Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Tuscan Child - Fiction Review

Rating: Very Good
Source:  Publicist

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…

Genre: Fiction - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:
  I'm a big Rhys Bowen fan and I just loved the sound of this one.

My Impression:
  Well now I need to go to Italy.  Specifically a small village in Tuscany to stay with a woman who will teach me all the wonders of cooking Italian food.  I will walk in the countryside, eat delicious food, and drink lots of wine.  I'm going to take a miss on the dead body and troubled paternal relationship though.

This book is told in two timelines and I really enjoyed both.  I found Hugo's story so compelling and was so caught up in his relationship with Sofia and his struggles to survive.  Joanna's story took me a little longer to get into.  There was a lot of hinting about some traumatic event and she just seemed so bitter and unhappy I didn't like her at first.  However, once she got to Italy and began spending time with the woman who rents her a room, Paola, she began opening up and I was completely on her side.  I loved how Joanna really let herself embrace the warmth and friendship offered by Paola and the cooking lessons made my mouth water. All the while my heart broke for Hugo as right from the beginning I knew the beginning of the story and the end but not what happened in between.  I felt like the fear, the frustration, and the scarcity of necessary supplies was really in focus here and I couldn't help but love Sofia for her positivity and resourcefulness.  My only problem was that the ending felt a little rushed and I would have liked a little more resolution on one particular plot point.  

This was a compelling read and a poignant one.  I enjoyed this look at the Italian home front which was more front than home.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I've really loved both of Bowen's historical fiction standalones and can't wait for the next one.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you enjoy historical fiction I think you'd enjoy this read.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Family Tree - Contemporary Fiction Review

Rating: Very Good

Source: Blog Tour

Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes. Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.

Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned judge. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.

Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past. It is the story of joys unrealized and opportunities regained. Complex, clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, it is a novel to cherish and to remember.

Genre: Fiction - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:
  I love Susan Wiggs and I adore anything involving an old cookbook!

My Impression:
  This is one of those books where I feel like the blurb does the book a disservice - at least for me.  That part about the cookbook and the age-old mystery?  Really shouldn't be in there at all and that was what I was most excited about.  I felt a bit like I rushed through a lot of the book looking for the part where she finds her grandmother's cookbook and end up with only a handful of mentions.  There are a number of sweet moments the come up about her relationship with her grandmother and getting back to cooking was important but there wasn't the generational connection like I was looking for.

This isn't to say I didn't really enjoy this one.  It's Susan Wiggs after all.  I loved Annie and just trying to imagine myself in her situation is absolutely terrifying.  I was rooting for her as she struggled to figure out what had happened to her and what happens in her present.  The Rush family was interesting and had their fair of heartbreak and struggle.  I loved how they rallied around to help Annie and how she began to heal.

I'm not normally a big fan of 2nd chance romances with high school sweethearts.  All that pining away for someone you were in love with as a teenager makes no sense to me.  But the relationship between Annie and Fletcher was different.  Their problems weren't immaturity but a combination of dreams and responsibilities kept separating them.  There was no pining or wishing for the one that got away.  They went about their lives and were happy.  It didn't hurt that I adored Fletcher and that he was just truly an amazing guy.

While I wish more time had been spent on Annie starting to cook again and finding her grandmother's cookbook I did really enjoy this read.  I liked Annie, Fletcher, the Rush family, and all of Annie's friends.  I was pulled right into the town of Switchback and when I wasn't reading I wanted to dive in for "just a few pages".  If you enjoy books with strong likable characters who overcome pretty amazing obstacles and solid family stories this is a must read.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I'm already looking forward to my next book by Susan Wiggs.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  I would!  This is a great family story with wonderful characters.  While there is a bit of romance the focus is much more on healing and overcoming.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ramblings From the Stacks - The Trouble with Rereads

It all started with a Christmas Hallmark movie - Christmas with Holly to be exact.  It was cute and I remembered that it was based on the book Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas.  I remembered loving it but not much more.  So off to the library I went.  I love a reread!

And it was good.  I loved little Holly, Mark Nolan and his brothers, and Maggie.  I loved the setting of Friday Harbor and the dilapidated Victorian house that Mark is helping his brother Sam fix up.  However, this was one of my favorite reads of 2013.  Did it live up to that?  Big fat nope. I mean it was good and I was pulled into the story right away - it's Lisa Kleypas after all.  But while the fact that the hero had a girlfriend for at least half the book that wasn't the heroine didn't bother me in 2013 it drove me crazy this time around.  What I had rated a 5 Star book in 2013 became a 3 Star book a few years later.  The book didn't change but my connection to it definitely did.

While a good book is a good book so much of the reading experience is personal.  Sometimes a book can come along at the right time and be exactly what we want or what we're looking for in terms of tone or characters or just the plot itself. And sometimes it isn't.  I don't think a 5 star read will ever turn into a 1 star read but a perfect read can drop down to just good or even mediocre.

This is the kind of experience that always makes me a little nervous rereading a favorite book.  What if it doesn't live up to the magic of the first read?  Have you had this happen with a reread?  What do you think changed?  Does it make you nervous to reread an old favorite?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

This Week in Reading - February 18

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:

It was quite a week!  

From Berkley Crime:

Plum Tea Crazy by Laura Childs

Last Chance Olive Ranch by Susan Wittig Albert

Marinating in Murder by Linda Wiken

Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle

Dipped to Death by Kelly Lane

A Brush with Shadows by Anna Lee Huber

And then to mix in a few non-cozies I also ended up with

Why Kill the Innocent by C.S. Harris

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Dead Pretty by David Mark 

all from the publishers


ReadingThe Fast and the Furriest by Sofie Ryan and The French Girl by Lexie Elliott

Listening: I just finished Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris and am waiting for my next audio book.  Until then I've been listening to podcasts.  Right now I'm listening to Pack Your Mics which is a Top Chef recap podcast.

Watching:  We've been watching Top Chef and I'll be sorry to see this season end.  I've watched a little bit of the Olympics but not as much as I'd like - especially figure skating and curling.  

Off the Blog:

This week was kind of a loss.  I ended up not feeling good Sunday night and went to bed early thinking that would fix it.  It didn't.  Luckily it ended up not being the flu but I've had a ridiculously sore throat and almost no energy for a week.  It's getting better but I'm still managing only a couple of hours before having to go rest. 

Luckily the Tornado has stayed health but we've been spending a lot of time on the couch watching Odd Squad.  It's actually pretty good for a kids show and has some pretty funny moments.  I like how they solve problems with math and reason everything out.  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings From the Stacks - The Danger of Rereads
Tuesday:  Family Tree - Contemporary Fiction Review
Wednesday:  The Tuscan Child - Historical Fiction Review
Thursday:  The French Girl - Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  The Fast and the Furriest - Cozy Mystery Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Do You Want to Start A Scandal? - Historical Romance Review

Rating: I Liked It!
Source: Purchased

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.

• Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
• Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
• Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit... and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

Genre: Romance - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:
  It was described as Regency Clue.  How could I resist that?  

My Impression: 
I've finally read a Tessa Dare book!  I think I did read one years and years ago but I don't remember anything about it and am not entirely sure if it happened so it doesn't really count.  But this one I most certainly remember and it was a delight!  I was pulled in right from the beginning and was immediately in love with Charlotte and Piers.  Their initial meeting is hilarious and mortifying and leads to quite a sticky spot for both of them.

Charlotte is an interesting main character.  Her match-making mama has made Charlotte a laughing stock in society and she's desperately trying to prove that she isn't a fortune hunter out to catch a titled husband but really only so that she can go on a grand tour with her friend Delia.  A house party seems like a perfect opportunity until things go spiraling out of control.  Piers is at the house party on official business for the Crown trying to determine if the master of the house has a secret that would prevent him from taking an important government post.  They're both intelligent characters who respect each other's intelligence and their conversations are funny and maddening.  I really enjoyed their interactions with their families.   Charlotte with her sisters was very sweet and I loved that her mother hasn't deeper and more bittersweet motives for making sure her daughters secure advantageous matches.

There were a few things I wanted more of.  The mystery felt forgotten for the last third of the book and then was solved very quickly.  There was some explanation for why things happened the way they did but I would have liked a little more.  As well, I would have liked more resolution between Charlotte and Delia and Delia's horrible sister Frances.  I've been left to my own devices to find a fitting end for Frances and they haven't been nice!

Overall, this was an entertaining delight of a read that I flew through.  I'm looking forward to reading more Tessa Dare in the future!  I think I'll start with Charlotte's sisters' stories.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  I would!  While it wasn't an instant favorite I did enjoy it and am looking forward to reading more from Dare.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you like historical romances that you definitely need to try Dare!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Linkups - The Fast and the Furriest

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:
Have you ever found yourself acting like a favorite character in a novel?  If so which one?

My Answer:
As far as I recall I've never found myself acting like a favorite character though when I was a kid I desperately wanted to be Nancy Drew.  I do find myself picking up slang or phrasing - especially if I'm reading a lot of British mysteries.

This series is one I've been wanting to read for quite some time.  Even though The Fast and the Furriest by Sofie Ryan isn't the first in the series I'm still looking forward to trying it out!  So far I'm enjoying it.  There's a snarky tone to the writing that I really enjoy.

The Beginning:
I set the sandwich on top of the dresser.  I could tell right away that Elvis was not sold on my idea of supper.

My Thoughts:
Not the most exciting beginning but I did find it funny that after a full paragraph talking about Elvis' disapproval of her supper she reveals he is a cat.

The 56:
Glenn offered his cube truck and I think I'll take him up on that.

My Thoughts:
Page 56 wasn't all that exciting as it's mostly two characters talking about decorating store windows but this 56 could mean a few different things.  In this case I think it's mostly about picking up an inventory from an estate sale.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Beyond the Books - Blogs I Visit Daily

Today I'm linking up with Karen over at KissinBlueKaren for her fantastic Beyond the Books Linkup.  Each week features a new non-bookish prompt and it's so fun to see everyone's answers.  Today's prompt is Blogs I Visit Every Day.  Now I'm not one to do anything in moderation so my blog list is ridiculously long.  There are so many blogs that I really love that it was so hard to narrow down the list and I know I'm leaving out some of my favorites but here are 12 I know I'll be checking daily!

Carstairs Considers - Mark is one of my favorite cozy mystery pushers.  He's introduced me to a ridiculous number of new to me series and is really dangerous to my TBR!

Books, Movies, Reviews, Oh My! - Stormi is another dangerous book pusher.  Not only does she tempt me on cozies but she's talked me into to at least considering books that with more of a horror slant.

Socrates' Book Review - Another favorite cozy pusher.  She reads some really great series!

Musings of a Bookish Kitty - Our tastes don't always line up but she has introduced me to tons of new books and I love hearing about what she and Mouse are up to.

Herding Cats and Burning Soup - Not only does this blog title mirror how my day is usually going but Anna is always reading something entertaining.  And when she's not reading she's trying to get the Herd to behave or cooking yummy food or coming up with interesting projects.

Caffeinated Book Reviewer - I discovered Kimberly's blog when I first started blogging and my TBR completely exploded.  She reads a wide variety of genres and manages to talk me into books I would never have thought of reading.

Quinn's Book Nook - If I'm looking for a romance Quinn is my go-to person.  She is always finding a new series that I must add to my TBR.  A large percentage of that list is her fault!

The Bookwyrm's Hoard - While Lark reads a lot more fantasy than I do (though she's convinced me that there are several I need to try) she also introduces me to all kinds of mysteries and romances that I simply must read.

BookHaven - Greg has convinced me I need to read more science fiction.  Plus he's always showing really fantastic old covers of old mysteries or science fiction that I absolutely love seeing.

Book Date - Kathryn is always reading the most gorgeous books and introducing me to must read books and authors that I hadn't come across before.

Modern Mrs. Darcy - I actually didn't become a regular reader of this blog until I discovered Anne Bogel's What Should I Read Next podcast that I love.

The Bloggess - Jenny Lawson never fails to crack me up and I always enjoy seeing what project she's up to next!

What blogs do you visit daily?