TLC Book Tours: Beyond Coincidence by Jacquie Underdown

I have a confession… I’ve always been somewhat anti-romance – not necessarily a romance basher, but just someone who always passed by the romance section in search of better books. I’ve only read a couple in my life, and I thought they were poorly written and super cliché/cheesy. I, therefore, assumed that the entire romance genre is not for me. So when Lisa from TLC Books Tours asked me to join the tour for Beyond Coincidence, I was hesitant but eventually decided that I should maybe give romance another try. And well… I learned that I should take it a little easier on the romance genre. So thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

22814489

4 of 5 stars

Beyond Coincidence is the story of Lucy who takes a solo trip to France after being heart broken by the man that she thought was the love of her life. While there she discovers that she is the only person who can see Freddy, a dead soldier whose remains have recently been dug up and who needs help having his remains identified so he can finally be laid to rest and have peace. He says to Lucy that he doesn’t quite know why but he feels like she was meant to be the one to help him. Freddy goes back to Australia with Lucy and begins the journey of learning about the life he never got to have. Lucy is able to track down Freddy’s last remaining relative, Nate – his great grandson, who has recently had some heartbreak of his own. They are immediately drawn to each other and up being inspirations to each other and to Freddy.

From the summary on the back of this book, I was somewhat scared that Lucy was going to fall in love with a ghost and then end up with a tragic, cheesy love story that would just make me gag. But it’s apparent after the first couple of pages that that is not the case. Also, after the first chapter, it’s pretty easy to guess what’s going to happen, but then again… that’s what I’m looking for in romance – a feel-good story, but one that’s real life without the romantic scenes being forced. Jacquie Underdown does a wonderful job of focusing on plot development while still delivering the romance. She also does a fantastic job with the magical realism of Freddy’s ghost - I completely believed that Lucy speaking with Freddy was something that was absolutely normal.

What really kept me interested in the entire story was the slight suspense of what Freddy and Lucy’s actual connection would end up being and if Freddy would find the rest that he was seeking. And everything connected beautifully in the end. This is definitely a cozy story of different types of relationships that make us who we are and enrich our lives. The only reason I give this book 4 instead of 5 stars is that the dialogue seems a little bit forced at times, but not so much that the story still didn’t feel sincere.

I will definitely be giving Jacquie Underdown’s other books a shot whenever I need to take a break from all my long fantasy series and read something a little lighter. I would recommend this book to anyone who is overwhelmed with a longer series that you’re in the middle of like I was or needs a quick genre switch to break up the monotony.

tlc logo

TLC Book Tours: GI Brides

19522903

4 of 5 stars

Hi everyone!! There has been a very severe and sad decline in the amount of time I have had to read lately because of my new job, but I did have time to read this one after being accepted to join TLC Book Tours. I otherwise would not have even known about this new release, and I’m so glad that I did find out about it. So thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

GI Brides is the true and personal story of four very different brides of WWII veterans – Sylvia who was excited to serve the “Yanks” as a Red Cross volunteer, Margaret whose family was extremely suspicious of the yanks, Rae who was a tomboy and herself served in the English army, and Lyn who was a shy and naïve younger woman as the war began. All of these women fell in love with men who were stationed in England during the war and eventually followed them to America when the US government transported upwards of 60,000 GI Brides. The chapters switch back and forth between their stories of how their marriages and lives changed after moving to America. Ultimately, this nonfiction story ends up reading like fiction because of the details and dialogue included in each woman’s story.

I’m not normally a person who picks up non-fiction unless it is labeled as a memoir, and the only reason I chose to be on the tour for GI Brides is because I am a military spouse and thought I would be able to identify with it. I did not expect this book to be so narrative based and to draw me in the way that it did. By the end, I was so invested in these women’s lives and cried with them in the happy moments and the sad. This definitely is my kind of non-fiction!

I love how the authors took the time to seek out some of the GI Brides who had different experiences, who led very different paths after they left England, and chose to tell their stories in a way that a lot of women can identify with and can enjoy reading about. I’ve read several historical romance fiction novels written in the WWII era, and I think this book rates right there with some of the best of those. It’s insightful and afterwards heartwarming and inspiring because you know that you have read about real people’s lives. I actually learned a thing or two that I didn’t already know about WWII, how the Americans reacted to the influx of GI Brides, and the difficultly that some of the women had with transitioning cultures.

I would recommend this book to any of you who like to read about love stories, especially those set in wartime, and to anyone would also like to be surprised by a non-fiction story.

Check out the GI Brides website for more info on the brides in this story and some new brides featured in upcoming short stories, author bios on Nuala Calvi and Duncan Barrett, and pictures and blog posts from the GI Brides.

tlc logo

Pre-Release Review: Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof

18404204

5 of 5 well-deserved stars

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I would never have known about this book if it weren’t for NetGalley, and I’m so glad I found it. I noticed it because of the cover and title. Then I did a little research and discovered that Martha Woodroof is affiliated with NPR. I love love love NPR, so that’s all I needed. I requested and read it right away.

Small Blessings could definitely go into the literary fiction category, which isn’t usually my bag. But in this case, I really liked it because it wasn’t overly dramatic and drawn out.

This is the story of a cast of characters at a women’s college – Tom Putnam is a loyal, gentle-hearted man who has been taking care of Marjory, his mentally frayed wife, for 20 years; Agnes, Tom’s mother-in-law, is a quirky, stubborn lady who is searching for her new beginning; Russ Jacobs is a callous, egotistical alcoholic who hides behind his sarcasm and anger; Iris is a spunky red-head who likes to stir the pot but has no real friends. In walks Rose Callahan, an independent, wanderer who is so sure of herself that she makes others sure of themselves. She is the epitome of independence, but she is too guarded to let anyone really know her. Within the first few days after Rose’s arrival, Marjory dies, and Tom’s 6-year-old “son” that he never knew about turns up in town. (Don’t worry… not a spoiler… these happen at the very beginning.) What follows is a discovery of self for everyone involved and small blessings that some never thought they deserved.

This book was so beautifully written. Each and every character is so well developed, and the story line is also extremely well-developed but succinct. There are a couple of small surprises, but mostly you can tell where the story is going and where it will end up. In this case, though, the point was not the ending, the point was the journey. And it was a truly inspiring one. The title is perfect… this is a story about people saving each other, facing your demons, and finding the small blessings along the way.

And to add to that, what I love most about books are the small nuances that just make them different from all the rest, where the author puts some of their personality in. In this case, there are a lot of moments obviously dedicated to NPR. Here’s a little peek:

The Rolling Stones obligingly began shouting in her head about not always getting what you want but, provided you try, sometimes getting what you need.

As Van Morrison had put it: It ain’t why, why, why, why, why; it just is.

Plus, there’s just a lot of good old-fashioned wisdom sprinkled throughout this story too, with some slight humor to it:

“When the going gets tough, the tough suck it up,” Agnes said. “The rest get run over.”

You’ll always have a chance to give up, so why do it now?

I think what really makes this book so great is that it’s real life. It really could be someone’s true story. It’s not cheesy, it’s not far-fetched. It just is.. simple, true, and inspiring. I definitely recommend this book!! It is especially exceptional because it’s the author’s debut novel. And you don’t have to wait too long – it comes out on August 12th!!

For those of you who are audio book inclined, here is a 6-minute preview of the audio version of Small Blessings. Honestly, I’ve never listened to an audio book, but I  did  listen to this clip. Lorelei King’s voice and impression for Russ is spot on. A special thank you to  Esther with Macmillan Audio for providing the clip.

And for anyone in the Richmond, Virginia area, I found out that Martha Woodroof will be at Fountain Books on September 23 for a signing! Get excited!!


Sidenote: So I posted my review on GoodReads already. I think I was one of the first reviews, and well… Martha Woodruff actually read it and sent me a message thanking me for the “lovely review”. She also said that I completely understood her characters and motives for writing the book. Wow!!!! It makes me really excited that I accidentally made a debut author feel validated and excited about their work. I’m now even more excited about meeting her and hearing more about her book at the signing in Richmond!

Just wanted to share this with you as proof that Martha Woodroof seems like a truly genuine and awesome person. So I’m begging you… go read her book. I’m pretty sure you won’t be sorry that you did.

Saturday Sidenotes: Wear it Proud

I love to wear my personality on my sleeves. (he he)… thus why I have a Disney sleeve tattoo and why I love all kinds of fangirl shirts, especially those about books that sometimes only your fellow booknerds understand.

And this week I rocked a total of 3 interviews – this never happens to me!! So as a reward to myself and a declaration of hope that I will get the job, today I also spent an ungodly amount of time scouring every corner of the internet for booknerd shirts, dreaming of the day that I can afford to buy one again. So today, I’ve also saved you a heck of a lot of time… here are the ones that I think are the best:

Also, a couple of these websites have all kinds of aweome reader gear. Check out Out of Print, The Reader’s Catalog, and Litographs.

 

L-1054-3T

Little Women from Out of Print

 

untitled (8)

Library Card from Skreened

 

3

Emma from Litographs

 

 

Screenshot (5)

Library Card Stamp from The Reader’s catalog

 

Sorry Boys from Look Human

 

Screenshot (7)

Pin Up Girl from Zazzle

 

8

Having Fun from Skreened

 

Thoreau tank from Amazon

Thoreau tank from Amazon

 

Evolution of Books

Evolution of Books tank from Etsy

 

Someone Else’s Love Story.. a daunting disappointment

17349119

2 of 5 stars

I had a lot of hope for Someone Else’s Love Story because (1) I’ve heard great things about Joshilyn Jackson, and (2) I really liked the short story intro in My Own Miraculous. So HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT is an understatement.

According to the synopsis, Someone Else’s Love Story is about Shandi Pierce being held up in a gas station and falling in insta-love with William, who puts himself between the gunner and her 3-year-old genius son, Natty. William is a genetics genius and he agrees to help Shandi discover who Natty’s father is. This is all true, but the entire first 25% of the book goes back and forth between Shandi’s and William’s thoughts about the hold-up situtaion, the exact actions of the gunner, etc. Although this is a life-changing moment for both of them, it’s extremely irritating because there is absolutely no story development. We get it, both of them have lost things and had a hard time in the past couple of years… I just wanted the story to move on to what actually happens after.

Then it finally did… and blah, ick, gag… The events that unfold are extremely chick-flicky cliche. Shandi is caught in a love triangle between her long-time best friend, Walcott, and her life-saver (but she doesn’t know if she’s unknowingly been in love with Walcott for her entire life.. oh really?). William is caught in his anger at his wife’s accident in which their daughter was killed and his inablity to have faith unlike his wife. And it becomes apparent pretty early that Shandi was raped but has not acknowledged that she was.

This story is all about banging around inside of two indecisive people’s heads who have been lying to themselves (Shandi about her “rape” and William about his wife’s “existence”). And then everything is wrapped up in a cushy ending. Once again… GAG.

There are details about the other characters who were held up in the gas station, about Shandi’s parents, about Walcott’s parents, etc. that are just completely unnecessary and ultimately annoying because their storylines are left incomplete.

I picked up this book because I have a weakness for science geek socially awkward love interests… in the end that’s all this book had going for it. The story was really not a bad idea, but the execution was just not good.

However, I still like Joshilyn Jackson’s writing.. she uses unique phrasing that adds a lot of emotion. So I think I’ll try another of her earlier books and just hope that this one was a fluke.

The Silkworm: A sequel well worth the wait

18214414

5 of 5 stars!! 

Every time I read a J.K. Rowling book I fall more and more in love with her… she’s such a great, concise, and imaginative story teller… She makes you think you know what’s going to happen and then completely surprises you over and over. She gives you details that are always completely relevant to the entire story and not just filler. I’m obsessed. (Confession: I’m not saying this as a Harry Potter lover… because… well, I never actually finished the series. I read the first 2 books in 6th grade and never picked up J.K. again until The Cuckoo’s Calling. Yes.. I’m ashamed. I will redeem myself in the near future. Promise.)

In The Silkworm, Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin, are once again investigating a murder that the police think they have wrapped up in a nice neat little package. Owen Quine, an author with a twisted imagination and a habit of insulting people through making them characters in his books goes missing. Strike finds Quine’s body mutilated in the exact fashion that the main character is murdered in his newest, not yet released book. The police are able to pin the murder on Quine’s wife, but Strike believes she is innocent. Thus begins a search for the killer out of the vast amount of people in the publishing industry who had access to the pre-print version of the book. Since Quine has managed to make many enemies throughout his writing career, there are plenty of people with the motive to kill him.

The plot is extremely fast moving. I read this 500 something page book in a day, if that says anything. It’s never dull. Most of the story focuses on the murder investigation. But some chapters show Strike’s and Robin’s personal lives and provide more character development for the them individually. Strike is trying to get over his ex-fiance, and Robin is trying to help her fiance to understand her love of her job.

This story honestly reminded me of And Then There Were None because it has a classic mystery feel and keeps you wondering until the very last chapter who the killer is.

I’m pretty sure that a lot of J.K. Rowling’s underlying feelings about the publishing industry are expressed through this story, but then again… I can’t really say what her motives are. Just a thought I had while reading, since the plot thickens heavily around corruption with Quine’s agent and publishing company. Sneaky, J.K., very sneaky. But then again, I think she made it pretty passively apparent.

Either way, I truly enjoy the Cormoran Strike books. This one was even better than the first, and I’m interested to see where Strike and Robin’s relationship will end up. Because we all know, J.K. never does what you think she’s going to.

All the Light We Cannot See… a 3 month journey

18143977

3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Here we have yet another book that EVERYONE except me loved. I’m obviously weird. I had to set this book down several times because I couldn’t get into it. But I always picked it back up, determined to finish… I guess that says something about the writer.

All the Light We Cannot See focuses on the events of World War II in Europe, specifically France. The main character is really “the war”… and there are beautifully written, snapshots that capture the true nature of the war and the emotion of those effected by the war. There are 3 storylines going on throughout: (1) A blind girl, Marie Laure, is forced to leave her hometown with her father, the security warden for The Natural History Museum, who may or may not hold the “Sea of Flames” – the most precious, most cursed, but most powerful stone ever made because the holder is said to be unable to die. (INTRIGUE!!) (2) An orphan Werner, who has a fascination with learning and engineering, specifically re-making radios so that he and his sister can listen to an old man who broadcasts “illegal” educational shows. (2) Sgt von Rumpel, a German and therefore the enemy, who is dying and is using his position to ransack homes while searching for the Sea of Flames.

Throughout the story, Marie Laure grows into a strong woman who supports the underground movement against Germany; Werner is taken to a training school for gifted boys to learn about radios/receivers and is eventually recruited into the war to help locate illegal radio broadcasts that are supporting the German opposition – he is constantly conflicted as to whether he is doing the right thing; and Sgt von Rumpel is truly scary… he searches for any people who have connection to the Sea of Flames, gets information from them, and then disposes of them all while keeping a creepily calm demeanor. 

The way that all of these stories tie together in the end is really great, almost like a true story – the ending actually felt like I was sitting next to a World War II survivor letting them tell their story. So it was very well researched and well written. However, the beginning took me a very long time to get into. I kept reading though because I could tell that this writer is truly talented. Eventually, you start seeing how everything connects and the book is much more readable.

What I disliked was the setup… the book jumps back and forth in time and also jumps from character to character, so it gets confusing. I found myself having to check the dates often. The jumping through time just feels unnecessary and does not add any suspense or glamour to the story. I think it would have been much easier to follow and get into if everything had been in chronological order and only skips from character to character. But that’s just me.

Overall, this is a beautifully written story. I would recommend it… when it starts lagging, just know that it does pick up and the ending is worth it.

New Releases: How to Tell Toledo vs. One Plus One

Hi all!! Sorry I’ve left you all so lonely for so long. I forgot how crazy the moving process is. Things are finally starting to slow down again, so I’m back to reading and reviewing. I finally got internet hook-up today, therefore we begin the long process of catching up on reviews.

First… two books released today that I realized after reading have much of the same features – a quirky girl with a different outlook on life, a nerdy but lovable guy, some family drama, and a little bit of romance - with slightly different plots. I received both of these books through NetGalley in return for an honest review. I’ll give you a little info and let you pick the better summer read for yourself.

18404247

3 of 5 stars

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky is the story of Irene and George, two astronomists with completely different outlooks on life. George is a dreamer – far more than you would ever think a scientist would be – and a lover, and I mean sleezy, womanizer sleeps-with-his-students type lover because he’s searching for the girl that he “used to dream about but can’t quite remember”. Irene is an anti-lover and doesn’t believe that love even truly exists. She ran away from her drunk mother to pursue her dream of discovering the make-up of a black hole and therefore creating a black hole to revolutionize science. The only outlet she has in life is lucid dreaming where she can visit with the sober version of her mother.

Sound weird? My first thought about 5 pages in was “WHOA”. Here’s what I expected based on the book summary: a Rosie Project type story with some smart people romance and a different twist because their parents organized the entire thing. What is not mentioned in the book summary is that there is also some pretty deep philosophical details involving gods (somewhat Greek but more modern), destiny, soul twins, and other astrology related things. The story switches between Irene’s mom - Bernice, George’s mom – Sally, Irene, and George’s points-of-view to explain the set-up and key events from George and Irene’s childhoods. There are also lengthy philosophical breakdowns about the stars and destiny. I kept reading through the end of the book still trying to figure out if it is good weird or bad weird… and I finally decided – GOOD weird.

The plot, even with all the philosophical speak, is still pretty fast moving. It starts with Irene and George meeting as adults and then goes back from there to learn the details of their set up. There is a lot of adventure with George – he’s a very spontaneous and carefree man, and a lot of brooding from Irene. The love story is a bit cheesy, but this is still a good quirky read. This book is honestly the weirdest book that I have ever read.. it is unlike any other. Was it lacking in some areas? Yes. Good or bad? At the end of the day, I end up choosing good because the philosophical aspects make you think. I hear that’s good for you!!

18693716

4 of 5 stars

One Plus One is an entirely different type of geeky love story – Ed is a wealthy half-owner of a software company who has a lawsuit looming over his head because accidently gives away insider trading details for his company. Jess is really a large mess – she has two children that she busts her butt for but just can’t make ends meet. Her daughter, Tanzie, has been accepted to attend an elite math school, and the Math Olympiad with a $5000 prize is their only hope of paying he tuition. Not to mention, the problems with her son, Nicky, getting beaten up at school over and over. Thus, ensues a brilliant adventure where Ed’s and Jess’s lives are tangled together and they go from silently tolerating one another to sparking romance in just a few days during one road trip with enough mishaps to last a lifetime.

This is the definition of a romantic comedy – and one that was well written. There is substantial character development. Jess’s life has had so many things go wrong that you can’t help but hope with your whole gut that something goes right for her. Ed also has so much riding on his shoulders – when the story begins, he is merely trying to do something to help someone else in order to forget his own troubles. And Tanzie and Nicky’s voices add perfectly to the story to bring an outside view into Jess and Ed’s world.

The only drawback to this book, is the intensity with Jess and Ed’s romance. It was 0 to 60 in about a day. I guess this is slightly excusable because they were stuck in a car together 24/7.. but it still bothers me. However, not enough to not enjoy the rest of the story. It’s just a great feel-good summer read… all the way down to retaliation against the boys who continue to beat Nicky. It makes you laugh out loud at Tanzie’s quirkiness and cry right along with Jess during her heartbreak at her life’s circumstances. I was 100% invested in all the characters. Oh and I read it in less than a day… I definitely wouldn’t mind a sequel!

Hope this helps with your New Release picks! Happy summer reading! Any other new summer books that I need to know about??

Pre-Release Review: Goodnight June by Sarah Jio

18667906

5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodnight June is June’s story. June inherits from her great aunt Ruby a small, cozy children’s bookstore – Bluebird Books, where June spent her happiest moments as a child and learned to love reading. As a 35 year old, June is vice president of a large bank and in charge of foreclosing many small businesses. She has few important people in her life, anxiety problems, and a severe lack of satisfaction with herself. When she inherits Bluebird Books, June goes home to Seattle for the first time in 5 years and begins to reevaluate her life. She discovers a scavenger hunt that her aunt Ruby left for her in the bookstore of letters between Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown that explain the origin of Goodnight Moon and renew June’s passion for the bookstore. June discovers what it is like to be on the opposite side of the foreclosing business while she is trying to raise funds to save the bookstore, all with the help of the charming Gavin who owns the Italian restaurant next door.

I absolutely 100 percent love when an author shows his/her fangirl/fanboy side… And in this case, Sarah Jio’s fangirl flag is waving hard. The story behind the popular children’s classic Goodnight Moon is unknown because Margaret Wise Brown died shortly after writing it. I can tell that Sarah Jio truly loved Goodnight Moon because she uses so much imagination and heart to develop a very plausible origin of Goodnight Moon and uses the letters to tell the story with passion and creativity.

Also, June’s story is one that we can all identify with and could ultimately stand alone as its own story. She has to make the choice between living a life with passion or complacency. She has to forgive, and she learns to love. And she also discovers a few things she didn’t know about herself. Yes, it’s somewhat “chick flicky”, but its inspiring and sweet. I’m an avid hater of cookie cutter chick lit, so trust me when I say that this story is not that. Jane’s story is inspiring and leaves you contemplating your own dreams.

Right now is a time of major change in my life with moving and finding new job, etc., so I feel it was the perfect time to read this book. I probably a little biased since in the past year, I’ve somehow developed a dream of owning an independent bookstore and hosting authors/holding events to inspire budding readers. Reading is and always has been a huge part of my life, so I love to see that there are others who are still so inspired by reading and would rather pick up a book than a game or show on their iPad. I think Goodnight June is Sarah Jio’s confession to also being one of these people and her charge to go do something about it.

I literally blazed through Goodnight June in less than a day. It’s an easy read and would be perfect for sitting outside on a lazy summer day. And the great news is that its release date is May 27 – TOMORROW!!! So you only have to wait 2 short hours.. or 1 if you’re on the east coast. Ready. Set. Go.

I don’t think I’ve done it justice, but if you just go read it you’ll see what I mean. Thank you Sarah Jio for such a beautiful and inspiring story. It’s been a while since I’ve read a something this great.

I’ve had a couple of other books by Sarah Jio on my radar for a while, but this is the first one I’ve read. I’ll definitely be moving her other books up on my list.

Saturday Sidenotes: An intro to a little more of ME

As promised in my Liebster Award post, I am going to start posting some non-review, more personal, but still reader-related, and mostly entertaining stuff. I figure that Saturdays will be a good time to sit down and make some actual time for this.. so we have SATURDAY SIDENOTES! Feel free to join the club and let me know in the comments if you would like.

Right now is a pretty crazy time in my life. My husband and I are being moved by the military from Hawaii to Virginia with only 3 weeks notice. No big deal, right? So we’ve had to accomplish all things moving related:

  • Schedule car shipment, plane tickets, and household goods tickets… through military offices where most waits are at least a couple of hours… and you may or may not have gone to them in the correct order.
  • Fight with Delta about getting our GIANT and EXTRA LARGE kennels complete with dogs to Atlanta on the right plane in the right temperature at the exactly right time.. then call the travel office back and tell them to officially book our tickets… then get a call back from Delta saying our pets can’t be on said flight… then calling travel office to book our flight… THEN.. well you see, it’s a vicious cycle.
  • Clearing post… aka the Army makes you go to a million offices… for me and my husband.
  • Among all the other things that are scrambled in my brain right now.

Needless to say, I haven’t had much time for reading lately. So I was really looking forward to the 10 hours of reading time I would get on the plane. 10 STRAIGHT HOURS!! I even had my books picked out. I was going to take a couple that have been sitting on my shelf for a while that are the kind that require settling in and really concentrating – The Pillars of the Earth and The Fellowship of the Ring. Then, a TRAGEDY - I forgot to pull out my books for the plane ride, and the movers packed them up. (Super fail) Luckily, I have my Kindle for backup. But there are so many possibilities..

So what’s your favorite kind of airplane reading? How do you decide what to read when you have a large chunk of uninhibited reading time?

Monday is the big day!! Lots of flying and reading, so stay tuned!