Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Book Review: The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

Pages: 280
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Harper Teen
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Golden, Moonglass
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 
Goodreads says, "A near drowning…a coma for days…and then… Olivia wakes up to realize she doesn’t remember. Not just the accident—but anything from the last four years. Not high school. Not Matt, the guy who is apparently her boyfriend. Not the reason she and Jules are no longer friends. Nothing. That’s when it hits her—the accident may not have taken her life, but it took something just as vital: her memory. The harder she tires to remember things, the foggier everything gets, and figuring out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she wasBut then there’s Walker. The guy who saved her. The one who broke her ribs pumping life back into her lungs. The hardened boy who keeps his distance despite Olivia’s attempts to thank him. With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t even remember living."




Liv and Matt are on the way back from a party and the car they are in is hit by a truck.  In turn, the car ends up in the bay.  Matt is able to escape the submerged vehicle, but Liv is trapped in the car and is unconscious.  Matt tries desperately to get her out of the car with no luck. Enter Walker, who is able to pull Liv from the car and perform CPR on her until the paramedics come.  When Liv awakens at the hospital, her family realizes, and eventually her, that her memories of the last few years of high school are gone due to some sort of amnesia from her accident.  In fact, she doesn't even recognize Matt.  It's as if she has to figure out who she is all over again and even though her best friend tries to clue her in, it's still a big mystery.  How do we know they are telling the truth about who she really is? What if she doesn't want to be that person anymore?  Jessi Kirby's thoughtful story of finding your true self gives readers a lot to think about, but in the end, The Secret History of Us wasn't my favorite of Kirby's novels.

I felt for Liv from the beginning in The Secret History of Us. I mean could you imagine not knowing what happened to you the last few years of your life? This is especially traumatic given that high school is so important and so much happens in a short span of time.  She is relying on family and friends to fill in the gaps, but how do we know they are being accurate? Are they glossing over things? Making things seem better than they are? What if she doesn't like what she finds out? And to complicate matters further, Liv wants to learn more about Walker, her rescuer, and the more she learns, the more curious she becomes. Does she have a history with him?

Normally Kirby's characters really "wow" me and I can relate to them on some level, but that was not the case in The Secret History of Us. While I liked Liv, I can't say I was overly invested in her story or any of the other characters. They were just ok for me.  While I did want to know the truth surrounding her rescue and the mystery of Walker, I wasn't as hooked as I was hoping. Some parts of the plot were really slow moving.  I think the issue is the amnesia plot line. A lot of authors have been focusing on that plot device and I think it's starting to become played out.

I did like how The Secret History of Us made me think though about one's true self and living life the way you want, not what other people want for you.  Even though this wasn't my favorite of Kirby's novels, she still is one of my favorite YA contemporary authors and I look forward to reading her next novel, The Other Side of Lost, which is due out this summer.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

zulily's Buy One, Give One Book Fair Benefiting Those in Need


November is all about giving back and I love helping those in need year round, but especially during the month of November.  zulily is one of my favorite websites to buy things for my kids and I was so happy to hear they are working with Penguin Random House as well as First Book on something really special. 


zulily is celebrating National Family Literacy Month with a book fair running now through December 10th.  Six sales events will feature some fantastic books that would make for great holiday gifts.  With each book purchased, Penguin Random House will donate to the amazing non-profit organization, First Book.   If you aren't familiar with First Book it's one of my favorite organizations. First Book provides books to children in need and in this case with each book purchased from the book fair, they will be providing new books and other essential items to children, teachers, students, and schools affected by the recent hurricanes. How fantastic is that?




As you know, entire libraries, classrooms, and homes have been impacted by these hurricanes, so this would be a great way to help as we know how important books and libraries are to not only children, but to entire communities. Plus, teachers will benefit from this as well and as an educator that really warms my heart. 


You can shop the "Buy One, Give One" badge featured on the zulily website. Check it out here.  Each week zulily will have opportunities for even more donations when you participate and comment on various posts on their Facebook page, so go check it out!


I love giving back and book lovers, this is a great opportunity. Not only do you get to buy some great children's books for the holidays, you also get to give books to those in need. There's nothing better than that.


To help those affected by the hurricanes, visit zulily.com and check out all of the "Buy One, Give One" books here.  Be sure to visit Zulily's social pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest too. 


What are you doing to give back? Are you volunteering this month or donating to your favorite cause this holiday season? Tell me something good in the comments!



Monday, November 20, 2017

Spotlight on Christmas Papercrafting and Coloring Books

I love crafting during the holiday season as well as coloring with my sons. It's not only fun to make our own holiday cards and gifts, but coloring is definitely a way to unwind, which I always appreciate during the busy holiday season. Check out our new favorite coloring and craft books:



 


Santa's Kitty Helpers by Kayomi Harai and Cute Christmas Holiday Coloring Book by Jenny Newline - Both coloring books are so, so cute! You don't have to be an animal fan to enjoy it, but these cuddly creatures will definitely make you smile.  I'm loving all the cute puppies in the Cute Christmas Holiday coloring Book. Both books are really well made in that you can use gel pens, colored pencils or regular crayons and the color won't go through to the other pages. The back of each page has a heartwarming holiday quote and lines for writing your own message. My son has been tearing out the perforated pages and enjoying turning them into Christmas cards. Also, these even make for great Christmas gifts for adults too as coloring has proven to be beneficial and a stress reducer! Cute Christmas Holiday Coloring Book and Santa's Kitty Helpers Coloring Book are both available at Amazon. 






Christmas Papercrafting by Thaneeya McArdle is one of our new favorite craft books. We have been having so much fun with it! This book will guide you through making your own holiday cards, mini cards, gift tags and bookmarks.  The artwork is beautiful and the paper is very high quality card stock.  It even comes with templates to make your own envelopes. Everything you need for gorgeous homemade holiday gifts is included in the book including 34 pages of festive scrapbook paper. 



A glimpse at some of the mini-cards 

We are giving some books as holiday gifts this year (big surprise) and my son and I have started to make bookmarks to give along with the book, which is such a nice homemade touch.  If you love crafting during the holidays, definitely check out this book. It's a fun way to spend an afternoon with your children or just de-stress and do some crafting of your own this holiday season. Get your copy of Christmas Papercrafting at Amazon today. 


Thanks to Fox Chapel Publishing for sending me this awesome Christmas package. I absolutely love sharing these books with my oldest son.  He loves coloring and the coloring books are a hit. 


What are some of your favorite craft books or coloring books this holiday season? Let me know in the comments. 



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Stacking the Shelves (52)


Book Review: The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel
Waiting on Wednesday: The Summer Wives
Book Review: The Emerald Coast by Anita Hughes




I'll be sharing my thoughts on Jessi Kirby's The Secret History of Us. It wasn't my favorite of Kirby's but I still enjoyed various aspects of the novel.  I also will be featuring some awesome Christmas Papercrafting books that we've been enjoying. Who doesn't love crafting during the holidays? It's so much fun! I'll also be talking about Zulily and Penguin Random House's Book Fair to benefit communities recently impacted by the hurricanes. Such a great cause! Keep your eye out for my post on that!




 

Christmas in London by Anita Hughes - Thanks to St. Martin's
Maybe I Do by Nicole McLaughlin - Thanks to St. Martin's




It Should Have Been You by Lynn Slaughter - Thanks to Page Street
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - Thanks to St. Martin's and NetGalley







The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

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, November 16, 2017

Book Review: The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: September 22, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars





Goodreads says, "Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.  Now, ten years later, Ruby is single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about what it will be like to see Ethan again, who just so happens to be the best man.  But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there is nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past."






Ruby Atlas works in New York City at an advertising firm. She does well for herself and is focusing on her career.  Her sister, Piper, is getting married, but instead of marrying in their hometown, Piper has an elaborate wedding at an English castle.  Yes, a castle. Ruby is excited for her sister, but there's a wedding guest attending that she dreads seeing. It's her ex-boyfriend, Ethan, who she never really got over. To complicate matters further, Ethan is best friends with the groom, so there is definitely no avoiding him.  Plus, he isn't the unsuccessful guy that he once was when Ruby dated him. He is now super successful...like on the cover of magazines successful.  This really sets Ruby off as she doesn't know how to act around him and before long she has to come to terms with how she feels about him. Will there still be sparks between the two? Melissa Pimentel's The One That Got Away is a delightful retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion.

Ruby is a character I could sympathize with in The One That Got Away. While I didn't always agree with her decisions, I could understand where she was coming from. Her trepidation towards seeing her ex at her sister's wedding is totally valid.  He's pretty much everywhere she turns since he is so close with the groom and she ends up talking to him quite a bit. As readers try and figure out where she currently stands with Ethan, every other chapter is a flashback to when they first started dating.

I enjoyed the flashbacks to Ruby and Ethan's relationship when they first got together many years ago as it really sheds light on things as well as their characters.  Some parts of the flashbacks were heartbreaking and other parts really tugged on my heartstrings. I could see that Ruby and Ethan had something special, but the timing wasn't right in The One That Got Away.  Ruby was about to head to New York City for her first job and a long distance relationship wasn't ideal.

My main issue with The One That Got Away was the ending. I think it needed to be developed a bit more and fleshed out as it was definitely rushed. All of a sudden Ruby drops all this really important information, but we never really process it. It's sort of brushed aside.

Even if you aren't familiar with Austen's Persuasion, that's ok. Readers don't need to be hardcore Austen fans to enjoy The One That Got Away. Most readers can easily predict where the story is going, but it's the ride to the final page that is enjoyable overall.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Summer Wives

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

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Pub. Date: July 3, 2018


Goodreads says, "New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—a spellbinding novel of romance, murder, class, power, and dark secrets set in the 1950s and ’60s among the rarified world of a resort island in the Long Island Sound . . . In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island in Long Island Sound as a naive eighteen year old, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. Although a graduate of the exclusive Foxcroft Academy in Virginia, Miranda has always lived on the margins of high society. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda is catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society. But beneath the Island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans--the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph helps his father in the lobster boat, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph has enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and has a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the Island for nearly two decades. Now, in the summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same--determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naive teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice to the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island."

You guys know all about my love for a "historical beach read" and I absolutely adore Beatriz Williams.  I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this one next summer! What do you guys think?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review: Emerald Coast by Anita Hughes

Pages: 296
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: French Coast
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Set on the glamorous Italian island, Anita Hughes's Emerald Coast is a touching and humorous story about marriage and the difficulty of finding love and happiness at the same time.  Lily Bristol arrives at a luxurious resort in Sardinia for the grand opening of her newest home furnishing store on the Emerald Coast. She's a successful business woman with an international chain of stores from San Francisco to Milan. Thirty-two and newly divorced, she's ready to handle things on her own. At least until her private butler, Enzo, escorts her to a beautiful suite where she notices a suspiciously familiar pair of men's slippers and shaving kit.  Lily is horrified. Her ex-husband Oliver moved out of their restored Connecticut farmhouse six months ago, but they booked this trip when they were trying to save their marriage and never cancelled the reservation. Oliver, a food critic for the New York Times, is here covering Sardinia's hottest new restaurant. The only other available room is the adjoining suite; and worse, Oliver isn't alone. He's brought a twenty-something named Angela with him.  Lily is determined to make do and enlists Enzo to find her a suitable man. But it's not as easy to find new love as they both expected. When Lily and Oliver find themselves alone on a very important night, they turn to each other. Sparks begin to fly, but can they be together without breaking each other's hearts?"

Lily Bristol has it all. She has a beautiful daughter, an amazing career, good looks and boatloads of money.  She is newly divorced, but she isn't going to let that bring her down.  She is on a luxurious trip to Sardinia for not only pleasure, but also to supervise the grand opening of her latest store. While at her five star hotel, she tries to unwind in her suite, but comes to find that there are random items in her room already and not just any items; there's a men's shaving kit and other personal items.  Lily comes to find that her ex-husband, Oliver, who helped planned this trip with her prior to their divorce, never canceled his reservation. And is there! In her room! Lily promptly requests a new room and of course all they have available is a connecting room.  To make matters worse, Oliver has brought his new and much younger girlfriend on this trip. Before Lily throws in the towel as this being the worst trip in the history of the world, she asks her butler, turned friend, to help her find a decent guy on the island that she can date. Of course, Enzo, the butler, knows the perfect Italian gentleman! Maybe this trip won't be as horrible as she imagined? Anita Hughes's Emerald Coast is like a lazy day at the pool sipping your favorite drink without a care in the world. It's a great book to read when you want an escape.

I never really connect with Hughes's characters, but that's not why I read her novels. I read them when I want a gorgeous setting with great descriptions of five star hotels, fashion, delectable food, and of course tons of drama set against an exotic location.  I really felt transported to the beautiful island of Sardinia, which was exactly what I wanted on such a dreary fall day.  The people, the food, the fashion....definitely loved being lost in Lily's dazzling world.

With that said, the characters are sort of despicable in Emerald Coast.  Although I could sympathize with Lily's situation, she also has made some horrific choices in the past.  The flashbacks to her marriage with Oliver were both simultaneously sweet, but also full of red flags. Essentially, it was rich people behaving badly and while that is very entertaining, it gets old quickly. Plus, they are extremely shallow. Yes, each and every character, with the exception of Enzo, is straight up shallow.

But don't get me wrong, I still was entertained by Emerald Coast. I wanted something light, something glamorous, something with a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous vibe, and this novel fit the bill. My only regret was that I didn't read it this past summer on vacation, because Emerald Coast would make for a fun beach reach as long as you don't mind your characters chock full of rich people problems.


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