Book Review: The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal


BOOK INFO

Title: The Lager Queen of Minnesota
Author: J. Ryan Stradal
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publish Date: July 23, 2019
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Series: na
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 4.13


BOOK BLURB

A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer, from the bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Two sisters, one farm. A family is split when their father leaves their shared inheritance entirely to Helen, his younger daughter. Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, her older sister, Edith, struggles to make what most people would call a living. So she can’t help wondering what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself.

With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country, and makes their company motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots. It’s Blotz.” Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen’s is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home. . . if it’s not too late.

Meanwhile, Edith’s granddaughter, Diana, grows up knowing that the real world requires a tougher constitution than her grandmother possesses. She earns a shot at learning the IPA business from the ground up–will that change their fortunes forever, and perhaps reunite her splintered family?

Here we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that’s often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we’re surprised, moved, and delighted.



Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads


MY REVIEW

Two sisters, Edith and Helen, lose touch after their father’s death. Edith struggles to make ends meet, but has a good heart. Helen uses her daring, yet sensible, personality to build a successful brewery.

Told using flashbacks and multiple points of view. Edith and Helen have very different personalities. After their father’s death, Helen uses the money from the sale of the family farm to open a brewery. Edith receives nothing, and has a lifetime of working low-paying jobs. Helen works hard to succeed in the male-dominated industry of beer making. Edith has a talent for making delicious pies, and works mostly in the food industry. Edith is also raising her teenage granddaughter, Diana. Diana works to help her grandmother pay bills, and ends up working in a brewery… and loving it.

I wasn’t all that interested in Helen and Edith’s stories. I loved Diana’s story though. There is a fair amount of beer lingo used in this novel, but you don’t have to be a beer drinker to enjoy the book. Personally, I do enjoy drinking and brewing beer, so I found the beer/brewery parts the most entertaining. Ultimately though, this book is about family and relationships.

Family drama with strong female characters. Told with a touch of humor, this is a delightful read. Light and smooth with a (heart)warming finish.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

Book Review: The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan


BOOK INFO

Title: The Bookshop on the Shore
Author: Jenny Colgan
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: June 25, 2019
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Series: Scottish Bookshop #2
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 4.11


BOOK BLURB

A grand baronial house on Loch Ness, a quirky small-town bookseller, and a single mom looking for a fresh start all come together in this witty and warm-hearted novel by New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan.

Desperate to escape from London, single mother Zoe wants to build a new life for herself and her four year old son Hari. She can barely afford the crammed studio apartment on a busy street where shouting football fans keep them awake all night. Hari’s dad, Jaz, a charismatic but perpetually broke DJ, is no help at all. But his sister Surinder comes to Zoe’s aid, hooking her up with a job as far away from the urban crush as possible: a bookshop on the banks of Loch Ness. And there’s a second job to cover housing: Zoe will be an au pair for three children at a genuine castle in the Scottish Highlands.

But while Scotland is everything Zoe dreamed of—clear skies, brisk fresh air, blessed quiet—everything else is a bit of a mess. The Urquart family castle is grand, but crumbling, the childrens’ single dad is a wreck, and the kids have been kicked out of school and left to their own devices. Lottie has her work cut out for her, and is determined to rise to the challenge, especially when she sees how happily Hari has taken to their new home.

With the help of Nina, the friendly local bookseller, Zoe begins to put down roots in the community. Are books, fresh air, and kindness enough to heal this broken family—and her own…?


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads


MY REVIEW

Zoe is a single mother living in London. She is struggling to make ends meet, and wants a better life for her and her son, Hari. With some help from Surinder, Hari’s father’s sister, Zoe gets an opportunity in the Scottish Highlands. Zoe will work as a nanny for a single father of three and will run Nina’s bookmobile while Nina is on bedrest during her pregnancy.

Some familiar faces from The Bookshop on the Corner – Nina, Surinder, and Lennox – are in this book, but this is very much Zoe’s story. Zoe is at her wits’ end and needs a fresh start. She takes a big leap of faith with relocating to Scotland. She doesn’t know anyone there, and she’s not really sure what to expect from the town, the people, or the jobs she has accepted.

For the move, Zoe accepts two jobs. Her position as a nanny provides housing for her and her son. She’s working for a man who is mostly absent from his kid’s lives, and Zoe starts to make some changes in their home life. Bringing order, laughter, and joy into their house, she makes a home. The second job is to run Nina’s bookmobile while Nina is on bedrest. This one gets Zoe out and amongst the local, but she soon learns everyone relies on Nina for book recommendations, and isn’t too keen on a newcomer. For the book van to keep making money, Zoe makes some changes and puts her touch on the bookshop.

An enjoyable and light read about a young mother wanting to change her life. Zoe is a likable character. She has a good heart, she works hard, and she puts her son first. Zoe does have a difficult time fitting in with the locals, but she stands her ground and finds her place.

A heartwarming story with quirky characters. Family life, romance, and humor combine into an enjoyable read, sure to delight fans of The Bookshop on the Corner.

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

Book Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

BOOK INFO
Title: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Author: Abbi Waxman
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: July 9, 2019
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Series: n/a
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.99

BOOK BLURB
via Amazon:
The author of Other People’s Houses and The Garden of Small Beginnings delivers a quirky and charming novel chronicling the life of confirmed introvert Nina Hill as she does her best to fly under everyone’s radar.

Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own… shell.

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
Nina is a single woman in her late twenties. She works in a bookstore, participates in a trivia league, and enjoys her quiet life. When she’s notified that the father she never knew has died, she suddenly finds herself with a family and the drama that comes with it. As for her dating life, Nina is attracted to a fellow trivia player, and she starts to finally feel close to someone.

Nina has always enjoyed being alone and she suffers from anxiety when things become too chaotic for her. She stays very organized and her life is well scheduled. When her life starts to not go according to plan, Nina learns she needs to have some better coping skills The new people in her life may be just what she needed.

A light and fluffy contemporary romance. I especially enjoyed Nina’s nerdy and quirky personality, and could relate to some of her traits. Humorous, charming, and entertaining.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

Book Review: The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: The Mother-in-Law
Author: Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: April 23, 2019
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 4.2

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
A twisty, compelling new novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in death…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation.

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?

Fractured relationships and deep family secrets grow more compelling with every page in this twisty, captivating new novel from Sally Hepworth.


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
Diana, Lucy’s mother-in-law, has died in an apparent suicide. As the police investigate her death, it seems she may have been killed… and everyone in the family is keeping secrets.

Told with alternating points of view, both Lucy and Diana’s stories are told. Lucy and her mother-in-law, Diana, have never been close. While Lucy wishes they could have a better relationship, Diana has always kept her distance. Diana is a woman who believes her adult children should manage their own lives, especially their finances, and not rely on her.

I very much enjoyed getting Diana and Lucy’s viewpoints. It showed miscommunications and misunderstandings, and how there is often more to the story. Diana’s POV shows her background and helps explain why she views things the way she does. Lucy is probably the most likable character in the book, and it was hard for her to have a MIL with a cold and impersonal demeanor. That said, Diana wasn’t intentionally mean, but she did have different priorities than others in her family. Sadly, her family could have used her love and support, and she was not providing that.

I wouldn’t really consider this novel a mystery or thriller. While there is a mystery involving Diana’s death and what happened to her, the majority of the book is family drama. For me, this read as women’s fiction. This is my first Sally Hepworth novel, so I had no idea what to expect. Based on the book blurb, I was expecting something more along the lines of a domestic thriller. It’s an enjoyable novel and I want to read more by Hepworth, but if you’re in the mood for a domestic thriller, look elsewhere.

A compelling read about the complexities of family relationships. Not only MIL/DIL, but other family relationships too. I was drawn into the story, and was curious how things would end.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly

Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: Little Lovely Things
Author: Maureen Joyce Connolly
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: April 2, 2019
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 4.38

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
If only things had been different

It is the wrong time to get sick. Speeding down the highway on the way to work, her two little girls sleeping in the back seat, medical resident Claire Rawlings doesn’t have time for the nausea overtaking her. But as the world tilts sideways, she pulls into a gas station, runs to the bathroom, and passes out. When she wakes up minutes later, her car—and her daughters—are gone.

The police have no leads, and the weight of guilt presses down on Claire as each hour passes with no trace of her girls. All she has to hold on to are her strained marriage, a potentially unreliable witness who emerges days later, and the desperate but unquenchable belief that her daughters are out there somewhere.

As hopeful and uplifting as it is devastating, Little Lovely Things is the story of a family shattered by unthinkable tragedy, and the unexpected intersection of heartbreak and hope.


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
Claire Rawlings gets sick while driving with her young children in the car. While her girls sleep in the back seat, Claire pulls over at a gas station. When Claire comes out of the bathroom, her car, and her girls, are gone. The guilt of leaving her children alone and the search for them weighs heavily on Claire. Her health, marriage, and work all suffer as the search for her daughters seems to go nowhere.

Told with alternating points of view, which allows the reader to not only be aware of Claire’s experiences, but also what happened to her girls. A tragic story of two missing children and the impact of their loss on their parents. This book doesn’t look too closely at the investigation into the girls’ disappearance, but instead looks at the people and relationships involved.

An emotional story of every parent’s worse nightmare. The idea of your children disappearing, and having no idea what happened or where they are, is heart-wrenching. A heartbreaking story of guilt, loss, and hope.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: True Places by Sonja Yoerg

True Places by Sonja Yoerg

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: True Places
Author: Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: January 1, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 4.11

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses.

Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her—a change she both fears and desperately needs.

Suzanne has the perfect house, a successful husband, and a thriving family. But beneath the veneer of an ideal life, her daughter is rebelling, her son is withdrawing, her husband is oblivious to it all, and Suzanne is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. After her discovery of the ethereal sixteen-year-old who has never experienced civilization, Suzanne is compelled to invite Iris into her family’s life and all its apparent privileges.

But Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
While out driving, and taking a break from her exhausting life and family, Suzanne comes across a teenage girl. The girl, Iris, is in need of medical attention, and Suzanne rushes the girl to get help. While Iris is in the hospital, it is revealed that she has been living on her own in the wilderness. Suzanne offers to take Iris into her home while the authorities try to locate relatives of Iris. Suzanne’s husband and teenage kids, a son and a daughter, all have different reactions to Iris living with them and being in their lives.

Told with alternating points of view, this novel focuses on Suzanne and Iris, but also presents POVs from Suzanne’s family – Whit (husband), Reid (son), and Brynn (daughter). Suzanne is dissatisfied with her life, and not really sure where things took a wrong turn. She wants more, and is increasing frustrated with her husband, children, and parents. Iris has lived her life in solitude and has a close connection to nature. Her entire world is turned upside down when she meets Suzanne, and she is faced with a modern life she doesn’t necessarily want to be a part of. Whit works hard and adores his wife, but he has some misguided ideas about what is best for his family. Reid is a bit of an idealist, and butts heads with his parents, especially his father, on what is important. Brynn is a mean girl who manipulates people to get her way, but is also a little lost herself.

The characters are a mix of likable and unlikable. The female characters are all better developed than the male characters. I would have preferred a little more depth on both Whit and Reid, because I believe both of them could have been more complex. Ultimately, each of the characters is trying to find their own way and be happy. Some of the character’s decisions and actions comes across as selfish, but some turn out to be uplifting.

This was an enjoyable read and one I can think of a few people to recommend it to. That said, the story is mostly predictable and the characters are somewhat stereotypical. Basically, it’s a well-written novel that’s good for fans of contemporary women’s fiction.

This was my pick for Amazon’s First Reads in December 2018.

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: June 13, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 4.26

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
Monique, a magazine reporter, gets the opportunity to interview one of Hollwood’s iconic leading ladies, Evelyn Hugo. Monique is a relatively unknown reporter, so it seems odd that Evelyn would pick Monique as her biographer. Evelyn tells all to Monique about her celebrity life and her love life. As their time together continues, it seems there is a link between the two women, but only Evelyn knows what it is.

This book is about two women – Monique and Evelyn. Monique is at a difficult time in her life. She’s going through a divorce and her career is not where she would like it. Evelyn is older and has had a successful life. Now in her 70s, Evelyn is still a hot topic of conversation because of her films, style, and marriages.

Monique is lackluster, and her story did not pull me in. Fortunately, the majority of the book is Evelyn’s story. She is telling Monique everything about her rise in fame and the loves she had along the way. Evelyn is calculating, cutthroat, and completely self-serving. Really, she’s not a good person, but she’s fun to read about. Lots of drama and deceit.

While I wasn’t as wowed with this book as many others seem to have been, I did enjoy reading about the imagined life of Evelyn Hugo… I kept picturing the different real-life Hollywood leading ladies of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. An interesting look at the private versus public life of celebrity. Devious, complex, and bittersweet.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: At Wave’s End by Patricia Perry Donovan

At Wave's End by Patricia Perry Donovan

At Wave’s End
by Patricia Perry Donovan

Synopsis: A cynical New Yorker is skeptical when her mother wins a B&B on the Jersey Shore. Shortly after arriving to check out the B&B, a hurricane hits. Much of the town is destroyed, but the B&B is relatively unharmed and can house some of the displaced residents. The daughter reluctantly stays on to help her mother temporarily run the B&B.

This was a light, heartwarming story about personal discovery and a community bonding together.

The personal discovery part is about the main character, Faith. She is a chef in New York City and is distrustful of almost everyone. After her mother wins a B&B, Faith goes along with her to check the place out. Faith remains skeptical of the B&B business, the B&B owner, and various other locals. After a hurricane alters her plans and she stays at the B&B to help her mother, she encounters people without ulterior motives and that are wanting to help. Faith learns some things about herself that help her personal growth.

The community bonding part is about a small coastal town, Wave’s End, that gets hit with a hurricane and comes together to rebuild. The locals work together with cleanup efforts and getting help for those who need it most. The people support each other and are there to lift one another’s spirits when everything seems to be falling apart.

I won this book on a Goodreads Giveaway.

Book Review: Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility
by Hillary Manton Lodge

This is a modern take on Sense and Sensibility.

Three sisters stick together after their father is involved in a business scandal and flees the country. With their mother deceased, the two older sisters, Celia and Jane, share guardianship of the younger sister, Margot. Celia and Jane open a tea shop, only to be forced out and needing a new start. They move to Austin to stay with a cousin and look for a place to open a tea shop.

Jane of Austin is told mainly from Jane’s point of view, but has some chapters from Callum’s point of view. Callum is a war veteran recently returned to civilian life after losing his leg. Callum is clearly smitten with Jane, but Jane has another suitor, Sean. Jane met Sean when arriving in Austin, and thinks he is her knight in shining armor.

This was a quick, light read. It’s a clean story with no bad language, no sex, and no violence.