Monday, June 22, 2020

A Highlander is Coming to Town by Laura Trentham

A Highlander is Coming to Town (Highland, Georgia, #3)A Highlander is Coming to Town by Laura Trentham


Claire is a down-on-her-luck young woman far from her Scotland home, a singer without a band, a caretaker without kitchen and homemaking skills. Holt is a young farmer taking over for his traveling parents. Both of them are trying to find their way in Highland, Georgia, where they struggle with their strong senses of duty over personal fulfillment, and eventually find peace and love at Christmastime.

I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. It was comfortable like watching a Hallmark Christmas movie, with a bit of spice and character soul-searching for good measure.

Although Goodreads tells me this is book #3 in a series, I did not feel the lack of not having read the first two books.

Thank you to the publisher, St. Martin's Publishing Group, and NetGalley, for a copy of this novel to read for review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti

Welcome to the blog tour for The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti.

About the Novel:
Charlie Savoy was once Hollywood’s hottest A-lister. Now, ten years later, the former ingenue is pushing forty, exiled from the film world and reluctantly back at the summer Shakespeare theater that launched her career—and where her old flame, Nick, is the artistic director.

It’s not exactly her first choice. But as parts are cast and rehearsals begin, Charlie is surprised to find herself getting her groove back, bonding with celebrity actors, forging unexpected new friendships and even reigniting her spark with Nick, who still seems to bring out the best in her despite their complicated history.

Until Charlie’s old rival, Hollywood’s current It Girl, is brought in to attract theater donors, threatening to undo everything Charlie’s built. As the drama amps up both on the stage and behind the curtain, Charlie must put on the show of a lifetime to fight for the second chance she deserves in her career and in love.

About the Author:

Aimee Agresti is a novelist and entertainment journalist. A former staff writer for Us Weekly, she penned the magazine’s coffee-table book Inside Hollywood. Her work has also appeared in People, Premiere, DC magazine, Capitol File, the Washington Post, Washingtonian, the Washington City Paper, Boston magazine, Women’s Health and the New York Observer. Aimee has made countless TV and radio appearances, dishing about celebrities on the likes of Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, E!, The Insider, Extra, VH1, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and HLN. The author of The Summer Set, Campaign Widows, and The Gilded Wings Trilogy for young adults, she graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, DC, area.

Question and Answer with Aimee: (These are actually the questions I sent in! Thank you, Aimee, for your terrific answers!)

Q: We can see from your bio that you have written extensively about entertainment topics. Have you ever been involved in theatre yourself? If so, in which capacities? If not, what fascinates you about the theatre world?

A: As anyone who saw me as Miss Jones in Sherwood High School’s 1994 production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying would know: I am that drama geek who loves theater as much as humanly possible while having no actual talent. ;)  I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town with a fantastic theater—the Olney Theatre in Olney, MD—and I volunteered there (offstage!) all through high school. It was an amazing place because the actors were incredible, they were New York-based, and they would come and actually live together at a residence on the theater property. I’ve always had an overactive imagination so I remember wondering what went on there: which ones were friends, which ones weren’t, was anyone hooking up?! I was fascinated. That experience hanging around there definitely sowed the very early seeds of this novel!

Q: Obviously you've interacted with many celebrities. Who were the most fascinating to talk to? 

A: Oooh, there were so many fun ones: George Clooney is my all-time favorite (he’s EVERYONE’S favorite!) because he’s just a supernice guy and is that type who seems to always be having a great time. Some more of my favorites who also had that same warm spirit and were so much fun to chat with: Sarah Jessica Parker, Angelina Jolie, Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, Hugh Grant, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the list goes on!

 Q: If you could star in a movie or Broadway show, which one would you choose and why?


A: HA! OMG, I love this question! Since THE SUMMER SET is set at a summer theater, I’ll choose Broadway! Wow, there are just. So. Many! I would love to be Angelica in Hamilton and Mimi in Rent and Roxie in Chicago! I assure you I would be absolutely TERRIBLE in all of these roles but it would be tons of fun!


Pattie's Review:

I really enjoyed this Shakespearean theatrical story. Older couple, younger couple, lots of interesting ancillary characters - it's a bit salacious as well as quite a bit Shakespearean. The modern-day plot echoes the plays of the summer season.

While this book's point of view is not always clear and tends to switch, I'm going to say that's probably due to the fact that I was reading a NetGalley copy on my Kindle. Thus, spacing and font switching, typical visual cues, were not there for me.

Overall, a fun summer read for readers who like lighter reads, or summer theatre, or both.

Thank you to the publisher and the author for a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

More than Neighbors: A good summer read

More than Neighbors (Blackberry Bay, #1)More than Neighbors by Shannon Stacey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the publisher:
"In this well-penned opposite-attract story, he likes cats, she likes dog, he’s single and she’s widowed…all they share is a property line, until unexpected sparks fly!"

My review:
If you’re looking for a sweet and clean romance, look no further. The characters are nice people, the little girl is adorable, there are pets (!), and the plot resolves satisfactorily. I might have given this three stars, but it really was written well and a great set-up for a new series; thus, four stars.

Thank you to both Harlequin and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick

Welcome to the Fresh-Brewed stop of Phaedra Patrick's newest novel, The Secret of Love Story Bridge. This is my third Phaedra Patrick book, and she has become one of my favorite writers.

Synopsis:

Single father Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He enjoys his job removing padlocks fastened to the famous "love lock" bridges of Upchester city. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his disciplined veneer, Mitchell grieves the loss of her mother, Anita.

One fateful day, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him as "The Hero on the Bridge." He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year. However, the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.

Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places...

About the Author:

Phaedra Patrick is the author of The Library of Lost and Found, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been published in over twenty countries around the world. She studied art and marketing, and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. An award-winning short story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son.

Questions for the Author, Phaedra Patrick:

Would you tell us what inspired you to write about "love story” bridge?
The idea came to me after I noticed padlocks hanging on bridges, everywhere from my home city of Manchester, England, to Gran Canaria. I was aware of the famous Pont Des Arts bridge in Paris that collapsed under the weight of ‘love locks’ several years ago, and it made me wonder about who hung them there and what the stories were behind them. I had a picture in my head of a man whose job it was to remove the locks, and that he’d probably had his heart broken in the past. I called him Mitchell Fisher after the street my grandparents used to live on, Mitchell Street.

Which character do you most relate to and why?

I have a real soft spot for a minor character in the book, Carl. He’s the concierge of the apartment block that Mitchell lives in. Carl is a real trier in life and never gives up. He’s amiable, eager to better himself and can often be found making origami shapes out of paper. He was a joy to spend time with.

What challenged you the most while writing this story?

Sometimes, when I start a book, I have a small idea in my mind but don’t know the entire story. With The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, I had an image of a man on a bridge who saves a lady in a yellow dress from drowning in a river. But that was all! In the book, the lady in yellow subsequently vanishes, but I had no idea why and where she went to! It was a real challenge to try and work out her story, and I only found out her secret at the same time Mitchell does.

What was something interesting you learned while compiling research for the book?

I was amazed at how widely spread across the world hanging love locks is.  Research taught me that some people believe it’s a ritual that stems from ancient Chinese tradition, whereas others believe it started in a small Serbian town during the First World War. Wherever it originated, it’s something that’s still going strong today.

Do you find it easier to write character and dialogue for the opposite sex because you are the opposite sex? (A woman writing a man’s part and dialogue for example). 
My first two books, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, and Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone feature male characters, mainly because I’d written about female characters several times before without getting published. So, I decided to try something different and to challenge myself by writing about the opposite sex. I think men are more private with their emotions and so you can peel back the layers of their character like an onion, exposing more layers. They tend to use less words. With regard to female characters, I want to write about ones that other women can relate to and cheer on, as was the case in my third book, The Library of Lost and Found.

Pattie's Review:

I started reading this book a few days ago and finished today. It is such a hopeful book. Even while the main character, Mitchell, is grieving the loss of his love and the mother of his daughter, he is finding everything in his organized life turned topsy-turvy once he jumps off the bridge to save the woman. 

More than a grief book or a book about an unexpected hero, this book is about being a good human and helping other good humans be better together. It's poignant to read during the quarantine and its craziness in the spring of 2020.

I’ve really enjoyed reading Phaedra Patrick's novels over the past several months. Sweet and hopeful, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge is the perfect book for this time when we are longing for deeper connections while also learning to handle our grief. Highly recommended. 

 (PS: Write someone an encouraging letter on paper and mail it.)

Where to purchase:
It is available from all your usual online places, but consider calling your local independent bookseller and supporting them by purchasing it from their shop.

Thank you to the publisher and the author for a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


Saturday, May 02, 2020

Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire

Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious YouFierce, Free, and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious You by Jen Hatmaker


Synopsis
 No more hiding or people-pleasing up in here, sisters. No more being sidelined in your own life. It is time for us to be brave, to claim our gifts and quirks and emotions. You are set free and set up and set on fire. NOW you can get busy doing what you were placed on this planet to do. NOW you can be honest, honest, honest about all of it, even the hard stuff, even the humiliating stuff, even the secret stuff. NOW you can walk in your convictions of faith and ask new questions unafraid. NOW you can be so free, because you are not searching for value from any source other than your own beautiful soul made piece by piece by God who adores you and is ready to get on with the business of unleashing you into this world.

 In this book, I break it down into five self-reflective categories—who I am, what I need, what I want, what I believe, and how I connect—and by working your way through them, you will learn to own your space, ground, and gifts (they are YOURS, sister); be strong in your relationships and lay down passive aggression, resentment, drama, and compliance; say GUILT-FREE what you want and what you need; and welcome spiritual curiosity and all the fantastic change that doing so creates. You with me, beloveds? If we do this work on our own selves now, not only will we discover a life truly worth living, but we will free our daughters to rise up behind us, with spines straight, heads up, and coated in our strength.

 About the Author
 Jen Hatmaker is the author of the New York Times bestseller Of Mess and Moxie (plus twelve other books) and the host of the For the Love! with Jen Hatmaker podcast. She and her husband, Brandon, founded the Legacy Collective and also starred in the popular series My Big Family Renovation on HGTV. Jen is a mom to five, a sought-after speaker, and a delighted resident of Austin, Texas, where she and her family are helping keep Austin weird.

My Review

As a part of a huge launch team for this book, I have seen support for Jen Hatmaker from a variety of women - all ages, stages, personalities, sexualities, affirming, allies - you get the idea.

So many of these launch team members and JHat fans are finding life and affirmation in every page of this book. For me, however, it has been a different journey. Pandemic aside, this is not an easy read. While I felt very seen and affirmed by some of the chapters in this book, other chapters were too much for me. And yes, one of her main messages is that women should feel free and fierce and take up all their space. During the time in which I read this book, though, I watched one of my daughters have to deal with some friends of hers who take up so much of their space that they inadvertently took up some of hers as well, invading her margins and causing her pain in their criticism. I was taken backward in time almost twenty years ago, when I dealt with similar issues within a church setting, and it has been an emotional few weeks. And while I want to say yes to all things Jen, that would not be an honest response. My experience and personality says otherwise.

More than any of her other books to date, this book is not just for the church-going Christian woman. It is for all women. I would hand this book to any friend who says she is struggling to find where she fits in the world, or if she even does. To that question I offer this from the last page of the book:

“Let us know the real, whole you. Own it, embrace it, declare it all. Step up and out in truth; we are waiting. We need you. Every molecule of who you are, every experience you have ever had, ever dream you were made to chase, every place you were designed to serve--we are all out here waiting for you with open arms. Without question:
You are fierce.
You are free.
You are full of fire” (218).

All that to say, I do recommend this book. It is honest, well-organized, well-researched, and truthful. I would recommend it for many of my friends, but not all of them. My most conservative friends will probably not touch this book with the proverbial ten-foot pole, and there would also be some pearl-clutching at the decidedly PG language that occasionally crops up. That is okay; we are free to choose our own reading material.

As for me, I will continue to, as Jen says, “do the work.” I may not ever describe myself with the words of the title, but I will continue to find my place of service, and I will continue to do the work that God has given to me to do. I may not agree with everything in this book, but that is okay. I’m still here.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Thomas Nelson books, for the opportunity to read this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Review: The Grace Kelly Dress

Welcome to the book blog tour for The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz. I am thrilled to be partnering with Harlequin Trade Publishing with this review.
ABOUT THE BOOK


Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.


Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.


Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brenda Janowitz is the author of five novels, including The Dinner Party and Recipe for a Happy Life. She is the Books Correspondent for PopSugar. Brenda's work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Salon, Redbook, and the New York Post. She lives in New York.

INTERVIEW with the author


Q: The book is set in the New York area and in Paris. How important is setting to you in your writing?


A: Setting is so incredibly important! Where a character lives and how she interacts with her environment says so much about who she is. Rocky, our protagonist in 2020, lives and works in Brooklyn, and it says as much about who she is as the tattoos she proudly wears all over her body. Joanie, in 1982, lives a sheltered life on Long Island, but when she goes into New York City, she finds a world much larger than the one she was living. And Rose, in 1958, is in Paris, but as a poor orphan, lives a different type of sheltered life, working in a highly regarded atelier during the day, and doing not much else.

Q: What kind of research did you do for this book, and did you learn anything especially surprising?


A: I’ve never written in a timeline other than the present, so there was a ton of research to be done! I had to research the two different time periods, 1982 and 1958. Even an innocuous detail like the brand of watch that a character is wearing can throw a reader out of the narrative if the author hasn’t gotten it just right. 


The most enjoyable research I did was about Grace Kelly herself, and, of course, her iconic gown. I read Kristina Haugland’s incredible book, Grace Kelly: Icon of Style to Royal Bride, and then had the opportunity to speak with her as well. I loved learning every detail I could about this beloved dress, but by far the most interesting thing I learned was this: Grace Kelly’s gown consisted of four separate parts, each of which needed to be put on separately. What a wonderful secret for a bride to have on her wedding day!

Q: How did you get the idea for this novel?


A: The idea came to me when my agent sent me a clip from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations. I couldn’t get over how incredibly special that was, and I immediately started to think about what it would mean for a family to have an item like that. How would each woman change the dress to fit her personality? How would the time she was living in have an effect on those choices? And what if one woman didn’t want the dress?

Q: Is Grace Kelly one of your favorite actresses? What is your favorite Grace Kelly role?


A: YES! Grace Kelly, to me, is the ultimate Hollywood story: beautiful, talented, and then she married a prince. I love all of Grace Kelly’s films, but I particularly adore To Catch a Thief. It’s so romantic and flirty, and it’s got Cary Grant.

Q: What is one of the biggest challenges you have in a story like this that spans different times in history?

A: One of the biggest challenges for me, was the massive amount of research. When writing in another time period, I underestimated how carefully every sentence would have to be researched. The characters needed to sound like they lived in the time period I was presenting, and every reference needed to be spot on-- from what the characters were wearing, to the types of music they listened to, to the way they styled their hair. Is it any wonder that my current work in progress will take place in the present?

MY REVIEW

I really enjoyed this novel as it shifted among the three women's perspectives. It has less to do with Grace Kelly and more to do with both women's and society's expectations about weddings, marriage, relationships, and the ever-changing landscape of the world.

I will definitely read more from this author, because I loved her characters, her settings, the descriptions--everything about this incredibly readable book was a delight.

I highly recommend this novel for readers who like books that move in time and have multiple points of view, with a historical link among all the story lines to connect them.


BUY LINKS:
Kobo


Thank you to the publisher and the author for a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Sensitive and Strong

Sensitive and Strong: A Guide for Highly Sensitive Persons and Those Who Love ThemSensitive and Strong: A Guide for Highly Sensitive Persons and Those Who Love Them by Denise J. Hughes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Are you a HSP, a Highly Sensitive Person? The first time I encountered this question was from Cheri Gregory herself. I don't remember my reply to her, but I know my thought was, "Gosh, I hope not." I was borderline on the online test I took, so I felt like I wasn't. But the idea never really left me.

Fast forward a few years and a few ear surgeries. I take the online quiz again, and voila, I score much higher on the HSP scale.

I don't know if it's a combination of ear and hearing issues and my own sensitivity to certain stimuli alongside getting older, or what, but this book was a huge relief and help to me. I have often felt like there is much wrong with me, and this book has reassured me that no, I am not wrong. I am unique, I'm wired with several sensitivities, and being sensitive to certain things does NOT make me weak. Indeed, learning more about how I handle certain things has given me more confidence in myself and in how I handle certain situations.

This book offers help and hope: help with practical strategies to help in certain situations; hope that this is not a derogatory situation and we're not finished growing and changing yet!

Many thanks to Denise and Cheri for writing this book with such clarity, openness, and love. I am so grateful for you!

I was given a review copy of this book by the publisher and authors, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Highlander is Coming to Town by Laura Trentham

A Highlander is Coming to Town by Laura Trentham Claire is a down-on-her-luck young woman far from her Scotland home, a singer without a...