Posted in ARC August, Uncategorized

ARC August – My Goals

ARC August is an event hosted by Octavia and Shelly at Read.Sleep.Repeat. The goal is for book bloggers to read as many ARCs (advance reader copies) as they can. They can be old, new, hardcover, electronic, whatever–the goal is to read as many as you can between August 1 and 30. These are the ARCs I’m hoping to read this month.

A Wife of Noble Character
by Yvonne Georgina Puig

Release Day: August 2, 2016

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Thirty-year-old Vivienne Cally is wealthy in name only. Orphaned as a child and raised by a cold but regal aunt, Vivienne was taught to rely on her beauty and Texas tradition, and is expected to marry a wealthy and respectable man who will honor the Cally name. Friends with Houston’s most prominent families, she’s a beloved fixture at social events, and suffers no shortage of access to the city’s most eligible bachelors. Preston Duffin has known Vivienne and her set since childhood, though he’s never shared their social aspirations or status. About to graduate from a prestigious architecture program, he is both fascinated and repelled by this group of friends he sits on the cusp of. He’s long admired Vivienne’s beauty, but isn’t sure he holds any place in so traditional a life. Intrigued by the extent to which Preston challenges the only way of life she’s ever known, Vivienne both courts his attention and rebuffs his critiques of her antiquated values.

Inspired by Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, A Wife of Noble Character shares the original novel’s sharp social commentary at the same time that it illuminates the trappings and rewards of coming-of-age that are wholly unique to the twenty-first century. Part biting wit, part classic love story, it takes readers from Texas to Paris to Switzerland and back again, and will charm both fans of Wharton and anyone who has ever struggled to find their path in life.

Death, Taxes, and a Satin Garter
by Diane Kelly

Release Date: August 2, 2016

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FOR RICHER OR POORER, IN BUSINESS AND IN STEALTH.

Can IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway break up a clever ring of tax cheats who love money, dishonor the IRS, and disobey the laws of justice?

When Tara agreed to be her best friend’s maid of honor, she knew it would be a ton of work. But planning a bachelorette party is a piece of (wedding) cake compared to her latest mission for the IRS. Her target is radio host Florence “Flo” Cash, star of “The Flo Cash Cash Flow Show.” Not only has Flo been giving her listeners shady tax advice, she’s set up an elaborate barter system that leaves Uncle Sam out of the equation―and Tara tied in knots…

While Flo flouts the IRS at every turn, Tara has yet another case to tackle: a catfishing Casanova who’s relieved several lonely ladies of their cash, credit cards, and dignity. When her best friend’s big day arrives, it’s all Tara can do to keep from crying uncle. But when Tara snatches the bridal bouquet and her boyfriend Nick catches the satin garter, could Tara’s days of filing single tax returns be over?

The Book That Matters Most
by Ann Hood

Release DateAugust 9, 2016

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Ava’s twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood—one that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava’s story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava’s mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives.

Results May Vary
by Bethany Chase

Release Date: August 9, 2016

27833513.jpgShe never saw it coming. Without even a shiver of suspicion to warn her, Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man—a revelation that forces her to question their entire history together, from their early days as high school sweethearts through their ten years as a happily married couple. In her now upside-down world, Caroline begins envisioning her life without the relationship that has defined it: the loneliness of being an “I” instead of a “we”; the rekindled yet tenuous closeness with her younger sister; and the unexpected—and potentially disastrous—attraction she can’t get off her mind. Caroline always thought she knew her own love story, but as her husband’s other secrets emerge, she must decide whether that story’s ending will mean forgiving the man she’s loved for half her life, or facing her future without him.

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay
by Kelly Harms

Release Date: August 9, 2016

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A young painter, Lily has reached a crossroads in her life. Her career hasn’t taken off, her best friend may no longer be the trusted friend she thought, her boyfriend is a disappointment, and now she can’t keep up with the rising cost of living in the city. With no one to turn to, Lily is forced to move from her beloved apartment, but while packing she comes across a piece of mail that had slipped to the back of her junk drawer: a letter detailing further action needed to finalize the annulment of a quickie Vegas wedding. Ten years ago!

Lily decides it’s time to turn over a new leaf and the first item on her list of things to fix is getting the annulment… but you can’t just send a reply ten years later, “Hey by the way we are still married.” This is something that must be addressed in person. Lily takes to the road to track down her husband – the charming, fun, and sexy man she connected with all those years ago – Ben Hutchinson.

Ben Hutchinson left a wealthy dot-com lifestyle behind to return home to his family and the small town he loves, Minnow Bay. He’s been living off the grid and the last thing he expects is a wife he didn’t know he had to show up on his doorstep.

By chance, Lily arrives at the magical Minnow Bay Inn, and there she will discover not just a place to lay her head, but new friends, a thriving art community, and maybe even the love of her life.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
by Bryn Greenwood

Release Date: August 9, 2016

26114135.jpgAs the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

 

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko
by Scott Stambach

Release Date: August 9, 2016

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Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan, which is why he turns everything into a game, manipulating people and events around him for his own amusement.

Until Polina arrives.

She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her.

She is exquisite. Soon, he cannot help being drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. Before, he survived by being utterly detached from things and people. Now, Ivan wants something more: Ivan wants Polina to live.

 

The Secret Book of Kings
by Yochi Brandes

Release Date: August 23, 2016

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Stories are deadlier than swords. Swords kill only those who stand before them, stories decide who will live and die in generations to come.

Shlom’am, a young man from the tribe of Ephraim, has grown up in the shadow of several secrets. He wonders why his father is deathly afraid of the King’s soldiers, and why his mother has lied to him about the identities of those closest to him. Knowing his parents won’t divulge more than they have to, Shlom’am sets out on his own to unearth his mysterious past.

At the height of his journey, Shlom’am encounters the Crazed Princess. Princess Michal, daughter of the ill-fated King Saul and discarded wife of the illustrious, dangerous King David, seems doomed by the annals of history; hellbent on seizing the throne, David wiped out her father’s line and left her isolated…and plotting. Only Michal knows the shocking circumstances of Shlom’am’s birth. Only she can set into motion his destiny to become Jerobaam, the fourth king of Israel.

The Secret Book of Kings is a sweeping biblical epic filled with court intrigue, romance, and rebellion. It engages with the canonized stories of the Israel’s foundation and turns them on their heads. Brandes, known for her profound familiarity with Jewish sources, uncovers vibrant, adversarial men and woman buried deep in the scriptures and asks the loaded question: to what extent can we really know our past when history is written by the victors?

Wedding Bell Blues
by Ruth Moose

Release Date: August 23, 2016

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B&B owner Beth McKenzie must deal with a mad bride, a bean festival and a missing white rabbit in this charming Southern cozy from an award-winning author

Beth McKenzie, owner of the Dixie Dew Bed and Breakfast, is enjoying an exciting affair with her new love, Scott. Meanwhile, the town of Littleboro, North Carolina is abuzz with gossip about Crazy Reba’s upcoming nuptials. Most brides go crazy at some point, but Littleboro’s resident homeless lady has had a head start: she’s beloved, indulged, and most of all, eccentric. But at almost 60—or thereabouts—her marriage seems a little peculiar. Sure, she’s sporting a diamond big enough to choke a horse, but no one can tell if it’s real, or just a Cracker Jack prize she pilfered from a yard sale.

Crazy Reba’s wedding plans go confirmedly awry when the bride-to-be is arrested for her fiancé’s murder. Beth, determined to clear Reba’s name, gets in over her head when a lady wrestler who threatened to kill her books a room at the Dixie Dew, and Robert Redford, her neighbor’s white rabbit, disappears.

Then Litteboro’s First Annual Green Bean Festival gets up and running, a famous food writer becomes deathly ill, and Beth must battle through madcap mayhem to apprehend the culprit and save the day.

Wedding Bell Blues is Ruth Moose’s sequel to her winning debut, featuring her colorful array of characters and more laughs and hilarity.

Curioddity
by Paul Jenkins

Release Date: August 30, 2016

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Will Morgan is a creature of habit―a low-budget insurance detective who walks to and from work with the flow of one-way traffic, and for whom imagination is a thing of the distant past. When a job opportunity enters the frame in the form of the mysterious Mr. Dinsdale―curator of the ever so slightly less-than-impressive Curioddity Museum―Will reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing box of levity (the opposite of gravity). What he soon learns, however, is that there is another world out there―a world of magic we can only see by learning to un-look at things―and in this world there are people who want to close the Curioddity museum down. With the help of his eccentric new girlfriend Lucy, Will will do everything he can to deliver on his promise to help Mr. Dinsdale keep the Curioddity Museum in business.

 

The Saint Louisans
by Steven Clark

Release Date: August 30, 2016

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As Margot Desouche, the matriarch of a powerful St. Louis family, succumbs to cancer, she takes a keen interest in her hospice nurse, Lee Bridger, much to the consternation of her children. Lee is drawn to Margot, too, but between her boyfriend who keeps trying to save St. Louis, the journalist who literally washes up on the city s levee, and her daughter, a some-time actress and full-time con artist, Lee has her own troubles.

Steven Clark paints a poignant portrait of the often crazy, always complicated lives an average family. The St. Louisans is at once a funny and sad study of human and urban death and renewal that evokes the work of Tennessee Williams and Sara Teasdale, two St. Louisans who wanted to be buried at sea but who never got their wish.”

Pancakes in Paris
by Craig Carlson

Release Date: September 1, 2016

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Paris was practically perfect…

Craig Carlson was the last person anyone would expect to open an American diner in Paris. He came from humble beginnings in a working-class town in Connecticut, had never worked in a restaurant, and didn’t know anything about starting a brand-new business. But from his first visit to Paris, Craig knew he had found the city of his dreams, although one thing was still missing-the good ol’ American breakfast he loved so much.

Pancakes in Paris is the story of Craig tackling the impossible-from raising the money to fund his dream to tracking down international suppliers for “exotic” American ingredients… and even finding love along the way. His diner, Breakfast In America, is now a renowned tourist destination, and the story of how it came to be is just as delicious and satisfying as the classic breakfast that tops its menu.

 

Posted in 4 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: The Imperial Wife by Irina Reyn

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Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback, Audible

Two women’s lives collide when a priceless Russian artifact comes to light. 

Tanya Kagan, a rising specialist in Russian art at a top New York auction house, is trying to entice Russia’s wealthy oligarchs to bid on the biggest sale of her career, The Order of Saint Catherine, while making sense of the sudden and unexplained departure of her husband. 

As questions arise over the provenance of the Order and auction fever kicks in, Reyn takes us into the world of Catherine the Great, the infamous 18th-century empress who may have owned the priceless artifact, and who it turns out faced many of the same issues Tanya wrestles with in her own life. 

Suspenseful and beautifully written, The Imperial Wife asks whether we view female ambition any differently today than we did in the past. Can a contemporary marriage withstand an “Imperial Wife”? 

MY RATING: 📚📚📚📚

 

True Rating: 3.5 Stars

Classic Russian literature is one of my newfound loves, but other than the bits of Napoleonic trivia I gleaned from War and Peace and the period surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution, I know shockingly little about Russian history. I’ve heard of Catherine the Great, of course, but the details of her life and the reason she was considered great was an unanswered question. I was excited to pick this book, hoping it would at least temporarily sate my ever-growing curiosity about the magical mystery that is Russia.

Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying the current day story of Tanya much more than the historical aspect. Perhaps this stems from Sophie/Catherine’s sections being written in third-person compared to the first-person of Tanya’s story. The high-end nature of Tanya’s career juxtaposed with her own humdrum living situation and the unexplained tension between her and her husband Carl provided a much more intriguing mixture of conflict than the politics of 18th-century royal matchmaking. I also appreciated the post-Soviet attitudes and ideas that inundated Tanya’s story.
The writing is overall beautiful, although the frequent use of sentence fragments made the editor inside me twitch at times. Reyn is clearly a skilled writer and painted a delicate, detailed picture of both intersecting plotlines.

The reason for the 1.5 star deduction–The pacing was slow, especially in the beginning, and I did not feel connected or sympathetic to either of the main characters. I can understand why Catherine acted as she did, given her own situation and the time, but Tanya’s actions revealed at the end–SPOILER rewriting her husband’s entire manuscript without his permission and then presenting it to him as a present END SPOILER–are unthinkably selfish. It was an intriguing story, but I wished there was some positive emotional connection made with at least one of the main characters.

If you enjoy historical and women’s fiction, intersecting plotlines, and Russian influences, I recommend that you pick up a copy of this book. Despite the issues I had with it, it’s a beautifully written story and definitely on my list of top 10 reads of 2016.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Blog Tour, release day blitz

RELEASE DAY BLITZ: Breathe Again by Sydney Logan!

 

It’s release day for Sydney Logan’s Breathe Again, and I am so excited to share it with you! Check out the excerpt and release day goodies, and be sure to grab your copy of Breathe Again while it’s on sale!!

Breathe Again Release Day Blitz Banner

About Breathe Again:

Breathe Again eBook

From the bestselling author of Songbird comes a story that will make you laugh, cry, and believe in the power of second chances.

Carrie Malone has seen enough heartbreak to last a lifetime.

Her family’s demons gave Carrie the courage to move away from home and leave her past behind. Now a college senior, she stays busy with her classes and her job at the diner. It may sound boring to some, but to Carrie, the very best thing about her new life is that every day is calm and blissfully uneventful.

That all changes the night Josh Bennett walks into her diner.

With his dirty designer suit and mud-caked shoes, Carrie’s not sure what to think about the broken man sitting at her counter. She’s even more confused when he doesn’t touch his coffee . . . and leaves his Rolex watch as a tip.

Josh Bennett has nothing to live for.

Starved for affection and deep in despair, he’s looking for a tender touch. A kind word. A giving heart.

A shattered and broken Josh finds himself standing on a city bridge, looking down into the freezing river that will undoubtedly bring an end to his pain.

He’s prepared to jump.

He’s prepared to die.

He’s not prepared for the pretty waitress who finds him there by the river’s edge.

When two lost souls find each other in the dark of the night, can they give each other a reason to breathe again?

 

Get your copy today:

Kindle Unlimited

Breathe Again on Goodreads

 

Breathe Again Teaser 12 release day

Exclusive Excerpt:

Cold November air nips at my bare fingers, and I mutter a curse. Leaving my gloves at home isn’t the dumbest thing I’ve done lately, but it’s close.

You should’ve let Tony drive you home.

Pulling my jacket tighter around me, I quicken my pace. It’s just a few blocks between the diner and my apartment, but the cold air makes it feel like miles.

Flurries start to swirl, prompting me to walk a little faster. I’m just making my way across the Hart Street Bridge when something catches my eye.

A man’s standing next to the concrete barrier, looking down into the frigid water below.

I stop.

Without a backwards glance, he places one leg over the edge.

My heart pounds in my chest. “No!”

His head jerks up, and there, under the lights of the city, my eyes lock with the man who left his watch on my counter.

I’m paralyzed.

So is he.

Thank God.

People keep walking. Cars keep moving. But my eyes remain fixed on the man straddling the concrete barrier—the only thing that’s keeping him from plunging into the icy river below us. I don’t know his name. I don’t know why he’s dressed like a beggar, and I certainly don’t know why he left his Rolex on my counter.

But in this moment, none of that matters.

I make sure the street is clear before walking across, keeping my movements slow as I approach him. The last thing I want to do is freak him out. For now, one leg is still on this side of the barrier, giving me hope that maybe he doesn’t really want to die tonight. Needing the support it provides, I hold onto the cold concrete and pray I say the right thing.

“What are you—”

“Leave me alone, Carrie.”

The fact that he’s coherent enough to remember my name gives me even more hope. But his voice . . . it’s raw and tinged with so much sadness that it nearly breaks my heart.

“What are you doing?”

“It’s none of your business. Go away.”

“No.”

His eyes flash with anger.

“Screw you.”

“Don’t jump and maybe I’ll let you.”

It’s a ridiculous thing to say, but I’m desperate. He’d never survive the fall, and I already have enough guilt in my heart to last a lifetime. I don’t need this on my conscience, too.

The man blinks rapidly, as if he’s trying to comprehend what I said.

“Tempting, but trust me. I’m not worth saving.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Believe it,” he whispers. “Please, Carrie. Just . . . go.”

I shake my head and take a step closer.

Keep him talking.

“I don’t even know your name. You know mine. That’s not fair.”

He looks surprised. “You don’t recognize me?”

“Should I?”

“Wow. That’s . . . refreshing, actually.”

I glance around. Surely someone has noticed us and called the cops by now. But I don’t hear sirens, so I keep talking, hoping the man will come to his senses.

I offer him my hand. “My name is Carrie Malone. What’s yours?”

“Josh Bennett.”

The name sounds vaguely familiar.

“Nice to meet you, Josh. Now, would you please place both legs on this side of the barrier before I have a heart attack?”

Josh looks down into the river.

“Please? Let me call your family.”

It’s the wrong thing to say.

“My family’s dead, which is exactly what I should be. What I want to be.”

 

Breathe Again Teaser 10 release day

 

 

Join Sydney on Facebook at the Breathe Again Release Day Party – July 22 at 4:00 PM EST for author takeovers, games and prizes, including the $50 Amazon gift card grand prize!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1707173469548279/1710955669170059

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About Sydney Logan:

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Sydney Logan is the bestselling author of seven novels. She has also penned several short stories and is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul. A lover of music, she fills her playlist with everyone from Johnny Cash to Eminem.

Sydney holds a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and spends her days surrounded by kids and books. A native of East Tennessee, she enjoys playing piano and relaxing on her porch with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat.

 

Visit her online at www.sydneylogan.com.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

 

Enter Sydney’s Giveaway:

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blog Tour, Uncategorized

BLOG TOUR: Miracle Man by William B. Leibowitz

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The victim of an unspeakable crime, an infant rises to become a new type of superhero. Unlike any that have come before him, he is not a fanciful creation of animators, he is real.

So begins the saga of Robert James Austin, the greatest genius in human history. But where did his extraordinary intelligence come from?

As agents of corporate greed vie with rabid anti-Western radicals to destroy him, an obsessive government leader launches a bizarre covert mission to exploit his intellect. Yet Austin’s greatest fear is not of this world.

Aided by two exceptional women, one of whom will become his unlikely lover, Austin struggles against abandonment and betrayal. But the forces that oppose him are more powerful than even he can understand.

“Miracle Man” was named by Amazon as one of the Top 100 Novels of 2015 and one of Amazon’s Top 10 Thrillers for 2015.  It’s been an Amazon Best Seller, and a winner of a national Best Thriller award.

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http://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Man- William-R-Leibowitz/dp/0989866211/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/miracle-man- william-leibowitz/1118136798

The social media links are:

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/28295827-william- leibowitz

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Miracle-Man- Book/744789435534091

Posted in 3 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson

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Genre: Satire, Literary Fiction
Publisher: Hogarth
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover, Audible

Hilarious, profound, and achingly true-to-life, Jonas Karlsson’s new novel explores the true nature of happiness through the eyes of a hero you won’t soon forget. A passionate film buff, our hero’s life revolves around his part-time job at a video store, the company of a few precious friends, and a daily routine that more often than not concludes with pizza and a movie in his treasured small space in Stockholm. When he receives an astronomical invoice from a random national bureaucratic agency, everything will tumble into madness as he calls the hotline night and day to find out why he is the recipient of the largest bill in the entire country. 

What is the price of a cherished memory? How much would you pay for a beautiful summer day? How will our carefree idealist, who is content with so little and has no chance of paying it back, find a way out of this mess? All these questions pull you through The Invoice and prove once again that Jonas Karlsson is simply a master of entertaining, intelligent, and life-affirming work.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚

First off, I think calling this a novel is a stretch. It’s just over 150 pages, and it took me less than 3 hours to finish it. The premise was interesting and the writing solid, but something was missing. I finished the book not really understanding why this single middle-aged guy with a dead-end part-time job was somehow the happiest guy in Sweden. His “few precious friends,” as the synopsis describes them, are really just immature losers who pop in and out of his life. Before the invoice arrives, our unnamed hero is a boring gray blob of a person–the only interesting aspect of this story are his repeated conversations with Maud, the phone representative for the agency who sent him the astronomical invoice.

Additionally, I would have liked more details about what W.R.D. really is. Are they a government agency? A corporation? Some kind of bureaucratized karmic institution? I have no idea. Our hero doesn’t seem to be able to pay attention to any of the information given him, so the readers are left just as confused at the end as they are at the beginning. I would have been fine with the level of information we received were this a short story, but when you read something of this length you expect more answers than what Karlsson was willing to give.

That leads to my biggest problem with The Invoice–I feel like the author beats us over the head with his satirical point, without actually telling us what the point is. Are we supposed to feel critical of the government? Businesses? Society? Materialism? Consumerism? Responsibility? Attachment? The symbolism, and at times the story itself, is so vague that I walked away not quite sure that I’d “gotten” whatever it was Karlsson desperately wanted me to get.

Despite these issues, I did enjoy this book. There was a scene toward the end between the protagonist and Maud that was especially touching. I think this would be a good film, actually, if the idea of W.R.D. was fleshed out a little more. If you’re not usually bothered by the issues I mention above and you enjoy literary satire, I would definitely recommend it.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: Baggage Check (The Marriage Pact #3) by M.J. Pullen

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Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover
Baggage Check is the third in a charming series about a group of thirty-somethings in Atlanta making surprising discoveries about friendship, love, and happily-ever-after. 

At 35, Rebecca Williamson is surrounded by happy endings. Her friends Suzanne and Marci are living out their own personal fairy tales in Atlanta. But despite Rebecca’s best efforts four years ago, her adorable college friend Jake Stillwell has officially slipped through her fingers and broken her heart. When Rebecca gets a frantic phone call from her mother back in Alabama, Rebecca is pulled back to the tiny town she worked so hard to leave behind and forced to face the hard truths about her family and past. A past that includes Deputy Alex Chen, who thinks of Rebecca as more than just an old friend’s kid sister. Can Rebecca navigate the chaos and get her life back to normal? Will Alex prove himself to be the friend she’s always needed? Or will she discover that the door to Jake is not as tightly closed as she thought?
M.J. Pullen returns in this final installment to the same captivating group of lovelorn friends, this time following the girl group’s frenemy, Rebecca, as she’s forced to confront her past. Raising the stakes, Pullen delivers an absorbing, romantic novel that poses the question, what if everything you were looking for was right where you started?

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

After enjoying Regrets Only earlier this year I was excited to read Baggage Check, even though I wasn’t thrilled to learn that Rebecca was the main character. I haven’t read The Marriage Pact yet, but I know enough of its events that I already had a strong dislike for Rebecca. But Ms. Pullen’s characters are deep, complicated, and complex, and I found that the change in perspective allowed me to see a side of Rebecca that I never thought existed.

One of Ms. Pullen’s real strengths is her ability to engage readers with serious subject matter–mental health, infidelity, divorce, death of a child, marital problems–without overwhelming them with darkness. Despite the heavy topics broached, I would still classify this as a fairly light and uplifting read. As with Regrets Only, I appreciated that the romantic element was strong and sweet, but played second fiddle to Rebecca’s personal transformation.

As a side note, it was nice to see a realistic depiction of the south. I’m a native and current resident of Alabama, and it was refreshing to read a story set in the Birmingham area that didn’t depict everyone as backwoods morons. The drive times and road names were also correct, which is surprisingly something many authors don’t bother to research.

All in all, I loved this book and the series! I do still need to read The Marriage Pact, but it’s ready and waiting on my Kindle. M.J. Pullen is definitely on my list of favorite women’s fiction authors now, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

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Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover, PaperbackAudible

Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.

Future? A top-tier medical school.
Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around).
Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby—pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else?
Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.

So it’s no surprise that Andie’s got her summer all planned out too.

Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

This was my first trip into Morgan Matson territory, and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I heard her favorably compared to Sarah Dessen, who has been my YA contemporary goddess since I was fifteen. I feel almost guilty saying this, but I think I may actually like Matson better!

When I realized how long The Unexpected Everything was–over 500 pages–I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous. I’m not a reader easily deterred by length–as I’ve mentioned before, War & Peace is one of my all-time favorites–but I just couldn’t imagine a YA contemporary standalone needed that much time to tell a story. But the good news is that the font is on the larger side, and while the first 100 pages or so move rather slowly, the pacing picks up from there. I actually read the last 400 pages in one sitting, which is a rare occurance for me these days.

Ms. Matson was able to pull off several story elements I don’t usually like, one being the quintessential large group of best friends. Normally I find it difficult to keep track of the characters, and even when I can manage to remember their names, I always come away from it feeling a little unconvinced. No one has friendships that perfect, right? But Andie’s friend group is well-developed, with even the most minor of characters having a backstory and a personality. I grew attached to and cared for them all, rather than just worrying about Andie, and I found that very refreshing.

Another YA trope I can’t stand is the aloof, distant parent who doesn’t really change over the course of the story. Ms. Matson takes that trope and turns it on its head with Andie’s father. He starts out being the stereotypical clueless parent, but over time turns into a flawed, loveable character just like the rest.

The romance element . . . sigh. I won’t spill details for fear of spoiling the story for those of who you haven’t yet read this, but suffice it to say that I had heartwarming goosebumps long before I reached the last page. I’m hoping these characters crop up again in subsequent Matson novels, because I’m dying to see what they’re up to.

If you’re looking for a novel that will remind you of summer as a teenager, this is the one to grab.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I then promptly lost said digital copy, was unable to download it again, and decided to check it out from the library. So…do with this information what you will.