Update: My (Delusional) Summer Reading List

I’ve decided to update My (Delusional) Summer Reading List…obvs. Here’s what I’ve read so far from that list and links to any reviews. No surprise that I’ve read all the romance novels except the one that hasn’t come out yet. ūüôā

Romance Genre 

  1. Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas:  Missing something that would make it a great read; review here.
  2. Cottonbloom series by Laura Trentham: Read the first two, and they were awesome! Love small town drama and romance! Read my review of Kiss Me Like That and Then He Kissed Me. Looking forward to the release of the third of this series, Till I Kissed You on August 2nd.
  3. Rhymes with Love¬†series by Elizabeth Boyle:¬†Couldn’t finish; review here.

Young Adult: As of right now, I have read none of these. Boo, me!

Literary Fiction:¬†I read and reviewed¬†The Vacationers¬†by Emma Straub–LOVED IT! And that’s it. I did start Summer¬†House with Swimming Pool¬†by Herman Koch but sadly didn’t finish it. (I have a 50 page rule. If it doesn’t grab my interest by then, I close it and regulate it to the pile of the unread.)

I also read a Kate Morton novel, The Forgotten Garden, and while I didn’t love it as much as The Lake House, I always enjoy her intricate plotting. (See that review here.)

eligibleI’ve also added Eligilble¬†by Curtis Sittenfeld to this list…because who doesn’t enjoy a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice¬†by Jane Austen with heavy satire on today’s societal values? ¬†(I’ve already started it! Can you tell?) I’ve read A LOT of retellings of P&P, and I’ll tell you this one has already made me laugh out loud and contemplate our modern world.

I also bought Orphan Train¬†by Christina Baker Kline, so I’m hoping to get to that one soon.

On my library eBook loan status, I’m, like, 11th in line for Jane Steele,¬†7th for What She Left Behind, and 3rd for The Good Girl. These are pretty popular at the library! Oh, and The Nest. 15th in line. Don’t know if I’ll get to any of these before the end of summer. Fingers crossed, though!

Historical Fiction:¬†I’ve downloaded the audiobook for Wolf Hall¬†by Hilary Mantel. I’ll listen to that in the car, but that’s all I’ve gotten around to on this list.

ClashAs for my Science Fiction/Fantasy list? Nada. But I have decided, after that TUSHIE KICKING season finale of Game of Thrones¬†that I’m definitely reading the rest of the series. (I’ve already read the first one. Twice.) But ASOIAF is a series that I actually need a copy of the book, not a downloaded version, so I’m off to the bookstore today to pick the second of the series. There are just some books I want to hold, rather than read on my Kindle…although I love my Kindle, too. Anyone else like this?

SIDEBAR: The fact that I’m buying A Clash of Kings while still reading Eligible¬†prompted my husband to ask, “Do you really need to buy that now since your reading something else?” Silly man, of course I need to buy it! Buying books is a compulsion that I no longer fight, though I do love library eBooks for the ones I can read on Kindle. It’s like he doesn’t know me at all! ūüėČ

So, as you can see, I’m doing pretty poorly on My (Delusional) Summer Reading List…but I have plans, I tell ya! Plans!

Ta-ta for now, my readers,

HMichaele

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Commentary: “Then He Kissed Me” by Laura Trentham

ThenSo, you know that I really liked the first in the Cottonbloom series by Laura Trentham, Kiss Me That Way. (Read my review of that one here.) And I enjoyed Then He Kissed Me, just in a different way.

Here’s the rundown: Nash Hawthorne is back in Cottonbloom, Mississippi, after getting a job at the local college. His childhood friend from the Louisiana side, Tallulah, sister of Cade from book one, has never left Cottonbloom and owns her own gym on the Louisiana side of Cottonbloom. She’s successful and pretty, but she has some pretty deep insecurities, probably from not having parental guidance after her parents die in a car crash when she’s ten, a few days after Nash loses his own mother to cancer. Before his mom died, Nash lived next door to Tally, but he moves to the ‘Sip side after her death and never sees Tally again until he moves back for the challenge of building up the history department at Cottonbloom College.

But the challenge of the work isn’t really what draws Nash back. It’s a feeling of home that he’s always had in Cottonbloom, the river, and, of course, Tally herself, even if he doesn’t realize she’s one of the reasons he’s back. (We totally know though!)

Once he’s back, he goes looking for her, showing up every night in a bar he hears she visits every so often and trying for a casual first encounter. Okay, that first encounter? Pretty funny. Nash is asthmatic, and the smoke really makes it flare up. But would you want to pull out your inhaler in front of the girl you dreamed about? Yeah, he doesn’t either and eventually has to hightail it outta there without a real explanation. Heee-larious!

Nash, of course, chases Tally, but she’s a mass of anxiety. She’s attracted to him but feels they have very little in common because he has a Ph.D, and she’s dyslexic, which no one knows except her brothers. She feels intimidated by the amount of books he has in his little cottage and feels like a relationship between them would burn out quickly. But that’s not her only problem. She, even more than her brother Cade, has a serious fear of putting herself out there, and she doesn’t want to take a leap to trust Nash, who is totally book boyfriend material, I tell ya! Her inability to trust stems from the fact that many people, teachers especially, implied she wasn’t as smart or good as her older brother Sawyer, who will be featured in book three of the series. Nash points out that she’s practically a genius with numbers, but this does not get her to believe in herself. Eventually, a couple of people tell her the same thing I want to tell her about halfway through the book: Grow up. But nicely, you know?

This book didn’t really have as many humorous scenes as Kiss Me That Way¬†did, probably because Regan and Sawyer were largely absent. (Seriously, their love/hate relationship makes me chuckle every time I read a scene where they are conniving against each other. Can you tell I really want to read their book?) Plus, Trentham is dealing with a pretty serious subject of disabilities and how people can negatively view themselves based on others’ opinions.

Even though¬†Kiss Me That Way¬†touched on the subject of childhood abuse and abusive relationships, it still had many lighthearted moments that made me consider it a “beach read.”¬†And¬†Then He Kissed Me¬†is a beach read, too, just in a less lighthearted way. Tally constantly questions her worth and struggles to overcome her belief that she’s not smart enough for Nash.¬†Then He Kissed Me¬†is poignant in highlighting the struggles Tally has faced since her parents’ deaths, how alone she really was since her support system always seemed to desert her, including her parents, Cade, and Nash, when she was younger.

Overall, I liked Then He Kissed Me and strongly recommend it to the romance reader! The somber tone surprised me since there were many funny scenes in the first one (Like I said, the humor in the first was really Regan and Sawyer-centric for those scenes.), and I guess I expected it in the second as well. But that didn’t make it worse, just different. The romance was sweet and sappy and lovely and all those things a summer romance should be!

Until next time, enjoy the Cottonbloom¬†series by Laura Trentham. The final one, Till I Kissed You, is out August 2nd, and I can’t wait!

Ta-ta for now, my friends,

HMichaele

Commentary: “Unlawful Contact” by Pamela Clare

UnlawfulMy favorite type of romance? (All romance readers have one!) It’s bad boy and good girl meet when they are young, connect, but have to go their separate ways because, well, life. Then, of course, as this is the romance genre, they meet when they are adults and find out they were always perfect for each other.

Some examples of my favorites with this plot? The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann ($2.99 on Kindle right now!), When He Was Wicked  by Julia Quinn, One Reckless Summer by Toni Blake, Beast in Shining Armor by Cassandra Gannon, You Own Me by Shiloh Walker, Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas, and She Tempts the Duke by Lorraine Heath, just to name a few that I remember off the top of my head.

I list these because I’m pretty sure I’m going to add Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare to my favorites. It was that good.

Bad boy Hunt and good girl Sophie Alton have one special night as teens the night before he embarks on a military career. Sophie inspires hope in Hunt, whose family life is unstable. Cut to twelve years later, and Hunt, whose real name is Marc Hunter, has been in both the military and an agent for the DEA. But he’s hit hard times since he’s now in prison for the murder of a fellow DEA agent and drug possession.

Sophie is an investigative reporter who has been speaking to Megan Rawlings, who unbeknownst to Sophie is Marc’s sister. (Cue eye roll here!) When Megan goes missing, Hunt arranges to meet Sophie to gain her insights on Megan’s disappearance. Sophie does not recognize him at first (What a blow to his ego!), which is unfortunate because he holds her hostage to escape prison, scaring the crudola out of her in the process until she realizes who he is. From here, the book is a journey in their search for Megan and Sophie’s desire to look into Marc’s case, which seemingly has a link to Megan’s disappearance.

Look–this book is not believable, but as long as you can suspend your disbelief at all the crazy coincidences that are littered throughout the book, then you’re in for a wrenching romance that will have you wondering exactly how this relationship has any chance of a future at all. (But it’s a romance novel…so, you know. It usually does.)

And I love both Sophie and Marc, or Hunt, as Sophie knew him in her teens. They are really great together, and their romance is sweet and passionate. I will say if your not okay with some obsessive (borderline stalkerish) behavior from the hero, this story probably isn’t for you. I’m usually not into the whole I-love-you-so-much-that-I-can’t-be-separated-from-you-or-trust-you-by-yourself, but I accept the reasoning Marc has for why he’s watching Sophie, which is at first to make sure she gets him some information he needs about his sister and later to make sure she’s safe when the action gets a little hairy.

I should say that this book is part Clare’s I-Team series, which is a series about reporters who work in at a news agency. Clare allows previous characters to pop up throughout the novel, but the focus largely stays on the central characters of Sophie and Marc, which is better, in my opinion. The fact that I hadn’t read any of the others did not negatively affect my reading experience at all, and Unlawful Contact actually made me want to read the rest of the series.

So, yeah. I liked this book a lot, and it’s definitely going to be added to my KEEPER shelf, to be reread in times of romance slumps. ūüôā

Until next time, enjoy the I-Team and their stories!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

Review and Commentary: “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton

ForgottenI recently suggested Kate Morton to a fellow reader at work because her mysteries are so interesting, and The Forgotten Garden is no different from her previous books. Literally. She always writes about a mystery from the past that someone from a today-ish time period is trying to solve.

But with The Forgotten Garden, Morton adds in someone in between the two time periods who is also trying to solve the mystery. Simple, right?

Here’s a rundown: After the death of her grandmother, Nell, in 2005, Cassandra finds she has inherited a house in Cornwall, a house she did not realize existed previously. She finds Nell’s journal from 1975 and discovers that Nell had been trying to solve the mystery of her origins.

You see, Nell was put on a ship in 1913 from London to Maryborough, Australia, where the portmaster, Hugh, finds her and takes her home to his childless wife. Nell becomes their beloved daughter, but on the eve of Nell’s 18th birthday, Hugh decides it’s time to tell Nell exactly how she came to live with them. This is a shock to her system, leading Nell to distance herself from the family she thought was hers. When Hugh dies, he sends her a suitcase filled with clues to her past. Nell jets off to Cornwall, trying to piece together why she was abandoned on that ship in 1913. She plans on moving to Cornwall as soon as she can wrap up her life in Australia, but then the unexpected happens: Nell’s daughter Leslie brings Cassandra to her and abandons her to Nell’s care. Nell decides to raise her granddaughter at the expense of discovering who she is.

Upon her death, Cassandra picks up Nell’s search, going to London and Cornwall with Nell’s journal to figure out who Nell was.

Morton flashes between several different time periods, piecing out information to the mysterious reason Nell was on that ship. Interspersed with fairy tales that speak to the theme of identity, this story circles over a hundred year time period, giving hints as the story progresses as to the reason for Nell’s kidnapping.

Morton plays with the mystical in all of her novels and the idea of hereditary memory. Cassandra and Nell both have flashbacks (not so many as it becomes unbelievable) that are not their own memories, helping them to gain insight into Nell’s origins. There’s always a feeling of knowing a place in Morton’s novels, and both Nell and Cassandra feel the familiarity of home in Cornwall, even though Cassandra has never been there and Nell barely remembers the place.

Overall, I liked The Forgotten Garden. Is it one of Morton’s best? No, that honor belongs to The Lake House, but it was an enthralling read. And Morton’s descriptions of places and events are truly the magical part of her writing. Plus, I love trying to see if I can figure out the mystery before the main character, in this case Cassandra, does.

If you like a mystery with beautiful descriptions and detailed plotting, then Kate Morton’s books are for you! I suggest them to all of the reader friends!

Until next time, enjoy your mystical-ancestral-memory reading! (That’s a mouthful!)

Ta-ta, my readers,

HMichaele

Review and Commentary: “To Wed a Wild Lord” by Sabrina Jeffries

Wild LordLighthearted. Fun. Family-driven. These are words I would use to describe the Sabrina Jeffries books I’ve read, including To Wed a Wild Lord. Although not filled with intensity and passion that some books lay claim to, her books have a family dynamic that supersedes the romance on occasion, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. Just depends on what you’re in the mood for.

To Wed a Wild Lord¬†is the fourth installment of Jeffries’s¬†Hallstead Hall series, which focuses on the (scandalous?) Sharpe siblings. I question the scandal because it doesn’t really involve any of the children, but their parents. Although I suppose if there is a scandalous sibling, the hero of To Wed a¬†Wild Lord, Gabriel Sharpe, would be it. Reckless, daring, and bold, Gabriel wagers on himself in carriage races to support himself and his dreams of raising Thoroughbreds for racing. Years ago, during a reckless. drunken wager with his best friend Roger Waverly, Roger loses his life, and Gabriel carries the guilt of his death with him. Roger’s family, his grandfather General Waverly and his sister Virginia, holds Gabriel responsible for Roger’s death. ¬†Virginia, who is just as daring as Gabriel, challenges Gabriel to a race, which Gabriel declines. But this puts Virginia in his sphere, and Gabriel decides to marry her to “help” her out of his guilt. Really, this is just an excuse because Gabriel is fascinated by Virginia, who challenges him.

The problem I had with this novel was that the whole blame for Roger’s death went on too long. I find it annoying when the heroine (or hero) repeats her hatred for the hero (or vice versa) throughout the novel, despite an intense attraction that flares up between them. It seems ridiculous, but Jeffries handled it well, for the most part. Virginia begins to have doubts early on about Gabriel’s culpability in her brother’s death, acknowledging that she doesn’t have the full story. And, really, these two characters are perfect for one another (as are their grandparents, Virginia’s grandfather and Gabriel’s grandmother, their burgeoning romance being a secondary story in the novel).

But Jeffries does something that I usually have a problem with. She focuses too much on the relationships between the main characters and their family members to the detriment of the romance between Virginia and Gabriel. Truth be told though, their families are interesting, and the dynamic with each is delightfully done, making me want to read the rest of the Hallstead Hall series. (To be honest, I have three of them on my Kindle, but I can’t remember them. Can’t be good, right?)

Another plus: All the characters have some sort of profession, even if Gabriel’s is racing, which he is using to start his stud farm. I dislike it intensely when members of the¬†ton¬†have no profession or responsibility; I don’t care how accurate it is. It makes them boring. Gabriel’s grandmother owns a brewery, while Virginia’s grandfather, a former general in the British army, runs a stud farm, so both characters come from hardworking backgrounds, despite their social status.

This is what I say: If you’re looking for some lighthearted fare after an intense book, To Wed a Wild Lord might be for you. It’s entertaining, if lacking in passionate intensity that you might see in other romance novels. But like I said, lacking intense passion isn’t always a bad thing, and in this case, it doesn’t hurt the novel too much. Maybe I’ll reread those other books on my Kindle to see if I can jog my memory on the Sharpes. We’ll see, I guess.

I have a couple more books to review, so I’ll post those soon! Until next time, enjoy the Sharpe family and their interactions each other as they try to solve the mystery of their parents’ deaths while falling in love!

Ta-ta, my friends,

HMichaele

Commentary: “Slightly Dangerous” by Mary Balogh

DangerousHere’s a secret: An avid romance reader (No, that’s not the secret!), I have never really enjoyed the tales of one of the most prolific writers of the genre: Mary Balogh. But I always read glowing reviews of her books, so I decided to pick up Slightly Dangerous, the final installment of her Bedwyn series. (I know. I’m terrible, but I like to start at the end to see if I want to read the beginning! It’s weird!)

You see, the Duke of Bewcastle, Wulfric Bedwyn, has watched as all of his many siblings have found love over the past few years. At a party in the country, he meets the intriguing, perpetually engaging, and sunny Mrs. Christine Derrick, a widow who ignores the dictates of the elitist society of the ton and often lands herself in pickles that the average member sees as fodder for gossip and derision. After the death of her husband a few years previously, she turns her back on the society she joined only through marriage. In fact, she’s only at the party because the hostess, who is a friend from that life, begs her upon discovering the numbers of men and women are uneven. (Was this a thing back then?)

After a humorous introduction of the two protagonists, Balogh shows that Bewcastle is no different than the rest of the ton when he first meets her. He judges her harshly for her (mis)actions while being inexplicably drawn to her. This is an opposites attract novel in the fact that Bewcastle is a cold, uptight, stick-in-the-mud who lets the rigidity of society dictate his actions. As the novel progress, he begins to see exactly how lonely and frigid his life is, especially when compared to his siblings and their lives, of which we get a glimpse in the novel.

As he begins to realize that she is the only one that can lead him out of the self-imposed isolation in which he lives, he wants to take a chance on a future different than the one he has had since he inherited the dukedom at a young age. Christine doesn’t make it easy for him though, as she simply can’t see herself with this man whom she perceives as unemotional and judgmental. As he chases her and tries to convince her he can be the man she wants and deserves, Balogh shows a side of the last but oldest Bedwyn that has not been seen before–a caring man who puts the best interest of his family before himself.

I liked this book, especially after they leave the party in the country. The scrapes Christine manages to get herself in allows Balogh to show Bewcastle’s knight-in-shining-armor characteristics, which I truly doubted existed at the beginning of the book. Honestly, the two are perfect opposites who need each other, in my opinion. Plus, the focus remains on the two characters with brief re-introductions into the Bedwyn clan, and it kind of made me want to read the previous books in the series. (The lack of knowledge of the previous didn’t hurt my reading of this book!)

Overall, I give this book a pretty high marks for entertainment value, but if your looking for tons of passion, this probably isn’t the book for you, though there are some parts that are definitely oh-la-la-ish. But only a few. This is a love story and shows how the characters fall in love in a mature and thoughtful way. I say it’s a keeper!

I have many more books that I’ve read in the past few weeks, so expect some more commentaries soon! Until then, enjoy the Bedwyns, especially the eldest one! ūüôā

Ta-ta for now, my lovelies,

HMichaele

Review and Commentary: “Kiss Me That Way” by Laura Trentham

Hellooooo, Kiss Me That Way¬†by Laura Trentham! You’ve made my summer romance reading list something to look forward to! Finally, I should say, because the other two on my list were duds (see reviews here and here)!

Kiss Me That Way is a lovely tale of coming home and finding that the someone who made you feel special when you were young still makes you feel that way.

If you know me at all, you should know that I love stories set in Small Town, U.S.A., and Cottonbloom, Mississippi and Louisiana, fit this bill!

Wait… Mississippi AND Louisiana? That’s right. Cottonbloom is a town divided; one side is in Mississippi and one in Louisiana. The wealthy side, the ‘Sip side, as the locals call it, is where Monroe Kirby grew up, while Cade Fornette grew up on the lower-middle class side in Louisiana. As teens, they meet one night when Cade, a high school dropout who was struggling to keep his younger brother and sister fed after their parents’ deaths, is scavenging for food. Monroe¬†is struggling that night too, running from one of her drunken mother’s overzealous boyfriends. They both share the hardships of their lives, more than they have ever told anyone, and a friendship is maintained under the full moon every month until Monroe’s senior year of high school. This is when Monroe’s plans for college Cottonbloom overlap with Cade’s decision (forced by a crime he committed) to leave since his brother and sister are able to care for themselves. His leaving causes resentment among both of his siblings and a desolation in Monroe.

But Monroe is strong, and she graduates from college, becoming a physical therapist in Cottonbloom (the ‘Sip side, natch). And who should walk in for therapy 12ish years later? Cade Fornette, of course! Not the old Cade Fornette, but the new one who used his knowledge of engine parts to begin patenting his more efficient engines and who is successful but seemingly lost when his brother drags him through the door for physical therapy.

Tender feelings resurface quickly, but this is not an insta-love story, which I only sometimes like. This was a slow burn upon Monroe and Cade meeting again. Old prejudices and old enemies resurface, but the focus of the story is Monroe and Cade finding a love in the present that was implausible in the past. (Not implausible because of their social situations, but because they are young and still have so much ahead of them, although the attraction is there for the younger Monroe then.)

Plus, the side characters were charming and delightful. Cade’s brother and sister, Sawyer and Talulah, respectively, resent Cade’s departure, especially since he didn’t bother to explain that he was basically forced to leave town. But he also never visited, either, so their relationship had to be repaired. They love each other, obviously, so forgiveness is imminent after a good “talkin’ to.” (Yeah, that’s right! Southern!)

Trentham did her story’s minor characters right, not giving them perspectives, but allowing us to see them through the eyes of Monroe and Cade. Plus, although the minor characters play in some big parts of the story, the focus remains on Monroe and Cade, as it should.

SIDEBAR: There’s a funny scene where some people from the Louisiana side plant some rabbits in the tomato garden of someone from the ‘Sip side due to a competition that will play a huge role, I suspect, in the third novel in this series. It’s cute, as is the war between the ‘Sip mayor, Regan, and her former high school boyfriend, Sawyer, Cade’s brother, who is the commissioner on the LA side. (How badly do I want to read their book, Till I Kissed You? BADLY! It’s out August 2nd, so I don’t have to wait long!)

SIDEBAR #2: ¬†There’s also an excerpt from the second book in the series, Then He Kissed Me, which will star Cade’s sister Tallulah and local brainiac Nash Hawthorne. I think I’m already in love with Nash, myself. I mean, a guy who runs out of a bar in the middle of a conversation with the girl of his dream just so she won’t see him puff on his inhaler (his asthma is flaring up due to the smoke in the bar) is a guy after my heart! And Tallulah’s, too! (This one’s out June 28th!)

Overall, my friends, I fell in love with Cade and Monroe’s story. It was a story of scars from the past being healed by the love of the present, and I’m glad I picked up this first book in the Cottonbloom series by Laura Trentham. I can’t wait for the next two to come out this in June and August!

I hope you pick this story up, and you enjoy it as much as I did, my dears.

Until next time, enjoy your summer reading!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele