Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Lazy Dazey Summer Reads

Seasonal TBR lists are my favorite Top Ten Tuesday topic, so I'm excited for this week's prompt.  With over 5000 titles on my Goodreads "Want to Read" list, I certainly don't need any more book recommendations.  Does that stop me from adding tantalizing titles from other people's lists to mine?  Heck, no!  Book recs are my favorite thing about TTT.

I won't hit you with all 5000-whatever books on my TBR list (you're welcome), but I am going to show you ten that I'm hoping to get to this summer (BTW:  I live in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, so summer lasts from about May until November!).  Before I do that, though, I want to encourage you to join in the TTT fun.  It's super simple—check out That Artsy Reader Girl for a few instructions, make your own list, and start clicking around the book blogosphere.  Nothing to it!  Have a great time spreading the love to other book blogs and get some fantastic reading suggestions while you're at it.  What's not to love?

Also, don't forget to enter my giveaway (see sidebar) for A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards.  It's a mystery novel about a woman searching for her always flawless older sister, whose frantic phone call indicates her life might not be as picture-perfect as it seems.

Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR List (in no particular order):


1.  The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman—I've heard a lot of positive buzz about this book, which features a shy bookstore employee who suddenly discovers she has a big, noisy brood of sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews.  What's a terrified introvert to do when she has to face the chaotic outside world instead of hiding behind a book?


2.  The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks—This novel concerns a poor, abused young woman in 17th Century England whose life changes when she's almost run over by the coach of a nobleman who offers her a job at his luxurious and exclusive chocolate shop.  Cue intrigue, danger, family secrets, and more.  I love historical fiction and this one sounds compelling.


3.  Dancing with the Sun by Kay Bratt—A friend of mine recommended this author to me.  I'd never heard of Bratt before, so I'm starting with her best-rated book on Goodreads.  It's about a grief-stricken mother who travels to Yosemite to see her daughter, who's doing an internship there.  The two embark on what is supposed to be a short hike only to find themselves lost and fighting for survival in the unforgiving wilderness.  I always like mother/daughter novels and this one sounds intriguing to me.


4.  The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan—I enjoyed The Bookshop on the Corner when I read it back in 2017, but I've yet to try another novel by this author.  Her newest sounds like another warm, engaging story about a woman looking for a new start in small-town Scotland.


5.  When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards—After reading A Family of Strangers recently, I'm totally up for another novel by Richards.  This one concerns two women who grew up in foster care together reuniting to film a documentary.  As they reconnect, they struggle to come to terms with current woes and the past that haunts them both.



6.  The Bungalow by Sarah Jio—Jio is another new-to-me author, but this historical, about a nurse who finds a new love and an intriguing mystery on the island of Bora Bora, sounds like a tale I would enjoy.


7.  Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan—I need to read a whole trilogy for one of the reading challenges I'm doing and I've heard great things about the one that starts with this novel.  It's about a New York woman who decides to spend the summer with her boyfriend in his native Singapore.  She's shocked when she discovers that the humble childhood she imagined for him was nothing but.  Finding that her boyfriend is the country's wealthiest, most eligible bachelor means she has a target on her back.  Sounds fun!


8.  Never Look Back by Clare Donoghue—The first in a mystery series starring DI Mike Lockyer, this novel is about a police hunt for a dangerous killer.  I'm always looking for new detective series and this one sounds compelling.


9.  All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung—Stephanie over at She's Probably at the Library highly recommends this memoir about a preemie born in Korea who is adopted and raised by white parents in a small, sheltered Oregon town and her subsequent search for herself as an adoptee, an Asian-American, and a mother.  As my life has been touched by premature birth and transracial adoption, this book sounds like an intriguing read as well as an important and eye-opening one.


10.  Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly—I'm a big Kelly fan, so I'm highly anticipating her newest, which concerns a woman with dark secrets who must return to the place where they're buried.  I always dig a secrets-from-the-past-coming-back-to-haunt-the-present type novel, so this one is right up my alley.

There ya have it, ten books I'm hoping to read during the long, scorching months of summer.  Have you read any of them?  What's on your summer reading list?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT! 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Second Mayfield Family Regency Romance As Diverting As the First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The Season is the time to show off the beauty and social graces of London's newest crop of debutantes.  Maryann Morrington doesn't have much of either, but the 22-year-old does possess a hefty inheritance.  Despite her advanced age, her money is more than enough to draw a crowd of suitors to her side.  Well aware that, for most men, her wealth is her most appealing asset, Maryann nevertheless longs to marry a gentleman who appreciates her for her.  

Timothy Mayfield (nephew of Elliott Mayfield from Promises and Primroses) has an enthusiastic zest for life that makes him popular among the ton despite his almost penniless existence.  In London to find a wealthy wife, the 27-year-old experiences a sudden change of fortune allowing him to pursue any woman who appeals to him, regardless of her net worth.  He has come to know Maryann, whom he began courting as a means to an end, as a dear friend whose honesty he finds refreshing.  As he launches on his quest to find the perfect wife (blonde, blue-eyed, feminine, artistic, etc.), Maryann (who is none of those things) endeavors to help him.
Unbeknownst to Timothy, Maryann regards her friend as much more than just a pal or, heaven forbid, an older brother.  When Timothy meets Miss Shaw, a young woman who seems to fit his every requirement for a flawless mate, Maryann knows she must give up any fantasy involving herself and the man she loves.  Timothy will never see her as anything more than a steady companion and trusted advisor.  Or will he?  Caught in a confusing game of "he loves me, he loves me not," Maryann must learn to trust her own heart before it is crushed to pieces.  Again. 

I enjoyed Promises and Primroses, the first book in Josi S. Kilpack's Mayfield Family series, so I was eager to give the second installment a go.  Like its predecessor, Daisies and Devotion offers a light, entertaining story that's clean, uplifting, and fun.  I like my Regency romances short and sweet, so this one ran a little long for me.  Still, overall, I enjoyed it and will definitely continue with the series.

(Readalikes:  Promises and Primroses by Josi S. Kilpack; also reminds me of proper romances by Sarah M. Eden, Jennifer Moore, and Julianne Donaldson)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for very mild innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Daisies and Devotion from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Family Secrets Novel Engrossing and Enjoyable (with a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With a degree in criminal justice and a job producing a true-crime podcast, Ryan Gracey is no stranger to solving mysteries.  She's never had one touch her own life, however, until she receives a frantic phone call from her older sister.  Wendy Wainwright refuses to divulge any details, but she begs Ryan to return home to Seabank, Florida, to watch her young girls while their father is deployed and Wendy is away.  Although the last thing Ryan wants is to uproot her life in Delray and go back to the place where she screwed up all her most meaningful relationships, she can't let her nieces down.

Playing mom is tougher than Ryan could have imagined.  Especially when her nieces hint that their mother is not what she seems.  Wendy's mysterious, prolonged absence propels Ryan to start digging into her sister's perfect-looking life.  The more she finds, the more she tends to agree with the girls—there's trouble lurking behind Wendy's flawless facade.  As unsettling clues continue to turn up, Ryan will be forced to face some shocking truths about her sister, her family, and herself.

A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards (available June 25, 2019) starts with an intriguing premise, which leads to a compelling plot.  The story gets a little long, but it kept my interest with its mix of mystery/suspense, family drama, and romance.  While I saw some of the big reveals coming, others caught me by surprise, which made for an engrossing, enjoyable read.  I would definitely spend more time with these characters if I could and I will for sure read more by the talented Emilie Richards.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, mild sexual content/innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of A Family of Strangers from the generous folks at HarperCollins via those at TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

**

Want more opinions on A Family of Strangers?  Follow along on the book's Instagram/blog tour by clicking on the links below:

Instagram tour:

Monday, June 17th: @tbretc
Tuesday, June 18th: @hollyslittlebookreviews
Wednesday, June 19th: @sweethoneyandbrei
Thursday, June 20th: @readwithjamie
Friday, June 21st: @novelgossip
Saturday, June 22nd: @jessicamap
Sunday, June 23rd: @readingbetweenthe_wines
Review tour:
Monday, June 17th: The Baking Bookworm
Tuesday, June 18th: Girls in Books and @girlsinbooks
Wednesday, June 19th: Girl Who Reads
Wednesday, June 19th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Thursday, June 20th: Helen’s Book Blog
Monday, June 24th: @my_book_journey
Tuesday, June 25th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, June 26th: Write Read Life
Thursday, June 27th: Book by Book
Thursday, June 27th: @crystals_library
Friday, June 28th: Run Wright
Tuesday, July 2nd: Treestand Book Reviews 
Wednesday, July 3rd: @beauty_andthebook
Friday, July 5th: Booked on a Feeling
Friday, July 5th: @angelareadsbooks
Monday, July 8th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Tuesday, July 9th: Lori’s Reading Corner – spotlight
Wednesday, July 10th: The Meganerd Blog and @meganthemeganerd
Wednesday, July 10th: @cassies_books_reviews
Thursday, July 11th: Books and Bindings
Friday, July 12th: Books and Cats and Coffee and @bookncatsncoffee
Monday, July 15th: @one_more_paige
Tuesday, July 16th: @sarahandherbookshelves
Wednesday, July 17th: The Lit Bitch
Thursday, July 18th: Books Before Bedtime and @booksbeforebedtime
Friday, July 19th: The Pages In-Between and @thepagesinbetween
**

Want to win a copy of A Family of Strangers for your very own?  Use the Rafflecopter below to enter my giveaway.  U.S. addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: The Latest Shiny New Releases to Turn My Head

Despite the stacks of books and boxes of books and shelves of books I have ALL OVER my house, my head still turns for the shiny and new.  I'm always excited about the latest and greatest, so I love today's TTT topic:  My Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases During the Second Half of 2019.

Before we dive into that, though, I want to encourage you to join in the TTT fun.  It's a great way to spread the comment/follow love around the book blogosphere.  You can revisit favorite blogs, discover new ones, and, as always, pad your TBR list with even more amazing-sounding reads.  What's not to love?  All you have to do is click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for some brief instructions, make your own list, and start hopping around the book blogosphere.  Easy peasey.

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases During the Second Half of 2019 (in chronological order by release date):


1.  The Honeymoon by Rona Halsall (June 4, 2019):  When Chloe marries Dan, a man who's not only handsome but also fun and kind, she thinks she's finally hit the jackpot.  While on their honeymoon on a remote island, however, Chloe becomes alarmed when Dan insists they leave their lives behind and stay there.  Forever.  I love me a good psychological thriller and this one definitely sounds intriguing.  Bonus:  the Kindle version of this book is only 99 cents on Amazon right now.


2.  The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen (June 4, 2019):  I've enjoyed several of Sarah Dessen's YA novels and this us vs. them story sounds compelling.  It's about a young woman who goes to spend the summer with the family of her deceased mother and, in doing so, learns more about both her family and herself.


3.  The Birthday Girl by Melissa De la Cruz (August 6, 2019):  A woman who appears to have it all is throwing a glamorous party to celebrate her 40th birthday.  Much like her 16th birthday bash, this one will not go as planned.  In fact, it will reveal the truth behind the birthday girl's many convincing facades. 


4.  The Cold Way Home by Julia Keller (August 20, 2019):  This is the 8th volume in an Appalachian mystery series that I love.  In this installment, Bell Elkins makes a grisly discovery while searching for a missing teenager.  She finds a dead body with a wound that could only have come from murder on the grounds of an abandoned psychiatric hospital.  Bell vows to find out what happened.  Sounds like another compelling read in a series that keeps getting better and better!


5.  The Liars of Mariposa Island by Jennifer Matthieu (September 17, 2019):  This family drama, told from multiple points of view, sounds engrossing.


6.  The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones (September 24, 2019):  This YA scare fest sounds fun.  It's about a teen gravedigger who's desperate to save both her family and their graveyard.  If only the dead would just stay dead!


7.  The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring (September 24, 2019):  This one had me at "gothic psychological thriller."  It concerns an Argentine finishing school in an isolated, mysterious place and a young teacher who goes there looking for a new start only to discover all the creepy rumors about the place are true.  Sounds like a great Halloween read.


8.  Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia (October 1, 2019):  Billed as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Stranger Things, the newest novel by the author of Eliza and Her Monsters (which I've yet to read) sounds super fun.  It's about a teen who's trying to clear her name after being accused of a crime she didn't commit.


9.  I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson (October 8, 2019):  Set in Anchorage, Alaska, this novel centers around a missing woman.  As her childhood best friend searches for answers, she comes to realize that the girl she once knew has vanished in more ways than one.

 
10.  The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (November 5, 2019):  I know I'm not the only one who's eagerly awaiting a new book by the author of The Night Circus.  Her latest concerns a man who finds a book filled with incredible stories—including, he's shocked to discover, one of his own.  His search for answers leads him into a strange, mysterious world.  Tantalizing premise, no?

How about you?  What new releases are you looking forward to?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Despite Appealing Story Elements, Chinatown Foodie Novel Missing Some Ingredients

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Natalie Tan has grown up hearing fond tales about her immigrant grandmother, an excellent cook who operated one of the most successful restaurants ever to exist in San Francisco's Chinatown.  Those who knew her rave about the magic that emanated from her signature dishes, an enchantment that brought the neighborhood together to be fed, belly and soul.  Growing up with her agoraphobic mother in the apartment above her grandmother's long-abandoned restaurant, Natalie dreamed of reviving the establishment, a fantasy that led to an 8-year estrangement between mother and daughter.  When Natalie's mother dies unexpectedly, leaving her only child everything she has, Natalie is shocked to realize that she now has everything she needs to finally make her dream come true—except the mother with whom she never reconciled.

Wracked with grief and guilt, Natalie vows to reopen the restaurant, not just to achieve her own dream but also to help revive the deteriorating neighborhood she once loved.  Armed with her laolao's recipe book, Natalie tries to recapture the magic that her grandmother wielded through the food she served to her friends and neighbors.  When Natalie's best-laid plans go terribly awry, she must search her family's past for clues as to how to save the future, not just for herself but for the once vibrant neighborhood she still loves so well.

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune, a debut novel by Filipino-Chinese author Roselle Lim, offers lots of fun story elements—tantalizing food descriptions, the promise of family secrets coming to light, a drizzle of magical realism, and some good, old-fashioned mother/daughter drama.  A very appealing mixture.  Unfortunately, though, these different story threads just aren't woven together well enough to produce a cohesive whole.  The plot slogs on without enough tension to keep it exciting, the characters are underdeveloped and bland, and Lim's prose is way more tell than show.  I agree with other reviewers who say this one is missing something.  I wanted to be completely be-spelled by this novel and I just ... wasn't.  In the end, I found Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune to be an okay read, nothing more.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and a bit of the Noodle Shop Mystery series by Vivien Chien [Death By Dumpling; Dim Sum of All Fears; Murder Lo Mein)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune from the generous folks at Penguin Random House.  Thank you!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Dual-Timeline Family Secrets Novel Sad, But Impactful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tori Kovac knows her beloved father is not long for the world.  What she doesn't know is that he's harboring a long-held secret he's not planning to take to the grave.  When he gives Tori a letter addressed to a woman in Japan, her curiosity is piqued.  As an investigative reporter, Tori has made her living sniffing out intriguing stories—she's not about to let this one go.  Heading off to Japan, the 38-year-old is determined to uncover the secrets of her father's past.

What Tori discovers is a love story so haunting and heartbreaking that its echoes continue to reverberate in the present.  When her father, a U.S. sailor on leave in Japan, fell in love with a girl from a strict, traditional Japanese family, he had no idea what he was setting in motion.  Their forbidden relationship led to crushing heartbreak and unimaginable choices with life-altering consequences.  The more Tori digs, the more the story causes her to question everything she's ever known about her father, her family, and herself.  

I'm always down for a dual-timeline family secrets story, so once I read the premise behind The Woman in the White Kimono—a debut novel by Ana Johns—I knew I had to read it.  Inspired by Johns' own family history, the book tells an interesting, atmospheric tale about forbidden love, free choice vs. following tradition, and the consequences of both.  The characters are sympathetic and complex, the setting lush and intriguing, and the plot eye-opening and thought-provoking.  It's a sad novel and I didn't like its ending, realistic though it may have been.  Overall, then, I liked The Woman in the White Kimono, but I didn't end up loving it.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Woman in the White Kimono from the generous folks at Parker Row Books via those at Edelweiss.  Thank you!

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Blogger (I Mean, City) That Never Sleeps


You probably haven't noticed, but I've been a bit absent from the blog over the last week or so.  And for an excellent reason!  I just returned from a whirlwind trip to New York City.  Neither my husband nor I had ever visited The Big Apple, so we jumped at the chance to check it out.  Even better, we got to see it with our 17-year-old daughter, who is finishing up her year of service as one of The United States' five 2019 National Student Poets.  Her excellent performance at Carnegie Hall was the highlight of our trip (notice the photo of U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith listening to our daughter recite an original poem—squee!), of course, but we also hit a lot of NYC's tourist attractions, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center (we weren't on the Today show, but we did get a blurry picture with Al Roker!), the 9/11 memorial, Grand Central Station, the beautiful 5th Ave/42nd St. branch of the New York Public Library, etc.  Our favorite visits were to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side (interesting and moving) and to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Manhattan temple, which is a beautiful oasis of peace and tranquility in the middle of a crowded, noisy urban jungle!  The temple itself is not open to the public, but there is a family history center in the same building that anyone can visit.  

We did manage a stop at one NYC bookstore—The Strand.  It boasts that it houses 18 miles of books, which I totally believe!  Their shelves are soaring and crammed full.  I firmly believe that you can never have too many books in one place, but when you combine The Strand's packed, but very narrow aisles and its constant crowd of customers, it can make even the non-claustrophobic feel a little anxious.  The place isn't quite as family-friendly as I hoped it would be—if you take young kids for a visit, you might want to cover their eyes until you get them safely to the children's section.  I've never seen the F-word printed on so many tote bags before in my life! 

I'm a small-town girl at heart, so I have to admit the city was a little much for me.  Too expensive, too many people, too much noise, etc.  Sleeping in our Midtown hotel was impossible without earplugs!  I'm glad I went, but I'm not gonna lie—I never need to go back.  Been there, done that.

Blog-wise, I'm going to be playing catch-up over the next week or so.  I'm behind on reading, scheduled reviews, commenting on your blogs, and everything else there is to be behind on.  Oh well.  My kids are out of school for the summer, so in between their cries of "I'm bored!" I'll be getting caught up on both life stuff and BBB stuff.  

Have a great week!
 
P.S.  The photo of The Strand is not mine.  I found it here.   

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Debut Mystery a Riveting, One-Sitting Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As a wife, mother, and medical student in the final phase of her program, Claire Rawlings has been running on nothing but fumes.  When the stress catches up with her, making her violently ill, it comes at the exact wrong moment.  Speeding through Chicago to get her girls to daycare on time, she makes an emergency stop at a gas station's outside restroom.  Desperately sick, Claire leaves her sleeping children in the car right outside the bathroom, rushes inside, and vomits until she passes out on the filthy floor.  When she wakes, her car has vanished—along with her two daughters.

Plagued by guilt, Claire can think of nothing but her missing children, 15-month-old Lily, and 4-year-old Andrea.  As the months and years drag on with few leads, despair replaces hope, crumbling the Rawlings' marriage and the happiness that once characterized their family life.  When Claire meets Jay White, a recovering alcoholic who claims to have inherited a gift for otherworldly "Feelings" from his Sioux grandmother, she dares to believe she may finally be able to find out what happened to her girls. 

Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly is a riveting, one-sitting read that kept me completely transfixed.  The characters are interesting, the plot tense, and the prose compelling.  Although this one gets an R-rating for language and violence, it's not nearly as graphic as most thrillers.  Overall, I really enjoyed this debut.  I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for what Connolly does next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer and You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Little Lovely Things from the generous folks at Sourcebooks via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!
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