Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore Book Cover Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Matthew Sullivan
June 13, 2017
Net Galley

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left.

This is a hard one for me to review. I neither loved nor hated the book, it was just kind of “meh” for me.

I tend to automatically add any book that takes place in a bookstore or library to my TBR, because as a book lover, I am drawn to books that talk about books. And there were plenty of books in this story. Lydia works as a bookseller and her father was a librarian. She grew up reading and spending all her time at the library while her father worked. No matter what happened in her life, books were her constant.

Books were also the tie between Joey and Lydia, as well as between Joey and some of the other characters. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so I won’t go into detail on his connections with other characters in the book.

The story jumped between the past and the present a lot, and also jumps between Lydia’s POV and her father’s. This provides background and motivation. There are also characters from the past who pop back up in the present in weird ways.

I think that my biggest issue with this story is that I really didn’t understand some of Lydia’s motivations. I understood why she wanted to find out more about Joey, and her search for answers there. I understood why she didn’t readily share her past with people. I did not understand why her relationship with her father became so distant or why she reacted the way she did when her boyfriend admitted to knowing about her past.

Along the same lines, I didn’t understand Tomas’s complete change of character from before the incident to after. I think it was supposed to create tension, doubt, and suspense, but it really didn’t for me. And I don’t think this was ever really adequately explained.

There are a few other character motivations that I am completely baffled by, but I can’t share them here without spoiling the plot.

I did really like the characters of Plath and Lyle. I felt that they were loyal, caring characters who really supported the main characters. I also liked what little was shared about David, and would really have liked to see his character developed more. I think the plot could, and should, have gone in a completely different direction for his character. And Joey is probably one of the best characters in the book; his motivations became very clear the more we learned.

While I liked the way that the main storyline drew together and was resolved. I was bothered and confused by the ending itself. It felt kind of creepy, and I’m not sure if that was the way the author intended it or not.

All in all, this isn’t a bad book, it had some really good elements and nice character development for some of the characters, it just really wasn’t right for me.

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book through NetGalley and the publisher {Scribner} in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Review: The Promise Kitchen

The Promise Kitchen Book Cover The Promise Kitchen
Peggy Lampman
Lake Union Publishing
September 27, 2016
Net Galley

This book was really not for me. I wanted to like it, and I wanted to root for the characters, but I really just didn’t connect with it. I started and stopped it so many times until I finally just forced myself to finish.

The story started off very slowly and took a lot of time to build. Things didn’t really start going until halfway through the book, but even then it progressed very slowly. Until the last few chapters which kept jumping ahead, leaving things out. I would have preferred some of the beginning content to have been skipped over and to have actually experienced some of the parts that were glossed over in the end.

Maybe if I had been able to identify with either Shelby or Mallory, I would have enjoyed the story more. Unfortunately I was never invested in the characters and actually found them to be unlikable at times. I wanted to root for Shelby to succeed, but had a hard time believing in her. And Mallory just wasn’t real for me.

It’s always hard for me when I don’t enjoy a book, especially one that I need to review. But unfortunately this one just didn’t hit the mark for me.

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book through Net Galley and the publisher {Lake Union Publishing} in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Review: The Little French Bistro

The Little French Bistro Book Cover The Little French Bistro
Nina George
Crown Publishing
June 13, 2017
Net Galley

I really wanted to love this book. I loved the first book I read by Nina George, The Little Paris Bookshop, and was hoping that The Little French Bistro would bring me that same joy, but alas it did not. I didn’t hate the book by any means, but I just didn’t love it. It was more of an OK read for me.

While the plot centers around Marianne, there are so many characters and side stories that it took me until about halfway through the book to get everyone straight. And because there was so much going on, we never really got a really in depth look into any of it… even Marianne’s story itself.

And again, with so many characters, we never really got to know any of them as well as I would have liked. As someone who is very character driven, I like to get really deep into characters when I’m reading. There are so many characters that I would have liked to learn more about… Yann, Jean-Remy, Laurine, Genevieve, even Lothar!

Because I didn’t feel as connected to Marianne, I was unable to understand some of her motivations. She made some decisions that just left me baffled because I didn’t relate to her as a character. I don’t want to post any spoilers, but there were 2 pivotal instances towards the end of the book when I was left going “what the heck are you doing?”

I was left with a lot of questions at the end of the book. I felt there were a lot of plot lines that weren’t resolved for me and others just tied up too neatly, with no real explanation.

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book through Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Review: Rejected Writers Take the Stage

Rejected Writers Take the Stage Book Cover Rejected Writers Take the Stage
Southlea Bay
Suzanne Kelman
Lake Union Publishing
June 6, 2017
Net Galley

This is the second Southlea Bay book, and honestly, I think you need to read the first book to really  get a feel for the story, and I unfortunately read book 2 first.

The story pretty much jumps right in, with not a lot of background and we are introduced to the characters as though we already know them. It was a little difficult getting invested in the characters without the background information, which I’m sure was presented in the first book in this series.

The plot revolves mostly around Flora and Annie, however the story is narrated by Janet in first person at some points, and a third person narrator at other times. I’m really not sure why, but assume that this was something that was presented in the first book as well?

I liked Flora’s character, she had a lot of self-confidence issues, but managed to overcome them. Plus she ultimately stood up for herself with Dan. Dan, however was an idiot and I thought Flora could do a lot better, but maybe there’s something in book one that is redeeming for Dan.

Annie kind of reminds me of myself and the way that I handle situations. She not necessarily a strong character, but she’s very relatable. I have some issues with Janet, though I adored the rest of the book club characters, even Dolores. They were kooky and weird and a lot of fun. Don’t get me started on Marcy, but she is one of the villains of this story, so hating her was supposed to happen.

The story overall was fun, and I think if I had read the first book, I would have enjoyed it more. I plan to read the first book now and learn all the back story I missed!

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book through Net Galley and the publisher {Lake Union Publishing} in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Review: The Sweetest Kiss

The Sweetest Kiss Book Cover The Sweetest Kiss
Kissed by the Bay
Susan Hatler
Hatco Publishing
August 31, 2017
Net Galley

Megan Wallace wants three things: to make a living as an artist, to fulfill a promise she made her grandmother to visit the Boboli Gardens in Italy, and—oh yeah— for her best friend Brian Watts to fall in love with her. When the local library hosts an art competition, in which the winner will receive a one-year contract to paint in Florence, Italy, Megan sets out to make all her dreams come true.

Since Brian is a talented woodworker, Megan plans to ask him to make the custom frames for her paintings. She’s crushed to discover he’s already partnered up with Chelsea Chambers, Megan’s rival since art school. Megan is even more devastated when Chelsea sets her sights on Brian romantically.

The stakes are high and there can only be one winner. When the contest judges praise Chelsea’s classic style, Megan wonders if she should forego her own surreal painting style for one that’s more traditional. Brian urges her to be true to her talent. He also gives her reason to believe that maybe he feels more than friendship for her after all.

Will Megan have to give up her vision in order to win the contest? And if she wins, will she have to say goodbye to the love of her life?

This was another sweet romance from Susan Hatler, not a lot of fire or passion, just sweet, a case of best friends discovering true love with each other.

As I have read other books in the series, I was familiar with many of the characters. The women in the book are all great friends, with the exception of Chelsea of course, but she is the villain of the piece, so that makes sense. The men in the story are also good people.

I liked the relationship between Megan and Brian and felt their relationship was real, if not intensely passionate. I think maybe the passion was supposed to be happening behind the scenes? Brian does seem a little closed off at one point, and while his past is a factor, I think he shut down too much all things considered.

I was able to relate to Megan and her insecurities and financial troubles. She was real to me and I was able to understand her motivations. I would have liked to have seen more of Wendy, Charlie and Olivia in this story, though I understand they were here simply as supporting characters. Olivia’s character felt very flat for me, which was so different from Olivia’s own story, I feel like she got lost in this storyline.

All in all, I did enjoy this book, just as I enjoy pretty much all of Susan Hatler’s work. I can’t wait for the next!

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book through Net Galley and the publisher {Hatco Publishing} in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


April Mini Reviews

I’m really enjoying these mini reviews. I have a hard time writing longer reviews, but these bite size morsels are just perfect for me. Here are this month’s audio/library reads:

French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure French Women Don’t Get Fat~ 4 stars

While a book with a lot of recipes is kind of awkward as an audio book, especially when you listen while driving, I actually got a lot out of this one. I like the philosophy of moderation and eating for pleasure, not just fuel. I think the diet mentality within our society focuses so much on the components of food {carbs, fat, protein, macros, micros, etc.} rather than on the quality of the food itself. I am as guilty of eating fake foods as the next person, but I really want to focus more on real, natural foods.

When Breath Becomes Air When Breath Becomes Air~ 5 stars

This is an incredibly moving memoir that is beautifully written. I was caught up in Paul Kalanithi’s life and felt invested in his journey through his illness. When I go to the epilogue, I had tears rolling down my face {which is not always a good thing when you’re driving}. I would recommend this book to everyone!

Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins, #1) Mary Poppins~ 3 stars

I thought that I had read Mary Poppins as a child, but after listening to this it is apparent I did not. And while books and movies never match up exactly, there are quite a few differences between the classic movie and the book. I found the Mary Poppins in the book to be a little bit mean and kind of a b-word.

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1) Across the Universe~ 4 Stars

I am relatively new to the sci fi genre, but I enjoyed this one. There were plenty of twists and turns and some unexpected revelations along the way. I will probably continue the series if I can get to them before my library access expires, because I want to know what happens next!

Queen of Babble (Queen of Babble, #1) Queen of Babble~ 3 Stars

Ok, this one is tough. I thought is was super cute, but then there is a scene towards the end of the book between Lizzie and Luke in the cask room that came out of left field in my opinion. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I just thought it was a little unrealistic all things considered. And I was all geared up to continue the series, until I found out what happens in book 3 and that really kind of turned me off, and might have affected my rating of this book.

Today Will Be Different Today Will be Different~ 3 Stars

I enjoyed this one, though I’ll admit to being a bit confused about the purpose of some of the characters. And by some of Eleanor’s actions. And I 100% don’t understand Joe. But maybe that’s the whole point. The story was all over the place, but then again, so was Eleanor… and I could actually relate to that.

Twenties Girl Twenties Girl~ 3 stars

This was a longer audio book and was a little slow in the beginning as the groundwork was laid and the characters were introduced. I have grown to love Sophie Kinsella and have enjoyed all of the books I’ve read by her so far, though this was not my favorite of her works. It still had the signature humor and quirky heroine, but I felt it lacked some of the chemistry that was so apparent in Can You Keep a Secret? and Remember Me?. Of course, the focus of the story was Lara’s relationship with Sadie and not her romance, so that can be forgiven.

Good in Bed (Cannie Shapiro, #1) Good in Bed~ 4 stars

I enjoyed this book from the first word to the last! Cannie is incredibly real and flawed, exactly what I look for in a character. The secondary characters are more subdued, but for the most part are very well-rounded. I loved Maxie and Dr. K from the start. I can’t wait to read the second book about Cannie.

** All covers link to Goodreads; all titles link to Amazon {affiliate}


Review: Buzz Books 2017 Young Adult Spring/Summer

Buzz Books 2017 Young Adult Spring/Summer Book Cover Buzz Books 2017 Young Adult Spring/Summer
Publishers Lunch
January 13, 2017
Net Galley

Our sixth edition of Buzz Books: Young Adult provides the special excitement of Winter Institute and takes it even further with samples of the best in forthcoming young adult novels months ahead of their actual publication. Publishing insiders— librarians, booksellers, bloggers and reviewers—rely on Buzz Books to survey breakout titles on the horizon. At the end of most excerpts, you will find a link to the full galley on NetGalley!

These substantial pre-publication excerpts reflect a broad spectrum of today’s young adult writing, from fantasy and romance to suspense and humor. You will discover debut writers to put on your radar, while enjoying early samples from some of the biggest authors in the field and even a memoir for younger readers.

Three New York Times bestselling authors share new work: Renée Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger); Cora Carmack (the Losing It series); and Joelle Charbonneau (the Testing trilogy). Ahdieh and Charbonneau are previous Buzz Books authors, so we’re delighted to have them back.

Beyond the boundaries of YA, we also feature two middle grade titles from JIMMY Patterson, the children’s imprint that James Patterson founded to encourage every child to love reading.

Let’s look at another edition of Buzz Books and see which titles I can’t wait to read, and which titles I’ll pass on, thank you.

Can’t Wait to Read
The One Memory of Flora Banks
Piper Perish
This is Really Happening
The End of Our Story
Laugh Out Loud
Definitions of Indefinable Things

Flame in the Mist
Dream Me
Future Threat
The Black Witch
Aftercare Instructions
Rebels Like Us
Gem & Dixie

I’ll Pass This Time, Thanks
Dividing Eden
Spirit Quest
How to Be a Super Villain

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this title through Net Galley and the publisher {Publishers Lunch} in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Review: Riley Unlikely

Riley Unlikely Book Cover Riley Unlikely
Riley Banks-Snyder
September 22, 2016
Net Galley

This memoir follows Riley from age twelve, when she first became interested in going to Kenya to help the people there, through today. While her faith is mentioned repeatedly throughout the book, it is not the central focus, the focus is on one girl’s desire to help and the way she went about doing it.

Riley is truly a remarkable woman. As a teenager she saw a need, then went about trying to fulfill it, becoming the head of a nonprofit organization focused on providing the supplies needed to improve education in Kenya when she was just 14. She also focused on helping those in other countries of Africa as well, such as Uganda.

Her story is told in an easy, conversational way; sharing her experiences at home in the US as well as in Africa on her visits each year, and speaking about her organization and the ways in which it has grown and evolved. While Riley’s passion is evident in each page, the book never becomes preachy and Riley never seeks to glorify herself.

If you are looking for an inspiring read, or just to learn about the conditions of some of the villages in Africa, I definitely recommend reading Riley Unlikely.

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review through Net Galley and the publisher {Zondervan}. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


March Mini Reviews

This month I am again doing mini reviews of my audio/library books for the month. I ended up with 10 this month {almost 11}.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky Under the Wide and Starry Sky~ 3 stars

For the most part I enjoyed this one, but I felt that it was really long and dragged in certain parts. The best moments were when Fanny and Louis are together. Though this is based on a true story and actual people,  I think the author did a good job of building a story around the known events and filled in the gaps with creative license.

Every Day (Every Day, #1) Every Day~ 4 stars

While my audio copy had a few glitches, I really enjoyed this book and was able to identify with A and with their choices. In many ways I identified with Rhiannon as well, though she had a few whiny moments that kind of annoyed me. I want to find out what happens though, so I really want to read the second book now.

Carry On Carry On~ 4 stars

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this one. I wasn’t sure if it would be a parody on Harry Potter or if there would be any reference to Cath from Fangirl. I found myself rooting for Simon and Baz and laughing out loud at intervals while listening to this one.

Bone Gap Bone Gap~ 3 stars

This is a tough one. While I enjoyed the book, I think I was a little let down by all of the hype surrounding it. So many people kept raving how wonderful it is, and I just didn’t get that same experience. I think is was very well written, had some great characters and good world building, but it left me feeling a little flat in the end.

The Field Guide (The Spiderwick Chronicles, #1) The Seeing Stone (The Spiderwick Chronicles, #2) The Spiderwick Chronicles Books 1 &2~ 4 stars

These are incredibly fun! They are written for children and are super quick reads but definitely suitable for an older audience as well. The world building and characters are great and each book is a separate adventure, though they should be read as part of the series since they are so short that the background is only given in the first book. Each book was only about an hour long in audio format {bonus, the audio is narrated by Mark Hamill}. I can’t wait to read the next installments.

Bitter Is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office Bitter is the New Black~ 4 stars

Jen Lancaster’s debut memoir is hysterical! She takes a lighthearted look at a very serious time in her life and shines through her writing. Be warned, if you are adverse to swearing or easily offended this book {author} might not be for you. But I loved it!

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake~ 3 stars

I have mixed feelings about this one. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I wanted so much more for Rose and from Rose. In many ways I felt her adult self still acted like her childhood self, I felt like there was no real growth of any of the characters… except maybe George. I kept feeling like I was missing something important. Maybe I need to read it in physical form?

Stuart Little Stuart Little~ 4 stars

I remember this book as being much longer when I was a kid. But I guess it felt longer then than it does now. And Stuart is a bit more arrogant than I remembered as well. But still, revisiting this gem from my childhood was a lot of fun.

The Good Luck of Right Now The Good Luck of Right Now~ 4 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one when it started out with a letter to Richard Gere, but I fell in love with the story, Bartholomew, Max, Father McNamee and the whole crew. It was a truly endearing story and a look inside a person who often lives on the outside of society. I even came to enjoy the format of letters to Richard Gere. There is so much hope in every line, and the characters grow so much over the course of the story. I utterly adored it. And I really want to find out more about Cat Parliament!


Review: March Buzz Books Monthly

March Buzz Books Monthly Book Cover March Buzz Books Monthly
Publishers Lunch
February 2, 2017
Net Galley

For more than five years now, passionate readers have relied on our twice-a-year Buzz Books to sample and discover new books from big authors and breakout talents through exclusive and substantial pre-publication excerpts.

Now we are offering the same robust publication in easier-to-digest monthly packages. You'll find exclusive excerpts of six notable books due for publication during the month of March—but first check out our extensive preview of well over 100 new books of interest coming to market in the month ahead. At the end of most excerpts, you will find a link to the full galley on NetGalley!

Then read a haunting World War II tale by Jessica Shattuck, author of New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding. Also included in the sampler is romance author Kristy Cambron’s latest and a “bonus” debut thriller excerpt. Young adult fiction is represented by three debut titles from authors Kayla Cagan, Elizabeth Briggs, and Ashley Poston.

It’s time for another monthly Buzz Books review. As with my February review, I’ll be looking at the excerpts themselves, rather than attempting to review the collection. I found 2 that sound awesome, 2 that are interesting but not quite me, and 2 that just don’t appeal this time around.

Can’t Wait to Read:
Piper Perish  by Kayla Cagan
Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Might or Might Not Read:
Future Threat: by Elizabeth Briggs
A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

I’ll Pass, Thanks:
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
The Illusionist’s Apprentice  by Kristy Cambron

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book through Net Galley and the publisher {Publishers Lunch} in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.