Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Books with Characters Who Do Go Home Again

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Books That Feature Characters Who x.  I'm focusing on characters who are coming home because that's one of my very favorite plots though normally at the beginning the character is not in a good place having lost their job, had a nasty breakup/divorce, or frequently both.  But they usually also end up finding out what actually makes them happy and finding their place in the world which is some of my favorite feel good reading.  Here's a few of my favorites.

1.  The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan -  This was a recent read for me but I absolutely loved it.  Flora escaped her tiny little Scottish island just as soon as she could and fled to the far more glamorous London.  When we meet Flora at the beginning of the book she's a little immature and desperate to stand out though all she seems to do is fade into the background.  When work sends her back to her home she resists with everything she has.  The last half especially is pure comfort reading!

2.  Better Get to Livin' by Sally Kilpatrick - This was one of those accidental NetGalley grabs where I didn't really know what I was getting but ended up absolutely loving it.  Presley Cline has come home to small town Tennessee after her Hollywood dreams crash and burn with the help of some compromising photos.  There's ghosts, a little bit of romance, and a whole lot of humor!

3.  The Liar by Nora Roberts - I had found a few of the previous books from Roberts a little on the meh side until I picked this one up by chance at the library and remembered why I enjoyed her books so much.  Shelby Foxworth is a new widow and recovering from a terrifyingly abusive marriage as well as crippling financial debt.  She takes her 3 year old daughter back to Tennessee and reconnects with family and herself.  It's fairly predictable but completely enjoyable.

4.  Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron - Maggie Crozat has returned from New York to her family's plantation B&B in Louisiana and lands in murder right from the start.  There's a quirky family, a little bit of romance, some interesting romance and all kinds of murder.

5.  Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen - So I'm late to the Sarah Addison Allen fan club but I'm definitely a full fledged member.  This book was wonderful and I loved seeing Sydney's journey home as well as Claire learning to accept that she's back.

6.  A Holiday for Murder by Agatha Christie - There's a few people returning home for Christmas this year - there's a prodigal son, an old friend (or is he), and the granddaughter who is returning to a home she's never visited.  There's lots of Christmas cheer as well as Christie's most violent murder - dedicated to her brother-in-law who wanted something bloody.

7.  Twisted Threads by Lea Wait - Angie Curtis left small town Maine as soon as she could - running from her mother's notoriety as well as the mystery of what happened to her.  Now her grandmother needs her and Angie comes home though it's not quite what she expected it to be.

8.  Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts - This is an old one from Nora Roberts but I love it.  Margo's glamorous model life goes up in smoke after her money runs out and some compromising photos kills her career.  She comes home to her friends, her mother she's never thought understood her, and the man she never quite got off her mind.  Just thinking about this one makes me want to do a reread!

9.  Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander - Jules Capshaw comes home to work in the family bakery - Torte - after life as a cruise ship pastry chef loses its sparkle.  There's a whole lot of murder in this pretty theater town in Oregon but Torte has become one of my favorite fictional places.  If you enjoy foodie cozies this is one not to miss.

10. The Beach at Painter's Cove by Shelley Noble - I'd wanted to read Shelley Noble for years because her covers are always so pretty so I jumped at the chance to read this one and loved it.  After her grandmother has a bad fall Izzy goes home to the place she always loved but felt pushed out of.  There's family secrets, some misunderstandings and so much rebuilding.

What are your favorite books that feature characters who do go home again?

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Winter Wedding Plan - Blog Tour Contemporary Women's Fiction Review

The Winter Wedding Plan by Olivia Miles

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  Charlotte Daniels has made her share of mistakes, but now that she's a single mom, she vows to do better--and that starts with a new career. Working at her sister's event-planning company is just the fresh start she needs.
Kate Daniels has finally forgiven Charlotte for her betrayal, but forgetting it is harder. But as the holidays approach and Kate has her own wedding to plan, she has no choice but to turn to Charlotte for help to throw a high-profile client the holiday party of the season.

Charlotte leaps at the chance to redeem herself . . . until this irresistible client asks her to pretend to be his fiancée for the party. She knows their charade won't come without consequences--not just for her fresh start with Kate, but also for her own daughter.

As Kate's wedding draws near and Charlotte's fake romance starts to feel more and more real, will she fall back into the mistakes of her past, or finally prove herself to Kate once and for all?

Genre: Women's Fiction/ Contemporary Romance

Why I Picked This Book:  I really enjoyed the previous book in this series and I was really looking forward to reading Charlotte's story since she was kind of the villain in the last book.

My Impression:  I love a pretend romance turned not so pretend!  It's definitely on my list of favorite tropes.  This however isn't the fun romp this trope typically is.  These characters have some serious issues.  Charlotte started out as the villain in the first book, One Week to the Wedding, though it became apparent by the end that all was not as it seemed.  In this book the focus is much more on Charlotte and if anyone needs a hug and a helping hand it's her.   What she thought was a new beginning is quickly falling into pieces around here and she's desperate to prove to her family that she's not the irresponsible selfish child she was before as well as committed to earning a second chance with her sister Kate.

I couldn't help but root for Charlotte and while she did make things harder on herself by not fully explaining her precarious financial position to her family I understood her reasoning.  I did want to shake her family for not really looking at Charlotte and realizing just how close to breaking she was.

Greg Frost is a bit like Charlotte, alone and trying to be everything to everyone else all at once.  The fake relationship is offered in desperation and accepted in desperation but it was wonderful to watch the act of desperation start to lead to a little more strength and maybe even a little bit of healing.  Olivia Miles' books aren't fun romps but they are sweet with lots of heart and characters that seem like friends.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would!  This is a good series with lots of feels.  If you haven't read the first book you'd probably be okay jumping in here though to really understand the dynamics between Kate and Charlotte you should go back and read One Week to the Wedding.  I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

This Week in Reading - September 24

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Just one this week!

Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz - I requested this awhile ago but wasn't sure if I was going to get it so I was super excited when the approval came through.  Krentz has proven to be an author I really enjoy.  I'd love to tackle her backlist but for now reading her current books is working out okay!  (NetGalley)


Reading: Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Listening:  I just finished Faithful and am now waiting for The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan.  I'm next on the list!

Watching:  I started watching Steampunk'd on Hulu which is a competition show involving teams designing Steampunk inspired rooms.  I'm not really a big fan of Steampunk but this show has proven super addictive!

Off the Blog:

This weekend we are camping!  We probably should stay home and get stuff done since we're heading to Disney next weekend but the weather's too good to pass up and I'm really looking forward to just hanging out and relaxing.  We are actually staying local but the park is gorgeous and we got a campsite over looking the city so I think it'll be really pretty at night.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: The Winter Wedding Plan - Contemporary Romance Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Books That Feature Characters Who Come Home
Wednesday:  Sleep Like a Baby - Mystery Review
Thursday: A Cajun Christmas Killing - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with current book
Saturday: What I've been doing on Pinterest These Days

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

To Be Where You Are - Fiction Review

To Be Where You Are (A Mitford Novel) by Jan Karon (Amazon)

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:   After twelve years of wrestling with the conflicts of retirement, Father Tim Kavanagh realizes he doesn't need a steady job to prove himself. Then he's given one--but what, exactly, does it prove? Meanwhile, newly married Dooley and Lace face a crisis that empties their bank account and turns their household upside down. Is the honeymoon over? Is this where real life begins? As the Mitford Muse editor stumbles on a quick fix for marital woes and the town grocer falls in love for the first time, Father Tim and Cynthia receive an invitation to yet another family wedding.
But perhaps the bottom line is this: While a star blinks out in the Mitford firmament, another soon blinks on at Meadowgate, and four-year-old Jack Tyler looks forward to the biggest day of his life--for now and forever.
Jan Karon weaves together the everyday lives of two families, and the cast of characters that readers around the world now love like kin.

Genre:  Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I've heard of Karon's beloved Mitford series for years so I couldn't pass up the chance to read the newest release.

My Impression: After reading this one I completely understand why this series is so loved.  These characters are REAL.  They're not perfect but they're not over-flawed, they're just your regular everyday people leading their regular everyday lives and trying to do their best and I couldn't helpu but fall a bit in love with them and the town of Mitford as a whole.

I think my favorite story line involved Dooley, Lace, and Jack Tyler.  Jack Tyler is such a sweet heart though he didn't ring quite true as a 4 year old.  Their struggles take the whole "when it rains it pours" expressions to new levels - some in a literal sense - and it felt so authentic.  I enjoyed Father Tim and Cynthia's story line as well though they didn't have very much page time.  Avis, who runs The Local, started out as kind of grumpy but it didn't take me to long to develop a soft spot for him.

This book is just nice.  The characters are nice, the town is nice and it was a thoroughly nice experience reading it!  While it did take me some time to get everyone straight and Karon confused me occasionally by jumping focus without making it clear just who exactly we were focusing on.  This was probably my only issue with coming into the series so late.  However, this in no way affected my enjoyment of the read. I completely understand just why this series is so popular and I"m looking forward to visiting Mitford again soon.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  This is a great hot tea and a warm blanket kind of book when you're wanting something calm and sweet without being sappy and a bit of humor.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would.  This isn't a quick or action paced read but it's calming and nice and like visiting with old friends.  If you're in the mood for that than I think you'd enjoy this book.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Linkups - Splintered

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
In regards to banned book week, what are your favorite books that have been banned or challenged?

My Answer:
Going off this list of the most commonly challenged books in the U.S. I think 2 of my favorites are The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald and Wrinkle in Time Madeline L'Engle.

This week's book is a little different from my usual reads in that I don't typically read fantasy or YA and Splintered by A.G. Howard is both.  I am, however, really enjoying it and all it's wonderful terrifying weirdness!

The Beginning:
I've been collecting bugs since I was ten; it's the only way I can stop their whispers.

My Thoughts:
This is a pretty good indication that our main character is not your run of the mill average high school student!

The 56:
"She lost it," I blurt. "Attacked me."

My Thoughts:
And another indication that all is not well - especially since the main character is talking about her mother in this one.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  What banned or challenged book is your favorite?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wicked Deeds - Romantic Suspense Review

Wicked Deeds (Krewe of Hunters) by Heather Graham (Amazon)

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Eager to start their life together, historian Vickie Preston and Special Agent Griffin Pryce take a detour en route to their new home in Virginia and stop for a visit in Baltimore. But their romantic weekend is interrupted when a popular author is found dead in the basement of an Edgar Allan Poe-themed restaurant. Because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the corpse, the FBI's Krewe of Hunters paranormal team is invited to investigate. As more bizarre deaths occur, Vickie and Griffin are drawn into a case that has disturbing echoes of Poe's great works, bringing the horrors of his fiction to life.
The restaurant is headquarters to scholars and fans, and any of them could be a merciless killer. Except there's also something reaching out from beyond the grave. The late, great Edgar Allan Poe himself is appearing to Vickie in dreams and visions with cryptic information about the murders. Unless they can uncover whose twisted mind is orchestrating the dramatic re-creations, Vickie and Griffin's future as a couple might never begin...

Genre: Romantic Suspense - Paranormal

Why I Picked This Book:  I can never resist a Krewe book.  I've also really come to like Vickie and Griffin and how can I resist a book where the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe visits.

My Impression: This checked so many boxes for me!  History, historical mysteries, and ghosts are all things that make me a happy reader and this had all 3 in spades.  I really enjoyed all the Poe mentions and it made me realize just how little Poe I've actually read.  I'm hoping to correct that!

It was fun to see Vickie and Griffin in action again.  They're adjusting to more of a long term relationship and to a change in dynamics as Vickie will be going to the FBI academy and Griffin is trying to treat her more as a partner than someone he needs to protect.

The book is thick with creepy atmosphere between all the Poe related mentions (and Poe himself appearing), creepy wine cellars and evil lurking in the shadows.  It made for a thoroughly enjoyable, completely Halloween-y read.  My only issue was that at times the actual mystery seemed to fall to the background as I got more wrapped up with everything else.  While, like most Krewe books, this can be read as a stand alone I think you'd enjoy it more if you started with the first book Vickie and Griffin are in - Dying Breath.

If you're looking for a book to get in the Halloween mood but are looking for creepy more than horror this is the perfect book!  One of my favorite spooky reads so far this year!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm glad I've got a few of the earlier Krewe books to read while I wait for the next book!

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy romantic suspense this is a great series and this mini-series involving Vickie and Griffin is one of the strongest sets.  If you're a Heather Graham fan already you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Strange Scottish Shore - Historical Fiction Review

A Strange Scottish Shore (Emmeline True Love #2) by Julianna Gray (Amazon)

Rating: Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Scotland, 1906. A mysterious object discovered inside an ancient castle calls Maximilian Haywood, the new Duke of Olympia, and his fellow researcher Emmeline Truelove, north to the remote Orkney Islands. No stranger to the study of anachronisms in archeological digs, Haywood is nevertheless puzzled by the artifact: a suit of clothing, which, according to family legend, once belonged to a selkie who rose from the sea in ancient times and married the castle’s first laird.
But Haywood and Truelove soon discover they’re not the only ones interested in the selkie’s strange hide, and when their mutual friend Lord Silverton vanishes in the night from an Edinburgh street, the mystery takes a dangerous turn through time, which only Haywood’s skills and Truelove’s bravery can solve…

Genre: Historical Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:   This sounded like a historical mystery with an archaeology element.

My Impression:  Well that was not what I was expecting!  Reading the blurb I was expecting a fairly straight forward historical mystery with maybe a little tough of magic.  Instead, what I got was a time travel fiction.  There's a slight problem here - I'm not a big fan of time travel fiction.  But since I recently discovered that Juliana Gray is also Beatriz Williams whose books I've really been enjoying lately, I kept reading.

I liked the characters.  Emmeline is quick on her feet, logical, but also in a bit of turmoil regarding her feelings for Silverton.  Max is less than enthused about his recent rise to dukedom, he's intensely loyal to Emmeline, as well as completely curious about just what is going on.   Silverton has the air of your typical good natured aristocratic rake but even at the beginning it's clear there is more to him and as the book goes on his character development is fascinating.

Then there's the plot.  This gets a little tricky because my issues with it are mostly personal preference.  The writing and pacing are fantastic and I think the time travel elements are very well done.  I did have some questions about the hows and whys that I don't think were fully explained though a few of the details are cleared up. I think the world building was also well done and the different time periods felt very different.   However, this wasn't the book I wanted it to be.  I loved the 1906 Scottish setting and really wanted to explore the mystery of just what was going on with the Selkie suit and this just really wasn't that.    Had I been better prepared for what it was I probably would have enjoyed it more though I'm not sure I would have requested it in the first place.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would certainly read more of this author under this name or Beatriz Williams but I probably wouldn't read more of this series.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you like time travel books or more fantasy related stories I think you'd enjoy this.  Just don't go in expecting an Edwardian mystery.