Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Grand Design by Joy Callaway

The book is being released by Harper Muse on May 17, 2022.

The book's jacket copy says: She has one last chance to prove she chose the right course for her life.

In 1908, young Dorothy Tuckerman chafes under the bland, beige traditions of her socialite circles. Only the aristocracy's annual summer trips to The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia spark her imagination. In this naturally beautiful place, an unexpected romance with an Italian racecar driver gives Dorothy a taste of the passion and adventure she wants. But her family intervenes, sentencing Dorothy to the life she hopes to escape.

Thirty-eight years later, as World War II draws to a close, Dorothy has done everything a woman in the early twentieth century should not: she has divorced her husband--scandalous--and established America's first interior design firm--shocking. Now, Dorothy returns to The Greenbrier with the assignment to restore it to something even greater than its original glory. With her beloved company's future hanging in the balance and brimming with daring, unconventional ideas, Dorothy has one more chance to give her dreams wings or succumb to her what society tells her is her inescapable fate.

Based on the true story of famed designer Dorothy Draper, The Grand Design is a moving tale of one woman's quest to transform the walls that hold her captive.

Monday, May 9, 2022

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed over the past two weeks because I'm still full on in a reading slump are:

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

In the Wake of the Boatman by Jonathan Scott Fuqua
Easy Beauty by Chloe Cooper Jones
The Finder by Will Ferguson
Singing Lessons for the Sylish Canary by Laura Stanfill
A Woman's Place by Marita Golden

Reviews posted this week:

The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray
Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner
The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams
Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
The Last Noel by Michael Malone
Travels in Mauritania by Peter Hudson
Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott
Fire and Ice by Rachel Spangler
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Tiddas by Anita Heiss
The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler
Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead by Elle Cosimano
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin
If I Were You by Lisa Renee Jones
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
McMullen Circle by Heather Newton
Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen
Donut Fall in Love by Jackie Lau
Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks
Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Home Repairs by Trey Ellis
Skinny Bitch in Love by Kim Barnouin
Looking for a Weegie to Love by Simon Smith
This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
Love and Saffron by Kim Fay
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron
Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard
Shady Hollow by Juneau Black
Four Gardens by Margery Sharp
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Uncommon Measure by Natalie Hodges
Jane of Hearts by Katharine Weber
Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton
Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan
Chivalry by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Review: Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald

Do you believe in fated love? What if the person you are fated to love dies before you meet them? Can a love that is meant to be combined with a special scientific phenomenon overcome the veil between the living and the dead? Lisa Grunwald's novel Time After Time, offers potential answers to these questions.

Joe Reynolds, a leverman for the railroad, is heading to work when he first spies a young woman who looks lost and out of place in Grand Central Station. Nora Lansing is coatless, luggageless, and dressed as a flapper despite it being 1937 and the midst of the Great Depression. A year later, Joe comes across Nora again still dressed inappropriately for the weather and the time. This time he offers to walk her home but along the way she disappears. He cannot get her out of his head. She will reappear again the following year. She is, in fact, a ghost and she reappears on the anniversary of her 1925 death in a subway accident when the phenomenon callled Manhattanhenge occurs. The fact of her death more than a decade before will not keep Joe and Nora from falling for each other. Together they learn the limits of Nora's existence, discovering that she disappears if she goes too far from Grand Central Station. Knowing this, somehow they build a life together within the constraints governing her existence, living and working in the Biltmore Hotel, shopping in the station stores, exploring the various places in the suprisingly vast city below the city. But the life they are living isn't a full one and eventually they'll have to make a decision about their future.

The premise of the novel was incredibly intriguing and Grunwald has done an amazing job bringing the 1930s and 40s in New York City to life. The descriptions of Grand Central Station and the city as it moves from the Depression to WWII and beyond are superb. The heady, starry eyed romance fades as the difficulties of Joe's life and obligations outside of the station and Nora's desire for more independence infringe on the fantastical semi-life he and Nora have built together. In this way the novel is more realistic than a romance, even if one of the main characters is a ghost. The novel's pacing is somewhat uneven, stretching out in the middle to feel overly long but the wrap up of the ending is brief and perfectly calibrated. This is meant to be an epic love story and although it doesn't quite live up to that, it will hit all but the most jaded the reader right in the feels.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Review: The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams

Every now and again my book club decides to read a lighter book. This time around we chose Ellery Adams' cozy mystery start to the Secret, Book and Scone Society series. This is the very definition of a cozy mystery, amateur sleuths, not too grisly, and set in a small town. It's a pleasant read for book lovers who enjoy this genre.

Nora Pennington came to Miracle Springs to try and heal from trauma. She is scarred from surviving a fiery accident and keeps herself fairly closed off. When she moved to town, she opened a bookstore and discovered a special affinity as a bibliotherapist, connecting people with the books that they need to read, the books that will help them heal or move them through the problems they are pondering. When Nora meets a man on a park bench and tells him about the magical comfort scones from The Gingerbread House, she also tells him to meet her at the bookstore after he's eaten and she'll help him find a book. He never shows, and is later found dead, having been hit by the train that comes through town. Was it suicide or was he pushed? Nora feels confident that the man she talked to, while clearly worried over something, would never have died by suicide and since the local sheriff comes to the opposite conclusion suspiciously quickly, she resolves to investigate.

Nora will not be investigating alone though. Several other women in town, the baker, a spa employee, and a beautician, who all have secrets and hard things in their pasts come together with Nora to form the Secret, Book and Scone Society. They will support each other, learn to open up to the group, and solve the murder. There are bumps in the road of the women's fledgling friendship and then a second murder occurs and one of their own is accused of it. The women will have to step up their investigation if they want to exonerate their friend.

The story is very bookish, filled with references and quotes which will delight book lovers. Each chapter starts with a quote from a fairly well known book and gives a small hint of the upcoming chapter. The tone is light but there are some darker issues covered both in the secrets held by the women and in the story behind the murders. There is danger but there are also scones. The investigating is balanced by the growing relationship between the women. The end of the book wraps up the mystery tidily but also gives an intriguing tease for the next adventure. All in all a nice read.

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Adult Assembly Required by Abbi Waxman

The book is being released by Berkley on May 17, 2022.

The book's jacket copy says: A young woman arrives in Los Angeles determined to start over and discovers she doesn’t need to leave everything behind after all, from Abbi Waxman, USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

When Laura Costello moves to Los Angeles, trying to escape an overprotective family and the haunting memories of a terrible accident, she doesn’t expect to be homeless after a week. (She’s pretty sure she didn’t start that fire — right?) She also doesn't expect to find herself adopted by a rogue bookseller, installed in a lovely but completely illegal boardinghouse, or challenged to save a losing trivia team from ignominy…but that’s what happens. Add a regretful landlady, a gorgeous housemate and an ex-boyfriend determined to put himself back in the running and you’ll see why Laura isn’t really sure she’s cut out for this adulting thing. Luckily for her, her new friends Nina, Polly and Impossibly Handsome Bob aren't sure either, but maybe if they put their heads (and hearts) together they’ll be able to make it work.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Review: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Natalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society, a fictionalized version of the founding of the Society and the saving and preservation of Chawton Cottage, was a charming, delicious read for lovers of all things Austen. This latest novel, Bloomsbury Girls, is another delightful novel. It is not quite a proper sequel but it follows a character from the previous book, Evie Stone. Occurring several years after The Jane Austen Society ends, this is Evie's story and several of the characters from the original novel make an appearance here.

It's 1950. Evie has graduated from Cambridge University, one of the first women granted a degree, but she is passed over for a research position in favor of a less qualified man. Unwilling to return home and abandon her research, she applies to work at Bloomsbury Books in London, cataloguing their chaotic rare books section. The day she arrives for her interview, Mr. Dutton, the general manager, suffers an epileptic seizure. Evie acts calmly in the face of the medical crisis, getting hired even as Mr. Dutton leaves the store on a stretcher. The new and rare bookstore has long been a dusty, traditional baston of male writers' works but Mr. Dutton's medical leave gives the women who work there, Evie, Vivien Lowery, whose upper crust fiance was killed in WWII, Grace Perkins, a mother of two in an unhappy marriage and the sole breadwinner in her family, room to implement their more progressive ideas about how the store should run. But when Mr. Dutton returns and things go back to the status quo, the women have no intention of quietly relinquishing their hard won power and influence.

The novel is the story of strong and determined women who are finding their way to live the lives they want. Tired of quietly and/or resentfully following the rules, making the tea, and staying in their places, they reach their breaking points and start to actively push against what is expected of them, both in their jobs and in society in general. They learn to ask for something bigger and to expect more than they are begrudgingly given. There are some light romantic elements here but they serve to emphasize the biggest ills of 1950s society: misogyny, racism, classism, and homophobia. Each chapter starts with one of the 51 non-negotiable rules of the shop that Mr. Dutton has framed and by which all employeess must abide at all times. Jenner then cleverly shows throughout the chapter how the rule, which might seem at first blush to be reasonable, can be circumvented or fails in specific instances. She has captured beautifully the undercurrents of workplace politics and the silent, non-verbal ways in which the women communicate their unhappiness and disagreement right under the noses of the men. The continual discrimination woven through the plot is infuriating but very true to life of the time (and not that far off from today either). There are fun cameos of famous writers and members of high society as well as characters from the previous book, almost all of whom back the women in their rebellion. Those in the book world who know their history will be delighted by the extended reference to Sunwise Turn in New York City. And the well-deserved ending will have the reader cheering. Similarly to the ending of an Austen novel, there is a quick and simple description of what each of the major characters has gone on to do by or after the end of the primary story. Readers who loved The Jane Austen Society, readers interested in neglected nineteenth century women writers, readers who enjoy seeing women overcome the handicaps society imposes on them, and readers who appreciate a slow building but ultimately victorious rebellion will be well rewarded with this engaging and winsome novel.

For more information about Natalie Jenner and the book, check our her author site, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, look at the book's Goodreads page, read another review and follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Laurel Ann from Austenprose and publisher St. Martin's Press for inspiring me to pull my copy of this book off the shelf to review.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Book Woman's Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson

The book is being released by Sourcebooks Landmark on May 3, 2022.

The book's jacket copy says: Bestselling historical fiction author Kim Michele Richardson is back with the perfect book club read following Honey Lovett, the daughter of the beloved Troublesome book woman, who must fight for her own independence with the help of the women who guide her and the books that set her free.

In the ruggedness of the beautiful Kentucky mountains, Honey Lovett has always known that the old ways can make a hard life harder. As the daughter of the famed blue-skinned, Troublesome Creek packhorse librarian, Honey and her family have been hiding from the law all her life. But when her mother and father are imprisoned, Honey realizes she must fight to stay free, or risk being sent away for good.

Picking up her mother's old packhorse library route, Honey begins to deliver books to the remote hollers of Appalachia. Honey is looking to prove that she doesn't need anyone telling her how to survive. But the route can be treacherous, and some folks aren't as keen to let a woman pave her own way.

If Honey wants to bring the freedom books provide to the families who need it most, she's going to have to fight for her place, and along the way, learn that the extraordinary women who run the hills and hollers can make all the difference in the world.

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