Book Reviews · Recommendations

Summer at Sunset (Summer, #2) by Beth Labonte

Summer at Sunset
(Summer, #2)
By: Beth Labonte

Published: December, 2018
Published By: Kindle Edition
Format Read: Kindle, eBook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

Synopsis

For Summer Hartwell, holding her and Graham’s wedding a thousand miles from home seemed like a good idea. Even if it is at a retirement community. How else could she avoid planning the wedding with her neurotic, anxiety-ridden mother? But with one week left to go and Summer’s parents arriving on the scene, things begin to quickly unravel. Between the swingers parties, the Viagra jokes, and the copious amount of alcohol, Summer’s not so sure her parents will make it out of there alive. Then there’s the matter of Graham being Grade A top choice meat to every woman over sixty-five, a few of whom Summer suspects of trying to sabotage the wedding!

Can Summer and Graham hold things together long enough to make it down the aisle?
(Synopsis from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

Summer at Sunset is a fun contemporary fiction that picks up 2 years after the first book in the series, Summer at Sea. Our main character is now engaged to be married and wins an all expenses paid wedding at her in-laws retirement community.

It was nice to be reunited with the quirky cast of characters, including Summer’s neurotic parents. Ironically she learns that she may not be all the different from them. You know what they say “like mother, like daughter.” We are also introduced to several of the residents from the retirement community, who are young at heart, enjoying their golden years in the Florida sun. Only their daily routines mirror more of a college fraternity than that of a rest and relaxation.

While I found it to be an enjoyable read, I didn’t rate it as high as Summer at Sea. I didn’t like the characters quite as much as I did upon their initial introduction to me. Although I found it perfectly understandable that she would be stressed out, I found Summer to be a bit annoying at times and I wasn’t a fan of her fiance. An inflated ego isn’t a trait that I find attractive at all. The conclusion of this story was more over the top, than I expected.

However I enjoy the way Beth Labonte weaves pop culture into her stories and the personalities of her characters. There were several laugh out loud moments and I especially enjoyed the visits to Disney World.

I look forward to the next installment in this series and I would recommend it to fans of contemporary chick-lit.

 

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

Seriously… I’m Kidding
By: Ellen DeGeneres

Published: October, 2011
Published By: Grand Central Publishing
Format Read: Audio Book, Library Loaner, OverDrive
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Humor, Autobiography

Rating: 3/5
♥♥♥

Synopsis

Ellen Degeneres’ winning, upbeat candor has made her show one of the most popular, resilient and honored daytime shows on the air, and her life makes for great (and very funny) reading.

“I’ve experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you’ll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I’ve put together for you in this book. I think you’ll find I’ve left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I’m saying is, let us begin, shall we?”

Seriously… I’m Kidding is a lively, hilarious, and often sweetly poignant look at the life of the much-loved entertainer as she opens up about her personal life, her talk show, and joining the judges table of American Idol.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Seriously… I’m Kidding has been on my to-read list for a while now. When it finally came available to borrow from my library I jumped at the chance to listen to the audio version.

Narrated by Ellen herself, this audio book was just like listening to the opening monologue on her talk show. I enjoyed her observations on the world around her and admire her for keeping her jokes clean. Unlike most comedians, Ellen’s humor is suitable for all ages.

Although an enjoyable listen, I did find some of the rambling to be a bit much and settled on a 3 star rating. I would recommend Seriously… I’m Kidding to fans of Ellen DeGeneres.

 

Book Reviews · Charlie's Corner · Recommendations

Charlie’s Corner: The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book by Glenn Beck

Baby Boy!

Welcome to Charlie’s Corner, named after my little boy. Here I will share baby/children’s product and book reviews.

So I admit that for his first Christmas, Charlie got a little bit spoiled. Whenever anyone asked me what they could get him, I always say that books are a fail-safe idea. So he got quite a few to add to his collection.

One of my personal favourites that he received was The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book by Glenn Beck.

The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book
By: Glenn Beck
Illustrated by: Brandon Dorman

Published: October 2009
Published by: Aladdin Paperbacks
Format Read: Hardcover, Picture Book

Rating: 5/5
♥♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

The Christmas Sweater is a children’s picture book which was adapted from Glenn Beck’s novel by the same name. It follows a boy who dreams of getting a new bicycle for Christmas. He is disappointed when he is given a new sweater instead.

My Thoughts

My family and I enjoyed reading this Christmas story over the holidays. It has a wonderful moral that any age can resonate with. Brandon Dorman’s illustrations had a vintage feel that were quite beautiful and captivating. I would recommend The Christmas Sweater to young and old. I look forward to reading the full novel this book was based on.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah

Comfort and Joy
By Kristin Hannah

Published: October, 2006
Published By: Ballantine Books
Format Read: eBook, Kobo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis
High school librarian Joy Candellaro is just merely existing in the wake of a divorce. Then her entire existence is rocked when she learns that her own sister is pregnant with her ex-husbands baby. In a fit of desperation she flees looking for an escape from reality. On a whim she buys a plane ticket for a chartered flight that would take her deep into the Olympic rain-forest in the American Pacific Northwest.

My Thoughts

Comfort and Joy has a premise that may sound overly familiar to fans of cheesy Christmas movies. However this is not a happy, fuzzy holiday story, but one that is melancholy and ripe with tragedy.

Kristin Hannah’s descriptions were very vivid and beautiful. The lodge that Joy finds herself at reminded me in some ways, of William Paul Young’s The Shack, which is one of my favourite novels. The bond she would form with Bobby (son of the lodges owner) was really quite sweet and endearing.

Although this book wasn’t one that I absolutely loved, there were two main points that kept me reading and in turn factored into my 4 star rating. 1: I was able to really relate to Joy on a personal level. The emotions she felt as a result of her heartbreak really hit close to home for me. And 2. There were several passages that made me stop and reflect. Below I have included some of those quote that caught my attention.

I would recommend Comfort and Joy to those who enjoy contemporaries and fans of Kristin Hannah.

Notable Quotes

“I’m dreaming again for the first time in years, and it feels good.”

“This is my resolution for the New Year. I will be honest with myself. I’ll keep my eyes open. I’ll see what’s there, not just what I want to see.”

“..the silence has been like the in-drawn breath before a scream”

“It’s amazing how quickly a bone can heal. If only the heart were as durable. A little plaster, two months of bed rest, and voila! your broken heart is mended.”

Book Reviews

40 Love by Madeleine Wickham

40 Love
By: Madeleine Wickham 

Published: August 2011
Published By: Macmillan Audio
Format Read: Audio Book, OverDrive App,
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

Synopsis

Caroline and Patrick Chance have come a long way since their days on Seymour Road. To celebrate their wealth they invite some old friends to their country house for a tennis tournament. This contemporary novel follows the Chance’s and their friends who all vary in terms of success. Is it just their intention to show off their wealth or does Patrick have an ulterior motive behind this weekend of fun?

My Thoughts

Over the years I have read several Sophie Kinsella books, but this is the first one I have read under her real name Madeleine Wickham. I was curious to see how her older books compare to her more current releases and the tennis theme caught my interest as well.

What can I say about 40-Love? Keeping up with the Jones’s was definitely a theme here. From their expensive clothing, art and private schools, each character was more materialistic than the next. And their backstabbing snobbery became more infuriating as I read along.

Katherine Kellgren’s narration was spot on, when bringing a voice to the Chance’s and their guests. She did a great job expressing their selfish personalities and high brow accents. Wickham’s familiar contemporary style and the anticipation of confrontation kept me listening to this book.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend 40-Love, but I would recommend Madeleine Wickham/Sophie Kinsella as an author to read.

 

 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Plum Lovin’ (Stephanie Plum, #12.5) by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin’ (Stephanie Plum, #12.5)
By: Janet Evanovich

Published: January 2007
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Format Read: Kindle for PC, eBook

Rating: 3 Stars
♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Plum Lovin’ is a holiday novella that falls between the full length novels Twelve Sharp and Lean Mean Thirteen. Set just before Valentines Day, business is slow in the bonds industry and there is only one large bail skip on Stephanie Plum’s list. In order to capture the skip, she must first help her friend Diesel and play cupid along the way.

My Thoughts 

The in between novellas in the Stephanie Plum series, aren’t exactly crucial reading, although it would have helped me to better understand Diesel’s character if I had read Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum #8.5) first. I knew that he was a character from another series by Janet Evanovich, but I have yet to read any of those books.

It had been a while since I have read this series, so it was nice to revisit my favourite characters once again. Although a short story, it had the same humor I’ve come to enjoy. However I didn’t feel like the Diesel’s hint of paranormal powers fit into the Stephanie Plum world.

Still I would recommend Plum Lovin’ to fans of Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum books.

Book Reviews

The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

The Sound of Rain
By: Sarah Loudin Thomas

Published: November 2017
Published By: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: eBook, NetGalley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3/5
♥♥♥

I was sent a copy of The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas, from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

After a mine collapse nearly costs him his life, Judd Markley decides to start over in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He takes a job at a timber company where he catches the eye of the boss’s daughter. Larkin Heyward lives a privileged life, as a socialite, but feels that her destiny is to help people. She longs to go away and do mission work, much to her father’s dismay. Meanwhile Judd begins to quickly move up the ranks in the timber company, while courting Larkin. Is his success due to his skills or does Mr. Heyward have ulterior motives?

My Thoughts 

I have been looking forward to reading more Sarah Loudin Thomas, ever since I read her novella Appalachian Serenade. One thing that really stood out to me in that story was the authors ability to connect with the senses of her readers. I was very happy to discover that this talent rang true once again in The Sound of Rain. From the mines of West Virginia to the prosperous Myrtle Beach and the poor hills of Kentucky, she painted a very vivid picture of the various settings. I could almost smell the smokey mountains and feel the humidity described in the southern states.

The 1950’s is a time period that interests me, however it isn’t very often that I come across historical fiction set in that era. Another aspect that caught my interest was the mention of Hurricane Hazel in the synopsis.

Judd Markley was an interesting character, who I liked from the start. However I never warmed to his female counterpart Larkin Heyward. In fact I found her more insufferable as the story went on. She was a very spoiled young woman and I felt that her dream to help people was more about drawing attention to herself than a genuine care for others. I didn’t think that she and Judd were a good match for each other at all.

Unfortunately my dislike for Larkin really took away from my enjoyment of this novel. Hopefully I will have better luck next time with this author as I would really like to read more Sarah Loudin Thomas.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Measure of Katie Calloway (Michigan Northwoods, #1) by Serena B. Miller

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The Measure of Katie Calloway
(Michigan Northwoods, #1)

By: Serena B. Miller

Published: October 2011
Published By: Revell 
Fromat Read: Kindle for PC
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

Synopsis 

Katie Calloway makes a daring escape from her abusive Confederate Officer, husband. Fleeing north, she and her young brother Ned find themselves destitute in Bay City Michigan looking for a way to support themselves. Meanwhile, lumber camp owner Robert Foster is in a bind after his only cook is put out of commission due to injury. Although it was rare for a woman to work in a lumber camp among a group of men, he takes a chance on Katie. But will she be able to win them over and move on from her traumatizing past or will it catch up to her in the backwoods of Michigan?

My Thoughts 

Author Serena B. Miller was inspired to write The Measure of Katie Calloway after seeing  old photos of Michigan lumber camps in the 1800’s. In a workforce that was exclusive to only men, a female cook was very rare.

Even though Katie was the only woman working for Robert Foster, her past had made her strong and determined to forge a better life for herself and Ned. The way she adjusted to her new role showed a lot of character growth. Both Katie and Robert had their own reasons for escaping into the Michigan wilderness, which was interesting to discover.

The detailed explanations of the everyday operations in the 1867 lumber camp were really informative and well researched. I also enjoyed the camaraderie between the workers and how they abide their own code.

I would recommend this first book in the Michigan Northwoods series to fans of Christian historical fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Down, Then Up: A Novella by Beth Labonte

Down, Then Up: A Novella
By Beth Labonte

Published: November, 2016
Published By: Kindle Edition
Format Read: Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Novella

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Lauren has worked hard to leave her past behind her. However she never could forget the one who got away. Ten years later, while throwing her sister a bachelorette party in Las Vegas, she discovers that her old flame happens to be the cousin of the groom.

My Thoughts 

I have been a fan of Beth Labonte’s books since reading her 2011 release What Stays in Vegas. Her novella Down, Then Up brings her readers back to “Sin City” in another humorous story, that didn’t disappoint.

Lauren’s former boyfriend Jamie is every nerdy girl’s dream. The popular culture references, especially those of the sci-fi variety are so current and will appeal to a lot of readers. I especially enjoyed how the title of this novella: Down, Then Up and its cover picture tied into the story.

I would definitely recommend Beth Labonte to fans of humorous contemporary fiction and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Book Reviews

TLC Book Tours: Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

About Start Without Me

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (October 17, 2017)

The author of the critically acclaimed The Book of Jonah explores questions of love and choice, disappointment and hope in the lives of two strangers who meet by chance in this mesmerizing tale that unfolds over one Thanksgiving Day.

Adam is a former musician and recovering alcoholic who is home for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. Surrounded by his parents and siblings, nieces and nephews all who have seen him at his worst he can’t shake the feeling that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll always be the one who can’t get it right.

Marissa is a flight attendant whose marriage is strained by simmering tensions over race, class, and ambition. Heading to her in-laws for their picture-perfect holiday family dinner, her anxiety is intensified by the knowledge she is pregnant from an impulsive one-night-stand.

In an airport restaurant on Thanksgiving morning, Adam and Marissa meet. Over the course of this day fraught with emotion and expectation, these two strangers will form an unlikely bond as they reckon with their family ties, their pasts, and the choices that will determine their way forward.

Joshua Max Feldman focuses his knowing eye on one of the last bastions of classical American idealism, the Thanksgiving family gathering, as he explores our struggles to know and to be our best selves. Hilarious and heartrending, Start Without Me is a thoughtful and entertaining page-turner that will leave its indelible mark on your heart.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Joshua Max Feldman

Joshua Max Feldman is the author of The Book of Jonah. Born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, he has lived in England, Russia, and Switzerland, and currently resides in Brooklyn.

Find out more about Joshua at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

My Thoughts

I was sent a copy of Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman, from the publisher and TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review. 

My Rating: 2.5/5

Start Without Me follows two very different characters who spend Thanksgiving together following a chance meeting in a hotel restaurant. Former musician and recovering alcoholic Adam forms an unlikely friendship (for lack of a better word) with Marissa, a flight attendant with marital problems.

What I liked about this novel included the differences between Adam and Marissa. They both had very different up-bringing’s that contributed to their present situations and outlooks on life. It wasn’t until later in the book that I really began to understand the point behind this pairing. I couldn’t exactly relate to Adam and Marissa, but I was able to appreciate some of the social commentary and pop culture references.

The writing style felt choppy to me and took some getting used to. Unfortunately my interest wavered throughout, which resulted in my 2.5 star rating.

I would advise discretion to those who may decide to read Start Without Me as it does include course language and sexuality, that may offend some people.

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