Friday, December 30, 2016

Julie's 2016 Year in Review

 photo 2016 Books_zpsevql4ssd.jpgIt's everyone's favorite time of the year! You know, where everyone comes out with their favorite books of 2016 and why break the tradition, so here is my list:

My Goodreads Challenge Goal: 80 Books

Books Read: 84!! (Through 12/29/2016)

2016 was yet another year where I had more than a handful of 5/5 books! So, here is the break down by category for my favorites (not in a specific order).

Contemporary Fiction:

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Ramblers by Aiden Donnelly Rowley
The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop
We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman
Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer
Assistants by Camille Perri

Historical Fiction:

Lilac Girls by Martha Kelly Hall
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
Three Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell
Forgotten Room by Karen White, Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams
After Party by Anton Discalfani

Historical Fiction/Contemporary Fiction:

In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson
Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon
Vivian in Red by Kristina Riggle


Home  by Harlan Coben
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
Sister Dear by Laura ONeill
I Let You Go by Clare MacIntosh
Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica
Saving Jason by Michael Sears
Lost Girls by Heather Young
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti

Women's Fiction:

Lies And Other Acts of Love by Kristy Harvey Woodson
Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner
The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Young Adult:

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Other Categories:

Hungry Heart Adventures in Life Love and Writing by Jennifer Weiner

 I am hoping that 2017 is as wonderful of a reading year as 2016! Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Julie's Review: Remember the Ladies

Author: Gina L. Mulligan
Series: None
Publication Date: May 18, 2016
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Pages: 325
Obtained: Get Red PR
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A strong and determined heroine that you will cheer for until the end of the novel
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Growing up in an orphanage prepared Amelia Cooke for the high-stakes role of a female lobbyist in 1887, a time before women could vote. So when she's hired by the National Women's Suffrage Association to lobby for a suffrage amendment, Amelia feels empowered to give women a voice. What she doesn't foresee is Senator Edward Stillman. Stillman is charismatic, driven, and desperate to crush the amendment and Amelia. But in a political game where bribery, threats, extortion, and seduction prevail, who will win and at what cost? Set in the extravagant Gilded Age, Remember the Ladies explores the conflict between the sexes with delightful writing and elegant descriptions, which brings the reader back to a time when the struggle for women's equality had just begun.  

Review: Remember the Ladies is one of those novels that will cause you to take pause and realize that we really have come a long way in how women are viewed. A 100 years ago there were limited options for women and in 2016 we had our first female presidential candidate, that says a lot.

Amelia Cooke saw her parents die in a tragic carriage accident and then was raised in an orphanage where she never felt she truly belonged. So when she turned 18 she headed to D.C. where she thought she could make a difference. A chance meeting on a train with a powerful lobbyist that changes the course of her life. She has a lot to learn before she can even try to advocate for women using her voice. While she was attending a conference, she meets the charismatic Senator from Ohio, Edward Stillman. Their affair ends abruptly and they go their own way for a period of time. As a reader you know that Senator Stillman will be key in Amelia's vote for the suffrage amendment.

While the novel does move slow at times, it is probably pretty accurate to show how slow the inner workings of government move as well. I enjoyed the cat and mouse game between Edward and Amelia to gain the votes that they need to either get the amendment passed or squashed. Both of them are at the top of their game and aren't afraid to use knowledge of those voting to their advantage. 

I admired Amelia's grit and determination to get this amendment passed. I also admired her because it wasn't win at all costs for her either. She discovers more about herself and what she's willing to sacrifice throughout this process and decides that something aren't worth compromising.

I truly enjoyed reading about the struggle to get women the right to vote that wouldn't come to an end until 1920 when the amendment finally has the support it needed. If you are looking for a great historical fiction read, then you should pick up Remember the Ladies.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Julie's Review: The Girls in the Garden

Author: Lisa Jewell
Series: None
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Starts a little slow but give it time and you need to find out what happens in the garden
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? ?Grab
Summary: Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really? On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Review: Girls in the Garden is a story about the secrets we adults keep about our own teenage lives and the secrets that our teenagers keep from us. I actually shudder at that second part since my 11 year old will be there quicker than I care to admit. Virginia Park is one of those private gardens tucked away in London that only the people that live surrounding it can access. It seems idyllic, right? Well not with all the nooks and crannies within the garden/park itself. It's ripe with areas for hidden things to take hold.

We are introduced to Clare, Grace and Pip as being new to the park area after a tragedy has befallen them. They quickly befriend Adele, Leo and their 3 girls; Catkin, Fern and Willow who are home-schooled and yes a bit weird but mainly it seems because they haven't been exposed to anything outside of their commune. To round out the kids, we meet Tyler and Dylan who have been best friends for years. Grace and Pip struggle to fit in for a bit until they find their bearings with all the kids.

There's a history to the garden that Ms. Jewell starts to slowly weave you in on. It seems there was a death years ago when Leo and his brothers grew up hanging in the garden. It seems there are some rumors about what really happened and if any one was involved. Is the garden really as innocent as it seems or is there a darkness there? Is there a little bit of darkness in all of us, even when we are young and on the cusp of being a teen?

Ms. Jewell does a great job of laying down the crumbs of the mystery of what happened to Grace and what happened to Phoebe? Is it history repeating itself or is it coincidence? How would you feel if everyone that lived in your neighborhood knew all your business? It seems like you need to be one of those people that doesn't mind having everything out there because living like this is like living in a fishbowl. It definitely isn't for everyone.

There were times when I thought that both Adele and Clare needed a bit of a backbone and to rely on themselves instead of their husbands but in the end I came to appreciate why they were both like that, even if I didn't fully agree with it. As far as the teen girls, you realize just how spiteful they can be and want to shelter your kids from them but yet they need to learn how to deal with people like that because not everyone is kind. It's just unfortunate that kids experience that early in life. It also makes you aware at how quickly kids grow up and how badly they want to be adults without truly knowing the consequences instead of just enjoying childhood. That seems to be more prevalent today than ever before with social media.

If you are looking for a good mystery with a little bit of class-ism, then you should pick up Girls in the Garden.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Julie's Review: All the Breaking Waves

Author: Kerry Lonsdale
Series: None
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A story about finding yourself in the mistakes of the past and the hope in your future
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: After a harrowing accident tore her family apart, Molly Brennan fled from the man she loved and the tragic mistake she made. Twelve years later, Molly has created a new life for herself and her eight-year-old daughter, Cassie. The art history professor crafts jewelry as unique and weathered as the surf-tumbled sea glass she collects, while raising her daughter in a safe and loving environment—something Molly never had. But when Cassie is plagued by horrific visions and debilitating nightmares, Molly is forced to return to the one place she swore she’d never move back to—home to Pacific Grove. A riveting exploration of love, secrets, and motherhood, All the Breaking Waves is the poignant story of a woman who discovers she must confront her past, let go of her guilt, and summon everything in her power to save her daughter.  

Review: All the Breaking Waves is  interesting look at what it means to wrestle with your past and to realize that the secret you've been keeping has brought you more pain that joy. That you have suffered without needing to have carried it all on your own.. It is about finding hope in the future and learning to let go.

Molly is a single mom to young Cassidy who is starting to have visions about accidents that keep her up at night and make her an outcast at school. So much so that because of some of Cassidy's actions, she gets suspended from school. This causes Molly to pack up and run home to the house she grew up in, to her Nana. As she does this though, her past comes back to her in very real ways, because her childhood paramour is back and living next to her Nana. She left Owen abruptly and isn't ready to confront that with him. Right now, she's trying to stay alive based on a premonition that Cassidy that had of her.

Molly is struggling to do things right but in doing this, she misses a lot that is right in front of her. She doesn't realize that she's dangerously close to repeating her own family history. She is so wrapped up in her own head and singular vision that she's missing other clues that are going on around her.

There is a bit that is predictable in the novel but there are a couple twists and turns but I enjoyed the uncovering the history between Nana and Molly and how both of them carried their guilt differently.
Ms. Lonsdale wrote an interesting book that used a bit of mystical ability with a lot of heart and resilience. It's about how to believe in yourself and find your way back to the person you were.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Julie's Review: Love, Alice

Author: Barbara Davis
Series: None
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 432
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A sad and yet hopeful story about the cruelty displayed to single mom's in laundries throughout Europe
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: A year ago, Dovie Larkin’s life was shattered when her fiancĂ© committed suicide just weeks before their wedding. Now, plagued by guilt, she has become a fixture at the cemetery where William is buried, visiting his grave daily, waiting for answers she knows will never come. Then one day, she sees an old woman whose grief mirrors her own. Fascinated, she watches the woman leave a letter on a nearby grave. Dovie ignores her conscience and reads the letter—a mother’s plea for forgiveness to her dead daughter—and immediately needs to know the rest of the story. As she delves deeper, a collection of letters from the cemetery’s lost and found begins to unravel a decades-old mystery involving one of Charleston’s wealthiest families. But even as Dovie seeks to answer questions about another woman’s past—questions filled with deception, betrayal, and heartbreaking loss—she starts to discover the keys to love, forgiveness, and finally embracing the future.  

Review: Love, Alice  is the story about finding the will to survive and carry on even when you have given up hope. This is the case of Alice, who is put in a convent when her mother discovers that she is pregnant without being married. Alice, who never gives up hope, moves to the states to try to find her son or daughter that was given up for adoption in the late 1960s. Modern day brings us Dovie Larkin visiting the grave of her deceased fiance who committed suicide just weeks before their wedding. She wonders what could have possibly gone wrong and spends her lunch hours eating next his grave. To put it lightly, Dovie is living among the dead instead of moving on with her life. It's like she's scared to move on and begin again. She knows she needs to but she's also tired of hearing it from others.

One day while at William's grave, she spots an older woman at the grave of Alice. When the woman leaves, Dovie notices that she leaves a letter behind, so curiosity gets the best of her and she reads the letter. Now Dovie wants to know the full story so she befriends the woman. It's then that Alice's story starts to consume Dovie. She's preoccupied with what happened to Alice and wants to help figure out her story. I enjoyed Love, Alice very much and found most of it sad but with glimmers of hope. Alice was a gutsy young woman to pick up and leave everything she knew for pretty much a wild goose chase. She came to America with one thing in mind, finding her child. What she found was a family that took her in, befriended her and loved her. She ended up being where she was needed and when it was important for her to feel that.

 I will say there were a couple of things that I found a bit predictable but I found the history behind Alice's story a bit fascinating so I was willing to forgive. I also gave Dovie a bit of a longer rope since her grief was so apparent. I did want her to move on and I didn't mind one bit that it looked like it was going to be the delicious Austin Tate. Austin had his own demons to wrestle with and confront but they were something that he could overcome.

Ms. Davis does a great job of melding the past and the present together. I thought the letters were a great way to tell Alice's story and to get an idea of the pain she was going through. If you are looking for a solid novel to read on a winter's weekend, then you should pick up Love, Alice.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Julie's Review: The Other Sister

Author: Dianne Dixon
Series: None
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.25/5
Bottom Line: Kept me guessing until the end
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: One sister has everything. Her twin hates her for it. Would life be better without Ali? Probably. At least then people might think about Morgan. Ali's always gotten everything ― she doesn't even realize how much Morgan resents her. Ali also doesn't realize that when she shuts Morgan out entirely, she will unleash a chain of events that show just how dangerous the underside of love really is. As their lives spin toward something neither one of them can control, a terrifying crime reveals how those who know us best can destroy us...or save us.  

Review: The Other Sister will have you guessing until the very end what is really going on. I swear I changed my mind on the direction of the story a couple different times. Morgan and Ali are twins and while they share a tight bond, often enough it is one that is more of intense dislike than of love. Morgan views her life as subpar compared to Ali's. Ali has everything including the love a Matt, who Morgan met first. Morgan has always felt that Ali is the golden child and that everything in her life has always been fantastic. In one word, Morgan is envious of Ali.

Ali on the other hand seems to have it all but she's not cocky about it. She loves her life and has dreams of her own. She wants to open her own restaurant but she's willing to work hard for it. She's also very much in love with Matt, so when he throws her a curve ball and announces he's taken a job in Hollywood, she marries him and goes with him. At this point, I had to question Ali and if she really had everything like Morgan thought. There were enough red flags with Matt, that I actually thought she might bail on him and stay in Rhode Island and follow her dreams.

What Ms. Dixon does very well is create the tug and pull of sibling, especially twin, rivalry. Twins really do take it to a whole other level. She also writes so that you vacillate between which sister you side with. For a long time, Morgan drove me crazy but the break from Ali is what she needed to figure out that she put herself in Ali's shadow. She needed to understand her own worth and quit keeping herself in her sister's shadow. For Ali, she had to shake the feeling of carrying someone around and always being responsible for Morgan. She also has to deal with a tragedy that puts a greater divide between her and Matt, since their marriage is already shaky.

I definitely didn't see the twists and turn coming until the very end. I really did think the novel was taking a different direction. I have to say that I would highly recommend  The Other Sister
for fans of psychological thrillers.