Great Reads

August Wrap-Up and September TBR

I fell so behind this month. We started school on the 16th which made it so hard for me to read. Coming home from work, going straight to the gym, and then trying to get dinner on the table and showered put me at 8:00 – 8:30 every night and I was just exhausted and not able to finish my reading goals. I was going to buckle down this week but also had an death in the family pushing that goal out the window as well.

Here’s what I did accomplish :

Inferno by Dan Brown – I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It was very thought provoking.

Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel – Cute, fast read.

Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan – Another quick read that was different and creepy. This review will be pulished soon

Every Time You Go Away by Beth Harbison – I loved this way more than I thought I would. It was light even though the material was heavy. This review will be pulished soon as well.

She Was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell – This was a disturbing book for me as a teacher. It read verrrrry fast. The review will be published soon.

I’m still working on:

Outlander by Diana Galbadon – 79% finished. This is a lengthy book so I’m happy to have at least gotten this far. I started reading this with a book club. I was surprised how many people like myself did not finish. I will be finishing this ASAP.
and
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones – 29% done. I try and read my Kindle at the gym while on the treadmill. It makes time go by fast and I have not found that my miles are affected with or without reading since it is hands free. Because the last few days I was at a viewing and funeral, and we had a heat wave, I only made it to the gym once. I’ll be working on finishing this too.

I will be finishing the two mentioned above and hopefully reading these in September:

The Book Theif by Markus Zusak – Physical Copy. I’ve been really wanting to read this for years. I’ll be reading it with a book club so I hope to really dive in and finish this one.

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood – Netgalley. I’ve been hearing so much about this one. I hope that it does not let me down! Although it contains disturbing content, it takes place in Camden, New Jersey, just two cities and ten short minutes away from me.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – Netgalley. I didn’t read The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I’m not sure if this is a revamp or what but either way, I’m excited for it. Do any bookies know more about this?

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – Netgalley – I keep seeing this everywhere as well and I’m behind but will be getting to it hopefully this month!

I have so many more Netgalley books to read and I’m hoping to get to more than my anticipated to catch up but after last month’s fiasco/fail I don’t want to overdo it. We will see!

Have any of you read these? What’s on your radar?

Great Reads

Goodbye, Paris

36263210.jpg


Publish Date 
: 8/7/18
Author:  Anstey Harris
Started: 8/1/18
Finished: 8/2/18
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐

I read this a few days before publication. It is now out to purchase and enjoy. Thank you to Netgalley, Touchstone, and Anstey Harris for sending me a copy for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

Summary from Goodreads:

Jojo Moyes meets Eleanor Oliphant in Goodbye, Paris, an utterly charming novel that proves that sometimes you have to break your heart to make it whole.

Grace once had the beginnings of a promising musical career, but she hasn’t been able to play her cello publicly since a traumatic event at music college years ago. Since then, she’s built a quiet life for herself in her small English village, repairing instruments and nurturing her long- distance affair with David, the man who has helped her rebuild her life even as she puts her dreams of a family on hold until his children are old enough for him to leave his loveless marriage.

But when David saves the life of a woman in the Paris Metro, his resulting fame shines a light onto the real state of the relationship(s) in his life. Shattered, Grace hits rock bottom and abandons everything that has been important to her, including her dream of entering and winning the world’s most important violin-making competition. Her closest friends–a charming elderly violinist with a secret love affair of his own, and her store clerk, a gifted but angst-ridden teenage girl–step in to help, but will their friendship be enough to help her pick up the pieces?

Filled with lovable, quirky characters, this poignant novel explores the realities of relationships and heartbreak and shows that when it comes to love, there’s more than one way to find happiness.

My Review:

I was a little worried going into ths book. I feared Grace would be whiney relying heavily on married Dave and that her pity party yearning for a life with a married man would make her and this story too unlikable. I did not like Grace but I did like the story still. I always have a hard time connecting to a story with cheating characters. These stories always paint a love story worldwinded in passion painting two people who mistook their soulmates and found them later when they were already married. Although some love to read about their true love findings, I have major issues and moral qualms with it. This story was no different because although I liked Grace, I couldn’t help but think she had a) made a mistake with even getting involved with a married man and b) let it go on for way too long without an ultimatum that would at least push the cheater into doing the correct thing.

I also fell out of interest with the long paragraphs about music. I love music but O know nothing about reading, playing, and certainly not making classical instruments. Harris does a wonderful job painting a vivid picture of all of these happenings and I’m sure someone with a musical background would appreciate it to the nines. I myself found myself skimming these paragraphs a bit.

What is most important to the story is to watch how Grace picks up the pieces with the help of her unlikely friendship between a teenager, Nadia, and an old man, Mr. Williams. The trio helps Grace not only get through her current dilemma but her past demons and it’s beautiful and great to be reminded that love, even in friendship terms, has no age.

Halfway through the book, I still didn’t like Grace. She seemed childish and downright dumb in my eyes to think her life would be going any different. I also disliked her for her carelessness and her depressed/alcohol infused actions in which she didn’t take anyone else into consideration.

I also felt the interesting parts between Grace and David ended abruptly. Although the theme of friendship with Nadia and Mr. Williams comes into play because of this abrupt change, I was still more interested in the drama unfo!ding than the solutions.

I would give this a solid three stars. I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s in the classical music field as you may love it more.

Great Reads

Inferno

36263210
Publish Date 
: 5/14/13
Author:  Dan Brown
Started: 8/6/18
Finished: 8/9/18
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summary from Goodreads:

Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon awakens in an Italian hospital, disoriented and with no recollection of the past thirty-six hours, including the origin of the macabre object hidden in his belongings. With a relentless female assassin trailing them through Florence, he and his resourceful doctor, Sienna Brooks, are forced to flee. Embarking on a harrowing journey, they must unravel a series of codes, which are the work of a brilliant scientist whose obsession with the end of the world is matched only by his passion for one of the most influential masterpieces ever written, Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno.

Dan Brown has raised the bar yet again, combining classical Italian art, history, and literature with cutting-edge science in this sumptuously entertaining thriller.

My Review:

I first read Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons about 10 years ago. I’ll be honest I don’t have the best memory and rarely remember movies or books very long. Family members sometimes call me Dory because I have an awful memory. I should probably reread it as it was my favorite book ever at the time. Although not being able to remember much detail I do remember many things that I learned from the novel. Inferno is no different. Brown as before has done some astonishing research to be able to not only use landmarks and historical aspects as settings and interesting tidbits of information but has a magical way of making remarkable connections between historical artifacts. As I was reading I was so disappointed because I was on a cruise and had no internet access. There was so much I wanted to research that he brought up. As an English major, I am very familiar with Dante’s Divine Comedy but even so the artwork that the epic inspired centuries afterwards is astonishing. I have to say, if I had had internet access, it probably would have taken me even longer to finish the book to research. Without internet access, I was  however able to focus on the book itself and because of that,  I continue to be in awe of Brown’s writing. It takes a truly special person to be able to harbor all this knowledge into making such great connections in a thriller. His books hold so much detail that I am flabbergasted on how his mind can make the details connect and be so relevant to one another. If you haven’t read a Brown book, specifically one following Robert Langdon, do so. You won’t only have an entertaining read but will learn a hell of a lot. I call these interesting facts Jeopardy knowledge lol.

Although the book can be hard to follow because of all the information and connections, Brown does a good job of making it easy to recognize details’ significance. This isn’t a book that relies heavily on character development, but if you want to understand Langdon and his personality and career that makes him so knowledgeable, you may want to read some of Brown’s previous works such as The DaVinci Code, or Angels and Demons before reading into this or The Lost Symbol BUT you don’t have to read them to understand the book or follow it. The book does stand alone without the others.

This was great just as the others. It had twists and turns that I did not see coming the entire time and it really had me thinking. The characters were all very developed and even when we figure out what’s going on, there are still more character developments that are surprising. I reccommend the book for sure. It’s an insightful read with both mystery and history!

Great Reads

Pretty Ugly Lies


Publish Date 
: 7/18/18
Author:  Pamela Crane
Started: 7/30/18
Finished: 7/30/18
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summary from Goodreads:

What causes a woman to murder her whole family?

Jo’s idyllic life would make most people jealous. Until one day her daughter is abducted and the only way to find her is to unravel her dark past.

Ellie is a devoted wife… until she discovers the pain of betrayal. Now vengeance is all she can think about.

Party-girl Shayla knows how to hide her demons. But when she’s confronted with a life-shattering choice, it will cost her everything.

June knows suffering intimately, though the smile she wears keeps it hidden.

Soon the lives of these four women intersect and one of them is about to snap…

From USA TODAY best-selling author Pamela Crane comes “a thought-provoking domestic noir novel perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and B.A. Paris … A chilling look at the secrets mothers will hide for the sake of their families, and the gruesome reality of what can break an everyday woman.

My Review:

Whoa is mostly all I have to say right now. I also have to admit, not only was the title closely similar to the popular Big Little Lies, the style definitely was as well the chapters are told from 4 suburban, wealthy mothers’ POVs. They all have dark secrets beneath their perfect life facades. I was honestly a little annoyed with the similarities at first because I loved Big Little Lies so much and I really like creativity; however, the story did not disappoint. It sucked me in immediately and kept me turning the pages all day.

I have to warn that there is some disturbing material in this book. Most thrillers have this but because much of the disturbing material centered around children, I had a hard time digesting it.

Not being married or having children, as I read into this book, I couldn’t help but be petrified of dabbling in either of the two. The author paints marriage and motherhood in such grim ways all around. All of our female characters have major marital and maternal flaws and it’s hard to find much good in them but June and even she had some major flaw that leaves her broken and unlikable.

Even with the unlikable characters, this was hard to put down. Drama unfolded in every page and it was impossible to wonder what was happening and even more impossible to put down when I started seeing character connections that characters themselves did not see. As said before though, much of the story is disturbing in ways you never see coming. It’s tragic yet impossible not to keep reading on about.

I suggest the read as it is entertaining but will really have you thinking and feeling broken. It is most definitely not for the faint of heart and be prepared not to have a lighthearted read or your average murder mystery.

Great Reads

Sam’s Letters to Jennifer

36263210
Publish Date 
: 3/1/06
Author:  James Patterson
Started: 7/20/18
Finished: 7/22/18
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Okay, about to give you some shocking info, I have never read a James Patterson book. I know, he’s great, a thriller god, and super popular but I haven’t had a chance to read him. I had no idea that he dabbled in some love stories. I had a friend recommend this book and she let me borrow it. I’m glad she did and I’m actually excited to get into some of his thrillers sooner rather than later now.

Summary from Goodreads:

Grief-stricken by a recent tragedy, Jennifer returns to the resort village where she grew up to help her beloved grandmother. There, Jennifer will discover new meaning in life and experience not one, but two of the most amazing love stories ever.

My Review:

This wasn’t necessarily a tear-jerker for me. It was beautifully written and very cute. This is not a book of love letters from a man named Sam to his lover, Jennifer. Sam is actually “Samantha”, Jennifer’s grandmother. Their relationship is super strong and Sam leaves letters for Jennifer for her to understand more of her life. Their relationship is sincere and amazingly beautiful. Their closeness made you feel for both characters. Sam’s lessons on love to Jennifer seem to really help her figure her own life out BUT, Little spoiler alert: I did find a little fault in how quickly Jennifer and Brandon fall in love. At first, she seemed to find a lot of fault in him and then out of nowhere, their relationship was very serious. I understand how Sam’s letters helped progress this relationship but it didn’t see exactly realistic.  I loved Jennifer and Brandon’s relationship and how sincere they were but I wish that there was more substance on how he won her over.

This was a very cheesy love story but let’s be honest, most love stories are. It wasn’t too cheesy that it was unbearable to read and I enjoyed reading about Sam’s past and and Jennifer’s present.

I did have a little issue with the glorified affair. I don’t  really think that the love affair was justified even though Sam and Doc do have a loving relationship. I wish their relationship had unfolded in some other way. This knocked a star down for me.

I recommend the book as it is very quick and will pull at your heart strings a tad for better reasons overlooking the two issues I did have.

Great Reads

Mr. and Mrs. American Pie – ARC REVIEW AVAILABLE TODAY!

Publish Date : 8/7/18
Author:  Juliet McDaniel
Started: 7/31/18
Finished: 8/1/18
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐

First off, if you’re reading this, the book is available now to purchase TODAY! I highly suggest you do because it’s witty and hilarious. I want to say thank you to the author, Juliet McDaniel, Netgalley, and the publisher, Inkshares, for sending me a copy prior to publication to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Summary from Goodreads:

The year is 1969. Dick Nixon was just sworn in as the thirty-seventh President of the United States. Neil Armstrong just took one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind. And notable Palm Springs socialite Maxine Simmons just found out that her husband is leaving her for his twenty-two-year-old secretary.

After a public meltdown at Thanksgiving, Maxine finds herself not only divorced, but exiled to Scottsdale, Arizona. However, these desert boondocks will not be her end―only her Elba. The former beauty queen sets her eyes on a new crown: that of the Mrs. American Pie pageant, awarded to the nation’s best wife and mother.

Maxine only has one problem: to win the crown she’ll need to find―or build―a family of her own.

My Review:

From the second I started reading this, I was laughing hysterically. McDaniel does an amazing job with imagery. Her Thanksgiving scene in the beginning was unfortunate but what Blockbuster hits are made of. I cannot wait to see if this gets picked up because whoever would adapt this to the big screen would have some pretty hilarious scenes.

Maxine is a character to be reckoned with. Her antics never surprised me and the leaps and bounds she makes to reach her goals in the book are hilariously cringeworthy. As crazy as she is, I found her to be very likable with quite a few redeeming qualities for all of her questionable ones. Charles is utterly adorable and Jim and Dawn’s life really pulled at my heartstrings and Maxine, as crazy as she is, does do some great things for the two of them with Robert along for the crazy ride. I’m not always on board with stories told from different points of views for each chapter. I can sometimes find them daunting and I often find myself struggling to pay attention when I’m reading a chapter focusing on a character I haven’t connected with but this book does a great job. The different POV’s lead to more satire and show how ridiculous the lives of the Hogarth’s really are during this beauty pageant. Getting Robert’s take on everything also helped bring the over the top antics back down to reality.

Although silly, this satirical read is well worth it to pick up. I found it very funny it was a great change of pace for my darker reads lately.

Great Reads

Tiffany Blues – ARC REVIEW


Publish Date : 8/7/18
Author:  M.J. Rose
Started: 7/23/18
Finished: 7/29/18
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A little back story, the Tiffany family has always intrigued me. My father worked for Tiffany’s for some time selling jewelry and as a female, I love a good Tiffany piece so that alone intrigued me.

Thank you to Netgalley, author M.J. Rose, and Simon and Schuster for sending me an advanced reader’s copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Summary from Goodreads:

New York, 1924. Twenty‑four‑year‑old Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. Gifted and determined, Jenny vows to avoid distractions and romantic entanglements and take full advantage of the many wonders to be found at Laurelton Hall.

But Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls, and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson.

As the summer shimmers on, and the competition between the artists grows fierce as they vie for a spot at Tiffany’s New York gallery, a series of suspicious and disturbing occurrences suggest someone knows enough about Jenny’s childhood trauma to expose her.

Supported by her closest friend Minx Deering, a seemingly carefree socialite yet dedicated sculptor, and Oliver, Jenny pushes her demons aside. Between stolen kisses and stolen jewels, the champagne flows and the jazz plays on until one moonless night when Jenny’s past and present are thrown together in a desperate moment, that will threaten her promising future, her love, her friendships, and her very life.

My Review:

At 24% in, Tiffany’s had rarely been mentioned. It took quite a while for me to recognize the book I had been reading to the description of the actual book. I wasn’t drawn in and it was a rather slow start. We didn’t even get to the Tiffany estate until 30% in and if you are a regular on my blog, you know how much I hate slow beginnings or unnecessary information. The first 30% of the book is slow and is drawn out probably about 15% more than it had to be.

A pro is how great Rose helps paint the setting (pun intended). She does great with detail describing so much even down to the ornate wall coloring and decorations. It really helped move the story along in my head. Even her characters are fully developed. She definitely has mastered many facets of writing.

When starting the novel, it felt more historical fiction. Midway the novel turned more into romance and then the ending (my favorite of this book) turned into straight mystery thriller. Although I had figured everything out rather quickly, there were still some surprises and overall, Rose did a great job keeping me interested during this second half of the book as everything was thoroughly described yet still mysterious.

I still think there are some flaws and unanswered questions I would have liked resolved. I also feel like coincidences should have been better explained because although everything makes sense, it seems a little unbelievable in areas that I would have liked clarified.

All in all, I’m glad that I stuck it out because I did end up enjoying it more than I thought from the beginning.

Great Recipes

Poor Man’s French Onion Chicken

This is literally the most juicy and moist chicken I have ever made. Even without the extras, I will start to make my chicken like this a lot more in hopes that the juiciness transpires in all my chicken recipes. Feel free to change up the spices used below. I don’t usually measure my spices for this recipe and just sprinkle enough to make sure each piece of chicken is thoroughly coated. I also use two HUGE chicken breasts cut in half to make four servings. Feel free to change the chicken servings to your desire. The recipe is very easy to increase or decrease to your needs. The ingredients are also pretty standard and inexpensive. YUMMY!

Continue reading “Poor Man’s French Onion Chicken”

Great Reads

July Wrap-Up and August TBR

Hello! I’ll be leaving for another vacation this weekend and again don’t have a ton of ambition for the month of August because as soon as I come back from vacation, work starts again for the 2018-2019 school year. I’m not looking forward to it. I’m ready to retire in my 20’s lol.

I’ve been stacking up a few reviews here and there again so that there’s some stuff posted while I’m away. Last month I finished everything that I anticipated and an extra thrown in there.

This last month I finished:

Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea  – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ A little predictable for me but still a great thriller.  This review is up on the blog.

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I loved this one. It was a great read that held some twists and turns along the way. This review is up on the blog.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – ⭐⭐⭐ I anticipated more from this with all the hype this received in the past. There was too much fluff in this thriller for me that I felt unnecessary. This review is up on the blog.

Sam’s Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson– ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This was a cute love story but I had some moral issues with it. It was still cute and actually my first James Patterson. I’ll be reading more of his soon. This review will be up on the blog soon.

Tiffany Blues by M.J Rose – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ This started very slow for me but picked up and I’m glad I continued through it. It was a great read. The review will be published soon.

Pretty Ugly Lies by Pamela Crane – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ This book is not for the feint of heart at all. I really enjoyed it and finished it in one day. The only issue I had with this is that it was very disturbing so keep that in mind when reading it but also don’t keep that from reading it if you think you can mentally handle it. Many thrillers are disturbing but this one had some heavier material than your average thriller. This review will be up on the blog soon.

As I said, I don’t have a ton of ambition for this month like last month. I won’t be bringing my Kindle or Nook on vacation again so I should get some more physical books that I have on my shelves again. I do want to get through at least these but I honestly don’t think that I will get through all seven. A girl can hope though, right?:

Inferno by Dan Brown – Physical copy borrowed from a friend. Not my first Dan Brown or my first time following around Robert Langdon. Nothing has ever topped my love for Angels and Demons though.

Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel – Netgalley. This should be a nice change from my heavier and lately disturbing reads.

Outlander by Diana Galbadon– Physical copy. I’m going to try and jump on this bandwagon and see what all the fuss is about!

Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan – Netgalley

Every Time You Go Away by Beth Harbison – Netgalley

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones – Netgalley

What is on your TBR list this month?!