Always With a Book

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner (audio/print)


Title: The Jane Austen Society
Author: Natalie Jenner
Narrator: Richard Armitage
Published: May 2020, Macmillan Audio / St. Martin's Press
Length: 9 hours 55 minutes / 320 pages
Source: Audio - ALC via Libro.fm / Print - ARC Paperback via Publisher

Summary:

"Fans of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will adore The Jane Austen Society… A charming and memorable debut, which reminds us of the universal language of literature and the power of books to unite and heal." —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris
 
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England's finest novelists. Now it's home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen's legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen's home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.

My thoughts:  As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I love Pride and Prejudice - it is the one classic I have read multiple times, and while I have not read all of Jane Austen's other books, I do own all of them and do plan on reading them at some point.

I really enjoyed this book. It was so charming and I loved the simple message it delivers - that books have a way of feeding our souls. This motley group of characters that we meet all come together for one reason - they love Jane Austen and want to preserve her legacy. They couldn't be more different from each other, but the one thing unites them is their love of this one author and they are willing to do just about anything to keep her legacy from disappearing.

This is a book that I will certainly be coming back to as I read the rest of my Jane Austen books as her novels are referenced quite often. Would I have gotten more out of this book if I had already read all of Jane Austen's books - possibly but I still enjoyed it and now I am more determined to read the ones I have not. I loved listening to the characters talk about their favorite passages and discuss Jane's life and how their own lives are quite like the character's lives. It was quite cleverly done and just pulled me in deeper and deeper.

If you are an Austen fan, this book is for you. If you like the book-within-a-book format, this book is for you. It's such a fitting book to be coming out right now as so many of us are turning to books for comfort and whether that is the classics or rom-coms or thrillers, I think it shows the power of books and how reading can bring people together and help them understand themselves and others.
 

Audio thoughts: I had the opportunity to listen to this and it was so enjoyable. I alternated between listening and reading and I just loved it. Richard Armitage has such a lovely voice and it was so soothing to listen to. He did a great job with all the characters - there are eight which is a lot to keep track of, but he made it easy! He had a great cadence for this book and I really enjoyed it. 


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Short & Sweet Review: The 19th Christmas by James Patterson


Title: The 19th Christmas
Author: James Patterson
Series: Women's Murder Club, #19
Published: October 2019, Little, Brown & Company
Format: Hardcover, 344 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary:
It's not sleigh beels that are ringing this Christmas.

As the holidays approach, Detective Lindsay Boxer and her friends in the Women's Murder Club have much to celebrate. Crime is down. The medical examiner's office is quiet. Even the courts are showing some Christmas spirit. And the news cycle is so slow that journalist Cindy Thomas is on assignment to tell a story about the true meaning of the season for San Francisco.

Then a fearsome criminal known only as "Loman" seizes control of the headlines. He is planning a deadly surprise for Christmas morning. And he has commissioned dozens of criminal colleagues to take actions that will mask his plans. All that Lindsay and the SFPD can figure out is that Loman's greed -- for riches, for bloodshed, for attention -- is limitless.
Solving crimes never happens on schedule, but as this criminal mastermind unleashes credible threats by the hour, the month of December is upended for the Women's Murder Club. Avoiding tragedy is the only holiday miracle they seek.

***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours.


My thoughts: I was excited to see that this series was coming out with a Christmas-themed book and after the last installment had questions as to how the series was going to move forward. Well, I'm happy to see that things have moved back to normal and enjoyed this holiday-themed mystery, though I do wish that Claire had been more involved.

This latest installment had one main story that involved Lindsay and her partner and the other side story involves Cindy and Yuki. While I enjoyed both, I do miss the older books where the four women would get together and hash things out at their weekly get-togethers. I miss getting updates on their lives seeing them working together to solve the mysteries. I just feel that it's missing that part of what made this series great to begin with.

Of course, I'm not quite ready to throw the towel in just yet. I will see what comes next with book 20, which is out but I haven't bought yet. I find these books to be fun, quick reads and I'm hopeful they will eventually go back to what they were.



Books in this series:

    
1.   1st to Die                                    13.   Unlucky 13
     2.   2nd Chance                               14.   14th Deadly Sin
     3.   3rd Degree                                15.    15th Affair
     4.   4th of July                                 15.5   The Trial
     5.   The 5th Horseman                   16.    16th Seduction
     6.   The 6th Target                          16.5   The Medical Examiner
     7.   7th Heaven                                 17.    The 17th Suspect   
     8.   The 8th Confession                  18.   The 18th Abduction
     9.   The 9th Judgment               19.   The 19th Christmas
    10.  10th Anniversary                 20.   20th Victim
    11.   11th Hour
    12.   12th of Never         


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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Review: The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti


Title: The Summer Set
Author: Aimee Agresti
Published: May 2020, Graydon House
Format: ARC E-copy, 384 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
The real drama happens backstage in this juicy novel about an idyllic summer theater where hot stars, has-beens and hopefuls chase roles—and each other.

Charlie Savoy was once Hollywood’s hottest A-lister. Now, ten years later, she's pushing forty, exiled from the film world and back at the summer Shakespeare theater that launched her career—and where her old flame, Nick, is the artistic director.

It’s not exactly her first choice. But as parts are cast and rehearsals begin, Charlie is surprised to find herself getting her groove back, bonding with celebrity actors, forging unexpected new friendships and even reigniting her spark with Nick, who still seems to bring out the best in her despite their complicated history.

Until Charlie’s old rival, Hollywood’s current it girl, is brought in to attract theater donors, threatening to undo everything she’s built. As the drama amps up both on the stage and behind the curtains, Charlie must put on the show of a lifetime to fight for the second chance she deserves in career and in love.



My thoughts: I don't typically read a whole lot of contemporary romance but in light of everything going on, I've been gravitating towards some light reads lately and this one was just what I was craving. And I liked that there was more than just romance here.

This was a fun book. It's about second chance love and I'm always up for that. But it was so much more than that. It's about trying to save something that is meaningful and realizing just who you are in the middle of that. 

There are a lot of moving parts to this book and at first, it's hard to keep everyone straight, especially the younger set, but eventually everyone stands on their own. Of course, Charlie and Nick are really the stand-outs and while I enjoyed their stories, I do wish the younger set had equal screen time...there was a lot of potential for them.

I loved all the drama that was brought forth over the course of this book. It made for a fun book and again, this was what I needed. It might have been a little over the top at times, but set against the backdrop of the theater, it fit perfectly. This was a good story, filled with well-rounded characters that I was invested in from start to finish. I haven't read anything by this author before, but I would definitely read her again!


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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Review: The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale


Title: The Sunday Girl
Author: Pip Drysdale
Published: May 2020, Sourcesbook Landmark
Format: ARC E-copy, 288 pages
Source: Netgalley

Summary: 
Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge.

Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle, he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again.

So Taylor consults The Art of War and makes a plan. Then she takes the next irrevocable step — one that will change her life forever.

Things start to spiral out of her control — and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.



My thoughts: This is the debut novel from Pip Drysdale and what a fun, thrilling read it was. Who doesn't love a good revenge plot? All I know is that I devoured this book, needing to know how it was going to play out and boy did it keep me on my toes!

I loved that this book took your typical revenge story and turned it upside down. It's not just girl gets dumped by boy and therefore decides to take her anger out by exacting revenge. That's where Drysdale takes this a step further by introducing a most delicious cat and mouse game between Taylor and Angus. It makes it so that you aren't sure which way things will go, keeping you completely glued to the pages.

Taylor is for the most part a likeable character and you really do find yourself feeling sorry for the situation that she finds herself in. There were plenty of times that I found myself questioning her actions, but I never once felt she was unreliable...I trusted her the whole time and wanted her to come out on top. Angus, on the other hand, was the most despicable character and his actions were just awful. I kept thinking this is what a psychopath is...how is she not seeing this? But, this is what domestic abuse is all about...the victim doesn't ever see it, right?

I loved that Taylor was using The Art of War as her guide for exacting revenge but unfortunately Angus always seemed to be a few steps ahead of her. Drysdale manages to turn the classic cat and mouse game on it's head and you aren't quite sure who is the cat and who is the mouse.

I really enjoyed this book and loved the way it was written. It kept me engaged from start to finish and I had a hard time putting this one down. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves psychological thrillers. I will definitely be looking forward to reading more from this talented author!

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Review: The Ingredients of You and Me by Nina Bocci


Title: The Ingredients of You and Me
Author: Nina Bocci
Series: Hopeless Romantics, #3
Published: April 2020, Gallery Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 320 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
From the USA TODAY bestselling author of the “heartwarming and refreshingly sweet” (Lauren Layne, New York Times bestselling author) On the Corner of Love and Hate comes a sizzling and sweet small-town love story that follows a bakery store owner who decides to take her chances on a truly hopeless romantic.

After selling her successful bakery back in New York, Parker Powell decides to visit her best friend Charlotte in Hope Lake, Pennsylvania, to figure out her next steps. As she acquaints herself with the people in town, she begins to wonder why she ever loved city life in the first place. Between the Golden Girls (a.k.a. the senior citizen women who hold court), the response from the town to her sweet treats, and Nick Arthur, the ever-charming local owner of a landscaping business she spent time with during her last visit, Parker finds a community of cheerleaders who encourage her to get her baking mojo back.

At first, everything is great—she collaborates with the Golden Girls to put new twists on traditional confections, and thanks to Nick’s advice, she quickly learns the stark differences between big city and small-town business practices. Although Nick has become her friend and confidant, Parker’s determined to keep things platonic—especially since his girlfriend isn’t a fan of their friendship. But just when things fall into place so they can finally be together, Parker’s dream bakery is threatened by a major corporation who wants to take her down using the very bit of advice that Nick gave her.

With a recipe for disaster looming, Parker must cook up a new scheme, figuring out how to keep the business—and man—she’s come to love before she loses it all.

Perfect for fans of Amy E. Reichert and Jenny Colgan, The Ingredients of You and Me is a scrumptious romantic comedy that lets you have your cake and eat it too.



My thoughts:  While this is the third book in Nina Bocci's Hopeless Romantic series, it's only the first one I've read and it was exactly the type of read I needed right now. This book is equal parts charming, sweet and downright funny and I loved every minute I spent with these characters. I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading this - it was just what I needed with all that is going on right now.

While I don't typically like to jump into a series in the middle, I've found that it is not always possible to start at the beginning, especially when I am offered a book for review that is part of a series. So, I've thrown my own rule out the window and have decided to just read whatever book it is I'm given and if I like it, then I go back and start the series at book 1. If I don't like it, then no need to read anymore. And, what I've been finding is that most authors are writing the books in their series in such a way that each book really does stand on their own. 

Luckily, my experience with this book is that I definitely plan on going back to read the earlier books. I'm not sure if the characters we meet in this third book are all involved, but either way, I want more of this author's writing.

As for this particular book...I loved it. While there is a romance component to this book, and a second chance romance at that, I don't necessarily think it's the main focus. It's mainly focused on Parker finding her passion for baking again. Luckily she has a great group of women to help her with this - the Golden Girls. And what a group they are! These women have such huge personalities and really made the book. They had me laughing so hard at times, yet I also found myself thinking of my grandmother each time they offered their unsolicited advice.

I loved this book. I loved the small town charm and the way friends banded around Parker. I loved the Golden Girls and cannot wait to read the earlier books just so I can get more of them alone. This was definitely a feel-good book and it includes recipes...I can't wait to give them a try!


Books in this series:
  1. On the Corner of Love and Hate
  2. Meet Me on Love Lane
  3. The Ingredients of You and Me


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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Blog Tour Stop & Excerpt: Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Today, I'm so happy to be a tour stop on the Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon  blog tour - I have an excerpt for you to read thanks to Harlequin Publishing.




Title: Sister Dear
Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon
Published: May 2020, MIRA Books
Format: Paperback, 384 pages

Summary: 
Beauty. Wealth. Success.

She’s got it all.

And it all should’ve been mine.


When Eleanor Hardwicke’s beloved father dies, her world is further shattered by a gut-wrenching secret: the man she’s grieving isn’t really her dad. Eleanor was the product of an affair and her biological father is still out there, living blissfully with the family he chose. With her personal life spiraling, a desperate Eleanor seeks him out, leading her to uncover another branch on her family tree—an infuriatingly enviable half sister.

Perfectly perfect Victoria has everything Eleanor could ever dream of. Loving childhood, luxury home, devoted husband. All of it stolen from Eleanor, who plans to take it back. After all, good sisters are supposed to share. And quiet little Eleanor has been waiting far too long for her turn to play.



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About the author: Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Authors Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook  |   Instagram
|   Goodreads

Purchase Links: 


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Excerpt:


Chapter 1 

The police didn't believe me.

A jury wouldn't have, either, if I'd gone on trial, and most definitely not the judge. My attorney had more than a few reservations about my story. Ms. Allerton hadn't said as much. She didn't need to. I saw it in her eyes, could tell by the way she shuffled and reshuffled her papers, as if doing so might shake my lies clean off the pages, leaving only the truth behind in her inky, royal blue swirls. 

After our first meeting, I'd concluded she must've known early on--before she shook my hand with her icy fingers--that I was a liar. Before she'd walked into the room in shiny, four-inch heels, she'd no doubt decided she'd heard my excuses, or a variation thereof, from countless clients, already. I was yet another person claiming to be innocent. Another criminal who'd remained adamant they'd done nothing wrong, it wasn't their fault, honest, despite the overwhelming amount of evident to the contrary, a wall of impending doom surrounding me.

And still, at the time I'd believed the only reason Ms. Allerton had taken on my case pro-bono was because of the amount of publicity it gave her firm. Reducing my sentence--for there would be one--would amplify her legacy as a hot-shot lawyer. I'd accepted her help. There was no other option. I needed her knowledge, her expertise, saw her as my final hope. I now know her motivations were something else I'd miscalculated. All hope extinguished. Game over.

If I'm being fair, the judgements Ms. Allerton and other people had made about me weren't completely wrong. I had told lies, some, anyway. While that stripped away part of my claim to innocence, it didn't mean I was entirely guilty. Not of the things everybody said I'd done. Things I'd had no choice but to confess to, despite that being my biggest lie of all. 

But I'll tell you the truth. The whole truth and nothing but. I'll start at the beginning, and share everything that happened. Every last detail leading up to one fateful night. The night someone died because of me. The night I lost you, too.

I won't expect your forgiveness. Our relationship--or lack thereof--will have gone way beyond that point. No. All I can hope for, is that my side of the story will one day help you understand why I did the things I did.

And why I have to do the things I've not yet done.



Excerpted from Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon, Copyright © 2020 by Hannah McKinnon.
Published by MIRA Books


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Hope I've enticed you to pick this book up with this excerpt...that it gives you a flavor of the book. 

I read the book a few months back and absolutely loved it! You can find my review here.


  
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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: HumanKind by Brad Aronson


Title: HumanKind
Author: Brad Aronson
Published: April 2020, LifeTree Media
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Source: Author via @SuzyApprovedBookTours

Summary: 
HumanKind is the heartwarming, feel-good book that we all need right now.

Brad Aronson’s life changed in an instant when his wife, Mia, was diagnosed with leukemia. Following her diagnosis, Brad spent most of the next two-and-a-half years either by her side as she received treatment or trying to shield their five-year-old son, Jack, from the worst of Mia’s illness. Amid the stress and despair of waiting for the treatment to work, Brad and Mia were met by an outpouring of kindness from friends, family, and even complete strangers.

Inspired by the many demonstrations of "humankindness" that supported their family through Mia's recovery, Brad began writing about the people who rescued his family from that dark time, often with the smallest of gestures. But he didn't stop there. Knowing that simple acts of kindness transform lives across the globe every day, he sought out these stories and shares some of the best ones here.

In HumanKind you’ll meet the mentor who changed a child’s life with a single lesson in shoe tying, the six-year-old who launched a global kindness movement, the band of seamstress grandmothers who mend clothes for homeless people, and more.

Brad also provides dozens of ways you can make a difference through the simplest words and deeds. You’ll discover how buying someone a meal or sharing a little encouragement at the right time can transform someone’s world, as well as your own.

The resource section at the back of the book provides guidance and organizations that will help you channel and amplify your own acts of kindness. Here you'll discover:

• How you can fund a surgery to cure someone's blindness with a donation of less than $200.
• Organizations through which you can provide a birthday gift for a child who otherwise wouldn't receive one.
• Multiple places where you can send letters of encouragement to support hospitalized kids, lonely seniors, refugees, veterans and others.
• And over fifty more ways you can change a life.

HumanKind will touch your heart. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be reminded of what really matters.



My thoughts: I truly believe there are books that find their ways to us at just the right time and this one surely did for me. With all the uncertainty that is going on in the world right now, and the stress that that has caused for many, this book couldn't have come at a better time. We all need a little kindness and I know just how far a little kindness goes and this book proves that over and over again.

This book was written after the unthinkable happened in Brad's life. His wife had been given a diagnosis they were not expecting and it turned their life upside down. But that's when they were shown kindness in so many different forms from not only friends and family but from strangers. And you know what - it doesn't take much to offer a little kindness.

From his own experience, Brad went on to explore other examples of kindness that people show everyday and he gives us so many phenomenal stories. I have to say, this book is filled with many wonderful gems, ones that will certainly tug at your heartstrings and will have the potential to cause a few tears to be shed - tears of joy because you will see the good in humanity. Sometimes it's a matter of looking at things differently, sometimes it's a change in perspective, or even just thanking someone - all these things have the potential to lead to greater things.

I also loved that Brad includes ways you can get involved if you are not already doing your own thing. And he repeatedly stresses that no act of kindness is too small. Whether you do something once a day, once a week, once a month, once a year...just doing something is enough. 

I cannot recommend picking this book up. It really is a gem. I know that it has reinforced what I already know...you never know what that one small act of kindness will lead to, you never know what kind of impact you will leave on someone, so if nothing else, always give someone a smile. It may be the only one they get all day.

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