Sunday, September 24, 2017

{Blog Tour: Review} SUGAR PINE TRAIL by RaeAnne Thayne

ISBN #: 978-0373803682
Page Count: 384
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Summary from Goodreads:

Librarian Julia Winston is ready to ditch the quiet existence she's been living. She's made a list of new things to experience, but falling for Jamie Caine, her sexy military pilot neighbor, isn't one of them. Julia's looking to conquer life, not become the heartbreaker's latest conquest. But when two young brothers wind up in Julia's care for the holidays, she'll take any help she can get—even Jamie's. 

Happy to step in, Jamie reveals a side of himself that's much harder to resist. Not only is he fantastic with kids, he provides the strength Julia needs to tackle her list. She knows their temporary family can't last beyond the holidays, but the closer she gets to Jamie, the more she wonders if things could be this merry and bright forever…



Mandy's Review:

Sugar Pine Trail is one of those quick, easy reads where what you expect to happen happens. Julia has taken over ownership of her parent's Victorian mansion and has rented out the upstairs set of rooms to a man who needs a place to stay for a few weeks while his condo is being finished.

Jamie has agreed to rent the rooms sight unseen on the recommendation of his sister, an acquaintance of Julia's. When he arrived at the house, Julia shows him his rooms and gives him his set of keys. Jamie's first impression of Julia wasn't very favorable. Julia seemed a bit stodgy and uptight, not Jamie's type of female at all.

Over time, Julie and Jamie see different sides of each other. What they see about each other causes some unwanted affections to begin growing. Eventually, unknown to each other, they fall in love but are determined to not let the other know because they each have something in their past that's difficult for them to get over ... something that they believe has caused them to not deserve the love and affection of another.

If you're a fan of Harlequin romances, then this book is for you. Heck, this series is for you. Although this book is number seven in the Haven Point series, this novel can be read as a stand-alone. I've never read the first six books of this series and I was able to follow along just fine. There were relationships mentioned in this novel, though, that I figured were part of the first six novels and it kind of made me want to go back and read them.

Oh, and if you're one of those who don't enjoy a bunch of sex scenes, then have no fear. There was really only one scene in this novel and it was VERY mild compared to some others I've read. This was more geared towards romantic feelings rather than sexy romantic romps.

Sugar Pine Trail was a very sweet story that I enjoyed despite its predictability.


*An ecopy was provided by Little Bird Publicity via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review for this tour.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

{Review} IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?: MY ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND SCIENCE OF RELATING AND COMMUNICATING by Alan Alda

ISBN #: 978-0812989144
Page Count: 213
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: June 6, 2017


Goodreads Summary:

Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty, and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS's Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand--and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us.

In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another's face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon, and reading another person so well that you become "in sync" with them, and know what they are thinking and feeling--especially when you're talking about the hard stuff.

Drawing on improvisation training, theater, and storytelling techniques from a life of acting, and with insights from recent scientific studies, Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities, and improve the way we relate and talk with others. Exploring empathy-boosting games and exercises, If I Understood You is a funny, thought-provoking guide that can be used by all of us, in every aspect of our lives--with our friends, lovers, and families, with our doctors, in business settings, and beyond.


Mandy's Review:

I don't usually agree to read non-fiction books because I often find them boring. The only reason I agreed to read this one is because of the author. I remember watching M*A*S*H with my grandfather. Hawkeye, played by Alan Alda, was one of my favorite characters in the television series. I knew he portrayed his character with sarcasm, humor, and wit so I was curious to see how he wrote his books.

If I Understood You is an interesting read. Alan explains how simple improvisational exercises can help a person become more empathetic and a better communicator. The 'Mirror' exercise teaches two people to become so aware of each other that their actions become simultaneous. The 'Yes, And' exercise, my favorite exercise of the book, teaches you to take what a person gives you and add to it. The exercises, and there are more than just the two I mentioned, are simple yet challenging. It is a little difficult to believe they produce such amazing results, but I guess one won't know until one actually tries them.

Towards the end of the book, I felt like the same point was being repeated in different formats. The first 3/4 of the book was informative, thought-provoking, and insightful. I can see where these scientifically-proven improvisational exercises can help a wide range of individuals, from corporate executives to salespeople to teachers to two people in a relationship. I plan on trying some of these exercises with my husband to see if they'll make us more in sync and better communicators.

If you enjoy learning new methods of becoming a better person and communicator, I would recommend this book. I would especially recommend this book to you entrepreneurial types who have just started your own business. If you think you'd like to try it but don't have the time, don't fear. The book is less than 200 pages (minus the Acknowledgements and Index) so it reads quickly. Enjoy!

*A hard copy was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 22, 2017

{Review} SIRACUSA by Delia Ephron

ISBN #: 978-0399165214
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Release Date: July 12, 2016


Goodreads Summary:

New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities, past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none will see coming.


Kathy's Review:

This book is told from the perspective of the four adults in the novel. Each of them provides pieces of the plot, as well as their own skewed version of the truth. Each of the four narrators is not exactly a saint. Lizzie still harbors feelings for Finn; Finn picks up random women in bars after his wife and child go to bed; Michael is cheating on Lizzie; and Taylor is a next-level helicopter mom who has mentally damaged her child, Snow, with her overprotectiveness. Each of them see themselves through a filter where they aren't necessarily responsible for their own actions. They blame the others.

Siracusa takes us through a chain of events that occurs while the two couples are vacationing together in Italy. Alternating chapters with varying POVs, we see the same scenes but with additional information layered on from the various narrators until we finally have the whole picture.

It's hard to talk about what happens in the story without revealing major spoilers, but it revolves around Michael cheating on Lizzie, and Snow's fondness/obsession/crush on Michael. I was surprised by the plot twist, just as the book summary promised. I enjoyed the writing, and I liked reading the different perspectives. I come away from the book not really liking any of its characters, but still intrigued and fascinated by the plot. It's an interesting way to unfold a narrative.



*A physical copy was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

{Review} THE FIRE SERMON (The Fire Sermon #1) by Francesca Haig

ISBN #: 978-1476767185
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: March 10, 2015


Goodreads Summary:

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair one is an Alpha - physically perfect in every way - and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large.

With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world's sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other. Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side by side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.


Lupe's Review:

Wow. That was so much deeper than I thought it was going to be. The thought that twins are always born and that one literally can not live without the other seemed to be an easy peasy storyline and plot. But Haig turns it into so much more.

Cass is the Omega seer twin of ambitious Alpha Zack, whom she split from very late in life. From there, she is sent to an omega outpost to live with other omegas. Suddenly, she is taken away from there on her brothers orders many years later and forced to stay in the Keeping Rooms. This leads to many other issues revelations, not including the discovery of a place even worse than that. Cass dreams of the Island, a mythical place of Omega resistance and knows that's it's real. She wants to find it, has to find it, before the Council and her brother does. But what will happen when she does?

This was seriously epic on an epic scale I had not anticipated. I'm not sure why it took so long for me to finish it but holy smokes am I glad I did. I have the second one too, so I am ready to dive into the next part of the story with Cass and see where it leads. I was really impressed with this work. Apocalyptic fiction can be hard, especially when trying to set up the world (in this case, the Before and the After) but Haig did a masterful job of that. Really good work.

*A physical copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

{Review} WHERE THE LIGHT FALLS by Allison Pataki and Owen Pataki

ISBN #: 978-0399591686
Page Count: 384
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: The Dial Press


Goodreads Summary:

From the courtrooms to the battlefields to the alleyways of Paris, with cameos from infamous figures in French history, the Patakis have crafted an epic, action-packed novel of the French Revolution as it has never been seen before. Three years after the storming of the Bastille, Paris is enlivened with the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The monarchy has been dismantled and a new nation, for the people, is rising up in its place. Jean-Luc, a young optimistic lawyer, moves his wife, Marie, and their son to Paris, inspired by a sense of duty to contribute to the new order. André, the son of a former nobleman, flees his privileged past to fight in the unified French Army with his roguish brother. Sophie, a beautiful young aristocratic widow and niece of a powerful, vindictive uncle, embarks on her own fight for independence.

Underneath the glimmer of hope and freedom, chaos threatens to undo all the progress of the revolution and the lives of these compatriots become inextricably linked. As the demand for justice breeds instability, creates enemies out of compatriots, and fuels a constant thirst for blood in the streets, Jean-Luc, Andre, and Sophie are forced to question the sacrifices made for the revolution. Liberty proves a fragile, fleeting ideal, and survival seems less and less likely—both for these unforgettable individuals, and indeed for the new nation itself.


Mandy's Review:

This was definitely an interesting, action-filled novel covering the French Revolution. As with all revolutions, it began with the people feeling oppressed and wanting to break free from their rulers. Getting what they want didn't wind up as great as they thought. Oh, it took a while for them to realize that of course, but realize it they did. Whenever a group of people appear to be floundering around with no direction, a leader or group of leaders will emerge. Add that to the zealousness of the people and you have the makings of chaos.

The novel flips between focusing on Jean-Luc and his family and Andre and his family, so we get to know both men pretty well. They're both fighting for the revolution but get caught up in the zealousness of the men desiring to be leaders of the revolution causing them to join forces and fight together. I liked both men. They were noble and had a sense of morality that they didn't back away from.

Overall, WHERE THE LIGHT FALLS was well-written and entertaining. I will admit that I grew tired of reading it towards the end because it seemed to drag out a little bit. Despite that, I would recommend this novel to history buffs and those who are drawn to the French Revolution.


*A hardcopy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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