Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe


Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Gallery
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe returns to her beloved Isle of Palms to tell the poignant, charming story of two women, one summer, and one very special beach house. When Cara Rutledge rents out her quaint beach house on Isle of Palms to Heather Wyatt for the entire summer, it’s a win-win by any standard: Cara’s generating income necessary to keep husband Brett’s ecotourism boat business afloat, and anxiety-prone Heather, an young artist who’s been given a commission to paint birds on postage stamps, has a quiet space in which to work and tend to her pet canaries uninterrupted. It isn’t long, however, before both women’s idyllic summers are altered irrevocably: the alluring shorebirds—and the man who rescues them—begin to draw Heather out of the shell she’s cultivated toward a world of adventure, and maybe even love; at the same time, Cara’s life reels with sudden tragedy, and she wishes only to return to the beach house that had once been her port amidst life’s storms. When Heather refuses to budge from her newfound sanctuary, so begins the unlikeliest of rooming situations. While they start out as strangers, as everything around the women falls apart they learn that the only thing they can really rely on is each other. And, like the migrating shorebirds that come to the island for the summer, these two women of different generations must rediscover their unique strengths so by summer’s end they, too, can take flight in ways they never imagined possible."
Cara's mother left her a cottage, Primrose, on the Isle of Palms, South Carolina and even though it's quite old, she refuses to sell it (the land is worth a fortune!), because it means so much to her.  Cara and her husband rent out the house for the summer to an artist, Heather, who has the incredible task of painting shorebirds for postage stamps.  Heather struggles with some major social anxieties and normally keeps to herself, but that is hard to do on the Isle of Palms.  For starters, Bo Stanton is building a deck on the property and she sees him everyday.  Despite her major social issues, she can't help but feel a connection with him and the same goes for Bo.  He actually helps Heather move out of her comfort zone.  Then there's Cara who deals with a major and unexpected tragedy that shatters her once perfect world into a million pieces.  To recover from this major blow, she wants to find refuge at Primrose and ends up rooming with Heather.  In turn, an unexpected friendship forms and both women help each other through life's ups and downs.   Mary Alice Monroe's Beach House for Rent is a perfect beach read for fans who enjoy Dorothea Benton Frank's novels as well as beach fiction about female friendships.

I immediately liked the character of Cara in Beach House for Rent. I enjoyed learning more of her back story, especially about her childhood, and I liked her spunk.  On the other hand, I took a little while to warm up to Heather as she is a bit more rough around the edges.  As readers learn more about her past and as she slowly gets over some of her issues, I enjoyed her a bit more.  In fact, Heather's love interest, Bo, is very charming and I really liked their blossoming romance.


Apparently Beach House for Rent is a part of Monroe's Beach House series, but each book can be read as a standalone.  What is pretty cool is the fact that some of the characters are recurring, so I definitely want to check out the other books in the series to get more of a complete picture.  


Also, Beach House for Rent is my first novel that I've read by Monroe and I was pleasantly surprised regarding her incorporation of nature. I really appreciated all of her facts and descriptions of the shore birds as well as the turtles.  I read that the other novels in the series also highlight coastal wildlife as well as nature, which I really enjoy.  Also, her descriptions of the Isle of Palms were so beautiful as well the descriptions of Primrose.  It had me dreaming of a vacation down South and renting a gorgeous ocean front cottage with beautiful views and the sound of the waves lulling me to sleep at night.


So, if you are like me and beach reads are your thing, definitely check out Beach House for Rent this summer. It had a bit of everything that I like when it comes to vacation reading or lounging poolside with a great read.







Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: More Than We Can Tell

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

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer
Pub. Date: March 6, 2018



Goodreads says, "Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay...until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.  Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.  When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling."

Guys, I know next March is wayyyy off, but it's Rev's book!!!! I am thrilled he is getting his own book and if you haven't read Letters to the Lost yet, you must stop what you are doing and read it. It's one of the best YA books I've read this year.   What do you guys think?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It's Not You, It's Me (21)


It's not you, it's me."  Some books just don't work for me, whereas other readers may really enjoy them.  This feature will be showcasing books that I never finished or reviewed; you know…...the dreaded DNF.


The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder  


Goodreads says, "Relationships are awful. They'll kill you, right up to the point where they start saving your life. Paul and Alice’s half-sister Eloise is getting married! In London! There will be fancy hotels, dinners at “it” restaurants and a reception at a country estate complete with tea lights and embroidered cloth napkins. They couldn’t hate it more. The People We Hate at the Wedding is the story of a less than perfect family. Donna, the clan’s mother, is now a widow living in the Chicago suburbs with a penchant for the occasional joint and more than one glass of wine with her best friend while watching House Hunters International. Alice is in her thirties, single, smart, beautiful, stuck in a dead-end job where she is mired in a rather predictable, though enjoyable, affair with her married boss. Her brother Paul lives in Philadelphia with his older, handsomer, tenured track professor boyfriend who’s recently been saying things like “monogamy is an oppressive heteronormative construct,” while eyeing undergrads. And then there’s Eloise. Perfect, gorgeous, cultured Eloise. The product of Donna’s first marriage to a dashing Frenchman, Eloise has spent her school years at the best private boarding schools, her winter holidays in St. John and a post-college life cushioned by a fat, endless trust fund. To top it off, she’s infuriatingly kind and decent. As this estranged clan gathers together, and Eloise's walk down the aisle approaches, Grant Ginder brings to vivid, hilarious life the power of family, and the complicated ways we hate the ones we love the most in the most bitingly funny, slyly witty and surprisingly tender novel you’ll read this year."
My Thoughts:
I love a good wedding story, so I had high hopes for this one. Plus, I've read some awesome reviews for this book, but ultimately, I just wasn't feeling it. I may pick it up at a later date, because it definitely has potential, but it was a bit too cynical for me. I like my summer reads a bit lighter unless they are thrillers.





Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney 


Goodreads says, "For the first time ever, the Weston sisters are at the same boarding school. After an administration scandal at Libby’s all-girls school threatens her chances at a top university, she decides to join Charlotte at posh and picturesque Sussex Park. Social-climbing Charlotte considers it her sisterly duty to bring Libby into her circle: Britain’s young elites, glamorous teens who vacation in Hong Kong and the South of France and are just as comfortable at a polo match as they are at a party. It’s a social circle that just so happens to include handsome seventeen-year-old Prince Edward, heir to Britain’s throne. If there are any rules of sisterhood, “Don’t fall for the same guy” should be one of them. But sometimes chemistry—even love—grows where you least expect it. In the end, there may be a price to pay for romancing the throne...and more than one path to happily ever after."

My Thoughts:
I love a good story about royals--usually they are my favorite, but this one with such hard-core sibling rivalry got old. I just couldn't stomach it. Also, I found it too Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for me and the dialogue was irritating.



Into the Water by Paula Hawkins 


Goodreads says, "A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged. Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return. With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present. Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath."
My Thoughts:
I was so pumped for this book since I enjoyed The Girl on the Train, but this was a big epic fail for me.  I read about 100 pages and I was still so confused as to what was happening. And not in a good unreliable narrator kind of way. In the type of way that I was thinking to myself.... what is this story even about? Why am I reading it? Plus, there were about one million points of view, which made things even more confusing.



The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green 


Goodreads says, "Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.   As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother's overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother's fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.   But now the Sunshine Girls are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own, their mother s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all."
My Thoughts:
In the past, I have enjoyed Green's novels, especially because they are perfect as beach reads, but this one didn't jive with me.  I was disappointed by how depressing it seemed.  The main character was pretty annoying and a total narcissist; plus, the subject matter was a bit too dark for me to bring it to the beach. I guess I was originally sucked in due to the beachy cover?

What do you guys think? Have you read any of them? What are some of the latest books that you DNF? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Review: It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell


Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's 
Source: She Speaks
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars  



Goodreads says, "Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.   How did things come to this As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband? "






I received this book free from SheSpeaks.

Aubrey, Jenny, and Kate are assigned rooms together at the prestigious Carlisle College, but they couldn't be more different.  Aubrey is leaving behind a life that's rough with a mother who uses her and can't pay the bills; she sees college as a way to escape and start over.  Then there's Jenny, who is a townie, but is so much more than simply that. Obviously, she is a high achiever since she got accepted to Carlisle, but she wants to take herself even further and make the right connections.  Lastly, there's Kate. The quintessential rich girl who only got to school because of, well, nepotism.  One would think these three girls living together would be an epic disaster, but somehow they end up being friends despite the many complications that college brings.  There's death in the family, keeping up grades, spring break, drugs, controlling parents, backstabbing, and so much more.  Then tragedy strikes. Fast forward twenty years later they all end up living in the college town married, but the secrets are still there and the truth always comes out.  It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell is an entertaining thriller and perfect for those who like darker summertime reads.

Somehow I found it hard to identify with either of the girls as they are all so despicable in their own ways.  This is definitely one of those books where I didn't necessarily enjoy the characters, but Campbell did a good job making me care about their journey and their secrets.  With that said, I cared most about Aubrey; she is a sad character in It's Always the Husband. She latches on to Kate and in turn ends up in situations that she probably would have never been in prior to meeting Kate.  She has a hard time dealing with her past as well as some of the future familial issues that pop up while she is in college.  

Kate is straight up annoying in It's Always the Husband. She's spoiled, troubled, and uses people. Honestly, she needs to get help. She influences people and takes them down the wrong path. I mean her "picture perfect" rich girl life isn't exactly perfect, but that doesn't excuse her bad behavior.

Jenny, I guess, has it together the most in It's Always the Husband, but I also didn't agree with her motives half the time. She is all about connections and doesn't care about what she has to do to get to the top. I think she tried to be a good friend, but essentially, doesn't know how.

I like how Campbell tells their story and how things unfold in college.  The narrative also picks up in the "future" with them as adults in It's Always the Husband. Getting bits and pieces this way sort of puts everything in perspective; plus, there's a major issue surrounding a tragic night.  There's some secrets about what truly happened and who is at fault. Since things were never really dealt with in the past, they become an issue again in the future, especially since more drama ensues. 

Without giving too much away, there's a murder mystery in It's Always the Husbandand this aspect of the novel kept me flipping the pages despite the fact that I found all the characters to be troubled.  Campbell is a federal prosecutor, so you could really tell that portrayal of an investigation and the issues surrounding the murder were well done and realistic.  

If you like darker summer time reads and thrillers, giveIt's Always the Husband a try this summer. 

Thanks to She Speaks and St. Martin's I am giving away my ARC to one lucky US reader. Please refer to my giveaway rules and the deadline is June 28th.  Good luck! 

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Monday, June 12, 2017

A Blog Break!

I am going to be taking a blog break to spend some much needed family time at the beach.   I plan on getting some reading done at the beach (bliss!), but in reality, I will probably be chasing a very active one year old all over the beach and building sandcastles with my four year old son. I wouldn't have it any other way though. 






But because I am an optimist, I am throwing these books in my beach bag:  Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams and Once and For All by Sarah Dessen. 



What are you guys reading this week? 

And it appears that the East Coast has realized that it's almost summer, because we have a major heat wave on our hands. 

Don't forget to enter my giveaways for Secrets of Southern Girls and a Summer Reads Prize Package and my other giveaway for Anna Dewdney's Little Excavator.

I hope you all have a great week and I'll be back soon reviewing more summertime reads and sharing a great giveaway! 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Spotlight: Secrets of Southern Girls and Prize Package Giveaway

I am excited to share with you guys a great summer reads giveaway.  I have partnered with Sourcebooks to give away a copy of Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan and a summer reads prize package including four other books.  Secrets of Southern Girls sounds like my kind of thriller that's perfect for vacation or a lazy summer day. I love a book that can keep me flipping the pages.


About The Book:


"In Secrets of Southern Girls, the powerful, affecting debut from Haley Harrigan, a young woman uncovers devastating secrets about the friend she thinks she killed… Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret. When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death. In fact, she may not be responsible at all." 



About The Author:  

Haley Harrigan graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in creative writing and public relations. She lives in Athens, Georgia, with her husband. Secrets of Southern Girls is her debut.  Visit her website at www.haleyharrigan.com or on Twitter @HCHarrigan.


The deadline for the giveaway is June 14th and is open to US readers.  Please refer to my giveaway rules.  Good luck!

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Review: The Summer House by Hannah McKinnon


Pages: 336
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Atria
Source:  Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Lake Season
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When Flossy Merrill summons her children to the beloved family beach house to celebrate their father’s eightieth birthday, both cherished memories and long-kept secrets come to light in this charming and lyrical novel from the author of The Lake Season and Mystic Summer.   Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.  No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves. Featuring McKinnon’s “sharp and evocative” (Kirkus Reviews) voice, this warm-hearted novel is perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Mary Alice Monroe."
Flossy Merrill would love to have her family spend some time all under the same roof at their beach house, just like the good old days. What better to get them there than to celebrate their father's 80th birthday? Her three children and their families come, some more willing than others, and along with them come their problems, some larger than others. There's Clementine, the youngest Merrill, who had two little ones and is just coming out of a very, very upsetting year. Then there's Samuel and his partner who are in the process of adopting, but learning that some things don't always work out easily.  Lastly, there's Paige, the oldest Merrill, and the most stubborn. She is a micro-manager and she appears to have it all together, but, well, doesn't.  Managing her two teens has proven to be tough along with her unemployed husband and her growing veterinary practice.  The Merrill children come together and personalities collide, secrets are unearthed, and family bonds are forged. Where better to do this than at their beloved Rhode Island beach house? Hannah McKinnon's The Summer House really tugged on my heart strings. I loved this beach read and the Merrill family.

Clementine's story truly made me sympathize with her in The Summer House .  As a mother to two little ones, I could understand her struggles with the day-to-day grind, but what cards life throws her is definitely very upsetting. She had to deal with life-altering circumstances and when she returns to her family's beach house, she is still working through all of that.  Of course her family is worried about her, but hopefully the salt air will help her heal. I was rooting for her from the get-go.

I really loved the character of Samuel in The Summer House . He's a complex character that is in no way perfect, but I loved his relationship with his partner, Evan. Their struggles with adoption felt truly real and I think McKinnon captured the ups and downs well.

Paige's story also really tugged on my heartstrings, because she is trying so hard to keep it all together for her family as a working mother, but is struggling.  I think many mothers today can relate to Paige  and the pull to be everything to everyone. Plus, raising two teenagers is no easy feat.  Her relationship with her husband is on the rocks since his layoff and they aren't really communicating well.

Combine all of these different personalities as well as problems into the mix, and you've got yourself an interesting family vacation. To top it off, Flossy knows deep down that they need to sell the beloved beach house, so she just wants one happy week before they must say goodbye to it forever.

McKinnon captures beach life so very well in The Summer House . Her descriptions of the bonfires, the hot days by the ocean, the starry-night skies, and the simple moments in a house by the ocean are spot on. Her descriptions took me back to my own summers and family vacations. I truly loved "living" at the Merril's house and couldn't wait to pick up the book again.

So, if you are looking for a beach read that will tug on your heartstrings, has a lot of family drama and beautiful descriptions of a beach house and beach living, you must check out The Summer House . It's my favorite of McKinnon's novels and it's one of my favorite novels of the year.


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