Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Julie's Review: The Golden Hour


Author: Beatriz Williams
Series: None
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 485
Obtained: own
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line:
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in the Bahamas to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires? Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glister of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies an ugly—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau seethes with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle of it all stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of tremendous charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the willful and wounded Lulu falls in love.Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting coverup reeks of royal privilege. Benedict Thorpe disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London and beyond to unpick Thorpe’s complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a mother from whom all joy is stolen. ~amazon.com

Review: The Golden Hour is set in the heavenly island of the Bahamas during WWII when the former King of England is now the Governor of the Island with his wife Wallis Simpson. I pretty much only knew that he abdicated the throne to marry a divorce from the States the rest I had not a clue about. For the purposes of the novel though they were merely a conduit for the story that Ms. Williams wanted to tell. The real story is about Elfriede and Lulu as their stories are front and center and how their stories intersect.

Lulu is an independent woman who is seeking to find refuge in a place that has nothing to do with her history and working as a journalist for a NYC magazine suits her just fine. So when they send her to the Bahamas to cover the Duke and Duchess, she needs to find a way to gt into their inner circle to attend the parties they hold. What she doesn't expect is to find herself in the middle of the spy game. Lulu is shrewd and uses it to her advantage but doesn't realize how it will affect her life in the short term and long term. I liked Lulu a lot; she was plucky, smart and savvy. She doesn't compromise who she is but definitely uses it to her advantage.

Elfriede's story begins in a mental institution where her husband sent her after she gave birth to their son because she wasn't properly bonding with him. It is there where her story of love and hope truly begins. This is where she meets the man who will never leave her heart, Wilfred Thorpe. She goes back to her husband and family where she builds a life for herself with her son. Her life isn't what she expected but it brings her joy, happiness, sorrow and love. 

I truly enjoyed the story and the ending was most unexpected for me.



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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Happy Holidays!





Here's hoping that everyone has a joyous and wonderful holiday season! 

Best Wishes for a Wonderful and Prosperous 2020!



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Monday, December 23, 2019

Julie's Review: Recipe for a Perfect Wife

Author: Karma Brown
Series: None
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 336
Obtained: Publisher via Netgalley

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Interesting take on being a wife now and 50 years ago
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Summary: When Alice Hale leaves a career in publicity to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in a box in the old home's basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook’s previous owner--1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the cookbook’s pages Nellie left clues about her life--including a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to her mother. Soon Alice learns that while baked Alaska and meatloaf five ways may seem harmless, Nellie's secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister--even dangerous--side to Nellie’s marriage, and has become increasingly dissatisfied with the mounting pressures in her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own. ~amazon.com

Review: I don't think I could have ever been a wife in the 1950s. Talk about pressure to be perfect!! Sure nowadays we are expected to do the majority of it but even the incremental help we get from our spouses is a step in the right direction. I mean I don't really like to cook and waiting around being patient isn't my thing either, but if I were a woman during those times would I be the same person I am today because the setting and opportunities were very different.

Eleanor "Nellie" Murdoch is a young wife who moves into a sprawling house with her handsome and successful husband Richard. She enjoys her garden, using her family recipes and spending time with the women of the neighborhood. Except things aren't going so well with her husband and she gets pregnant pretty quickly. She's at a loss for how she ended up where she's at but it determined to make the most of the situation. She's resourceful, she's got a garden and her friendship with her neighbor, Miram, that she's enjoying her new life at least a bit.

Flashforward to 50+ years later and Alice Hale is about to embark on her new journey moving out of NYC and into the house that Nellie used to live in. To say that Alice is less than thrilled about this is to put it mildly. She didn't want to leave the city at all but her husband insisted especially since they are about to embark on trying to become parents as well. Except Alice isn't ready for all these changes but she's let her husband Nate take the lead for now. That is until she starts to immerse herself in being an 1950s wife and learns a thing or two about herself in the process.

Both Nellie and Alice are strong women who use any means necessary to ensure that their lives turnout the way they want and that means taking control. I definitely don't agree with their tactics but it gets the job done and it does give them the lives they want.

I love dual timelines and Ms. Brown does a fantastic job in Recipe for a Perfect Wife. I will say that some of the novel was a bit predictable but overall I enjoyed seeing both Nellie and Alice come into their own and be comfortable with who they are.


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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday Skim



Week of 12/15/2019:


Finished:


I love Karma's books especially her first one, Come Away with Me. I always love a dual time line and she writes this one extremely well. I was very much looking forward to this one with high hopes and much fanfare and while it was a solid novel it just didn't have that pop like her other ones have had in the past. 


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Looking Forward To:




Here's to hoping that we all can get some rest and relaxation in during this holiday season when the kids are home and want to be carted all over the place. I'm hoping to at least have some downtime to read a few backlogged books.

Happy Holidays!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Julie's Review: Husband Material

Author: Emiliy Belden
Series: None
Publication Date: December 30, 2019
Publisher: Graydon House
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Fun read with a serious side
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Summary: Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it. Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not. But when her quest reveals a shocking secret, Charlotte is forced to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at a new life arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart. ~amazon.com 

Review: There's nothing like having your past hit you square in the eye than getting your husband's ashes in the mail because a fire has destroyed the mausoleum he was housed in. This means that Charlotte Rosen is going to have to deal with all the unpleasant memories that she has buried for 5 years. You see no one currently in her life (besides her parents who live on the other coast) knows she's a widow. After her husband, Decker died, she was depressed for a long time and then reinvented herself and began a new life. She chose a roommate who she liked but didn't share much with and cut herself off from the friends her and Decker had together.

She hasn't had a relationship since he died and threw herself into her work, analytics. Now she looks at every thing through a data lens with no room for letting her heart lead her astray. Losing Decker nearly destroyed her and she doesn't want that to happen again. So by day she runs the analytics for a Social Media influencer firm but at night she's working on developing a dating app that will help her find her perfect match.

As we all know things never go as you have them mapped out for your life. Charlotte isn't prepared for the curveballs life threw her and she needs time to process and to figure out what she's going to do. She also wasn't prepard for the people who would be back in her life or for the new people that would be brught into it.

I really liked Charlotte. She was a bit of a basketcase when Decker showed back up because she had closed that part of her life off  but when she was forced to deal with the circumstances, she grew up a bit, dealt with her past and was finally ready to move on. Most importantly she let those she had previously pushed away back into her life and was able to create more real bonds because of it. It also shows the reader the many views of dealing with death.

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Julie's Review: Reputation

Author: Sara Shepard
Series: none
Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Twisty look at what secrets people hide to perpetuate their public repuation
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Summary: Aldrich University is rocked to its core when a hacker dumps 40,000 people's e-mails—the entire faculty, staff, students, alums—onto an easily searchable database. Rumors and affairs immediately leak, but things turn explosive when Kit Manning's handsome husband, Dr. Greg Strasser, is found murdered. Kit's sister, Willa, returns for the funeral, setting foot in a hometown she fled fifteen years ago, after a night she wishes she could forget. As an investigative reporter, Willa knows something isn't right about the night Greg was killed, and she's determined to find the truth. What she doesn't expect is that everyone has something to hide. And with a killer on the loose, Willa and Kit must figure out who killed Greg before someone else is murdered. Told from multiple points of view, Reputation is full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. It's a story of intrigue, sabotage, and the secrets we keep—and how far we go to keep them hidden. Number one bestseller Sara Shepard is at the top of her game in this brand-new adult novel. ~amazon.com

Review: Ms. Shepard does a really good job of showing white/rich privilege in her latest book, Reputation. What she examines is how many private thoughts and events we put into email and how people will try to maintain appearances even in the wake of them becoming public. What is your reputation worth? Will it cost you your family and friends? Your job? How much value is there in a reputation?

Kit Manning appears to have it all; 2 great teen girls, a handsome husband and a great job. As you know, things are always as they appear. Sure her husband is handsome but lately he's been distant and they've only been married a short period of time. Kit starts to wonder if she made a mistake in marrying him. Then she comes home from a fundraising gala and finds him stabbed to death in their  house. The only problem is that she doesn't remember much from that night. Could she have done it?

Enter her sister, Willa, in from California to help with the funeral and the girls. It also helps that she's an investigative journalist and starts doing her own digging. Just be careful what you go digging into because it might not be exactly what you think you need to know.

There are some twist and turns throughout the book but it's more a study of human behavior that a whodunit.

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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Skim



Week of 12/1/2019 and 12/8/2019:


Finished:



Reputation is an interesting look at how people react when their secrets via email are exposed. It does tell you a lot about the have and have-nots especially in the private school sector. I need to see if I have more Clare MacKintosh in my queue because I really do like her novels! Husband Material was a fun, quick read that dealt with some heavy issues but didn't get lost in them. 


Currently Reading:



Looking Forward To:



We spent the weekend in Chicago which was fun and lovely but not a lot of reading time. I've got time off from 12/23-1/5 so I'm hoping to really be able to read but I know I'll be Mom-Uber with the kids as well.


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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Julie's Review: The Secrets We Kept

Author: Lara Prescott
Series: None
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 368
Obtained: library
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Interesting story about how Doctor Zhivago got published
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library

Summary: At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak's magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world--using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents. The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story--the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago's heroine, Lara--with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak's country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature--told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world. ~amazon.com

Review: I do love a great spy novel, movie or tv show, so when this was picked as a Reese's Book Club for September, I put it on my library hold list. I will confess before I go any further that I haven't read Doctor Zhivago or seen the film adaptation and while my interest is peaked, I'm not sure I really want to try my hand at Russian Literature. I also had no clue what a game it was in espionage to get a copy of Doctor Zhivago.

The Secrets We Kept is told from various female viewpoints: Irina, Sally, Olga and then the common voice of the typists. Each point of view gives us a different way of looking at the story that is unfolding and as we all know there are many ways one can discern a story. This is a female centric novel that is all about their contributions to spying even if they aren't fully recognized by their male peers. It is about female friendship and female workplace competition, surviving in a man's world and chosing to be yourself when it isn't a societal norm.

Olga has to chose between her family, her lover and her freedom for most of the novel. She is Boris' biggest advocate along with being his lover and both put her in harms way more than one time. She even spends 18 months in the Gulag because of her association with him. She is his muse but you wonder many times throughout the book if it's really worth it for her.

We then have the tandem of Sally and Irina. Sally is the well trained, senior CIA agent who is instructed to take Irina under her wing to guide her in being an agent.

This book is really about female power in all ways and about we have always played a key in historical events even if we are in the background.


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Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sunday Skim



Week of 11/17/2019 and 11/24/2019:


Finished:






Currently Reading:




Looking Forward To:





I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving and that you got some reading time in. If you Black Friday shopping is your thing, I hope that you got the deal you wanted. Now starts a busy month of a variety of holiday get togethers but I'm definitely hoping for some time to read.

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Julie's Review: Midnight at the Wandering Vineyard

Author: Jamie Raintree
Series: None
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Publisher: Graydon House
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Makes me want to get on a horse and ride some trails at Midnight
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Growing up, it was Mallory and Kelly. Kelly and Mallory. Nothing could come between them. That summer before college, bucket list in hand, they greeted every sunrise and chased every sunset. Tattoos—check. Sleeping under the stars—check. But when Mallory met Sam, everything changed. Older, experienced and everything Mallory never knew she wanted, Sam was her first taste of love—and the one adventure Mallory didn’t want to share with Kelly. But Kelly had her own secrets, too, until the night tragedy struck and their perfect summer—and their friendship—unraveled. Now, after ten years away, Mallory is home and determined to make amends. No more secrets, no more half-truths. As Kelly slowly lets her guard down, Mallory convinces her to complete their unfinished list of hopes and dreams. But Mallory’s not the only one back in town, and when Sam reappears, Mallory risks making all the same mistakes—and maybe a few new ones—to try to heal that which was broken. ~amazon.com

Review:  Midnight at the Wandering Vineyard makes me want to climb back on a horse and go on some trails. The beautiful vineyard setting didn’t hurt the situation either. Mallory left her family’s vineyard 10 years ago to pursue college and then a career in NYC but while she left on good terms with her parents, the rest of her relationships were in turmoil. She’s made good but something in her heart still hurts.

As she makes plans to go back for the planting party  she plans on talking to her former best friend, Kelly to make amends and to see if there is forgiveness between the two of them.  What she didn’t plan for is the guy who broke her heart to be there as well which causes things to spiral in a way she didn’t foresee.

I liked how she had to come face to face with her past and her mistakes and maybe finally put some closure to things that she’s been holding on to. While Mallory grew up a bit while she was away, it’s this trip back that truly launches her into adulthood.


If you are looking for a great novel to lose yourself in then you should pick up Midnight at the Wandering Vineyard.

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sunday Skim



Week of 11/3/2019 and 11/10/2019:


Finished:





Currently Reading:




Looking Forward To:




November and December look to be a couple months where I can catch up on some ARCs that I didn't quite get to in the month when they published. I will also be totally diving into Erin Morgenstern's The Starless Sea. I've been waiting for this book for so long but yet I want to savor it.


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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sunday Skim



Week of 10/27/2019:


Finished:

Uh nothing because I DNF'd a book and my audio is a long one. 

DNF:

I really wanted to get into this one and love it but I couldn't.

Currently Reading:





Looking Forward To:




One of these days life will slow down and I'll get back to writing reviews and I hope that is this week. I haven't even been watching my tv shows because I've been so wrapped up in the World Series. I was rooting for the Nationals and happy they won but honestly would have been fine with either team. Now I have to wait for Spring and move onto basketball season. It's going to be a long one with my 2 favorite teams (Bulls & Warriors - Steph Curry is out for 3 months!!) going through some growing pains.



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