Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Goodbye Year by Kaira Rouda (TLC Book Tours)

The Goodbye Year is a story of the last year of high school for a group of kids in the California town of Crystal Beach. The community is affluent and the pressure is on to get the kids through this last year and on to an important college for the chance of a lucrative future career.  The story is told from the point of view of both the parents and the children.

My oldest son is only 10, but with him moving into fifth grade and middle school this year, I’m already thinking about the sad reality that I only have eight more years with him until he is off to college.  What kind of parent will I be?  I hopefully will not be one of the parents from this novel that are having mid-life crises, affairs, and pushing agendas on their kids.  I want to guide my kids, but not force them to attend colleges that they don’t want to go too.

I found The Goodbye Year to be immensely readable and I wanted to know what was going to happen in the story.  Melanie had a super star son, Seth that went off to college two year’s previously, but is disappointed in her second son Dane.  He doesn’t do well academically and has never felt like he fit in after moving to Crystal Beach from Ohio.  Dane would like to go to a music college and pursue a career in music, but his mother is not a fan of this idea.  Jud and Sarah are rich, beautiful, and have a perfect marriage with a gifted daughter, Ashley.  Jud travels immensely, and Sarah starts to see her world crumble.  Will is a building inspector married to his sweetheart, middle school principal Carol, but he finds himself constantly drawn to other women.  

Honestly the huge cast of characters threw me off for this book.  I had a hard time keeping track of who was who and which kid belonged to which parent.  I felt like there were a couple of main characters I could keep track of and their children, but the rest were difficult.  I also had a hard time with the fact that the parents were so elitist constantly worried about which college their child got into and putting down community colleges and blue collar jobs.  I am not a fan of that at all and was frankly shocked whenever such things were mentioned.

The Goodbye Year reminded me of a Liane Moriarty novel, but with less developed characters.  I like how it took the reader through the story and then had a conclusion for the story arc of each character.  I also thought the novel voiced real concerns of parents – so much of my world is wrapped up in taking care of my kids, what will it be like when the kids are gone?

My favorite quotes:

“It’s tough, this senior year.  It signifies so many things, so many changes in a family.  You’ve been through this before thought, with your other son.  This is my only child.  I don’t want to think about it, so usually I just stay busy.”

“Despite the fact that Melanie was a transplant from the farmlands, Sarah was discovering that she and Melanie had more in common than she’d thought.  Sure, they could never go to the high-end society functions together, and she didn’t play tennis – clearly – but she was so honest, so real.  Sarah had never felt that grounded, that comfortable.

Overall, The Goodbye Year is an interesting story with my different perspectives on just what senior year means to kids and their families.

Book Source:  Review Copy as part of the TLC Book Tour - Thanks!

About The Goodbye Year

Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: SparkPress (May 3, 2016)
Melanie, a perfectionist mom who views the approaching end of parenting as a type of death, can’t believe she has only one more year to live vicariously through her slacker senior son, Dane. Gorgeous mom Sarah has just begun to realize that her only daughter, Ashley, has been serving as a stand-in for her traveling husband, and the thought of her daughter leaving for college is cracking the carefully cultivated façade of her life. Will and his wife are fine-as long as he follows the instructions on the family calendar and is sure to keep secret his whole other life with Lauren, the woman he turns to for fun (and who also happens to have a daughter in the senior class).
Told from the points of view of both the parents and the kids, The Goodbye Year explores high school peer pressure, what it’s like for young people to face the unknown of life after high school, and how a transition that should be the beginning of a couple’s second act together-empty nesting-might possibly be the end.
“Rouda deftly examines the difficult transition parents and their children face as they prepare for the end of one life and the beginning of another. Her latest is a compelling story and a thoughtful examination of the nature of change and the importance of working to accept it.” –Booklist
The Goodbye Year is an often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, always engaging look at the last year before high school seniors leave their families for good. I devoured it!” -Meg Mitchell Moore, author of The AdmissionsSo Far Away, and The Arrivals
“The family dramas and dynamics are things that we can all relate to…” 
Redbook magazine, “20 Best Books to Read Come Spring”
“Kaira Rouda channels Peyton Place meets The Real Housewives of Orange County with her newest book, The Goodbye Year.” –Working Mother magazine
“In The Goodbye Year, Kaira Rouda takes us behind the gates of the Orange County elite as they attempt to navigate their children’s senior year and fast-approaching empty nest. Trust is broken, secrets are revealed. It’s delicious fun! The Goodbye Year will have you wishing you never had to say farewell.”-Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, authors of The Status of All Things

Kaira Rouda is a USA TODAY bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary fiction that sparkles with humor and heart including HERE, HOME, HOPE and IN THE MIRROR. Her latest novel, THE GOODBYE YEAR, will be released in May of 2016. Her modern romance novels are set on beaches, including the Laguna Beach series, the Indigo Island series and coming soon, the Malibu series.
She lives in Southern California with her family and is at work on her next novel. After living in Columbus, Ohio, for most of her life, she now enjoys the beach whenever possible.

Connect with Kaira

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Kaira Rouda’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Thursday, September 1st: The Baking Bookworm
Friday, September 2nd: FictionZeal
Tuesday, September 6th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Wednesday, September 7th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Thursday, September 8th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, September 9th: Bookmark Lit
Monday, September 12th: Write Read Life
Tuesday, September 13th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, September 14th: Dreaming Big – author Q&A
Friday, September 16th: Brooklyn Berry Designs
Monday, September 19th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, September 20th: 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, September 22nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Friday, September 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, September 26th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Tuesday, September 27th: Bookchickdi
Tuesday, September 27th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Wednesday, September 28th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Thursday, September 29th: Laura’s Reviews

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

Charlotte Bill has been newly hired as an assistant nanny for the children of the Duke and Duchess of York.  The Duke is the grandson of Queen Victoria, and her young charges are the future heirs of the throne of England.  Charlotte, or Lala as she is fondly called by her young charges, finds that the children are living under a heavy hand of terror from the head nanny.  She helps to comfort them and raise them, becoming more of a mother than the mother they see for one hour each day.  Along the way, Charlotte also has to decide, what does she want in life?  Does she want to have romance and a family of her own, or does she want to remain the stable figure in her young charges’ lives?

I found The Royal Nanny to be fascinating and compelling.  Lala loves the children and tries to give them the love that they are missing in their everyday lives from their parents. I loved the daily routines of the royal family.  I also loved learning more about the children who would one day become King Edward VIII and George VI.  Their treatment and personalities as children were intriguing and made me want to watch the excellent film The King’s Speech again to bring the story to when they had grown up.  I also loved how Edward VIII’s (otherwise known as David) personality mimicked that of his fun and woman loving grandfather, Edward VII.  I also loved the other children, especially Prince John.  Johnny was born with special needs and Lala was there to love him as he couldn’t be loved or displayed by his royal family.  Johnny’s story and all of the children’s stories were sad to me, particularly when they are separated from their core family.

I loved Lala’s story and her inner turmoil as she longs for forbidden love from groundskeeper Chad.  I thought she was a strong character who was able to fully assert herself in her role as the Nanny and to help the children she loved best, but also to have feelings and longings outside of that realm.

The Royal Nanny is perfect for readers missing Downton Abbey.  It starts before Downton Abbey, but goes through the years through the Great War.  It also is a great story of the relationships developed between the royal family and the people who served them.  I especially liked the side story of the Russian Tsar Nicholas’s family and their beloved English nanny.  I also loved how the story showed the complex family relationships during WWI with English, Germany, and Russia ruled by cousins.

The Royal Nanny hit a little too close to home as I finished reading it last week.  There is a tragedy that mirrored a personal one experienced by my best friend last week.  Needless to say, there was a line that started one of the last chapters that pierced my heart.  I thought the chapter before was a bit melodramatic until my best friend experienced it herself. 

I enjoyed the extras at the end of the novel including a fascinating author’s note on the real history (one of my favorite parts of this novel!), and book club questions.

My favorite quotes:

“’Bothers me a bit, though,’ she confided, lowering her voice, ‘that if Their Highnesses pass by in the hall, we’re to turn our faces to the wall and stay still – mostly never to be seen.’” – I find this behavior to be both strange and fascinating.

“Though I kept my hand on Johnnie’s arm, I turned to look closer at Chad’s Penelope.  In the flickering firelight from the hearth, it was as if a little angel had come to greet us.  She had curly, white blond hair, wide blue eyes, and a guileless face.” – This description sounds like my daughter Penelope.

“Was it true that the hand that rocks the cradle rule the world?”

Overall, The Royal Nanny was a captivating novel that I couldn’t put down.  It was a very interesting historical fiction novel into a glimpse of the royal family history that I didn’t know much about.  It had a great setting at Sandringham castle and absorbing characters.  I highly recommend it, especially if you are a Downton Abbey fan.

Book Source:  A review copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!