The Songbird Review & Giveaway

The Songbird (Hardcover)


New From: $18.29 USD In Stock
Release date: December 4, 2018.

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I started this book in the midst of a super blizzard through the Chicagoland area.  Snow coming down about 1-2” per hour and all I could see was white.  Just the cover was such a sight.  It made me dream of warm weather and spring.  All the light colors and fresh green turned my frown upside down, as they say.

Marcia Willett is a new-to-me author and was put on my radar by the kind publicity team at St. Martins Press.  Reading this novel reminded me of why I love Maeve Binchy books.  The characters are fully fleshed out, the setting, so descriptive.  These characters felt like they could walk off the page to my home, and we could sit down to tea and have a lengthy conversation.

The story starts with Tim, who confides in his coworker Mattie that he needs a sabbatical from work and home.  She recommends her family’s estate of Brockscombe.  It’s where her sister’ lives with her husband and child and his parents reside.  Tim finds immediate comfort and quickly becomes an extended family member.  As you read along, you discover secrets these characters are holding.

I will say that this is not a plot-heavy or plot-driven novel.  Yes, things happen, secrets are revealed, and we learn more about the characters.  It’s a gentle read, perfect for curling up in bed with a cup of tea over the weekend.

My thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

About the author: The Songbird is MARCIA WILLETT’s eighteenth novel to be published in the U.S. Her novels are available in seventeen countries around the world. She lives in Devon, England.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure Review & Giveaway

This is a book I’m keeping on my keeper shelf because I know I’ll reach for it time and time again.  It’s a great resource and reference for any parent or educator who is frustrated with screen time and is just out of ideas on how to proceed.

When presented with the opportunity to read this book, I wasn’t sure right away as I saw it was written for middle schoolers and adolescents.  I have much younger kids but still see them on a screen way too often.  And as someone who works full-time, I admit that occasionally it becomes a babysitter while I’m in a meeting or have to finish a task.  My 6-year-old has lost his love for toys now that he has an iPad available at all times.  But at the same time, I don’t want to shove a book in his hand and take away his willingness to want to read.  So I figured it could be adapted to the younger crowd.

And it was.  I love how it’s written for parents who have no background in education.  I mean, I’m a book blogger and refuse to fall asleep unless I read first.  My daughter has started to do this too.  My son is harder to get through to.  Now that he has started learning to read and can get through Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems, it’s more common but I still would like less screen time.

There’s a ton of recommended books that Newton provides no matter what subject matter or interest the child has.  I even wrote a few down that sounded right up my alley.  And she definitely provides outside-the-box strategies for encouraging reading at all times, even when driving in the car or there’s a group of kids together.

This book can easily be read in 2 hours and will even give you ways to encourage speaking about reading and gives gift suggestions.  It can also appeal to those who love screens by making a movie date out of a book that is just recently adapted.  I definitely recommend having it available or gifting it to a special teacher for the holidays.

About the author: Kaye Newton lives outside Nashville, TN with her husband, three kids, and two lively dogs. “Incision Decisions”, her first book, won a silver medal at the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Awards.

My thanks to the author for the review copy and for providing a copy for a giveaway.  U.S. only, please.  To enter, leave a comment answering “What is your struggle with screen time?”  One random commenter will be chosen on Sunday, October 28.

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners Review & Giveaway

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners (Hardcover)


New From: $17.70 USD In Stock
Release date: October 16, 2018.

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‘Tis the season of pumpkin spice, apples fresh off the trees, and the chance to open our windows and let the cool air in.  While I love that about fall, I also get excited about books moving from the beach to the holidays.  Give me a fluffy blanket and a mug of something hot and I’m in heaven.

This debut novel had me in stitches and will be a fun read for you this fall.  It is drama mixed with humor, heart, and scenes straight out of a Ben Stiller movie.

While the title might have you thinking this is a straight-up Christmas read, have no fear if that’s not what you’re looking for.  It is not holiday centered.  The holidays make an appearance but the story focuses on The Baumgartners: matriarch Violet, newly retired patriarch Ed, and their daughter, Cerise, who has a secret she’s been keeping from her parents.  Add in friends, lovers, and a weather girl, and you have a recipe for hilarious hijinks.

If you enjoyed This is Where I Leave You or the show Brothers & Sisters starring Sally Field, definitely get yourself a copy of this book.  As I was reading, both of those kept popping into my head.  So it’s obvious how well this book will translate to screen if given the opportunity.  I will save the casting director some time and recommend Kelly Bishop for the role of Violet.  She reminded me so much of Emily Gilmore and would just be perfect for this part.

I also loved the articles and letters between chapters.  It had a Young Jane Young feel to it and was a fresh break from the main plot line.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for the review copy.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.  And be sure to follow the tour for more chances to win!
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About the author: GRETCHEN ANTHONY is a Minnesota-based writer and humorist whose work has been featured on scarymommy.com, medium.com and thewritelife.com. She’s also spent decades as a ghostwriter and has written for some of the best personal brands in the United States, from CEOs to doctors and start-up superstars to BBQ pros. Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners is her first novel.

Connect with Gretchen

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Go On, Girl Review & Giveaway

Go On, Girl (Paperback)


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There seems to be a new genre of books being published lately.  Ones with moms being the central focus.  All of the drama and cattiness that you’d see in a kindergarten classroom I’m reading about in fiction among mothers.  But it’s realistic as can be.

Liane Moriarty brought it back in Big Little Lies and Laurie Gelman made it laugh-out-loud funny in Class Mom.  Hilary Grossman’s new novel brings it center stage as the Forest River PTA dishes out more drama than you’d find in a Meryl Streep movie.  For those without children (yes, you’ll enjoy it too), I’m almost afraid to admit that some moms do act this way.

Go On, Girl tells the story of Sydney Clayton who is basically coerced into joining the PTA or else she runs the risk of her daughter losing her friendships.  Welcome to a drama-filled year.  Amidst it all, there are touching moments between friends and relationships built.  I really enjoyed the dialogue between Sydney and her husband, Craig.  It felt so relatable to me since I am also a working mom dealing with the kids  AND everything that goes with that — after-school activities, sports, homework, etc.

This is a perfect book to read while waiting in the carpool line or in between doctors’ appointments.  It was a nice palate cleanser between some heavier reads.

You can now read all of Hilary’s books digitally for $3.99 or less!

My thanks to the author for a review copy.

About the author: By day, Hilary Grossman works in the booze biz. By night she hangs out with her “characters.” She has an unhealthy addiction to denim and high heel shoes. She’s been known to walk into walls and fall up stairs. She only eats spicy foods and is obsessed with her cat, Lucy. She loves to find humor in everyday life. She likens life to a game of dodge ball – she tries to keep many balls in the air before they smack her in the face. She lives on Long Island. To find out more of what Hilary is up to check out her Facebook page  or find her on Twitter.

Thanks to the author, I have one ebook copy to give away to a lucky reader.  Click on the Rafflecopter to enter.
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When Elephants Fly Review & Giveaway

This could easily be my favorite YA novel of the year.  While it deals with heavy subjects including mental illness, acceptance, and animal conservation and abuse, it also features a kick-ass protagonist who grows through the novel and becomes a woman who puts her life second, behind saving the one creature she’s grown to love.

It is cliche to say you will laugh and cry while reading this book but it’s absolutely true.  T. Lily Decker is a high school senior who is terrified of developing schizophrenia, just like her mother.  While interning at the local paper, she heads out on assignment to cover the story of a new baby elephant born at the zoo.  As Lily knows firsthand, being abandoned by your mother is not easy.  So when the calf, Swifty, is rejected by its mother, Lily learns she can’t quite give up the story or the animal.

I loved how through her journey, Lily learned that the world was bigger than just her and her fears.  Not only that, but she was able to inspire others to fight for her cause.   When the story ended, I had a hard time letting go of these characters.  I could have easily followed them for months longer.

Please don’t skip this just because it’s classified as YA.  It only is because some of the main characters are in high school.  If you enjoyed The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman or All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, you will also love this novel.  This book will have you laughing one minute, crying the next, and aching for a Swifty of your own.

My thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

About the author: Nancy Richardson Fischer is a graduate of Cornell University, a published author with children’s, teen and adult titles to her credit, including Star Wars titles for Lucas Film and numerous athlete autobiographies, such as Julie Krone, Bela Karolyi and Monica Seles. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Ms. Mulligan and the Enchanted Ice Cream Review & Giveaway

I’m thrilled to present my first guest review on the blog.  When presented with the opportunity to review this middle grade novel, my first thought went to my daughter, a 9-year-old fourth grader. She loves to read (almost as much as me) and this book sounded right up her alley.  She’s constantly asking to join a book club or start one, so I knew a book review would be a great place to start.

By Madeleine:

This book is about 11-year-old Tabby Easterland who wakes up on her 12th birthday and discovers she turned into a 25-year-old, Ms. Mulligan!  This book genre is magical realism.

My favorite character in this book is Mrs. Bumble who somehow knows about what is happening to Tabby.  Tabby also has two best friends, Kat and Dolly.  Also in the story, Tabby, aka Ms. Mulligan, turns into an English teacher.

I think you would like this book if you like magical books and books with a lot of situations going on at once.

I also like that if magic like that existed, the author made it sound realistic.

Before I end this review, I would also like to say that in this book there are 41 chapters which sounds long but actually each chapter is only a couple pages.  The book can read quick.

Our thanks to the author for the review copy.  Be sure to follow the tour for more reviews and chances to win!

About the author: Tiffany Elaine grew up writing stories for her friends to read chapter-by-chapter instead of doing homework. She brought her love of words to a career in business and entertainment writing, but fiction remains her first love. Tiffany lives in North Carolina with her family. Ms. Mulligan and the Enchanted Ice Cream is her first novel. She’s currently working on the next novel in the series, Ms. Mulligan and the Council of Butterflies. Learn more at www.msmulligan.com.

Thanks to TLC Blog Tours, we have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Sold on a Monday Review & Giveaway

Sold on a Monday: A Novel (Paperback)


New From: $12.79 USD In Stock
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What an intriguing premise.  A photo found in a newspaper in the 1940s sparked an idea in author Kristina McMorris who asked herself, “What would compel a mother to sell her children?”  That’s the basis for this novel, about a reporter who sees a sign and takes a picture, one that leads to heartbreaking consequences.

As a college journalism major, reading about the newsrooms during the Great Depression was fascinating.  It reminded me of Renee Rosen’s White Collar Girl, where, again, we quickly see how women were not considered for reporter positions, but rather secretaries to the chief or for a “society” column.  This newsroom is where we meet Lillian Palmer and Ellis Reed, whose photograph of a sign he passes sets off a string of heartbreak.

What I was hoping for in this book was a story of the children for sale.  And, yes, that’s covered.  But it’s really the story of Lillian and Ellis and is seen entirely through their eyes.  We learn their back stories and get bits of a romance.  I will say the last third was a race to finish, as the plot reached a tense conclusion.

Fans of historical fiction will find much to love in this book.  And every parent will be left with that same question, “What would compel a mother to sell her children?”  I just finished reading Rea Frey’s Not Her Daughter and found similarities in how a child could be considered as currency or a bargaining chip rather than a person.  The author for sure did her research.  The dialogue and situations were on point for this time period.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

About the author: Kristina McMorris is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her background includes ten years of directing public relations for an international conglomerate as well as extensive television experience. Inspired by true personal and historical accounts, her novels have garnered twenty national literary awards, and include Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, The Pieces We Keep, and The Edge of Lost, in addition to novellas in the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central. Her forthcoming novel, Sold on a Monday, will be released September 2018. A frequent guest speaker and workshop presenter, she holds a BS in international marketing from Pepperdine. She lives with her husband and two sons in Oregon.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Rush Review & Giveaway

Rush: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $16.26 USD In Stock
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Mix together The Help and Erin Brockovich and you are presented with Lisa Patton’s newest tale, taking place in 2016 at the University of Mississippi during sorority rush.

When I was in college, I personally chose not to pledge.  However, many friends did and reading this book gave some clear (and fun) insight into how the process works.  It was entertaining to see it from the point of view of the pledges, as well as sorority staff and pledges’ parents.

I love how this book is told through the viewpoints of Miss Pearl, longtime African-American housekeeper of the Alpha Delts house; Cali Watkins, a new freshman trying to find her way; and Wilda, Cali’s dorm neighbor and close friend’s mother.  Through their viewpoints, we meet the remaining staff of the sorority house as well as other pledges and their families.  You’ll find a character you love to hate, always a pleasure.

This book will translate so well to screen.  Miss Pearl just came alive off the page.  As I was reading, I felt as if I was watching the movie in my head.  We may as well just call Viola Davis right now, save the casting director a step.

If you want to relive your college days or are just looking for the next great Southern novel, I recommend you stop the search because you’ll find it in Rush.  Can’t wait to hear your thoughts after finishing.

My thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

About the author: Lisa Patton, best selling author of Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, Yankee Doodle Dixie, and Southern as a Second Language, is a Memphis, Tennessee native who spent time as a Vermont innkeeper until three sub-zero winters sent her speeding back down South. She has over 20 years experience working in the music and entertainment business, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama. The proud mother of two sons, eight bonus children, and eleven grandchildren, Lisa lives in the rolling hills of Nashville with her husband and their four-legged furry daughter named Rosie.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one finished copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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The Romanov Empress Review & Giveaway

The Romanov Empress
by C.W. Gortner

Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Ballantine Books
Hardcover; 448 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule.

Narrated by the mother of Russia’s last tsar, this vivid, historically authentic novel brings to life the courageous story of Maria Feodorovna, one of Imperial Russia’s most compelling women, who witnessed the splendor and tragic downfall of the Romanovs as she fought to save her dynasty in the final years of its long reign.

Barely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage—as her older sister Alix has done, moving to England to wed Queen Victoria’s eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to her husband’s reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie—now called Maria—must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.

Her husband’s death leaves their son Nicholas II as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas’s strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.

From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg and the intrigue-laced salons of the aristocracy to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the anarchic fall of an empire and the complex, bold heart of the woman who tried to save it.

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My review:

When I was in high school, the animated movie Anastasia released.  This was the first I knew of the Romanov story, even though it was fictionalized.  I fell in love with the music and bought my own copy to watch again and again.

When presented with the opportunity to read about this dynasty from the beginning, I was intrigued.  It’s the story of Anastasia’s grandmother, Minnie, known to the Russians as Maria Feodorovna.  We are treated to her story beginning in her teenage years as her sister plans to wed Queen Victoria’s son.

This was a fascinating story about her rise to power and the family she bears along with the future of Russia.  As a mother, I felt for her during the births of her children and how that affected the line ahead of the revolution.  Given America’s current political climate, I can see similarities to how those in power will never be able to please everyone.  Poor Nicholas whose only character flaw was being the firstborn son, got stuck assuming a power role he had no desire to fill.

The descriptions of the jewels and balls and galas was sublime and just made the downfall even harder to read.  I can’t imagine the trial of marrying someone who lives in another country speaking a new language, yet coming to consider that a new home.  Maria makes the rest of us look bad, as she did it with ease.  She was a woman many would hope of emulating today.  Fans of Philippa Gregory novels will really want to pick this one up.

It broke my heart to learn the movie Anastasia is not true, but alas, I’m no longer in high school and appreciated the real story.  I can still recite many of the lyrics.

Thanks to Historival Fiction Virtual Book Tours and the publisher for my review copy.

Praise for The Romanov Empress

“Gortner’s mesmerizing historical novel (following The Vatican Princess) depicts the remarkable life of the mother of the last Russian tsar. This insightful first-person account of the downfall of the Romanov rule will appeal to history buffs; at its core, it’s the powerful story of a mother trying to save her family and an aristocrat fighting to maintain rule in a country of rebellion, giving it an even broader appeal.” —Publishers Weekly

“A sweeping saga that takes us from the opulence and glamor of Tsarist Russia to the violent, tragic last days of the Romanovs. C. W. Gortner breaks new ground here, skillfully painting an intimate, compelling portrait of this fascinating empress and her family.” —Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America’s First Daughter

“The Romanov Empress has all the glitter and mystery of a Faberge egg, the outer decadence and beauty of Imperial Russia unfolding to reveal the mysteries and horrors within. The waning days of a doomed dynasty are recounted by the vivacious but tough Danish princess who would become one of Russia’s most revered tsarinas, only to see her line end in war and revolution. Gortner pens a beautiful tribute to a lost world, weaving a tale sumptuous as a Russian sable.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

“A vivid, engaging tale of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Russia’s last Tsar, her loves and her heartbreaks, bringing the troubled final decades of the Russian Empire to life.” —Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace

About the Author

C. W. Gortner holds an MFA in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California. He is the internationally acclaimed and bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel, The Queen’s Vow, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Last Queen, The Vatican Princess, and Marlene, among other books. He divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala.

To learn more about his work and to schedule a book group chat with him, please visit his website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a copy of The Romanov Empress to one lucky reader! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway: Romanov Empress

The Lost Family Review

The Lost Family: A Novel (Hardcover)


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What a treasure this was.

Peter Rashkin survived Auschwitz but lost his wife and twin daughters.  Now he runs a successful restaurant dedicated to his wife’s memory.  When he meets the young and glamorous June, he quickly realizes she may be the woman he wants to start his life anew with.

I have a special place in my heart for a family saga, and this story definitely fit the bill.  I love how each section was told from a different character’s point of view.  But being told chronologically, the switch still propelled the story forward and gave us insight to each member of the Rashkin family.  They all struggled, yet for different reasons, and you’ll quickly learn not one was a good communicator.

I thought Blum did a tremendous job of writing these characters as three-dimensional.  The descriptions of people and places were top notch that is was so easy to picture them.  When this translates to film, the casting and costume department will have no trouble setting it up because of how well they were written.

‘This book is a page turner in the sense you want to see how everything plays out and what happens in the Rashkins’ lives, but it was so beautifully written that you want to savor every sentence.

I truly enjoyed The Stormchasers by this author and now need to go back and read Those Who Save Us since so many people said that was her best read.

My thanks to Wunderkind PR for the review copy.

About the author: JENNA BLUM is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of novels THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS and the novella “The Lucky One” in the postwar collection GRAND CENTRAL. Jenna is also one of Oprah’s Top 30 Women Writers.

Jenna’s debut novel THOSE WHO SAVE US was a New York Times bestseller; a Boston Globe bestseller; the winner of the 2005 Ribalow Prize, adjudged by Elie Wiesel; a BORDERS book club pick, a perennial book club favorite, and the # 1 bestselling novel in Holland. Jenna’s second novel, THE STORMCHASERS, is a Boston Globe bestseller, a Target Emerging Authors pick, and a bestseller in Holland and France. Jenna’s newest work, her novella “The Lucky One,” was published in anthology GRAND CENTRAL, published by Penguin in July 2014.

Jenna has been writing since she was 4 and professionally since she was 16, when she won Seventeen Magazine’s National Fiction Contest with her short story “The Legacy of Frank Finklestein.” Jenna is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A., English) and Boston University (M.A., Creative Writing); she taught creative writing and journalism for Boston University for five years, was editor of AGNI literary magazine, and has taught fiction for 20 years for Boston’s Grub Street Writers, where she currently teaches master novel workshops. Dividing her time between Boston and the Midwest, Jenna has written the screenplay for THOSE WHO SAVE US and is writing her fourth novel. Jenna loves to visit book clubs in person, by phone, and via Skype. Please contact her on Facebook (Jenna Blum), on Twitter (@jenna_blum) and on her website, www.jennablum.com.