Pages

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Battle of Hello, Sunshine[s]!



Blurb from Goodreads:
A Prep School Girl with a Hollywood Dream

Becca Harrington is a reject. After being rebuffed by every college on her list, she needs a fresh start, so she packs up everything and moves to LA, giving herself one year to land an acting gig or kill herself trying. 

Unfortunately, not everything turns out as planned, and after a few grueling months, LA is looking like the worst idea ever. As hard as she tries, Becca can’t land an agent, she's running out of cash, and her mom is hounding her to apply to more schools. In an act of desperation, Becca and her friend Marisol start posting short videos online—with the help of their adorable filmmaker neighbor, Raj—and the videos catch the attention of a TV producer. Could this be it? Her big break? Or will she have to move back home with nothing but some bad head shots and a monstrous credit-card bill? 

Becca may not get the Hollywood ending she was hoping for, but perhaps she’ll learn there’s more than one way to achieve her dream. 
My Review:
 
I totally loved Leila Howland's book from a few summers ago, Nantucket Blue, so I was excited to read her latest offering. And it was engaging from the first sentence.  I really loved Becca - even though she was only 18, she had a dream and I was kind of awe-struck of her pursuit of it.  This felt very realistic to me and I have to say that Leila Howland writes kick-ass women MCs.  Even if they're young, they are so well developed and know what the want.  There is this pushing through life in the face of the fear that she is able to capture and that I so admire! One of the other things that Leila was able to convey in both books was super strong friendships.  I loved Becca's friendships and how she really grew and came into her own over the course of the book.  The beginning of the book started focused on a romance but the romance then took a backseat to the acting, which I thought worked SO well!
I've been trying to fall asleep for five hours. I've breathed according to a pocket-sized book about meditation, read the People magazine I bought near the bus stop in Pasadena, memorized half of a Shakespearian sonnet, and flipped the pillow to the cool side, but nothing has worked.


Blurb from Goodreads:
Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.

And then she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.
My Review:
Even though the MC of this Hello, Sunshine is 20 years older than Becca in Leila Howland's Hello, Sunshine, she isn't nearly as comfortable in her own skin. I typically love books involving food and kitchens but this one was just lacking - I don't mind an MC that isn't perfect and that you might not even like - but Sunshine was pretty awful.  Getting past that, the setting was ok (mostly in the Hamptons) but I just felt like this book wasn't really worth reading.  I don't know that Sunshine learned anything or really grew in the book and I honestly didn't care by the end.
You should probably know two things up front. And the first is this: On my thirty-fifth birthday--the day I lost my career and my husband and my home in one uncompromising swoop--I woke up to one of my favorite songs playing on the radio-alarm clock. I woke up to "Moonlight Mile" playing on the radio (where it is almost never played) and actually thought, as you only would think if you're a total fool (or, perhaps, if you were about to lose your career and your husband and your home in one uncompromising swoop): The world, my world, is good.
Both of these books not only have the same title but they both involve an MC that has lost everything.  I think that Leila Howland was able to show more growth, strength and a good journey than Laura Dave.  Both Hello, Sunshine and Hello, Sunshine were released earlier this week on July 11, 2017, and I would definitely recommend reading some Leila Howland!!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes



Blurb from Goodreads:
From the bestselling authors of The Knockoff, an outrageously funny novel about one woman's attempt--through clay diets, naked yoga, green juice, and cultish workout classes--to win back her career, save her best friend, and lose thirty pounds.

When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin--the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin--her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don't fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues. At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman's tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true. As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can't help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place? 

A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture. 
My Review:
 
This was a fun, fast read - perfect for summer. It follows one fitness/health cliche after another set against the back-drop of NYC.  It was very similar to these authors' first book in terms of woman of a certain age at a professional crossroads, compounded by the city in which she lives.  This one, however, dealt with weight/health rather than mere fashion but I found very similar threads through both books.  This one didn't really make me think but I did like Janey quite a bit.  She voiced a lot of those struggles we all feel but I couldn't help but think I wished she were a bit deeper.  I think I had this same criticism of these authors' first book so maybe this is an area for improvement.
Fitness Junkie comes out tomorrow on July 11, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  My review of these authors' last book, The Knockoff, is HERE.
She made a few taps on her iPhone to start playing Dr. Dre's Chronic album. Nothing got a roomful a middle-aged white women up a hill faster than gangster rap out of Compton.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: Some Kind of Hero (Troubleshooters #17) by Suzanne Brockmann



Blurb from Goodreads:
Navy men don’t come tougher than Lieutenant Peter Greene. Every day he whips hotshot SEAL wannabes into elite fighters. So why can’t he handle one fifteen-year-old girl? His ex’s death left him a single dad overnight, and very unprepared. Though he can’t relate to an angsty teen, he can at least keep Maddie safe—until the day she disappears. Though Pete’s lacking in fatherly intuition, his instinct for detecting danger is razor sharp. Maddie’s in trouble. Now he needs the Troubleshooters team at his back, along with an unconventional ally.

Romance writer Shayla Whitman never expected to be drawn into a real-world thriller—or to meet a hero who makes her pulse pound. Action on the page is one thing. Actually living it is another story. Shay’s not as bold as her heroines, but she’s a mother. She sees the panic in her new neighbor’s usually fearless blue eyes—and knows there’s no greater terror for a parent than having a child at risk. It’s an ordeal Shay won’t let Pete face alone. She’s no highly trained operative, but she’s smart, resourceful, and knows what makes teenagers tick.

Still, working alongside Pete has its own perils—like letting the heat between them rise out of control. Intimate emotions could mean dangerous, even deadly, consequences for their mission. No matter what, they must be on top of their game, and playing for keeps . . . or else Pete’s daughter may be gone for good. 
My Review:
 
This was one of my most highly anticipated reads for 2017 because I have been waiting YEARS for a new book in this series.  There was some talk that maybe it was over but I was so happy to be back with the Troubleshooters! No one rights better romantic suspense in the military vein than Suzanne Brockmann and I seriously loved the characters of Pete and Shay that she created in this book.  Shay is an author (romantic suspense, of course) and she was so awesome.  Everything about this was seamless.  I also think no one can write alternating/multiple POV better than SB - she is so good at creating unique voices that are still easy to read. Although I wasn't actually in love with the sub-story of Pete's daughter's romance (it felt a bit off), I was still all in for this one and devoured it in a day.  I really hope this means there might be even more books in this series coming?  Maybe?!

Some Kind of Hero comes out next week on July 11, 2017 and you can purchase HERE.  I love this series so much!
He just pulled back to look into her eyes again, and time seemed to slow and not-quite stop, but change and expand. He'd experienced something similar a few times, while out on ops with the teams. There was a name for it, that sense of being present and acutely, intensely aware: kairos. The word also meant opportunity, and he was not a fool, so he slowly leaned in and when, once more, she didn't pull away, he kissed her again. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally



Blurb from Goodreads:
Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?
My Review:
No one writes more realistic, sex positive contemporary YA than Miranda Kenneally.  And her abilities in this area are a huge reason why I not only love her Hundred Oaks series but why I think this series is a must read, especially for teenage and adult women.  She always manages to capture what it was like to be in high school, at least what I felt like in high school, and her latest book, Coming Up for Air, is no exception.  I immediately connected with Maggie - she's driven and dedicated to swimming but she also has normal feelings and curiosities like every teenager.  The friendships she had were such a highlight in this book, both with Levi but also with her core group who meets every Friday.  I found these weekly meetings so endearing and reminiscent of being in high school. I also loved the descriptions of swimming -- the practices, the competitions, the traveling. This book was just so well developed in its plot and characters that I couldn't put it down.  I am sad to see this series end (this is the last book) but this book contains an amazing epilogue and I can't wait to see what Miranda writes next!  I can't recommend this series enough and I know I will re-read all of these books often.

Coming Up For Air comes out tomorrow on July 4, 2017, you can purchase HERE.  I cannot stress enough how amazing and important this series is - it is a must read for teens and adults alike.
What if fooling around with Levi is fueling stronger emotion that may or may not be real? Once it happened, feelings started blooming, as if I threw a bunch of seeds over my shoulder, and a month later, wildflowers were all over my yard. They are beautiful, but not what I had planned. Is that okay? Or will it all grow out of control and mess up our friendship?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy



Blurb from Goodreads:
The entangled pasts of two ruling class New England families come to light over three summer days on an island in Maine in this extraordinary debut novel.

1964. The Hillsingers and the Quicks have shared the small Maine island of Seven for generations. Though technically family—Jim Hillsinger and Billy Quick married Park Avenue sisters Lila and Hannah Blackwell—they do not mix. Now, on the anniversary of Hannah’s death, Lila feels grief pulling her toward Billy. Jim, a spy recently ousted from the CIA, decides to carry out the threat Lila explicitly forbid: to banish their youngest son, twelve-year-old Catta, to the neighboring island of Baffin for twenty-four hours in an attempt to make a man out of him.

Set during three summer days, Estep Nagy’s debut novel moves among the communities of Seven as longstanding tensions become tactical face-offs where anything is fair game for ammunition. Vividly capturing the rift between the cold warriors of Jim’s generation and the rebellious seekers of Catta’s, We Shall Not All Sleep is a richly told story of American class, family, and manipulation—a compelling portrait of a unique and privileged WASP stronghold on the brink of dissolution. 
My Review:
 
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this was one of the oddest, most scatter-brained and difficult to discern books that I have ever read.  There were so many threads and POV that I surely missed something in this book - some significance - and generally that would mean a low rating for me but something about this also felt very good to me. The e-ARC had a lot of formatting issues such that I almost want to read a final copy to see if there are more chapter breaks.  As it read, POVs were changed without break and it made the book difficult to read, at points.  I also had a hard time following the chapters that were flashbacks and/or slipped into the past.  Although the book more of less came together at the end with these threads and between the past and present, I'm not sure it delivered on what it promised.  Yes, it was an incredibly unique setting and it certainly showed a tension and struggle between two families that own one island but I can't help but feel that I missed something huge about the moral of this story.  It may just be me but I know I will think about this book long after I've finished it and that may be the true mark of a remarkable read.
We Shall Not All Sleep comes out next week on July 4, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  This book evades any genre and is definitely an interesting, if odd, read!  
This is how the world crushes you, he thought. There was no announcement. There was no freakish blow or lightning or floods or even bears. There was no mystery, not even any struggle or surprise. It was infinitely simple, you were forced into a series of small bad decisions that slowly and irrevocably cut off your options. And then, once you were confused and desperate and worn down by hunger and cold and whatever else--when at last you could no longer move or think--then the crows came down from their trees.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: A French Affair by Katie Fforde



Blurb from Goodreads:
Gina and Sally Makepiece have inherited a stall in the French House - an antiques centre nestled in the heart of the English countryside.

Gina is determined to drag the French House and its grumpy owner into the twenty-first century. Bearing all the attributes of a modern-day Mr Rochester, Matthew Ballinger is less than happy with the whirlwind that has arrived on his doorstep.

The last thing either of them want is to fall in love.

But will a trip to France change their minds?
My Review:
 
You guys already know about my Katie Fforde love (here, here and here) so I jumped at the chance to review her latest being offered up for the kindle this summer.  I really do love how they are finally making a lot of books from her backlist available on kindle for the first time even if this particular book wasn't my favorite of hers.  But, like pizza, even when Katie Fforde's books aren't my favorite, there is still a lot to love in them.  A French Affair was fun - lighthearted, romantic and interesting, I just wish there had been a bit more of France in it. It also meandered a bit in terms of sub-plots but it had that same comfort I have come to expect from Katie's books, something that we don't get in non-British romance. Of course, lots of tea/coffee/afternoon breaks were involved and I particularly loved Gina's sister, Sally. She offered a fun break in the romance.  I definitely recommend this one if you like Antiques Roadshow!
A French Affair comes out for the first time on kindle next week on July 7, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.
He was looking at her intently and Gina found she couldn't meet his gaze. She wasn't sure she could conceal how she felt about him. She'd suddenly realised that what she felt for him wasn't just a crush. It was much, much more than that. You didn't pine for someone you simple had a crush on; you didn't want to protect them, to save them from marauding gift-shop owners and grasping exes. She'd fallen in love with him.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: The Drowned Girls (Angie Pallorino #1) by Loreth Anne White



Blurb from Goodreads:
He surfaced two years ago. Then he disappeared ... 

But Detective Angie Pallorino never forgot the violent rapist who left a distinctive calling card—crosses etched into the flesh of his victim’s foreheads. 

When a comatose Jane Doe is found in a local cemetery, sexually assaulted, mutilated, and nearly drowned, Angie is struck by the eerie similarities to her earlier unsolved rapes. Could he be back?

Then the body of a drowned young woman floats up in the Gorge, also bearing the marks of the serial rapist, and the hunt for a predator becomes a hunt for a killer. Assigned to the joint investigative task force, Angie is more than ready to prove that she has what it takes to break into the all-male homicide division. But her private life collides with her professional ambitions when she’s introduced to her temporary partner, James Maddocks—a man she’d met the night before in an intense, anonymous encounter.

Together, Angie and Maddocks agree to put that night behind them. But as their search for the killer intensifies so does their mutual desire. And Angie’s forays into the mind of a monster shake lose some unsettling secrets about her own past . . . 

How can she fight for the truth when it turns out her whole life is a lie? 
My Review:
 
This was SO good!  I have been wanting this type of read for so long, and by that I mean a book that is suspenseful, has an element of romance, is an interesting crime procedural but hits that balance between detail and not being boring.  I am so happy this will be a series! Angie is the perfect MC of these books - smart, complex, fierce and far from perfect but so real. I just devoured this book - it had seriously creepy elements almost like Silence of the Lambs but it was also straightforward in just trying to catch a serial killer.  The setting is on the island of Victoria, BC and was perfect.  Loreth Anne White is a master at atmosphere! Sometimes it's hardest to review books that shine and this is one such instance but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book and you should definitely pick up this series.

The Drowned Girls comes soon on June 20, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  This book was so good and I can't wait for book two, The Lullaby Girl, which is scheduled to be released later this year on November 14, 2017, and you can pre-order HERE.
We all lie.
We all guard secrets--sometimes terrible ones--a side to us so dark, so shameful, that we quickly avert our eyes from the shadow we might glimpse in the mirror.
Instead we lock our dark halves deep in the basement of our souls. And on the surface of our lives, we work industriously to shape the public story of our selves. We say, "Look, world, this is me." We craft posts on social media . . See this wonderful lunch I'm eating at the trendy restaurant with my besties, see my sexy shoes, my cute puppy, boyfriend, tight as sin a bikini. See my gloriously perfect life . . . see what a fucking fabulous time I'm having drunk and at this party with my boobs swelling out of my sparkly tank top. Just look at those hot guys draped all over me. Aren't you jealous . . .
And then you wait to see how many people LIKE this fabricated version of yourself, your mood hinging on the number of clicks. Comments. Who commented.
But darkness has a way of seeping through the cracks. It seeks the light . . .

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: The Chalk Artist by Allegra Goodman



Blurb from Goodreads:
Tension arises in the love affair of a young artist for whom nothing is permanent and his girlfriend, a teacher who believes that things are meant to last by the New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist.

This is a compelling love story between two very different young people: Collin, a disarming chalk artist who thinks nothing of erasing his dazzling work, and Nina, an idealistic teacher who struggles every day to make a lasting impact on her students. Wanting Collin to realize his full talent, Nina warily introduces him to her powerful father, who owns the most cutting edge virtual reality game company in the world. Add to this a brilliant but unstable pupil of Nina’s who is gaming obsessed, and you have contemporary life caught in the crosshairs by one of our most charming and socially astute literary voices.  
My Review:
 
This was one of the most unique and intriguing books I've ever read.  I'm still not even sure what happened in it. The blurb is, mostly, correct but it doesn't tell you anywhere close to all of the facets in this book.  Nor does the blurb detail these very important if stringent magical realism chapters of the book that take place as if you were playing a highly realized video game.  It was an odd sensation and I didn't know where it was going at first; I may still not know where it is going. This book had a lot of parts and I didn't care about them equally and I'm not sure that all of them worked.  What did work for me was Collin and Nina - not just together but apart - These characters were the kind I could read about all day because they were so well developed and complex.  However, I didn't always love the chapters in the game - these were easy to skim even if highly (overly?) descriptive. The way the author tried to make various parts of the book come together fell a bit short to me but I still count this book as a success because it was weird and so different.  Definitely going to check out this author's past and future works.
The Chalk Artist comes out later this month on June 13, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  This book intrigued me enough to want to read more from this author!  
A stranger had been telling his secrets, publishing his dreams before he was born.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech



Blurb from Goodreads:
A ferocious talent on the brink of making it big in Nashville must confront her small town past and an old love she’s never forgotten in this engaging novel—a soulful ballad filled with romance, heartbreak, secrets, and scandal from the author of Season of the Dragonflies.

Playing to packed houses while her hit song rushes up the charts, country singer and fiddler Jo Lover is poised to become a big Nashville star like her idols, Loretta, Reba, and Sheryl. To ensure her success, Jo has carefully crafted her image: a pretty, sassy, down-to-earth girl from small-town Virginia who pours her heart into her songs.

But the stage persona she’s built is threatened when her independent label merges with big-time Capitol Records, bringing Nashville heartthrob JD McCoy—her first love—back into her life. Long ago Jo played with JD’s band. Then something went wrong, they parted ways and took their own crooked roads to stardom. Now, Jo’s excited—and terrified—to see him again. 

When the label reunites them for a show, the old sparks fly, the duet they sing goes viral, and fans begin clamoring for more—igniting the media’s interest in the compelling singer. Why is a small-town girl like Jo so quiet about her past? When did she and JD first meet? What split them apart? All too soon, the painful secret she's been hiding is uncovered; a shocking revelation that threatens to destroy her reputation and her dreams. To salvage her life and her career, Jo must finally face the past—and her feelings for JD—to become the true Nashville diva she was meant to be.
My Review:
 
This one went off the rails! The beginning was actually okay for me - the premise intrigued me because I LOVE the movie The Thing Called Love and I love Nashville even though I don't really give a lick about country music.  This sounded like a pretty epic second chance romance from its description and it started off that way . . . and then, this whole other story line popped up and divided the attention of this book.  I liked both threads and thought each of them would have made its own book fairly well but putting them together just confused me and made this book way too long.  It got to a point where the characters were making these off the wall decisions and I just couldn't turn another page.  I think this one would have worked a lot better with some editing and attention to either one of the stories but not both and not together.

The Whole Way Home comes out next month on June 6, 2017, and you can purchase HERE. While this definitely didn't work for me, I hope you have better luck!
J.D. told the crowd, "I guess my fiddle player just showed up." 
She laughed, and it was like nothing he'd heard before. She laughed without hesitation, without boundaries. It made him lean closer to her. Her laugh was a magnet. She stepped right in front of him and spoke into the microphone. "Hi there. So sorry I'm late. Got snagged in a potato sack." 
The crowd laughed too and clapped. They were drawn to her, that much was clear. More people took a sat in the bleachers. Jo's hair smelled like a summer ripe cucumber cut straight from the vine. Copperheads and rattlesnakes smelled that way too--it's how you knew they were near. Jo was so beautiful that looking at her felt like poison. 
"Ready?" she said to J.D.
To the crowd he said, "Let's try this one more time." 
Jo began tapping her boot and watched him for the start. 
J.D. was certain her loved her the moment she made that fiddle cry.
 
Imagination Designs