Thursday, August 9, 2018

Hotel on Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully (TLC Book Tour)

Hotel on Shadow Lake is a mystery with its roots set during World War II.  Martha Weisberg starts as the narrator in 1990 when she receives a mysterious letter that was sent to her by her twin brother during WWII, but she is just now receiving due to a post office error. The book then flashes back to 1938 with her brother Wolfgang swept up by the Nazi movement while Martha has her serious doubts.  

The novel then flashes to 2017 to Martha’s granddaughter Maya.  Maya always wondered why her grandmother disappeared in 1990.  When her and her father get a call from America that her Grandmother’s body has been discovered and she was murdered, Maya takes a trip to America to see where her grandmother died and to try to help solve the murder.  She stays at the mysterious Montgomery Hotel next to Shadow Lake.  It is beautiful, but it holds many secrets.  Why was Martha in America?  Why was she murdered?  Will romance bloom between Maya and the mysterious Ben who is staying at the Montgomery Hotel?

Hotel on Shadow Lake was slow at first, but then I got into the mystery and read it quickly to its conclusion.  I enjoyed the WWII setting and learning about the terrible times in Germany.  That story read very well and was very disturbing.  It was a page turner, but I had some problems suspending my belief over a few of the plot lines which involved many of the main characters living to be over 100 years old.  The romance was supposed to be on for Maya and Ben, but Ben was acting very inconsistent and like an idiot during the last part of the novel.  I was not feeling the love between the two and it was key to the story.  Probably worst of all, the story hinged on a “wonderful” fairy tale that Martha and Hans shared and passed down to their descendants. I could barely read the fairy tale – it was odd and didn’t make much sense – and I love fairy tales!  The story was very readable and interesting, but I had to not think about some things too much.

I loved learning in the acknowledgements at the end of the book that this story was based on the author’s real grandmother and letters between her and her brother Wolfgang.  I wanted more on this real story – what was real and what was fiction on the WWII story?

Overall, Hotel on Shadow Lake was a page turning historical fiction / contemporary novel with a very interesting plot.  There are a few key points toward the end where the story was disjointed and requires a suspension of belief.

Book Source:  Review Copy for being a part of the TLC Book Tour.  Find more stops on the tour at this link.  Thank-you for allowing me to be a part of the tour!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

When Life Gives you Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

Title: When Life Gives you Lululemons
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Read by:  Laura Benanti
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 10 hours and 14 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster.  Thank-you!

I have been a fan of Lauren Weisberger since The Devil Wears Prada.  I can even partially thank her for my daughter’s name.  I was listening to the audiobook for Everyone Worth Knowing when my husband walked in and liked how the heroine’s best friend was named Penelope and called Penn for short.  He didn’t like too many girl names, so I made note of it.  Then in 2010 we had a daughter and named her Penelope!

When Life Gives you Lululemons is in the same world as the Devil Wears Prada.  Miranda’s snarky top assistant, Emily has moved on from Runway and has created her own business which helps guide stars through disasters and also helps them with fashion.  At the start of the novel, Emily finds herself being fired from jobs and replaced with a younger person.  Depressed, she decides to visit her friend Miriam while she’s in New York City. Miriam and Emily are friends from camp in their youth.  Will Emily be able to get her career back on track? 

Miriam was a high-profile NYC lawyer juggling three kids before her husband struck it rich with an invention.  They moved out to Greenwich Connecticut and Miriam stays home with the kids.  Miriam can’t believe the life she is living in Greenwich with women getting plastic surgery and obsessed with clothing and looks.  She’s also sad as her husband seems to be drifting away and their love life has taken a back seat to life with kids.   How can she get her life back on track? She’s stunned when she sees her old pal Karolina on TV for a drunk driving arrest.

Karolina is a former Victoria’s Secret model who is married to a senator and happily raising their son.  When she is pulled over for a drunk driving arrest even though she’s not drunk and spends the night in jail, her world is turned upside down.  Why has her husband not come to save her?  Why did they not do a breathalyzer test on her?  Karolina hides out in her Greenwich home and reconnects with Miriam and meets Emily. Will Emily be able to use her image consultant skills to help Karolina out?

I really enjoyed this novel.  I listened to it on audiobook and I didn’t want my drive to end!  It was engaging story with many laugh out loud moments.  There were also some great moments about mother hood and how there are many ways for a woman and mother to be happy.  I really loved the narrator, Laura Benanti.  She had great voices for the different characters.  I really liked her Eastern European accent for Karolina.

I also loved that Miranda Priestly made an appearance at the end of the novel and it was very Miranda like.  I thought this book was a great look at Emily’s life in the future and life after The Devil Wears Prada.  I loved that it focused on three very different characters and tied their lives and worries together.  It was a fun summer read. 

Overall, When Life Gives you Lululemons is a great beach read with fantastic characters and a storyline that is both funny, and heartfelt on women and motherhood.  It was a great addition to The Devil Wears Prada story, but you can read it as its own book if you’ve never read The Devil Wears Prada. The audiobook is also one of the best ones I’ve listened to this year.  Laura Benanti was a top-notch narrator.  It was a perfect book for audio.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan

For the past few years, Jenny Colgan has been one of my “go to” authors.  I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read that she’s written.  I love her charming characters, and settings.  I love that her main heroines are usually women who have lost their way and find meaning in life through starting their own business which usually involves baking delicious treats. Along the way, they will find love.

The Endless Beach is a sequel to last summer’s The Café by the Sea.  I fell in love with the characters from The Café by the Sea and I loved being able to immerse myself in their world again.  I’m happy to see that I will be able to keep reading about them as well with a new Christmas book from Colgan continuing the story later this year.  The Café by the Sea and The Endless Beach are set on the fictional beautiful Scottish Island of Mure.

Flora MacKenzie is struggling to keep her Café by the Sea afloat.  While she makes delicious food, her prices are too low to keep things going and everyone seems to think she’ll cater their events for free or reduced prices as she knows or is related to everyone on the island of Mure. To make matters worse, her old boss and now boyfriend Joel, has become ever more distant and is always away on business.  Are they still together and if so, can their relationship go beyond the bedroom?

Flora’s brother Fintan is still in love with American billionaire, Colton Rogers.  When they become engaged, they start planning the island of Mure’s first gay wedding.  Will the island and Fintan’s father be accepting of Fintan and Colton’s marriage?

Saif is a doctor and a Syrian refuge who is working on Mure to earn his citizenship.  He left behind his two sons and his wife and he has been waiting for word of their survival for a year.  Will they be reunited?  He becomes close to Flora’s best friend Lorna, who oversees the schools.  They both start feeling an attraction to each other, but Saif is a married man.  Will Saif find his family again?

I like that Colgan had a note at the beginning to catch you up on characters and who they are.   It would be very helpful if you hadn’t read The Café by the Sea, but it’s also helpful when it’s been a year since you’ve read The Café by the Sea.

I love that Colgan’s novels have main characters, but they also have a village of other wonderful characters.  I found myself so immersed in their world that I couldn’t put the book down for the last third and was up too late Monday night finishing it up.  I had the same experience with The Café by the Sea.  I really loved the addition of Saif’s story.  It’s timely with what has taken place in the world and it was gripping.  Also gripping was Fintan and Colton’s love story.  I realized I don’t think I have read a book yet with a gay wedding in it, although I have several friends that are same sex married couples.   The wedding and relationship may have been a bit idealized, but I enjoyed it.  I felt this was another way that Colgan brought the real world and current events into this novel.

I also always enjoy the recipes that Colgan includes at the end of her novels . . .although the British measuring units have scared me from attempting to cook any of the delicious sounding baked goods.

My ponderings this week are how to classify a novel.  I picked this as being women’s fiction, chick lit, and a romance.  These are all three separate genres.  How would you classify this novel?

Overall, The Endless Beach was a very enjoyable novel that kept me up too late in the night with realistic well-rounded characters.  I want to visit Mure!

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!