Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Julie's Review: You and Me and Us

Author: Allison Hammer
Series: None
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 422
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: A realistic look at the tolls of death on a family
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Summary: Alexis Gold knows how to put the “work” in working mom. It’s the “mom” part that she’s been struggling with lately. Since opening her own advertising agency three years ago, Alexis has all but given up on finding a good work/life balance. Instead, she’s handed over the household reins to her supportive, loving partner, Tommy. While he’s quick to say they divide and conquer, Alexis knows that Tommy does most of the heavy lifting—especially when it comes to their teenage daughter, CeCe. Their world changes in an instant when Tommy receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, and Alexis realizes everything she’s worked relentlessly for doesn’t matter without him. So Alexis does what Tommy has done for her almost every day since they were twelve-year-old kids in Destin, Florida—she puts him first. And when the only thing Tommy wants is to spend one last summer together at “their” beach, she puts her career on hold to make it happen…even if it means putting her family within striking distance of Tommy’s ex, an actress CeCe idolizes. But Alexis and Tommy aren’t the only ones whose lives have been turned inside out. In addition to dealing with the normal ups and downs that come with being a teenager, CeCe is also forced to confront her feelings about Tommy’s illness—and what will happen when the one person who’s always been there for her is gone. When the magic of first love brings a bright spot to her summer, CeCe is determined not to let her mother ruin that for her, too. As CeCe’s behavior becomes more rebellious, Alexis realizes the only thing harder for her than losing Tommy will be convincing CeCe to give her one more chance.
You and Me and Us is a beautifully written novel that examines the unexpected ways loss teaches us how to love. ~amazon.com

Review: From the summary of You and Me and Us, you know that this book will bring tears to your eyes because you know it's not going to be your typical happy ending. Alexis is a hard working wife and mother but her 14 year old daughter, CeCe doesn't see the hardworking, she just thinks her mom chooses work over their family. Luckily, Tommy doesn't mind being the keeper of the home and the CeCe whisperer.

Things change though when Tommy gets a terminal cancer diagnosis and Cece and her mother have to learn not only how to coexist but to learn to depend on each other. Tommy's last request is to spend one last summer in his hometown of Destin, Florida. Of course all of them are going through their own way of dealing what is coming while trying to be positive. It isn't all easy for Cece and Alexis as they learn their way around each other and how to relate.

This is definitely a character driven novel and while there are moments where I wanted Alexis to step up and wanted CeCe to grow up, I also understand what it's like to parent a 14 year old girl without these hellish circumstances.

I appreciated how Tommy really was the glue that bound all 3 of them together and how he was typically able to talk both of them off the edge when things got tough. He taught Alexis to not run from her problems and always encouraged her to go for her dreams. Just like he encourages CeCe to do the same. I felt that Alexis' insecurities in her relationship withe CeCe made the situation with Monica that much worse. If she had relaxed and let CeCe interact with her on her own, it might not have blown up in her face. 

Allison Hammer gets the nuances of family and how deep those threads go. For a debut author, she doesn't play into the cliches that could have easily plagued the novel but instead goes with the more true to life story lines.

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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sunday Skim



Week 3/29/2020:


Finished:



This is a heartbreaking story of a family torn apart by a tragedy that none of them can see to get past and it breaks apart the rest of them. It is also about hope and love.

Currently Reading:





Looking Forward To:






After a week off of work, I admit it was hard to come back and it was full of meetings. Plus it does feel like the longest week ever! I know that we have a long way to go so I'm hoping that they all don't feel like this one.

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday Skim



Week 3/22/2020:


Finished:



In An Instant is a heartbreaking novel about redemption, forgiveness and love. It will catch your breath and make you thankful for what you have in front of you. Code Name Helene is a fantastic historical fiction about a woman who was brave and fearless when the world needed her.
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Currently Reading:



DNF:


It's possible I'll come back to this one but it was pretty heavy for everything we are experiencing right now.  

Looking Forward To:







I hope everyone out there is holding up ok. Strange and surreal times we are living in right now but we will make it through. We got some small little projects done around the house since we were supposed to be on vacation. I got some reading done but no progress on my audiobook; that'll happen this week when I'm back WFH.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Julie's Review: The Honey Don't List

Author: Christina Lauren
Series: None
Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 318
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Fun, quick read that incorporates our obsession with HGTV/DIY
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Summary: Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other. James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus. Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together… ~amazon.com

Review: I haven't read their entire back-list but what I've read makes me happy and laugh. We all could use some fun romps and they definitely provide that. I doesn't matter to me that you know what's going to happen the minute you start the book but just that the journey is fun.

Carey has worked for the DIY team of Melissa and Rusty Trip since she was 16 and she's seen them at their best and their worst. Lately though the worse seems to outweigh the best. Constantly fighting/bickering isn't going to help them as they go on a book tour for their "how to have a great marriage" book. Which maybe if they followed what they wrote, they'd be happier.  So Carey and James, Rusty's right hand, are now thrust together on a bus with a couple who are a disaster. Somehow they are put in charge of keep the Tripps' on track.

Carey and James have no clue how to keep them on track since they are constantly at each others' throats and there are phones around all the time. Plus Carey and James don't really know each other that well even though they've been working around each other or some time. Well we all know how this goes, as they get to know each other, they find themselves attracted to each other. There are always complications because the road to love isn't easy. Both of them lose their jobs and lose each other in the process.

I love how easy these books are to read and how they give me all the warm fuzzies. A good romance book is always fun to read and a great escape. I can't recommend their books enough.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Julie's Review: Last Couple Standing

Author: Matthew Norman
Series: None
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Pages: 288
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A funny and poignant look at modern marriage and parenthood

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Summary: The Core Four have been friends since college: four men, four women, four couples. They got married around the same time, had kids around the same time, and now, fifteen years later, they’ve started getting divorced around the same time, too. With three of the Core Four unions crumbling to dust around them, Jessica and Mitch Butler take a long, hard look at their own marriage. Can it be saved? Or is divorce, like some fortysomething zombie virus, simply inescapable? To maximize their chance at immunity, Jessica and Mitch try something radical. Their friends’ divorces mostly had to do with sex—having it, not having it, wanting to have it with other people—so they decide to relax a few things. Terms are discussed, conditions are made, and together the Butlers embark on the great experiment of taking their otherwise happy, functional marriage and breaking some very serious rules. Jessica and Mitch are convinced they’ve hit upon the next evolution of marriage. But as lines are crossed and hot bartenders pursued, they each start to wonder if they’ve made a huge mistake. What follows is sexy, fun, painful, messy, and completely surprising to them both. Because sometimes doing something bad is the only way to get to the heart of what’s really good. ~amazon.com

Review: I've read a few different novels that deal with "arrangements" to spice up a marriage. I know that it's a great book premise but honestly have people really tried this and thought there would be no fractures in their marriage?

Matthew Norman's books always make me laugh and Last Couple Standing is no different because he gets it. He gets the ups and downs of parenthood and of marriage. I loved the subplot of showing his young kids E.T. and how that decision came back to haunt him.

As Mitch and Jessica draw up the terms of their marriage evolution, they think this is what will help them revolutionize the way people think about revitalizing their marriages. Neither of them really think the other will go through with it. That is until they each find themselves attracted to someone else and wonder what it would be like to follow through on it.

I'm not quite sure I believe the ending of the novel but I definitely enjoyed the journey to get there. There are a couple other subplots that tie in nicely to the overall plot.

This is an enjoyable, quick read that will have you laughing and grateful for your own relationships.

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday Skim



Week 3/15/2020:


Finished:



The writing duo of Christina Lauren didn't let me down again. I can always count on them for a fun read. The Nickel Boys was interesting but for me it wasn't as powerful as The Underground Railroad. 
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Currently Reading:



Looking Forward To:




Well this week is the week we were supposed to be in New Orleans, so instead we will be doing some projects around the house. Our garage is in need of some TLC and so is our yard. We will make do with the options we have in front of us. I hope all of you are safe and healthy.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Julie's Review: In Five Years

Author: Rebecca Searle
Series: None
Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Romantic love isn't the only kind of love that is important

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Summary: Where do you see yourself in five years? When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan. But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future. After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind. That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision. Brimming with joy and heartbreak, In Five Years is an unforgettable love story that reminds us of the power of loyalty, friendship, and the unpredictable nature of destiny. ~amazon.com

Review: Well I didn't really know what to expect going in because it wasn't supposed to be a typical love story. I devoured this book in about 36 hours which given our schedule is pretty amazing. Sure, it's not long but as we all know if the story doesn't grab you it doesn't matter how long or short.

Dannie is a control-freak. She's had her life planned out for years and is on track after she gets her dream job as a lawyer at a top-tier law firm. She knows it'll be hard work, long hours, etc but she's excited and ready for it. She knows her long-time boyfriend is going to propose after she gets the job, so it is all just falling into place for. Except aftr drinking too much champagne to celebrate, Dannie has a vision of her life in 5 years and it's nothing that she's familiar with in her life today. It totally throws her off her game until some time goes by and her vision doesn't come true. Until one day pieces of the puzzle start to come into place.

This is a book that will have you on the edge of your emotional seat because like Dannie you ar wondering what that vision meant for her. And when you get to what it means, it will gut you. I really wasn't prepared for where this novel took me emotionally. 

I listened to Ms. Searle's previous novel, The Dinner List a couple of months ago and enjoyed it but In Five Years was much more emotional for me. The way she builds up the story and the relationships is pheonomenal.

If you think you are in for a typical romance then you would be wrong. Over a week later and I'm still thinking about these characters and the affect on me.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Julie's Review: The Grace Kelly Dress

Author: Brenda Janowitz
Series: None
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House
Pages: 336
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Family history and tradition is important
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Summary: Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love. Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress. Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it. As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future. ~amazon.com

Review: I've loved Brenda's books since I read The Dinner Party and following her on Instagram has made me adore her as a person. What I love about following Brenda and other authors is knowing how long it takes them to formulate a book, write a book, edit a book and get it to print. So I love it when they reveal what they've been working on. I'm saying all of this because this book was on my radar for a long time and it didn't disappoint.

All families have their traditions, Rocky's is the wedding dress that her Grand-Mere and Mom wore when they got married. Now it is her turn to wear the dress but she doesn't really want to wear it. Rocky isn't one for traditional dresses or life paths but she doesn't know how to tell her mom. It seems super important to her for Rocky to wear the dress. Rocky has never really known how to relate to her mom and her dad helped smooth things over but he's not around anymore.

We also get the history of a dress that is made at the height of the Grace Kelly craze after she married her Prince. We are introduced to a seamstress tasked with making a dress for a French socialite. Little does Rose know is that making this dress will change the course of her life forever.

I loved that each of the women from different generations were all strong in their own way. Each of them couldn’t be more different but it some ways the same. Understanding our family past is important for understanding our future.

The story of the dress is interwoven into a story about being true to yourself, your heart and your soul. It’s is the fabric of women in the story for generations to come.

It was a wonderful story of family, love and making the past your own.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Julie's Review: No Bad Deed

Author: Heather Chavez
Series: None
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A great twisty, turn-y thriller that keeps you turning the pages
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Summary: Driving home one rainy night, Cassie Larkin sees a man and woman fighting on the side of the road. After calling 911, the veterinarian makes a split-second decision that will throw her sedate suburban life into chaos. Against all reason and advice, she gets out of her minivan and chases after the violent man, trying to help his victim. When Cassie physically tries to stop him, he suddenly turns on her and spits out an ominous threat: “Let her die, and I’ll let you live.” A veterinarian trained to heal, Cassie can’t let the woman die. But while she’s examining the unconscious victim, the attacker steals her car. Now he has her name. Her address. And he knows about her children. Though they warn her to be careful, the police assure her that the perpetrator—a criminal named Carver Sweet—won’t get near her. Cassie isn’t so sure.The next day—Halloween—her husband disappears while trick-or-treating with their six-year-old daughter. Are these disturbing events a coincidence or the beginning of a horrifying nightmare? Her husband has been growing distant—is it possible he’s become involved with another woman? Is Cassie’s confrontation with the road-side attacker connected to her husband’s disappearance? With all these questions swirling in her mind Cassie can trust no one, maybe not even herself. The only thing she knows for sure is that she can’t sit back while the people she loves are in danger. As she desperately searches for answers, Cassie discovers that nothing is as random as it seems, and that she is more than willing to fight—to go the most terrifying extremes—to save her family and her marriage.


Review: You see a couple arguing, it's dark out and raining, do you stop to interfere or do you keep going home to your own family? Cassie stops because she is one for helping others. This stop will change Cassie's life for the foreseeable future. She can't step away and let someone die to save her own life, it's not who she is, now. Except he's stolen her car with her all of her information, which means he knows everything about her. The police who she talks to view her as a suspect instead of a victim so that she begins to search for answers on her own.

Cassie feels in her gut that her husband's disappearance is related to what she witnessed and interfered with the day before. While Cassie and her husband haven't been on the same page lately, he would never leave their daughter alone with people she barely knows. So since the police haven't exactly been willing to work with her, Cassie is working the angles on her own.

I definitely wasn't expecting where this book took Cassie and therefore the reader. Ms. Chavez does a great job of throwing some red herrings including some cliches. Those are what makes the ending that much better. I read a lot of psychological thrillers and I loved that I didn't see it coming.

This is Ms. Chavez' first novel but she will be one that I keep my eye on for her sophomore novel.

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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday Skim



Week 3/1/2020 and 3/8/2020:


Finished:





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Currently Reading:





Looking Forward To:




Well, the next weeks should be interesting for everyone. I hope everyone stays safe and healthy out there. I will try to maintain sanity while I work from home with my kids and husband. :)

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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Julie's Review: This Won't End Well

Author: Camille Pagan
Series: None
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 295
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Clever, witty and engaging
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Summary: No new people: that’s Annie Mercer’s vow. It’s bad enough that her boss sabotaged her chemistry career and her best friend tried to cure her with crystals. But after her fiancé, Jon, asks for space while he’s gallivanting around Paris, Annie decides she needs space too—from everyone. Yet when Harper moves in next door, Annie can’t help but train a watchful eye on the glamorous but fragile young woman. And if keeping Harper safe requires teaming up with Mo, a maddeningly optimistic amateur detective, who is she to mind her own business? Soon Annie has let not one but two new people into her life. Then Jon reappears—and he wants her to join him in France. She’s pretty sure letting anyone get close won’t end well. So she must decide: Is another shot at happiness worth the risk? ~amazon.com 

Review: This Won't End Well is a wonderful novel about putting yourself out there when it seems that everyone is letting you down. Annie is a delight in the way she handles whatever life throws at her but she's almost too calm. She's methodical , logical and controlled; everything in her life is measured.  But when her fiance ups and leaves to go to Paris to "find himself" before they get married, she starts to unravel a tiny bit. She swears off all new people but even starts to alienate herself from old friends as well. 

What Annie finds out is that you can't really close yourself off because life has a way of forcing you to do the opposite of what you planned. So as someone new moves in next door, she finds herself slightly intrigued about the woman who seems so opposite of her. Of course, Annie sees something that makes her even more curious so she starts to spy. Except we all know that nothing is ever as it seems.

The cast of characters that Ms. Pagan has written to help Annie on her way to self-discovery are truly wonderful. They each make Annie think in a way that she hasn't before. From Harper to Mo to Leesa she begins to understand that not everything is logical, especially love. What Ms. Pagan does so well is show how people can evolve even when they think they can’t. It doesn’t have to be major changing but sometime little changes make huge differences.

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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sunday Skim



Week 2/16/2020:


Finished:


Currently Reading:




Looking Forward To:


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