Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Book Review: "Little Broken Things" by Nicole Baart + Giveaway

Little Broken Things Nicole Baart
Date Finished: December 4, 2017
Date Published: November 21, 2017
ISBN: 9781501133602
Genre: Thriller
Source: TLC Book Tours

You might enjoy this book if you like: Thrillers, family dramas, family secrets

I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn's house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever.

Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy.

While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves. 

My Thoughts:
I don't think I've ever done this before, but I want to start my thoughts off with managing some expectations.  This book is touted as being in the same vein as Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies.  Because of that, I went into this book with a certain set of expectations.  I don't think it is fair to say that my expectations were unmet, but rather that they were misplaced.  To me, a far more accurate "readalike" book for this title would be Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train.  These two books are far more similar in scope and feel than Big Little Lies.

Now, the good news is that I found this to be a much more enjoyable book than The Girl on the Train.  While I don't want to get into my thoughts about that book, I will say that Baart's story crafting is vastly superior and I found myself far more satisfied with this book than I was with Hawkins' novel.

For some reason, I've been reading a lot of novels set in Minnesota lately.  I've spent time in that state and have genuine affection for it and I love the small town Baart created for this novel. Most of the time I've spent in Minnesota was in small towns like that and Baart hit the nail on the head.  (However, I am a little surprised that broasted chicken was never mentioned!)

Her characters--notably Nora, Quinn, and their mother Liz--are expertly drawn.  Each has their own distinctive voice and are fully fleshed out.  I found myself sympathizing with all three, but in very different ways.  I did wish that some of the secondary characters were fleshed out a bit more than they were, but I didn't feel dissatisfied with the people in this story.

So, here is where my problem came in.  I enjoyed this book as a story--the characters were fabulous, the setting was perfect, and the plot was interesting.  However, I never felt that sense of urgency that is needed in a thriller.  While I wouldn't say that the plot was predictable, I have to admit that I "figured it out" before the reveal...but that's fine  In fact, that almost always happens to me  However, I just never got that adrenaline rush that makes me feel that thriller tension with this book.  So, while I felt that this book should be thriller, it just didn't feel like one with me.

Still, I enjoyed it as a novel and do not regret the time I spent reading it.  Baart is definitely an author I would read again and I would recommend to anyone, with the understanding that it is best read as a novel and not a thriller.

About the Author:
Nicole Baart is the mother of five children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven previous novels, including, most recently, The Beautiful Daughters. Find out more at NicoleBaart.com, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I have one print copy to giveaway to one of my readers (US Only).  The giveaway will run through Monday, December 18.  To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - December 9

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.

Seasons greetings!  We are well into the holiday season now and...I am still decorating.  I was hoping I'd have some pictures of how our house is currently looking, but we currently have 4 ornaments on our tree!  Unfortunately, the kids and I have been so busy with all the season's obligations that we just haven't had time yet!  I need to remember how hectic things are now next year at this time so I make a point to step back from things.

Anyway, I do have 2 sort of festive pictures for you today:

We have a tradition that the kids get Christmas pajamas after dinner on Thanksgiving.  Well, guess who forgot all about it this year!  Yep, bad mommy!  In fact, it didn't even register until a picture from last year showed up in  my timehop!  Well, Amazon to the rescue!  It was a little late, but the kids still got their pajamas!

Our tree may not be decorated yet, but I did try to decorate Alice.  She did not appreciate it.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book Review: "A Hundred Small Lessons" by Ashley Hay

A Hundred Small Lessons Ashley Hay
Date Finished: November 20, 2017
Date Published (US): November 28, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours

You  might enjoy this book if you like: Dual narrative novels, Australian literature, character-driven stories

When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.

In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.

Over the course of one hot Brisbane summer, two families’ stories intersect in sudden and unexpected ways. Through the richly intertwined narratives of two ordinary, extraordinary women, Ashley Hay weaves an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human.

My Thoughts:
I have always felt that certain places held their own memories.  Because of that, the premise of this book--two women tied together by one home appealed to me on a number of levels.  We had the setting as an actual character, which I find fascinating, and we have a dual narrative, which I frequently enjoy.

What struck me most about this book was the prose.  Hay's language is absolutely beautiful.  I've never been to Australia, much less Brisbane, but the world she creates is so vivid that I could almost hear the kookaburras outside.  Hay also brings into the souls of not just Elsie and Lucy, but also their spouses.  This is a strongly character-driven novel, which is something that I appreciate.

I found that I related to both Elsie and Lucy, but in different ways.  I connected with Lucy on a personal level--my children are slightly older than her son, but not so much older that I don't remember those days of being home with them all day and how it sometimes seemed like too much.  On the other hand, I'm seeing the other end of life with my older relatives and I see in Elsie things that they have experienced.

Both stories in this novel held my attention and, honestly, I could see both of them standing on their own.  I felt that Lucy's story had more direction than Elsie's, but Elsie's tale was far more reflective.  I think any reader will find something to to delight here.  My only criticism is that I wish that the stories intertwined more.  When I finished this, I felt like I had read two stories, and I wish I felt like I had read one novel.

While my ultimate feeling about this book was not what I had hoped for, this is still a novel I'd recommend to other readers who enjoy character-driven stories.  Also, if you can't afford a trip to Australia, this book might just transport you there for a while.

 About the Author:
Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels The Body in the Clouds and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She has also written four nonfiction books. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

You can connect with Ashley on Facebook or her website.

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

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

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I have one copy of this book to giveaway to one of my readers (US and Canada only).  To enter, please fill out the rafflecopter form below.  This giveaway will be open until midnight (Pacific Time) on December 10.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - December 2

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 have another collection of random pictures today...as we get into the holiday season, I'm hoping to have more "festive" pictures!

The kids and I went to see the "Star Wars Spectacular" family concert at the Oregon Symphony.  Afterwards, the kids got to meet the host, "Lady Harmonium"

I love this picture of my daughter sneaking in some reading time

The only picture I took on Thanksgiving....this is how the guys started out the day

Finally, an Alice picture.  12/1 is what we consider her 4th birthday.  We don't know when she was born (she was a stray), but she was 9 months old when we adopted her on 8/31/2013, so 12/1 seemed like a good birth date for her.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? - November 27 #IMWAYR

So, did you survive Thanksgiving?

I have to say that we had a delightful holiday, although I did more extroverting that I should have so I'm wiped out today.  Tomorrow (er, today I guess, if yo read this on Monday), I'm back at the grind as things start to gear up for the holiday season.  This time of year is always busy, but it is crazy when you have kids!

Oh, I swore I'd be back to posting these updates weekly and then I missed last week.  However, that was not for lack of trying.  Some virus or spyware or whatever found its way onto my computer last Sunday evening.  Fortunately, McAfee caught it--but it required a full drive cleaning which took forever.  So, my absence last week was, for once, unavoidable!

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!

That's right...there is only 2 books there!  But, don't think I've given up my polygamist reading tendencies...I plan to start at least one new one tonight (I'm just not yet sure which one it will be).

I'm still plugging away at Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life.  I should be able to plow right through it, but I'm only reading about a chapter at a time--simply because it is my lower-priority book.  I'm hoping to carve out some time this week to finish it.  I've actually purchased a couple of copies to give as gifts this year (one for my daughter--it will be her Jolabokaflod book!).

I just started Little Broken Things two nights ago, so I'm not that far into it.  It's touted as being the next Big Little Lies, although I'm was lukewarmish on that book.  I'm actually enjoying this book much more, so I'm hoping that holds through the end of the book.  I'm reading this one for a blog tour, so I'll have a review up for it in December.

Here is what happened on the blog since my last update:
Wednesday, November 15 - Book Review: Tangled up in Tinsel by Candis Terry
Saturday, November 18 - Saturday Snapshot
Wednesday, November 22 - Book Review: Part Time Cowboy by Maisey Yates
Saturday, November 25 - Saturday Snapshot

Friday, November 24, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - November 25

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 had originally planned to post Thanksgiving pictures today, but I was so busy cooking and socializing that we didn't take any pictures!  Oops!)

Today I have our last pictures from last month's (oops, I guess it has been 2 months by the time this post goes live) trip to Bend.

On our last day in Bend, we headed out to the High Desert Museum.  I had gone there as a kid and loved it, but we hadn't had the chance to take our kids.  Well, it just so happened that there was a Girl Scout event scheduled at the museum the weekend we were going to Bend, so I signed up my daughter.

The event was an hour and half long and, during that time, my husband and son explored the museum.  Afterwards, my daughter and I did a quick run through of the museum--and now we know that we will have to go back!

This is a fabulous museum and it reminds me a lot of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in scope (here are some pictures from the last time we visited that museum).  Obviously, the exhibits are vastly different, but they both have the same "feel" to me and, if someone likes one of these museums, I guarantee they'll enjoy the other.

The Girl Scout program my daughter attended was about the water system.  It was a great program and I think it reinforced a lot of what she had been learning in school.

My favorite part of this museum is the homestead replica.  Here, my daughter is learning about cursive from a character from the early 1900s.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Book Review: "Part Time Cowboy" (Copper Ridge #1) by Maisey Yates

Part Time Cowboy (Copper Ridge #1) Maisey Yates
Date finished: October 30, 2017
Date published: April 1, 2015
ISBN: 9780373779598
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
Source: Personal Copy

You might enjoy this book if you like: "Local kid comes home" trope, small town romances

Sadie Miller isn't expecting any welcome-home parades on her return to Copper Ridge. Least of all from part-time rancher, full-time lawman Eli Garrett. The straitlaced, impossibly hot deputy sheriff glares at her as if she's the same teenage hoodlum who fled town ten years ago. But running from her demons has brought Sadie full circle, ready to make a commitment at last. Not to a man, but to a bed-and-breakfast. On Garrett land. Okay, so her plan has a tiny flaw… 

Eli works too hard to let a blonde ball of trouble mess up his town. But keeping an eye on Sadie makes it tough to keep his hands off her. And if she's so wrong for him, why does being with her feel so right?

My Thoughts:
If you look at my kindle, you would see that I'm amassing a bit of a Maisey Yates collection.  Yet, for all the books of hers that I own, I had only read 2.  Thus, I figured it was time to start digging.  As the most recent book of hers that I've read was the novella prequel to the Copper Ridge series, I figured the first full-length book in this series would be a good place to start.

And it was.  When a romance author starts up a series, a reader can expect certain things, most of which are present in this book.  There is a large cast of supporting characters, which are developed enough to pique interest but, at least in this book's case, not so much that they eclipse the main players in the romance.  Also, while the main story line is resolved, the book itself doesn't finish with no loose ends.  These are not flaws by any means.  They are tools for the author to entice the reader to continue with the series.  Sometimes, it is heavy handed and not exactly successful.  Other times, as was the case with this book, it is skillfully handled and makes me hunger for the next book.

The strongest point of this book was the character development.  Both Eli and Sadie have their flaws, and Yates takes us the time to let the reader discover those flaws and the reasons behind them.  While both characters are generally likable, they do have their annoying edges, which is something that I don't frequently see in romance (although I do appreciate it when I do see it).  I love the banter between the two of them, and with all the other characters.  The dialogue was natural and entertaining, but not over-done.

I did have a few complaints, though.  The first is, as an Oregonian, I didn't really "feel" the setting of this book.  It's set on the coast, but also seems to have a large area of range land, which doesn't seem to fit to me.  This is actually a pretty minor thing that just plays into my nitpickyness, but there you go.

The second problem that I had was more of a hurdle to overcome.  I have trouble buying the "friends with benefits" trope.  I feel like it is a too easy way to set up a romance.  This book didn't even quite hit the friends with benefits bar and was more along the lines of "acquaintances with benefits."  Because of this, I had trouble accepting that these two characters, no matter how well matched they were, would actually get together.  I wish that Yates had taken another route, maybe the "enemies to lovers" trope, to set this story up because I was just irritated that two people who really didn't like each other that much would just jump into each other's pants.

There was also this very strange thing I noticed--Yates frequently writes in incomplete sentences in this book.  When I say "frequently" I mean I found it several times on a page.  I do understand that writers don't always use complete sentences on purpose, but this was beyond that.  However, this isn't something that I noticed in the other two Yates books that I read, so I'm not entirely sure what to make of it.  In any case, it was an itch that irritated this grammar nerd.

While I had trouble with this story on a very elemental level, I enjoyed enough of it that it made me want to read on in the series.  It is a good thing that I have so many of her books sitting in my kindle, because I do think that she will be an author that I will enjoy more often than not.

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

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!