Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: As Always, Jack

'As Always, Jack: A World War Two Love Story'
Author: Emma Sweeney

Format: Hardback
Published: Axios; 2012
Pages: 179
Genre: Epistolary
Grade: B
Source: TLC Book Tours

Synopsis: At the end of WWII, a 26-year-old navy pilot meets and falls in love with a beautiful California girl named Beebe. They have about two weeks together before he is shipped off to the South Pacific for six months. When he returns they marry, have four sons and 10 good years together before he, still in the military, is killed in a plane crash off Bermuda in 1956. At the time of his death, his wife was pregnant with a daughter. The daughter spends her life longing for information about the father she never knew. Years later, after her mother's death, the daughter finds a bundle of letters that her father wrote to her mother in the six months before their marriage. Those letters are presented along with a foreword and afterword by the daughter, Sweeney, now a New York literary agent and gardening book author. The letters portray a decent, kindhearted young man with a quirky sense of humor who is obviously in love. 

My Take: I'll read just about anything set during WWII. As I have mentioned time and time again it is a genre that fascinates me. So when it was suggested that I read a collection of love letters set during this time period I jumped at the chance. Romances during this era seem more passionate, more evocative than during any other era I read about. Perhaps it's because they have to be rushed or because they may never see each other again but whatever the case may be, knowing that this was a real romance, and not just a fictional one, made it all the more captivating to read about.

As Always, Jack is essentially told in three parts. The first is when the author, Emma Sweeney, sets up the story for us. She tells us that her parents met during the end of WWII end immediately fell in love. However she has never known her father and so has imagined him as some amazing character probably far out of depth with who he truly was. Upon her mother's passing she is handed down the letters he wrote her during their courtship when he was stationed overseas.

So begins the second section and the true meat of the story. We learn about the courtship of Jack and Beebe Sweeney before they were married and when their love was truly innocent. While the letter writing only went on for six months and they only knew each other for two weeks before hand you could tell that in that short time theirs was going to be a lifelong romance. I would like to tell you that each and every letter had me hanging off of every word but I actually found them to be a little dull at times. They were one sided (we only have Jack's letters to Beebe to read) and there isn't that much meat to them. Really just a lot of innocent pining over his one true love.

What I enjoyed more was Sweeney's beginning and end where she frames the narrative of the story and their lives. I could have used more of that with some sample letters placed here and there for 'flavor' and would have probably gotten just as much out of it. 

However as a WWII fan, this is just a slip of a book and well worth reading for some real life romance of the times.

Cover Lust: It completely captures the authentic spirit of the book!

For other opinions on this book, please check out the full TLC Tour here!

Giveaway Details
Thanks to the publisher, I have one to give away! The deadline for this giveaway is August 10th; entries open to those in the US (no PO boxes please).

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below with a way for me to contact you.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
+1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet)
+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST August 10th. I will draw the winners using and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: There Goes the Bride

'There Goes the Bride'
Author: Holly McQueen

Format: ARC
Published: Atria Books; June 2012
Pages: 416
Genre: Brit chick-lit
Grade: A
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: Polly Atkins, a Londoner living in New York City, is headed back across the pond for her wedding, a grand affair that has her older sister, Bella, in a whirlwind of excitement. Bella can’t wait to take over the wedding plans—and neither can Polly’s best friend, Grace, whose life as a wife, housekeeper, and mother is making her feel older than her twenty-eight years. She’s desperate to see Polly settle down in the same city—and the same life.
The only one who isn’t bursting with enthusiasm is Polly. Which is why, before things can get any more chaotic, she calls the whole thing off and lets go of the most perfect man on the planet. There’s no way that Polly is going to tell anyone why she’s changed her mind. Some secrets are best kept hidden. But Grace and Bella are determined to get Polly and her fiancĂ© back together if it’s the last thing they do. After all, solving someone else’s problems has got to be better than dealing with your own. . . .

My Take: This was the perfect book for me to read at this point in my life. It didn't take a lot of brain power, it surrounded wedding drama so I could totally relate, and it was just plain fun to read so I couldn't get enough! I had read a previous Holly McQueen novel Confetti Confidential (click title for my review) which I also really enjoyed, but I think that her latest, There Goes the Bride, shows her maturity as a writer because the characters where that much more developed.

Let's dive into the story line shall we? There Goes the Bride centers around three women. The first being the flighty bride: Polly. She is supposed to be marrying her dream guy, Dev, over New Year's Eve, but six weeks before the big day she has a freak out and decides to call it off. No one can get a real reason out of her as to why. Not her fiancee, her best friend, or her sister can. However, everyone can tell she is a wreck over it so they know that it isn't necessarily the right choice for her. 

Polly's sister Bella has problems of her own though. So, while she is trying to focus her attention on Polly's problems they are really just a way to defer her own. Bella can't have children and would like to adopt but she appears to be dating a man-child who can't seem to get his act together so he is really holding her dreams and aspirations back.

Polly's best friend Grace isn't much better. Having married really young, now at 28, she is in a different place then most of her friends with two young boys and a husband who doesn't seem to love her anymore. She has totally lost her self-esteem and is having a hard time getting it back.

So with all three having a lot to struggle with, you'd find it interesting to learn that this book is actually pretty amusing and is full of a lot of heart. I would believe that most women can find one character to relate to and I for one really enjoyed all three. I highly recommend There Goes the Bride to anyone looking for a fun summer read!

Cover Lust: Hey, look, it's Pippa's bridesmaid dress!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: The Last Time I Saw Paris

'The Last Time I Saw Paris'
Author: Lynn Sheene

Format: Paperback
Published: Berkley Trade; May 2011
Pages: 354
Genre: Historical fiction; WWII
Grade: A
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: May 1940. Fleeing a glamorous Manhattan life built on lies, Claire Harris arrives in Paris with a romantic vision of starting anew. But she didn't anticipate the sight of Nazi soldiers marching under the Arc de Triomphe. Her plans smashed by the German occupation, the once- privileged socialite's only option is to take a job in a flower shop under the tutelage of a sophisticated Parisian florist.

In exchange for false identity papers, Claire agrees to aid the French Resistance. Despite the ever-present danger, she comes to love the enduring beauty of the City of Light, exploring it in the company of Thomas Grey, a mysterious Englishman working with the Resistance. Claire's bravery and intelligence make her a valuable operative, and slowly her values shift as she witnesses the courageous spirit of the Parisians.

But deception and betrayal force her to flee once again-this time to fight for the man she loves and what she knows is right-praying she has the heart and determination to survive long enough to one day see Paris again.

My Take: OMG, I am writing a book review! It's been a few weeks so hopefully I am not too rusty but after reading this book awhile ago, I couldn't let it pass without at least telling you all a little about it. I really enjoyed this novel. It was everything I like in a fiction story. It has WWII drama, romance, a bit of mystery, and a spunky female lead.

The Last Time I Saw Paris actually opens in New York and our leading lady, Claire Harris, appears to be a rich socialite who is wining and dining her even richer husband's German clients. It soon comes out that her marriage isn't perhaps all happiness and love. It may be one more of convenience. So when things are about to take a turn for the worse, Claire flees to Paris. Oh, did I forget to tell you that it's 1940? The woman flees to Paris in 1940! Now, I know we can all do stupid things in the heat of the moment, but I would like to think I am smart enough not to say, flee to Afghanistan just because I am pissed off at my husband. But whateve's, Claire flees to war-zone. And once there, she finds out that perhaps it isn't quite like the stories she had heard and also that maybe she needs to read her current events a little more closely.

See, Claire thought she would flee to Paris to find her old lover but he can't quite take her back so quickly so what's an American in Paris to do? She roams the streets until she finds someone to take her in which actually didn't take that long because I think she looked pretty pitiful. So she is taken in by a lovely older woman who runs a florist shop and the two work together. However, since Claire doesn't have the proper papers life gets tough for her pretty quickly once the Germans take over the city.

Where Claire was once kind of a fly by night pretty girl, she emerges as a tough as nails, fight for the right woman in The Last Time I Saw Paris. As much as she could annoy me, I also wanted to root for, her loves and her hurts. The story read like a fast paced drama and it was a great page turner. If you are looking for your next interesting historical fiction read, than I highly recommend Lynn Sheene's The Last Time I Saw Paris.

Cover Lust: I think this cover perfectly fits the era and the story line!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Winner of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter to win The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce! Using the winner is:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hi Friends!

At my bridal shower. Everyone seemed to think this present was a hoot :)
First of all, let me just say thank you to you all for not thinking that I had gone away completely. This past month has just gotten away from me. Here's a little recap of what we've been up to this past month:
  • I had my bridal shower ... and it was awesome and overwhelming and wonderful!
  • We had out of town guests! Love them!
  • We designed, printed, labeled, packaged, and sent out our wedding invitations!
  • We celebrated our five year anniversary together (where the heck did the time go?)!
  • We cleaned all of the windows in our house and washed all of our rugs (boring but a ton of work).
  • Then we discovered that one of our rugs had been eaten by moths (freaking nasty) and we had a mold problem in our bedroom. The horror, the horror!
  • Work has been INSANE. Like fifteen hour days insane!
Now, am I ever going to review a book again? Well that sure would be nice wouldn't it? And I know the publishers and authors who keep emailing me like crazy saying "um, just checking when that review would go live" would sure like to know the answer to that too, so I am thinking that I have to come up with a new game plan through the end of September.

Basically until then, I am just going to pop in and out with some reviews and that's it. It will be like "surprise, here's a review!" I hope that will work for you all.

BTW, now for some random thoughts. I watched a couple of things I would like to discuss. First I FINALLY watched the full second season of Downton Abbey. I really enjoyed it. It was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster and I LOVED how it had a lot more plot twists and turns this season. Second, I watched an interesting documentary called Hey Boo, Harper Lee and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Have you seen it? If you enjoyed the book (as I am pretty sure, anyone with a beating heart did, then I think you will find something interesting in the documentary).

So what's new with you all? Please dish!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Winners of Mega June Review Book Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter my Mega June Review Book Giveaway! Using, the winners of these fab books are:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry'
Author: Rachel Joyce

Format: ARC
Published: Random House; July 2012
Pages: 336
Genre: British fiction
Grade: C
Source: TLC Book Tours

Synopsis: Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.

Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him—allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.

And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.

My Take: Sorry I was absent there for a little while faithful readers! My life got away from me and then I just needed to decompress and take a break for a bit. Hopefully I'll be back a bit more regularly now and I'll give you a full update next week. However, at the moment let's focus on this quirky little novel shall we?

This is Rachel Joyce's first novel and I quite liked it. I realise I didn't give it a very high-rating but honestly sometimes a middling grade just means that's it's ok. Not every book has to be ohmygodsoamazingIhavetotelleveryone. Some books are nice, quiet, slow paced books. I quite often find that British fiction is just that. More of a meandering story than a real fast paced, knock your socks off story line so perhaps that was fitting. 

The novel centers, as the title might suggest, around Harold Fry, and something unusual he sets out to do. He lives, let's be honest, a rather boring life. A retiree from a brewery, his wife and he have never done much of anything noteworthy. One morning he gets a letter from an old coworker, Queenie, letting him know that she has cancer and isn't long for this world. It affects him enormously and Harold soon feels that merely writing a letter of condolence back isn't enough. He must DO something. So he decides to walk to her. Right that minute. Granted it seems a little ridiculous because he is wholly unprepared since he will be walking over 600mi. in some not very decent shoes without the proper provisions without really telling his wife. But no matter. He is doing something about it and it gives his life some purpose for once.

So yes, Harold goes on a pilgrimage and while on that pilgrimage we learn about England and we learn about the life Harold has led and why he is the man he is. It's actually rather sad most of the time. For me, being that's it's summer and let's be honest, my life is slightly out of control right now, while I normally like weird Bristish stories, a random tale of wandering proportions may not have found me at quite the right time. However, you might be someone who needs just that. A nice, quiet little tale.

For other opinions on this book, please check out the full TLC Tour here!

Giveaway Details
Thanks to the author, I have one to give away! The deadline for this giveaway is July 20th; entries open to those in the US (no PO boxes please).

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below with a way for me to contact you.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
+1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet)
+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST July 20th. I will draw the winners using and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!
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