Wednesday, July 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 Fixer Upper by Lauren Forsythe

The book is being released by G. P. Putnam's Sons on August 2, 2022.

The book's jacket copy says: In this funny and sharp romantic comedy, a woman with a knack for turning her boyfriends’ lives around starts a professional service to help wrangle men, only to be unexpectedly matched with an old flame.

Ever since she can remember, Aly has been fixing everything around her: her parents’ marriage, her colleagues’ work problems, and her friends’ love lives are just a few examples. After a chance meeting with an ex who has gone from living in his parents’ basement to being a married project manager in three years, she realizes she’s been fixing her boyfriends, too....

So, Aly decides to put her talents to good use and, alongside two work friends, sets up the Fixer Upper, an exclusive, underground service for women who are tired of unpaid emotional labor. Using little tricks and tips, Aly and her friends get the men to do the work themselves—to get out of the job they hate, sign up for that growth seminar, do more parenting. Before long, a high-profile Instagram star hires them to fix up her app developer boyfriend. There’s just one catch—he’s also Aly’s childhood best friend and first love. As Aly tackles her biggest “fixer upper” yet, she’ll have to come to terms with their complicated history and figure out how much to change someone she’d always thought was perfect as he is....

Wednesday, July 20, 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.

Lucy Checks In by Dee Ernst

The book is being released by St. Martin's Griffin on August 16, 2022.

The book's jacket copy says: Dee Ernst's Lucy Checks In is a delightful work of romantic comedy about a disgraced hotel manager who travels to Rennes to rebuild a hotel and her own life in the process.

Lucia Giannetti needs a fresh start. Once the hotel manager of a glamorous NYC hotel and intimately involved with the hotel’s owner, Lucy had her entire future planned out. But when the owner disappears, taking millions of dollars with him, Lucy's life as she knows it falls apart.

Two years later, forty-nine years old and unemployed, Lucy takes a job in Rennes, France to manage the Hotel Paradis. She pictures fur quilts and extravagant chandeliers, but what she finds is wildly different. Lucy is now in charge of turning the run-down, but charming hotel into a bustling tourist attraction. Between painting rooms, building a website, and getting to know Bing, the irritatingly attractive artist, Lucy finds an unexpected home. But can she succeed in bringing the Hotel Paradis to its former glory?

Witty and heartfelt, Lucy Checks In is an inspiring and feel-good novel about reclaiming your life, finding love, and creating a home in places you never thought possible.

Wednesday, July 13, 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 Bodyguard by Holly James

The book is being released by St. Martin's Press on July 19, 2022.

The book's jacket copy says: She’s got his back.
Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka "bodyguard"), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.

He’s got her heart.
Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.

They’ve got a secret.
When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.

What could possibly go wrong???
Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Review: Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard's books can be wildly different from each other. What always endures in her stories though, is an amazing depth of characterization, an intricate look at the lives of the people she's created, and a sympathy for their choices. This same sensibility is on display in her novel Count the Ways, even if the reader doesn't always feel as connected and in concert with the characters as their creator clearly does.

Eleanor and Cam fall in love and create a family in the late 1970s in rural New Hampshire. Eleanor, who was raised by emotionally distant parents, has always wanted a close and loving family. She writes and illustrates a series of quite successful children's books when she is still in college, enabling her to buy the rustic New Hampshire farmhouse she falls in love with. Shortly thereafter she falls in love with Cam, who she meets at a craft fair where he is selling his lovingly handcrafted wooden bowls. Together they create the exact life Eleanor has always wanted, or do they? Several years and three children later, their lives are not nearly as idyllic as they once were. Cam doesn't earn any money, spending his days either playing with the kids or with his head in the clouds, certain that everything will work out. Eleanor, on the other hand, resents what she sees as his carefree and irresponsible attitude towards life, a life she funds entirely, with ever dwindling royalties and contract work she doesn't love. When a tragedy happens on Cam's watch, the already present cracks in their marriage widen even further until everything falls apart.

Opening with the family launching small wooden boats filled with cork people in the brook by their house, the symbolism of the people, some of whom reappear downstream, some of whom disappear, some of whom get waylaid in the long grasses along the brook, and some of whom bob to the surface long after their expected arrival in the calm shallows, is very clearly a metaphor for the story set to unfold in the pages ahead. Eleanor returns to the farm for the wedding of her oldest child, reflecting back on her life, coming to the farm and then leaving it, creating a family and then letting it go. Eleanor remembers when life was postcard perfect, with slow narration already feeling bittersweet, thanks to occasional reminders that it's all going to end. And end it does.

The story spans decades of this family's life, the ways that they hurt each other, but also the ways that they love each other. Eleanor comes across as a bit of a doormat or perhaps a martyr, allowing Cam to not only appear to be the good, fun-time dad he's always been but to keep the farm house that she purchased, to keep the children with him, and to hide his part in the disintegration of their marriage, causing their children to become estranged from her. Her inability to forgive him for the accident that happened on his watch seems to require her to sacrifice everything that was once hers, never mind that she has made every other sacrifice in their marriage leading up to this event. Beyond infuriating. Cam comes across as a perpetual Peter Pan and it is hardly surprising that Eleanor comes to find his attitude aggravating and to resent his laissez faire approach to life. The only surprise is that it takes so long and such a devastating accident for it to happen. There is a lot of unnecessary repetition of imagery here, especially of the cork people, abandoning all subtlety and failing to trust the reader's intelligence. It is extremely slow and feels a bit unbalanced between the before and after of the accident. It's very much a reflective character study, an examination of family, of forgiveness between partners and between parents and children. It is a story of sacrifice and letting go, of the challenge and imperfection of love, and of the ways that the life we might want may not, in the end, be the life we get, or even the life we do in fact want. Perhaps if I hadn't been irritated with the characters most of the time, I wouldn't have felt as if this dragged but as it was, I found it weary, the predictability of Eleanor and Cam, the breakdown of their marriage, and the adult children's exasperating reactions to their mother. There were some surprises along the way and I did appreciate those but overall, this wasn't as much for me as I'd hoped it would be.

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

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.

Nothing But the Truth by Holly James

The book is being released by Dutton on July 12, 2022.

The book's jacket copy says: In this sparkling, page-turning debut, Lucy Green learns that when you make a wish, you don't always get what you want…but you might just get exactly what you need.

It’s the eve of Hollywood publicist Lucy Green’s thirtieth birthday, a day she hopes will bring the promotion she deserves and a proposal from her boyfriend. But he stands her up for a date, not for the first time, leaving Lucy alone at the bar—or at least, alone with the handsome bartender on the other side of the counter—so she makes a rueful wish over her cocktail for a perfect birthday. But when Lucy’s wish is granted in the most unexpected way, things go terribly awry, as things often do when wishes come true….

When Lucy wakes up on her big day, she can’t seem to force herself to go through her rigorous fitness and beauty routines—things she usually tells herself she likes. She has no desire to eat only a spoonful of yogurt for breakfast and she simply can’t bear to put on the uncomfortable shapewear needed for the power outfit she had planned for work.

Then Lucy arrives at the office, and she realizes that not only can she no longer lie to herself, she can’t lie to anyone else, either. Not her clients, not her boyfriend, not her creep of a boss. Now that she can’t hide how she feels, Lucy must confront all the injustices—small and large—she’s faced on a daily basis at work, in her relationship, and in every other aspect of her life...and the truth is going to come out in a big way.

This sharp, bighearted, and magical novel tackles all the lies women are encouraged to tell just to get by in today’s world—in life, in love, and in the workplace—and the liberation that can come from telling nothing but the truth.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Review: A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen

Women's lives have not been easy. They have long been at the mercy of men's ideas and are the ones to suffer approbation when their lives veer from accepted paths. But women have always done what they need to do to survive, even if they have to buck societal norms. They are creative and determined and with a little luck, they will more than survive; they will thrive. One woman who overcame so much, none of it of her own making, was Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon. Tessa Arlen has written a captivating fictionalized version of Lucy's life, her rise to prominence, and the slander that damaged her reputation and marriage and haunted her for the rest of her life in this new novel, A Dress of Violet Taffeta.

Opening with Lucy Wallace telling her mother that not only has her alcoholic, philandering husband abandoned her and their young daughter Esmé for a pantomime dancer, but he has squandered all of their money, she's had to let all the servants but the scullery maid go, and she is suing James for divorce. The latter bit of information is, of course, the most scandalous of all in the Belle Époque, where gently bred ladies did not divorce their husbands no matter what the circumstances. Lucy has a plan to survive though. She will design and create the sort of ball gown, a dress of violet taffeta, that others in high society will want too. Using her wealthy younger sister, the future romance author, Elinor Glyn's contacts, Lucy will discreetly start her own couture house to support herself and Esmé.

Arlen captures the stress and worry of starting the fashion house Lucile, the learning curve of the financial side of a business, and the innovation and risks that Lucy took to get to the top of her trade. Lucy's personal life is also woven into the story, the story of her becoming self-sufficient, her second marriage, the social snubs she suffered, and the privilege of designing for the Prince of Wales' favorites as well as noted actresses of the day and the wealthy Americans who found their way across the ocean to London. Arlen has imagined a close friendship with Lucy's former scullery maid, Celia Franklin, who rises to become Lucile's manager. The narration follows both Lucy and Celia independently, giving the reader a full vision of both the artistic side of the business as well as the financial side. Lucy finds inspiration in everything she admires and the descriptions of how she created her dresses and the tactile way in which the fabric and trimmings are described really bring the feminine and romantic designs to life. Coming up with the idea of a fashion show and of selling wispy under garments that allowed her to design her dresses differently, Lucy was truly a cutting edge and visionary fashion designer and this tale of her life, both as a couturière and as a first class survivor of the Titanic, is fascinating. The time period is richly evoked and the characters are engaging.This is a wonderful story for historical fiction readers, especially those who have an interest in tenacious women and the fashion industry.

For more information about Tessa Arlen and the book, check our her author site, like her on Facebook, follow her on Instagram or Pinterest, look at the book's Goodreads page, read an exclusive interview 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 Berkley for sending me a copy of the book to review.

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