Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors I Read in 2020

I read many new-to-me authors this past year, so today I'm highlighting my top ten.  Some are really well known authors that I finally got around to reading!


 

1.  Lemony Snicket  - A Series of Unfortunate Events



2.  Martha Hall Kelly - Lilac Girls

 

 

3.  Monalisa DeGross - Donavan's Word Jar



4.  Celeste Ng - Little Fires Everywhere

 

 

5.  Sally Rooney - Normal People

 

 

6.  Jill Shalvis - The Summer Deal

 

 

7.  Christina Baker Kline - The Exiles

 

 

8.  Chris Matthews - Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero

 

 


9.  Matt Haig - The Midnight Library

 

 

10.  V.E. Schwab  - The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

 

Who are some of the new-to-you authors that you read this past year? Let me know in the comments below.  This meme is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Stacking the Shelves (135)


Book Review: The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

Blog Tour and Giveaway: I Miss You Most

 


I'll be hosting another giveaway for a children's book that is perfect for Valentine's Day and I'll also be sharing my thoughts on You Have a Match by Emma Lord, which is Reese Witherspoon's YA Winter pick. The book was very cute!






The Last Goodbye by Fiona Lucas - Thanks to William Morrow and NetGalley

Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams - Thanks to William Morrow and NetGalley

 

 


The Last Debutantes by Georgie Blalock - Thanks to William Morrow and NetGalley

The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen - Thanks to Grand Central and NetGalley

 

 


The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak - Thanks to Mira and NetGalley

A Summer to Remember by Erika Montgomery - Thanks to St. Martin's

 

 


Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson - Thanks to Graydon House 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!

 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Book Review: The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 12, 2021
Publisher: Gallery
Other Books By Author: The Light Over London
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 

Goodreads says, "Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.  1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever  1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades."

 

Venetia Smith is a renowned garden designer and is hired in 1907 by Highbury House to renovate the gardens.  While there, she becomes entwined in a love affair that will change her life forever. Fast forward to 1944, the mistress of Highbury House is Diana Symonds, a war widow.  Her husband was killed during the war and she lives there with her young son, but Highbury House is no longer just her home, it is now a convalescent hospital. This obviously turns her world upside down, not to mention the fact that her sister-in-law has come to help run it.  Stella Adderton, the cook at Highbury House, longs for a different life, but things change for her when her sister reaches out to her for help.  Then there's Beth Pedley, who is a land girl during the war and works on a farm in Highbury.  Beth is looking for where she fits in and her life will be changed forever as well by her time spent at Highbury.  Jump to present day and we meet Emma Lovell, who is in charge of restoring the gardens at Highbury.  As she restores the gardens to their former glory, she learns more about Venetia and the secrets that surround Highbury.  Fans of Downton Abbey will especially love The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly; it's a historical story that spans generations and highlights the beauty of gardening, as well the focus on strong female friendships.  

There are many points of view in The Last Garden in England.  There's Venetia, in 1907, and she immediately impressed me. Most women during that time period did not have a jobs and were not unmarried, so I was taken in by her from the beginning. I loved her unconventional behavior; however, this definitely gets her into trouble at Highbury.  Then in 1944, there's a focus on Stella, Beth, and Diana.  While they are all very different, I loved how they form a friendship as well as a respect for each other by the novel's end.  Diana now finds herself as mistress of Highbury, but it's her husband's family's house and without him there, it's not the same. She does pride herself on her garden and she finds it in jeopardy due to the war. She already lost part of her house as a convalescent hospital, so she is determined to not see the gardens ruined.  Diana grows a lot throughout this novel, but things aren't easy for her.  Beth and Stella both want more for their lives and their time at Highbury also proves to be interesting.  Stella can't wait to escape Highbury and the daily drudgery of the kitchens, but she finds her plans going up in flames when her sister needs her help. She works in London and it's dangerous, so she needs Stella to watch her son.  Beth is not only learning what it takes to be a farmer, but she is also learning more about herself. She also finds an unexpected love while at Highbury.  Emma, who lives in present day, ties all the women's stories together as well as the secrets surrounding Highbury House and the gardens.

As you can see, there's a lot of points of view in The Last Garden in England.  At times, it was difficult to remember which character lived during which time period. The e-galley I read did not always include dates prior to each chapter, so I am hoping the final copy will, otherwise can get rather confusing. In fact, I do think there may be one narrator too many in The Last Garden in England as sometimes it felt a bit too choppy.

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the female friendship showcased in The Last Garden in England and I adored the focus on gardening.  It made me want to get outside and bring my springtime gardens back to life.  Kelly gives us a lot of details regarding the various plants and the design; being a fan of gardens, I especially appreciated all of these details.

So, if you are looking for a historical novel to get swept up in this winter, give Julia Kelly's The Last Garden in England a try, especially if you are a fan of Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs and if you are like me, The Last Garden in England will have you looking outside longingly for the first blooms of spring.

 


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Blog Tour and Giveaway: I Miss You Most


 
This past year has been tough on children for so many reasons. Many children are missing in-person school, hanging out with their friends, big birthday parties, and seeing extended family members. Or perhaps a family member or a good friend has moved away, which is always difficult. I find reading books to children about tough topics can help them to open up and tackle these issues.  
 
When I heard about Cassie Hoyt's book I Miss You Most I loved the concept. Even though our loved ones might not be by our sides physically, they are always in our hearts! That is why I have teamed up with Cassie Hoyt and The Children's Book Review to share this book and host a great giveaway!

 

 

Learn More About the Book:

 


I Miss You Most by Cassie Hoyt

Illustrated by Stefanie St. Denis

Publisher’s Synopsis: "Love knows no distance. I Miss You Most helps children through the heartache of distance by showing them how to hold their loved ones near. Whether exploring the seas as pirates or twirling like ballerinas, imagination can bridge even the greatest distance. Because time with those you love is the most magical thing of all!"

Ages 3 and up | 28 Pages | Publisher: Tellwell Talent | ISBN-13: 978-0228836070

You can purchase a copy of I Miss You Most at Amazon or Bookshop.org.  Also, check out the free activity pages to accompany the book, which include coloring pages and writing prompts.  To learn more about I Miss You Most, visit Cassie Hoyt's website

 
 
 
 
 

Enter the Giveaway:

 


 
One lucky winner will receive an autographed hardcover copy of Cassie Hoyt's I Miss You Most and a $100 Barnes and Noble e-gift card.  Two winners will receive an autographed hardcover copy of I Miss You Most.  The giveaway begins January 7, 2021 at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends February 7, 2021, at 11:59 P.M. MT. 
 

 

Good luck,

Friday, January 15, 2021

Book Review: Everything Beautiful in Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager

Pages: 288
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Memoir
Pub. Date: September 8, 2020
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 

Goodreads says, "To the world, George and Barbara Bush were America’s powerful president and influ­ential first lady. To Jenna Bush Hager, they were her beloved Gampy and Ganny, who taught her about respect, humility, kindness, and living a life of passion and meaning—timeless lessons that continue to guide her.  In Midland, Texas, Jenna’s maternal grandparents, Harold and Jenna Welch—Pa and Grammee—a home builder and homemaker, lived a quieter life outside the national spotlight. Yet their influence was no less indelible to their granddaughter. Throughout Jenna’s childhood and adolescence, the Welches taught her the name of every star in the sky, the way a dove uses her voice—teaching her to appreciate the beauty in the smallest things.  Now the mother of three young children, Jenna pays homage to her grandparents in this collection of heartwarming, intimate personal essays. Filled with love, laughter, and unforgettable stories, Everything Beautiful in Its Time captures the joyous and bittersweet nature of life itself. Jenna reflects on the single year in which she and her family lost Barbara and George H. W. Bush, and Jenna Welch. With the light, self-deprecating charm of the bestselling Sisters First—cowritten with her twin sister, Barbara—Jenna reveals how they navigated this difficult period with grace, faith, and nostalgic humor, uplifted by their grandparents’ sage advice and incomparable spirits.In this moving book, Jenna remembers the past, cherishes the present, and prepares for the future—providing a wealth of anecdotes and lessons for her own children and all of us. Poignant and humorous, intimate and sincere, Everything Beautiful in Its Time is a warm and wonderful celebration of the enduring power of family and an exploration of the things that truly matter most."

 

Everyone knows the Bush family, but few really know what it's like to grow up with such famous family members.  Jenna Bush Hager provides us a glimpse into what life was like with her grandparents and shares some adorable anecdotes as well as stories of heartbreak that her grandparents endured.  Whether she is sharing her stories of growing up in the White House or spending time with her former president grandfather at their house in Maine, it was all very endearing.  That's what Jenna does well in this memoir; she shares her stories of her grandparents and tugs on your heartstrings in the process.  Readers who are fans of Hager herself or the Bush family should definitely check out  Everything Beautiful in Its Time. It's a nice reminder of a time when politics wasn't so divisive.

I am right around the same age as Hager, so I could especially connect to her memories of her grandparents, her pregnancies, and her struggles as a mother. Reading her stories was like sitting down at a restaurant and catching up with an old friend. During the time of COVID, this was a nice escape, especially since we are all missing that connection with friends that we used to have. Hager is so heartwarming that at times I even felt an affinity towards her father, whom I have never been the biggest fan of. Sure, I respect him, but he wasn't my favorite president; however, after reading this memoir, it put him in a different light for me.

Hager shares stories about her grandparents in Everything Beautiful in Its Time, which I found very interesting and I was hoping there would be more about them in this memoir. While Hager is adorably sweet, I sort of wasn't as interested in her personal stories as much as I was hoping. When compared to her grandparents' stories, they felt rather ordinary, which I guess is why she is so relatable despite growing up in such a prominent family. Her grandparents were truly remarkable, especially when learning about how much her grandfather (former President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush) really went through in their lives. George and Barbara's relationship was beautiful and I loved that Hager included family letters.  Some of the letters brought a tear to my eye. Lastly, the advice from her grandparents, like "nobody likes an overbearing big shot" really hit home, especially in today's political climate.  It made me appreciate the Bush family more than ever.

There wasn't any "new" information in Everything Beautiful in Its Time, but that's not why I read it. I was looking for stories about enduring love, the connection between grandparents and grandchildren, and the importance of family. That is exactly what I got when I read  Everything Beautiful in Its Time and it ended up being one of my favorite non-fiction books of the year.

Did you read  Everything Beautiful in Its Time? Are you a fan of the Bush family or Jenna Bush Hager? Let me know in the comments below. 


 

 
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