing beats an Irish road trip, right? It took me back to my own Irish road trip with friends.

I also appreciated how Welch portrayed dating and the issues that many teens face regarding social media.  I don't want to give too much away, but Addie has to deal with an issue that I think many teenagers can appreciate and Welch handled it very well.

Welch's books always make me have a serious case of wanderlust! I can't wait to find out what she is writing about next and go along on the trip from the comfort of my sofa.

Thanks to Simon Teen, I have an extra ARC of Love & Luck to give away to one lucky US reader.  Please refer to my giveaway rules and good luck!

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