Friday, February 26, 2021

Dare to Lead

I've been hearing the Brene Brown hype for years and this is the first time I've dove into one of her leadership books. It was really eye opening - I rarely take notes or mark pages but there were multiple times when I had to stop to re-read something because it struck me, The concepts are great for organizational leadership and also personal growth. Strategies range from developing empathy to accepting feedback to passing over perfectionism can help improve anyone's lives. Extremely eye opening. Brown has lots of free printables (workbooks, motivational posters, etc) on her website and I look forward to digging into those as well. I definitely wouldn't mind reading her other work - she referenced them quite a lot in this one. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

A Dance in Donegal

Moira's mother's dying wish was that her daughter go to Ireland and teach in the town she grew up in. Moira doesn't want to leave Boston behind but she keeps having ominous dreams and she finally feels compelled to go abroad. Set in 1920 this historical romance features a lovely backdrop, the Irish town of Donegal. When she arrives in the Emerald Isle it's not all sunshine and roses however. Many are skeptical of the "yank" and one of her students has set out to make her miserable. Moira thanks God for the few friends she makes and is determined to make it work. But that resolution becomes harder and harder to achieve as rumors of her and her mother begin to surface. Just what kind of reputation did her mother leave behind when she sailed to America? One constant in her new life is Sean, a nice and gentlemanly thatcher. Is there something more than friendship there? There are definitely some dark and unexpected moments in this inspirational historical romance, but Moira always turns towards God and makes the most out of hard circumstances. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Hollow Inside

Absolutely stunning - I could not put this young adult debut down!! Phoenix and her mom live an unconventional life - living out of a van and stealing what they need to get by. That's all about to change however; Phoenix's mother, Nina, is taking them back to the place where it all started, Jasper Hollow. It was there that Nina's life was forever ruined so with the help of her seventeen year old daughter - they are going to right some wrongs and make sure everyone knows the truth. No more lies, no more secrets - she's waited long enough. Phoenix is tasked with befriending the man who ruined his mother's life as well as his family to gather intel for her mother - but what happens when she finds out that there is more to the story than her mother told her?! Is she into to deep with this fraudulent family? How much do they really know? She'll do anything for her mother - but is this going to far, even for her? Utterly compelling and unique - the characters were real, flawed, and kept me guessing to the very end. One I will definitely read again!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Bartender's Secret

I will admit that it has been a long time since I've read a Harlequin - not that I've actively avoided reading them - the books haven't crossed my path in a long time. I was instantly intrigued by the title because my boyfriend is a bartender and I though this would be a fun read. I loved the opening because it featured a beautiful young professor reading in the bar who catches the eye of the the bartender and pub owner. He assumes she is a student because they are in a college town and she looks so young. When she finally notices him she is smitten because he is built like a Grecian warrior and all the romance novels she's been reading has her heart pulsing. They start talking and soon she's a regular patron at his establishment. Connor is smitten but she's far too good for him, a man with a criminal background (he was young and dumb). The closer they get - the more he pulls away. Lots of college and parental drama from the professor and Connor is so stuck in the past that he's scared to let anyone down. A good story but I was VERY shocked (scandalized even) when I realized - SPOILER ALERT - that there isn't even one sex scene in this book!! Not one! Just some making out! This is the first in a series so it is possible they consummate their love later on. I just assumed with Harlequin that everyone was bumping uglies. No sex isn't a put off by any means - I was just surprised. Talk about a definite slow burn!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Lady's Champion

I LOVE a good slow burn - throw in some medieval romance and body positivity and I am even more invested. I flew through this book in less than one day and I can't wait to get my hands on the second installment. Lady Blackmere has wished for years that the Champions of Aldland would perform their yearly tournament at her castle - years of letter writing and praying have finally brought the renowned champions to her doorstep. She is determined to meet the men and women fighters not as a noble, but as a commoner. She wants to experience them being real and not sucking up to her as a noble because of propriety. She swaps places with her friend, a local barmaid, and goes out to meet them at the local tavern. When bandits swarm the town and the castle, Lady Blackmere barely escapes with her life and finds herself with three of the Champions, including Brandon the Bear, the most famous of them all. She must conceal her identity because she doesn't want to incur their wrath as the "idiot who had no guards defending the town or castle." She doesn't expect the hero of her dreams to bat an eyelash at the tagalong "barmaid" but soon they are depending on each other and confiding in each other as if they've known each other for years rather than days. A super satisfying slow burn. 

Dreams Rekindled

A wonderful follow up to the Christian historical romance, Out of the Embers, that helps round out the quiet, quaint, and quintessential Texas town of Mesquite Springs. Readers don't need to have read the first book as this novel follows an entirely different person, Wyatt's younger sister, Dorothy. While her brother and his new wife are out honeymooning, Dorothy has taken over running the town's only restaurant, Polly's Place. While there she meets Brandon, a newcomer to town determined to start a newspaper. Dorothy loves writing and soon she's won over Brandon and has become invaluable to the little newspaper. What they don't realize is that another newcomer to town is out to start trouble, and the newspaper and their budding relationship are in for a rude awakening. Filled with well rounded and vulnerable characters - Dreams Rekindled shows how forgiveness and taking chances ultimately pave the way toward unity and love. Another great inspirational read from Amanda Cabot. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Concrete Rose

I wasn't sure how well I would like a prequel to The Hate U Give - but I was dead wrong. Concrete Rose is the back story for Maverick, Starr Carters father, and boy he had a complicated life as a teenager. He found out that a girl he hooked up with ONE TIME while he and his girlfriend were on the outs has had a baby and the baby is his. Worse than that - she just dropped the baby off and ran - so Maverick has to figure out the whole fatherhood thing really quick. How can he support a baby and focus on school without running drugs? He doesn't want to do it - but he thinks he needs to man up and be more like his father (who is in prison) to use the gang to make his life better. Thankfully he's got a girlfriend with a good head on her shoulders and her eyes set towards the future - only she might not be in the picture long when she finds out that Maverick has a baby with another woman. Teen street fiction at it's finest. Lots of issues: drugs, unsafe sex, teenage pregnancy, gang affiliations, male emotions, sexuality, and more. Angie Thompson is on top of the game. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Brina the Cat

The middle grade graphic novel about a cat wanting freedom is cute and simple. When Brina's owners take her on a vacation into the mountains she is happy and content - that is until they take her outside and she can play. Then she never wants to go back in. One day she runs away and decides to run around with three outdoor cats and join their little gang. At first it's all fun and games, but after a while she starts to miss her owners and she realizes that the stray cat in charge of the gang is a real jerk. Brina's human owners meanwhile have been gong nuts looking for her. Is it time for Brina to go home? Will she miss the freedom of outside? This graphic novel answers a lot of questions that kids may have about their cats. Cute and easy.

Snow White with the Red Hair

It's been a while since I've read any manga and this one came highly recommended to me. It took me a minute to get back into the flow of reading it - but after I did I enjoyed it. This was fairy tale spin off centering on Snow White and it opens up with her being told that the Prince is sending for her to be his newest concubine because he has heard of unusual apple colored hair. She runs away into the woods to escape that fate and while there she encounters a stranger who turns out to be a prince from a neighboring kingdom. They develop a friendship as she helps heal him with some herbs. I don't want to spoil too much. Basically Snow White has bright red hair, is a commoner, and an herbalist who tends to catch the eye of royalty. I don't know if I'll continue with the series - but it's a neat concept. 

The Giver of Stars

I absolutely adored this novel. For once a book lived up to the hype. I kept hearing rumors that this book shamelessly stole from The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and I was disappointed. But after reading this - there is no stealing. Both stories are about women who sign up to be part of the WPA's packhorse librarian program in the Kentucky mountains but that's it. Entirely different storylines and characters. The Giver of Stars centers on Alice, a young English woman who has come to Kentucky wed to a charming coal man she met while he was touring England. Alice isn't remotely prepared for what is ahead - she was under the assumption that she would be living in an American city but she arrives to a little village in the foothill of the mountains and everyone treats her with suspicion as an outsider. She has no friends, no life, and even her husband has turned away from her. She signs up for the fledgling packhorse library on a whim because it will give her something to do. But she doesn't realize how drastically her life is about to change. She'll gain friends, but she'll also gain enemies. A wonderful story that I plan on re-visiting!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Island

This was one of the last books my mom got me before she passed and I wanted to like it more. I didn't hate it - it was a  compelling story and had a good plot - I just didn't love any of the characters. The Island centers on four women staying a month on a remote island while they all grapple with issues in their lives. Chess has just called off her marriage, quit her job, and is about to receive the biggest blow of her life. Her sister, Tate, has been coasting through life making big bucks as a computer programmer but doesn't have any friendships or relationships to speak of. Their mother, Birdie, has finally met a man after she separated from her husband but she's putting that on hold to spend some time with her daughters. Birdie's sister, India, is escaping a scandal at the art school she's working at. While on the island the only contact with the outside world is Barrett the hot young caretaker who comes once a day to bring groceries and keep the isolated house in working order. While they lick their wounds, they need to us the month to communicate with each other and maybe solve some of their issues. It weaved together well, I just wished I liked or related to the characters more. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Dating Plan

Cheesy, predictable, and over the top - that being said... still adorable and fluffy. When Daisy runs into Liam, the boy who stood her up from prom 10 years ago, she is instantly as enraged as if it had just happened. Even though he's even better looking - she's not falling for that again. When Liam sees the only girl he ever cared for, he's instantly gaga over her. They realize that they could both use each other to get their family off their backs and maybe in the process develop a real friendship. Daisy's aunties are all over her trying to set her up with a nice Indian boy and Liam needs to be married in order to inherit the family distillery. Could a fake marriage solve all their problems? This would make an epic rom-com movie. It's cute, geeky, and steamy. It's got all the tropes. Perfect for romance fans.