Where a Miniature House Can Tell So Many Truths: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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The Miniaturist

By: Jessie Burton

Released: August, 2014 by Ecco

Length: 416 Pages

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction- 17th Century Amsterdam

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: via publisher

What would you do, if at eighteen, you just get married to a man you hardly know? To a man who isn’t around? Nella Oortman is faced with those questions and more. When her husband finally returns from sea, he gives her the strangest wedding gift–a miniature replica of their house. Once a miniaturist is sought out to make the furniture, it is then secrets start to tally up. How does the miniaturist know? How does he or she predict these things? 

Taking place within three months in 1686 Amsterdam, The Miniaturist takes a deep look at what it was like for the working to high middle class at the time. Full of secrets, twists, and back-stabbing intrigue, this debut is not to be missed. Nella starts off as a small voiced, scared newlywed who is afraid of her older, much more out spoken sister in law Marin. With brilliant character development, and a more brilliant twist, the reader is taken on a surprise journey with these two women. Not to mention how the marriage goes! This book is full of plot twists that take you aback. You won’t expect a single thing that happens, which makes this book ever more engaging and fun to read.

Burton’s writing is fresh, imaginative,  and daring. With one of her plot twists, she goes there. Really, really goes there where most authors, established or not, would be hesitant or afraid to. But, not Burton. She takes it to the unexpected, especially for that time period. The way she did it was highly successful in my opinion. I was shocked, surprised, and not at all in disagreement with her choice. I was impressed with what she did, actually. That wasn’t the only plot twist where she pushed the envelope, either. She wrote one more thing, where in today’s time would not be too big of a controversy, but in 1686, big big big controversy. And, it worked! It wasn’t put in the story just to push our limits. It made complete sense.

I loved this book. I loved everything about it. The plot twists impressed me. The writing was astonishingly good for a first time author. The characters developed perfectly. The end was nicely open ended for the readers. There wasn’t a thing I could complain about. I was completely invested. It was hard not to be. The first page alone pulls you in by starting with a funeral for someone who apparently has no friends. You have to think who it is for. It’s that good. It pulls you in that fast. I’m going to say it. This book was one of my favorite reads of this year. It was that good. I can’t recommend it enough. It will pull you in; leave you wanting more. If there is one historical fiction novel you read this year, I honestly think this is the one you should read. It isn’t about Kings or Queens. Treason and the like. It is about people like us. Finally, a historical fiction novel we can relate to!

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Not My Kind of Nest: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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Nest

By: Esther Ehrlich

Released: September 9th, 2014 by Wendy Lamb Books

Length: 336 Pages

Genre: Middle Grade

Rating: Two Stars

Acquired: via publisher

What lengths would you go to make your life stay the same? How would you feel if the person you love most in the world stops smiling?

For eleven year old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her mother is everything to her. When her dancer mother gets a devastating diagnosis that stops her from dancing and smiling, Chirp doesn’t know what to do. Soon after, her mother spirals into a depression. Nest tells Chirp’s sometimes heartbreaking journey as she trudges through life during this time with adventure, escape, and self-discovery. It isn’t all bad, but it isn’t all good, either.

This novel deals with some very adult issues at the heart of this middle grade novel. The character may be a middle schooler, may behave like one, but the situations are anything but. I had a slight problem with that. I usually don’t read middle grade novels, so I am not sure if this is an usual occurrence. But, may did it take an adult turn. Too adult, I would say. It made me very uncomfortable reading it. As it is a spoiler, I am not at liberty to reveal it, but it made me dislike the book. I loved Chirp. She developed a nice relationship with the boy next. They had a cute conversation towards the end of the novel that I loved.  However, this was not enough to give this novel a better rating. What took place towards the later middle/end was too heavy for me. Not heavy for me as an adult, but heavy as me reading a middle grade novel. It isn’t something that I personally believe should take place for this age group. I don’t think they can handle it, grasp it, and it takes away from the rest of the novel because of that.

It was a big shocker for me. If this was a Young Adult novel, I don’t think the event, if you can call it that, that occurred, would have taken me so off guard, but since this is for a younger audience it did. I don’t think it needed to happen to get the author’s point across. Yes, what happened completely at the end was a great character development exercise, but could have been reached without what took place because of it.

Although I did not find this novel extremely heartwarming, I definitely can see where a reader can. This is, at its core, a middle grade novel, but too much of it is adult for me. But, if there wasn’t that one thing, this would have been a great debut for me. Like I mention before, the characters were great. The plot, for the majority of it, was pretty decent. It evoked the right emotions. It showed how powerful friendships could be. It was poignant, honest, and positive.

I am torn on recommending this book. There were some great positives about this book. But, the negatives were so negative. I really feel strongly about what took place that makes it too inappropriate for its age group. I can’t seem to get past that. But, at the end, it was uplifting. There was a positive message. I would say, look at the back. Think about it. It’s heavy. It’s mostly about mental illness; and, the affects it has on our loved ones. If that’s hard for you, I’d say pass. It gets emotional, just so you know.

Happy reading!

Kiki is kinky; Kiki by Amanda Earl Book Review

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Kiki

Kiki

By: Amanda Earl

Released: October 1st by Chaudiere Press

Length: 130 Pages

Genre: Poetry

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via publisher

 

I  am a window made of paper,

a fragile silhouette that goes up in flames

with the merest touch of light.

-untitled from “Alice”

Kiki is based on Kiki de Montparnasse, born as Alice Ernestine Prin. A woman of many talents and surrealist photographer Man Ray’s mistress, Kiki tells her life in parts. Divided up in four sections, the collection begins with “Alice” with rather short, untitled poems about Alice becoming Kiki; the marvelous nights spent drinking, dancing, performing; her sexual awakening and awareness. It is perhaps one of my favorite sections of the collection. The next part titled “Tales of Montparnasse” is one long poem about just that. Fitzgerald and Hemingway make an appearance, of course, as do many others. I didn’t find myself connecting to this one as much. The third section is entitled Opium (After Cocteau). The shortest long poem in the collection, it is by far my favorite in the entire collection. It is about opium use, but there is a beautiful juxtaposition that takes place within the poem that made me instantly fall in love with it.

I remove my mask.

I lie prone on the ground,

a flower’s stem impaled in my chest.

There is something in those two lines is slightly disturbing, but when I picture the flower’s stem, I can’t help but think about the rest of the flower. The whole poem has very strong imagery that challenges each of your senses. It’s the one section not to be missed. The most unique section, and the last, is a call and response to William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch with Kiki as the speaker. The most interesting section by far, I read it very quickly, compelled to keep reading. The responses were very fascinating, and passages chosen from the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection. It was very sensual, explicit with curse words in “Alice”, with imagery that both challenges the senses and brings a reality to the life of Kiki. I think she would be proud of this piece of work.

 

Dreams Do Come True?: John Dreamer by Elise Celine Book Review

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John Dreamer

By: Elise Celine

Released: February, 2014 by Authorbuzz

Length: 203 Pages

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Seven chairs, seven strangers, one strange white room.  What ensues, is only in your dreams.

John Dreamer is simply about living out what you desire most; but not in the way you think. The first dream , one of the more intense dreams, is a brutal battle. One of the “strangers” is mistreated during the battle, and the weakest stranger protects her. It turns out it’s his dream, to be strong and tough. He succeeds, both there and in life afterwards, becoming an award winning scientist. He is the first to leave.  As the novel continues, more dreams are fulfilled, deeper secrets are revealed and connections are made.

My favorite dream sequence comes from the tough guy Ray. His was the most powerful and gut wrenching. It really hits you.  As each dream had, it had a great message in the end. Celine really leaves you with a good sense of the character, what they were after, and what they got. And better yet, what you can learn from them. Learn from them you certainly do.  Even with the characters that aren’t there for very long, there is great character development because of how well the dream sequence is written. You really see what the character is all about. At the end of each successful dream, you get a follow-up of each character, which is nice. You see how this really helped them.

Of course, there is a love story between the main character Andy and John Dreamer. At first I was weary of their romance because of a comment Andy makes. It’s a little nauseating. It’s about falling in love so fast. However, I quickly changed opinions. The love story became believable pretty fast. The twist at the end was great, too.

I really liked this book.  This is going to be a series. I will definitely continue reading this series. I hope you’ll give it a chance.

Blog Tour: The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin

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The Beautiful American

The Beautiful American

(historical fiction)

by

Jeanne Mackin

Release date: June 3, 2014
at New American Library/Penguin

352 pages

ISBN: 978-0-451-46582-5

Website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920’s Paris: when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever.

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women. [provided by the author]
For reviewers’ attention: brief, very mild sex and violence

***

My Thoughts

The Beautiful American tells the story of two very different women in the span of over twenty years, from the early 1920s to after the second World War. Nora Tours is not an artist. She follows her photographer, High School sweetheart Jamie from New York all the way to Paris where they meet the celebrated Lee Miller–model, photographer, and surrealist Man Ray’s mistress. There, a foursome is formed. They take the city by storm. Soon, secrets start to pile up. Lee won’t acknowledge the past she shares with Nora that is tainted.  Soon, devastation and secrets revealed shatters the foursome, breaking them up.

This novel was an interesting read. I didn’t love it, as I had hoped to. However, I did like it. I liked the Paris years. Lee was an interesting, selfish, perfectly conceited side character that kept me wanting to read more. Having known a little about Man Ray, I enjoyed learning more about him. I found Nora to be boring, far too love sick for me. She had limited desires to work, make a name for herself, be anyone but Jamie’s girlfriend. Jamie, too, I felt was a flat character. He was a little whiny when he talked. He didn’t add much. I think Nora could have done better. I did feel somewhat bad that he wasn’t given better chances as a photographer, though.

The plot and structure of the story was interesting. The backstory took up a majority of the book, which I wasn’t too happy with. I did enjoy it, for the most part, but would have liked it broken up a bit. It didn’t flow as smoothly as it could if it was broken up better. It was written with the current problem given a chapter in the beginning, then the backstory kicks in for the majority, then the current problem randomly kicks back in. There wasn’t much fluidity to it. It worked okay, but it could have been better. Again, wasn’t a major issue, but did stop me from giving it four or five stars rather than three on goodreads.com.

I thought Mackin did an excellent job historically. I felt I was in Paris during that time period, meeting everyone. She did not slack on the details. She did a great job describing the devastation of the War, as well.  There are a lot of redeeming qualities about this book, but what she misses on, she really misses. I just didn’t feel the connection as deeply as I would have liked. I still would recommend this book as a good historical fiction novel because of the accuracy historically. I think you really feel you are there, in the past. I may just be too picky with the characters. There wasn’t anything immensely wrong with this novel. I hope you do give it a glance at.

Praise for The Beautiful American

Readers will rank [it] right up there with The Paris Wife?. A brilliant, beautifully written literary masterpiece???New York Times bestselling author Sandra Dallas

Will transport you to expat Paris and from there take you on a journey through the complexities of a friendship. Breathes new life into such luminaries as Man Ray, Picasso, and, of course, the titular character, Lee Miller, while at the same time offering up a wonderfully human and sympathetic protagonist in Nora Tours.Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist

Achingly beautiful and utterly mesmerizing. Sure to appeal to fans of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife and Erika Robuck’s Call Me Zelda, or indeed to anyone with a taste for impeccably researched and beautifully written historical fiction. Jennifer Robson, author of Somewhere in France

Beautiful.A fascinating account of a little-known woman who was determined to play by her own rules.Historical Novel Society

***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeanne MackinJeanne Mackin is the author of several historical novels set in France,
and has earned awards for her journalism
as well as a creative writing fellowship
from the American Antiquarian Society.
She lives in upstate New York with her husband,
cats and herd of deer,
and is still trying to master the French subjunctive.

Visit her website.

Follow Jeanne Mackin on Twitter | Facebook

Buy the book | on Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books a Million | Google Play | iBookstore | Indiebound | Powells

Giveaway time!!

***

Click on Entry-Form to enter the giveaway:

Entry-Form

Visit and follow each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour
will give you 5 extra entries each time!

5 copies:
print for US/Canada residents only.

CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ OTHER REVIEWS, GUEST-POST, EXCERPT

The Beautiful American - banner

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones

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The Sharp Hook Of Love

Displaying Sharp Hook of Love - cover.jpg

By: Sherry Jones

[historical/biographical/literary fiction]

Release date: October 7, 2014
at Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books

384 pages

ISBN: 9781451684797

Author’s website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

“To forbid the fruit only sweetens its flavor”

Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.

But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

*****************************

All it takes is a “chance” meeting and serenade to ignite a love affair so fierce and passionate, it would inspire many forbidden tales of love centuries to come. 

The Sharp Hook of Love tells the thought-provoking, captivating, heartbreaking, and intensely passionate story of world renowned eleventh century French philosopher Petrus “Pierre” Abelard  and his student,  Heliose d’ Argenteuil. Told achingly through Heloise’s point of view, the love affair begins slowly, until it morphs into a love so tragic it can’t be true. While erotic, passionate, and full of lust, something ever more devastating awaits the forbidden lovers.

Each chapter beginning contains a brief passage from the lovers’ letters. While I enjoyed reading them, most of them were written by Heloise. I had a small problem with this mainly because I felt the reader is already getting one side of the story, why not have at least the chapter epigraphs be alternating, so the reader can get a full sense of the relationship. I did savory each one, though. All so achingly beautiful. Matched the chapters perfectly. I just wish I could have read Abelard’s love letters, or just letters more.

Jones does a meticulous and wonderful job at incorporating parts of their letters into the narrative itself; which I found held me as a reader more. The voice of Heloise kept me interested; often taking me along with her. I felt her love, her pain, and her sorrows. Her journey from a young woman to where she ends in the story was written in such a cohesive way. I didn’t feel lost as the years skipped around a bit; I followed her through. What Jones accomplished, was making me want to be there for Heloise. Chastise her a little bit. Hold her when Abelard scorns her. Be there for her as no one really was for her. Not many authors can successfully do that in a novel, let alone a historical fiction one. I was completely moved.

Then the juicy parts. Oh, the eroticism that was there! My, for the eleventh century, they knew how to express themselves. There is a significant amount of love making going on in this book; this is not the book for you if you cringe and want to pass pages– you will miss something if you do. I enjoyed how passionate the lovers were; but, not just that, I loved how it translated to the page. It wasn’t x-rated in the way that every detail was written. There was no, he moved her this way, then that way. Yes, it was descriptive. It was erotic, passionate, and very realistic. Was it realistic for that century? That I don’t know. There are two or three scenes in where I felt the love making was more modern. I won’t go into details. I will say this though, it was not overly explicit, it was not just thrown in there at random times, nor was it always pretty. There was one scene that upset me, which I won’t spoil for you. A part of me hopes it was out of character, but after some outside research of the lovers, it does fit, which makes me sad.

This love story is tragic. I remember the tales of Tristan and Isolde; Romeo and Juliet. All the fallen lovers. The lovers who tried so hard to be together. Their stories, their made up stories are nothing compared to this true romance. I cried at the end. It was hard not to. Abelard says something to Heloise (that I will wish was true!) and my heart melted. There’s so much beauty and love in this story, yet the pain and, yes, brutality that occurs, somewhat taints it. It’s truly beautiful, no matter how devastating. I truly loved this novel. I hope that all the feelings were true. Pick this book up. You won’t regret it. It’s a love story that should be known and forever remembered. It’s a great example or discourse on what love was like back then, who was allowed to love, what the cost was, and what the reward was. Jones tackles the topic of societal norms and expectations of that era, without deterring from the lovers’ story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Displaying Sharp Hook of Love - Sherry Jones.jpg

SHERRY JONES is also the author of Four Sisters, All Queens;
The Sword of Medina;
and her controversial, internationally bestselling debut, The Jewel of Medina.

She lives in Spokane, Washington.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter , Google +, Pinterest, and Linked In

Subscribe to her newsletter.  Send her an email: sherry [at] authorsherryjones [dott com

Buy the bookS&S  |  Amazon  |  B&N  |  BAM  | IndieBound  | Kindle   | iBookstore  | Nook

And now for the giveaway…

Blog Tour and GIveaway! A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

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A Paris Apartment

Displaying Paris Apartment cover.jpg

by

Michelle Gable

 [Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction]

 Release date: April 22, 2014

at http://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250048738

384 pages

ISBN: 978-1250048738

Author’s website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER!

Bienvenue à Paris!

When April Vogt’s boss tells her about an apartment in the ninth arrondissement that has been discovered after being shuttered for the past seventy years, the Sotheby’s continental furniture specialist does not hear the words “dust” or “rats” or “decrepit.” She hears Paris. She hears escape.

Once in France, April quickly learns the apartment is not merely some rich hoarder’s repository. Beneath the cobwebs and stale perfumed air is a goldmine, and not because of the actual gold (or painted ostrich eggs or mounted rhinoceros horns or bronze bathtub). First, there’s a portrait by one of the masters of the Belle Epoque, Giovanni Boldini. And then there are letters and journals written by the very woman in the painting, Marthe de Florian. These documents reveal that she was more than a renowned courtesan with enviable decolletage. Suddenly April’s quest is no longer about the bureaux plats and Louis-style armchairs that will fetch millions at auction. It’s about discovering the story behind this charismatic woman.

It’s about discovering two women, actually.

With the help of a salty (and annoyingly sexy) Parisian solicitor and the courtesan’s private diaries, April tries to uncover the many secrets buried in the apartment. As she digs into Marthe’s life, April can’t help but take a deeper look into her own. Having left behind in the States a cheating husband, a family crisis about to erupt, and a career she’s been using as the crutch to simply get by, she feels compelled to sort out her own life too. When the things she left bubbling back home begin to boil over, and Parisian delicacies beyond flaky pâtisseries tempt her better judgment, April knows that both she and Marthe deserve happy finales.

Whether accompanied by croissants or champagne, this delectable debut novel depicts the Paris of the Belle Epoque and the present day with vibrant and stunning allure. Based on historical events, Michelle Gable’s A Paris Apartment will entertain and inspire, as readers embrace the struggles and successes of two very unforgettable women.

What do you do after your husband cheats, your marriage is in shambles, and you have the immediate chance to go to Paris for work without him? You go. 

April is struggling. She is on the verge of drowning in a marriage where she avoids having the talk. She just avoids. And avoids. Maybe it’ll go away, the truth. But, it won’t. When her boss sends her to Paris on a last minute assignment, she thinks this is the perfect escape. Again, she avoids. What she finds is bigger than anyone ever expected. How she handles things starts to change as she becomes enthralled by the dead Marthe de Florian’s life lessons. What does she learn? That, you will have to read the book to find out.

The dual perspectives were great. There wasn’t one I preferred over the other, which is surprising for me because I normally can choose pretty easily. I found both women to be completely three dimensional. They both had their flaws, faults, and amazing attributes. Marthe was brilliant, ballsy, and brave. April was a more modern, albeit a little more conservative version of her. Both women were entertaining. Marthe more so at times with her vulgar language and adult escapades. It was the twist revolving around Marthe that I really loved. I won’t say what it was, but man I loved it. It was really surprising, but made sense. I was caught off guard. And, to think it is actually true blew my mind even more. So, maybe I did like Marthe more. Her life was definitely more interesting. Boldini never painted April.

April had her pluses, though, too. She had a somewhat creepy Frenchman after her, sort of. She had her marriage problems. She was more of a today’s woman. It doesn’t make her less interesting. But, when you find out Marthe’s origins, she becomes ever more interesting. Sorry, April. But, April has got sass! She really stands up for herself. I was impressed with how she transforms herself throughout the book.

This was a phenomenal debut. It was entertaining while informative, the characters were extremely well written and developed, the transition between story lines were seamless, and it leaves you wanting more. I can’t recommend this enough. It was such an engrossing read that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to pass this up. Next time you are thinking of buying a book, look into this one. You won’t regret it.

PRAISE FOR A PARIS APARTMENT

“With its well-developed, memorable characters and the author’s skillful transitioning between story lines…this stunning and fascinating debut will capture the interest of a wide audience but particularly those interested in stories about women behind famous men like Melanie Benjamin’s The Aviator’s Wife or Nancy Horan’s Under the Wide and Starry Sky. Highly recommended.” –Library Journal (starred review)
“A charming read about a fascinating history and the woman behind it.” –Historical Novel Society

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Displaying Paris Apartment - Michelle Gable.jpg

Michelle Gable is a writer and also a mom, wife, financial executive, sports-obsessed maniac (Go Chargers! Go Aztecs!),

Southern California native, barre class fiend, tennis player, and card-carrying member of the Chickasaw Nation.
She grew up in sunny San Diego and attended The College of William & Mary,
where she majored in accounting as most aspiring writers do.
Throughout a career that started in public accounting and then moved to private equity, then investment banking,
and ultimately to the head of FP&A for a publicly-traded software company, Michelle continued to write. And write and write.
Her first novel was released on April 22, 2014, her second scheduled for Spring 2016.

Michelle currently resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter 

 

 

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