Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Julie's Review: The Golden Spoon

Author: Jessa Maxwell
Series: None
Publication Date:  March 7, 2023
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 288
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Mystery
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Classic whodunnit set on an old estate during a baking contest
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Every summer for the past ten years, six awe-struck bakers have descended on the grounds of Grafton, the leafy and imposing Vermont estate that is not only the filming site for “Bake Week” but also the childhood home of the show’s famous host, celebrated baker Betsy Martin. The author of numerous bestselling cookbooks and hailed as “America’s Grandmother,” Betsy Martin isn’t as warm off-screen as on, though no one needs to know that but her. She has always demanded perfection, and gotten it with a smile, but this year something is off. As the baking competition commences, things begin to go awry. At first, it’s merely sabotage—sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high—but when a body is discovered, everyone is a suspect. A sharp and suspenseful thriller for mystery buffs and avid bakers alike, The Golden Spoon is a brilliant puzzle filled with shocking twists and turns that will keep you reading late into the night until you turn the very last page of this incredible debut. ~amazon.com 

Review: There is nothing I enjoy more than a classic whodunnit type novel and this debut by Jessa Maxwell fits the bill. Each of the characters is hiding something but some a bit darker than others. You are never really sure who to trust and of course their secrets come out during the course of the novel. If I'm going to be honest, I didn't really care for any of the characters but I don't think you have to for the purpose of the story. 

Betsy Martin is one persona in front of the camera and another one behind it. Even though she's called "America's Grandmother", she is anything but sweet and nice. I will say given her amount of success, it's probably not that difficult to understand. She graciously opens up Grafton Manor for the show every year and even hosts the contestants there, which leads to some of them bonding more than others. 

I loved that each section of the book was named after the next baked good they would be challenged with on the show. For those of us who like the food challenge shows, it's a little peak behind the curtains but it really isn't about the show, it's just the setting for the plot. It's a catalyst to bring all these people together who end up bonded in ways they really didn't expect. 

I'm a huge And Then There Were None fan and this reminds me of that one in a lot of ways but Ms.. Christie will obviously be the Queen forever. If you are looking for a fun murder mystery with a cast of characters, then pick up The Golden Spoon


Monday, May 29, 2023

Julie's Review: The Second Ending

Author: Michelle Hoffmann
Series: None
Publication Date:  May 30, 2023
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Redefining yourself no matter what your age
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Prudence Childs was once the most famous kindergartner on the planet. After teaching herself to play piano at age three, she performed at the White House, appeared on talk shows, and inspired a generation to take up lessons. But as adolescence closed in, Prudence realized that she was being exploited and pushed into fame by her cruel grandmother, so she ran away. Broke and alone, she took a job writing commercial jingles, which earned her a fortune but left her creatively adrift. Now forty-eight, with her daughters away at school, Prudence agrees to compete on a wildly popular dueling pianos TV show to reconnect with her inner artist. Unfortunately, her new spotlight captures the attention of her terrible ex-husband, Bobby, who uses the opportunity to blackmail her over a long-buried secret. If she doesn’t win, she won’t just be a musical failure; she’ll also be bankrupt and exposed in front of millions. Her on-air rival, virtuoso Alexei Petrov, a young internet sensation with a massive audience and a dreamy Russian accent, has problems of his own. His demanding parents made him a technically flawless pianist but left him without friends, hobbies, or any kind of life outside his music. As they prepare to face off onstage, the retired prodigy and the exhausted wunderkind realize that the competition is their chance to prove to their bad exes, tyrannical family members, and, most important, themselves that it’s never too late to write a new ending.

Review: I find that as I get a bit older, I have loved reading about more mature characters and how they are approaching life as certain points in their lives are coming to an end. This is the case for Prudence Childs, her daughters are now out of the house in college and her husband still has to travel for his job. So to say she is a bit bored and lost is an understatement. Her husband tries everything he can think of and then he has her childhood piano delivered. This brings back memories of her not so happy childhood and she's not sure she wants to play it again. Then of course life throws her a curve ball when her ex-husband shows up trying to blackmail her. 

The Second Ending is funny, hopeful, and reverent. Prudence hasn't had an easy life and that has made her hard in some ways but her resilience is what endeared her to me. I also really liked Alexei and the fact that they understood each other even with their age difference. I liked how Alexei started to live the life he wanted, how he wanted control and how that gave him some peace. It also helped his relationship with his parents. 

This is a great novel about new beginnings and finding your passion or rediscovering it. 


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sunday Skim

Week of 5/21/2023:


Currently Reading:

Looking Forward To:

Long weekends are made for reading, so I'm hoping to get to a back list book and start on my June reads this upcoming week. I loved Viola Davis' memoir and learned so much about her that I obviously had no clue about. For those of you who love Knives Out or Agatha Christie books, you should definitely pick up The Golden Spoon. 


Sunday, May 21, 2023

Sunday Skim

Week of 5/14/2023:


Currently Reading:

Looking Forward To:

If you've never read a Christina Lauren novel, well 1) you are missing out and 2) The True Love Experiment is a great place to start. Once I start reading The Half Moon, I will have fulfilled all my ARC reads for the month, which is amazing. So I'm going to read a book I bought last month and then pick from my backlog. I'm missing Bridgerton, so I'm going to go read Martha Water's latest, To Swoon and to Spar. I'll probably also read ahead into June a bit as well. 


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Julie's Review: The True Love Experiment

Author: Christina Lauren
Series: None
Publication Date:  May 16, 2023
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 413
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Steamy, sexy and a wonderful romance
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab

Summary: Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is lost. Sure, she’s got an incredible career as a beloved romance novelist with a slew of bestsellers under her belt, but when she’s asked to give a commencement address, it hits her: she hasn’t been practicing what she’s preached. Fizzy hasn’t ever really been in love. Lust? Definitely. But that swoon-worthy, can’t-stop-thinking-about-him, all-encompassing feeling? Nope. Nothing. What happens when the optimism she’s spent her career encouraging in readers starts to feel like a lie? Connor Prince, documentary filmmaker and single father, loves his work in large part because it allows him to live near his daughter. But when his profit-minded boss orders him to create a reality TV show, putting his job on the line, Connor is out of his element. Desperate to find his romantic lead, a chance run-in with an exasperated Fizzy offers Connor the perfect solution. What if he could show the queen of romance herself falling head-over-heels for all the world to see? Fizzy gives him a hard pass—unless he agrees to her list of demands. When he says yes, and production on The True Love Experiment begins, Connor wonders if that perfect match will ever be in the cue cards for him, too. ~amazon.com

Review: While we get to know Fizzy in The Soulmate Equation as Jess' best friend, she truly shines in The True Love Experiment. Also, you don't have to read the aforementioned to read this one. Fizzy is a romance writer of a lot of notoriety but she's hit a wall; in her writing and her dating scene. She's stuck and it's driving her nuts. Enter Connor Prince III, he's also stuck but very differently; he's got to stop producing documentaries and save the company that employs him by doing a dating show. He's not sure how he's going to do it or even what he's going to do it about, until he and Fizzy cross paths.  The rest they say is history but of course it's not going to be an easy road. 

I love how Fizzy tests Connor's limits immediately by giving him her list of expectations and ideas for the show. I'm not sure she was expecting him to like them and to agree to him. I think that's what initially attracts her to him; he doesn't back down from her. I loved the banter but as they spend more time together a full connection occurs for both of them which could have disastrous effects for both of them. 

If you are not into spice and steam, then this book is not for you because it is how Fizzy and Connor connect but it's not the only way. I also loved the twist at the end which was well done. You will fall for Fizzy & Connor just like I did. 


Monday, May 15, 2023

Julie's Review: There Are No Rules for This

Author: J.J. Elliott
Series: None
Publication Date:  May 16, 2023
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pages: 248
Obtained: Emi Battaglia PR
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Novel that packs an emotional punch
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: People like Feeney Simms don’t commit suicide. Beautiful, charismatic, mother of two, wife to a handsome, successful husband, beloved by her friends—this is not the typical picture of a tortured soul. But one summer night, Feeney drives to the beach and swallows a handful of pills. No note, no explanation, nothing. Like that, she’s gone. Faced with this loss, Ali, Max, and Liddy, Feeney’s closest friends, are left reeling, grappling with the devastating cocktail of grief, guilt, and anger that’s left in the wake of a suicide. In a desperate attempt to avoid further loss, the three women make the unorthodox (and very Feeney-like) decision to hold their own funerals while they are still alive—and the experience changes each of them in ways they couldn’t have imagined. ~amazon.com

Review: If you have dealt with someone dying by suicide then this book may not be for you as it could be triggering but it could also be healing. I have not dealt with this situation myself, so I can't judge if Ms. Elliott's characterizations are true to life but they felt like it while reading There Are No Rules for This

How would you react if one of your closest friends took their life by swallowing pills? What if they were the happiest and most centered person you knew? The one that always had the answers to any question you had. This is what Ali, Max and Liddy are launched into when their friend Feeney's husband calls to let them know she's gone. At first they are all dazed and going about their days on autopilot. The funeral isn't what they envisioned since her mom and sisters take it over. Max decides that they should throw their own funeral for her in the way they believe she would want to be remembered. 

What There Are No Rules for This shows is that people grieve in very different ways and go through a whole host of different emotions. Including being pretty selfish with their thoughts on who knew Feeney best. The fact of the matter is, they all saw what she wanted them to see. In the end, it begs the question how well do we know those who we believe we are closest to? Are we all ever really fully honest with those around us? 

I thought that Ms. Elliott represented the roller coaster of emotions in dealing with a death by suicide and how the people left behind deal with the ramification. 


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Sunday Skim

Week of 4/30/2023:


Currently Reading:

Looking Forward To:

The two books I read this last week were brilliant in very different ways. I would highly recommend that you not miss out on these two. I didn't finish my audiobook but I will this week. 


Thursday, May 4, 2023

Monthly Rewind: April 2023

* Denotes Audiobooks

April was a solid month for reading. I actually read more than I initially thought, which is why it's fun to do some these posts. Anything you read that stands out?

The Perfumist of Paris ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
* Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
* All the Dangerous Things ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Love Buzz ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
* Out of the Clear Blue Sky ⭐⭐⭐⭐
* One of the Girls ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Audrey Hepburn Estate ⭐⭐⭐⭐
We Love to Entertain ⭐⭐⭐⭐
* Home or Away ⭐⭐⭐⭐
There Are No Rules for This ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Plus One ⭐⭐⭐
* People Person ⭐⭐⭐


Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Julie's Review: Love Buzz

Author: Neely Tubati-Alexander
Series: None
Publication Date: May 2, 2023
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Stunning debut
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: A wretched maid of honor. A hangover from hell. Raucous Mardi Gras crowds. There isn’t much Serena Khan is enjoying about this four-day New Orleans destination bachelorette party for her semi-estranged cousin, the bride-to-be. UNTIL sparks fly with a handsome stranger, who—like her—is also from Seattle, at the ladies’ last stop of the evening, a Bourbon Street bar. After their conversation is cut short, Serena is overwhelmed by the desire to find the charming man with the brooding eyebrows, but her list of clues is pretty short:

His name is Julian

He lives on Chamber Hill

He works at a tech company

He loves Lil Wayne and Nirvana

The need to find him is, for Serena, both irresistible and totally irrational. In a few short weeks, her college alumni magazine is featuring her in a “Life at Thirty” feature, cementing her as a success story. She will have officially achieved the safe, stable life her late mother insisted upon. Julian is not part of the plan. As she combs Seattle for her New Orleans flame, stripping away the perfectly curated life that would have made her mother proud, Serena must decide if the pursuit of real passion is worth it, and fast, before she destroys the life she always thought she wanted. In a sharply funny, thoughtful, and romantic debut combining the wistfulness of Rebecca Serle with the witty sizzle of Emily Henry, Neely Tubati-Alexander prompts us all to ask if the life we’re living is a life worth loving. ~amazon.com

Review:  Love Buzz captured me from the opening lines and didn't let me go. If I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it or thinking about reading it. That says something to me about a debut novel, that it pulls you in so easily. What could have been a novel about only the "meet cute", it was so much more than that. Serena is on a trip that she didn't even want to take for a bachelorette who she hasn't been close to in 8 years but yet she's in New Orleans bored out of her mind. That is until a mysterious stranger approaches her at the bar and sets her life in a tail-spin. 

Serena has always played it safe. It is how she honors her mother and the hard work her mother had to do for her to go to college and make a better life for herself. She has a plan and that plan does not take into account meeting a handsome stranger and having feelings you've never had before. She is methodical and strategic definitely not whimsical and dreamy. 

I really can't tell you much more or I'll give away the whole story. Ms. Tubati-Alexander does a fantastic job of describing someone who is really having a total change of heart regarding her life. What it's like to question every choice you've made and who it is you are trying to make happy with those choice? It's also about letting go of the past and realizing that your view isn't the only one, especially when dealing with grief. 

I will tell you this, I'm buying a copy of this book and will pre-order anything Ms. Tubati-Alexander writes in the future. She knows how to tell a beautiful story.