Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Blog Tour - The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne


Today, I'm excited to share a delight of a read with you as a stop on the blog tour for The Sea Glass Cottage!

The story focuses on three women in a family. First, there is Olivia who has moved away from her hometown, hasn't really kept in touch, but also hasn't found happiness as she hoped. One day, she gets a call that her mom has had an accident which causes her to pack her things and head back home. Juliet is her headstrong mother who is now injured and having to lean on others. She's independent as her husband died when her girls were teenagers, and her way of coping has always been to go at it alone. Then, there is Caitlin. Caitlin was the daughter of Juliet's sister/Olivia's daughter, Natalie. Natalie died of a drug overdose when Caitlin was a baby. Olivia then took Caitlin in and raised her. 

Returning home isn't a seamless process as strained relationships and unresolved emotions abound with past happenings and the ongoing dynamics of the three women. The story is narrated by these women in alternating chapters. With each chapter, you are able to see what each of these women is carrying, including secrets she is holding onto from the other two women. The story is further complicated by the men in the town as seems to happen. One of these men is Cooper Vance, the fire chief and best friend of Olivia's deceased sister. There is also Caitlin's best friend who is helping her find the truth about her birth father. And then, there's Henry, the widow of Juliet's best friend who does what he can to help Juliet out - even when she doesn't want it. Y'all, each of these women has some secrets related to these men to themselves and to each other. The plot is very much driven by these secrets, the women navigating being back together, and just figuring out all that life has put on their plate.

For me, I really dug the simple beauty of this read. The stories flowed easily, and I was quickly invested in the story of each woman - and also hoping they'd reconcile and learn to trust one another again. The drama was high in this one, but so was the love and the want to rebuild relationships. Sometimes you just want a book that makes the you feel those feels and keeps the promise of starting over at its core. This was exactly was this was, and right now, y'all, that's also just what I needed.

And as I sometimes have the opportunity to you, I'm thrilled to share an excerpt from the book to further draw you in:



Olivia shoved her hands into her pockets against the damp Seattle afternoon. Nothing would take the chill from her bones, though. She knew that. Even five days of sick leave, huddling in her bed and mindlessly bingeing on cooking shows hadn’t done anything but make her crave cake.
She couldn’t hide away in her apartment forever. Eventually she was going to have to reenter life and go back to work, which was why she stood outside this coffee shop in a typical spring drizzle with her heart pounding and her stomach in knots.
This was stupid. The odds of anything like that happening to her again were ridiculously small. She couldn’t let one man battling mental illness and drug abuse control the rest of her life.
She could do this.
She reached out to pull the door open, but before she could make contact with the metal handle, her cell phone chimed from her pocket.
She knew instantly from the ringtone it was her best friend from high school, who still lived in Cape Sanctuary with her three children.
Talking to Melody was more important than testing her resolve by going into the Kozy Kitchen right now, she told herself. She answered the call, already heading back across the street to her own apartment.
“Mel,” she answered, her voice slightly breathless from the adrenaline still pumping through her and from the stairs she was racing up two at a time. “I’m so glad you called.”
Glad didn’t come close to covering the extent of her relief. She really hadn’t wanted to go into that coffee shop. Not yet. Why should she make herself? She had coffee at home and could have groceries delivered when she needed them. 
“You know why I’m calling, then?” Melody asked, a strange note in her voice.
“I know it’s amazing to hear from you. You’ve been on my mind.”
She was not only a coward but a lousy friend. She hadn’t checked in with Melody in a few weeks, despite knowing her friend was going through a life upheaval far worse than witnessing an attack on someone else.
As she unlocked her apartment, the cutest rescue dog in the world, a tiny, fluffy cross between a Chihuahua and a miniature poodle, gyrated with joy at the sight of her.
Yet another reason she didn’t have to leave. If she needed love and attention, she only had to call her dog and Otis would come running.
She scooped him up and let him lick her face, already feeling some of her anxiety calm.
“I was thinking how great it would be if you and the boys could come up and stay with me for a few days when school gets out for the summer,” she said now to Melody. “We could take the boys to the Space Needle, maybe hop the ferry up to the San Juans and go whale watching. They would love it. What do you think?”
The words seemed to be spilling out of her, too fast. She was babbling, a weird combination of relief that she hadn’t had to face that coffee shop and guilt that she had been wrapped up so tightly with her own life that she hadn’t reached out to a friend in need.
“My apartment isn’t very big,” she went on without waiting for an answer. “But I have an extra bedroom and can pick up some air beds for the boys. They’ve got some really comfortable ones these days. I’ve got a friend who says she stayed on one at her sister’s house in Tacoma and slept better than she does on her regular mattress. I’ve still got my car, though I hardly drive it in the city, and the boys would love to meet Otis. Maybe we could even drive to Olympic National Park, if you wanted.”
“Liv. Stop.” Melody cut her off. “Though that all sounds amazing and I’m sure the boys would love it, we can talk about that later. You have no idea why I called, do you?”
“I… Why did you call?”
Melody was silent for a few seconds. “I’m afraid there’s been an accident,” she finally said.
The breath ran out of Olivia like somebody had popped one of those air mattresses with a bread knife.
“Oh no. Is it one of your boys?” Oh please, she prayed. Don’t let it be one of the boys.
Melody had been through enough over the past three months, since her jerkhole husband ran off with one of his high school students.
“No, honey. It’s not my family. It’s yours.”
Her words seemed to come from far away and it took a long time for them to pierce through.
No. Impossible.
Fear rushed back in, swamping her like a fast-moving tide. She sank blindly onto the sofa.
“Is it Caitlin?”
“It’s not your niece. Stop throwing out guesses and just let me tell you. It’s your mom. Before you freak out, let me just say, first of all, she’s okay, from what I understand. I don’t have all the details but I do know she’s in the hospital, but she’s okay. It could have been much worse.”
Her mom. Olivia tried to picture Juliet lying in a hospital bed and couldn’t quite do it. Juliet Harper didn’t have time to be in a hospital bed. She was always hurrying somewhere, either next door to Sea Glass Cottage to the garden center the Harper family had run in Cape Sanctuary for generations or down the hill to town to help a friend or to one of Caitlin’s school events.
“What happened?” 
“She had a bad fall and suffered a concussion and I think some broken bones.”
Olivia’s stomach twisted. A concussion. Broken bones. Oh man. “Fell where? Off one of the cliffs near the garden center?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know all the details yet. This just happened this morning and it’s still early for the gossip to make all the rounds around town. I assumed you already knew. That Caitlin or someone would have called you. I was only checking in to see how I can help.”
This morning. She glanced at her watch. Her mother had been in an accident hours earlier and Olivia was just finding out about it now, in late afternoon.
Someone should have told her—if not Juliet herself, then, as Melody said, at least Caitlin.
Given their recent history, it wasn’t particularly surprising that her niece, raised by Olivia’s mother since she was a baby, hadn’t bothered to call. Olivia wasn’t Caitlin’s favorite person right now. These days, during Olivia’s regular video chats with her mother, Caitlin never popped in to say hi anymore. At fifteen, Caitlin was abrasive and moody and didn’t seem to like Olivia much, for reasons she didn’t quite understand.
“I’m sure someone tried to reach me but my phone has been having trouble,” she lied. Her phone never had trouble. She made sure it was always in working order, since so much of her freelance business depended on her clients being able to reach her and on her being able to Tweet or post something on the fly.
“I’m glad I checked in, then.”
“Same here. Thank you.”
Several bones broken and a long recovery. Oh dear. That would be tough on Juliet, especially this time of year when the garden center always saw peak business.
“Thank you for telling me. Is she in the hospital there in Cape Sanctuary or was she taken to one of the bigger cities?”
“I’m not sure. I can call around for you, if you want.”
“I’ll find out. You have enough to worry about.”
“Keep me posted. I’m worried about her. She’s a pretty great lady, that mom of yours.”
Olivia shifted, uncomfortable as she always was when others spoke about her mother to her. Everyone loved her, with good reason. Juliet was warm, gracious, kind to just about everyone in their beachside community of Cape Sanctuary.
Which made Olivia’s own awkward, tangled relationship with her mother even harder to comprehend.
“Will you be able to come home for a few days?”
Home. How could she go home when she couldn’t even walk into the coffee shop across the street?
“I don’t know. I’ll have to see what’s going on there.”
How could she possibly travel all the way to Northern California? A complicated mix of emotions seemed to lodge like a tangled ball of yarn in her chest whenever she thought about her hometown, which she loved and hated in equal measures.
The town held so much guilt and pain and sorrow. Her father was buried there and so was her sister. Each room in Sea Glass Cottage stirred like the swirl of dust motes with memories of happier times.
Olivia hadn’t been back in more than a year. She kept meaning to make a trip but something else always seemed to come up. She usually went for the holidays at least, but the previous year she’d backed out of even that after work obligations kept her in Seattle until Christmas Eve and a storm had made last-minute travel difficult. She had spent the holiday with friends instead of with her mother and Caitlin and had felt guilty that she had enjoyed it much more than the previous few when she had gone home.
She couldn’t avoid it now, though. A trip back to Cape Sanctuary was long overdue, especially if her mother needed her.
***

About The Sea Glass Cottage: From the New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne comes a brand-new novel for fans of Debbie Macomber and Susan Wiggs. RaeAnne Thayne tells the story of an emotional homecoming that brings hope and healing to three generations of women.

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The 16-hour work days are unfulfilling and so are things with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when she hears that her estranged mother, Juliet, has been seriously injured in a car accident, Liv has no choice but to pack up her life and head home to beautiful Cape Sanctuary on the Northern California coast.

It’s just for a few months—that’s what Liv keeps telling herself. But the closer she gets to Cape Sanctuary, the painful memories start flooding back: Natalie, her vibrant, passionate older sister who downward-spiraled into addiction. The fights with her mother who enabled her sister at every turn. The overdose that took Natalie, leaving her now-teenaged daughter, Caitlin, an orphan.

As Liv tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and an obstinate, resentful fifteen-year-old, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another. And as those secrets are revealed, Liv, Juliet, and Caitlin will see that it’s never too late—or too early—to heal family wounds and find forgiveness.

About RaeAnne Thayne: New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Book Reviews - Books with a Smile

Another round of reviews to share as I do. These were ones I read in the days after life changed for us all, so I was mindful to find things that were light and would bring me joy. This quartet absolutely did what I needed it to in that regard!

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin was just a delight of a story. It was marketed as the Muslim Pride and Prejudice, but y'all, it was so, so, so much more than that. Above all else, this really was Ayesha's story. I loved her as a character and story that was built around her. Ayesha is currently a teacher, but her true passion is writing, specifically poetry. She feels the pressure around her to get married, primarily via her cousin Hafsa's experience being in the thick of all the proposals. Even though arranged marriage is an option, Ayesha holds true to herself and does not feel like that is something she wants. The other central character is Khalid. Khalid is traditional and very much believes in arranged marriage. When Ayesha and Khalid are brought together, they find they connect in some ways, but also have some major differences. And that's where their story begins and really goes. Y'all, again, this was just such a wonderfully told love story. I loved the twists throughout (some of which are literal jaw droppers!) that really kept me turning the pages as I had to know what happened to Ayesha. To me, this wasn't really a retelling of a classic. I spent very little time comparing with the past because I was so enthralled with the here and now. I could say so many different ways (and I'll stop here so I don't) that this is just a wonderful, wonderful read.

The Multi-Hyphen Life by Emma Gannon was an interesting reflection on the importance of giving time and energy to the variety of interests and skills we each possess. It shouldn't just be within the scope of the professional work we might do and/or compartmentalizing, rather it's about looking at ourselves and this experience holistically. What I love is that this isn't a one size fits all read. Rather this is a book to offer intentional space to reflect on what this means within the context of personal interests and skills. This requires "real talk" with yourself to define what you're trying to do, but also being real about what you truly want to do. I also appreciated that this approach was grounded in care. She names that we can exhaust ourselves trying to do all the things, and that should never be the point. We have to answer these questions for ourselves with reflection and thought, then proceed accordingly. As I read, I found myself marking lots of ideas and reflections to return to as I build out my own interests and skills to best fit into my whole life. Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing for the look at this upcoming April 2020 release!

What You Wish For by Katherine Center is a book that immediately soared to the top of my to-read list as books by this author do. She has this way of writing stories about love in a way that is so different and unexpected and wonderful. This installment focuses on Samantha, a librarian at an elementary school steeped in fun tradition and innovative learning. After a beloved principal suddenly dies, Duncan is appointed to take his role. Samantha is excited as she one worked with Duncan and feels his spirit will mesh well with the culture of the school. The Duncan who shows up is very different. His highest priority is increasing school safety. With this, he looks to extreme measures to make the school more secure. Many of these measures cut into the heart of the school and the character Samantha so loves. Samantha is angered by the shift and determined to do whatever she must to save the school for the kids. Throughout, Samantha also wonders what's changed in Duncan, so this also adds depth and intrigue to the story. Again, Katherine Center has written intriguing characters that are centered throughout. Having people to root for adds such connection, and she does this masterfully. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martins Press for the early look at this July 2020 release. While you're waiting for it to come out, do yourself a favor and check out How to Walk Away and Things You Save in a Fire!

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis was a book I thought I had figured out as I started reading. What I loved is the real story was so much different - and better! The story focuses on Emmie. As a sixteen year old, Emmie wrote a secret in a balloon. This was something she wanted and needed to share with someone. With the message, she included her email address. Weeks later, a boy named Lucas finds the balloon, reaches out, and a special friendship begins. In present day, Lucas is getting married, and Emmie is asked to be his best woman. The thing is, Emmie is in love with Lucas. She has loved how he has cared for her through the years, and she now much figure out how to navigate and share those feelings. Y'all, again, from here, I thought I knew where this story was going. I did not at all. What happens is there is more to Emmie's story, as well as the relationship with Lucas than Emmie realizes. These are important secrets and details that have never been explored or discovered or revealed. What I thought was going to be a "predictable" love story was really the story of a woman truly learning who she and those who loved her really were. As I read this one and realized more and more what this book was, I really was more captivated by it all. It was such a beautiful story, and I adored it. It's one that just made smile, and I was so here for that. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this July 2020 release.

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Book Reviews - Dark Stuff (And Some Light)

Y'all, I am behind in blogging, so you should know that I read these the week of March 2nd. The news/world/life was different then, and no way, I'd so many thrillers together rn. You may find there's something in here that still works for you, but wanted to offer my personal disclaimer/hesitation to do too many thrillers.

It's Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered by Lysa TerKeurst was phenomenal. There are times when a book's timing hits you at just the right time, and y'all, this was so much that. I had a long drive, so I decided to go with the audio version read by the author, and wow, wow, wow. This was just such a beautiful and honest reflection on faith in the journey. The author uses her own journey as the foundation. She talks authentically about her own big disappointments. But in this all, she reframes. She talks about how these moments are part of where we are supposed to be. She names it certainly doesn't feel that way which I appreciated, and then she talks through how this could possibly be. These were words I so needed to hear, and I found myself nodding as I drove, crying, and smiling because it was just truth after truth after truth. This was an absolutely beautiful book. It's my second of this author's, and I love the way she frames faith. She talks about the "tough stuff" and she explains how you can get through. These were such wonderful words of comfort. Also, I highly recommend the audiobook. There was such power in hearing the author actually talk through her own life and realizations. I cannot say enough how much I adored this one and needed it right in this season.

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel was a heavy one y'all. I knew that going in, but whoa, it was just a hard read. The story centers on Eve whose 12 year old daughter and her best friend have been brutally murdered. She's determined to find out what happened to get some kind of closure, and she finds the formal processes just aren't moving fast enough. To look into this, it means she has to delve into a painful past she's always tried to protect her daughter from. Her brother who is a police officer keeps her updated on the investigation, and he offers his own ideas to his sister, as well as cautions for some dangerous leads and individuals she should or shouldn't engage with through her process. Throughout Eve is grieving while also feeling the anger of what as happened and remorse about wanting to have protected her daughter more. Again, this was heavy, but well-written. In the end, resolution comes, but given the subject matter, it's a hard ending to digest for Eve and the reader. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this March 2020 release!

Before He Vanished by Debra Webb was a book I read for a blog tour as I do. Find the full review and an author Q&A here!

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline was another thriller that just hit the spot as this author seems to always do, and I'm so here for that. What I really liked about this one was the way the story was told. The story begins with Dr. Noah Alderman being on trial for the death of his stepdaughter Anna. This is the after part. This alternates with chapters of the before when Anna showed up to live with Dr. Alderman and his wife Maggie. This was a really compelling way to tell the story as you were able to piece together what might have happened with how the relationship began and also see where things evolved via the happenings in the trial. The twists and turns of this one were fascinating given the dual timelines. You really wondered how all of this converged, and it kept me turning the pages to continue to piece together all sides of this story. One thing I've learned about Lisa Scottoline as this is my third of her novels is she goes hard on the sensational reveals. There's one twist, but then they keep coming with that. It's not a critique at all, but it definitely is interesting to see the big endings happen. And y'all, whoa, whoa on this ending. I sort of started to put this together, but what transpired was something. I'm so thankful I have found the work of Lisa Scottoline. Sometimes I just need that great thriller in my life, and she always delivers.

Onto the next ones!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Blog Tour - Before He Vanished by Debra Webb



March is a busy month for me when it comes to blog tours, and I'm excited to have another stop. Today it's Before He Vanished by Debra Webb, a new release for the Harlequin Intrigue imprint.

Here's the thing with Harlequin y'all (and I'm new to the imprint), you know you're going to get a good story. Whether it's love or suspense or a combination of the two, what you find in the pages will keep you reading.

This one is about Halle Lane, a reporter where her own story she just can't forget. Twenty five years ago, her best friend Andy vanished. She's never forgotten that friendship, and all these years later she still longs for answers as to where her friend has gone. She decides to write an article about the mystery.

And then Liam shows up. The resemblance to her friend Andy is uncanny. It just has to be him! Only problem is Liam has absolutely no idea who/what Halle is talking about. Liam has his own recollections of the past, and that certainly doesn't involve a childhood as Andy.

The story is then Halle and Liam trying to figure out their connection. Halle remains convinced Liam might be the answer to Andy's disappearance. With time, Liam starts to wonder if their childhood connection is true as outlandish as that seems.

This is a quick, easy read. The twists and turns are well-paced, and it keeps you turning the pages. The intrigue about Liam's identity also kept me guessing as it seemed like he had to be Andy, but also, how could he be Andy? The way this connects to Halle's past and present was also really well done as the two parts of her story were also an important driving force.

Overall, this one just met that need for a good suspenseful read. It was well-written and and gave me that hit of intrigue and mystery I'm perpetually craving.

Oh, and as an extra bonus, here's a Q&A with the author!

What was the romance novel that got you hooked on the genre (or: What was the romance novel that inspired you to become a romance author?) 

A: I’ve always written stories, but it wasn’t until about a year after I started writing with a goal of actually being published that I understood what I wanted to do. A friend who had a home library that looked much like a small Barnes & Noble store read my newest completed manuscript and announced that I was writing romance. She thrust a book from her extensive library at me and said, “read this.” The book was Perfect Partners by Jayne Ann Krentz! I was hooked! 

Please share in your own words what it means to experience That Harlequin Feeling 

A: Sometimes life can throw some really tough times your way. There is nothing like a great book to give you a mini-vacation away from those less pleasant times. Harlequin has published about 60 books in my Colby Agency series. I’ve received a great deal of fan mail about Victoria Colby and her team. One I remember well was from a lady who needed extensive eye surgery and would literally be unable to read for an entire year. At the end of her ordeal once her eyes started to recover, she wrote to me and said that one thing that helped her get through that dark period was the four Colby books that were released during that time. She couldn’t wait to see what would happen next with the Colby Agency.



What was the name of your first published novel, and tell us a bit about that experience?  

A: Safe By His Side, a Harlequin Intrigue! When I received “the call,” I was in the middle of preparing for my local school’s annual harvest festival. I was the PTA president and in charge of the event! I was so overwhelmed by emotion that I couldn’t stop crying during the call. The editor said she would call me the next day. The rest of that day all I wanted to do was tell everyone and celebrate, but I couldn’t! Not to worry, I celebrated plenty later!



***


About BEFORE HE VANISHED: Twenty-five years ago, Halle Lane’s best friend vanished from their Tennessee town. When a childhood photo brings Liam Hart to Winchester, Halle is certain the man is the same child who vanished. Now Liam seeks out Halle to help him investigate the circumstances of his mysterious past. Can Liam and Halle uncover the truth before a killer buries all traces of the boy Halle loved—and the man he may have become—forever?





About DEBRA WEBB: DEBRA WEBB is the award winning, USA Today bestselling author of more than 150 novels, including reader favorites the Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency, and the Shades of Death series. With more than four million books sold in numerous languages and countries, Debra's love of storytelling goes back to her childhood on a farm in Alabama. Visit Debra at www.DebraWebb.com or write to her at PO Box 176, Madison, AL 35758.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Book Reviews- By Women and About Women

As if I planned it (and I assure you I didn't), for the start of Women's History Month, I've got four books by women that are about women/girls! 

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead is a middle-grade novel about Bea who is navigating life after her parent's divorce. One of the ways she works through this is the lists in her notebook. In these lists, she focuses on that even though her life is changing, there are some aspects that are unchangeable to document. Much of what Bea is navigating is changing relationships. Her dad is getting remarried, and Bea is excited that his fiance Jesse will have a new role in her life and also that he has a daughter. Bea has always wanted a sister. However, as you can imagine, this doesn't go exactly as Bea imagines. Bea also decides she's going to work through some other family situations, and that creates another interesting layer to this one. The piece I most appreciated about this story is Bea has a therapist, Miriam, she regularly sees. I liked the normalization of therapy to navigate changing family dynamics. This was a quick read, yet it also packed so many feels into the pages. Thanks to Wendy Lamb Books for the early look at this April 2020 release.

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates is an absolutely beautiful reflection on the power of women. The book is inspired by the women Melinda has worked with through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it's so wonderfully done. Rather than explaining her foundation's work, she shows his work through the issues she discusses. Each chapter focuses on a different issue, and with that issue she explains how educating, equipping and improving the lives of women is the key to solving that issue. With this, she also humanizes each issue as she talks about people. There is such power as she describes not just the what is happening, but the who it is happening to, and most importantly why this is happening. As I read, I couldn't stop thinking to myself, "Why aren't we talking about issues in this way more?!" because y'all, this was such an important, powerful and needed (re)focus. I was so inspired by the work Melinda was doing. I also appreciated that she also interspersed her own story in what she was writing. She was honest about her own career, marriage and personal life. She was vulnerable and authentic as she shared about her own growth as a woman. I liked this dimension in that she showed the importance of empowering self, as well as others. This is one I'm still thinking about, and I'm looking forward to discussing it with my online book club next week!

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech was a book I last read a literal quarter century ago. I wanted to re-read it as part of my 2020 Reading Challenge as it's a book I remember being quite popular when I was in sixth grade. First of all, let me just say I do not remember this one being so emotionally intense. That seems to be an ongoing theme when I revisit! Anyway. In case you've never read this one (or you're also a thirtysomething who read this once upon a time and need the refresher), the book focuses on 13 year old Sal. She's road tripping with her grandparents, and as they drive, they ask her to share a story. She decides to focus on her friend Phoebe. However, as she tells Phoebe's story, she's really telling her own story. Also at the core of Sal's story is wanting to find her mother who has gone on her own journey. She's sent Sal postcards along the way, and what Sal wants more than anything is just to know where she is now. The road trip is about revisiting where Sal's mom has been to get answers and hopefully reconnect. Y'all, I did not remember how this one played out, and when that moment came, it hit me in the feels so hard. I can remember now why this book had the buzz I did, and I love when middle grade books acknowledge the emotions that kids can and do feel. 

The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz is a book I've highlighted as a part of a blog tour. I rave all about it HERE!

Onto the next ones!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Blog Tour - The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz


Y'all, let me tell you how absolutely thrilled I am to get to tell you about The Grace Kelly Dress as today's stop on its blog tour! This is one that was so unexpected (in such a good way), and I am excited I get to spend some time raving all about it.

The Grace Kelly Dress is the story of three generations of women connected by one dress. You should know (and if you've seen my reviews it's no secret) I LOVE dual narrators as a storytelling device, and I just cannot get enough of how their stories weave together. Having this as three stories in one was then just totally my jam from the get go.

The first story is about the creation of the dress. This is in the late 1950s where everyone wants a dress just like Princess Grace. The story focuses on a seamstress who works for a prestigious designer. With that work, there are some pretty huge secrets at play. Additionally, while working on a variation of the Grace Kelly dress for a bride from a wealthy family, the seamstress finds herself drawn to the bride's brother. She knows he's off limits, but she can't deny their connection and dreaming about what could never be.

The next story is Joan in the 1980s. In the present day, Joan is the mother of the bride, but in this story, she is the bride. The story focuses on Joan being given the dress to wear by her mother. What should be a happy, joyous time is infused with other emotions that Joan is trying to work through. Joan also is learning things she was told are not true, and navigating these family secrets is some tough stuff.

Finally, there is Rocky. Rocky is a bride in present day. She's creative and unique, and she's not sure the dress fits her style. She feels the pressure to wear it from her mother, and the thought of telling her she isn't something she's emotionally ready to do. Part of this is Rocky just doesn't get why her mom is so focused on having this dress be part of Rocky's wedding day.

The story alternates between each of these three stories. Each woman has her own secrets, her own passions, and her own love she is navigating, as well as her relationship to the dress and the upcoming wedding. With each chapter, truths are revealed about each character in a slow burn that is so, so good. At its core, this is also one about relationships. The way these are written and used as plot devices is masterful. There are twists and reveals throughout through these, and because of the way this story is built, I did not see them coming.

This is overall a beautiful story of family, of love, and the things that connect us all. I devoured this one as I wanted to know what was going to happen with each of these women. I also loved how developed each woman was as a character. While the backdrop of a wedding was obviously a key player, this was at its core the story of three generations of women. Each had their own story, and as the book went, the story of the connections of these women started to weave together in that way I always love.

I owe a big thanks to Harlequin Trade Publishing for letting me part of this tour. Oh, and the best news? This book is out TODAY, so you can (and should) go get this book right now!

But wait, before you go!

I have the opportunity to share an excerpt of this book with you to further draw you into this beautiful story:

The mother of the bride, as a bride herself

Long Island, 1982
She loved the dress. She loved the veil that went with it, too, though she wasn’t sure if it could be salvaged. It was showing signs of age, its edges curling and tinged with brown. But that wouldn’t dull her excitement.
Today was the day she would be trying on her mother’s wedding dress. Even though Joanie had tried it on countless times as a child—it was a favorite rainy-day activity with her mother—today felt different. She was engaged, just like she’d dreamed about ever since she could remember. When she tried the dress on this time, it was for keeps. She was completely in love with the dress.
“Let me help you get it on,” Joanie’s mother said, her French accent coming through. It was always more pronounced when she was feeling emotional. With her American friends, Joanie noticed, her mother always tried to sound “American,” softening her accent and using American expressions. But when they were alone, she could be herself. Let her guard down. Joanie knew exactly who her mother was, and she loved her for it.
Her mother handed Joanie a pair of white cotton gloves and then put on her own set. The first step in trying the dress on, always, so that the oils in their hands wouldn’t defile the fabric. She laid the large box on her bed and nodded her head at her husband, her signal to give them privacy. The door closed to Joanie’s childhood bedroom, and she and her mother were alone.
The white cotton gloves were cool and smooth on her skin. Joanie opened the box slowly. So slowly. It was sealed with a special plastic that was supposed to keep it airtight so that the dress would not oxidize and turn yellow. She and her mother laughed as they struggled to set the dress free. The last time she tried the dress on was the summer before her sister died. It was after Michele’s death that her mother brought the dress into the city so that it might be cleaned properly and preserved for just this day. At the time, Joanie hadn’t understood the connection between her sister’s sudden death and her mother’s tight grip on family heirlooms, but now, a year into her psychology degree at NYC University, she understood. It was so hard to hold on to things that were important to you, things that mattered, and preserving her wedding dress, this memory, was her mother’s way of taking control of something. It was something she could save.
The dress was just as beautiful as she’d remembered. Crafted from rose point lace, the same lace used on Grace Kelly’s iconic wedding dress, it was delicate and classic and chic and a million other things Joanie couldn’t even articulate.
“Go on,” her mother said, holding the first part of the dress—the bodice with the attached underbodice, skirt support, and slip—out for her to take. As a child, it had thrilled Joanie to no end that the wedding dress her mother wore was actually made up of four separate pieces. It was like a secret that a bride could have on her special day, something that no one else knew.
“I couldn’t,” Joanie said, hands at her side. Knowing how carefully preserved the dress had been, what the dress had meant to her mother, it was hard for Joanie to touch it. She didn’t want to get it dirty, sully its memory. “It’s just so beautiful.”
“It’s yours now,” her mother said, smiling warmly. “The dress belongs to you. Put it on.”
Joanie kicked off her ballerina flats, and her mother helped her ease the bodice on. Joanie stood at attention as her mother snapped the skirt into place, and wrapped the cummerbund around her waist. Joanie held her hands high above her head, not wanting to get in the way of her mother’s expert hands, hands that knew exactly where to go, fingers that knew exactly what to do.
“You ready in there, Birdie?” her father yelled from the hallway, impatient, his French accent just as strong as the day he left France. Joanie always loved how her father had a special nickname for her mother. When they first married, he would call her mother GracieBird, a nickname of Grace Kelly’s, because of the Grace Kelly–inspired wedding gown she wore on their wedding day. Eventually, it was shortened to Bird, and then over time, it became Birdie. What would Joanie’s fiancé call her?
Joanie inspected her reflection in the mirror. Her shoulder-length blond hair, recently permed, looked messy. Her pink eye shadow, which had always seemed so grown-up on her sister, made her appear tired and puffy-eyed. But the dress? The dress was perfect.
Her mother opened the door slowly, and her father’s face came into view. His expression softened as he saw his daughter in the wedding dress. She walked out into the hallway, towards him, and she could see a tear forming in the corner of his eye.
She turned to her mother, about to tell her that Daddy was crying, when she saw that her mother, too, had teared up. Joanie couldn’t help it—seeing her mother and father cry, she began to cry as well. She could never keep a dry eye when someone else was crying, least of all her parents, ex-pats from Europe who hardly ever cried.
Michele’s presence floated in the air like a haze, but no one would say it. No one dared mention that she would have worn the dress first. Should have worn the dress first.
“And look at us,” her mother said, her hands reaching out and grabbing for her husband and daughter. “All of us crying like little babies.”
All three embraced—carefully, of course, so as not to ruin the dress.
Her father kissed the top of her head. “Give us a twirl.”
Joanie obliged. The dress moved gracefully as she spun. Joanie curtsied, and her father gently took her hand and kissed it.
“I know what you’re thinking,” her mother said, her voice a song.
“What?” Joanie asked absentmindedly, while staring at her reflection in the mirror. She knew the first thing she’d change—the sleeves. The dress needed big, voluminous sleeves, just like Princess Diana had worn on her wedding day.
“Or I should say who you’re thinking about,” her mother said, a gentle tease.
“Who?” Joanie asked, under her breath, twirling from side to side in front of the mirror, watching the dress move.
“Your fiancé,” her mother said, furrowing her brow. “Remember him?”
“For sure,” Joanie said, spinning around to face her mother. “My fiancé. Yes. I knew that. And, yes. I was.” But the truth was, she had completely forgotten.
Excerpted from The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz. Copyright © 2020 by Brenda Janowitz. Published by Graydon House Books. 
***


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.

SOCIAL LINKS:
Facebook: @BrendaJanowitz
Twitter: @BrendaJanowitz
Instagram: @brendajanowitzwriter

BUY LINKS:

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Book Reviews - Secrets and Stuff

Welcome to the Groundhog Day that is my book blogging in which I read four books that again have no cohesive theme, and I'll again post some sort of banter here to explain that.

And scene.

Okay, here's what I read.



The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists by Tracy Walder drew me in when the description explained this was a memoir of a woman who had gone from being in a sorority at the University of Southern California to doing counterterrorism work on behalf of the country. While at USC, Tracy is drawn to international affairs, and she interviews and is obviously then hired by the CIA. She joins just before 9/11, so what this career path looks like very quickly changes. Much of the story focuses on the work that she did for the CIA. Given the secretive nature of her work, there are parts that are heavily redacted (as the agency had to review what she wrote), and she has changed some details to not give up secrets from the work. I'll be honest I really didn't know all the ins and outs of what CIA worked entailed, so it was fascinating to read about this. What I also really liked is what she shared about her background. Growing up, she struggled with self-confidence. Part of her joining her sorority was wanting to find a place where she fit. She also was drawn to the CIA because of her interest and passion for international affairs. I loved how this messaging was woven in. To me, that was the heart of her work, and I appreciated that authenticity. The story ends with her detailing her shift to the FBI. WIth this, she names systemic issues with that experience. I appreciated her honesty here. I loved that this ended with the work she now does as an educator to help girls see their potential to enter into careers in intelligence, politics, public policy and/or whatever they want. This was an interesting and empowering memoir where I unexpectedly learned a lot and had such respect for the woman who experienced it all. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this new release!

The Banker's Wife by Cristina Alger was the selection for my book club this month. The story begins with two people boarding a plane that is ultimately lost. Anabel is the young widow of the man on the plane. Upon finding out he is dead, she also finds out that his employer was not quite what she thought, and her husband was wrapped up in all kinds of things. She is exposed to a world of secrets via the Swiss bank her husband once worked for, and she begins digging deeper into what he was hiding from her. Simultaneously, a journalist is doing work to uncover the dealings of this bank. The stories run on parallel tracks, but also have some intersections along the way. This was a quick read, and honestly, I think it would translate particularly well on screen (and conveniently, that's going to happen) because there were so many twists and turns of this one. This one had some good suspense that really picked up as it went. This isn't my normal kind of thriller, but it kept me reading as I wanted to know how all the different threads were all going to tie together.

The Second Home by Christina Clancy is a story about family secrets and lies. After a family tragedy, Ann returns to her family's summer home 15 years after the summer where everything changed. The story then flashes back to that summer. Told through the eyes of Ann, her younger sister Poppy, and their adopted brother, Michael the events of that summer are revisited. Each sibling has a different story to tell leading up to how this all culminates. The story then returns to the present where the siblings' relationships are different, but they are brought back together and must come to an agreement as the fate of that summer home is decided. This story is a tragic one, and it's a hard read given what happens. This is also a story that involves lies (and manipulation) that have a huge impact over all the years. This is a well-written story of family, but again be advised what goes down is heavy. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this June 2020 release.

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers is a book by the hosts of a podcast (Pantsuit Politics) that I've recently found my way to via the recommendation of a co-worker. What I like about the authors and the podcast is their approach to discussing politics. They analyze issues, candidates, and policies in a way that asks important questions and invites debate. It makes me think differently, and I definitely learn as I listen. The book is written in this same style. It made me consider the questions I need to ask as I decide on candidates, and I appreciated that there were reflection questions throughout, so I could think on this content even more. While politics are the foundation of what they talk about, what they're really focusing on is how to show empathy, how to acknowledge where the "grey" exists, and what a healthy debate can look like. I appreciate Beth and Sarah take on politics in a way that make them far more accessible and inviting.

Onto the next ones!