Monday, November 30, 2020

The Animals in That Country

This was.... an odd ride. It was completely unique and I wasn't sure where the story was going to take me but I had a fun time on the way. A pandemic rips through Australia and those effected have the ability to understand animals. People aren't sure if they're hallucinating or conversing with animals but the whole country has gone mad. People start liberating animals from zoos, sanctuaries, and farms and the whole continent is a madhouse. Jean has worked at a sanctuary for years, alternating between showing tourists the dingoes and watching her granddaughter. She's not your typical grandma though. She's an alcoholic, who loves chain smoking, and swearing. Jean gets along better with animals then she does with people (her granddaughter being the exception) and she's actually looking forward to catching this disease. She wants to talk to her dingoes. Only she has no idea what she's in for and she's in for one hell of a messed up journey. Unique and mildly terrifying - do we really want to know what the animals are saying?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Twelve Days of Christmas

Ugh - this was just over the top. It was predictable from chapter one, unbelievable, and just not great. I couldn't care less about either of the characters and it took willpower for me to finish it to the end. Julia is a happy cheerful person - she greets everyone hello, remembers her bar barista's name, and volunteers all over Seattle. While "auditioning" for a job she has to create a blog and if she has more readers and hits then the other candidates she'll get her dream job. The only problem is she doesn't know what to write about. Her friend tells her that she should kill her neighbor... with kindness. Her apartment neighbor, Caine, is a short tempered brute and Julia decides that her blog will center on 12 days of kindness. What she doesn't imagine is that they'll fall in love. It's not believable - it happens very fast - and I don't care how sad his childhood was - he's a jerk. What will happen if he finds out she's been blogging about all this - oh no?! Predictable and unbelievable. The book did not fill me with kindness - it filled me with impatience. 

What You Wish For

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. People have been raving about Katherine Center's books for a while now and I didn't get the hype until I finally doubled down and read one of her novels. I went into this novel blind (all I knew was there was a school librarian in it) so I had no idea if it was going to be funny, a romcom, serious, etc. Honestly it's a mixture of those three things. Samantha Casey has her dream job - she's a school librarian at one of the most fun and progressive elementary schools. Her icon, neighbor, confidant, and school principal has just died and to her surprise they announce that the new principal will not be Max's wife - but Duncan - a teacher from Sam's past. Duncan was her biggest crush - the coolest, funniest, most engaging teacher she ever worked with. Rather than deal with her emotions around him she found a new school and hasn't thought of him since. But now he's going to be the principal and things are going to change in unexpected ways. Heartfelt, engaging, and filled with fun quirky characters who are trying to make it through life. I will definitely read another one of Katherine Center's books!

Monday, November 23, 2020


Part memoir, part advice, part poetry - Greenlights is McConaughey's love letter to the world. He had an unconventional childhood and the journey into acting was less meandering than most. His stories were not just interesting but genuinely well written. He sprinkled in tips and advice throughout the book based off what he learned but it's not preachy - it just goes with the flow. I always thought he was a bit of a hippie but after reading this book I know he 100% is! From bongo-ing naked to having wet dreams that alter the course of your life to living in an airstream for years - Matthew is the man. He lives life on his own terms and it's not always sunshine and roses (although it is more often than not). He does what he wants and he's reflected a lot about how he got there and where he's going. Interesting, fun, and all around good celebrity memoir. I loved all the photos and notes with advice (the poetry was so so - but it did add to the book even if I didn't love it). 

Someone to Love

A rags to riches regency romance that reminds me of a reverse Cinderella story. Anna Snow is summoned to London from the orphanage that she grew up in and now teaches in. She has no idea who her family is and she's hoping when she arrives in London that she'll finally know more about her the circumstances that led her to being raised in an orphanage. She's desperate to be loved and to have a family. What she discovers is that her father was a Duke! He recently died, but  she has a stepmother and three siblings, now she has a family that she's always dreamed of having! It's all quite complicated though and no one is very happy about the new "interloper." Her recently discovered siblings want nothing to do with her and the one person who takes an interest in her is her haughty and well dressed step cousin. He along with some of the extended family decide she needs a makeover and a lesson in manners and etiquette. Anna's curious circumstances have made her the talk of London! Slow burn romance, the first few chapters are hard to adjust to the language and extensive family names - but once you get past that it's smooth sailing. I didn't love all the characters (or care about them) hence the low rating. The ending was... interesting. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Joy to the World

Honestly, this is exactly what I needed. It's been a while since I read any regency romance and this inspirational novellas were just what the doctor ordered. Each story was only around 100 pages but did a beautiful job of setting up the whole story and characters in no time. In" Heaven and Nature Sing" two former love birds are thrust together at their godmother's house over the holidays. Will they get past the misunderstandings that drove them apart nearly a year ago?  "Far as the Curse is Found" had definite Beauty and the Beast vibes. A masked man takes an unmarried young woman with child under his wing and allows her to work on his estate. Will she thaw his cold dead heart? The final story "Wonders of His Love," follows a widowed woman who starts to follow for the Scottish painter who has been commissioned to paint portraits of the family. Will the dowager stand in her way? Will she find her voice? A thoughtful collection - will appeal to fans of regency romance and inspirational fiction. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Star Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

Absolutely charming! I loved the back and forth between two second born Italian American daughter (cousins Emilia and Lucy) and their great Aunt Poppy's romantic love story in the sixties. Their mysterious (and forbidden) great aunt Poppy takes Em and Lucy out of New York City to an all expenses paid trip to Italy. The goal of the visit is for Aunt Poppy to find her old lover on her 80th birthday and break the curse that plagued their family for generations. The curse says that all second born daughters will never find lasting love due to either death or heartbreak. It's been challenging growing up hearing that their whole lives but Em and Lucy decide to hell with it and embark on a crazy Italian adventure with a relative they barely know. It's romantic, it's crazy, it's fantastic. Wonderful plot and characters. I was definitely invested and thoroughly enjoyed the unconventional ending. I want more books about this family!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Incandescent Visions

Lyrical and poignant - this collection of poetry from Lee Hudspeth is thought provoking and moving. The poems explore creativity - its birth, its expressions, its manifestations - and in the process readers find themselves going on a unique journey. Broken into five chapters - each one varies in themes of creativity but all are wondrous to the ear and to the mind. Poems vary in length - but chapter five is dedicated to haiku's - my personal favorite expressions of poetry and a nice treat that I was not anticipating. The poem that resonated most deeply to me in this collection was aptly titled, "Cornerstones" which I took delight in re-reading several times. I also enjoyed that the author included an afterword and explained the origins and background to some of the poems. It really helped flesh them out and allows readers to appreciate them even more. A fantastic collection that poetry fans will devour with gusto. I look forward to reading more by this inspired poet!! 

Redbird Christmas

Honestly this was a delightful listen. It's not in the realm of possibility for me but I loved the endearing cast of characters and the quaint town where everybody knows everybody's business, When Oswald T. Campbell's doctor tells him he may not live to see Christmas if he doesn't leave cold wet Chicago and head south to a sunnier climate - he doesn't know what to do. His doctor handed him a faded brochure about the small town of Lost River and it's health resort. With nothing better to do Oswald heads down there only he's renting a room in lady's house because not only does he only have his disability check alone to live on but the health resort burned down decades prior. In no time at all he is swept up in the small town drama, oddities, and feuds. When he meets the little redbird named Jack who lives in the grocery story and a little orphaned crippled named Patsy - he has no idea how much his life is about to change for the better. Perfect for fans of quaint small towns. I love the southern drama - this was a unique holiday listen. 

Crazy Stupid Bromance

This series is the most enjoyable and over the top fluff. The perfect antidote for 2020! Each installment of this series focuses on a different member of the bromance book club and focuses on their romantic foibles. Crazy Stupid Bromance centers around Noah and his feelings for his best friend Alexis. Since he helped expose her previous boss for sexual harassment with his IT skills and hacking they've been inseparable. But it's clear that they both want more than friendship and neither is willing to admit it. Noah joins the bromance book club against his better wishes because he's willing to do whatever it takes to never lose Alexis. To complicate things though - Alexis finds out that she has a sister. She grew up with only her mother and never knew her father. Butt now a long lost sister wants to see if she's willing to donate a liver to save their father - a man she's never met. Where has he been her whole life? She's got a lot on her plate so good thing she has Noah to lean on. Will a new relationship strain their friendship though? As always lots of fun, witty banter, and light reading. 

In a Holidaze

Cute, charming, and a great holiday romance. I didn't love this as much as the last three Christina Lauren books I read but I only think that's because I'm not a fan of groundhog day or other book/movie tropes where you keep reliving the same days over and over again until you "learn your lesson." Honestly that was the only thing I didn't like about this book. Maelyn Jones and her family spend Christmas every year at their friend's cabin in the mountains. Their parent's friends and their kids come as well and it's like a huge extended gathering that Maelyn looks forward to every year. It doesn't hurt that she also gets to see Andrew, the boy she's had a crush on him since she was 13 (even though he's practically her brother). She royally screws everything up though when she makes out with Andrew's younger brother, Theo, while drunk and he witnesses it. She's mortified - if she could only turn back time. On their way to the airport their car is hit by a truck and she wakes up... on the plane headed to the cabin for Christmas. What? It takes a couple attempts at reliving Christmas to figure out what she's supposed to do but soon she realizes she needs to choose which of the brothers will make her happy. Witty and hilarious. I love this writing duo!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Kindest Lie

Raw and vibrant; this debut novel from Nancy Johnson is a must read. Ruth and Xavier are living their dream life in Chicago - things are going so good that Xavier is talking about kids. He's ready and they're ready financially - the only hold up is Ruth. When she finally tells him the secret that she's kept hidden for eleven years - everything starts to fall apart. Why did she wait so long to tell him and is there any way she can fix the damage done to him and to her own family? Since they're no longer talking she decides to head back to Indiana to stay with her grandma and brother for the holidays. She hasn't seen them since her wedding and she has some serious soul searching to do. Maybe she'll even find the answers to the questions that she's looking for and some answers she didn't even know she needed to discover. A beautiful tale of love, loss, redemption, second chances, and the pursuit of the American dream. Heart wrenching at moments but filled with beautiful and flawed characters that resonate with readers long after they've put the book down. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Last Anniversary

I'm rounding up from 3.5 stars because I really needed some fluff and this hit the spot even if it didn't hit all the right notes. I'm a sucker for Liane Moriarity's writing style and I enjoy her charismatic and slightly over the top characters. When Sophie discovers that her ex-boyfriend's aunt has left her her house on Scribbly Gum Island she is confused but elated. She'd always had a soft spot for beautiful island - the fact that it was home to Australia's greatest unsolved mystery was just a bonus. Told in alternating perspectives from a myriad cast of wonky characters - The Last Anniversary is a tale of adapting to change and coming to terms with the past. For years those on Scribbly Gum Island have lived with the secret of the disappearance of Alice and Jack Munroe. Now that there is a new resident on the small island who isn't family - will the secret escape? Fortunately, Sophie is more interested in finding true love and having a baby before she hits 40 (it's approaching so quickly!). The interactions between all the characters is wonderful, absurd, and fun. A light fluffy read that is enjoyable despite being a little over the top. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Merry and Bright

How is this not a Hallmark movie? Seriously. If Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas and You've Got Mail had a love child - Merry and Bright would be it's offspring. Merry is all work and no play she's got a few weeks left at her temp job and the overtime is killing her. She really needs the extra income so she can finish her last year of college and help out her family. She lives at home with her mother who has MS, her father, and her 18 year old brother with down syndrome - and due to all the extra hours she's been putting in at work - she hasn't even gotten to enjoy their company very much. As an early birthday gift her mother and brother Patrick buy her a subscription to an online dating service and fill out her page for her - instead of putting a picture of her up on it - they put a picture of their family dog. Their hope is that Merry will find someone who is attracted to her personality - rather than looks. To her surprise a man with a picture of his dog as his profile picture responds to her page and the two hit off. Soon the two are staying up late every night chatting. Will they ever meet and if so will they like what they see? 100% predictable and 100% sweet, charming fun. It's pure holiday fluff. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Soul of a Team

Not what I had initially anticipated at all - yet still highly satisfying and thought provoking. Former Indianapolis Coach, Tony Dungy, lays out four leadership principals that can transform a group, workplace, or team, and illustrates how effective they can be through engaging storytelling. He tells the story of the Vipers football team and the year it took to get them from inhouse fighting, selfishness, and separation to unity, respect, and goodwill. It wasn't easy and there were a lot of roadblocks on the way - but when they made an effort to apply the SOUL principals that their mentor Tony Dungy provided them, things slowly started to change. I though football was a great way to tell the story because it's easy to see how the organization fares through wins and losses - but obviously this book is meant for any place of business or organization. At the conclusion of the fable there is a detailed breakdown of each of the SOUL principals, followed by thought provoking questions to get you thinking and on the right track. There are some religious elements thrown in the end (bible references, etc) but those don't necessarily have to be a hinderance. The message of the book is good with or without Tony Dungy's faith at the end. An illustrative guide to creating and cultivating a winning organization. 

The Rules of Magic

This book was spectacular from start to finish! Honestly I liked this even more than Practical Magic. I LOVED learning about the great-aunts and how they came into magic and into the Owens family house. It was a fantastic prequel that began in New York City  with an oddball trio of siblings - Franny, Jet, and Vincent. They grew up completely "normal" - even though there has always been something pulling at them. When Franny gets an invite to go to her aunt's house in Massachusetts for her 17th birthday she feels the pull. She never even knew she had family outside her household, so the siblings are extra curious. All three decide to spend the summer with their mysterious aunt and that's when everything changes. They learn about their family's history, curse, and magic bloodline. Nothing will ever be the same for them. Filled with love, loss, lyrical genius, and heartbreaking beauty - this book is impossible to put down. I loved every flawed, complicated, and beautiful character. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Monopolists

I had no idea behind the origins, evolution, and scandal of this beloved game. It was fascinating to learn more about such a pop culture item. Who doesn't have at least one edition of this board game in their house. I thought the book could have been shortened because the legal aspects towards the end really dragged on - but other than that I really enjoyed getting a behind the scenes look at such an "ordinary" item. When the game was first created at the turn of the twentieth century - the creator called it the landlords game and it came with two sets of rules. On one set of rules the goal was to spread the wealth because only when everyone  has the same opportunities does someone wine. The other set of rules was the monopoly version that we all know and loved. The goal was to make people see how bad monopolies are - winning because one person has accumulated all the wealth shows how vile monopolies are... right? Wrong. The "bad" set of rules became an underground sensation. People were making their own canvas boards and adding their own distinctive names and rules. The set we know and love got all the place names from Atlantic City where is took off. Decades passed and a man named Darrow claimed it was his own and sold it to Parker Brothers where it became an international sensation. Only it clearly wasn't his - having been played in pockets all over the country for three decades. The Monopolists gives the inside scoop on all these incidents and ends with the fight over the Anti-Monopoly game - an attempt to go back to the creator's anti-monopolist roots. Fascinating - but a bit long at parts. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Magic Lessons

Captivating from the very beginning - fans of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, will absolutely adore every line in this prequel. Set in the seventeenth century this prequel traces the family magic all the way back to Maria Owens and her daughter. Filled with adventure, travel, curses, familiars, the witch trials in Salem, love, and the all too familiar witchy adages - this prequel fits perfectly within the series and help fleshes out the backstory of a family's magic. I don't want to divulge too much other than this is gorgeously written and will make you want to re-read the other books in this series. Truly this may be my favorite. I adored the characters and the trials they faced as Owens women. Fantastic - I hope that Alice Hoffman writes more about this amazing family. The Owens' curses, magic, and familiars merged together for a perfect October read. I need more!

Nothing Short of Wondrous

I really like the concept of this series - inspirational historical romance set in different spots of American Wonder. The first book in the series took place at the Grand Canyon and this installment featured Yellowstone. Both have completely unrelated characters so there is no harm in reading this series out of order since there is no continuity. The US Calvary has just been tasked with patrolling Yellowstone and keeping not only the visitors, but the park safe as well. Widowed Kate Tremaine and her young son own and operate one of the few hotels allowed on the park. She's anxious that her lease be extended because this is the only home her son has ever known, plus she loves the geysers that her hotel looks out upon. Congress, Lieutenant William Prescott has been tasked to look over the part of the park that Kate's hotel is on and they strike an uneasy truce. Kate will show him the ins and out  of the land acting as their guide - in return Prescott and his men will help her with some manual labor around the hotel. The unlikely pair start falling for each other - and danger in the park draws them even closer together. Clean, wholesome, and fluffy. Great historical romance with a beautiful scenic background.