Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Love & Luck

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

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Pub. Date: August 29, 2017

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."

Yes, yes, yes! I love the sound of this book. I am sucker for an Irish setting and I am definitely in the mood for some armchair traveling. I read Welch's Love & Gelato last year and it was too cute, so this one will definitely on my radar in August! What do you guys think?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Summer Kickoff Feature!

Somehow it has been six years since I started my Summer Kickoff Feature! It's one of my favorite things to plan each year. Last year I decided to feature my beach read picks all summer long instead of only during the month of May and that worked out well, so I am going to do that again this year.  You will know I'll be featuring a beach read if you see my Summer Kickoff header at the top of the review!

Of course, I'll also be hosting some great giveaways and sharing some fun beachy posts, too.  I absolutely love this time of the year! For me, there is nothing better than reading at the beach.

Here are some of the books I plan on featuring and/or reviewing during my Summer Kickoff Feature. I always add in some last minute choices as well, but here's a rough idea:

Adult Fiction New Releases:

The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner
Purple Hearts by Tess Wakefield
White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes
The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable
Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer
The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe
The Summer House by Hannah McKinnon
Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank
The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green
Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams
Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

YA New Releases:

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
It Started with Goodbye by Christina June
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney
If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak
Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Trusting You and Other Lies by Nicole Williams
I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski
Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally
Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone
How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howland
The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby
The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan


Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand
Summer at Hideaway Key by Barbara Davis

If you want to check out the other books that I featured in years past, you can find them here. What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Pages: 336
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Putnam
Other Books By Author: Blue Bloods
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "1777. Albany, New York.  As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.   In the pages of Alex and Eliza, #1 New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz brings to life the romance of young Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler."
Alexander Hamilton is one of George Washington's most trusted men and known to be not only very smart, but handsome too.  He has the unfortunate job of telling Mr. Schuyler some bad news straight from Washington himself, but maybe things don't turn out to be so bad when he sets his eyes on Schuyler's daughter Eliza.  Not only is she politically aware, she is smart, beautiful, and charming.  Alexander finds himself rubbing elbows with society's elite at the Schuyler's ball, which is an ironic fact not lost on him as he comes from a very humble background as an orphan. After Alex and Eliza meet, the rest is history, but the course of true love never did run smooth and that is the case here with these two lovebirds.  Melissa de la Cruz's Alex & Eliza is an interesting glimpse into their young courtship.

I don't know much about the real-life Eliza Schuyler, but I really enjoyed her character as portrayed in Alex & Eliza.  I liked that she cared about more than just a pretty dress or an advantageous marriage; instead, she cared about the world around her. She truly is a perfect match for Alex.

Alex is portrayed as larger than life in Alex & Eliza.  I also love his background and his rags to riches story.  Although his young life isn't explored too much in this novel, it is often referenced as it obviously shaped who he is and makes him insecure from time to time.  Alex & Eliza focuses mostly on their courtship and the many ups and downs in the beginning.  My only issue was sometimes de la Cruz makes Alex seem to be some sort of a mythical being. There's one part where he saves Eliza just-in-time and that seemed a bit too good to be true.

My major issue with Alex & Eliza is whether or not it was well-researched.  I am not sure that is the case as de la Cruz has embellished or fabricated a few things to make her story work. I know that is the point of historical fiction, but it felt a little more contrived than I would have liked.  For example, there is one part involving Eliza's fiancee (not sure about this either!), Henry Livingston, that is a bit embellished and I am not sure it's based on fact at all.  Also, from what I understand, this novel is also very different than Hamilton, so fans of the Broadway show should be forewarned.

Other than those few minor issues I had, I thought it was a solid historical love story that fans of Alexander Hamilton can appreciate as long as you are able to get past some of the historical inaccuracies.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Post and Giveaway Winners (28)

I've been on a much needed blog spring break and it's been quiet around here except for my review of Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out. It's like Big Little Lies set in the South. It's one of my favorite books of the year. There's also an excerpt of the book included in my review and I'm giving away a copy of Karen White's Flight Patterns, which is perfect for the summertime and just came out in paperback. 

Guys, I am so excited! It's my favorite time of the year. It's time to start sharing all of my favorite beach reads for the summer of 2017.  This is my jam.  I have a fun summer planned!   The first book featured will be Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen. Are you surprised it's a Sarah Dessen novel? I adore her and she if the queen of summertime reads, after all! 

I will also be sharing my thoughts on Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz and I'll be hosting a giveaway for a really great book for all of those recent graduates in your life!  It should be a fun week! 

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave - Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster
Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams - Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and William Morrow
Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima - Thanks to HarperTeen

Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe - Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery 
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand - Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss
Emerald Coast by Anita Hughes - Thanks to St. Martin's and NetGalley

I also received a signed bookmark and postcard from Amber Mitchell, author of Garden of Thorns - Thank you!!

And the winner of Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz goes to....


Congrats! I hope you enjoy your 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, April 13, 2017

Book Review: The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White and Giveaway for Flight Patterns

Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: April 11, 2017
 Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It's not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren't helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.   Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee--something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.  Sugar's stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother's seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather's world.  In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee's house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women...."

Merilee, mother to Lily and Colin, leaves her cushy life behind after her divorce and moves into a cottage on a farm in Georgia.  Sweet Apple, Georgia is the quintessential Southern town and of course everyone knows everyone's business.  She is renting a charming cottage on Sugar Prescott's farm, an older woman who has a no nonsense reputation around town.  Merilee's children are starting over at a private school, but things are a bit different than she expected. The other moms are very high maintenance and are helicopter parents. Think Desperate Housewives meets Gone with the Wind.  While trying to figure out her place in all of this, Merilee meets another mother, Heather, who takes her under her wing. Heather is pretty much the Queen Bee of Sweet Apple and they surprisingly hit it off.  Thanks to Heather, Merilee finds her niche in the community, volunteers for a committee at school, and meets a whole new world of people.  This is all juxtaposed by Sugar and her way of life, which is entirely different than Heather's.  Sugar grew up when things were different in the South and is the polar opposite of Heather. Sugar is all about farming, home cooked meals, no technology, and other remnants of days gone by in Georgia.  Although Sugar doesn't take to many people, she cares about Merilee since she is a single mom just trying to get by.  Readers get to know a bit more about Sugar as we flashback to her memories of growing up on the farm and the various people that lived in Sweet Apple in the past.  But as things progress for Merilee, she comes to find that behind the perfect people that live in Sweet Apple are secrets and things aren't what they seem. Perhaps things aren't so perfect after all, especially if you dig a little deeper and look closely.  Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out is a fantastic novel. It has everything that I want in a read. There's a Southern setting, some romance, some flashbacks to the past, compelling charcacters, and an edge of your seat mystery.  

I adored Merilee from the beginning of The Night the Lights Went Out. Although she was pretty naive at times and too trusting of some of the women, I still felt for her situation. Her divorce wasn't easy; in fact, it was downright scandalous, so starting over and leaving all that behind is tough for her.   She also has an interesting past and is dealing with her own issues, especially when it comes to the untimely death of her brother.  When Heather takes Merilee under her wing, she relies on her much more than she should due to the place that she is at in her life. She also takes to Sugar, who she has a strong connection with. Even though Sugar is ninety some years old, she finds they have more in common than she thought.  

Which leads me to the character of Sugar....I loved, loved, loved her in The Night the Lights Went Out. White did such a great job bringing her to life and I adored the flashbacks to her life on the farm many years ago.  Her life was also filled with scandal, secrets, and many ups and downs. I thought White did a good job alternating the present with Sugar's past.  It was very compelling!

There's a mystery in The Night the Lights Went Out, which also kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn't see it coming, but I was able to figure out who not to trust.  Of course it takes some time for Merilee to figure out who is sincere and who is playing her, but that was part of the fun.  

White also incorporates a few chapters that are excerpts for the town blogger who shares some juicy gossip and words of Southern wisdom. I absolutely loved this and I thought it as a nice touch.  

So if you are looking for an atmospheric tale that has it all and will keep you on the edge of your seat, but also has some humor, history, and romance give Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out a try this spring. It reminded me of a southern Big Little Lies and it's definitely one of my favorite books of the year. If you aren't sold yet, check out the excerpt of The Night the Lights Went Out below.

And thanks to Berkely, I am hosting a giveaway for Karen White's Flight Patterns, which just came out in paperback last month and is perfect for your beach bag this summer. It seems like another great beach read and I plan on reading it as well as I am now a huge fan of Karen White.

"FLIGHT PATTERNS tells the story of Georgia Chambers, a fine china expert who left her family years before and is forced to return home and repair the relationships she’s carefully avoided. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep."

The giveaway is open to US readers and the deadline is April 23, 2017.  Please refer to my giveaway rules. Good luck! 

Excerpt from The Night the Lights Went Out:

"A cluster of moms stood in the parking lot surrounded by high-end SUVs following first day drop-off at Windwood Academy.  The women appeared to be listening with rapt attention to the tall blond woman in the center of their semi-circle, her hair arranged perfectly beneath her white tennis visor, her long and lean limbs brown and glowy.  Merilee noticed this last part only because her ex-mother-in-law had given her a bottle of glowy lotion for her last birthday and Lily had told her it made her look sparkly like Katy Perry in one of her videos.  Merilee had thrown out the remainder of the bottle, realizing she wasn’t the type anymore to look glowy much less sparkly.
But the blonde definitely was.  Her whole body glowed.  Her face glowed.  Even the hair visible beneath the visor appeared to be lit from within.  The woman looked vaguely familiar, and Merilee realized she’d probably been one of the mothers she’d met at the open house the previous week.  She’d only been to the one let’s-get-acquainted event, her work schedule precluding any of the various parties that were held almost exclusively on weekdays when she worked.  
Merilee was terrible with names, had been ever since she started dating Michael.  He was so good at it, always reminding her who everyone was when they were at a party, that she’d simply stopped trying.  She hoped she was only out of practice instead of permanently disabled.  Her children’s futures probably depended on it since Michael wouldn’t be there to make sure Merilee remembered the names of Lily’s friends who were or were not speaking to each other.  And which of Colin’s teachers appreciated his dreamy attitude and those who didn’t.  It had always been a game with them—her recalling every detail about a friend or teacher, details always overlooked by Michael—and then he’d fill in the missing part—the name.  But now she had to do it all on her own.
She smiled vaguely in the direction of the blond woman and her entourage and had almost made it to her van when she heard her name being called.
“Merilee?  Merilee Dunlap?”
Great.  The woman not only remembered her first name, but her last as well.  Forcing a warm smile on her face, Merilee turned.  “Oh, hello.  It’s good to see you again.”
The other women parted like the Red Sea as the tall blond walked toward Merilee and she remembered that the woman had been wearing a Lily Pulitzer sundress and two-carat diamond stud earrings when they’d met before.  But she didn’t remember her name.  “I thought that was you.  I looked for you in Mrs. Marshall’s homeroom.  I’m the room mother and wanted to welcome Lily myself.”
Merilee remembered the voice.  It was very Southern, heavily laced with dropped consonants and elongated vowels.  The most memorable part about it was that it sounded exactly like Merilee’s mother.
“We were running a bit late this morning.”  Feeling suddenly short and frumpy in her dark skirt and blazer, Merilee had the strong urge to explain.  “My son couldn’t find his new uniform shoes.  They somehow managed to find their way back into the box they came in and then got shoved so far under his bed that it took nearly twenty minutes to locate them.  And then Lily spilled her bowl of cereal and milk down the front of her skirt, and I had to quickly iron one of her other ones so she could wear it.”
The woman gave her a warm smile from behind dark Chanel sunglasses as if she knew exactly what it was like to be a frazzled single mother.  “Bless your heart.  And on the first day at a new school.  You’ll get used to the routine, I promise.  It took me a whole month to realize that I should have a skirt and blouse for every school day plus one, and have Patricia have them cleaned and ironed as soon as my girls dropped them on the floor.”
Not exactly sure how to reslake, Merilee picked out the first confusing part of the sentence.  “Patricia?”
“My house manager.  I couldn’t live without her.  You know how crazy busy it is with all of the kids’ schedules.”  She reached into her large handbag that was more briefcase than purse, with a designer’s logo sprouting over its surface like kudzu.  “I was going to stick this in the mail to you, but since you’re here I’ll give it to you now.  It’s a sign-up sheet for parties and field trips—it lists everything for the year.  Just let me know your availabilities and ask Lily to bring it in to school and give to Bailey as soon as you can.  Bailey is very responsible and will make sure it gets to me.”  The woman smiled, her teeth perfect.  “Only sign up for four—every mother wants to be at every single event, but then it just gets crowded—plus there won’t be room on the bus for the kids.”
“Only four…” Merilee took the list and looked at it, almost letting out an audible sigh when she saw the woman’s name at the top of the page, Heather Blackford, Class Mother, followed by three different phone numbers.  Now she remembered.  Heather had a daughter in Colin’s class, too, both girls’ names starting with ‘B’.  
“Yes.  And if you could turn it back in tomorrow that would be terrific.  I’ll have Claire put it all in a spreadsheet and I’ll email it to all the mothers.  Please write neatly—Claire has a way of butchering your name if she can’t read it.”
“My personal assistant.  She’s only part time but I would simply die of exhaustion without her.”
The ladies behind her all nodded in understanding.
“Yes, well, I’ll take a look at it and get it back to you tomorrow.”  Merilee was already wondering how she was going to approach her boss to ask him for more time off.  The divorce and move had already eaten up all of her vacation time, and although Max was kind and understanding, everyone had their limits.
“And don’t forget the ‘I survived my first week of fourth grade’ party at my lake house this Saturday.  I’ll be handing out disposable cameras to all the moms and dads to take pictures throughout the year at our various events—I like to do little photo albums for all the kids and the teachers at the end of the year.”  She beamed, like it was just a small thing.  “Oh, and I took the liberty of signing you up for a dessert because we’re overrun with vegetables and dip and pimiento cheese.  I figured you’d know how to make something sweet.”
“Oh…”  Merilee simply blinked her eyes for a moment, wondering if Heather had meant to be insulting.
“Because you’re from South Georgia.  You mentioned that when we met.  You said I had the same accent as your mother.”
Feeing oddly relieved, Merilee said, “Yes, of course.  Where did you say you were from?”
“Here and there—but mostly Georgia.  I can always tell a native Georgian.  Hard to hide it, isn’t it?  It’s almost like no matter how far you go in life, all you have to do is open your mouth and somebody knows exactly where you’re from.”
There was something in the way Heather said it that made Merilee pause.  “Yes, well, I’ll call my mother today and ask her what she might recommend.”
“Wonderful.”  Heather beamed.  She pointed a key fob toward a black Porsche SUV with vanity plates that read YERSERV, and the rear door slowly raised.  As the other mothers oohed and ahhed appropriately, Merilee stared into the trunk where fourteen metallic gift bags with blue or pink tissue paper expertly pleated at the tops were arranged in neat rows.
Heather moved toward the car.  “A little lagniappe—that’s Cajun for ‘a little extra’ to all of my Yankee friends—for the first day of school.  My treat.  I thought we could each give our children a bag at pickup today and then head over to Scoops for ice cream afterwards.  I’ve already reserved the party room at the back of the store.  Claire is picking up the helium balloons this morning and will have it all decorated in Windwood colors.”
“You are just too much,” one of the mothers said as the other women eagerly stepped toward the car and took a bag."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Blog Break!

Hey guys! I will be taking a blog "spring break" to spend time with my family, enjoy the Easter holiday, and prepare for the most wonderful time of the Summer Kickoff feature. I am beyond excited and can't wait to share my thoughts on the best beach reads for the summer of 2017.  

I will be posting once during my blog break as I am part of a blog tour for Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out. It's a fantastic read, so be sure to check out my thoughts on it this Thursday and there's a giveaway, too! Other than that post, it will be quiet around here. I'll be back the week of the 24th!

Happy Spring and thanks for visiting,

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Post (27)

Waiting on Wednesday: The Afterlife of Holly Chase
Book Review: The Freemason's Daughter by Shelley Sackier

For the next two weeks, I am taking a blog break to celebrate Easter with my family (my son is on spring break!) and also to prepare for my Summer Kickoff, which highlights beach reads for the summer of 2017.  It's my favorite time of the year!  

I will be posting once during the two week break to share my thoughts on Karen White's The Night the Lights Went Out, because I am part of a blog tour that is already scheduled.  It's a really great book, so keep your eye out for my review and a giveaway!  


Purple Hearts by Tess Wakefield - Thanks to Atria and NetGalley
Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen - Thanks to Penguin

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen - Thanks to Penguin
Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green - Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani - Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss
It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell - Thanks to St. Martins and SheSpeaks Book Club 

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.

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