Friday, November 17, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - November 18

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Today I have a few random pictures from our trip to Bend.  I thought I had taken more pictures when we went to the Deschutes County Historical Museum, but apparently not!  Oh well, I would encourage you, if you are ever in Bend, to check it out.  It really is a neat little museum!

They were just setting up a World War I exhibit when we visited.  I had to explain to my kids that World War I was the one Wonder Woman fought in.

My daughter with some household items from late 19th/early 20th century

This picture was actually taken the next morning, but I had to capture how much my daughter LOVES the Holiday Inn Express continental breakfast.  I swear she ate everything they had!

I have one more post from out Bend trip and I'll have that up in 2 weeks (Thanksgiving pics next week).

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book Review: "Tangled Up in Tinsel" (Sunshine Creek Vineyard #3) by Candis Terry

Tangled Up in Tinsel (Sunshine Creek Vineyard #3) Candis Terry
Date Finished: October 21, 2017
Date Published: September 26, 2017
ISBN: 9780062471819
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
Source: Personal Copy
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Stories with big families, books about chefs, fiery characters, Christmas novels

As if the holidays weren’t stressful enough, Parker Kincade has a restaurant to open. The fact that his Groomzilla brother wants the place for his perfect Christmas wedding doesn’t help. Then there’s the stunning woman who appoints herself his new chef before he’s ready to hire one. But one look at Gabriella Montani has Parker reassessing needs vs. wants. And that’s before he tastes what she has to offer…

Gabriella doesn’t need to get tangled up with a sexy man. What she needs is a job and a chance to prove herself. A place in Parker’s kitchen could give her the opportunity she’s been waiting for. The heat between them is sizzling, but a place in his bed could be downright dangerous. Neither Christmas nor men have ever lived up to her expectations, but Parker has soulmate written all over him. Should Gabi let herself be swept up in his holiday magic, or will it disappear before Christmas Day?

My Thoughts:
Candis Terry is one of my favorite romance authors, and she's one that I feel doesn't get the recognition that she deserves.  The Sunshine Creek Vineyard series is her third and and all three books in it (so far!) have been an absolute delight.  Sure, there are plenty of romance writers who write series, but Terry is one of the few who actually make the series work as a whole instead as a string of somewhat connected novels.

We first met the Kincade bunch back in A Better Man, and even then, the brothers were starting their own stories.  So far, Parker--the hero in this novel--is probably my favorite.  While they all have their backstories, his seems to be the most nuanced and, to me, the most interesting.  It's not over the top, but there is enough there to keep me wanting to know more.

As much as I liked Parker, I loved Gabi more.  I appreciated that she was a woman who knows what she wants and is willing to do what she needs to do get it.  At the same time, she has a realistic vulnerability, and one that I could relate to.  Her backstory is also interesting, and probably the best on the heroine's side that we've had so far in this series.

I loved the banter in this book--not just between Parker and Gabi, but also between Parker and his brothers.  One of Terry's strengths is her ability to create dialogue that is both realistic but also interesting and entertaining enough to pull the reader in.  I wanted nothing more than to be in the room with all the brothers, watching football or straightening out a family drama.

I know that Christmas romances are popular, but a lot of them just don't seem very Christmas-y to me.  This one, however, rings all the jingle bells.  In fact, I kind of wished I had waited a month or two to read just so that it would be closer to the holiday.  I will, however, be making the Ricotta Cookies from this book--yes, there are recipes!  And they all look sinfully delicious!

The one note to this book is that I do think that the previous novels need to be read first (don't worry, they're great, too!).  I'm generally the sort of person who needs to start at the beginning of a series and read the books sequentially, but this particular book really does need at least the first of the two previous books.  A major plot point of this novel involves Jordan, the hero of A Better Man and I do think a reader wouldn't get everything they could out of this novel without having read at least that one first.

If you have already read the first two books in this series, don't wait to read this one (well, you might want to wait a little closer to Christmas!).  If you haven't read this series, give it a try.  And please, please give Candis Terry a try.  She is as good as they come in the romance genre!

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

The previous two books in this series are:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

It's Monday....What Are you Reading? - November 13 #IMWAYR

Well, it's been a while since I've been around these Monday update parts (seriously!  I just checked and my last IMWAYR post was August 27th!).  My blogging, in general, has been anemic in 2017, although I am working to remedy that.  I toyed with the idea of stepping away from book-specific blogging, but then I ended up doing no blogging.  So, I'm going back to the basics and doing book reviews and the like.  My plan is to have one review up a week for the rest of 2017, and then get back to 2 reviews in 2018.  And, of course, I'll throw in other posts when I feel like it--and I am going to do my best to continue with this update more regularly.

Other than that, life is just rolling along.  As we get closer to the holidays, our schedule fills up faster than I would like, but I'm trying to manage it as best I can.  It looks like we're having a crowd over for Thanksgiving, which is great and exciting--but it also means I need to do some serious housework!

Anyway, onto the update!

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.  Please visit her blog to link up and join the fun!  Also, if you are participating in the meme, please be sure to link to your blog in your comment so that I can visit!

First off, I have a giveaway going on right now!  Click on over here to enter to win a copy of The Real Thing by Melissa Foster!  

Also, I'm not going to go into what I've finished reading in the last two and half months.  Sorry, but I would never finish this post if I did that.  Hopefully, I'll be back to report on what I've finished next week!

Yes, I do have more (too many) books on my "Currently Reading" list, but these are the three that I'm actively reading.

A Hundred Small Lessons is one that I'm reading for a blog tour.  Apparently, it has been a bestseller in Australia, but is just now coming stateside.  I'm about 1/3 of the way through it and the prose is just lovely, although I'm finding the plot to be a little slow.  I can't tell if the pace will pick up or if this is an "atmospheric" book, but it is holding my attention enough that I'm willing to keep going, even if I only read a few pages a day.

A Christmas Day at the Office is a book that I won last year in a Goodreads giveaway and then didn't have a chance to read it before the holidays, so I had decided to shelve it for a year.  I found out when I went over to grab the cover art for this post from Goodreads that it is actually the second in a series, which I found odd.  Usually I can tell when I'm reading a book that isn't the first in a series, but not with this one...but honestly a prequel to this book just doesn't seem interesting to me.  Oh well, we'll have to see how this goes.  So far, it feels like an attempt at a typical British rom com.

Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life came on my radar thanks to a post on Instagram (and I can't seem to find who posted it....sorry!).  It sounded like a hoot, and something my daughter might like.  However, I've found that middle grade novels can sometimes be hard to fit.  As far as reading ability, my daughter can read about anything...but interest is another story.  Sometimes books are just a bit too "old" for her interests.  So, I decided to preview this one and see if it something she might like.  I think it will be a hit for her, because I am loving it!  It's about a girl whose life was upended when her mother moved her and her siblings to Walnut Grove, Minnesota to write a book with the help of "the spirit of Laura."

So, that's what I'm reading now...I'm hoping to at least have one or two of these finished by next week!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - November 11

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

After a short side trip to Halloween, I'm back with more pictures from our trip to Bend.

The thing about Bend is that it is insanely popular in the summer, with all the outdoor activities, and insanely popular in the winter, with all the skiing.  In the fall and spring, though, it is a risk when it comes to the weather.  Of course, that is the cheap time to go, which is why we went when we did.

So, the weather was...not great.  It was chilly, with alternating wind and rain (two days after we left, it was 75 and sunny).  But, we made the best of it...but finding snow!   We tried to visit Lava Lands, but it was closed for the season.  Instead, we drove up to into the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and were not disappointed!

We couldn't get up as far as we'd like as we didn't want to chain up the car, but the kids had great fun getting into a snowball fight with their dad!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Book Review: "The Real Thing" (Sugar Lake #1) by Melissa Foster + GIVEAWAY

The Real Thing (Sugar Lake #1)  Melissa Foster
Date finished: October 17, 2017
Date published: September 5, 2017
ISBN: 9781542045810
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
Source: Goodreads Giveaway

You might enjoy this book if you like: Second chance romances, sassy narratives, fake fiance romances

Bakery owner Willow Dalton’s friendship with Zane Walker has always been a bit complicated. Now a scrumptiously hot A-list actor, Zane’s always had a reputation as player. He’s arrogant, and he’s definitely not boyfriend material. Sure, he did Willow a favor by agreeing to take her virginity before college, but is that reason enough to go along with a fake engagement a decade later—even if it comes with a real diamond ring?

Zane should have known better. Nothing involving Willow has ever been easy. Still, he knows her better than anyone, and becoming America’s hottest new leading man means cleaning up his reputation. An “engagement” to curvy, sass-mouthed Willow is the perfect PR move . . . provided no one gets hurt. 

Now Zane and Willow’s little white lie has turned into an irresistible recipe for sweet temptation. And soon no one will be able to tell the difference between their fake engagement or the real thing—including them. 

My Thoughts:
It is frequently difficult for me to start with a new romance author.  I have my favorites, which usually keep me busy enough, and I have this thing that I have to start series with the first book and I am sometimes so overwhelmed by existing series that I just can't start them.  Melissa Foster is one of those authors that I had seen come up in my recommendations and thought that I really should try, but just never got around to it.  Then, I won a copy of this book--which fortunately was the first in a series (otherwise I would have gone back to read all the previous books first, because I am THAT person)--and decided to give it a try.

The best thing about this novel for me were the characters.  As it is the first in the series, the cast seems to be bigger than the story itself actually needs.  However, since it is setting up a series, I have no problem with this (if this were a standalone, I'd feel differently).  Willow and Zane are both likable characters and their witty repartee was entertaining and engaging.  The supporting cast, as I said, is large, but still distinct.  I never felt like I was mixing up characters or forgetting who was who.  These characters were developed enough that I am interested in reading their stories down the line, but not so much that they eclipse Willow and Zane's story.

While I enjoyed Willow and Zane's story, I found it problematic in parts.  I did get the feels from their growing attachment to each other, which is always a win for me in romance novels.  However, I felt the structure was a bit weak.  There was no great conflict between the two characters and the 11th hour conflict that does occur is small stakes (and the "resolution" for it is downright silly).  I tend to prefer more meat in the area when it comes to my love stories, although it didn't stop me from continuing to think about Willow and Zane after I had finished reading.

So while this was not a completely successful read for me, I enjoyed it enough to recommend it to others.  I also plan to read more by Melissa Foster and am anxiously waiting for the second Sugar Lake novel to hit my Kindle.

I won an electronic copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.  I was encouraged, but not required, to write an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

In addition to winning a kindle copy of this book, I also received a print copy from my Send Me Swooning box.  That means I have a copy to giveaway to one of my readers!  This giveaway is open to readers in the US and will run through November 14, 2017.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 3, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - November 4

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

I'm taking a little break from our Bend pictures to share a few shots from Halloween around our parts...

This year the kids went as Harley Quinn and Spider-Man.  I have to say that, had I known who Harley Quinn was, I probably would have had my daughter choose another costume.  Oh well...lesson learned!

Our goody bowl!  After I took this picture, the hubs brought home some we gave out both!  Because we want to be sensitive to kids with food allergies, I try to make sure we have non-food options available (and glow sticks/bracelets and vampire teeth are always a big hit!)

I took this picture while my daughter was waiting to go out trick-or-treating.  Notice what she is reading--yes, The Baby-Sitters Club!  She bought this book earlier in the day at the Library book sale and seems to be enjoying it!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Review: "The Book of Unknown American" by Cristina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown Americans Cristina Henriquez
Date finished: October 13, 2017
Date published: June 3, 2014
ISBN: 9780385350846
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Book Club
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Books about immigrants, young love stories, novels with developed supporting characters

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery--the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes--will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles.

At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamá fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America.

My Thoughts: 
This was one of those books that I knew I really should read.  I had checked it out of the library a few times, but was never able to get to it before the due date (thanks to the law of "all holds must come in at once.")  So, when this one came to me through one of my book  clubs, I knew the time had come.

I knew immediately that this would be a book that would work for me.  The characters, the main and the supporting, all vividly come to life on the page.  I especially liked the shorter chapters we would get describing the smaller characters.  While they aren't essential to the story, they add a depth to the novel that I appreciated.

There are a few main plots in this book, but it centers around the two teenage characters, Maribel and Mayor.  I found their story and relationship to be reminiscent of Eleanor and Park (which, in my mind, is a very good thing).  Mayor was both a typical teenager and a fascinating young man.  Most of the books with characters such as him that I've read concentrate on the female counterpart, so it was nice to see the tables turned there.

We don't have much of a chance to get inside Maribel's head, but that is an effective choice by Henriquez, for two reasons.  First of  all, because of her brain injury, it makes sense that Maribel's character is closed off--both from the world and from the reader.  Second, by not seeing through Maribel's eyes, Henriquez reminds the reader of how we might distance ourselves from our immigrant neighbors.

I believe, given what is happening in the world, this is the perfect time to read this book.  While so many lines are being drawn (and walls being built), it is important to put yourself in someone else's shoes--and reading this book is an excellent way to do so.  I regret that it took me so long to read this, but I'm glad that I finally did and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - October 28

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Last weekend, we took a little trip to Central Oregon to spend a few days in Bend.  We had planned to go this summer, but prices are about 3 times as much during the summer.  The kids had a long weekend, so we though it would be a great time to take advantage of the lower prices.  The weather wasn't what we had hoped, but we found things to do.  I'll be sharing pictures over the next couple of weeks (mostly...I may throw in a Halloween post), but we'll start with the best place I've found to eat in Bend.

It's called Bangers and Brews and it is this little place in what is sort of a strip mall.  I believe it is near the Old Mill District, but I get so turned around in Bend that I can't be sure.  The Brats we got were probably a bit too fancy for the kids, but the hubs and I loved them!

Obligatory pic of my adorable children... Plus, you can see what was on the menu!
Bacon Gorgonzola Fries and, no, they were not all for my son!

There is my bit of heaven in a bun (with onions, peppers, and garlic aioli) and an amazing cider to wash it down.
If you aren't a food pic person, don't worry....these are the only food pics from our trip.  I'll have Halloween pictures next week, but I'll be back with more Bend pictures the week after that.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: "Last Christmas in Paris" by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb #TLCBookTours #LastChristmasInParis

Last Christmas in Paris Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Date finished: October 19, 2017
Date Published: October 3, 2017
ISBN: 9780062562692
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Epistolary novels, Stories set during World War I, Friends to Lovers stories, Downton Abbey

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

My Thoughts:
While I had never read anything by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor is one of those authors that I know I will always enjoy.  I'm a little wary of books with dual authors, but the fact that Hazel Gaynor was one of the authors was enough to convince me to give it a try.

This is an epistolary novel--or a story told through letters.  I actually enjoy these sorts of novels, but I know that it isn't everyone's cup of tea.  One of the reasons I like these is that I find that they are easy to pick up and put down.  Because of this, I decided to save this book to read while my family went on a road trip.  While I enjoy reading in the car, I do have to take breaks at fairly frequent intervals to keep motion sickness at bay.  I figured that an epistolary novel would be perfect for that...and it was, except for one thing.

Once I started, I couldn't put this book down.  Well, I mean, I did put it down when nausea became an issue (due to the car, not the book), but I got right back to the book as soon as I could.  I was immediately drawn into Thomas and Evie's lives as soon as I started the book and each letter just deepened the hook for me.  Both characters are fully dimensional, flawed, and believable.

My knowledge of World War I is not as deep as it probably should be, but the fact that this story is told through personal letters puts the conflict in a uniquely compelling light.  Webb and Gaynor do an excellent job of weaving historical details into the letters in a very organic way.  I never felt like the authors were trying to camouflage an info dump, but that the details would just naturally arise in the correspondence between the characters.

The reason why dual-author novels don't always work for me is that the voices of the two authors don't always blend well.  Fortunately, that is not the case with this book.  I'm not sure how Gaynor and Webb divided up the writing, but I never felt like I  knew which author was writing at any one time.  Of course, the epistolary format of this book is especially conducive to multiple authors, but Gaynor and Webb make use of every advantage.

While I did find the story itself a bit predictable, I still enjoyed it as it unfolded (hence not being able to put it down).  Gaynor and Webb keep the pace of the novel up throughout and bring it all to a very satisfying ending.  This is definitely one of the better novels set during World War I that I've read and I would heartily recommend it.

About the Authors
HAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.

Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

HEATHER WEBB writes historical fiction for Penguin, including her novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover.

As a former military brat, Heather naturally grew up obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before channeling these passions into fiction. When not writing, she flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Find out more about Heather at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

If you would like to read more about this book, please check out some of the other stops on this blog tour.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - October 21

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Okay, here are the last pictures from our anniversary getaway.  On our way back home, we stopped for breakfast (which ended up being lunch) at Camp 18, which is sort of an iconic stop on Highway 26.  The food is great, but expect a looong wait.  While we were waiting for our table, I took some pictures of the woodcarvings around the place.

Not a carving, but here's a peek at the decor!