Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

February 2021 Reads!

 My favorites this month were The Pearl that Broke It's Shell by Nadia Hashimi, You Have a Match by Emma Lord and More than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood.

Book Review: More than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood

Title: More than Just a Pretty Face

Author: Syed M. Masood

Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary

About the book: Danyal Jilani doesn't lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he's funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn't approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal's longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man--a school-wide academic championship--it's the perfect opportunity to show everyone he's smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her...the more he learns from her...the more he cooks for her...the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face. (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this rom-com and loved that it was told from the male pov for a change. It was a nice change to read from the perspective of a genuinely kind and caring young man, even if everyone around him thought he was not academically bright.  He stuck to his love of cooking even when others could not see the value in it - and it was this love that helped him to discover that there was more to him than just cooking.  I look forward to reading more from this author!

Book Review: The Pearl That Broke It's Shell by Nadia Hashimi

 Title: The Pearl that Broke It's Shell

Author: Nadia Hashimi

Genre: Historical Fiction

About the Book: In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive? (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: I am not sure whose story I liked better, Rahima's or Shekiba's.  After they grew up and married, the stories were so similar it was hard to believe there was a century in between them.  Things had changed so little for women in Afghanistan during that span of time, depending on where you were born and raised. This book taught me alot about women in Afghanistan, how they are treated and what they do to survive. Rahimi and Shekibi were both very strong to survive the things they did and once I was finished with the book, the title was very fitting.  This was one of my five star reads for the month. 

Book Review: Wayward by Blake Crouch

Title: Wayward

Series: Wayward Pines #2

Author: Blake Crouch

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

About the Book: Welcome to Wayward Pines, population 461. Nestled amidst picture-perfect mountains, the idyllic town is a modern-day Eden...except for the electrified fence and razor wire, snipers scoping everything 24/7, and the relentless surveillance tracking each word and gesture.
None of the residents know how they got here. They are told where to work, how to live, and who to marry. Some believe they are dead. Others think they’re trapped in an unfathomable experiment. Everyone secretly dreams of leaving, but those who dare face a terrifying surprise.

Ethan Burke has seen the world beyond. He’s sheriff, and one of the few who knows the truth—Wayward Pines isn’t just a town. And what lies on the other side of the fence is a nightmare beyond anyone’s imagining.
 (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: I loved this book - even better than the first.  I am really happy that I started this series.  My husband and I are watching it on Hulu and even though it is different from the book, I am enjoying it as well.  Wayward Pines is built on an interesting premise and is a new take on a dystopian book.  I don't want to tell you much about the town, because if you haven't read book 1 you must go back and read it now.  I would highly recommend this series if you like science fiction or thrillers!  

Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Title: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1

Author: Jenny Han

Genre: YA, Romance

About the Book: Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. 

They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control. (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: This was a fun YA romance to read.  I had seen the movie, but it has been a while so I can't make any comparisons at this point.  It was definitely a rom-com book and I loved the way that Lara Jean's friendship with Peter developed. I liked it because it was easy to read and quick-paced.  I plan on reading the rest of the series and will be picking up the next book from the library tomorrow (because they are finally reopening!  Yay!).  If you are in the mood for a fun romance, pick this one up. 

Book Review: You Have a Match by Emma Lord


Title: You Have a Match

Author: Emma Lord

Genre: YA, Contemporary

About the book: When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents — especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby's growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
 (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this young adult book.  It wasn't the syrupy everything is fine sibling story or love story.  The girls, Abby and Savannah, had problems, they ran into obstacles, they had separate lives, but discovered they also had things in common (besides parents).  Trying to wade through their respective issues with their love lives and figure out why Savannah was given up for adoption to friends, who are no longer friends, made for an entertaining twist to a contemporary YA book.  Learning to trust and believe in yourself also played a part.  I would recommend this book to young adults dealing with trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in this world. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


Title: The Paris Wife

Author: Paula McLain

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

About the Book: Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
 (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: I did like this book but somewhere in the middle it started to become really long for me.  I thought the author did a good job of describing the relationship between Hadley and Ernest and especially their introduction to life in Paris. The whole lifestyle and the traveling that they did was incredible and I couldn't imagine living like that.  Hadley had a really hard time fitting in, as she was more content with family than the fast life that Ernest seemed to be drawn too.  Had this been a different environment or a different time, maybe her and Ernest would have been able to survive it - however, we may not have gotten some of the Hemingway books that are around today. 

Book Review: Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon

Title: Make Up Break Up

Author: Lily Menon

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

About the Book: Love, romance, second chances, fairy-tale endings…these are the things Annika Dev believes in. Her app, Make Up, has been called the “Google Translate for failing relationships.”

High efficiency break-ups, flashy start-ups, penthouses, fast cars…these are the things Hudson Craft believes in. His app, Break Up, is known as the “Uber for break-ups.” It’s wildly successful—and anathema to Annika’s life philosophy.

Which wouldn’t be a problem if they’d gone their separate ways after that summer fling in Las Vegas, never to see each other again. Unfortunately for Annika, Hudson’s moving not just into her office building, but into the office right next to hers. And he’ll be competing at the prestigious EPIC investment pitch contest: A contest Annika needs to win if she wants to keep Make Up afloat. As if it’s not bad enough seeing his irritatingly perfect face on magazine covers when her own business is failing. As if knowing he stole her idea and twisted it into something vile—and monumentally more successful—didn’t already make her stomach churn.

As the two rival app developers clash again and again—and again—Annika finds herself drawn into Hudson Craft’s fast-paced, high velocity, utterly shallow world. Only, from up close, he doesn’t seem all that shallow. Could it be that everything she thought about Hudson is completely wrong? Could the creator of Break Up teach her what true love’s really about? (from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: This book was really just okay for me.  I don't know whether Annika was just naive when it came to Hudson's motives or if she was just really self-centered, or maybe it was a deep down insecurity about herself, but for me it got old kind of fast.  They never really say why after their fling in Las Vegas that they went their separate ways, so I never really understood why Annika hadn't kept in touch with Hudson.  It was fun to read as it is February and I feel I should read romances in February, but there were not really a lot of surprises in the story. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review. 

Book Review: Again Again by E. Lockhart


Title: Again Again

Author: E. Lockhart

Genre: YA, Contemporary

About the book: If you could live your life again, what would you do differently?

After a near-fatal family catastrophe and an unexpected romantic upheaval, Adelaide Buchwald finds herself catapulted into a summer of wild possibility, during which she will fall in and out of love a thousand times--while finally confronting the secrets she keeps, her ideas about love, and the weird grandiosity of the human mind.

A raw, funny story that will surprise you over and over, Again Again gives us an indelible heroine grappling with the terrible and wonderful problem of loving other people.

My thoughts: I requested this book from Net Galley as I really enjoyed We Were Liars, but this book was nothing like that.  It was sort of a multiple universe story as Adelaide's story was told in different scenarios depending on what/how she or someone else reacted in different situations.  It was hard to read in the beginning, but once you grasped the format it became much easier.  It sort of reminded me of myself as a teenager, when I would replay a scene in my head by how I wished it had gone. . .   

The important part of the story was Adelaide's relationship with her brother, and this almost gets lost in this format.  I wish that there had been more attention paid to that storyline and not so much on Adelaide's love life - or lack of one.  Overall, it wasn't bad and introduced me to a new format of storytelling. 

Book Review: The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham


Title: The Painted Veil

Author: W. Somerset Maugham

Genre: Classic, Historical Fiction

About the Book: Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful, but love-starved Kitty Fane. 

 When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love. (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: Had I not listened to this book on audio, I am not sure that I would have finished it.  I am really glad that I did though as it was not what I expected.  The description above says that Kitty was love-starved, but I believe that her husband loved her very much before the affair.  She just did not love him but had married him so as not to become an old maid.  She had been too choosy when she was younger and all of her friends were married and suddenly she felt left behind.  Though her husband forced her to accompany him into the cholera epidemic, it is here that she learns to love herself, if not him.  I liked the way that the book just sort of stripped away everything that she knew and forced her to reevaluate those choices that she had made.  It was really rather heartbreaking in the end. 

Book Review: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore


Title: Bringing Down the Duke 

Series: A League of Extraordinary Women #1

Author: Evie Dunmore

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction

About the book: England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women's suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain's politics at the Queen's command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can't deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

    Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn't be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn't claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring...or could he?

    Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke.... (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: This was a fun and light read and just what I needed for February.  I am not a big romance reader when it comes to Dukes and Duchesses and 19th century England, but I did enjoy this one.  Annabelle knew the world she had been born into and tried hard to stay in her place.  Her intelligence and quick-wit didn't always allow her to keep her mouth closed when she should and rather than infuriating Sebastian he found himself intrigued by her.  While I won't run out to find the second book in the series, I can see myself picking it up when the mood strikes.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Book Review: Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock


Title: Dancing on Broken Glass

Author: Ka Hancock

Genre: Romance

About the book: Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder, and she has a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry. 

Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put it all in writing.  Mickey promises to take his medication. Lucy promises not to blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, they have good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is. (From the book cover)

My Thoughts: What better than a romance book for the month of February?  This was much more than just a romance book though.  Lucy and Mickey have a very special relationship.  With his history of bipolar disorder and her family's breast cancer, it would seem like they have the odds stacked against them, but somehow they become a family.  Lucy provides Mickey with a solid place to strive towards when his bipolar wants to take control and Mickey loves Lucy like she has never been loved before. The story is told back and forth from both Mickey's and Lucy's POV.  The chapters start with journal entries that Mickey has written and then it evolves into Lucy's story.   It is a very good way to see where Mickey is at and how Lucy is reacting/handling his disorder. I liked this book very much and give it five stars.  Be sure to have kleenexes ready!

Book Review: The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden


Title: The Enlightenment of Bees

Author: Rachel Linden

Genre: Women's Fiction/Chick Lit

About the book: At 26, idealistic baker Mia West has her entire life planned out: a Craftsman cottage in Seattle, baking at The Butter Emporium, and the love of her life, her boyfriend Ethan, by her side.  But when Ethan breaks up with her instead of proposing on their sixth dating anniversary (with the Tiffany blue box in his pocket), Mia’s carefully planned future crumbles.

Adrift and devastated, she determines to find new meaning in her life by helping those in need. Guided by recurring dreams about honeybees that seem to be leading her toward this new path in life, Mia joins her vivacious housemate Rosie on an around-the-world humanitarian trip funded by the reclusive billionaire, Lars Lindstrom. Along with a famous grunge rock star, an Ethiopian immigrant, and an unsettlingly attractive Hawaiian urban farmer named Kai, Mia and Rosie embark on the trip of a lifetime. From the slums of Mumbai to a Hungarian border camp during the refugee crisis, Mia’s eyes are opened and her idealistic vision is challenged as she experiences the euphoria, disillusionment, and heartbreaking reality of humanitarian work abroad.

As Mia grapples with how to make a difference in an overwhelmingly difficult world, circumstances force her to choose between the life she thought she wanted and the unexpected life she has built.

My Thoughts: I did like this book, but it was not one that I could get lost in.  It felt like I was forcing myself to read it, and seemed to take longer than it should.  I liked Mia, and I don't think she gave herself enough credit in the beginning.  She did learn to stand on her own after Ethan breaks up with her, and I get it - after six years together you expect engagement and marriage to follow - so when that doesn't happen she is left not knowing which way to turn.  I didn't expect to learn so much about what the refugees went through in the Hungarian border camp, and while I realize it just touched on their issues, it was probably a realistic look at what a first-time volunteer would see and feel. It was nice to have the focus on something other than a relationship in a "chick-lit" book - though there were relationships as well.  It just didn't feel like they were the focus.  

Book Review: Pines by Blake Crouch


Title: Pines (Wayward Pines #1)

Author: Blake Crouch

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

About the book: Wayward Pines, Idaho, is quintessential small-town America--or so it seems. Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrives in search of two missing federal agents, yet soon is facing much more than he bargained for. After a violent accident lands him in the hospital, Ethan comes to with no ID and no cell phone. The medical staff seems friendly enough but sometimes feels...off. As days pass, Ethan's investigation into his colleagues' disappearance turns up more questions than answers

Why can't he make contact with his family in the outside world? Why doesn't anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what's the purpose of the electrified fences encircling the town?  Are they keeping the residents in? Or something else out?

Each step toward the truth takes Ethan further from the world he knows until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.....
 (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: While the premise of this book was right up my alley, I will admit that when I started it, I really didn't like it. The writing seemed a little disjointed and I felt like there was something missing.  However, I still liked the storyline so I kept reading.  I ended up finishing it really quickly and after reading the Afterword by the author at the end of the book it began to gel for me.  The author stated that one of his inspirations for this series was Twin Peaks.  And I thought - yes - the way it was written did give me a little bit of a Twin Peaks vibe.  That was the disjointedness - that on the surface everything seemed perfect - just don't look beneath the surface.  I then saw that this was a series on Hulu called Wayward Pines and my husband and I are now three episodes in.  I have also started the second book and am enjoying it more than the first.


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