Amy E Reichert: The Simplicity of Cider

Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.

From the warm and funny Amy E. Reichert, The Simplicity of Cider is a charming love story with a touch of magic, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Gayle Forman.

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Do you ever read a book that makes you crave something delicious? This is what Amy E. Reichert’s books do to you. I wanted coconut cake for WEEKS after reading her last one. Now she is releasing a book ALL ABOUT CIDER.

Come on, lady. You’re killing me. Of course, I don’t have any cider in the house. I have beer, and brandy and wine and rum…and literally everything else drinkable. BUT NO CIDER.

The story is as sweet as the golden nectar that flows throughout the book. It was a bit of a slow start–I didn’t connect with Sanna right away, and Isaac’s narrative is a little off kilter too. But once they start to intertwine, things pick up and the plot forms more of the typical contemporary romance structure.

There’s a lot of secrets going on. Some of them are a little problematic–without giving away spoilers, I liked Isaac but what he did just bothered me. And we never do get to the bottom of Anders’s character. There’s a few things he says that go unanswered.

Bass is completely adorable, though. And for the most part, the book fills that spot in my soul that requires quaint farm romances in the summer. But I’m definitely stopping by the liquor store tonight for some Vander Mill Totally Roasted. Make sure you have some craft cider in your house when you read this. You’re going to need it.

NetGalley and Gallery Books provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

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Becky Albertalli: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

It took me far too long to read this book. What an incredible mush of adorableness. I fell COMPLETELY in love with Simon and Blue.

I don’t even have any notes in my reading journal from this book because I read it straight through without putting it down. Once you’re in it, you’re in it, my friend, so don’t start this at 11’oclock at night or you will not sleep. I want to go back to high school and feel that awkward teen love all over again.

Ok, not really, not at all. But Simon and Blue are THAT adorable, thank you very much.

Enough with the mush–the book DOES have SOME conflict, you know. Martin is a right bastard. Even though I know we were all terrible people back in school, it’s so hard to believe there are kids who are THAT cruel. It makes my heart hurt. And he never receives any consequences at all. Every day Simon has to look at his twisted grin and just…ugh.

Also, can we talk about Leah? This poor girl doesn’t know what end is up, and neither do her friends. Something is going on with her, and I need more information! I really need some more character development on Leah. We only get the bare minimum, and I feel her attitude (for lack of a better word) deserves more than jealousy or distraction.

Mostly though, this book is a YA romance, and Albertalli stays true to that–while fielding the softball sized societal issues that take place in the teen world. (Anyone who says high schoolers do not face real problems are idiots.) She managed to make her story adorable AND painful…and also extremely diverse. You’ll find characters from many walks of life here, not just LGBTQIA+, but also Jewish, black, and biracial.

Obviously this is a must read for me, guys. If you haven’t read this yet, DO IT. She just came out with a new book this week and I am already pining for it!

DIVERSITYBINGO2017:  Practicing Jewish MC

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Paullina Simons: The Bronze Horseman

During the summer of 1941 the Metanov family are living a hard life in Leningrad. As the German armies advance their future looks bleak. For Tatiana, love arrives in the guise of Alexander, who harbours a deadly and extraordinary secret.

I think that maybe reading a book about the Soviet Union in WWII was maybe not the best idea for election week. This 650 page monster took an entire week to read–I couldn’t stay focused on it, and it was so hard to stay emotionally involved when we were having our own…domestic issues.

Long though it is, for the most part, I did enjoy the book. It sort of reminded me of The Thorn Birds or Outlander–not really the subject matter, but just the style of romance. There are so many conflicts going on, nothing is exactly ethical, but you root for the main characters anyway.

I’ve read a ton of books about the British side of the war, the American side, some from the Japanese and German sides. But I’ve read nothing from the Russian front. So this was an interesting perspective, and I really like how Simons used Alexander and Tatiana to frame their lives behind the Leningrad blockade. I will say that sometimes their relationship infuriated me–the dynamic was very toxic in modern day relationship standards, and so it’s very VERY cringey. The sex scenes are hot, albeit sometimes cheesy. It’s just an interesting mix.

It’s a solid 3. There are two more in the series, and I haven’t decided whether to continue on. I liked The Bronze Horseman, I didn’t love it. I’m definitely impatient to move on to something else. But I could see Shura and Tania be a love story that I crave the rest of later on. We’ll see.

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Heidi Heilig: The Girl From Everywhere

Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

BOOK SLUMPS ARE HARD.

I went back and forth so many times on this one, and it took me three days to read it! But, I suppose that is why I put my blog on hiatus, so I wouldn’t have to rush, right? Forgive me for these off reviews, I’m clearly not myself right now. Still, for the sake of consistency, I want you know what I’ve read and what I thought while I read them. My brain won’t let me do otherwise. Just take these with a grain of salt, k? I’ll let you know once I catch up to myself when all this is said and done.

The @KeepItDiverse book club chose The Girl From Everywhere for their October read. Can I first of all just say that I love living in a small town because I’m able to get book club reads right away now? No more waiting two months for popular books. Woot!

Anyway, this was a bit of a slow starter, but it may have been because I was a bit hesitant. It reminded me straight off of Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, which I could not get into, and I was afraid this was going to be the same way. I gradually started falling into the story and it picked up speed. I like the idea of popping in and out of history, seeing different events happen.

There’s a love triangle here that is very confusing. It never really resolves itself. Which, on one hand, allows you to ship (pun intended) any way you like. But it is frustrating because there are so many unresolved feelings! Perhaps it’s building up to a sequel?

Another plot hole that really bothered me was the dragon. She got this dragon from her aunt at the beginning of the book–it eats pearls and has to live in salt water. Special mention was given to the bucket it lives in:  it can’t rust, had to have a handle so she could throw it over the side and be refreshed occasionally. And then the dragon disappears for most of the book. The bucket makes a short appearance later, but it just really doesn’t play much of a role, and seemed like a big detail that meant nothing. Maybe I missed something but it seemed odd to me.

Overall, the book was entertaining. There were lots of details about Hawaiian culture–where the author is from. The jokes about those damn Victorians made me laugh. It wasn’t my favorite book ever, but right now, I don’t think anything is my favorite thing ever, so if you like time travel, don’t count this one out.

 

UPDATE–Oh MAN this review is rough. I definitely need to go back and reread this book when I’m in a better mental state. Heidi is such a fantastic person, her activism is incredible. Please don’t count her book out just because of this slumpy review. If/When I read it again, I will be sure to update this. Leaving this up for authenticity, because I was going through a really hard time when I read it. But I did want to give this disclaimer because I admire the author quite a lot, for other reasons besides just her writing.

 

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Nicola Yoon: Everything, Everything

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I’ve been hearing so much about Everything Everything, and I didn’t even know it was a diverse book! So when it showed up on the #DiverseAThon list, it was one of the first books I requested from the library.

It was a sweet book, but I’m not as in love with it as everyone else is. Things are just a little too perfect. I mean, that totally happens in YA romance like this, but of course the “perfect” guy for Maddy moves next door to her and stays in the exact room she can see into. Maybe I’m a little jaded. Just a little.

I seem to be the only person I know who guessed what was really going on between Maddy and her mom. I won’t give it away, just promise me you’ll do some research after you finish the book. Because it’s another one of those plot devices that really get on my nerves. I’ll put the thing you need to google at the very bottom of this post, after my credits, where you don’t have to look if you don’t want to. Come back after you’ve read it. Let me know what you think. It’s really an interesting thing on it’s own. As a plot device though? I’m tired of authors doing this.***

Everything Everything is certainly entertaining. It’s a cute YA that checks all the major boxes for popular lit. And it has POC leads! We certainly need more of those in publishing. For those reasons, I cannot/will not dissuade you from reading it. It’s just not my favorite of the year.

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***Ok, now for the rest of my review, because SPOILERS, and this very much ruins the ending. Maddy is not sick. She does not have SCID. Her mother has PTSD, and a form of which that lends itself very close, if not all the way to Munchausen Syndrome. 

Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a mental illness and a form of child abuse. The caretaker of a child, most often a mother, either makes up fake symptoms or causes real symptoms to make it look like the child is sick.
This is problematic for two reasons. 
1. The author is using mental illness as a twist ending, which I absolutely hate. Writers have to stop doing this. Mental illness is not a “twist.” It’s a real life thing. We do not suffer for your plot devices. 
2. This says you cannot be happy if you have a disability. Maddy can only be happy in the end because she is not truly sick. She gets to go out in the world and be with Olly, live her life the way she wants to, and all her problems disappear.
For a much better description of this, I am going to refer you to Jennifer’s review. She explains way better than I can.

Review: Summer House

After years of wandering from whim to whim, thirty-year-old Charlotte Wheelwright seems to have at last found her niche. The free spirit enjoys running an organic gardening business on the island of Nantucket, thanks in large part to her spry grandmother Nona, who donated a portion of land on the family’s seaside compound to get Charlotte started. Though Charlotte’s skill with plants is bringing her success, cultivating something deeper with people–particularly her handsome neighbor Coop–might be more of a challenge.

Nona’s generosity to Charlotte, secretly her favorite grandchild, doesn’t sit well with the rest of the Wheelwright clan, however, as they worry that Charlotte may be positioning herself to inherit the entire estate. With summer upon them, everyone is making their annual pilgrimage to the homestead–some with hopes of thwarting Charlotte’s dreams, others in anticipation of Nona’s latest pronouncements at the annual family meeting, and still others with surprising news of their own. Charlotte’s mother, Helen, a Wheelwright by marriage, brings a heavy heart. She once set aside her own ambitions to fit in with the Wheelwrights, but now she must confront a betrayal that threatens both her sense of place and her sense of self.

As summer progresses, these three women–Charlotte, Nona, and Helen–come to terms with the decisions they have made. Revisiting the lives and loves that have crossed their paths and the possibilities of the roads not taken, they may just discover that what they’ve always sought was right in front of them all along.

Because audiobooks are strictly background noise for me, I stick to books that don’t require a lot of thinking–those books that people consider “beach reads” are perfect for that. Summer House has it right in the name. This book is all about hanging out with your family the way summer is meant to be spent–in a coastal New England mansion that the family is fighting over.

It has all the necessary chick-lit drama:  a love affair, a love triangle–those are two separate romances btw–a wise and rich old grandma with a past and an affinity for scotch, not to mention a guy you want to punch in the friggin throat. Gang’s all here.

Would I bounce up and down and throw this book at you until you read it? Probably not. But it was nice enough to listen to in the afternoons while getting work done. The person reading had a sweet, steady voice too, so it’s a good one to listen to. Solid three dragons.

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#FridayReads: Results May Vary

She never saw it coming. Without even a shiver of suspicion to warn her, Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man—a revelation that forces her to question their entire history together, from their early days as high school sweethearts through their ten years as a happily married couple. In her now upside-down world, Caroline begins envisioning her life without the relationship that has defined it: the loneliness of being an “I” instead of a “we”; the rekindled yet tenuous closeness with her younger sister; and the unexpected—and potentially disastrous—attraction she can’t get off her mind. Caroline always thought she knew her own love story, but as her husband’s other secrets emerge, she must decide whether that story’s ending will mean forgiving the man she’s loved for half her life, or facing her future without him.

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When I read Bethany Chase’s debut novel last year, I knew it was going to be a hit. It was funny, heartfelt, and full of sunshine–a combination that is impossible to resist. When Random House hit me up for a blog tour for her new book, Results May Vary…I wont lie…I might have screamed out loud. I was pretty dang excited.

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Whereas Chase’s first book was lighthearted and full of Texas beer and falling in love, Results May Vary dives into the heartbreak of divorce and the messy, devastating wake it leaves behind. As a divorcee myself, I found myself nodding along with every familiar conversation and therapeutic paint splatter.

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Amidst all of the wine drinking and commiserating, there are a few particular things I want to point out about this book before I give my rating:

  1. One of the main topics is bisexuality and the stigma it holds. It was the one thing I struggled with for much of the book, because the Caroline’s husband cheats on her with a man–and so bisexuality was really shown in a negative light throughout much of the story. So much so that I was going to take away a “book dragon” because of it. By the end, that changed, and I was left completely impressed. I don’t want to say too much because, spoilers, but I do want to tell you not to let that ruin the book for you. It is an issue the main character is working through, and not a stigma of the author.
  2. There is a multiracial relationship and it is lovely. Strike that…it’s goddamn freaking sexy.
  3. There are some really interesting conversations about grief after death vs grief after divorce. The way the author handles these is extremely accurate and beautiful. I just really loved the way she dealt with this whole situation.

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I could go on. But mostly I wanted you to know that this isn’t just a gorgeous, moving story, it is also a diverse one. They are going to have to keep moving the fence back, because Bethany Chase just hit another one out of the ballpark (which, by the way, GO REDS! AND THE PATRIOTS SUCK!).

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I was sent an ARC by Random House as part of the Results May Vary Blog Tour. This post does include affiliate links.

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The Day We Met

It’s 7:08 on the morning of Maggy O’Brien’s thirty-fifth birthday and she’s driving carpool in her pajamas and bunny slippers. She can’t remember the last time she shaved her legs. She’s hasn’t slept past dawn since her kids were born and one of them is now a teenager.

Can life possibly get any worse?

The second she sees her sisters waiting impatiently at the foot of her driveway, she knows the answer to that question. Claire and Ellie are staging a makeover intervention and no amount of protest can save Maggy from being cut and colored and waxed to within an inch of her life. And as if that’s not enough, they announce she’s being banished to Atlantic City for an all-expenses-paid getaway weekend for one.

Maggy isn’t a sequins-and-stilettos kind of woman. She’s a single mom who is more comfortable pushing a shopping cart through Stop & Shop than sipping champagne in the backseat of a stretch limo headed toward Vegas on the Jersey Shore. Still even Maggy isn’t immune to playing Cinderella for a weekend, even if it only means room service lobster and trying her hand at the penny slots.

But when she locks eyes a few hours later with ruggedly handsome police detective Conor Riley, she discovers there’s more to Cinderella’s story than dancing until midnight.

They agree it’s just a fling. A weekend of magic with no strings attached. They’d say goodbye on Sunday night and return to their everyday lives with sweet memories and no regrets.

But Maggy and Conor are about to discover that maybe some flings are meant to last forever . . .

After yesterday’s romance reading disaster, I needed a redemption! So it was good timing to have Barbara Bretton’s The Day We Met scheduled right after.

As a fellow divorcee, I totally related to Maggy’s need to feel content with her life, the need to feel comfortable in your own, new skin. Bretton hits all those emotions dead on. How scary it is, to meet someone and feel that instant connection, and second guess every single bit of chemistry! And then to have everyone else question it too?

Don’t worry, there’s a lot of hotness going on in this romance novel. Of course there is. She’s a petite pretty little thing in a family full of tall amazons, and he’s a red-blooded Irish cop from Jersey. I like to call these modern bodice-rippers “bra snappers.” Instead of corsets we get garters.

I like this book though because so often in bra snappers, the women can fit a certain “strong but can’t do anything without her new beau” profile, and the men can be very macho macho macho. Maggy is clearly a fighter, but even without Conor, she’s going to keep on fighting. He’s certainly macho enough, but Conor is almost more vulnerable than she is.

It’s a bra snapper, sure, but it’s a very well written one. And the characters are pretty well thought out. Bretton will be going on my list for whenever I want a book like this.

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The Heiress Bride

The thrilling conclusion to the bestselling romantic Bride trilogy that began with The Sherbrooke Bride and continued with The Hellion Bride. Joan Winthrop Sherbrooke–Sinjun–is on the verge of spinsterhood, so when the opportunity to wed a handsome Scottish earl arises, she jumps at the chance. Little does she know of the danger that awaits her at Vere Castle.

I can’t remember where I picked this up–it may have been in a freebie box somewhere, but it’s been on my shelf for awhile now. I figured it was finally time to give it its due.

I really wish I hadn’t.

Right from the beginning there were red flags all over the place. The prologue talks of the laird having to take a wife for money and “oh well, if I don’t like her I can just beat her and lock her in her room.”

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From there it only got worse. The heroine might have been the strangest character I’ve ever read in a bodice ripper–both airheaded and borderline mean. For reasons unknown, she all but gives herself away, inheritance included, to a man she doesn’t know and runs away to Scotland with him. Surprise, surprise, he rapes her on their wedding night. Her brothers burst in to save her, and she kicks them out and protects her husband…who just violated her.

WHAT THE WHAT?

This is apparently the continuation of a three part series. Definitely won’t be going back to find the others–I can only imagine what happens in those. Quick check to my TBR to make sure I don’t have anything else by this author. Hello, rape is not sexy, empowering, or loving. Not even including a BUY HERE link in this review because…obviously.

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I Let You Go

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

I’ll be honest, I almost gave up on this one. I Let You Go starts out really slow, and at first seems like just a stereotypical romance novel. Girl has tragedy. Girl moves to remote cottage on island. Girl makes friend with female leader of island. Girl gets dog. Girl meets attractive male leader of island and falls in love.

We’ve all read those kinds of stories. They are nice, but after so many of them…a bit dull. This one also kept flipping perspectives between Jenna’s story and the “homefront”–a police procedural plot that followed the casework of Jenna’s original tragedy. While the perspectives changed at each chapter break, they weren’t labeled, so my brain switch really had to be on.

However, as I scrolled through Goodreads for the summary, I saw 5 star review after 5 star review talking about the twists of this amazing thriller!

Wait…

…What? Am I reading the right book?

It took until about the 45% mark, but yep. Thriller. Once I got to the top of that plot hill, it reeeeeeeeeally started tumbling down fast. It was still a little bit predictable to someone who reads a lot of books like this, but the pace did pick up quite a bit, and there were a few turns that made me think twice a few times.

This is quite a dark book. Be prepared for domestic violence, rape, and death of a child. It’s a pretty scary rendition of just how far abuse can go, and how hard it is to fight back. It also answers the question, “Why didn’t you call the police?”

No really–the police actually ask that question. You will get an answer. Pay attention to it. And apply it to real life every single time it pops into your head from then on.

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NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases May 3.

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