Archives for December 2016

EFC’s Top Picks of 2016

It is the end of another year and we read some wonderful books. Each of us chose our top books that we read this year.

And here they are . . .

 

Chrissy

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Seas by Colleen Oakes

Trivial Pursuits by Aven Ellis

Novelista Girl by Meredith Schorr

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

 

Melissa

 In the Heart of Texas by Ginger McKnight-Chavers

Rarity From the Hollow by Robert Eggleton

Garbage Bag Suitcase by Shenandoah Chefalo

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

 

Gina

The Lake House by Kate Morton

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’a life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

 

Heather

Dying for Rome: Lucretia’s Tale by Elisabeth Storrs

The Family Plot by Brea Brown

Twin Piques by Tracie Banister

Out of My League by Brea Brown

Outlander (book 1) by Diana Gabaldon

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

 

 

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Chrissy’s Review: On Thin Ice by Aven Ellis

On Thin Ice (Dallas Demons #4)
written by Aven Ellis
published by Soul Mate Publishing, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) AmazonGoodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I really did! It was a book that I read every free chance I had, as I do with all of Ms. Ellis’s books. Seriously, if you haven’t read her stuff yet, go and read it. Just do it!

On Thin Ice is a great addition to the Dallas Demons series. I loved getting to know Nate Johansson’s little sister, Holly, better in this book. She is a homebody, a Harry Potter fan, and a writer. And she has a secret. We also get to see a very different side to Matt Rhinelander. He isn’t the guy everyone thinks he is, and Holly sees him as he truly is. Their chemistry is fantastic and you can’t help but want these two to make it. Nate got on my nerves a bit in this book, but that’s what big brothers do. Big brothers are overprotective and think they know what’s best for their little sisters. You have to love him for that.

This is another great read from Ms. Ellis. I loved it from beginning to end.

 

Would I recommend it: Absolutely!!!

Chrissy


About the book – from Goodreads: 
Holly Johansson knows some things in her life are certain after college graduation:

1.) It’s a long road to become a full-time author. 2.) She’ll need to work to pay her bills. 3.) And Dallas Demons superstar Matt Rhinelander will never return her feelings.

Holly knows her unrequited crush on the partying hockey player is ridiculous. There’s no way Matt would be attracted to a woman who prefers nights in watching TV or reading books when he’s known for his frequent bar hops and fast lifestyle. Obviously he would never see her as anything other than his teammate’s little sister.

Yet Holly is drawn to the other side of Matt—the man she knows has always been thoughtful and easy to talk to whenever she’s been alone with him. It is this Matt that fueled the crush Holly has on him. And she knows it will always be just that—a secret crush.

Or will it?

Because when Matt helps Holly through a crisis, her heart begins to believe that there might be feelings on his part, too. After a night of hard partying puts Matt in jeopardy with the Dallas Demons, can Holly be the one to save him? And when Matt admits he sees her as more than Nate Johansson’s sister, will it put both of them on thin ice?

 

 

Happy 2

Fall Reading Challenge: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell (spotlight)

 

 

The Madwoman Upstairs
written by Catherine Lowell
published by Touchstone, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazoniBooks, TargetBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: In this smart and enthralling debut in the spirit of The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using clues her eccentric father left behind.

Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. As the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family, she’s rumored to have inherited a vital, mysterious portion of the Brontë’s literary estate; diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts; a hidden fortune that’s never been shown outside of the family.

But Samantha has never seen this rumored estate, and as far as she knows, it doesn’t exist. She has no interest in acknowledging what the rest of the world has come to find so irresistible; namely, the sudden and untimely death of her eccentric father, or the cryptic estate he has bequeathed to her.

But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and bits and pieces of her past start mysteriously arriving at her doorstep, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father’s handwriting. As more and more bizarre clues arrive, Samantha soon realizes that her father has left her an elaborate scavenger hunt using the world’s greatest literature. With the aid of a handsome and elusive Oxford professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontë’s own writing.

A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, this vibrant and original novel is a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.

 

Catherine Lowell

About the author: Catherine Lowell is writer of novels, letters, and the occasional limerick. She received her degree in English literature from Stanford University, where her academic interests were inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s observation: “There is creative reading as well as creative writing.” The Madwoman Upstairs owes its existence to a fierce love of the Brontës, a terrible bout of insomnia, and the kind hospitality of many Manhattan coffee shops.

Catherine’s passions include reading obscure books about Ancient Greece and testing out hot chocolates. She’s a great believer in the power of stories to change history and if you have a few hours she will happily tell you far too much on the subject. She tries her best to live by the following two quotes:

” We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.” (Aristotle) 

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” (Robin Williams)

Find Ms. Lowell here: Web, Goodreads

 

 

Happy 2

 

Jaclyn’s Review: Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran

Mata Hari's Last DanceMata Hari’s Last Dance
written by Michelle Moran
published by Touchstone, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I really REALLY wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be a work of fiction or a biography–it was unsuccessful as both. Mata Hari’s life was fantastic enough to warrant a juicy and intriguing biography; conversely, many details could be played up to make an amazing chick lit type book. The author tried to walk a line between these two genres and ended up with a history textbook.

Would I recommend it: Not really. If you want to read about Mata Hari, I’m sure there are much better written books.

 

jaclyn

About the book – from Goodreads: From the international bestselling author of Rebel Queen and Nefertiti comes a captivating novel about the infamous Mata Hari, exotic dancer, adored courtesan, and, possibly, relentless spy.

Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom…or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.

As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous dancer.

From exotic Indian temples and glamorous Parisian theatres to stark German barracks in war-torn Europe, international bestselling author Michelle Moran who “expertly balances fact and fiction” (Associated Press) brings to vibrant life the famed world of Mata Hari: dancer, courtesan, and possibly, spy

 

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Fall Reading Challenge: Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel (spotlight)

 

 

Small AdmissionsSmall Admissions
written by Amy Poeppel
published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazoniBooks, TargetWalmartBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: For fans of The Nanny Diaries and Sophie Kinsella comes a whip-smart and deliciously funny debut novel about Kate, a young woman unexpectedly thrust into the cutthroat world of New York City private school admissions as she attempts to understand city life, human nature, and falling in love.

Despite her innate ambition and Summa Cum Laude smarts, Kate Pearson has turned into a major slacker. After being unceremoniously dumped by her handsome, French “almost fiancé,” she abandons her grad school plans and instead spends her days lolling on the couch, watching reruns of Sex and the City, and leaving her apartment only when a dog-walking gig demands it. Her friends don’t know what to do other than pass tissues and hope for a comeback, while her practical sister, Angela, pushes every remedy she can think of, from trapeze class to therapy to job interviews.

Miraculously, and for reasons no one (least of all Kate) understands, she manages to land a job in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School. In her new position, Kate learns there’s no time for self-pity or nonsense during the height of the admissions season, or what her colleagues refer to as “the dark time.” As the process revs up, Kate meets smart kids who are unlikable, likeable kids who aren’t very smart, and Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

Meanwhile, Kate’s sister and her closest friends find themselves keeping secrets, hiding boyfriends, dropping bombshells, and fighting each other on how to keep Kate on her feet. On top of it all, her cranky, oddly charming, and irritatingly handsome downstairs neighbor is more than he seems. Through every dishy, page-turning twist, it seems that one person’s happiness leads to another’s misfortune, and suddenly everyone, including Kate, is looking for a way to turn rejection on its head, using any means necessary—including the truly unexpected.

 

Amy PoeppelAbout the author: Amy Poeppel is a graduate of Wellesley College. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she lives with her husband and three sons in New York City, where she worked in the admissions department of an independent school. She workshopped a theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into a novel.

 

Find Ms. Poeppel: WebFacebook, Twitter, GoodreadsInstagram

 

 

Happy 2

 

Gina’s Review: An Amish Noel by Patricia Davids

An Amish Noel (The Amish Bachelors, #2)

An Amish Noel 
written by Patricia Davids
published by Love Inspired, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, TargetBook Depository, Walmart,  Goodreads

Disclosure: This review first appeared on Sip, Read, Love.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I love redemption stories. I love when a hero has made mistakes and is struggling to find his inner good–the man he can be. Luke is one of my favorite characters from An Amish Harvest, so I was ecstatic when I discovered his story came next in the Amish Bachelor series. Luke is an ex-convict and drug user who doesn’t know if he will stay with his family in the Amish community or go to be English. When he sees that his childhood sweetheart Emma still hasn’t married, however, the gears start turning.

There’s a lot of angst in this book, but it’s not overwhelming. It fits perfectly with the characters’ struggles. Emma’s trust issues and worries make sense, and I think Luke is a strong man for admitting he’s feeling weak. We all have our moments, and this helps faith and love enter at the perfect moment.

I truly never thought I would enjoy Amish romances, but now I see the draw. I understand why so many women want a good, wholesome romance in their lives. Life can get crazy, and it’s nice just to take a moment and read a romance that’s set in a simpler way of life. It’s a nice reminder that we are all the same: we all need family and love to help us through the tough times.

 

 

GOLDEN LINES

“Your guilt. You wield it like a club to beat away the goodness of others and to keep happiness from your door.”

 

Would I recommend it: An Amish Harvest is still my favorite, but this one is a great second book in the series.

 

Gina

About the book – from Goodreads:

An Amish Homecoming

Luke Bowman’s homecoming is turning Emma Swartzentruber’s carefully ordered world upside down. Gone is her rebellious girlhood crush, and in his place is a handsome man who seems committed to serving the community. Luke’s even agreed to work for Emma’s ill father, whose last wish is to see his daughter wedded to a stable, loving man. But Luke – a man who flirted with the outside world with disastrous consequences – is hardly marriage material for a good Amish woman. Yet this Christmas, when her family is flung into crisis, Emma finds that he may just be the one to capture her heart for good.

 

Happy 2

Fall Reading Challenge: In the Heart of Texas by Ginger McKnight-Chavers (Melissa’s review)

 

In the Heart of Texas: A NovelIn the Heart of Texas
written by Ginger McKnight-Chavers
published by She Writes Press, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Target, WalmartBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
It’s the best book I’ve read all year. The story is unique and the writing is amazing. I wish I could quote the entirety of chapter four for you, because WOW. Chapter Four. Seriously. Buy this book just for chapter four; it’s fantastic.

 

GOLDEN LINES

“So I’m back in Texas. Smack dab in the middle of the snorer and the beauty queen. Back in my old room with the ‘Midland Lee Rebels’ and Dallas Cowboys pennants over the bed and my wooden rackets leaning against the bookshelf with my tennis trophies and worn copies of Jane Eyre and Mrs. Dalloway. Eating iceberg lettuce instead of mesclun and rib eye instead of tuna rolls. Drinking DQ Blizzards instead of wheatgrass juice (OK, I never really bought into the wheatgrass thing, though I faked it). Not to mention Bud instead of Sauvignon Blanc. A lot of Bud, actually, sitting by the pool with my cousin, Memphis. Swatting flies while we wonder how inevitably hot the next day will be.”

Would I recommend it: Yes. Seriously. Yes.

Melissa


About the book – from Goodreads:

Named a “Top Pick” by RT Book Reviews

Named a “Fall Must-Read” by RedbookMag.com * PopSugar * Parade Magazine * Brit + Co * SoulCycle
Hailed as a “Best Fiction Book by Women of Color” at Bustle.com
Pitched as “a poor man’s Halle Berry,” forty-one-year-old soap star Jo Randolph, has successfully avoided waiting tables since she left Midland, Texas at eighteen. But then, in the span of twenty-four hours, Jo manages to lose her job, burn her bridges in Hollywood, and accidentally burn down her lover/director’s beach house—after which she is shipped home to Texas by her agent to stay out of sight while she sorts out her situation.

The more Jo reluctantly reconnects with her Texas “roots” and the family and friends she left behind, the more she regains touch with herself as an artist and with what is meaningful in life beyond the limelight. The summer of 2007 is cathartic for Jo, whose career and lifestyle have allowed her to live like a child for forty years, but who now must transition to making grown-up decisions and taking on adult responsibilities. In the Heart of Texas is a wry, humorous commentary on the complexities of race, class, relationships, politics, popular culture, and celebrity in our current society.

 

 

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November 2016 Subscription Boxes

what's in the box 4

Hi, Everyone!

Here are our subscriptions from the month of November:

 

Lit-Cube

Lit-Cube

Stars Hollow Monthly

 

Owl Crate

The Bookish Box

 

GeekGear – World of Wizardry

 

 

What do you think of month’s boxes?

Do you subscribe to any boxes? If so, which ones? I did include my referral links, so if you’re interested, please feel free to use them! I know I would appreciate it.

 

Chrissy

 

Happy 2

 

2016 Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop

 

This is the second year that EFC is participating in the Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop hosted by Bookhounds.

 

I am giving away a $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or $25 in books from the Book Depository.

 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check out the other stops on the hop!



Jaclyn’s Review: If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton

If You LeftIf You Left
written by Ashley Prentice Norton
published by Mariner Books, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazon, iBooks, Book Depository, WalmartGoodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
This was a pretty standard work of fiction. It held my interest, but I didn’t really feel a compelling urge to finish reading it. It wasn’t a bad read, but it wasn’t great either. I liked that it didn’t have a “neat” ending.

  

Would I recommend it: I wouldn’t search out and buy this book. If you found it in a beach rental next summer–or if you find it on a friend’s bookshelf, I’d read it.

 

jaclyn

 

About the book – from Goodreads:

A seductive novel about a privileged but damaged Manhattan wife whose main source of stability — her marriage — comes under threat, from forces both without and within.

For most of their marriage, Althea has fluctuated between extreme depressive and manic states — what she calls “the Tombs” and “the Visions” — and Oliver has been the steady hand that guided her to safety. This summer, Althea decides that she will be different from here on. She will be the loving, sexy wife Oliver wants, and the reliable, affectionate mother their nine year-old daughter Clem deserves. Her plan: to bring Clem to their Easthampton home once school is out — with no “summer girl” to care for her this time — and become “normal.”

But Oliver is distant and controlling, and his relationship with their interior decorator seems a bit too close; Clem has learned to be self-sufficient, and getting to know her now feels like very hard work for Althea. Into this scene enters the much younger, David Foster Wallace–reading house painter, who reaches something in Althea that has been long buried.

Fearless, darkly funny, and compulsively readable, If You Left explores the complex dance that is the bipolar marriage, and the possibility that to move forward, we might have to destroy the very things we’ve worked hardest to build.

 

Happy 2