The Social Graces [Book Review]

April 20, 2021

Would you enjoy reading about an outrageous and real-life feud?

The Social Graces by Renée Rosen

The Social Graces by Renee Rosen (cover) Image: 4 young women in 1880s dress walk arm in arm away from the camera toward an arch in the background

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Rivalries, Women’s Fiction

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Thank you, #NetGalley @BerkleyPub #BerkleyBuddyReads #BerkleyWritesStrongWomen for a complimentary eARC of #TheSocialGraces upon my request. All opinions are my own.

extravagance…society…women’s power…rivalry…feuds…women behaving badly

Set in the late 1800s, The Social Graces shares the story of the historic and notorious feud/rivalry between Mrs. Caroline Astor and Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt as witnessed by New York Society during The Gilded Age. In this time, when women often found their power in society, simple wealth wasn’t enough. Your status in society depended upon old money or new money. Caroline is from old money and is the reigning Queen of society while Alva is from Mobile, Alabama and married into the wealthy Vanderbilt family. Alva soon discovers that mere wealth isn’t enough to get accepted into the top 400 of New York Society, so she sets out in cunning and devious ways to get accepted and perhaps even dethrone Caroline.

Caroline Astor

Caroline Astor

Alva Vanderbilt (in costume)

Alva Vanderbilt (in costume)

My Thoughts:

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What Makes You Pick Up A Book? #LetsTalkBookish #LetsDiscuss2021

April 16, 2021

What makes you pick up a book?

What Makes You Pick Up A Book (white text over a background of a tall stack of hardbback books)

Image Source: Canva

One of the most pressing questions in the reading life is “What Should I Read Next?”

How do you decide what to read next? What makes you pick up a book?

I was going to clean the house, but then I realised.l..this book isn't going to read itself (Image: a young woman sits on the floor leaning against a cabinet reading a book)

I love discussion posts, and many of my favorite bloggers participate in Let’s Talk Bookish and the Discussion Challenge. One of my blogging goals in 2021 is to participate in more discussion link-ups. Do you enjoy discussion posts?

As I answer the questions, think about how you would answer them for yourself. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This post is inspired by the Let’s Talk Bookish topic hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This post is also an entry for the 2021 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight.

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

What makes me pick up a certain book?

  • Reviews (I have a few reviewers I trust and who I consider my book twins!)
  • Known Author
  • Genre (hitfic FTW!)
  • Diverse Voices
  • Catchy Title

***Tip: I like to have a few books already in my queue so that I am not left adrift after finishing a book. It’s helpful in preventing decision fatigue to have something to hop right into. I enjoy a seamless reading experience. What makes you pick up a certain book?

Is a pretty cover enough?

Absolutely not! I’m actually most tempted by a catchy title or an author or review. I admit to liking bright covers….especially bright floral designs! I confess that I am growing weary of the women on histfic covers who are walking or looking away and all we see are their backs. Also, I usually prefer the original cover to the movie adaptation cover. It’s always interesting to notice different covers on the UK versions of books. Because I read on kindle, I hardly ever notice the covers until I start writing my review! Do you like a pretty cover?

Do I check for good reviews?

I stalk all reviews! The good reviews and the bad reviews. If I’m going to invest hours in reading a book, I want to make sure it’s a good fit for me. I don’t like to go in “cold.” Because I don’t usually read thriller or suspense, I’m not that worried about coming across spoilers. I’m trusting that most reviewers will avoid spoilers or have them clearly labeled. When I read reviews, I’m also looking for trigger or content warnings. I know that I don’t want to read books about child predators, serial killers, or witchcraft. I find it’s helpful to check the 2-star reviews. I know every book isn’t for every reader but I like to see if the shortcomings are something I can live with. For instance, if the reviewer indicates that excessive profanity is an issue, I will probably steer clear of that book. I know that I often quit on books with a great deal of profanity. If the reviewer indicates that the story is heavily character-driven with minimal plot, I will think carefully about that book and read more reviews. Many times when I pick up a book it’s because #BookstagramMadeMeDoIt (many thanks to my bookstagram buddies!) Do you read reviews or do you like to go in “cold”?

Do I depend on recommendations from friends, librarians, or booksellers?

pulling a shelf of library books

Maybe you have a group of bookish friends or family members who always recommend books? Perhaps you ask your librarian or bookseller for a rec? If we were friends in real life, I would always have a recommendation for you (maybe a cart full)! My hairstylist is not a fast reader but she appreciates having a good story on hand for when she wants to read. I began the tradition of buying her a book for Christmas one year. It took her an entire year to read it but she loved it and was ready for the next one the following Christmas! I guess she would say that she doesn’t worry about what to read next because she reads what her customer brings her! I think getting a recommendation from a friend is great because your BFF really knows you and your reading tastes. I have one friend that I love to get a rec from because we tend to enjoy the same books. Have you found your book twin?

Is the synopsis important?

The synopsis isn’t as important as reviews in my opinion. A synopsis is a sales pitch and it can be misleading or contain spoilers. I find that most reviewers are more careful about spoilers. The Sea Wife is sold as a thriller and I thought it was more of a family drama with a little mystery (how did the husband die?). I know several readers who were disappointed in the read because they were expecting a more thrilling story based on the synopsis. It was actually fine with me because I don’t like thrillers! Two years ago, I read an installment of No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and while I was writing my review I checked the official synopsis and a couple of events that were mentioned in the synopsis NEVER happened in the story! Sometimes, it’s painfully obvious that the writer of the synopsis has not read the book! Is the synopsis important to you?

Do I look for diversity or #ownvoices?

Yes, I purposely look for diverse reads and #OwnVoices authors. I track my yearly stats in a spreadsheet and I always include this category! In my monthly reading wrapups, I like to see a nice variety of voices and perspectives. Do you purposely look for diversity in your reading life?

Does my last read influence my next read?

Definitely, yes. I recently read a very heavy WW11 histfic book, and I immediately picked up a sweet middle grade read. I do like to balance my genres a bit. Sometimes that fluffy chick-lit book is exactly the palate cleanser I need. Even though my followers must think I read nothing but histfic, that’s not the case. Sometimes I don’t write full blog reviews for my in between reads….but I do note them all on Goodreads. Often, a series will influence what I read next. I can’t pick up book #4 in a series and enjoy it without reading the three previous installments! I’m a binge reader when it comes to a good series. In fact, when I am immersed in a series, it’s the perfect antidote to worrying about what I’ll read next. Are you influenced by your last read?

Do l Iook for any checkboxes?

Absolutely! My biggest checkbox is probably histfic. That genre always intrigues me and deserves a look! I also love complicated family drama, found family, and friendship themes and enemies to lovers or friends to lovers tropes. What are your most important checkboxes?

Do I have autobuy authors?

For sure! Fredrick Backman, Kate Quinn, Louise Penny (although I’ve decided not to read the one she’s coauthoring with Hillary Clinton), and Stephanie Dray (especially coauthoring with Laura Kamoie) are four definite auto-buy authors. For chick-lit, I’m always curious about Katherine Center’s new releases. I love Sara Ackerman’s Pearl Harbor/Hawaii stories. I could go on and on listing authors whose work I’m always checking out! Do you have an auto-buy author?

Do I reread?

Usually I don’t reread. I keep a list of lifetime favorites and I’d be happy to read anything on that list should the mood arise. I suffer from FOMO and I’m distracted by the new and shiny, so the pleasure of rereading gets pushed to the back burner. I did reread The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society before the movie came out. And I impulsively reread The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry last summer. Honestly, I’m always fearful that I won’t love a book as much as the first time I read it. I’m addicted to the “Wow” experience in reading and second or third reads don’t offer the same thrill.  However, there are different reasons to reread a book including appreciating the prose and revisiting a poignant theme or memorable characters. I remember the time I read The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman two times in a row. The first time, I was gripped by the plot. As soon as I read the last word, I immediately started on page one to reread more carefully and appreciate the writing, character development, and themes. Fortunately, this is a short story that is easily read in an hour! What is the last book you reread?

Am I influenced by hype?

Yes and no. As I mentioned earlier, I have FOMO so I’m always influenced by hype…Except if the book doesn’t check my boxes. When that happens, I feel awful! I don’t like being out of the loop for new reads. But it happens and I live with it. My most recent experience involves The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I am familiar with her work (The Great Alone, The Nightingale, and The Winter Garden), but I know that she can make me ugly cry (especially her earlier titles). When I heard how sad The Four Winds was, I just knew I wasn’t in the right headspace. I’ve also read a review that gave me pause. I’ve decided not to read it, but I have to live with the hype! Are you influenced by hype?

Outside forces often dictate which book I read next.

At times my review calendar decides my next read for me. I have made commitments to publishers and blog tours that must be honored. Other times, library due dates dictate which book I read next! Occasionally, I pause my hold (easy to do if reading digitally on Overdrive or Libby!), but it’s always looming and I rarely totally give up my place on the holds list and start over. Instagram Buddy Reads and IRL Book Club also affect which book I read next. I need to be accountable to the group and ready for discussion! Do library holds or book club commitments influence what you read next?



I think that knowing yourself as a reader leads to a satisfactory and enriching reading life. (see this post about Your Reading Style)

QOTD: What makes you pick up a certain book?



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

The Beautiful Strangers [Book Review] #ThrowBackThursday

April 15, 2021

The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio
#throwbackthursday

The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio (cover) Image: a beautiful girl in a green one piece swimming suit lies on the sand under a colorful umbrella

Genre/Categories/Settings: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, San Diego, Romance

In 2020, I decided to systematically revisit my older review posts and update them. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads. Today, I’m re-sharing a review of The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

The legendary Hotel Del Coronado off the coast of San Diego, California is the picturesque and glamorous setting for this story of a ghost, movie stars, mystery, chasing a dream, and romance.

Hotel Del Coronado

Picture of the Hotel Del Coronado from their website

In 1958, Kate Morton, a teenager living in San Francisco, seizes her chance to escape from the demands of working in her family’s struggling restaurant to impulsively travel alone to Coronado in response to her ailing grandfather’s plea to find “the beautiful stranger” and to also search for a job at the hotel which will enable her to dream of a new life. A few surprises await her: the true identity of the beautiful stranger, a family mystery, celebrity encounters, and romance.

Continue here for my full review of The Beautiful Strangers ….



QOTD:

Have you read The Beautiful Strangers or is it on your TBR?

Hana Khan Carries On [Book Review]

April 13, 2021

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

Hana Khan Carries On (cover) Image: a woman in a head covering holds a mic

Genre/Categories/Setting: Contemporary Fiction, Canada, Muslim, Complicated Family Drama, Love Story, Prejudice, #OwnVoices

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Thank you, #NetGalley @BerkleyPub #BerkleyWritesStrongWomen #BerkleyBuddyReads for a complimentary e ARC of #HanaKhanCarriesOn upon my request. All opinions are my own.

Hana Khan is an energetic, hard-working, and loyal young adult living with her family in a suburb of Toronto,  Canada. She has a big dream to make it in broadcasting. Hana takes on a lot of responsibility by working part-time in her family’s struggling halal restaurant, holds down an internship in a local radio station where she has conflicting views about cultural content with her boss, and produces her own podcast (anonymously). She strikes up a virtual friendship with one of her listeners and they both use fake names. This virtual friendship becomes one of her main sources of support. Meanwhile, her family’s small restaurant is struggling to survive financially. It doesn’t help when a new corporate halal restaurant is planning to open just down the street. Will her family’s restaurant be able to withstand the competition? Will Hana be able to come up with strategies to face the competition and help her family with everything else she has going on? Will Hana ever be on friendly terms with the restaurant’s new (and attractive) owner? How will Hana use her voice?

My Thoughts:

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The Rose Code [Book Review]

April 9, 2021

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (cover) Image: a woman in a rose colored dress stands with her back to the camera facing a gold machine

Genre/Categories/Settings: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, WW11, London, Code Breakers, Espionage, Mystery

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

“Duty, honor, oaths–they are not just for soldiers–not just for men.”

Popular historical fiction author Kate Quinn brings us a thrilling story about three female code-breakers who work at Bletchley Park outside London during WW11. This is a story filled with aspirations, determination, courage, betrayal, and secrecy. 

All about Bletchley Park for history buffs…

My Thoughts:

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Wartime Sisters [Book Review] #ThrowBackThursday

April 8, 2021

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman
#throwbackthursday

The Wartime Sisters y Lydia Cohen Loigman (cover) Image: 2 women walk away from the camera in their seamed stockings

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11 America, Siblings, Complicated Family Drama, Jewish, Secrets

In 2020, I decided to systematically revisit my older review posts and update them. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads. Today, I’m re-sharing a review of Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Sisters…resentment…jealousy…misunderstanding…competition…secrets…

“In the early days of WW11, two estranged sisters are reunited at the Springfield, Massachusetts Armory. Ruth is the older sister and an officer’s wife and the younger sister Millie is a single mom who, in desperation, seeks refuge in her sister’s home and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” This living arrangement isn’t ideal, but the younger sister has no other family after the death of their parents and the disappearance of her abusive husband. The relationship between the sisters is tense and filled with resentment, jealousy, misunderstanding, competition, and secrets.”

Continue here for my full review of The Wartime Sisters ….



QOTD:

Have you read The Wartime Sisters or is it on your TBR?

The Last Bookshop in London [Book Review] #BlogTour

April 7, 2021

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin (cover) Image: a young woman stands beside a wall of bbookshelves near a window through which Big Ben and three WW11 planes are visible

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, London, Books About Books, “might also be a love story”

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Thank you for my invitation to participate in the 2021 Historical Fiction Blog Tour for The Last Bookshop in London. Thanks, #NetGalley @HarlequinBooks for my complimentary e ARC of #TheLastBookshopInLondon by @MadelineMMartin upon my request. All opinions are my own.

Historical Fiction Blog Tour (4 covers)

The Last Bookshop in London is a book about bookstores and a book about books set during the London Blitz during WW11. Grace Bennett has always wanted to move to the city, but the life she finds is not nearly what she expected as she hunts for a job, endures air raid shelters, and puts up black-out curtains. The only job she can find is at Primrose Hill, a dusty, old bookstore with a curmudgeonly owner. Grace, not sure she even loves reading that much, organizes and cleans the bookshop, gradually develops a love for books, enjoys a friendly relationship with a handsome and well-read customer named George, finds ways she can contribute to the war effort and the book community, and discovers the power of storytelling during the most difficult times.

The magic of reading in George’s words:

“Reading is going somewhere without ever taking a train or ship, an unveiling of new incredible worlds. It’s living a life you weren’t born into and a chance to see something colored by someone else’s perspective. It’s learning without having to face consequences of failures, and how best to succeed.”

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (cover)

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

My Thoughts:

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10 Books Set Near Water #TopTenTuesday

April 6, 2021

10 Books Set Near Water #TopTenTuesday

Books Set Near Water (white text over a background of a father walking with his young daughter in the surf)

Image Source: Canva

Top Ten Tuesday (meme)

What is the last book you read set near water?

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Gladly Throw Into the Ocean. I had decided to skip this week’s topic, but then when I was reading other blogs today, I was inspired by What Cathy Read Next to SPIN it!

My reason for spinning the topic is 1) I don’t enjoy revisiting/promoting books that I haven’t enjoyed 2) I wouldn’t throw a book in the ocean or any water no matter how much I disliked it 3) What I dislike you might love and 4) I fear hurting an author’s feelings by calling her/him out on a dislike list.

So, ALL of these books set near water I enthusiastically recommend!

 *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Castle of Water by Duane Hucklebridge

Castaways meets Romance.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge (cover)


Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

Living off the grid.

Sea Wife by Amity Gaige (cover) Image: a quiet lagoon


Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Reflections on sea shells and life.

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (cover) black text over a blue and pink background (a seashell above the title)


The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

Historical Fiction.

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The Windsor Knot [Book Review]

April 2, 2021

The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett

The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett (cover) yellow text on a blue background...a small sihlouette of the Queen's head above the text

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Royal Family, British

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

“Her Majesty the Queen Investigates…”

The Windsor Knot is the first book in a cozy crime series in which Queen Elizabeth secretly solves crimes. In this story, a young Russian pianist appears to have committed suicide during a “dine and sleep” event at Windsor Castle. MI5 suspects foul play. Frustrated with their investigation, Queen Elizabeth with the help of her competent British Nigerian assistant private secretary begins to make discrete inquiries. The Queen is an excellent observer, an insightful problem solver, and a good judge of character. Soon, she has gathered critical information to tip off one of the investigators. No one suspects that it’s actually the Queen herself who has found the critical evidence and solved the mystery.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (Image Source: Wikipedia)

My Thoughts:

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Lost Roses [Book Review] #ThrowBackThursday

April 1, 2021

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
#throwbackthursday

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly (cover) Image: Two woman walk arm in arm under an umbrella away from the camera

Roses Background: Canva

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW1 Era, Friendship, Russia

In 2020, I decided to systematically revisit my older review posts and update them. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads. Today, I’m re-sharing a review of Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

The story of a determined “difference maker”…

“Fans of Lilac Girls will be interested in the prequel, Lost Roses, as it shares the story of Caroline Ferriday’s mother, Eliza. The story is told from three perspectives: Eliza Ferriday, a New York socialite; Sofya, a  Russian aristocrat and cousin to the Romanovs; and Varinka, a Russian peasant and fortune teller’s daughter. The story begins in 1914 when Sofya comes to the U.S. to visit her best friend, Eliza. Later when Eliza accompanies Sofya back to St. Petersburg, they find Russia on the brink of revolution. Unsettled by the conflict, Eliza escapes back to the U.S. Because her heart is with the Russian women, she creates a charity to help support women and children as they flee Russia. After some time when she hasn’t heard from Sofya, she becomes deeply concerned. Meanwhile in Russia, Sofya has hired a peasant girl, Varinka, to help with the household tasks but this decision brings additional danger. In a dramatic and tense conclusion, Eliza travels to Paris in search of Sofya while Sofya risks everything in Paris to find Varinka.”

This prequel can be read as a stand-alone.

Continue here for my full review of Lost Roses ….

Related: Goodreads review of Lilac Girls; My review of Sunflower Sisters



QOTD:

Have you read Lost Roses or is it on your TBR?