Monday, October 23, 2023

Book Review: Snowed In by Catherine Walsh


Megan is dreading going home for the holidays. She’s the village pariah, the she-devil who left local golden boy Isaac at the altar four years ago and ran away to the big city. She could really do without the drama. Particularly as he’s engaged again, and she’s just been dumped for the fourth time this year.

Christian’s fed up of being on his own every Christmas. He doesn’t mind being alone, but he hates his family’s sad eyes and soft tones as they sit around coupled up. Because he’s actually, totally, fine.

So when Megan literally bumps into Christian in a Dublin pub, they come up with a pact to see them through the holiday season. They’re going to be the very best fake dates for each other, ever.

Rules are drawn up, and a contract is signed on a wine-stained napkin. They will sit through each other’s family gatherings and be outrageously in love until freed from their annual obligations. After all, it’s only for a few weeks.

But with everyone home for the holidays, and two big families to deal with alongside old friends, old flames, and old feelings, things are bound to get messy. And when a snowed-in cabin and a little Christmas magic are added to the mix, anything could happen…


Joy to the book world!!! A new holiday romance is hitting the store shelves or on your Kindle, and it's a fake dating of my favorites!

In Snowed In by Catherine Walsh, main character Megan last saw Christian out side the church that she was running out of on her way to becoming a runaway bride. Fast forward five years and they run into each other- literally - at a bar. While talking they realize that they both are having to go home for the holidays, and are dreading it, so they devise a plan to go together as a fake couple.

I could end this quickly by telling you I am a very slow reader and  tore through this in two I loved it! It was so cute and heartwarming, just like a holiday romance should be.

I loved both Megan and Christian as characters, and when I read Megans POV I found myself always smiling, she was just so filled with positivity all the way through the book.

I also had no idea this was in a series of books, infact I didn't find out until after I read it, so no worries if like me, you haven't read Holiday Romance, you don't need to read it...but you certainly will want to.

The thing I REALLY liked about this book, well....besides it being set during the holidays, and the whole fake dating thing, and the snuggly cozy feeling of the entire book, was that Christian had his own POV. It is always refreshing to get the male side of a love story.

I am calling it now...Snowed In is my favorite holiday romance of 2023, so pick it up and lets talk!


Thursday, October 5, 2023

Book Review: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber


Goodreads Overview:

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

Jacque's Review:

This book was selected by the Marysville Public Library for their Books on Tap book club. This is a fun little group that meets once a month at a local brewery.

Anna Kate's mother fled Wicklow, the town where she grew up, shortly after her boyfriend died in a car accident. She was pregnant at the time and did not want the father's family trying to take the baby from her after they accused her for his death. Anna Kate's mother always claimed it was a terrible accident, but she doesn't know what to believe. 

When her grandmother passes away, Anna Kate must return to settle her estate. As part of her will, she must stay in Wicklow and run the Blackbird Cafe for a period of time if she wants to inherit any of the money. She has every intention of selling the property once the summer is up to pay for college and medical school, which was always her mother's dream for her. She tries not to establish ties in Wicklow, but that becomes next to impossible. The more she learns about her mother's family history, including the legend of the blackbirds and the cafe's famous pie, the more connected she feels to the town. She eventually meets her father's much younger sister and starts to learn more about his side of the family and his death.

This was a Hallmark type of story with a feel-good message. I never would have selected it on my own to read, but I really enjoyed the characters and the story. Anna Kate brings life to this town and is able to help so many people who have been struggling. In return, the town provides a family and a sense of belonging that she never had growing up. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Book Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry


Goodreads Overview:

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Jacque's Review:

I absolutely love Emily Henry, which you have probably already figured out from my other reviews. This is yet another fantastic read with unique characters and unexpected twits. Poppy and Alex appear to be complete opposites when they first meet in college. We quickly discover they are from the same small hometown. Poppy wants nothing more than to get away from that town and the people who treated her so poorly in high school. Alex ends up teaching at the school and is content being close to his family. She moves to New York City and has the perfect job working as a writer for a travel magazine, but she has lost interest in the glamorous adventures now that she doesn't have Alex as her travel companion.

Ever since college, when they were on a shoestring budget, they always managed to plan and take the most amazing trips together. Now that they are both working, the one thing they have to look forward to each year is their week together traveling the world. Unfortunately, they had a falling out a couple of years ago and Poppy has lost her interest in travelling. I'm not sure if it was a falling out so much as a misunderstanding. They left things in a precarious state and neither of them wanted to make the first move to get their relationship/friendship back on track. 

Poppy decides to reach out and Alex agrees to go on another vacation, which happens to include the location of his brother's wedding. He might as well kill two birds with one stone. If things do not work out as planned, they will have others to rely on for damage control. The vacation starts out on the wrong foot with an apartment lacking proper air conditioning in the sweltering heat. Poppy does her best to make the situation enjoyable, but the relationship that could withstand just about anything two years ago is teetering on the brink of disaster. She is constantly afraid that one wrong move will tip the scales to the point of no return. 

The book has several flashbacks to other trips they took together and people they met along the way. Seeing how things used to be between them and the obvious connection they had, it is hard to see how they got to their current state. As they begin to reconnect and catch up on everything they missed in each other's lives over the past two years, the ice starts to thaw between them. They are still cautious and taking things slowly, but they begin to see what has been clear to others for years. 

If you haven't read Emily Henry's other books, I would highly recommend all of them. Beach Read, Book Lovers, and People We Meet on Vacation have all been fantastic. I still have Happy Place on my TBR list, but I'm sure I will make time for it sometime soon. 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

BLOG TOUR: Study Break, edited by Aashna Avachat

Book Summary

College...the best time, the worst time, and something in between. 

What do you do when orientation isn't going according to your (sister's) detailed plans? Where do you go when you're searching for community in faith? How do you figure out what it means that you're suddenly attracted to your RA? What happens when your partner for your last film project is also your crush and graduation is quickly approaching? 

Told over the course of one academic year, this collection of stories set on the same fictional campus features students from different cultures, genders, and interests learning more about who they are and who they want to be. From new careers to community to (almost) missed connections — and more — these interconnected tales explore the ways university life can be stressful and confusing and exciting and fulfilling. 

Gen Z contributors include Jake Maia Arlow, Arushi Avachat, Boon Carmen, Ananya Devarajan, Camryn Garrett, Christina Li, Racquel Marie, Oyin, Laila Sabreen, Michael Waters, and Joelle Wellington.

Flo's Mini Review

Full disclosure: I am still reading this. But I'm enjoying it! The great thing about anthologies is that at the end of a busy day, you can read one story and feel like you've really made a dent in the book. My favorite story so far has been the one by Aashna, actually -- it's so cute and right up my alley! Cute, awkward boy falling first, a set time frame, all the stuff I love in my romance stories. But one cool thing about this anthology is that it runs the range of protagonists and topics. I love the diversity of characters and story lines. It's definitely giving me all the nostalgia for my college days, which really were such a formative and fun time for me. All the stories I've read so far have ended with possibility and hope and anticipation, and I just love that. What a good overall feeling to capture. It's the one constant in these different stories and I'm here for it. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.

Just for fun: comment with a favorite college memory. Or, if you haven't been to college, comment with a favorite college movie.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Book Review: To the Nines by Janet Evanovich


Goodreads Overview:

Stephanie Plum may not be the best bounty hunter in beautiful downtown Trenton, but she's pretty darn good at turning bad situations her way . . . and she always gets her man. In To the Nines, her cousin Vinnie (who's also her boss) has posted bail on Samuel Singh, an illegal immigrant. When the elusive Mr. Singh goes missing, Stephanie is on the case. But what she uncovers is far more sinister than anyone imagines and leads to a group of killers who give new meaning to the word hunter.

In a race against time that takes her from the Jersey Turnpike to the Vegas Strip, Stephanie Plum is on the chase of her life. The unforgettable characters, nonstop action, high-stakes suspense, and sheer entertainment of To the Nines define Janet Evanovich as unique among today's writers.

Jacque's Review:

This is the nineth book in the Stephanie Plum series and is probably one of my favorites so far. They are all action packed as Stephanie tries to solve the crimes, but she is almost all luck and no skill. She can't even manage to keep her professional security detail from being injured and hauled off. Ranger and Morelli do everything they can to try to keep her safe, but she always manages to find herself in sticky situations. In this installment, she is now the target of some game and is receiving the same bouquets of flowers as one of her victims. 

I personally wouldn't like my chances with Lula and Connie as my backup, but this crazy bunch always seems land on their feet. Connie is the office manager in the bond office and Lula is an overweight African American woman who still dresses like the "hooker" she used to be. She now works as a filing clerk at the bond agency and is usually Stephanie's sidekick. Add in the hilarious dialogue with her parents, sister, and grandmother and you can't help but laugh out loud. 

For the better part of this book, Stephanie had a feeling she knew who was behind the murders. I was a little quicker on the uptake than she was this time around. I knew one of the characters was a little off and would have gone with that instinct instead of going with the more obvious suspect, but then we wouldn't have had all the danger and drama that seems to follow Stephanie like a shadow. 

Nothing much was new in the Stephanie, Ranger, Morelli love triangle, so I will have to keep reading to see how that eventually plays out.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Book Review: The Block Party by Jamie Day

This summer, meet your neighbors.

The residents of the exclusive cul-de-sac on Alton Road are entangled in a web of secrets and scandal utterly unknown to the outside world, and even to each other.

On the night of the annual Summer block party, there has been a murder.

But, who did it and why takes readers back one year earlier, as rivalries and betrayals unfold—discovering that the real danger lies within their own block and nothing—and no one—is ever as it seems.


Murder, secrets, betrayals...oh, and plenty of DRAMA, Block Party by Jamie Day has all this and more!

The story begins at the annual neighborhood Memorial Day block party and before it ends, someone dies.

Alton Road may be the best Cul-de-Sac in town but the residents are all a hot mess. They cheat on, and with each other, some are addicts, and one might just be a murderer. All this makes this novel such a good read, I mean, who doesn't love to watch the perfect stumble and fall? I am certainly not going to turn it down!

I listened to Block Party on audio and enjoyed it, the narration was clear and added plenty to the story. When I could not listen I also had a copy of the book, which I will say the story is well written and executed. It has plenty of drama and twists that propel the reader along quickly to the end.

Told in two POVs, Alex and her daughter Lettie, who is in her last year of High School. I appreciated the author's choice of giving the book only two narrators, as there were plenty of characters she could have added, but I also seem to have a hard time keeping them separated when there are too many, so perfect editing on her part. I did not find any of the characters practically likable, but that just made the reading all the better.

The story also has two timelines, the present and a year ago when the party and murder actually happened, the events of the night unfold as you read. I also found it interesting that the author included a Facebook Community in the storyline, where you will get the thoughts and opinions of the residents as they discuss and argue about the who and what of the murder and each other.

All in all the Block Party was entertaining, it wasn't a literary marvel but it was a juicy little book that will give you Desperate Housewife vibes. If that is your type of thing, then The Block Party is a must read for you.


Thursday, June 22, 2023

Book Review: California Golden by Melanie Benjamin


Southern California, 1960s: endless sunny days surfing in Malibu, followed by glittering neon nights at Whisky A-Go-Go. In an era when women are expected to be housewives, Carol Donelly is breaking the mold as a legendary female surfer struggling to compete in a male-dominated sport—and her daughters, Mindy and Ginger, bear the weight of her unconventional lifestyle.

The Donnelly sisters grow up enduring their mother’s absence—physically, when she’s at the beach, and emotionally, the rare times she’s at home. To escape questions about Carol’s whereabouts—and chase their mom’s elusive affection—they cut school to spend their days in the surf. From her first time on a board, Mindy shows a natural talent, but Ginger, two years younger, feels out of place in the water.

As they grow up and their lives diverge, Mindy and Ginger’s relationship ebbs and flows. Mindy finds herself swept up in celebrity, complete with beachside love affairs, parties at the Playboy Club, and USO tours to Vietnam. Meanwhile, Ginger—desperate for a community of her own—is tugged into the vibrant counterculture of drugs and cults. Through it all, their sense of duty to each other survives, as the girls are forever connected by the emotional damage they carry from their unorthodox childhood.

A gripping, emotional story set at a time when mothers were expected to be Donna Reed, not Gidget, California Golden is an unforgettable novel about three women living in a society that was shifting as tempestuously as the breaking waves.


This book is the best hazy summer read with its sunny location in Malibu California, and the late 60s-70s early surf culture.

It is a story of women in the early days of the sport seen through the eyes of two sisters whose mother is at the forefront of women in a mostly male-dominated sport. A mother who is distant both in being around and emotionally when she is.

As you read, you follow the sisters and their relationship with each other. It is a real relationship, with ups and downs in their differences in personality and their abilities on the surfboard.

It is an emotional read, with tragedy and courage. Well written and well-paced. It is a book you will find hard to put down.

This story is unwashed in the history of the 60s and 70s, from the obvious surf culture history to the Vietnam War to the early days of the Whiskey A Go-Go.

I loved everything about it, and def recommend picking up California Golden and spending the day soaking up the sun while reading.

** This book releases on August 8th. Thank you Net Galley and Random House for the advance copy **

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Book Review: Spare by Prince Harry


Goodreads Overview:

It was one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow—and horror. As Princess Diana was laid to rest, billions wondered what Prince William and Prince Harry must be thinking and feeling—and how their lives would play out from that point on.

For Harry, this is that story at last.

Before losing his mother, twelve-year-old Prince Harry was known as the carefree one, the happy-go-lucky Spare to the more serious Heir. Grief changed everything. He struggled at school, struggled with anger, with loneliness—and, because he blamed the press for his mother’s death, he struggled to accept life in the spotlight.

At twenty-one, he joined the British Army. The discipline gave him structure, and two combat tours made him a hero at home. But he soon felt more lost than ever, suffering from post-traumatic stress and prone to crippling panic attacks. Above all, he couldn’t find true love.

Then he met Meghan. The world was swept away by the couple’s cinematic romance and rejoiced in their fairy-tale wedding. But from the beginning, Harry and Meghan were preyed upon by the press, subjected to waves of abuse, racism, and lies. Watching his wife suffer, their safety and mental health at risk, Harry saw no other way to prevent the tragedy of history repeating itself but to flee his mother country. Over the centuries, leaving the Royal Family was an act few had dared. The last to try, in fact, had been his mother. . . .

For the first time, Prince Harry tells his own story, chronicling his journey with raw, unflinching honesty. A landmark publication, Spare is full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.

Jacque's Review:

I have been a fan of the Royal Family for as long as I can remember and have read several books about Princess Diana, the Queen, etc. I really enjoyed listening to this book on audio with Prince Harry as the narrator. He did a fantastic job as a storyteller, but as is the case with every autobiography, we are only hearing one side of the story. 

I really felt for him and what he had to go through after his mother died, dealing with the stalking by the media, and the fear for his family's safety. I don't blame him in the least for wanting to be able to live a "normal" life. (He isn't exactly living like a commoner out in LA with the lucrative deals he and Meghan have made selling their story, but it is far more normal than life as a working royal.) 

I found it interesting to read about his tours of duty and the charitable causes he has supported over the years. Being able to use his influence for causes he believes in, similar to what his mother worked so hard for, is very noble. His time in Africa seemed like some of the best times in his life as he was recounting the stories. He could be himself and help others with very little contact with photographers. 

He did air a lot of dirty laundry related to his relationship with his brother, Prince William, and his father. The way Harry views some of their more recent interactions, and I'm sure what ultimately caused him to sell out the family, is really sad. I'm sure his mother would be devastated to see how their relationship unraveled, but like I said...we are only hearing half of the story. I was hopeful that Harry would eventually rejoin the family once all of the media drama died down, but after the Oprah interview, the podcasts, Netflix series, and now this book, I'm afraid he has probably burned that bridge. 

The fact that Meghan and their children did not attend the coronation of King Charles is a pretty clear indication that things are still on shaky ground. Can you think of a better way to celebrate your birthday than to attend the coronation of your grandfather? Instead, they used Archie's birthday as an excuse for the family not to attend. It is sad that the children do not have a real relationship with Harry's side of the family or an opportunity to learn their family history firsthand. 

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Book Review: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg


Goodreads Overview:

Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.

Jacque's Review:

This was the May selection for the Books on Tap book club hosted by the Marysville Public Library. I never watched the movie and didn't really put two and two together that this was the book the movie was based upon until after I started reading it. I did end up watching the movie shortly after finishing the book. As is usually the case, the book is definitely better, but the movie was enjoyable.

The story primarily takes place in a small town in Alabama in the 1920's. Ninny Threadgoode is currently in a nursing home and recounts stories from her youth to Evelyn, who is a middle-aged women experiencing a bit of a mid-life crisis. She is not happy with her life and has turned to food for comfort, which only makes her feel worse about herself as she continues to put on weight. The two women connect and form a sweet friendship. Each week Evelyn comes to visit, and Ninny continues her story about what life was like in Whistle Stop during her youth. Ninny can see that Evelyn is likely going through menopause and offers some great advice and motivation to help Evelyn through this difficult time. 

The Whistle Stop Cafe is a restaurant opened by Ninny's sister-in-law Idgie and her friend Ruth. We never know what sort of relationship the two of them have, but it is implied that they were more than friends. Idgie was a wild spirit growing up and often retreated to a river community away from her family after the loss of her brother. Ruth is the one person who is able to bring her back to Whistle Stop to finally settle down, or as much as one can tame Idgie. The two are completely different, but they bring out the best in each other. They run the cafe and raise Ruth's son together.

Segregation, the KKK, and the depression are all elements that are woven into this story. Idgie never turned anyone away from the restaurant regardless of the color of their skin or their ability to pay for a meal. She knew what was right and stood up for her beliefs. She was a very admirable character and was willing to put her own neck on the line to protect the ones she loved. While Ninny is the one telling the stories about the past, the book is more about Ruth, Idgie, and the Threadgoode family than it is about her personally. 

I really enjoyed this story and was glad I finally got around to reading and watching this movie. It likely isn't something that I ever would have selected on my own, but I would recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Book Review: The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn


Goodreads Overview:

This time the gossip columnists have it wrong. London’s most elusive bachelor Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry—he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield—the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams...

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands—and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister—but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself...

Jacque's Review:

This is the second book in the Bridgerton series and focuses on Daphne's oldest brother Anthony. He is best friends with Daphne's husband Simon. If you read the first book in the series, you are well aware of both of their reputations. Simon had no intention of getting married until he found himself in a compromising situation. Ultimately, it worked out for the best because Daphne and Simon are perfect together. They made a few appearances in this novel, and I enjoyed seeing how married life is treating them since the conclusion of The Duke and I.

Anthony is only settling down because he believes it is his duty as the Viscount to produce an heir. He isn't looking for love, but someone who will fit the role of the Viscountess and produce children. He has every intention of continuing his rakish behavior until he falls in love with Kate, the sister of the woman he originally planned on marrying. 

The banter between Anthony and Kate was absolutely hilarious throughout this book. They are like oil and vinegar and appear to detest each other, but Anthony needs her approval if he intends to marry Edwina. They get thrown into a variety of situations that eventually change their perceptions of each other. She sees his love and devotion to his family and realizes there is more to him than she originally thought. He is, however, very up front with her about not wanting a love match, which complicates things for quite a while considering his undeniable attraction to her. 
There are some MAJOR differences between the book and this season of the Netflix series. I prefer the book version, but I can see why they may have wanted to alter some things for television purposes. After reading the book, I was actually lukewarm on most of the changes Netflix made. When I heard Julia Quinn speak at an author event recently, she said she pretty much gave Netflix free rein when it came to the script. The one scene she insisted that they keep from this book was the croquet match, which I totally agree with. That was one of my favorite scenes from the book and series. 

Overall, I am loving this series. The characters are so unique, and you HAVE to love Lady Whistledown and her publications. We as readers/viewers now know who Whistledown is, but the other characters are still trying to figure it out. Hopefully it stays that way because I really enjoy her witty take on society's elite. The next book focuses on Benedict and sounds like a take on the Cinderella story. I'm not sure how I feel about mixing a retelling into this story, but only time will tell. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Book Review: Pieces Of Blue by Holly Goldberg Sloan


What good was thinking the future only held cloudy skies? Wasn’t the reality that pieces of blue were always there, waiting to break through?

When Paul Hill drowns in a surfing accident, his broken-hearted wife, Lindsey, and their three children are left in huge financial trouble. Once Paul’s life insurance finally comes through, Lindsey impulsively uses the money to buy a charmingly ramshackle motel in Hawai’i, hoping for a fresh start. Teenage Olivia quickly develops a crush on a handsome but monosyllabic skateboarder. Twelve-year-old Carlos reinvents himself as a popular kid named Carl. And Sena, the youngest, will do whatever it takes to protect her beloved motel chickens.

But while the kids adjust, Lindsey is flailing, trying to pretend she knows how to bring a motel―and herself―back to life. Then a handsome stranger rolls into the motel parking lot, and she’s surprised to feel a long-dormant part of herself stirring. She accepts his offer to help, unaware that he may have secrets of his own. And all the while, out in the Pacific, the trade winds are fiercely blowing.

Funny and tender, full of twists and turns and heart, Pieces of Blue is a portrait of an irresistible family learning to start over.


Every year I look forward to the month of May, it is the time that I begin searching for my summer beach reads. I have a soft spot for any book that takes place in a tropical or beach setting, I think mostly because I am stuck in the middle of nowhere, landlocked from the beautiful ocean. They are my escape when I am stuck inside trying to stay cool, while it is 100 degrees outside combined with about 90 percent humidity. Stepping outside here is like stepping into Dante's 9th circle of hell- because of course since that is where the worst of the sinners go, it's got to be hella hot right?

Thanks to MacMillan Audio I was able to get my hands on an early listen of Holly Goldberg Sloane's new novel Pieces of Blue, and it was the perfect way to kick off my summer of beach reads.

It is set in Hawaii where Lindsey and her three children move after a tragic surfing accident results in her husband's death. Lindsey takes the life insurance money and buys a ramshackle motel on the island of Ohau, and attempts to start their life over. I loved the setting, I use to live in the area that the book takes place in, in fact, Sloane even mentions one of my favorite casual eating establishments Giovanni's ( IYKYK ), so reading it was like taking a trip back to my old stomping grounds, thus making the book so much more enjoyable to me.

As far as the characters in the book, I liked them all, but the stand-out characters to me were her three children, Olivia ( 14 ) Carlos ( 12 ), and Sena ( 7 ). They each had such strong personalities, and they added a great deal of depth to the story.

Lyndsey was a great mom to the children, ad she worked hard on trying to make their new life as normal as possible, even with the enormous amount of changes that were taking place in their lives, she was a real trooper with all her responsibilities.

Also, there was Chris, a visitor from the Mainland, he and his wife had often come to Ohau and spent time at the motel before she had passed on. He takes on some handyman duties that need to be done around the place to pay for his room there, and of course, he comes with a complicated past and secrets.

This was a quick read, a great story about repairing your life after tragedy and learning your inner strengths. It was a great family saga, which I have always been drawn to. But also, the descriptions of the lush island were so visible they also became a bit of a character in the story, and they put you right in the middle of the area. Sloane even put in several twists that kept the story from feeling dry and kept the story moving along. All in all, it was not a bad choice for my first beach read of the season.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens


Goodreads Overview:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life's lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures.

Jacque's Review:

This is another book that I decided to read because of all of the hype from Reese's book club. This one did not disappoint. I gave it a solid 5 stars and even watched the movie shortly after I finished reading the book. I felt like Hollywood did a decent job of bringing this book to life without deviating too far from the original story line, but the book is definitely better. Don't take the easy way out and just watch the movie in this case.

Kya lived with her Mom, Dad, and four siblings in the marsh area of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. Her father is a drunk and was often abusive. They do not have any money and live in a shack, so one by one her family leaves to make a better life for themselves somewhere else. Kya is eventually left to fend for herself and lives off the land with some help form Jumpin' and Mabel. They are an African American couple that runs the store where she buys gas for her boat and what food and supplies she can afford. 

She bonds with Tate, a local boy who teaches her how to read. They both love the marsh and its creatures, but he eventually has to leave for college. She is once again left all alone in a town where she is laughed at and ridiculed. Instead of offering a young girl who is obviously in need of help a lifeline, the town turned their backs on her. Surprisingly she becomes friends with Chase Andrews, who was the star quarterback and comes from a relatively wealthy family. When he is found dead, the town immediately believes the marsh girl has to be guilty. 

A large portion of the book centers around the murder investigation and trial. It was a captivating story that had a very surprising conclusion. Discrimination and segregation were prevalent at this time in the south and it could be seen in all aspects of this book. Kya's ability to overcome what most would have considered to be insurmountable odds was remarkable. I couldn't help but root for her to come out on top, even if I wasn't sure if she was guilty or not. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

BLOG TOUR: An Improbable Season by Rosalyn Eves


I'm so happy to be a part of the official blog tour for this delightful book! It's been a while since I've done a blog tour and I've forgotten how much fun they are. Today, I'm going to share a review. First things first, here is the summary:

Book Summary
When Thalia, Kalliope, and Charis set off to Regency London for their first Season, they each have clear goals—few of which include matrimony. Thalia means to make her mark among the intelligentsia and publish her poetry, Charis hopes to earn her place among the scientific elite, and Kalliope aims to take the fashionable ton by storm. But this Season, it doesn't take long for things to fall apart. Kalli finds herself embroiled in scandal and reliant upon an arranged marriage to redeem her reputation, Thalia's dreams of publication are threatened by her attraction to a charming rake, and Charis finds herself an unexpected social hit—and the source of a family scandal that her heart might not survive. Can this roller-coaster Season find its happily ever after?

Flo's Review
I'm going to be honest -- historical fiction is not really my jam. Usually. So it's pretty crazy that this is the second Regency romance I've read this year, and the second one that I've loved.

The book started off a little slow for me. With 3 POVs, I found it hard to keep track of which girl was which (like, "Thalia, that's right, she's the poet) and travel to then the first few weeks in London were pretty rushed.

But then it hit its stride.

I was so sad for Kalli! I think, with her big heart, she was my favorite character. Even though the outcome of two of the storylines was pretty evident, it was still a fun journey to get there. The third one actually surprised me! I think there could have been some more clues and some more buildup to it so that it didn't seem to be a sudden thing at the end. I also wished that the sisters, who have a falling out pretty early in the book, resolved their right more quickly.

By the end of the book, I literally could not put it down. Did I stay up past my bedtime because I legit could not stop reading? I sure did! Do I have regrets? Well, 10:30 a.m. lull at work Flo did, but current Flo who is remembering how much fun she had with this book does not. I love, love, love it when a book is unputdownable and I'm so happy that was the case here.

I also really enjoy that in a world of duologies, trilogies, and series that this was a standalone. That being said, if Rosalyn wanted to revisit the world -- say, some of Thalia's and Kalli's younger sisters Seasons, with these three making cameos, I would 100% read it.

In conclusion, this book is a fun escape that kept me wanting to turn pages. Recommended!

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Goodreads Overview:

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Jacque's Review:

The Delaware, Ohio Library hosted Neal Shusterman for an author event at one of the local schools. I hadn't read any of his books, but I had heard of him and even had Scythe on my TBR list. I finished reading it a couple of days before the event, so I at least had a clue about some of his writing. He told several stories about the inspiration for his books, which I found fascinating. He worked as a summer camp counselor when he was younger and told stories to keep the kids entertained and in line. He was one of the favorite counselors and the kids couldn't wait to hear his stories each night. He translated that experience into a career writing for middle grade and young adults. In fact, he told stories for the majority of the presentation and the audience was hooked. I added several of his books to my TBR list as he was talking about them. 


The futuristic society in Scythe has conquered death and aging. Citizens can "turn the corner" when they start to look too old and want a more youthful appearance. Of course, people probably don't want to go back to their awkward teenage years, so they return to maybe their 20's or 30's. You could theoretically have generations of family members who all look the same age. In order to keep the population under control, Scythes have a quota of people they have to kill or "glean" each year. There are rules to prevent Scythes from discriminating and there are even ways to grant and receive immunity. On the surface, it all seems to make sense until a group of Scythes band together and start abusing their power. They turn gleanings into major events and start gaining power from the fear they are spreading.

Citra and Rowan are both apprentices under Scythe Faraday. He has been doing the job for a very long time and is compassionate when it comes to his work. We quickly learn at the first of the tri-annual conclaves that there is friction within the scythedom. Not everyone wants to live by the rules that have been set, so they use Faraday's having two apprentices as a way to manipulate the group. They decide to split them up under different trainers and put them head-to-head with the winner having to glean the loser. 

Throughout the rest of the book, we get to see how the different factions operate. Rowen is training under Scythe Goddard, who is part of the group that is conducting the mass killings. Citra trains under Scythe Curie, who is more in line with Scythe Faraday's way of operating. Their training styles are completely different from that point forward and the stark differences between the factions becomes very clear. There is a surprising twist shortly before the final conclave that really brings everything full circle. What is in store for Citra, Rowan, and the future of the scythedom is left hanging in the balance at the end of this book. I purchased a copy of Thunderhead, the second book in the series, at the event and plan on reading it sometime this summer. This was an exceptionally good start to the series and I can't wait to find out what will happen next.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Book Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin


Goodreads Overview:

In this exhilarating novel, two friends--often in love, but never lovers--come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn't heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won't protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Jacque's Review:

I had an opportunity to see Gabrielle Zevin speak at an author event hosted by Columbus Metropolitan Library several years ago. So, when Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow was selected as one of the Books on Tap book club selections, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It is a book club that meets at a local brewery, but this is the first time they have selected a book I was interested in.

Sam and Sadie meet at a Children's hospital when Sam and Sadie's sister are both there for an extended period. Sam was involved in a car accident and needed numerous surgeries on his foot while Sadie's sister was being treated for cancer. The two connect over video games and become close friends until Sam discovers a secret she has been hiding.

They go their separate ways and eventually reconnect when they bump into each other in a subway station clear across the country. Sam is attending Harvard and Sadie is at MIT. They decide to design a video game together and their lives are an instant success. Sam's friend Marx runs the business side of things while Sam and Sadie design the games. Their "office" quickly moves from Marx's apartment near Boston to an office building in sunny southern California with a full team of employees. 

Sam and Sadie clearly love each other, but the strong competition between them prevents them from ever becoming more than friends. They have periods when they will not even talk to each other, but the minute the other person needs them, they are the first to step up and help. There were quite a few unexpected twists and turns woven into this story, which really kept the pages turning. I do not want to give anything away, so I will simply leave it at that.

I enjoy playing video games on occasion, but you certainly do not need to be a gamer to enjoy this story. It won the Goodreads choice award for best fiction in 2022 and the movie rights have been picked up by Paramount Pictures. It is a story of love, friendship, overcoming disabilities and loss, and even explores topics of ethnic and religious diversity. I really enjoyed Zevin's writing style and look forward to seeing how Hollywood brings this story to life on the big screen.