Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London

How do you get past a lost love, especially one torn from you? In Julia London's newest novel, Hard-Hearted Highlander, the third in the Highland Grooms series after Wild Wicked Scot and Sinful Scottish Laird, both the hero and heroine are faced with going on after their first loves die.

Rabbie Mackenzie is angry, remote, and verging on suicidal. As a highlander after Culloden, he harbors a lot of anger toward the English for the atrocities they perpetrated on the Scots. The worst thing they did to him personally weat Avaline Kent, his fiancee, is naive, emotional, and childish and must rely on her lady's maid in almost all decisions. But Rabbie will grudgingly marry her to save his clan and keep her father, who has bought a neighboring estate, from destroying the Mackenzies through trade. For her part, Avaline can't say boo to a mouse, deferring to her maid Bernadette, a woman of noble birth whose youthful elopement and forced annulment ruined her reputation and her future prospects. When Bernadette and Rabbie meet, they dislike to each other, Rabbie thinking Bernadette feels she is better than him and Bernadette thinking Rabbie is insufferably rude. They may loathe each other, but they both recognize the terrible mismatch between the hard and forbidding Rabbie and the cake headed, fearful Avaline.

As Bernadette comes to know the perpetually glowering Rabbie better, to understand that he is hardened by grief, to sympathize with his obvious pain, and to peel back these layers of him to find the man underneath, she finds herself attracted to him just as he finds himself attracted to this cheeky, honest, and confident Sassenach. Bernadette is burdened by a terrible past loss just as Rabbie is but it changed her in very different ways. Instead of shutting herself off emotionally from everyone around her and railing against the injustice, she has picked herself up and gone on with her life, albeit a constrained life unlike one she once imagined for herself. Even though she looks to the future with a more optimistic outlook than Rabbie, she is still carrying the enormous sorrow of her past and letting it dictate her future. Both characters have to learn to temper their grief and start living again. The secondary characters here are nicely drawn. Avaline is infuriating and ridiculously dependent and then surprisingly stubborn and short-sighted, throwing up road blocks every time Bernadette thinks she has extricated the mismatched pair from the unwanted engagement. Rabbie's family is thoughtful and caring and although some of them are introduced in earlier books, a reader doesn't have to have read the prior novels to follow along and enjoy this one. Historical romance buffs, especially those with and interest in Scotland, will enjoy this glimpse into a romance set in the aftermath of Culloden and the impact it had on the Highlanders.

If you'd like to win a $50 gift card to celebrate the release of this book, enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information about Julia Quinn and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Harlequin for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: By the Wayside by Anne Leigh Parrish

Short stories are very rarely my thing but occasionally a collection comes along that really works for me. Anne Leigh Parrish's Our Love Could Light the World was one such collection so I was pleased that she had another, although quite different sounding, collection out. Unlike her previous collection, the short pieces in By the Wayside are not interconnected stories but they do hang together thematically and beautifully.

The short stories here feel entirely complete in themselves. The characters are realistic and relatable and their lives are lives that her readers could be living. Each of the main characters of these succinct tales seems straightforward and yet turns out to have more depth and layers than the reader expects at the start. And sometimes this surprising depth is unveiled in a mere sentence. Parrish is, without a doubt, a skilled writer who manages to keep her work accessible (truly no small feat). Her stories are emotional and searching. They center around a female protagonist finding her voice, her power, her truth. Many of the stories address a reality of women's lives (love, professional disregard, adultery, depression, health, friendship and obsession, family and caretaking, sexual abuse, and more) but even in this universality, they manage to surprise without shocking, twisting just perfectly to highlight her characters' own agency. None of the stories is particularly long and because of the clear and simple language, you can zip through the collection in no time at all but you'll want to stop and savor Parrish's ability to surprise, her subtle one-liners, and the strong, impressive women emerging from each story.

For more information about Anne Leigh Parrish and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Unsolicited Press for sending me a copy of this book to review.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past two weeks are:

Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
By the Wayside by Anne Leigh Parrish
Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Reviews posted this week:

Eggshells by Caitriona Lally

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

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Nine Island by Jane Alison
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Florence Diary by Diana Athill
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
The Vicar's Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
By the Wayside by Anne Leigh Parrish
Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour

Monday Mailbox

The mailbox has been crammed full with submissions for National Reading Group Month for the past few months but I can't share those with you. What I can do, is share the ridiculous amount of bounty from other sources that I've gotten in the past two weeks so you can wish you were me. (Any bookshelf builders out there?) This past two weeks' mailbox arrivals:

Single-Minded by Lisa Daily came from Macmillan.

About a woman whose life looked completely on track has to reenter the dating world, this looks like a lot of frothy fun.

Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth came from Macmillan.

A double stranded narrative set in the 1940s and the present, this tale of love and duty starts in a ballroom as young men are shipping out for the war and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

The Last Laugh by Lynn Freed came from Macmillan.

How could you not want to read a novel about three older women who run away to Greece for a year to escape their grandchildren only to have people, including children and grandchildren, start showing up in their retreat? Sounds hilarious and perfect for the summer!

After the Fall by Kate Hall came from Macmillan.

A secret triangle between a damaged teenage girl, her best friend, and his brother, this one looks heavy and heartbreaking.

The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable came from Macmillan.

I could totally jump on this bike and head off no matter what the book is about! That it is about a summer house perched precariously above the sea, the guest book from the house, and the generations of women who have lived there makes this completely enticing.

The Map That Leads to You by J.P. Monninger came from Macmillan.

I really enjoyed a previous novel of Monninger's so I'm looking forward to this one about a girl traveling around Europe and falling in love with a fellow American who is traveling around Europe following his grandfather's old journals.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman came from Macmillan.

The idea of a mom with two college aged children starting over as class mom for her kindergartner fills me with an inexplicable amount of joy (mostly that it's not me!) so I am definitely looking forward to reading this novel of motherhood and parental politics.

The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro came from Macmillan and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

Issues of environment, race, and class permeate this summertime drama so it should be the perfect thinking novel to sit on the porch and savor.

Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel came from Macmillan and LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

An epistolary novel about three decades of one family, be still my beating heart!

The Truth About Goodbye by Russell Ricard came from the author and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

Any book that has a tapper in it will likely have my attention and this one set in the dance world in NY about a man still grieving his husband's death but tentatively moving on definitely fits that category.

I Dared the Duke by Anna Bennett came from Macmillan.

I have a thing for historical romances. I have a thing for dukes. And I have a thing for sassy heroines who don't back down. This books is the trifecta of that. Yay!

The Romance Reader's Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell came from Macmillan.

Just the title alone would attract me to this one! But I am also very curious to see how a woman who retreats into romance novels (and one in particular) goes about life when she is forced to face it head on and it isn't like a romance novel.

Schadenfreude, a love Story by Rebecca Schuman came from Macmillan.

One of my favorite words ever, how could I not be attracted to this memoir of a one-sided love affair with all things German?

Before the War by Fay Weldon came from Macmillan.

The short time between the world wars has always interested me and this one about a plain but wealthy woman who proposes marriage to an editor in her father's publishing company, not yet aware she is pregnant with another man's baby or of the terribly sad fate she is soon to face sounds really, really good.

My Mother's Kitchen by Peter Gethers came from Macmillan.

If you saw my roly poly self, you'd know in a minute that food memoirs (and food) speak to me and this one about food and family and love calls to me in so many ways.

The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World by Brian Doyle came from Macmillan.

A novel centered around Robert Louis Stevenson's unwritten novel, how can this not be a twisting, turning adventure?

Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper came from Macmillan.

A wedding planner, a murder, California wine country. I look forward to what must be a heaping dollop of good crazy!

The Outer Cape by Patrick Dacey came from Macmillan.

Maybe only fellow font nerds will get this, but I wanted this one the minute I saw the title font. That is about chasing the American dream and a family on Cape Cod is just the cherry on top.

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Salon: On Being Busy

I have always found spring to be the busiest time. When my kids were smaller, it felt like the hamster on the wheel was in a full on sprint once spring arrived. Now that they are older and I don't have to add in as many of their activities and such, my spring doesn't seem to have gotten much (any?) more relaxed.  I still have more things to do than time to do them in.  Some things can't be ignored, like the youngest's last track practice (this past week) or moving the older two out of college (next week). Some things feel like they are necessary (weeding, pruning, planting flowers and herbs, the annual garage clean-up) before it gets too hot. Some things (all of the surprisingly time consuming administrative stuff for my Great Group Reads panel) are on a tight timeline that cannot be adjusted. Don't forget the one-time time-suckers, like sitting at the DMV to get the youngest his driver's permit or taking the car into the body shop to repair the oops I did one day. And I haven't even mentioned trying to stay connected to friends (which for me, as an extreme introvert, can be a chore but one I know I need to do for my own mental health). All of these other things war with my desire to just bask in the sun with a book. Today though, today is not sunny.

So on this soggy, wet Sunday, I will take advantage of the fact that pretty much everything besides sitting on the couch and reading is out of the question. The world is washed clean and green and I can luxuriate in a lazy, book-filled day. Some spring days are still as out of control as a squirrel on drugs and others, like today, are just bliss. I'll take more bliss, please.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is 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.

Crossing the Street by Molly Campbell. The book is being released by Story Plant on May 9, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: This wasn't the way Beck Throckmorton had planned it. She wasn't expecting to find herself in her thirties writing erotica and making flat whites for a living while she stewed over that fact that her ex had wound up with her sister. She never saw herself living in a small suburban Ohio town with an octogenarian neighbor best friend. And she definitely wouldn't have imagined the eight-year-old great-granddaughter of that friend turning her world upside down.

As summer comes around, Beck's life is unsettled in every way. And that's before the crazy stuff starts: the sister taunting her with her pregnancy, the infuriatingly perfect boyfriend, the multiple trips to the emergency room. The needy, wise-beyond-her-years little girl finding places in her heart that Beck didn't even know existed.

Beck has found herself at an emotional intersection she never anticipated. And now it's time to cross the street.

CROSSING THE STREET is a funny, touching novel that brims life's complexities. Filled with characters both distinctive and welcomingly familiar, it is a story that will entertain and enlighten.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is 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.

Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell. The book is being released by Sourcebooks Landmark on May 2, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: International bestseller Jill Mansell weaves a heartwarming tale of love, family and friendship in her latest novel

1. A brief encounter that could have become so much more...if only everything were different
2. Step-sisters, bitter rivals in every area except one―by unbreakable pact neither will ever steal a man from the other
3. A love triangle that starts out as a mess of secrets and mix-ups, and only gets worse from there

Friendship, family ties, crossed wires and self-discovery, second chances and first impressions

Welcome to Jill Mansell's blustery seaside world. Once you step inside, you'll never want to leave!

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