Friday, July 21, 2017

{Review} THE ADDRESS by Fiona Davis

Summary from Goodreads:

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she'd make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility--no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one's station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children. 

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey's grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won't see a dime of the Camden family's substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda--Camden's biological great-granddaughter--will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda's vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell's Island. 

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages--for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City--and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side's gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich--and often tragic--as The Dakota's can't hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden--and the woman who killed him--on its head. 

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives --and lies--of the beating hearts within.



Mandy's Review:


Y'all, I am a little blown away by this book. First of all, it has one of the things I love the most in a novel: two time lines from two different centuries but they're connected in some way. Secondly, this story does not play out in all of the ways you think it will.

I. LOVE. That.

Our experience begins by getting to know Sara and the situation she's in. She was formerly a seamstress who left her position after having a run-in with her boss' husband ... who was a little handsy. When she left there, she went to work at a fancy London hotel working her way up to head housekeeper. While in that position, she notices one of her guests' child getting ready to climb up on an open windowsill, about four or five stories up. Sara runs to the room and pulls the little girl off the ledge just in the nick of time. Her heroic act garners her a job offer at a new hotel being built in New York.

Sara is unsure about traveling across the pond to an unknown territory and starting her life over. Then she looks at her mother and considers the life her mother has had ... and that decides things for Sara.

Fast forward to the fabulous 80's and we meet Bailey, an alcoholic and drug user fresh out of rehab. Bailey is bound and determined to start her life anew but there's a problem. All of her old friends are all users and there's NO WAY Bailey can be around those people or she'll be using again in no time. With only one option left, Bailey contacts her cousin Melinda, future heiress to the Camden fortune.

As Bailey helps Melinda remodel the Dakota, she gets to learn about the history of the place and falls more in love with it in the process.

I don't want to tell you everything that goes on but just know this book has everything. Love, desire (more implied or insinuated - it's very clean, no vulgarity), mystery, intrigue, twists, turns, ups, downs ... this is truly a roller coaster ride that I will gladly ride again and again. It is VERY rare when a book surprises me and gives me something I wasn't expecting. This novel did that and more.

In case you couldn't tell ... this is a 5 stars out of 5 for me. Brava, Ms. Davis! Brava.


*A physical ARC of this novel was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Teaser Tuesday


Time for us to join the land of memes again! =) Teaser Tuesday (hosted by The Purple Booker) is great for finding new books to add to your TBR pile and it's really simple to play along. Just ...

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.


This week, our teaser comes from the soon-to-be-released novel, THE ADDRESS by Fiona Davis



"Theo strode into the room but stopped when he spotted Sara. For a moment the two remained frozen, their eyes fused on each other, before the young girl rushed to him."


Ooohhh ... I just started reading this novel so I haven't gotten to this part yet but I can feel the tension. Is it anger? Sexual? Whatever it is, I can't wait to find out! - Mandy

What are you reading? Let us know in the comments below!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

{Review} CRIMES AGAINST A BOOK CLUB by Kathy Cooperman

Hey, everyone! Real quick I (Mandy) just wanted to apologize for not posting anything the past couple of weeks. The hubs and I are trying to get the eldest ready to leave for grad school while dealing with another surgery I had to have last week. I plan on scheduling some posts on here so be on the lookout.

Hope everyone had a great 4th! Now, let's get into this review, shall we?


ISBN #: 978-1503942981
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: May 1, 2017
Summary from Goodreads:

Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy.

Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another.


Mandy's Review:

So, first, I was intrigued by this novel because of the title. Anything referencing books or book clubs and I want to know what it's about ... and the fact that there were supposedly crimes against a book club? Uh, yeah. I was hooked and definitely wanted to know more.

Annie and Sarah are each other's antithesis. Sarah is tall, beautiful, with a handsome, brilliant husband and high-powered corporate job. Annie is short, a little frumpy, with an intelligent, OCD-driven husband. Annie has three children where Sarah has none, but she wants to have them. Sarah is adept enough to become friends with anyone in any social situation; whereas Annie struggles with being posh enough to fit in, even in a book club. Sarah embodies L.A.-living. Annie's content in La Jolla's suburban, touristy landscape. The two really have nothing in common except for the fact they slightly envy each other. Annie would love Sarah's figure and social aptitude. Sarah would love a husband who's home every time she needs him and children running around the house. You would think Sarah would be the main character and Annie the sidekick but it's actually reversed, which gives this Character Writing 101 a bit of a twist.

Annie is the brain behind the new anti-aging cream. It's her idea to start the business, her idea for the formula, and her idea on how to sell it. The availability of the special ingredient and how Annie came to acquire some was a bit ... unrealistic. It's a little difficult for me to believe that, with as moral as Annie seems to be, she would have kept this special ingredient in the house with her for as long as she did without disposing of it sooner.

Sarah, being a lawyer and Annie's best friend for 20 years, should have known that Annie was hiding something and sniffed it out of her at the beginning of their enterprise. Again, another small unrealistic scenario that if it didn't happen we wouldn't have had a novel to read. In spite of that, even I found myself drawn to Sarah like the ladies in the novel. I wanted Sarah to be my friend and to hang out with her.

In the end, things do turn out well for Annie and Sarah at the expense of another. Don't be upset with them, though. The person being sacrificed made the decision all on their own and actually insisted upon it.

If you don't consider the events too closely (as I tend to do sometimes), then this novel would be a fun, quick read. I'm not sure I found the hilarity in it, although there were a few amusing tidbits thrown in towards the latter part of this novel. Overall, for me, I'd give this about 3 out of 5 stars.


*An ARC was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 23, 2017

{Review} ALLIE AND BEA by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Bea has barely been scraping by since her husband died. After falling for a telephone scam, she loses everything and is forced to abandon her trailer. With only two-thirds of a tank in her old van, she heads toward the Pacific Ocean with her cat—on a mission to reclaim what’s rightfully hers, even if it means making others pay for what she lost.

When fifteen-year-old Allie’s parents are jailed for tax fraud, she’s sent to a group home. But when her life is threatened by another resident, she knows she has to get out. She escapes only to find she has nowhere to go—until fate throws Allie in Bea’s path.

Reluctant to trust each other, much less become friends, the two warily make their way up the Pacific Coast. Yet as their hearts open to friendship and love from the strangers they meet on their journey, they find the courage to forge their own unique family—and begin to see an imperfect world with new eyes.


Mandy's Review:

How to begin.

When you begin to read the novel, it seems like a fairly straightforward story about two unlikely people winding up together in an unusual situation. When you finish reading the novel, you realize it has much more depth and weight to it than you first realized.

Bea is a 70-something lady who has been a widow for a few years. Her husband had left her a small savings that she's been trying to live on. The problem is her Social Security check was never quite enough to cover all the bills, so she had to use a little bit of the savings every month. One day, after writing checks for all of her bills and dropping them off, she gets a call from the IRS saying she owes $300. Bea willingly gives them her checking account information to pay them off, even though it would further deplete her meager savings. The call was a scam and her checking account was wiped out. All of her checks were going to bounce. Panicked, Bea decided to pack up what she held most dear into her van and drive to another city, living in her van until the new month rolled around and her next Social Security check gets deposited into her new checking account.

With no money in hand and only a quarter tank of gas, Bea sets off. This new way of life causes Bea to decide to be someone she's not: a scammer. So, in essence, the student becomes the teacher. It works a couple times allowing Bea to get enough gas to take her further north up the California coast. On her way, she sees a hitchhiker and refuses to pick her up ... until the girl runs out in front of the van, causing Bea to slam on brakes.

Grateful that Bea has stopped, Allie climbs into Bea's van begging her, screaming at her, to drive. Allie had barely escaped from a guy involved in a possible human trafficking ring. Of course, she wouldn't have been with him had her parents not been arrested for tax fraud causing her to be placed in a foster home where one of the girls threatened to hurt her real bad. Running away from the foster home landed her in a prostitute ring, which Allie REFUSED to do ... thereby pissing off the pimp and causing him to call the guy that Allie barely escaped from and then running into Bea.

The two drive up the coast, all the way into Washington state, learning things about themselves and each other that change them forever. It's on their way back down the coast where real life finally catches up with them.

What I love most about this novel is the character development. Bea goes from being a reclusive, negative Nancy to someone who cautiously learns to trust strangers and has started to give herself over to experiencing new things. Allie starts the novel as a privileged, naive young lady and becomes a homeless, street-smart pre-adult wiser than her years. The emotional impact of this novel happens to more than just Bea and Allie, they happen to the reader as well. There were two passages that really spoke to me:

"I'm changing my mind about what's wasteful and what's not," Bea said. "Seems all my life I had to make choices between what I considered wasting money and what I now see was wasting my life. If it keeps you from wasting your life, it can't very well be a waste, now can it?" 

"I guess I wonder why I didn't try to do more," Bea said ... "I had all these hours that added up to all these days, and I look back and it seems my goal was mostly to make them go away. But that's not a proper life. That's not really living."

We shouldn't wish our day, week, month away. We should enjoy what we have and make the best of what we have. We should try new things. We should open ourselves up to new experiences, even if they scare us. That's how we truly live. Spending money on experiences isn't wasteful if it keeps you from wasting your life. Spending money on experiences isn't wasteful if it helps you experience new things that helps you grow as a person.

My only wish was that Bea's ending was fleshed out a little more. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate how the novel ended but there's so much the reader doesn't know. How did Bea deal with all of the bounced checks? Did she ever go back to her home and take care of everything? Did she go back to visit her best friend? I guess her ending was left a little more open than Allie's and my curiosity is getting the better of me. Regardless, we could all learn something from Allie and Bea.

4.5 out of 5 stars.



*A physical copy was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 19, 2017

{Review} ANY DAY NOW by Robyn Carr

Summary from Goodreads:

For Sierra Jones, Sullivan's Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She's put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn't yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet.

Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she's always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it's a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan's Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose.


Mandy's Review:

I wanted to like this novel. I do enjoy a series of novels set in the same small-town setting with each novel focusing on one or two members of the town. And while there were things I did enjoy about Any Day Now there weren't enough to make me want to read the first novel in this series.

What did I enjoy? I enjoyed the idea of a campground in the middle of Colorado that is owned by on old man. A campground that soothes a troubled soul and helps people to find their way in life. I enjoyed the small-town feel where most everybody is there to support one another, where people give strangers a sense of familial belonging.

Sierra is one of those people. She came to Colorado to be near her older brother. Within a few days, she has a new job and her own place. With this new start, Sierra is hoping to be able to forget her past. Unfortunately, her past, like all of ours, has a way of catching up with her. It threatens her new peace, her new life, her new existence. She's scared to deal with it but Sierra knows that the only way to finally be rid of her past is to face it head-on.

Now, what I didn't like ... I didn't like how Sierra was written. I had other issues with the writing but Sierra is the main one. In the novel, the reader finds out Sierra is 30. The way she's written, though, makes her sounding and acting more like she's 20. Who she's supposed to be and who she actually is, in my head, don't jive. The two just don't mesh. I've been through A LOT of what Sierra has been through and, I can tell you, by the time I hit 30 I was more sure of who I was and who I wanted to be. Yes, I had some reservations and I was scared of certain things in a relationship but I found a way to deal with them and get (mostly) over them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, by 30, a woman has reached her maturity and Sierra was written a little immaturely.

I feel like I'm talking in circles about Sierra so I hope you understand what I'm trying to convey about her. Overall, the novel is a quick read but not one that I'm interested to read again. It also doesn't interest me to read any more novels in this series. I'd say this is a 2.5 stars out of 5 for me, but don't let that stop you from giving it a whirl if this is your type of genre.


*A physical copy of the novel was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

{Review} IN FARLEIGH FIELD by Rhys Bowen

Summary from Goodreads:

World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.

As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.


Review:

I'm always on the hunt for a historical piece that doesn't get TOO factual. I love period pieces but so many of them get bogged down in factual events they forget that they're writing a fictional story. It's very frustrating to me because I have such a difficult time finding that perfect blend of fact and fiction set in the past. I even dreaded opening the pages of this novel while still hopeful that it wouldn't let me down. It did not disappoint. In Farleigh Field is that rare gem of a period piece with the perfect blend of fact and fiction.

Let's forget about the World War II aspect for a minute and let's talk about the love triangle. Ben, Jeremy, and Pamela have grown up together. Jeremy is devastatingly handsome and the son of a rich patriarchal family - what more could any female ask for? Ben is the son of a local vicar (priest), so he's not rich and, while he's good looking, he's not better looking than Jeremy. Can you guess where this is heading? I bet you can. Pamela is in love with Jeremy. Ben harbors an unrequited love for Pamela. The war brings about many changes, oftentimes within people. This is true of Jeremy, Ben, and Pam. All three go to work for the war effort but is it for Britain or Germany? Can the friendships, and love, survive the travesty of war?

This is one of THE BEST period fiction novels I have read in quite some time. The only issue I had with it is that some of the females seem a little too naive but, then again, that was how they were portrayed back then. That's how they acted. They couldn't appear to be smarter than the men of their time. So, taking that into account, I can become okay with it but I still don't like it - but that's just the modern, independent woman in me talking.

In Farleigh Field is my first Rhys Bowen novel but it will not be my last. I loved the writing style, the setting (Downton Abbey-esque), the imagery, the characters ... just, everything. I would highly recommend this novel to you period fiction fans who like more fiction than historical facts.


*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 16, 2017

{Review} KNOLL by Stephen Hillard

Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Bus McIntyre, a small-town lawyer and Sixties survivor, is presented with evidence from the cold-case murder of his father Dean, a hard-drinking cop, four decades ago. It reveals Dean's ties to a dead Mafia kingpin - and the assassination of JFK. Meanwhile, Banner McCoy, a young NSA data analyst assigned to a project code-named KNOLL, goes into hiding when she learns its objective: eliminate anyone with information on what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963. When Bus falls into the agency's sights, all paths lead to a small Louisiana town full of secrets, where the late don's aged but indefatigable hit man awaits, determined to tie up all loose ends.


Charlene's Review:

Let me start by saying I have always been interested in the whole JFK conspiracy theory. KNOLL is a historical fiction based in part by truth and speculation, while leaving the mystery as to how/why for all the generations past and present. Using present-time characters with a tie to the past allows a whole new generation of readers, removed from the actual events, to delve into the mystery surrounding JFK's murder.

I stumbled through the back and forth of characters (Bus and Banner) between chapters and it confused me to no end, at first. I felt a little disjointed. And yet, it was this quality that ultimately led me into feeling the whole thriller part of the story. Feeling slightly out - of - sorts left me with an eerie feeling, like many experience while thinking back on this time in history. We may never know the TRUTH.

While the flow slowed me down, the eccentric but strangely emotion-evoking characters kept me reading. Seemingly unconnected people, all held together by a mysterious string of coincidences and circumstances. Bus's lone journey on his motorcycle especially speaks to the human condition - setting out on a journey to find the truth, and ourselves, in the process.

Whether you label it thriller, fiction, or mystery, or just read it as a book about a man seeking the truth about his father, KNOLL is a commendable work.


*A physical copy was provided by the publicist, FSB Associates, in exchange for an honest review.




Thursday, June 15, 2017

What We're Working On


Hello, again!

Since we've been gone for a year, I wanted to give you a quick update on what we're currently reading and the reviews that will be popping up on our blog. I've broken them down by reviewers, just in case you have a favorite:

Mandy's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From Little Bird Publicity
IN FARLEIGH FIELD by Rhys Bowen
ANY DAY NOW by Robyn Carr
ALLIE AND BEA by Catherine Ryan Hyde
SUGAR PINE TRAIL by RaeAnne Thayne

From Goldberg McDuffie Communications
MRS SAINT AND THE DEFECTIVES by Julie Lawson-Timmer

From Random House
WHERE THE LIGHT FALLS: A NOVEL OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION by Allison & Owen Pataki

From Viking/Penguin Books
HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOKSHOP by Veronica Henry


Kathy's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From the Author
RARITY FROM THE HOLLOW by Robert Eggleton
SHAKY MAN by Mark S. Parker

From Blue Rider Press & Plume at Penguin Random House
SIRACUSA by Delia Ephron

From Gallery Books
THE MAP OF BONES by Francesca Haig


Lupe's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From Gallery Books
THE MAP OF BONES by Francesca Haig


Charlene's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From FSB Associates
KNOLL by Stephen Hillard


We've just finished a giveaway for Bob Proehl's A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS but I'll make sure you're in on the next giveaway we have.

Have a great day, everyone!!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

We're Baaaaaaaack!!!


Okay, so the pic is an old one of mine (Mandy) that I took while tent-camping in Alabama a few years ago. I used it because, let's face it, my expression emulates the title and brings you joy - LOL.

We've been gone from here for over a year and, let me tell ya, it's just not the same. First of all, while Wix is a great platform, I cannot find a followers button to save my life. And let's not talk about a comment section - I have to add that as a separate element to each post?! Are you freakin' kidding me?

So, anyway, needless to say, I've missed you. We've missed you. I miss seeing your faces, your comments, your involvement in our giveaways and interviews ... I've just missed everything about y'all. *tear*

You may still see Literary R&R comments, buttons, tags, etc. on here. I am slowly working on changing those to the Collected Works links, buttons, the whole kit-and-kaboodle so your patience is greatly appreciated.

Gah, Blogosphere peeps, you're fucking beautiful and it's SO GREAT to see y'all again!!!

*MUAH*
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