The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

ST. MARTIN’S PRESS – REVIEW : 4 STARS

Thanks so much to the author, NetGalley, and St. Martin’s Press for the complimentary advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are entirely my own. All of my full, honest reviews can be found on my blog at tacklingtbr.home.blog and on Instagram @TacklingTBR { partner }

If you had spent your entire life feeling sick, and fragile, and literally blue, what would be one of the first things that you would want to do with the start of your new life post-heart transplant? As someone who was fortunate enough to have been born healthy, and who has stayed at least relatively healthy throughout my lifetime, these aren’t questions that I’ve ever had to think about answers for. But our heroine Ailsa Rae has thought of little else while waiting for the heart transplant that would save her life, and this is where the book begins.

This book was a pretty slow read for me, only because of the formatting of the book itself. There aren’t necessarily chapters, the book is separated into ten parts instead that, for me, were about an average of about an hour and a half to two hours per part. The story is told through blog posts, online news articles, flashbacks, and more typical in the moment story portions. It was really interesting getting information from all of these different POVs, and I really enjoyed this form of storytelling. My only issue with this was the very long parts in lieu of chapters, since it made it a bit slow seeming while reading it.

I will also say that I wish we got to see more of the character of Lennox. As stated above, bits of the book are looking back at before Ailsa’s transplant. Only one or two of these flashbacks include Lennox as an active character, most of them are still after his death. While I love understanding how she was dealing with his loss, and how she was able to come to terms with that, I wish that we had just a little bit more time with him as well. I was really wanting just a little bit more time to truly fall in love with him the way that she had.

All of that being said and out of the way, I really enjoyed this book. I fell in love with all of the characters, but especially with our lead Ailsa. While she was a sweet and young character, who had had a pretty difficult time throughout her life, at no point was she presented as a perfect character. If you know me, you know that I love a flawed character. But, while I have never been in the situations that Ailsa is in during this story, I still found myself relating to her quite a bit, and therefore loved getting to watch her journey. She has a blog that outlines her transplant experience and on the blog she often posts polls for her followers to help her decide what to do in any given situation (whether or not to travel to London, where to go for an outing, etc.) I know that there were some other people that disliked this part of her character, I really did enjoy it because indecisiveness is a flaw that I daily struggle with as well. This morning I asked my Instagram followers to help me pick my next read, and last night I literally gave my fiance four options of activities and asked him how I should spend my evening. Not something that I am always proud of, but I loved seeing this in a character and watching her work through it with the help of the people who love her.

Overall, I really did enjoy this book, and as long as you have time to devote to a little bit of a slower read (more character driven than story driven) then I would absolutely recommend it.

Life on Loan by Ashley Farley

Blog Tour Stop: Kate Rock Book Tours courtesy of Lake Union Publishing

Thanks so much to the author, Kate Rock Book Tours, NetGalley, and Lake Union Publishing for the complimentary advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts, and participation in this blog tour. { partner }

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM GOODREADS :

It’s a surprising second act for two women who decide to rewrite their lives in this enriching novel of friendship and starting over from the bestselling author of Only One Life.

After thirty years, college friends Lena Browder and Olivia Westcoat have met again by chance at an unexpected crossroads: an airport lounge in Atlanta. Lena is running away from her home and demanding family. Olivia is trying to find her way after a painful divorce.

With their old selves in the rearview, they toast to a new beginning – and it starts with a spontaneous dare. Lena will stay in Olivia’s Charleston condo. Olivia’s retreat? Lena’s isolated river cottage in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Two perfect getaways. Thirty-four days to reset. With fresh new perspectives and the renewal of a heartening friendship, Lena and Olivia find their passions, reinvent themselves, and reclaim what they’ve lost.

When unexpected romance blooms and careers take detours, it’s also a time for courage and risk. Now they’ll have to make hard choices to follow through on their promise for a second chance and finally have the lives they dream of.

MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW (4 STARS) :

I think at some point in their lives everyone has wanted to run away from their every day realities. Whether you’re a kid wanting to go away to Neverland, or an adult wanting to run and hide from the stresses of every day life and work. I know that I have. If my fiancé and I could run away from life for a couple of weeks and do nothing but read and write in a secluded cabin on a mountain and ignore the rest of the world? We would. In a heartbeat. Like, our bags are probably already packed for it. So I was already on the side of our two leads in this book, before I even started reading it.

On that note, I loved the characters that this story centered around.

Story time – I knew the general plot of this book when I started reading it, but I hadn’t read the full description, so I didn’t know any of the character names or specifics going in. And the very first chapter starts with Lena having issues with her daughter, Kayla, and my automatic assumption was that Kayla was going to be one of the two friends running away from responsibilities. So when I kept reading and it was actually Lena who took off and had a self-discovery adventure, I fell even more in love with her character and with the book. After that she automatically became a favorite character for me, without even thinking about it.

I loved Olivia as well, but I didn’t have the same automatic attraction to her character that I had for Lena. You sympathize with her from the beginning of her story, but in a way it took me a little bit longer to really fall into her part of the story, which then became some of my favorite parts later in the book. Where Lena is leaving behind the responsibilities of her home life, and a family taking her for granted, Olivia is a hip and fashionable blogger living what might seem like the perfect life in a gorgeous city, and she is running from the stresses of that life and those expectations that are being placed on her. Which, again, is incredibly relatable for people in all stages of life.

I tend to pay more attention to the characters in a novel than other aspects, sometimes even over some of the smaller details in the story itself, because the characters are what will make or break the book for me. Hands down. And I really enjoyed the story of this book – anyone who enjoyed the movie The Holiday would enjoy this, since it is the same type of story, but in the next stage of life, which made it really interesting and different from a lot of the other books that I read frequently. And since I loved the characters so much, I was able to fully dive head first into the story and enjoy that to it’s fullest as well.

Overall, I really did love this book. It wasn’t one that I absolutely couldn’t put down, and finished in a day because it consumed me heart and soul. But it was so much fun and enjoyable, and I loved getting to read about women on self discovery journeys that you don’t necessarily see in that light all of the time (most of those types of stories, in my experience, tend to center around characters in their early twenties or even early thirties). I would absolutely recommend this book to my friends and family, and anyone looking for a classic type of story with a fun twist in a truly character-driven novel.

LINK TO BUY ON AMAZON :

Legacy of Fear by A. J. McCarthy

Blog Tour Stop : Kate Rock Book Tours courtesy of Black Rose Writing

Thanks so much to the author, Kate Rock Book Tours, and Black Rose Writing for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts, and participation in this blog tour. { partner }

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM GOODREADS :

What dark secret is hidden in her past? What evil has been handed down through the generations?

Emily Burton found happiness in a small, picturesque town on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Her sense of peace and security is shattered when she’s brutally attacked, and an innocent person is murdered. The authorities believe the incident is random, until Emily becomes the target of further violence and threats.

With the help of her enigmatic neighbor, she uncovers an eerily similar crime that dates back sixty years. Could there be a connection between the two attacks? Did malevolence stretch it’s deadly arm across generations?

Emily is convinced there’s a link, but she needs to find it before it finds her.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :

The Three Rs – Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic – are the cornerstones of A.J. McCarthy’s life. The first began at a young age when she devoured novels by Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon, and other masters of mystery and suspense. The second was a passion born later in life, and the third was a major part of her full-time career. The author of the three published novels, Sins of the Fathers, Cold Betrayal, and Legacy of Fear (to be released November 2019), A.J. is working on another manuscript in the suspense thriller genre, while juggling ideas for a couple of others.

LINK TO BUY ON AMAZON :

The Magic of the Season (Christmas in Silver Falls #2) by Tammy L. Grace

Blog Tour Stop: Kate Rock Book Tours Courtesy of Lone Mountain Press

Thanks so much to the author, Kate Rock Book Tours and Lone Mountain Press for the complimentary advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts, and participation in this blog tour. { partner }

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM GOODREADS :

Will a city girl forced to spend the holidays in her small hometown recapture the magic of the season?

Madison hasn’t visited Silver Falls since she left the snowy mountain winters behind for the beaches of California twenty years ago. In the midst of the annual Christmas festival, an accident forces her to return and manage her mom’s candy business at the Sugar Shop.

Grant hasn’t seen her since she left for college, but he remembers spending summers at the lake with the skinny, plain girl he and everyone used to know as Sugar. The contemporary advertising executive he encounters now is anything but plain. Will Grant’s kindness, the charm of Silver Falls, and the caring community open Sugar’s heart to all she’s been missing?

The best-selling author of A Season for Hope, the tale readers described as the perfect Christmas story, delivers a touching sequel with the second in her Christmas in Silver Falls series in this new festive novella that pairs perfectly with a cup of cocoa in front of a blazing fire.

MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW (4 STARS) :

Anyone who knows basically anything about me, or has spoken to me even once, knows that I love the Christmas season and all slightly or fully-cheesy holiday romcoms. Even if you just saw me on the street and someone said “That’s Jennifer, and she loves Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies,” you would probably look at me and say “Yeah, that checks out.” I am the girl that put on my Christmas pajamas as soon as the last trick or treaters had left our porch (I wish I was kidding about that. I did.)

So when this tour came up, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Holiday magic? Sweet love story? Easy, quick read novella? Yes please! And I will say that this is a second in a series (mentioned in the description above). I was also given a copy of the first story, A Season for Hope, in order to read it before this tour as well, so I was able to read both! I will include an amazon link for both novellas below, in case you do want to read both stories – but I will not be including the first in this review, as while they are in the same series and they both have the same beautiful setting, they follow two separate characters and therefore are stand-alone stories. Just FYI!

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to this review! This story was so charming! By the time I was a few chapters in, I knew that if possible I would move to Silver Falls in a heartbeat. If you are someone who has seen Gilmore Girls, Silver Falls is like Stars Hollow but a step up still. It is a small town where everyone is willing to step in and help anyone around them who needs it, and where everybody in town knows everybody else, and you can’t walk down the street without someone stopping you to say hello and ask how you are. I love those settings in stories, because I think deep in my soul that is the type of town that I would belong in.

The characters are also so sweet and genuine, and while sometimes they seem sweet enough to give you a cavity, overall they seem like people that you could really meet in a town like this. I do think, though, that our female lead Madison (better known to all as Sugar) is the most realistic and relatable character in this particular novella. I think everyone can relate to trying (and failing) to get rid of a childhood nickname, and being in a time in your life that you want to escape your hometown and go have adventures. But I also love that she is able to come back home and still see the magic in the relationships around her, and getting to see in the long run that she still has that small town magic and love inside of herself as well.

I will say that this probably wouldn’t be a perfect story for everyone for a few specific reasons. Mainly because this is a love story and, as it is a novella rather than a full length novel, the love story is not as long and fully realized as it would be in a different format. The two leads spend a lot of time together throughout the story, so it isn’t a Disney princess love at first sight situation, but you don’t blatantly see them falling in love over the course of ten chapters before the happily ever after. As someone who, again, watches just about one holiday romcom per day in the holiday season, this didn’t necessarily bother me. The two characters knew each other from childhood, so even at the beginning of the novella they knew each other, they weren’t meeting for the first time. And there isn’t anything about them as characters that makes them falling in love quickly seem unrealistic – it is something that can happen in real life too, as long as both of the people involved are open to that possibility. These are two adults, I believe they are both in their thirties, who knew each other from childhood through high school graduation, and I think that if this situation were to happen in the real world, I think that they honestly could fall in love in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a romantic time!

All of this to say, if you are bothered by love stories that happen quickly or that you, as the reader, aren’t fully privy to, then this may not be the story for you. But I, myself, thought that the love story was really sweet and fit the format that the story was in, so it didn’t bother me in the slightest.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed both of these stories, and would recommend them to the people around me who are ready to skip right to the holiday season. And as stated above, both are able to stand alone and reading them both in order is not necessary to enjoy the story, I did enjoy both of them quite a bit. So if you’re up for it, then go for it! Read them both! I ended up reading these right as our Texas weather was starting to take a turn for the cooler temperatures, and it really helped me by setting the mood. The description on Goodreads really says it best, and I couldn’t agree more – they pair perfectly with a cup of cocoa in front of a blazing fire!

LINKS TO BUY ON AMAZON :

Christmas in Silver Falls #1 :

Christmas in Silver Falls #2 :

Against the Rules (Gamer Girls #2) by Laura Heffernan

Blog Tour Stop : Kate Rock Book Tours courtesy of Kensington Books

Thanks so much to the author, Kate Rock Book Tours, NetGalley, and Kensington Books for the complimentary advanced copy of this book in exchange for honest thoughts, and participation in this book tour. { partner }

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM GOODREADS :

RISK EVERYTHING … Holly has taken herself out of the dating game since breaking up with her cheating, thieving ex. She barely notices Marc, who comes into the game store every week, hoping to get her attention. Her friends insist it’s time to take on a new role, to leave Quiet Holly behind and embrace her inner flirt. And on paper, Marc’s great: cute, funny, and a hardcore gamer just like Holly is.

Then there’s Nathan. He’s everything twenty-eight-year-old Holly wants…except he’s also her friend’s father. Absolutely off-limits. But as she and Nathan playtest a new legacy game together, they’re growing closer.

The game is complex and intriguing, and there’s no wat to know how choices will pan out. What seems like a good idea could lead to disaster…or sweet victory. But in gaming, as in love, sometimes you have to roll the dice to take your chance . . .

MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW (4 STARS) :

Once again I am writing a review on a second book in a series without having read the first book. Come on, Jennifer, get it together. Right? Right. But, like with my last tour book, the description comes along and it just sounds too fun to pass up, even if I did miss the first part of the story! And once again, I was not disappointed.

Holly is an incredibly fun character, and I really enjoyed getting to spend this time with her. She is nerdy and game-minded, yes, but she is also really smart, and strong-willed, feisty, and she has a fierce love for the people around her. When we first meet her she is in the last few months of reclaiming her life from issues caused by and related to her ex, who is in trouble with the law due to his part in their new business was revealed to be less than upstanding. She’s been having a hard time while trying to get back on her feet, working at her local game shop and having weekly game nights with her friends, and is inspired to start putting herself out there more in the world of dating.

While none of the first few dates go very far, some not even making it through the salad course, I had a really good time getting to read about the dates, especially the really cringe-worthy ones whom she had met online. It felt a little bit like gossiping and sharing bad dating stories with your girlfriends, and let me just say that I was all about it. And while we are on the topic, I loved her whole group of friends at the game nights. They are such a tight knit group, and all getting to share in a mutual love of the game and the competition. Also the game that they are playing throughout the whole story sounds really cool. I am not always a huge gamer myself (I had older brothers, so I can play sometimes, but I grew up mostly watching the games instead), but I wanted to try and join in the game too. Take out? Check. Good friends? Check. Awesome sounding board game? Check. All I’m saying is that I’m upset I don’t get to have game nights anymore.

And yes, we couldn’t talk about this book without talking about the love story. Throughout the story Holly has two main love interests that she focuses on – Marc, who stops by the game shop during her shifts, and sweetly plans dream dates to try and woo our lead; and Nathan, who she has had a crush on for years and gives her enough butterflies to fill her stomach twice over every time they brush hands. He seems perfect (hey, they even already live together) except that he is the father of one of her best friends. Yikes. Her whole internal debate between the two men revolves around how her friend, Gwen, would react if she chose Nathan, worrying she’s breaking some girl-code and that her friend may never forgive her. While I’ve never been in this particular situation I think we’ve all had moments where we worried we might hurt or even lose a friend depending on a choice that we made, and so I found that part of the story really easy to follow and found that I could fairly easily relate to the character. And plus, there’s something about a forbidden romance that just makes it that much more fun to read, right?

Overall this book was really enjoyable, and I wanted to jump right into the middle of this friend group. None of the characters were perfect, which I always think makes for a better and more enjoyable reading experience. And while, yes, the central gaming theme may not be for everybody, I found it different and new and thoroughly entertaining. I will definitely be checking out the next book in the series, Make Your Move, which publishes in December and follows another member of this same group.

This book is publishing tomorrow, October 15, 2019!

LINK TO BUY ON AMAZON :

Coming Home (Chandler Hill Inn – Book 2) by Judith Keim

Blog Tour Stop : Kate Rock Book Tours courtesy of Wild Quail Publishing

Thanks so much to the author, Kate Rock Book Tours, and Wild Quail Publishing for the complimentary finished copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts, and participation in this blog tour. { partner }

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM GOODREADS :

Camilla “Cami” Chandler comes home from France to take over the Chandler Hill Inn and Winery for her recently-deceased grandmother, Lettie, as she’d always promised. Determined to succeed in this new venture, she finds herself in trouble from the beginning when she discovers most of her grandmother’s estate intended for maintaining the inn’s business expenses was lost in a Ponzi scheme. She forges ahead to provide the best wines in Willamette Valley.

After being ditched by her French boyfriend, she decides that being friends with Drew Farley is the safest way to proceed. He loves grape growing and winemaking as much as she does and isn’t looking for anything beyond friendship.

When a bride planning a wedding at the inn tells Cami that she looks exactly like her best friend, life becomes even more complicated. Never having known even the name of her father, Cami searches for a connection and comes to realize how complicated love and family can be.

MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW ( 5 STARS) :

I’ll start by saying, this is book 2 of 3 in the Chandler Hill Inn series from this author, and I was not able to read the first book before diving in to this book. While I do think that I probably would have gotten more out of the story if I had read the first book, at no point did I feel like I was completely missing the necessary background. The beginning of this novel gives all information on the characters, setting, and background that was needed for this particular story, so I definitely wasn’t feeling like I couldn’t enjoy this book without having read the first. But again, I do think I may have gotten more out of it with the rest of the story, so take this whole first paragraph with a grain of salt. Basically, maybe read the first book first, but it also wasn’t necessary for me.

All of that being said, I loved this book. I read this entire book in one day, and I am not a fast reader. I was engrossed in the characters and the setting, and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Also the story takes place at an Inn and Winery in Oregon, which I love. Having grown up in Washington, I love reading books or consuming other media that takes place in or near my Pacific Northwest. What can I say? The area has my heart. I wanted to hop on a plane back towards home and stay a weekend at the Chandler Hill Inn.

I also (and this will shock nobody who has read any of my other reviews) really loved the characters and their portion of the story. The “villains” of the book (read: people in the story who are working against our protagonist, not exactly super villains) were overall really believable as actual people, which I think always makes the trials in a story more interesting, rather than some totally unrealistic circumstances. And while I’ve never been put in the situations that they put Cami through in the book, so I haven’t known anyone to go to those particular extremes, I definitely feel like everyone knows these exact types of people having come and gone in their lives.

But overall, the characters were just so lovely (I think I fell in love with her grandpa, Rafe, and I will not apologize for it.) Cami, the female lead, is so strong and so sweetly written. I love a story of a young woman really coming into her own, and being a boss. And Cami does both over the course of this book. I wanted to be her friend, or even just work with her at the Inn. (Why yes, living and working at a beautiful and romantic Inn and Winery just may be a dream of mine, why do you ask? All of the wine.) But I mean it, give me all of the strong female characters in all of the media. I was very invested in her life and her story, and I definitely finished the book wanting to know where she was going to go from there.

I would recommend this book to any of my friends that want a character-driven story and a really fun, quick read. I am so excited that I was given the chance to read this book for the author’s blog tour, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book, Home At Last, which is publishing soon! I may even get myself a copy of the first book to see what I had missed out on!

LINK TO BUY ON AMAZON :

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Forge Books – Review: 5 Stars

Oh Karen, Georgia, and the MFM-fam. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered was written by these friends, badass ladies, and co-hosts of the incredibly popular podcast My Favorite Murder. It is, in small part, the true crime craziness that we all know and love from the podcast, but it was mostly stories of the experiences that made them who they are – including their childhoods, family stories, and their starts in the entertainment industry.

First things first, I have never been so glad that I listened to the audio of a book. The audiobook is read by the authors, and it is such a delight! It makes the stories more personal, and the way that they play off of each other at the end of each chapter is just so much fun. Each chapter is more intimate than the last, and it is truly a pleasure to read.

I laughed and cried my way through this entire book, particularly the chapter about f*cking politeness. It’s a saying that they pepper through their podcast episodes frequently so I was no stranger to the idea while listening to the book. But listening to them telling their own stories and their experiences with this particular motto really made me look back at all of the times as a kid, or even as a young adult, so many of us take help from strangers or hold our tongue around people who have no right to be telling us things, all for the sake of being polite or ladylike. Little girls specifically are always told that they need to be nice so that they aren’t “bitchy,” or not to be too “bossy” because then the boys won’t want to be our friends. But people are finally starting to talk about how damaging that can be. Feeling like we have to fill this role of politeness and being ladylike can lead to people putting themselves into situations that they aren’t comfortable with and that could even put them into danger. And I love how much these ladies, and this book, dive into that and show the darker side of it.

Alright, tangent over. I have a little bit of a soap box about that particular topic, okay? And I loved how it was all handled in this book.

Overall I absolutely loved this book. I want to recommend it, and the podcast, to anyone and everyone. Find yourself wanting to talk about true crime in your day to day life? Want to chat about like-minded humans about funny, creepy, or touching stories from the past? Have any funny stories about 80s-90s parents not paying attention, and somehow injuring yourself? MFM is the show for you. It is fun, and honest, and the book only makes it better. Highly recommend listening to the audio, but I will also be buying a physical copy because I want it on my shelf forever.

Now remember to f*ck politeness, always SSDGM, and if you’re ever in a cult, call your dad.