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Review: The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

Title: The Violinist of Venice
Author: Alyssa Palombo
Publisher: St. Martin's
Publication Date: December 15, 2015
ISBN: 9781250071491
Number of Pages: 437
How I Got It: from publisher
Format: paperback
Read the Goodreads Description Here
My Review:
I am drawn to any book that is set in France or Italy. I was not sure how much I would enjoy this book however since it looked "romantic." Romance novels are not my preferred reading so I told myself "Give it a try and if you don't like it after 30 pages, move along." Well, I read almost half the novel in my first sitting. The short chapters of this paperback had me flying along and I wasn't rolling my eyes at the actions of the main characters. The story held my attention with its forbidden loves, illegitimate children, and betrothals. I enjoyed being transported to 18th century Venice and Alyssa Palombo's Adriana d'Amato is one of the most relatable characters I have had the pleasure of reading about in quite some time. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: The Southern Baker by the editors of Southern Living

Title: The Southern Baker
Author: the editors of Southern Living
Publisher: Oxmoor House
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
ISBN: 9780848746421
Number of Pages: 304
How I Got It: library
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Description:
The South is rich in many traditions, and one of its most important is baking. From creating the perfect biscuit to accompany Sunday Dinner, or baking the perfect pie to welcome a new neighbor, baking in the South is about more than just creating something delicious, it's about sharing special times with family and friends. Now, the experts at Southern Living magazine deliver the ultimate compendium of the South's most cherished recipes for such Southern Staples as fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits, decadent Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread, or flaky Pie Crust. Also included are inside tips and tricks - "Baker's Secrets," in-depth tutorials and instructions on ingredients and tools to begin, and specific techniques direct from the legendary Southern Living test kitchen. Whether you're a novice or a pro, young or old, Northern or Southern, The Southern Baker will become your go-to guide for all of your baking needs, and might make you one of the more popular people in your family.My Review:
The photographs are lovely and the recipes are all fairly straightforward. I tear lots of recipes out of Southern Living magazine and I like the idea of having a collection featuring my favorites. When it comes to southern cooking and baking, there is the appeal of the butter, the pies, and the pecans. The mouthwatering cover will draw you in but each recipe and corresponding photo will keep you drooling. I especially love the cornbread feature. It's time I graduate from the box mix and this will be the first "real" cornbread recipe I try. 

Review: Troublemaker by Leah Remini

Title: Troublemaker
Author: Leah Remini
Publisher: Ballantine 
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
ISBN: 9781101886960
Number of Pages: 234
How I Got It: Library
Format: Hardcover

Inside Covers:
Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost. That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices. Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she’d worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes. But when she began to raise questions about some of the church’s actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a “Suppressive Person,” and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners—including members of her own family—were told to disconnect from her. Forever. Bold, brash, and bravely confessional, Troublemaker chronicles Leah Remini’s remarkable journey toward emotional and spiritual freedom, both for herself and for her family. This is a memoir designed to reveal the hard-won truths of a life lived honestly—from an author unafraid of the consequences.

My Review:
My mouth dropped on the first page and I loved every page after. I read Jenna Miscavige's memoirs a few years ago so I was semi-familiar with some of the terminology like "going clear" and "auditing sessions" but Leah gave additional insight into Scientology from the angle of celebrity. Her storytelling is blunt and hilarious, just like every time I see her on television (as herself or as her character on King of Queens, Carrie Heffernan.) While Remini gives some insight into the religion / cult of Scientology, this is specifically about her journey. It was utterly fascinating. I challenge anyone to read the first page and not be immediately hooked!

Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Title: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Author: Susanna Clarke
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: September 8, 2004
ISBN: 9781582344164
Number of Pages: 782
How I Got It: personal collection
Format: hardcover
Goodreads Description:
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England--until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight. Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell's student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.
My Review:
This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for years and I've thought it would be a perfect read for the month of October. This year I decided I would hunker down and read the doorstopper. It took me quite a while to finish not just because of the length but because I haven't had a lot of reading time for the last couple months. Well, after all that time spent on reading it, I completed it and thought "That's it?" I liked the magic and the characters but there was a lot of battles and military stuff that I am not interested in at all. As historical fiction, I am okay with some history but I was snoring through a bunch of the government, Napoleon, and soldiers details. I'm glad I read this but I won't be recommending it to anyone. 
***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

Title: Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny
Author: Holly Madison
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
ISBN: 9780062372109
Number of Pages: 352
How I Got It: library
Format: hardcover
Inside Cover:

The shocking, never-before-told story of the bizarre world inside the legendary Playboy Mansion--and, finally, the secret truth about the man who holds the key--from one of the few people who truly knows: Hef's former number one girlfriend and star of The Girls Next Door

A spontaneous decision at age twenty-one transformed small-town Oregon girl Holly Cullen into Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner's number one girlfriend. But like Alice's journey into Wonderland, Holly's plunge down the rabbit hole took her to a world where she discovered that not all was as it seemed. What appeared to be a fairy-tale life inside the Playboy Mansion--which included A-list celebrity parties and Holly's own number one television show--quickly devolved into an oppressive routine of strict rules, manipulation, and battles with ambitious, backstabbing Bunnies.

My Review:
I was interested in reading Holly Madison's account of life behind the mansion's doors as soon as I heard about and even more so when she made her initial press appearances to promote the book's release. As I watched her make her rounds on the talk shows I was impressed that she was actually speaking candidly (and not so nicely) about Hef, the constant parade of girls at the mansion, and her Girls Next Door costars. I also thought that these were probably the few stories she would tell to draw readers in and that she would then tell us about the parties and her sugary, happy personal account of what viewers saw in The Girls Next Door. Wrong!! She totally spills the tea about EVERYTHING! Some was to be expected but there were some great "secrets" and I really loved that she talked about the mental and emotional drama and abuse that surrounded her everyday. There was an especially great story about Playmates being escorts and flying to Turkey in the early 2000's as well as what (or who) really goes down in the bedroom. Most shocking to me wasn't the sex but the money, as in how little (or at all) she, Bridget, and Kendra were being paid for their appearances and use of their likeness for promotional materials. Beyond her time at the mansion, readers are also given a glimpse into her life after leaving. Her relationship with illusionist Chriss Angel was painful but shows how easy it is to keep making the same mistakes in life (and relationships.) Although I didn't initially follow her career after The Girls Next Door, I was really excited for her when reading about her success in Las Vegas with Peepshow. She worked hard to be granted the role and did 8 shows per week. You've got to have a strong work ethic to pull that off. While this is her side of the story and their are two sides to every story, I have to say I believe that her version is probably closest to the truth. I only wish I could ask her how the Playboy PR machine handled her tell-all. 

Review: The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Title: The Marriage of Opposites
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
ISBN: 9781451693591
Number of Pages: 384
How I Got It: Book of the Month Club
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Description:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro; the Father of Impressionism. Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel's mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel's salvation is their maid Adelle's belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle's daughter. But Rachel's life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father's business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Fr├ęderick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France. Building on the triumphs of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, set in a world of almost unimaginable beauty, The Marriage of Opposites showcases the beloved, bestselling Alice Hoffman at the height of her considerable powers. Once forgotten to history, the marriage of Rachel and Fr├ęderick is a story that is as unforgettable as it is remarkable.

My Review:
I was thrilled to receive this novel as a selection in the Book of the Month Club. It is similar to The Dovekeepers in that it is multigenerational and filled with dreamy settings, but I was wanting more of the magic realism Hoffman gave me in her previous novels. Hoffman did transport me to St. Thomas; full of exotic birds and unspoken caste systems, and Paris; full of gardens, art salons, and modern thinking. I love a book with a female protagonist and Rachel does not disappoint. She is stubborn and pushes the boundaries of acceptable behavior in her community. I would recommend this book to anyone loving lush settings and strong women in historical fiction. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

12 October Releases I Can't Wait to Read

I doubt I will be able to read all of these, but these are the releases I'm most excited about for October!

Contract Children : Questioning Surrogacy by Daniela Danna (10/1)

Censored 2016 : The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2014-15 by Mickey Huff, Andy Lee Roth (10/6)

Final Chapters : How Famous Authors Died by Jim Bernhard (10/13)

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani (10/13)

Mass Disruption : Thirty Years on the Front Lines of a Media Revolution by John Stackhouse (10/27)

Plotted : A Literary Atlas by Andrew DeGraff, Daniel Harmon (10/20)

The Witches : Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff (10/27)

Notorious RBG : The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik (10/27)

The Looks of Love : 50 Moments in Fashion That Inspired Romance by Hal Rubenstein (10/27)

Media Moms & Digital Dads : A Fact-Not-Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age by Yalda Uhls (10/27)

Not For Tourists Guide to Chicago 2016 (10/27)

My Life on the Road : My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (10/27)

A Dozen Delicious October Releases

October is my favorite month and I can't wait to dig into these fabulous foodie releases! Yum!

Inspiration for Cooks by Emily Darcy (10/1)

Prohibition Bakery by Leslie Feinberg, Brooke Siem (10/6)

Food Gift Love : More than 100 Recipes to Make, Wrap, and Share by Maggie Battista (10/13)

The Southern Baker : Sweet & Savory Treats to Share with Friends and Family (10/6)

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond (10/20)

Sweetie Pie's Cookbook by Robbie Montgomery, Tim Norman (10/20)

Eating Words : A Norton Anthology of Food Writing by Sandra M. Gilbert, Roger J. Porter, Ruth Reichl (10/26)

The Southerner's Cookbook : Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories by Editors of Garden and Gun (10/27)

Too Many Cooks by Dana Bate (10/27)

Women Chefs of New York by Nadia Arumugam (10/27)

Rice, Noodle, Fish : Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture by Matt Goulding (10/27)

Food Whore : A Novel of Dining and Deceit by Jessica Tom (10/27)

Review: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Title: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
ISBN: 9780812998917
Number of Pages: 286
How I Got It: direct from publisher
Format: paperback
Goodreads Description:
From one of the greatest writers of our time: the most spellbinding, entertaining, wildly imaginative novel of his great career, which blends history and myth with tremendous philosophical depth. A masterful, mesmerizing modern tale about worlds dangerously colliding, the monsters that are unleashed when reason recedes, and a beautiful testament to the power of love and humanity in chaotic times.
Inspired by 2,000 years of storytelling yet rooted in the concerns of our present moment, this is a spectacular achievement--enchanting, both very funny and terrifying. It is narrated by our descendants 1000 years hence, looking back on "The War of the Worlds" that began with "the time of the strangenesses": a simple gardener begins to levitate; a baby is born with the unnerving ability to detect corruption in people; the ghosts of two long-dead philosophers begin arguing once more; and storms pummel New York so hard that a crack appears in the universe, letting in the destructive djinns of myth (as well as some graphic superheroes). Nothing less than the survival of our world is at stake. Only one, a djinn princess who centuries before had learned to love humankind, resolves to help us: in the face of dynastic intrigue, she raises an army composed of her semi-magical great-great--etc.--grandchildren--a motley crew of endearing characters who come together to save the world in a battle waged for 1,001 nights--or, to be precise, two years, eight months and twenty-eight nights.
My Review:
This is one of those books that is difficult for me to review. Rushdie's storytelling abilities are without a doubt magical. He is widely acclaimed for good reason, so I expected excellence. His story is a mix of fables and myths spun into an epic fantasy. It is full of alternate, invented history and told by an omnipotent narrator. There are stories within stories and lush, interesting word choices that had me re-reading sentences and smiling at the structure. And yet....I really disliked it. Reading it felt reminiscent of college and when you were told "This is Literature" with a capital L. It is not like anything else I have read and I always appreciate something different, but I did not personally enjoy it.

** I received a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. **

Product Review of Your New Favorite Light: OttLite

I was recently contacted by Marcea Cazel, the Marketing Manager for OttLite about reviewing two types of their lights. When I learned that OttLite is the leader in craft and reading lighting because they reduce glare and eyestrain, I was sold! After accepting, I immediately received my first light...well lightS because it was a 2 pack Book Light. 
(not the best picture of the light itself, but look at the light it produces!)

This LED Book Light was just released about two months ago. You can use it with its clip on a book or you can stand it on a work desk or table. It works with batteries or a USB cord, both of which are included. The clip is extra big (but not bulky) and no flimsy neck. The light produced is perfect to read in bed without waking your partner. My daughter (the college freshman) tried the second Book Light and loved that she could study in bed and not have to get up to turn out the light. We each gave these two thumbs way up! The Book Light currently is only available at Costco.

The second lamp I tested was the Tulip Lamp. It’s a great reading light because it has a flexible neck and you can use it facing the ceiling or pull it out and point the light where ever you need it. This light would be perfect for reading, but especially crafting. I love to cross-stitch and I need a strong light that doesn't cast shadows. This lamp will definitely do the trick!

The Tulip Lamp is available on our website (www.ottlite.com), JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels.

***Disclaimer: I received these products in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation.***

Book of the Month Club Relaunch

This fall, Bookspan is relaunching its iconic Book of the Month club as an online subscription service for avid readers. Building on nearly 90 years of history, the new Book of the Month club connects users with new and exciting books selected by an outstanding panel of Judges. Book of the Month is the only online boutique, community-oriented book service that provides relief from the tedious superstore experience that most readers have to wade through to find their next book.

Joining Book of the Month is a simple and fun way to find hot new books. Each month you select and receive one of five featured titles chosen by the Judges. (Check out the current Judges here.) Then you visit the discussions forum to chat about your monthly selection.

Here are my latest reads from Book of the Month:
August: Freedom's Child by Jax Miller

(Book of the Month Judge's summary)Freedom, a bartender and a self-described "murderer, cop killer, fugitive, and drunk," pours potent drinks as customers in Painter, Oregon, spill their sins to her. What the patrons don't know is that Freedom is full of her own secrets too. For starters, the ink-stained redhead is living under a Witness Protection Program for killing her abusive, police officer husband. Now, Matthew, Freedom's sleazebag former brother-in-law, has just been released from prison and is looking to avenge his sibling's murder. To lure Freedom out of hiding, Matthew uses the toughest line of bait to tug on Freedom's hardened heartstrings: the two grown children she gave up for adoption long ago.

What's a woman to do? For Freedom, that means hopping on her Harley-Davidson to protect her shattered family. What's a reader to do? Sit back and enjoy a wild ride through America's rusty, neglected back roads, where loners and hitchhikers have created an informal economy with its own bizarre rites and rules. This razor-sharp journey is littered with some shady and scary characters including bad-to-the-bone bikers, an apocalyptic cult, and a 600-pound, cocaine peddling mean mama who wants to take Freedom out, for good. That we care more deeply about Freedom through each of these dizzying and dangerous encounters makes Miller's audacious first novel that much more remarkable.

September: A Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

(Book of the Month Judge's summary)In The Marriage of Opposites, the prolific author creates a colorful canvas on which she tells the fascinating story of Impressionist painter Camille Pissaro's spirited and defiant mother Rachel Pizzaro, whose love for her son helped shape the future of painting.
Growing up in a strict refugee community in St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel is a difficult and willful child, a trait on display from the story's opening lines: "I always left my window open at night, despite the warnings I'd been given. I rarely did as I was told. According to my mother, this had been my response to life ever since my birth, for it took three days for me to arrive in the world." Her independence and daring ultimately results in a torrid and forbidden love affair that has long-reaching consequences for everyone in her life, most of all Camille.
St. Thomas proves a worthy playground for Hoffman's signature blend of folklore and family, intrigue and magic. She constructs an intricate world where pirates have "more than a dozen wives," parrots "speak four languages" and shells not only "reveal pearls," but also "birds as tall as men who danced for each other in the marshes." Juxtaposing this dreamscape are (literal) ghosts haunting descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled by Queen Isabella during the Inquisition.

I am very pleased with the selections offered each month. There is a great mix of books I do and don't know about. This service would be great for any reader but I think it would be a really great gift for the upcoming holiday season. To start your subscription or to give a gift subscription, get started here.

Book Talk with R and T: My Review of The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

Title: The Sparrow Sisters
Author: Ellen Herrick 
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
ISBN: 9780062386342
Number of Pages: 384
How I Got It: NetGalley
Format: Kindle

Goodreads Description:
With echoes of the alchemy of Practical Magic, the lushness of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and the darkly joyful wickedness of the Witches of East End, Ellen Herrick’s debut novel spins an enchanting love story about a place where magic whispers just beneath the surface and almost anything is possible, if you aren’t afraid to listen. The Sparrow sisters are as tightly woven into the seaside New England town of Granite Point as the wild sweet peas that climb the stone walls along the harbor. Sorrel, Nettie and Patience are as colorful as the beach plums on the dunes and as mysterious as the fog that rolls into town at dusk. Patience is the town healer and when a new doctor settles into Granite Point he brings with him a mystery so compelling that Patience is drawn to love him, even as she struggles to mend him. But when Patience Sparrow’s herbs and tinctures are believed to be implicated in a local tragedy, Granite Point is consumed by a long-buried fear—and its three hundred year old history resurfaces as a modern day witch-hunt threatens. The plants and flowers, fruit trees and high hedges begin to wither and die, and the entire town begins to fail; fishermen return to the harbor empty-handed, and blight descends on the old elms that line the lanes. It seems as if Patience and her town are lost until the women of Granite Point band together to save the Sparrow. As they gather, drawing strength from each other, will they be able to turn the tide and return life to Granite Point? The Sparrow Sisters is a beautiful, haunting, and thoroughly mesmerizing novel that will capture your imagination.
My Review: 
I LOVE Practical Magic. Last year I praised The Glass Kitchen for its similarities and now I will say the same about The Sparrow Sisters. I might have missed this book if it weren't for Tamara pointing me in the right direction. Knowing we both loved Practical Magic, she suggested it for our Book Talk with R and T selection and after eliminating a couple other very close contenders, we chose it. While I loved the sisters, it was the setting I fell in love with. Just as every scene at the house, the shop, and the town in the movie mesmerized me, so did my vision of Granite Point. I want to go to the Nursery, the pub, and the gardens. Sometimes you read a book at exactly the right time and I felt this way about this book. With hints of autumn around the corner, this book was a sweet, comforting read.

***I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Book Talk with R and T: Announcement and Giveaway for THE SPARROW SISTERS by Ellen Herrick

Look at that gorgeous cover! Makes me ready for fall weather!

Yep, it's time for another fun week with me and Tamara chatting about a new release we love. So join us all week as we share our reviews of THE SPARROW SISTERS, interview Ellen Herrick, chat about spoilers, and host a fabulous giveaway!  Be sure to follow us each on Twitter (@IvoryOwlReviews & @RockStar1023) so you don't miss out on a single bookish second!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review of PRETTY MUCH SCREWED by Jenna McCarthy

Title: Pretty Much Screwed
Author: Jenna McCarthy
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
ISBN: 9780425280683
Number of Pages: 336
How I Got It: from publisher
Format: paperback
Goodreads Description:
“I don’t love you anymore.”
For Charlotte Crawford, the worst part about being dumped after twenty years of marriage is that her husband, Jack, doesn’t want another woman; he just doesn’t want her. Forty-two and clueless, Charlotte is a fish out of water in a dating pool teeming with losers. Just when she thinks she’s finally put her failed marriage behind her, it comes back to bite her in the ass…hard. Without warning, Charlotte finds herself staring down the barrel of a future she wouldn’t (she would totally) wish on her worst enemy. Engaging, fearless, and relentlessly funny, Pretty Much Screwed is a story of love, loss, friendship, forgiveness, turtledoves, taxidermy, and one hilariously ill-placed tick.
My Review: 
Between the title and the cover image, I knew this would be a fun, light read. With the "four girlfriends" setup (why is always four?) readers are first given main character Charlotte's, best friend Lizzy's marriage meltdown. Though shocking, when privy to Charlotte's marriage (aka asshole husband) you can't help but hope that "the D word" is catching. I don't like when characters are absolutely clueless about obvious situations, and I found myself wanting to smack Charlotte a few times to wake her up. Along with a few eye rolls, I chuckled several times and found the conversations and banter realistic. I smiled as I read this and would recommend it to someone wanting a light read or to someone dating again after a divorce.

***I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Review of RAINY DAY SISTERS by Kate Hewitt

Title: Rainy Day Sisters
Author: Kate Hewitt
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
ISBN: 9780451475589
Number of Pages: 359
How I Got It: direct from publisher
Format: paperback
Goodreads Description:
The USA Today bestselling author presents a heartfelt novel about two sisters struggling toward new lives and loves. Welcome to Hartley-by-the-Sea in England’s beautiful Lake District, where two sisters who meet as strangers find small miracles tucked into the corners of every day....
When Lucy Bagshaw’s life in Boston falls apart, thanks to a scathing editorial written by her famous artist mother, she accepts her half sister Juliet’s invitation to stay with her in a charming seaside village in northern England. Lucy is expecting quaint cottages and cream teas, but instead finds that her sister is an aloof host, the weather is wet, windy, and cold, and her new boss, Alex Kincaid, is a disapproving widower who only hired her as a favor to Juliet.
Despite the invitation she offered, Juliet is startled by the way Lucy catapults into her orderly life. As Juliet faces her own struggles with both her distant mother and her desire for a child, her sister’s irrepressible optimism begins to take hold. With the help of quirky villagers, these hesitant rainy day sisters begin to forge a new understanding…and find in each other the love of family that makes all the difference.
My Review: 
Just like being drawn to book covers, I'm also drawn to certain titles. Rainy Day Sisters piqued my interest. I love rain and love rainy days, so this sounded like a cozy read. I was interested in trying to figure out the relationship between cold Juliet and messy Lucy.  I enjoyed my time in the little village with its cast of characters: teachers, neighbors, and children all with endearing qualities and not-so-lovely human traits of their own. I've also come to like unlikeable characters in my novels and the girls' mother ranks up there. I enjoyed this read and will read future Hartley-by-the-Sea novels.

***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

2 Spooky New Releases: The Curse of Crow Hollow and The Night Sister

Titles: The Curse of Crow Hollow / The Night Sister
Authors: Billy Coffey / Jennifer McMahon 
Publishers: Thomas Nelson / Doubleday 
Publication Date: August 4, 2015 (both)
ISBNs: 9780718026776    9780385538527
Number of Pages: 384  /  336
How I Got It: NetGalley
Format: Kindle

Goodreads Descriptions:
The Curse of Crow Hollow:
Stories are told of a witch who lives in the woods outside of town. But where does truth end and legend begin?A group of teenagers find strange prints seared into the ground around their campsite. They follow the tracks, thinking it will lead to fun.But it doesn't. They eventually arrive at the edge of Alvaretta Graves's property--house of the legendary Riverwood Witch. When an agrument that arises turns violent, Alvaretta places a curse on them.The sickness comes the next day, gripping residents one by one. Fear overtakes the town, and panic soon follows.The posse that makes its way back to the witch's home is armed with guns and Bibles and is searching for an end to the sickness and violence. But they are in no way prepared for what they discover there.
The Night Sister:
Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever. Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock's next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

My Review: 
I loved both of these novels. They were each so creepy and put me in the mood for the upcoming fall season. I was surprised that they weren't releasing in October because they seem like they would be perfect for readers looking for a spooky seasonal read. I will admit that I thought "oh this isn't that scary" with The Night Sister until the last 100 pages, then I had the heeby-jeebies and could not turn the pages fast enough. The Curse of Crow Hollow had me worried for a bit that it would turn out like The Returned or Under the Dome, which were both huge let-downs for me. I was also concerned that it would take a severe religious bend due to the Christian publisher. I was wrong on both counts. It was like nothing I've ever read and wait until you get a load of the narrator! So if you are looking for some spine-tingly, skin-crawly reads this fall, check out both of these releases.

***I received copies of these books in exchange for honest reviews**

If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison

Title: If I Could Turn Back Time
Author: Beth Harbison
Publisher: St. Martin's
Publication Date: July 28, 2015
ISBN: 9781250043818
Number of Pages: 384
How I Got It: from publisher
Format: Kindle
NetGalley Description:
Thirty-seven year old Ramie Phillips has led a very successful life. She made her fortune and now she hob nobs with the very rich and occasionally the semi-famous, and she enjoys luxuries she only dreamed of as a middle-class kid growing up in Potomac, Maryland. But despite it all, she can't ignore the fact that she isn't necessarily happy. In fact, lately Ramie has begun to feel more than a little empty. On a boat with friends off the Florida coast, she tries to fight her feelings of discontent with steel will and hard liquor. No one even notices as she gets up and goes to the diving board and dives off...Suddenly Ramie is waking up, straining to understand a voice calling in the distance...It's her mother: "Wake up! You're going to be late for school again. I'm not writing a note this time..." Ramie finds herself back on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, with a second chance to see the people she's lost and change the choices she regrets. How did she get back here? Has she gone off the deep end? Is she really back in time? Above all, she'll have to answer the question that no one else can: What it is that she really wants from the past, and for her future?

My Review: 
It took me forever to read this because I kept daydreaming! Seriously, what would you do if you suddenly woke up in your 18 year old body with all your current knowledge? Haven't we all asked ourselves, at one point or another, "If I had it all to do over again, what would I do differently?" The storyline was engaging but I kept taking my own journey off to "what if" land. Ramie's high school bedroom was MY high school bedroom and so many details in the book brought back previously forgotten memories of my own senior summer. The best part about this novel is that Ramie changed things she thought she regretted but when the new outcomes came to fruition, she second-guessed herself again. This book was the perfect length and I loved the ending. Prepare yourself for crazy flashbacks and a fun time following Ramie's "do over."

***I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**