Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bittersweet by Jacquie Underdown

Bittersweet (Brothers of the Vine, #1)Bittersweet by Jacquie Underdown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really fantastic romance. It's very sweet and sentimental feeling as it really revolves around a family. There is a great deal of emotion in this one. It's not a funny book. It's an emotional and moving story. This is one that definitely made me cry ... ok, it made me sob. But, in a good way - in that way that a beautiful and moving story will tug at your heartstrings. Jacquie Underdown has written such a wonderful book that I highly recommend. It's not a fun or raunchy romance ... it's sweet and lovely. It was such a nice change of pace for me after reading a lot of less emotional romance lately. I really enjoyed this one and definitely recommend it.

NOTE: The publisher provided me an ARC copy of this book for an honest review

Infraction by Rachel Van Dyken

Infraction (Players Game, #2)Infraction by Rachel Van Dyken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this romance and look forward to going back and reading the first book. And I'm eager for the 3rd book to come out since it will wrap up quite a bit that began with this novel. I've been reading a lot of romances with the overprotective brother trope so I was concerned this one would be just another book with that trope. And yet, Rachel Van Dyken really delivered a unique and interesting novel with this one. I thought the storyline was well done and the couple at the center was really well done. It has a little bit of it all - humor, romance, etc. I really enjoyed this couple and all of the characters surrounding them. I really liked the world that was created here and I can't wait to go back to visit!

NOTE: This ARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

Bad for You by J. Daniels

Bad for You (Dirty Deeds, #3)Bad for You by J. Daniels
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this romance. The hero and heroine were outstanding! This one really excelled at the relationship development - this isn't a relationship that comes quickly or easily. Which makes it all the more satisfying to see where it goes. The hero is broken and complex. The heroine has such a compelling personality and story. The two of them together is just magic. This is a story that is heartwarming and full of hope. It doesn't wrap everything up perfectly as it feels more realistic than that to me. But, it's themes of redemption and healing are so beautifully done that I didn't want to put this book down. It's extremely readable and compelling! I hadn't read the first two books in this series but I don't feel as if I missed anything. I do want to go back and read the first two since this one was so fantastic!

NOTE: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.

Long Shot by Kelly Jamieson

Long Shot (Last Shot, #3)Long Shot by Kelly Jamieson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this series and this one did not disappoint! I've been looking forward to Cade's story and Kelly Jamieson definitely delivered an amazing story! Cade and Reese are a fantastic, multi-faceted couple. They are not in any way perfect. They are complex, struggling people who begin to help heal each other. I love Reece's dog and how that storyline was weaved into the overall story. Quite well written, expertly paced, great character development. It has all the elements of a good romance! This one grabbed me and swept me up. I did not want to put it down and yet I didn't want it to end. I don't think you have to read this series in order but I think you'll get a lot of extra enjoyment if you do! I definitely recommend this one! Happy reading!

This one comes out on February 27th so be sure to make a note to pick it up then!

Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Don't Go by Alexa Riley

Don’t Go (For You, #3)Don’t Go by Alexa Riley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm struggling with this review a bit because I liked this one but I didn't connect with it nearly as much as some other reviewers. I liked the story overall and the characters but the story arc felt very rushed and there were issues with the pacing for me. I haven't read the earlier novels in this series and I felt like perhaps I was missing something by coming in at book 3. Apparently, the hero in this book is the child of the hero/heroine from an earlier book ... which may explain some of what the disconnect was for me. I'm not sure but that was how I felt as I finished. There was an abruptness to the storyline and how things wrap up. And so I didn't love this one quite as much as I'd hoped ... but, after reading reviews by others, I'm wondering if maybe that was partly about coming in without having read the earlier books. And, so, if you've read the For You series and enjoyed it, this may be the book for you! If not, perhaps give those a shot before picking this one up.

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book for an honest review.

Changes Coming ...

You are going to be seeing a number of changes here on the blog as I try to be a bit more present here and make sure I have a variety of content here for all of you! I tend to focus on reviews but I'd like to give you all MORE! You'll be seeing more variety as well as more frequent posts!

I don't know about you but I love quotes ... especially quotes about my favorite thing ... BOOKS! So, let's get this new phase of the blog started with one of my favorite quotes by Anne Lamott. Please comment and let me know if there are specific things you'd like to see me do here on the blog! I'm excited to see where this can go!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review: What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

What HappenedWhat Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I took my time with this one, reading it over several months. There are a few reasons for this ... one, it broke my heart when it reminded me of what could have been. Of where we could have been. And because I am a huge Hillary Clinton fan from way back, reading her book only made me love her more. I admire her in every way ... she is such an amazing woman. And this book only reinforced what I was already feeling about our current political moment ... devastated at where we are and sad for our nation to be led by Donald Trump.

America deserved Hillary Clinton as our leader. Just reading this book reminded me (again) how much she brought to the table ... skills and ideas that we NEED. Her loss was a devastating loss for me personally but an even more devastating loss for our nation. To go from the idea of a competent, intelligent and honorable person as our President to the reality of a Trump presidency. He's a joke. An idiot. A sexist, racist man who cares about no one more than himself. And reading about her ideas and her experiences only reminded me again of what a HUGE loss it was for all of us. Over a year later and I'm still feeling the loss.

I love how this book gave Hillary the opportunity to tell her side of the story, explaining her thoughts and feelings about the election and her life of service. I know many people don't appreciate her ... she's not liked by many. I think this book gave the reader a little view into her as a woman, a mother, a wife, a grandmother. The sides that aren't often seen in the media. I appreciated her candor - she owns her mistakes, she looked at herself in a very honest way. She explored the uncomfortable aspects of the campaign and took a hard look at what she could have done differently.

I really appreciated the time and energy she put into this book. She obviously gave a lot of thought to this book and I think it was so reassuring to see how thoughtful she is about her life and her impact in the world. I found the chapter about the Russian influence in the election to be extremely compelling. Very thoughtful and realistic analysis of what happened and what it means to us and our democracy.

That a woman who has been in public life, giving her all to the people of the United States, has continued to fight despite the ugliness constantly thrown at her is so inspiring to me. And it reminds me that this isn't over ... we can and will fight back against the misogyny and racism that seems to be so front and center in today's day to day.

All in all, I just can't say enough about how much I loved this book. She is an amazing woman and I'm still heartbroken that she's not the President of our nation. She deserved it. We deserved it. I highly recommend this book.For me, this is the very book that I needed after the heartbreaking election results.

[I'm sorry to get political and I know that some of my words may anger some people who supported/support Trump but I have to speak my own truth about this one. We may or may not agree politically but I am proud to live in a nation that allows all of us to express our own beliefs].

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I struggled a bit with this review ... although I loved the book as a whole, I didn't find the journey nearly as satisfying as it could be. Eleanor, as a character, is fantastic - her journey in the novel is what really makes it special. She's unique and interesting - a puzzle in many ways. As her story unfolds, you begin to put the pieces together and better understand the unique aspects of her personality and her experience of the world. For me, the story really felt like it was really well done and yet it felt, at times, that it was moving at a glacial pace. It felt like it took forever for the story to move along. Once it did, I loved where it went. But, in the middle, it was a struggle to get there. In the end, I loved it. But, it wasn't a smooth ride for me. But, all in all, I highly recommend it. Eleanor is an unforgettable character, one that we can all learn from. This really is one of those books that gives the reader something special. It's definitely worth the read! There is a reason that this book is showing up on so many people's favorite books of the year lists.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Review: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

CommonwealthCommonwealth by Ann Patchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is killing me to give an Ann Patchett novel 3 stars. I'm a huge fan of her work. This is really the first of her novels that I didn't love. Now, let me start with the fact that this novel is beautifully written. Ann Patchett can WRITE! As I read what this was about, I was sure it was going to be a new favorite - everything about it screamed to me. It's about blended families, for goodness sake. So in my wheelhouse. And yet, the actual reading of it just didn't connect with me. The writing was fabulous and the story was right up my alley. And yet, I never connected with this one. I typically find Patchett's work to almost dance on the page - it's so engaging and compelling. But, this particular novel never popped for me ... it felt almost stagnant in some way. In addition, I felt like it flowed in a funky way and never met the promise it had in the beginning. All in all, I'm still a huge fan of Patchett but I just didn't connect with this particular one. But, I appear to be in the minority of readers ... most of my bookish friends really loved this one. So, if you're a Patchett fan, please give this one a shot. I'm hoping you'll be one of the readers who love this one!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Review: Can't Forget You by Rachel Lacey

Can't Forget You (Risking it All, #3)Can't Forget You by Rachel Lacey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this is the third book in a series, I haven't read the first two books. This read very much like a stand alone. And I enjoyed it so much that I intend to go back and read the first two in the series. I love a reunited story line and this one is a really good one. The characters were all very well fleshed out. The relationship between the hero and heroine was really sweet. It was lovely to see them reunite and come together with a new start. The hero is a bit of a tortured soul which is also compelling. Watching them come together while he's working to heal himself was really interesting. The heroine (Jessica) is a smart, feisty character which was a nice contrast to the hero who was struggling emotionally. All in all, this was a really nice, sweet romance. I definitely enjoyed it and plan to read more of the series!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for a honest review.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Review: Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes EverythingReading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been dipping in and out of this one for the last few weeks. I think that was a really nice way to work through this book. I jumped around to the various topics that interested me the most. Let me start by saying I'm a huge Anne Bogel fan - I read her blog and listen to her podcast religiously. I like her approach to reading and books. I was really excited to see she was writing a book and I was even more excited once I found out it was about personality. That is one of the things that I really love to hear Anne write/talk about since I'm also fascinated with personality and how it affects our lives.

I've done quite a bit of work around Meyer's Briggs and StrengthsFinders over the years and they are both included in this book. And yet, I still found things from those sections that I didn't know or hadn't thought about. And the other chapters cover other personality frameworks were fascinating ... in fact, I'm now doing more research on the Enneagram and the Highly Sensitive frameworks. This book is a great introduction and basic overview of each framework. If you have an interest in personality and want to learn more, this is a fantastic place to start.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Review: Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner

Heather, the TotalityHeather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am really struggling with this review. There were things that I liked about this one and things that didn't quite work for me. Since finishing, I've heard several interviews with the author and that has given me a bit more of a positive perspective than I had when I initially finished. I know much of the buzz for this one came from the fact that the author is well known for his work with Mad Men. After hearing him talk about this book and his intention in writing it, I definitely had a better feeling about the book as a whole. I suspect this is due to the fact that this book covers some topics that aren't easy to read. I also heard someone say something very negative about this novel before reading it so I'm wondering if my initial reactions may have been tied to that initial impression that I had from their negative remark.

This is more of a novella than a novel (130 pages) - it's a very quick read and isn't a difficult read in any way, shape or form. There is an odd structure to this one - it's told in a very detached 3rd person narrative. The writing is very clear and realistic - nothing flowery here. It didn't bother me but I know many reviewers have mentioned that it's structure was discombobulating for other readers. The structure gave the story the feeling of a script in some way which may be tied to his being a screenwriter.

The story itself is where I think many people became a little frustrated with the novel. It is an interwoven narrative that tells the stories of a well off family and a construction worker. The author goes into great detail about the family - the parents, in particular. We learn a great deal about them and their innermost thoughts. Some of these thoughts are disturbing and feel icky. And the construction worker's story is all around disturbing. How Matthew Weiner pulls these two narratives together is interesting. I feel of two minds about it ... one one hand, I see where he's going and find it fascinating and yet, I also understand why it's been so frustrating to many readers. I can't say too much without ruining the book for you so if I sound cagey, that is why.

I found the story of the construction worker to be the most fascinating of the two narratives but that goes well with my own personal interests around nature versus nurture. His perspective was disturbing but compelling. In fact, I'd almost have loved to have read a whole book about him and his life. That story line stayed with me.

The overall themes of obsession and choice really resonated with me. The exploration of nature versus nurture. The contemplation about parenting and freedom. The idea of moral ambiguity just permeates this book in such a great way. And so ... that was all good. And yet, the book also left me feeling uncomfortable ... almost leaving a bad taste in my mouth or something. I liked it ... but I didn't love it. I completely understand the critical reviews. I get it completely. But, I liked it more than I expected based on the reviews I'd read and the feedback I'd heard before reading it.

I have a hard time recommending this one because it is such a decisive book. If the synopsis sounds interesting and the themes are interesting to you, I think you should give this one a shot. If not, you may want to skip it.

Review: A Crazy Kind of Love by Mary Ann Marlowe

A Crazy Kind of LoveA Crazy Kind of Love by Mary Ann Marlowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a little to get into this one but once I did, I was IN. This was a nice, light romance with an interesting story line. I loved the chemistry between the characters and the side characters were all well drawn and had depth. It was interesting to think about the paparazzi angle and how it must feel to be a person who does that for a living. I really enjoyed everything about this one. So cute and memorable! I enjoyed the fact that this one was heavy on the sweet stuff and didn't have the usual angst and difficulty that many romances have. It was simply a love story with an interesting plot wrapped around it. Very good book!

Note: Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC for an honest review.

Review: Only You by Addison Fox

Only You (The Brooklyn Brotherhood, #4)Only You by Addison Fox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although part of an existing series (of which I've only read the 3rd book), I do think this worked just fine as a stand alone novel. I enjoyed how the background of the series was tied into this particular story. This was a solid romance that engaged me throughout. I really liked both of the primary characters ... although the hero's name (Fender) was pretty annoying to me. I'm just not a fan of the name. The overall message - love can conquer all - was really well done in this novel. I enjoyed the way the various characters came together and overcame the obstacles before them. I definitely think I'll be going back and read the first two books in the series. I enjoy the world that Addison Fox creates in this series and look forward to revisiting the earlier books.

Note: Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC for an honest review

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review: Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Gather the DaughtersGather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love dystopian stories. They are some of my favorites. So, I was really looking forward to this one. Given our current political environment and the seemingly daily assault on the rights of women, I think this book does a good job of giving the reader a sense of how quickly and easily the rights of women can be trampled on. I quite liked the world that the author created but much of what has happened and continues to happen in the novel is left very vague. There are lots of hints but nothing is ever completely spelled out. The reader has to make a lot of inferences. As a result, the story could feel frustrating for me. I guess I’m not a big fan of narrative subtlety which permeates every page of this novel. This book really shined when it came to the characters, specifically the girls. Each of them are struggling with a desire for autonomy in a community where women have little control over their lives or bodies. The author did a great job of bringing these girls alive on the page and giving the reader a glimpse into their experiences. I just wish this one had been less subtle and more focused. It just never lived up to my expectation. Many other readers have loved this one so if it sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend you give it a shot.