Estelle: The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs

The Apple Orchard by Susan WiggsThe Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs ( web | tweet )
Part of the Bella Vista series.
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 432
Target audience: adult
Keywords: family secrets, World War II, romance
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Other books by Susan Wiggs featured on RBR: Return to Willow Lake

Summary: In San Francisco, Tess finds success and as much happiness as possible uncovering hidden treasures for people. But mystery finds her, when single dad and winemaker Dominic seeks her out to share some news: Magnus, the grandfather she never knew she had, has suffered a fall and is in a coma. Oh right, she also has a half-sister. Tess travels to wine country, and the family’s apple orchard (Bella Vista) — a beautiful and peaceful spread of land that she will inherit when the time comes. She soon finds herself smack dab in the middle of one of her biggest projects yet.

If Bella Vista were a true destination, I would be writing this review from a plane.

(Did I mention it is next door to a vineyard and there is absolutely no cell phone service?)

Tess is a major workaholic who thinks a martini olive is a sufficient dinner. She lives alone in San Francisco but has some great friends and an awesome job uncovering antiques for their owners. (I found this career so intriguing!) When the gorgeous Dominic shows up unexpectedly at her office , he comes with unbelievable news: the grandfather she never knew existed is in serious condition at a hospital because of a fall. She also has a half-sister and stands to inherit half of an apple orchard she has never seen before.

It’s no surprise she has a panic attack right then and there.

With orders from the doctor to exercise, relax, and refrain from caffeine or alcohol, Tess begrudgingly travels to Bella Vista to find out just what’s going on with this mysterious “family.” At Bella Vista, she finds utter paradise: a place rich with her own family history, at peace with nature, and brimming with secrets. (As you can imagine, all this “quiet” makes our city girl very nervous.) Tess can’t help but grow attached to the place, despite her own belief that she doesn’t belong there. She finds a quiet camaraderie with her sister, Isabel (an impressive chef who chose to stay close to home), and a growing connection to Dominic. (Banker by day, winemaker by night, divorcee and executor of Magnus’ will.)

Unfortunately, a pretty terrible secret threatens the livelihood of many who work at Bella Vista and also the family’s legacy. Without Magnus to give them any answers, Tess taps into her day job to find a happy ending for everyone.

This is where The Apple Orchard starts to depend on shifts between past and present to catch readers up on the histories of many of these characters, including Magnus’ childhood during World War II and the tragedy he experienced, as well as Tess’s mom and the real story of her pregnancy. (One that she has managed to keep buried for 29 years.) The historical fiction portions of the story were really great to read and Wiggs develops the family lineage really well (even if there are a few too many coincidences); her inclusion of these mysteries and journeys into the past make The Apple Orchard more than just your typical fluffy read.

So what about the romance? Tess is your typical “afraid of commitment and opening herself up to someone” female heroine while Dominic is divorced (crazy ex!) with two small kids. He’s known around town as a total caregiver (he loves to save dogs) and Tess, well, she needs a little caring in her life. I really liked their teasing and how supportive he was when Tess was thrown into a crazy situation. Plus all their sweet moments revolved around wine, which is just instantaneously sexy to me.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my time with The Apple Orchard. Despite a few issues (not enough POV changes and some predictability), there’s certainly a little bit of everything for any reader — mystery, love, historical elements, and family — and the addition of delicious sounding recipes doesn’t hurt either.

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The Big Kids’ Table: Four Fiction Picks for April + May

big kids' table - adult fiction feature on rather be reading

April 12 already and time for another fun group of adult fiction recommendations for your bookshelf. This comes at a good time because Galley Cat reported yesterday that Adult Hardcover sales are DOWN 7%. So do yourself and everyone else a favor and buy a grown up book, okay? It’s the perfect way to kick off the weekend!

Let’s get down to business!

Today I’m happy to bring Ginger from GReads! with her own adult book recommendation! (And it’s one near and dear to my heart… you’ll see!)

Big Kids Table Blogger Choice GReadsBooks

Why she picked it up? I was about to go on a long plane ride to Seattle for vacation last summer and was talking to Estelle about which books to bring with me.  Since the purpose of my trip was music related (I had won a giveaway from one of my favorite bands – SafetySuit – and was traveling to Seattle to see their show, plus check out the birth place of 90s alternative/grunge scene), so a music themed book was a great recommendation on her part!  At the time I was mostly reading YA, but wanted to venture into more Adult titles.  This book portrayed a lot of the same themes such as music, romance, tension, and humor that I enjoy in YA, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Plus look at that cover!  With my concert tickets in my back pocket, I thought reading a book with them on the cover was too perfect.
What’s it about: Eliza works in the music business and Paul wants to be IN the music business.  These two characters meet when Eliza moves to the city to further her career as a music journalist.  She meets Paul through her brother’s band and is firmly told to stay away.  He’s every bit the bad news boy rocker and he will only use her and pull her down with him.  Yet isn’t it when we’re told not to have something, we only end up wanting it that much more?  These two crazy kids embark on an intense, passionate relationship that rises just as both of their careers do, but can plummet at any moment as quickly as it began.  Just when you think the music business has chewed, swallowed, and spit them back out, the story takes an interesting turn.  Will Eliza and Paul’s relationship outlast the intense pressures of it all, or will they crumble and fall? This story had me laughing hysterically at one moment, only to be swooning with love the next.
Three words to describe: Intense. Sexy. Amusing.
Last few awesome reads: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare; Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo; Golden by Jessi Kirby
Add How to Be a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo to Goodreads | Check it out on Amazon! (It’s $7.99 for your Kindle — a total bargain!)
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Here are a few fun sounding fiction books that I scouted from Publishers Weekly reviews! (Funnily enough, when I finished making my list… I felt like they were all books the lovely Ginger would get a kick out of! Purely coincidental!)
No Strings Attached by Kate Angell
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Goodreads description: As a professional volleyball player, Dune Cates attracts scores of pretty women who flock to his side. But only one has managed to get under his skin–Sophie Saunders. Unlike the skimpily-clad beach groupies, Sophie marches to a beat all her own. And though she’s afraid of the surf, burns in the sun, has two left feet, that doesn’t stop her from trying every daring sport available on the boardwalk. Dune knows Sophie spells trouble, and he should keep his distance, especially since he’s a no-strings-attached kind of guy. But he can’t ignore an overwhelming instinct to protect her. And with the promise of ice cream sandwiches, merry-go-round rides and dreamy sunsets, it’s only a matter of time before Dune gives in to the temptation of Sophie’s soft lips.
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The Look of Love by Bella Andre
Release Date: May 8, 2013
Goodreads description: Chloe Peterson has vowed never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Her reasons are as vivid as the bruises on her cheek. So when her car skids off a wet country road straight into a ditch, she’s convinced the gorgeous guy who rescues her must be too good to be true. As a successful international photographer, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women. He’s satisfied with his life—until he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley.
The Star Attraction by Alison Sweeney
You might recognize Alison Sweeney from her stint as the host of The Biggest Loser. Both PW and Kirkus gave Alison some awesome reviews on her debut!
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Goodreads description: Sophie is a Hollywood publicist who has a fabulous job, a fabulous boyfriend, and a fabulous life. She even scores her PR firm’s most important actor client and every woman’s dream—Billy Fox. But will a steamy make-out session in a restaurant alley with her big-name client cost Sophie her job? And does she really want an escape from her life and her loving, if imperfect, relationship with her investment banker boyfriend?
And if you are looking for something already OUT on bookshelves, be sure to pick up The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen: best friends reunite, Jamaica, a hurricane? The stuff great fiction is made of!
The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen
I reviewed it a few weeks ago here! (If you need more convincing…)
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I loved all your suggestions last month! I hope you have some more for me! So tell me, what are you reading?

Estelle: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren GrahamSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham ( tweet )
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 352
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: NYC in the 90s, acting, success
Format read: ARC from NetGalley via Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Franny always dreamed of being an actress (preferably working in the theatre). After college, she sets a three-year goal to make it in the entertainment industry in New York City. With six months left to get the ball rolling, Franny’s not sure she’s any closer to making her big break.

There’s a certain amount of trepidation when a celebrity writes a book. Especially a celebrity you really like: one you’ve seen in both her hit television shows and singing and dancing on Broadway. As an extension of your fandom, you want to like everything else they do. Right? But the fear! The fear!

Friends, I tell you: fear not and get your hands on a copy of Someday, Someday, Maybe as soon as you can.

It’s hard to hack it in New York City. And no one knows that better than Franny. Sometimes the city can feel oh-so magical, and other times it can chew you up and spit you out. With six months left to go in her self-created goal to become an actress, her “big break” comes unexpectedly when she messes up her scene in a showcase for her acting class. Soon she has an agent (although maybe he’s not the perfect fit), and a spot on a TV show (even though there’s no air date), and James Franklin, an actor who has had actual roles in movies (!!), is looking her way.

This is SO happening, right?

Well, kind of. Graham shapes a really great story around a 27-year old who doesn’t have it all figured out. One minute her phone is ringing with opportunities and other times it’s like they forgot her number. She thinks about going home and being an English teacher (like her dad) or finally settling down in the suburbs with Clark (her sort of boyfriend). She bumps into other friends who are her age and successful while she’s working some crummy part-time job to pay her rent. There aren’t enough books written about people in their late 20s who may not be on a straight and narrow path, and I really appreciated how Franny could strike gold one day and be flailing the next. (So relatable!)

Set in 1990, every few chapters begin with a glimpse into Franny’s datebook (cheese puffs, call backs, rent checks, a tally of margaritas drank in a night) and messages left on her answering machine (some of the best are from her adorable dad).  There are also a few tongue-in-cheek NYC jokes that made me giggle. Best of all, though, were her roommates: best friend from college, Jane, who was the kind of friend who nicknamed all of Franny’s boyfriends and could tell her she’s watching too much Leeza (do you remember that show?) and Dan, an engaged guy and budding writer, quietly working on some science fiction while sipping a beer. We never get to spend an unbelievable amount of time with either (it was so well-balanced) but I loved how close you could see Jane and Franny were, and ya know, for some reason, I kept on rooting for the endearing Dan who had much more in common with Franny than she realized.

When I first started the book, I did struggle with the fact that it was so heavy into the acting. How am I going to relate to this? I thought. But pretty soon after that, Someday, Someday, Maybe, came to be about so much more. When we are little kids we are taught we can be anything, but I don’t think the reality hits that maybe that won’t come true or it’s harder than we think until we are knee deep in it. Not to mention the discovery that not everyone takes the same path. There really is no right one, no matter how many naysayers you encounter. It’s really nice to have a book that explores that other side.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is so charming, so authentic, and so special.

Also I dare you to read this without picturing Franny as Lauren Graham. Go ahead. I, indeed, failed this challenge.

Note: I found out after I finished that Jennifer E. Smith (This is What Happy Looks Like) was the editor of this book. Really. Can this book get any better?

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Estelle + Magan: Nailed It (+ Giveaway)

Happy Tuesday, friends! Unfortunately this new feature was a casualty of our server issues from last week. Originally, we planned to post this last Sunday but here we are today instead! (In the future, look for a Nailed It post celebrating upcoming releases every three to four weeks!)

Here’s the story: We both have Julep Maven nail polish subscriptions and are (quite frequently) purchasing new colors. We have serious, serious addictions. (We both have very incriminating photographs of our polish collections. Eeep!) As we’re gearing up for warmer weather, summer reads, tans, and lots of sunshine, we decided to pick polish colors to pair with a book we’re each looking forward to. Our selections for April are…

Estelle’s Pick:

The timing for this post actually worked out because you will get to read my review of Someday, Someday, Maybe TOMORROW. Actress Lauren Graham has penned her fiction debut, and it was such a pleasure to read. I know the cover is a little muted when you think of summer colors but there are so many hidden gems of color when you really give it a look. Just like the book. Set in New York, I like there are a few lighter tones with a pop of red. It makes it fancy and a little glamorous.

My Julep color selections are: Julianne | Rose | Helen

Estelle Nailed It Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

 

Giving these colors a second glance, I want to push the YES button and buy them. The colors are definitely versatile enough to get you through the entire year!

Don’t forget to check out Someday, Someday, Maybe + stop in tomorrow and read my review!

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Magan’s Pick:

The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise stands out to me because of the colorful, bright cover.  And of course, if you read the book summary, it involves kissing lots of boys + a girl that’s amazingly talented (read: a smarty pants) and is developing an app to win a scholarship + she’s about to enter college (yay, older characters!). I’m guessing there are going to be some mishaps along the way, and hopefully a boy that she falls in love with!

My Julep color selections are: Susan | Portia | Amy

I would apply the pink on my toes because how cute would this color be with flip flops or sandals? So girly! And I would use the blues on my fingernails to do an accent nail with Portia. I personally own Amy, but dang, now I want all of them!

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Win a Julep Nail Polish Color

Because this is SUCH an obsession of ours, we want to spread the love. (And aren’t you so excited for your nails to have a pop of color?) One winner will receive a Julep nail polish color of their choice. Enter by telling us which color (of those we’ve listed above) you’d like to win in the comments below. The contest is only internationally to anyone over the age of 13.

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One last thing! Be sure to check out Mandee over at the BookishManicurist where she makes unbelievable pieces of art with her nails to correspond with the books she is reading/reviewing. It’s pretty unbelievable and she has the best nail polishing tips in town!

Thanks for stopping by Rather Be Reading today!