Thursday, February 28, 2019

Julie's Review: I Owe You One


Author: Sophie Kinsella
Series: None
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: The Dial Press
Pages: 448
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Heartwarming and full of laughs
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Summary: Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” And since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in Fixie’s nature to say no to people. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, she not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, an investment manager, scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she? But then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life, and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. As always, she wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. No sooner has Seb agreed than the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants? ~amazon.com

Review: Ah, Sophie Kinsella strikes again and in the best way possible. If I ever need to a laugh she's my go to. Her characters are always charming and flawed so that you laugh with them (ok sometimes at them) but always cheer for them. Enter Fixie Farr, who's flaw is to try to fix everything or anyone where she seems fit. It doesn't always work out for her though. Sometimes she over steps her bounds and sometimes she's just out of her depth. Although, those 2 things have never stopped her before. The one thing she has trouble doing is speaking up and defending herself to her older siblings, Jake and Nicole.

She's also only had eyes for Jake's best friend, Ryan, since she was 10 years old. So when he comes back from LA she's hoping they can pick up where they left off when he was back for a visit. Never mind the handsome stranger who's laptop she saved when the ceiling collapsed at a cafe. She puts him aside even though she's intrigued because well Ryan is back. We've all had a "Ryan" in our lives and as a reader you see the writing on the wall.  You know it's going to take a bit for Fixie to see it though.

Sibling relationships can be trying at times and she truly struggles with hers. She's always been the one to bend over to help her family but yet gets pushed aside when she speaks her mind. Both of her siblings run over her to get what they want, they don't listen to her and more importantly they don't respect her. This is evident when their mom decides to take some time off from the family store. They quickly move in on it.

Fixie finally realizes that she has to take control of her life and that means standing up to her siblings and taking charge of the store. It also means figuring out who and what she wants in the romance department.

I laughed out loud at certain points in this book. Whenever I want a good chuckle, I always go back to Sophie. So until next year and a new book, I'll keep Fixie and her life in my head for a good chuckle.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Julie's Review: The Secrets of Clouds


Author: Alyson Richman
Series: None
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Tear-Jerker that will make you want to reach out to your teachers
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Summary: Katya, a rising ballerina, and Sasha, a graduate student, are young and in love when an unexpected tragedy befalls their native Kiev. Years later, after the couple has safely emigrated to America the consequences of this incident cause their son, Yuri, to be born with a rare health condition that isolates him from other children. Maggie, a passionate and dedicated teacher agrees to tutor Yuri at his home, even though she is haunted by her own painful childhood memories. As the two forge a deep and soulful connection, Yuri's boundless curiosity and unique wisdom inspires Maggie to make difficult changes in her own life. And she'll never realize just how strong Yuri has made her—until she needs that strength the most... ~amazon.com 

Review: We all have those teachers that hold a special place in our hearts but what we perhaps might not be aware of is how we impacted their lives as well. The Secret of Clouds tells the story of Maggie and Yuri, teacher and student and how each of them impacted the other's life. 

After a few unhappy years working in a PR job, Maggie went back to school and got her teaching degree. Now in her 2nd year of teaching, her Principal has a special assignment for her, being an English tutor to a boy who is unable to attend school. Maggie is excited to pass her love of English to Yuri but she finds an apprehensive kid during their first few sessions. It isn't until she finds out that Yuri has a deep love for the Yankees and baseball that they start to connect. It isn't until Yuri starts to open up in his journal that they start to understand each other. 

What happens is the blossoming of a wonderful friendship between a student and teacher. Knowing Yuri has open Maggie up to things that she might have passed on before and having her as his advocate allows him make friends and try to be like any other kid his age.

This book will touch your heart and soul, if it doesn't then do you have either of them? It will make you cry and make you laugh. It is about hope, love, sacrifice and loss. All of those things and our experience with them, shape our lives.

I would definitely recommend this one to anyone.


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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunday Skim


In the vain of trying something new here on the blog, I thought I might start with some Sunday posts summarizing what I've read, what I plan to start and upcoming books I'm looking forward to.

Week of 2/18/2019:


Finished:




It might have taken me a bit to make my way through China Dolls but let me tell you it was worth every hour I spent listening to it. Truly a wonderful story about friends, love, loss and hope. It would make a fabulous movie. The Secret of Clouds will tug at your heart strings, you will need Kleenex and you will want to get in touch with your favorite teachers after reading it. 


Currently Reading: 




Looking Forward To:



My two current reads haven't quite clicked with me as of the time I'm writing this but I'm not giving up yet on them! I know a lot of people loved A Gentleman in Moscow so I'm giving it more of a chance than perhaps I might normally. Next to Die is a a psychological thriller that I'm hoping grabs me pretty soon.  Is there a book you struggled with but ended up liking? 


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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Julie's Review: Ghosted


Author: Rosie Walsh
Series: None
Publication Date: July 24, 2018
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Pages: 352
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Some twists and turns until the end
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Summary: When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it's mutual: It's as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn't call. Sarah's friends tell her to forget about him, but she can't. She knows something's happened--there must be an explanation. Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she's right. There is a reason for Eddie's disappearance, and it's the one thing they didn't share with each other: the truth. ~amazon.com

Review: After hearing a lot of solid buzz surrounding, Ghosted, I put it on hold at my library. I'm glad I picked it up because it was quite the ride. I wasn't sure what I was expecting but it wasn't these 2 things: The mature age of characters (YAY) and the twists and turns at several points in the novel.

Sarah and Eddie meet when Sarah is back in London for her annual visit to see her parents. It was love at first site and they spent a wonderful week together. Then nothing from Eddie. It's like he vanished off the face of the earth. Sarah is convinced that his absence and lack of communication is a glitch and that she hasn't been ghosted. She keeps texting him, sending him messages on Facebook and even posting questions about his whereabouts on his wall for everyone to see. Her friends, Jo and Tommy, tell her he's gone and to move on; go back to being herself.

Sarah doesn't listen to her friends and keeps writing "letters" to Eddie on Facebook. She loses weight, can't function and has pretty much become a stalker. She hopes that returning to LA and her routine will help her get Eddie off her mind and out of her heart but it doesn't.

Most of the book focuses on Sarah's point of view which is essential to the emotional roller coaster that the book focuses on. Then at a pivotal point it shifts to Eddie's point of view. Eddie's POV brings a new light to the story and truly brings it full circle.

My only issue was the ending of the book but having said that it didn't change how much I enjoyed reading it. I definitely recommend it.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Julie's Review: The Last Romantics



Author: Tara Conklin
Series: None
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Edelweiss
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: A deep and emotional family saga
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Summary: When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time. It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected. Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love. A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future. ~amazon.com

Review: If you read any book in 2019, you need to read The Last Romantics. This is a gorgeous story about love, family, forgiveness and hope. We are introduced to the Skinner clan when the youngest and most famous, Fiona, is giving a speech in 2079 where's she's asked about a specific name/character in her most famous poem. This is the reason for her this talk at the age of 102, is to finally reveal the story behind the poem. Through flashbacks we learn about Fiona, Renee, Caroline and Joe and their unusual childhood.

There a few years after the death of their father know as The Pause, that completely shapes how the Skinner kids will be as adults. Each of them has a specific role within the family and with each other. It shapes their interactions as kids and then as adults. Fiona is in awe of all of them for different reasons.

While I would say that their mother has some influence on them it was really their impact on each other that told the story. This is a story about family but more importantly it is a story about siblings and the roles we all play with each other.

There are many factors that drew me into the novel. First, the writing is absolutely gorgeous. The words transport you to the Skinner's past and present. You know that the world has changed but you aren't quite sure the impact of that on the story or what it means for Fiona. Secondly, each character is rich and vibrant, so distinctly different from each other. Third, it evokes intense emotions. Lastly, these siblings will stay with me long after I have turned that last page.

This book reminded me of a favorite from 2018, The Immortalists, but the journey is different. I really can't recommend this one enough.


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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Skim



In the vain of trying something new here on the blog, I thought I might start with some Sunday posts summarizing what I've read, what I plan to start and upcoming books I'm looking forward to.

Week of 2/11/2019:


Finished:





I love it when I read two distinctly different books in a week. It makes it easier to remember the books and to write my reviews. The Last Romantics is one of those books that will stick with me for a very long time. I really can't recommend this one more; seriously grab it and read it ravenously. Ghosted was a book that got great buzz but I wasn't sure how it would be but I really enjoyed it. Definitely didn't go where I thought it was going.

Currently Reading: 



Looking Forward To:




Another solid week in the reading department even if my audio is taking me a little time to make my way through. It's not because China Dolls isn't great, it is, but pesky meetings at work get in the way. Anything that's taking you a little longer to get through than you originally thought?


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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday Skim


In the vain of trying something new here on the blog, I thought I might start with some Sunday posts summarizing what I've read, what I plan to start and upcoming books I'm looking forward to.

Week of 2/4/2019:


Finished:






Forget You Know Me is about what happens when our lives and lies spin out of our control and the repercussions of that decisions. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell  is a wonderful novel that is reminiscent of Khalid Hussaini story telling. It will move you to tears and you will cheer on these women. 


Currently Reading: 



Looking Forward To:



I really can't complain about my books lately. This week was a good variety with with mystery/thriller, historical fiction and a contemporary fiction genres. Anything on your radar lately that you want to share?





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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Julie's Review: Forget You Know Me


Author: Jessica Strawser
Series: None
Publication Date: February 5, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley

Genre:  Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Solid mystery with an AHH moment
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Summary: Molly and Liza have always been enviably close. Even after Molly married Daniel, the couple considered Liza an honorary family member. But after Liza moved away, things grew more strained than anyone wanted to admit―in the friendship and the marriage. When Daniel goes away on business, Molly and Liza plan to reconnect with a nice long video chat after the kids are in bed. But then Molly leaves the room to check on a crying child. What Liza sees next will change everything. Only one thing is certain: Molly needs her. Liza drives all night to be at Molly’s side―but when she arrives, the reception is icy, leaving Liza baffled and hurt. She knows there’s no denying what she saw. Or is there? In disbelief that their friendship could really be over, Liza is unaware she’s about to have a near miss of her own. And Molly, refusing to deal with what’s happened, won’t turn to Daniel, either. But none of them can go on pretending. Not after this. Forget You Know Me is a “twisty, emotionally complex, powder keg of a tale” (bestselling author Emily Carpenter) about the wounds of people who’ve grown apart. Best friends, separated by miles. Spouses, hardened by neglect. A mother, isolated by pain. One moment will change things for them all. ~amazon.com  


Review: Forget You Know Me can be a mystery/thriller/women's fiction depending on which part of the novel you are reading. Molly and Liza have been friends since they were young girls but distance has put a dent in their once strong bond; not only physical but emotionally. Molly has been dealing with debilitating pain for years since having her kids with no answers. She struggles with daily chores and tasks while getting little help from her husband, Daniel. Liza has been trying to adjust to Chicago and her life there. So it's understandable that maybe things aren't how they used to be when they were together all the time.

This all changes one night when Liza sees a man creep into Molly’s house while they are video chatting when Molly goes to check on the kids. Liza freaks out while Molly acts like it's no big deal. Meanwhile, Liza has to deal with her own tragedy that causes her to move back home and start her life from the ground up.

What is revealed is a web of lies that threaten Molly’s marriage and her friendship with Liza. What Ms. Strawser conveys through her writing is that friendships like marriage have peaks and valleys. Friendship takes work just like marriage but it often the thing that we put the least effort into during certain times in our lives. Neither Molly or Liza received more sympathy from me because their situations were very different. Molly was desperate for help that she felt she wasn't getting and it led her to make some stupid decisions. I felt that Daniel's subplot wasn't fully necessary but I understand why she wrote it in: to make Molly and him on even ground.

The book does have a shoe dropping moment that blind sided me which definitely added to the novel. I would definitely recommend this one to those who like a mystery woven in with contemporary/women's fiction. 


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Monday, February 4, 2019

Julie's Review: The Wartime Sisters


Author: Lynda Cohen Loigman
Series: None
Publication Date: January 22, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A story of family and understanding how you fit in yours
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Summary: Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.~amazon.com

Review: Ruth and Millie couldn't be more different. Ruth is reserved/serious and Millie is carefree. It really doesn't help that their parents feed into these personalities so much so that it drives a huge wedge between the sisters. It also doesn't help that Millie gets all the attention from whatever young man comes to court Ruth. Their parents also don't cultivate an atmosphere for the girls to develop a relationship.

The story is told through both Ruth and Millie's eyes along with a few friends they meet along the way; Lillian and Arietta. Their childhood is reflected upon while they learn how to deal with each other in the present without ever fully understanding their past. They have to learn how to act like sisters when other people are watching instead of the strangers they are to each other.

These types of stories about sisters are always interesting to me because while growing up I didn't appreciate mine (there's a 4 year difference), she's definitely my best friend. While our parents probably treated us different there was a reason for it and it never drove a wedge between us.

While this for me was ultimately a family story, the backdrop of the Springfield Armory during WWII added to the novel as well.  It is a story of resilience and perseverance. I highly recommend it.




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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sunday Skim


In the vain of trying something new here on the blog, I thought I might start with some Sunday posts summarizing what I've read, what I plan to start and upcoming books I'm looking forward to.

Week of 1/28/2019:


Finished:


The Winter of the Witch is the final novel of the Winternight trilogy. This trilogy is out of my normal genre read but I'm so happy that I read it. The character development is off the charts fantastic. The Wartime Sisters is about 2 very different sisters who have never been close but have now been given the chance to repair the past all with World War II as a back ground.



Currently Reading: 

Looking Forward To:




My kids had 3 days off this week due to snow and cold. I worked from home those 3 days and they were surprisingly productive. It was also a great reading week. Although there was a bit of a lag on getting a new audiobook but then of course 3 came in at once! I hope you all stayed warm this week!


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Friday, February 1, 2019

Julie's Review: The Winter of the Witch


Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy #3
Publication Date: January 8, 2018
Publisher: Del Rey
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: It was a great end to a wonderful series
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Summary: Reviewers called Katherine Arden’s novels The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower “lyrical,” “emotionally stirring,” and “utterly bewitching.” The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse. Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all. ~amazon.com  

Review: When a friend recommended the first in the series The Bear and the Nightingale I wasn't sure since it's folklore/fantasy; two genres I really don't read. I have to say that I'm happy that I did. This trilogy has been one of the best reads out of my comfort zone that I've had in a long time. Vasya is a force to be reckoned with. She is sure of herself and her beliefs even in the face of the worst evil you can imagine. She is the defender of her family and the defender of a world of beliefs that the Russian people have turned their back on.

The Winter of the Witch is the tumultuous conclusion to the series that has Vasya questioning herself and her loyalties. She is up against 2 powerful enemies who have joined forces to destroy her and everything she loves. She has to find it within herself to be courageous and strong to fight for those that can't fight for herself.

This is a series that is about family, love, self-love, self-worth and finding yourself. If you are a fan of folklore or Russian history then you won't want to miss this trilogy. I also can't wait to see what Ms. Arden writes next.   


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