Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: The Confusion of Languages

The Confusion of Languages
Siobhan Fallon
Published June 27, 2017
A searing debut novel from the award-winning author of You Know When the Men are Gone, about jealousy, the unpredictable path of friendship, and the secrets kept in marriage, all set within the U.S. expat community of the Middle East during the rise of the Arab Spring.

Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that's about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie's become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret's toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie's boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn't Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret's apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend's whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret's disappearance.- from Goodreads
Cassie and Margaret are military wives living in Jordan in 2011.  After getting into a minor car accident, Margaret goes to the police station, leaving her son Mather with Cassie.  After several hours, she still hasn't returned, leaving Cassie to wonder where she is and what has happened to her.  When Cassie finds Margaret's diary, she realizes Margaret has been keeping many secrets from her.

Most of the story takes place over the course of one night, after Margaret has gone to the police station.  Excerpts from Margaret's diary fill in many blanks for both the reader and Cassie, as we learn more about Margaret's short time in Jordan and Cassie finds out what Margaret really thinks of her. 

The friendship between Margaret and Cassie is at the center of the story.  While the two women have some things in common (both are having issues in their marriages), they are very different from one another.  Cassie, having lived in Jordan for two years, feels she knows the area and culture well; she is very much a rule follower and takes seriously the parameters set up by the embassy.  At times, though, she seems overly suspicious of people around her.  She is controlling and prickly and comes across as almost desperate for a friendship with Margaret, or anyone really.

Margaret, however, is more of a free spirit.  She is very open with new people and wants to fully experience life in Jordan.  At times I couldn't tell if she was willfully ignorant or just naïve - no matter how times Cassie warned her about her behavior or clothing choices, especially around men, Margaret didn't seem to get it.  She didn't seem to understand the ramifications her actions could have, or maybe she didn't really believe anything bad would happen, that Cassie was just being overly cautious.  I wasn't necessarily surprised by what happens to Margaret at the end of the book, but the route it took to get there and what was revealed did surprise me. 

The setting of Jordan was a unique one for me; I don't read too many stories set in the Middle East.  Fallon did a great job in educating the reader on the nuances of the culture and people of Jordan, most likely inspired by her own experience living there as a military wife.

4 stars

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Prince in Disguise

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Stephanie Kate Strohm
Expected publication date: December 19, 2017
Someday I want to live in a place where I never hear “You’re Dusty’s sister?” ever again.

Life is real enough for Dylan—especially as the ordinary younger sister of Dusty, former Miss Mississippi and the most perfect, popular girl in Tupelo. But when Dusty wins the hand of the handsome Scottish laird-to-be Ronan on the TRC television network’s crown jewel, Prince in Disguise, Dylan has to face a different kind of reality: reality TV.

As the camera crew whisks them off to Scotland to film the lead-up to the wedding, camera-shy Dylan is front and center as Dusty’s maid of honor. The producers are full of surprises—including old family secrets, long-lost relatives, and a hostile future mother-in-law who thinks Dusty and Dylan’s family isn’t good enough for her only son. At least there’s Jamie, an adorably bookish groomsman who might just be the perfect antidote to all Dylan’s stress . . . if she just can keep TRC from turning her into the next reality show sensation.
- from Goodreads

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Nonfiction November 2017: Seeking Stories of Female Heroes

This week's Nonfiction November prompt is "be the expert/ask the expert/become the expert," hosted by Sophisticated Dorkiness.  Since I am a self-admitted expert of nothing, today I'm seeking out your recommendations!  History books are filled with stories of men doing heroic and important things, but it's only been in recent years that there has been a push towards the female contribution.  I want to read the previously untold stories of women who have done amazing things, who have made great contributions without recognition, who worked behind-the-scenes or performed tasks you wouldn't normally have thought women would do.

I have three books currently on my TBR to help me with my quest:
So now I throw it to you, fellow readers - what are some of your favorite nonfiction reads about unsung female heroes?  What women do I need to know about?

Monday, November 13, 2017

#sorrynotsorry: I Read The Last Page First

We're all friends here, right?  So I can confess to what some might consider to be a reading sin without being judged too much, right??  Here goes...

I read the last page of the book first.  #sorrynotsorry

I first made this confession when I did The Blog Squad Tag awhile back, and I got a bit of a mixed reaction, so I thought it would be a great discussion post to talk about WHY I spoil books for myself!

First, I should start by saying that this desire to know the ending first doesn't just apply to books, it spills over into other areas of my life.  If we're streaming a movie on Netflix, five minutes in I'm on Wikipedia reading the entire plot synopsis.  *Spoiler alerts* mean nothing to me; it will almost never deter me from reading an article, review, or blog post about a tv show, movie, book, anything really.

So why do I read the last page first?  I think it started out innocently enough.  I always check the number of pages a chapter is before I start reading it, because I hate stopping in the middle.  I think this naturally progressed to checking how long the entire book was and, well, sneak peeks happen.  I'm also the type of reader who enjoys reading the acknowledgments, which often happen to fall at the back of the book, and for some reason I typically read them first - so I may or may not come across the last page of the book while searching for them! 

Now, part of the reason I read the last page first is that I have no willpower.  If I come across the last page, sometimes I can't stop myself from reading it.  I'm also really impatient, and I just want to know how the book ends NOW.  I don't like surprises - for instance, if the book features a love triangle, I want to know ahead of time who the main character is going to pick.  Or if something sad is coming up, I want to be prepared.  I like being "in the know" - if for some reason I DNF the book, I still want to know how it ends.

So, I'm sure there is someone out there who will say, "What good is knowing the ending if it won't make sense without the context of the rest of the book?"  I say it's fine, because I can read the book knowing what the end goal is, what the author is working towards in the story, and I still get to experience the journey.

Be honest - who else reads the last page first?  Why do you spoil books for yourself?  What are some of your bookish confessions?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Review: When The English Fall

When the English Fall
David Williams
Published July 11, 2017
When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. Once-bright skies are now dark. Planes have plummeted to the ground. The systems of modern life have crumbled. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the peaceable community.

Seen through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob as he tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive? - from Goodreads
When the English Fall is not your typical disaster story.  Told from the point of view of an Amish farmer, this short, quiet story really took me by surprise.

Jacob and his family are part of an Amish community in Pennsylvania.  Jacob is a farmer, but he also makes custom wood furniture, so he occasionally has contact with English (non-Amish) people.  When a solar flare knocks out all electronics, the Amish community is threatened by outsiders.

The point of view of this story is so unique - normally when I read disaster stories, they are about regular people like me trying to come to grips with a "new normal."  But other than a community refrigerator and a washing machine, the Amish in this story rely very little on electronic devices and are a self-sufficient, somewhat isolated community.  The loss of power and dwindling food supplies outside their borders initially have little effect on them.

Instead of getting a first-hand account of how the aftermath of the solar flare is affecting the population, we get rumors and sparse information as Jacob does, from an Amish community member who traverses the area on horseback.  As the book goes on, the stories get more desperate and even dangerous.  The Amish are approached by the military to donate food, but as society breaks down, the community is attacked by outsiders.

The faith-based POV was another intriguing aspect to the story.  The Amish community wonders how much they should be helping the English, if they have a duty to help society as a whole or even those individuals who come to them seeking help.  There's also the issue of defending themselves when they are normally opposed to violence.  It must have been a struggle for Jacob and the others to hear the sounds of gunfire near their farms but not want to pick up their own guns.

The story is in diary form and has a very simple writing style, which at times made the story all the more powerful.  For example, Jacob describes watching the beauty of the solar flare across the sky, but then he sees planes falling out of the air - it gave me chills. Told over the course of just a couple months, the story had an open ending that made me think about the fates of Jacob and his family long after I finished reading.

The only quibbles I had with the book were that, at fewer than 250 pages, it was quite short and could have been expanded upon in certain areas, and there was a bit of a sci-fi feeling with premonitions coming from Jacob's daughter, Sadie.  For me, they just didn't really fit with the rest of the story.

4 stars

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Foolish Hearts

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Emma Mills
Expected publication date: December 5, 2017
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Nonfiction November 2017: Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings

This week's Nonfiction November topic is fiction/nonfiction book pairings, hosted by Sarah's Book Shelves!  I came up with three pairings to share with you all!

It's no secret around here that I'm a huge Tudor fan, and Anne Boleyn is my favorite of Henry's many wives - but what about her sister, Mary?  Although not an actual Tudor herself, I still find her to be a fascinating historical figure, and I thought it would be fun to pair a biography of Mary Boleyn with a fictionalized account of her life.
My love for royal families continues to the modern British throne.  I remember exactly where I was when I heard Princess Diana had died, and I was very deeply affected by it.  I haven't read this biography yet, but it's on my TBR.  I paired it with The Royal We, a fictionalized version of the love story between Prince William and Kate Middleton.
For my last pairing, I matched up Isaac's Storm, a chronicle of the disastrous and deadly hurricane in Galveston, Texas, in 1900 with The Uncertain Season, which takes place in Galveston after the hurricane.
Have you read any of these?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Who Is The Literary Wanderer?

I like getting to know the bloggers behind my favorite blogs, and I'm hoping you all do, as well!  Yes, you can visit the About Me page, but today I wanted to introduce myself, give a little background, and explain how I came up with my blog name.

Who am I?
I'm Angela, a 30-something who lives in New Jersey with my husband, Tom.  By day, I'm a legal assistant.  At practically any other time, you can find me with my nose in a book.  I've been a huge reader for as long as I can remember.  My parents introduced me to books at a young age and they've always encouraged me to read.  I love books from a wide range of genres and I'm willing to try almost anything once - mystery, thriller, contemporary fiction, YA, chick lit, and fantasy are all genres I'm reading lately.  For a look at how my genre preferences have changed over the years, check out this post. 

And when I'm not reading...
If I'm not reading, you can find me...
  • watching trashy reality shows.  If it features "real housewives," I'm probably watching it.
  • taking a long walk or finding a new hiking trail.  My dad instilled in me a love of the outdoors when I was younger, and in recent years Tom and I have really enjoyed exploring new places and finding different places to hike.  Sometimes we even plan our vacations around what parks we can visit.
  • taking pictures.  I pretty much always have a camera with me, and I love taking photos.  I enjoy landscape photography, but I've also been getting into portraits and candid photography at family events.  My sister and her family are gracious enough to let me practice on them! 

So why "The Literary Wanderer"?
In 2015, I started to read a lot of book blogs, mostly to check out reviews.  I saw the different reading challenges the bloggers were participating in, too.  I also happened to come across Gone Hikin', where the blogger details all of her hikes.  Then, in April 2016, I had the idea to start a blog that combined both my love of reading and my love of the outdoors and talk about things that were important to me.  I wanted to be a part of this blogging community that I had been observing from the outside.  But I was really nervous - what would people think?  Would anyone even read it?  Could I actually do this?

I needed to come up with a name for this potential blog, and so "Literary Wanderer" was born:
  • literary for my love of reading and books
  • wanderer for a couple reasons - it represents my outdoor travels, but it also represents how I wander through books and even genres, and how I use reading as an escape and to visit places I might otherwise not be able to
  • As for musings?  I just like the sound of it - it's kind of whimsical!
So I launched the blog, and since then I've been having an awesome time, talking about books and sharing our travels!

Why did you start your blog?  How did you come up with your blog's name?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Review: The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away
Melissa Pimentel
Published August 22, 2017
A smart, funny, and modern retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, where a young woman comes face-to-face with a lost love, proving that the one that got away is sometimes the one you get back.

Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.

Ten years later, Ruby's single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago? Because there's nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past . . . - from Goodreads
So, I'll be honest - I've never read Jane Austen's Persuasion, so I can't comment on if this is a good retelling or not.  And, I'm wary of second-chance love stories, so I went into this with a bit of hesitation.  But - I couldn't resist that adorable cover!

Ruby is a 32-year-old career woman living in New York City.  When her sister plans a fairy-tale wedding in an English castle, Ruby finds herself face-to-face with Ethan, the boyfriend she broke up with 10 years ago and the best man in the wedding.  She thinks she could possibly still be in love with him, but does he feel the same way?  She knows she ended their relationship badly and has been hiding the true reason she broke up with him.

The story went back and forth between the days leading up to Ruby's sister's wedding and flashbacks to Ruby and Ethan's short-lived romance.  I liked the approach, but I just wanted to know what Ruby did that she felt was so bad that she couldn't tell Ethan.  And when I found out, I was a bit disappointed by the cliché reason.

The main issue I had with the story was that Ruby and Ethan haven't spoken in 10 years, yet Ruby has hinged her whole life on this relationship.  She threw herself into her career and never really opened herself back up to love, and when she sees Ethan, she is convinced she is still in love with him.  It's been a decade, and they are vastly different people at this point in their lives.  It's just a little weird that neither of them have moved on, considering their actual relationship was relatively short.  When Ruby finally admits her feelings for Ethan and the true reason she broke up with him, it's like what she did didn't even matter.  The whole thing is glossed over in literally the last 10 pages or so.  The story ended way too abruptly and neatly.

But, there were high points to this book.  I loved the secondary characters - Ruby's dad is boisterous and I like the relationship Ruby has with her stepmom.  Ruby's sister is the perfect example of a bridezilla.  The writing was very readable and quick-moving - I finished this book in just a day.  The pop culture references and snarky one-liners helped keep the story light and modern.  If you're looking for a quick, easy read, you may enjoy this one.

3 stars

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Renegades

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Renegades (Renegades #1)
Marissa Meyer
Expected publication date: November 7, 2017
Secret Identities.
Extraordinary Powers.
She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone...except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Weasleys: A Truly Magical Family

For some reason, I always think of Harry Potter in the fall.  I don't know if it's all the wizards, witches, and magic that remind me of Halloween or what, but I was inspired to write a post about one of my favorite magical families, the Weasleys!  There are so many reasons to love this wizarding family...

Their willingness to forgive
Unlike some other wizarding families, who cast out and shun family members who don't agree with them, the Weasleys value all their members.  When Percy distances himself, refusing to believe that Voldemort has returned, the Weasleys don't cut him off.  They still love him and worry about him.  And when he realizes he was wrong, they welcome him back, and he helps the family in the Battle of Hogwarts.

They would do anything for each other
The best example of this is Molly Weasley killing Bellatrix Lestrange after she tried to hurt Ginny.  But it also extends to honorary family members Harry and Hermione.  Ron sticks up for Hermione against Draco Malfoy, and the family is an integral part of moving Harry from the Dursley home to the Burrow on his 17th birthday, despite the serious danger they were all put in.

They don't discriminate
Being a pureblood family means a lot in the wizarding world, but the Weasleys don't tout this status.  They treat everyone with the same respect, as long as they deserve it.  They fully embrace Muggle-born Hermione, inviting her to stay at their home and celebrating her achievements (and of course, we know she marries Ron!).  Arthur Weasley is actually fascinated by Muggles, their devices, and how they manage without magic.  Even when it comes to Harry Potter, they're still down-to-earth.  Although at first they are a bit stunned by his "celebrity" status, they soon treat him like just another member of the family.

Their gifts are always from the heart
It's no secret that the large Weasley family doesn't have a lot of money; in fact, they're often mocked for it.  But that doesn't stop Mrs. Weasley from giving her kids Christmas gifts each year.  Her thoughtful gifts of mince pies, candy, and personalized sweaters show that one can be thrifty yet still give meaningful gifts.  And I love that they always include Harry, who never really got Christmas gifts before he met them.  Even if there weren't gifts, the Weasley household never lacks in love and cheer.

They're just like us, in a lot of ways
What makes the Weasley family so special to me is that J.K. Rowling has created a family that is still normal, despite the fact that they can do some pretty serious magic.  Molly Weasley is the harried wife and mother, taking care of everyone.  The siblings taunt each other (and their mother).  The twins are rebellious jokesters.  They're a real family, with highs and lows just like anyone else.

I know I'm not the only one who loves this family, so what are some of your favorite things about the Weasley family?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Nonfiction November 2017: Introduction Post

When I saw Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves promoting the upcoming Nonfiction November back at the beginning of October, I was really excited.  I hadn't heard of this blogging event before, but nonfiction is a genre I enjoy and never seem to read enough of, so I wanted to participate!

This week of introductions and a look back at our personal year in nonfiction is hosted by JulzReads.  My nonfiction reading this year has been pretty sparse, unfortunately!  I've read four memoirs (even though I'm not normally crazy about this particular sub-genre).



I chose these particular memoirs mostly because of the person behind the book, either they personally or their story interested me in some way.  I've had mixed reactions to them, but if I had to recommend one, it would be Anna Kendrick's book.  She's funny and relatable, and I enjoyed this one even more than I expected.
I also listened to my first audiobook, comedian Jim Gaffigan's Food: A Love Story.  If you've never heard Gaffigan's bits on Hot Pockets, go listen and I dare you not to bust out laughing.
I wanted to participate in Nonfiction November to broaden my horizons a bit when it comes to this genre.  I gravitate towards celebrity memoirs or certain historical events, and I want to get some recommendations from the book blog community!  I'm not even totally sure what I'm looking for, I just know there's so much out there that I'm missing!  I also want to use this month to commit myself to reading at least two nonfiction books in the coming weeks.  High priorities for me are:

What are some of your favorite nonfiction reads?  Are you into memoirs, history, true crime?

Friday, October 27, 2017

2017 Backlist Reader Challenge: October Roundup

I used this month to make one final push to finish the last three books on my TBR for the 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge, hosted by Lark at The Bookwyrm's Hoard!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)

Rebecca is the classic story of a newly-married woman who realizes that her husband's late wife is still a huge presence in their home.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this book; it has so many elements I like.  For some reason, I thought this was going to be scarier or even have a ghostly element, but it didn't.  However, I still loved it.

I identified a lot with the unnamed narrator.  She is so socially awkward, even going to great lengths sometimes to hide from visitors to her home.  And she has a very vivid imagination, creating entire scenarios and conversations in her head.  She is timid and shy, but by the end of the book, she has really come out of her shell.  I felt so bad for her during the course of the story, when everyone keeps comparing her to her husband's first wife, Rebecca - even to her face!  It was kind of rude!

Two other characters really stood out for me - the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (this woman was seriously mental) and Manderley itself, the stately home owned by the narrator's husband.  The descriptions of the house and surrounding grounds, although a bit long-winded at times, helped create a vivid picture in my mind, and I really felt Rebecca's presence, from the way certain rooms were decorated to how the servants ran the estate.

At times early on the story felt a bit slow, but as more secrets were revealed, the pace picked up quite a bit and I found I couldn't put it down!  4 stars

The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #11) by Louise Penny (2015)

In the 11th installment of the series, the search for a missing child leads to an almost unbelievable discovery in the woods near Three Pines. When the body of young Laurent is found, at first it seems like an accident, but Gamache realizes that the child has been murdered, and it may have something to do with the enormous weapon they find in the woods.

Gamache and the residents stumble on the Supergun, a larger-than-life weapon designed with enough power to shoot projectiles into space.  It sounds a bit ridiculous, but it's actually based on a true story, according to the Author's Note.  It was interesting to see how Penny broadened the focus of the story and introduced many new characters.

There is a subplot involving a play to be performed by the residents of Three Pines.  The play, as it turns out, was written by a serial killer, and there is an interesting debate on whether they should continue on with the play: should plays or books be judged by their writers?  Or should readers separate the two and just focus on the merits of the work itself?

As always, Penny's writing is amazing.  She has such a talent for subtlety and elegance.  I love how she doesn't come right out and tell the readers everything; she lets us draw our own conclusions, based on the mood of the scenes and the words she's carefully chosen.  4 stars

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)

I really wanted to love this book; it's such a beloved story, it takes place during WWII, and it's about a little girl's love for books - all these things should have made this a fantastic read for me.  But guys, I could NOT get into this story, and I DNFed it at page 150. 

Unpopular opinion time.  The writing style did not work for me; it felt so choppy.  I didn't feel like the story was going anywhere, or that there was even much of a plot.  It just felt like a bunch of anecdotes strung together.  And the language used was often too poetic.

So that's it!  Challenge completed!  At the end of the year, I'll have a wrap-up of the challenge, the books I loved, the books I didn't, and what I learned.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Everything You Came to See

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Everything You Came to See
Elizabeth Schulte Martin
Expected publication date: January 2, 2018
Set just before the millennium in the dusty world of fire-eaters, tightrope walkers, and contortionists, Everything You Came to See follows Henry Bell, a talented new performer with a small traveling circus. Henry left behind the only family he ever knew, but among the other performers—and on the stage—he’s found a new home.

Though the circus was once a larger attraction, audiences have grown sparse and Caleb Baratucci, the show’s manager, knows they are on the verge of bankruptcy. Still, he’s determined to revive the circus—if only for the sake of the performers—and provide for his wife, Adrienne, a retired giantess facing a dangerous surgery.

Recovering at home and no longer a headlining act, Adrienne finds herself longing for the comfort of her circus family. When Henry strikes up a friendship with her, Adrienne’s loneliness eases, but Caleb senses that Henry’s feelings run deeper, and if not managed wisely, they could set off a chain of events that will threaten everyone—and everything—they hold dear. - from Goodreads
I love the circus setting of this one, and the idea of a family created from the performers also intrigues me!

Monday, October 23, 2017

4 Things I Want to Do Because of Recent Reads

I think we've all wanted to visit the settings of our favorite books or to try something new or different because of something we've read about in a book - at least, I hope it's not just me!  So, here are four things I'm adding to my to-do list, inspired by stories I've recently read.

When I was a teenager, we did a fair amount of camping around the northeast.  While I enjoyed it at the time, as an adult I've been reluctant to break out a tent and sleeping bag and spend a night or two under the stars.  Enter glamping - "glamorous camping."  Luxury tents, pods, or cabins, easily accessible restrooms, sometimes even gourmet meals - you can be outdoorsy but in the utmost comfort!  I wanted to try glamping after reading about it in Sophie Kinsella's My Not So Perfect Life.  The main character's father starts a glamping business on his farm, and it just sounds like so much fun!  Now, to start looking for glamping sites near me!

Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite books, so I was really excited to read A Touch of Stardust  by Kate Alcott, which partially takes place on the set of the movie.  It was so fun to read about the behind-the-scenes stuff, about the casting or how different scenes were filmed.  I haven't seen the movie in years (I'm not even sure if I've actually seen the whole thing!), but reading about it makes me want to watch it and swoon over Clark Gable/Rhett Butler!


In The Forever Summer, Marin discovers that her father isn't really her biological father based on the results of a fluke DNA test that show a very different heritage than his own.  Now, I'm not in the same situation as Marin, but I would like to take one of those DNA tests that give you more specific information on your ethnicity and genealogy.  Of course, I have an idea of where my ancestors came from, but it would be cool to know if those things match up.


So many of Elin Hilderbrand's books take place on Nantucket, an island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Her stories make me want to visit this quaint community - the beaches, the fresh seafood, the charming architecture.  Even though I do get seasick quite easily, I'm still drawn to all things nautical.  I love the whole vibe - Nantucket has so much history, but it's also quite trendy, with cute shops and restaurants.  It just seems like an idyllic place to spend a few days!

Have you done any of these things?  What things have you added to your bucket list because you read about them in a book?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: The It Girls

The It Girls
Karen Harper
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017

One sailed the Titanic and started a fashion empire . . .

The other overtook Hollywood and scandalized the world . . .

Together, they were unstoppable.

They rose from genteel poverty, two beautiful sisters, ambitious, witty, seductive. Elinor and Lucy Sutherland are at once each other’s fiercest supporters and most vicious critics.

Lucy transformed herself into Lucile, the daring fashion designer who revolutionized the industry with her flirtatious gowns and brazen self-promotion. And when she married Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon her life seemed to be a fairy tale. But success came at many costs—to her marriage and to her children . . . and then came the fateful night of April 14, 1912 and the scandal that followed.

Elinor’s novels titillate readers, and it’s even asked in polite drawing rooms if you would like to “sin with Elinor Glyn?” Her work pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable; her foray into the glittering new world of Hollywood turns her into a world-wide phenomenon. But although she writes of passion, the true love she longs for eludes her.

But despite quarrels and misunderstandings, distance and destiny, there is no bond stronger than that of the two sisters—confidants, friends, rivals and the two “It Girls” of their day.- from Goodreads
I received an ARC for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

The It Girls tells the story of sisters Elinor Glyn, a boundary-pushing writer, and Lucille Duff-Gordon, a fashion pioneer, from their days as young girls on the brink of poverty through the success of their later years.  I expected a good historical fiction story, but the book lost me along the way.

The sisters are at the heart of this book, and their relationship was not an easy one.  At times, they were totally supportive of each other and stood up for one another through scandals; other times they were jealous of each other and argumentative, sometimes not seeing each other for years at a time.  I wanted a bit more interaction between Elinor and Lucille, but they each lead such interesting lives on their own that I could almost forgive this.  The biggest thing I knew about Lucille Duff-Gordon before reading this book was the scandal that erupted after the sinking of the Titanic, in which she and her husband were accused of bribing ship employees to not take more survivors onto their lifeboat, but I learned that both she and Elinor had many personal and professional successes and failures.

The writing is good, not great, but it's the dialogue that really hampered my reading experience.  It's cringe-worthy at times: totally too descriptive and too much telling rather than showing.  It's just not how real people talk; I think at times the author was using dialogue to fill the reader in on what happened during time gaps or to give more information, but it was hard to read.

The book covers several decades, so I expected that not everything could be covered in great detail.  However, sometimes several years pass with no warning.  For example, Lucille's daughter goes from a newborn to 7 years old in one turn of the page.  At the same time, I often felt that there was too much information.  It's obvious that Harper did extensive research on the sisters, but the inclusion of several random anecdotes made me wish she had been more discerning about what she chose to feature in the book.  These anecdotes didn't move the story forward in any way and weren't connected to anything else; they could have been left out without any effect on the story.

2.5 stars

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Expelled

James Patterson and Emily Raymond
Expected publication date: October 23, 2017
A secret Twitter account
An anonymous photo
Everyone is a suspect

Will Foster's Twitter account used to be anonymous--until someone posted The Photo that got him and three other students expelled, their futures ruined forever. But who took the picture, and why are they being targeted?

To uncover the truth, Will gets close to the suspects: the hacker, the quarterback, the bad girl, the class clown, the vice principal, and...his own best friend. What secrets are they hiding, and even worse--what do they know about each other? The terrible truth will haunt them forever.

New York Times bestselling author James Patterson brings us another fast-moving tale of suspense, with danger, romance, and twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the very last page. - from Goodreads
I received an ARC of this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

It's books like this that make me glad I'm not in high school anymore!  I didn't even go to high school that long ago, but we didn't have all these social media issues like the ones in Expelled.  A crude photo of some students is posted on Theo's (it says the MC's name is Will in the blurb, but in my ARC, it's Theo) Twitter account, and because of the school's zero tolerance policy, Theo and the identified students in the picture are all expelled.  But Theo knows he's innocent, and he wants to prove it.

Patterson and Raymond have created a group of students that may seem at first glance like typical high school cliches, but they become much more than that as the book goes on.  Theo is kind of an average kid - he gets decent grades and he sometimes writes for the school paper, but he's dealing with a lot in his home life.  His best friend Jude is an artist, Parker is a jock with a huge secret, and Sasha is a tough girl.  I thought the authors did a great job in creating these distinct characters and actually making them realistic - they act and talk like real teenagers (although Sasha can get a bit pretentious at times).

Theo has the idea to prove his innocence by making a film, questioning his "suspects" and others in order to find out what really happened and why the picture was uploaded to his Twitter feed.  I guess he wanted proof on camera, but this plot device didn't work so well for me.

In any event, what Theo discovers in his investigation was actually not what I was expecting.  I appreciated that the authors tied in bigger issues and questions about doing what is right versus doing what is popular.  However, the book dragged on a bit after this revelation, and one big bombshell right at the end of the book was completely unnecessary, in my opinion.  In a book with a lot of heavy topics, that one felt like overkill.  Overall, though, I thought this was a quick-moving, well-written story.

4 stars

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Glamorous Dead

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Glamorous Dead
Suzanne Gates
Expected publication date: October 31, 2017
Set in the dream factory of the 1940s, this glittering debut novel follows a young Hollywood hopeful into a star-studded web of scandal, celebrity, and murder . . .
The chipped pink nail polish is a dead giveaway--no pun intended. But when a human thumb is discovered near a Hollywood nightclub, it doesn't take long for the police to identify its owner. Miss Penny Harp would recognize that pink anywhere: it belongs to her best friend, Rosemary. And so does the rest of the body buried beneath it. Rosemary, with the beauty and talent, who stood out from all other extras on the Paramount lot. She was the one whose name was destined for a movie marquee--not for the obituaries. And for an extra twist, now an LAPD detective thinks Penny is the one who killed her . .
Penny is determined to prove her innocence--with a little help from an unlikely ally, the world-famous queen of film noir, Barbara Stanwyck. Penny met "Stany" on the set of Paramount's classic comedy The Lady Eve, where the star took an instant liking to her. With Stany's powerful connections and no-nonsense style, she has no trouble following clues out of the studio backlot, from the Los Angeles morgue to the Zanzibar Room to the dark, winding streets of Beverly Hills. But there's something Penny isn't telling her famous partner in crimesolving: a not-so-glamorous secret that could lead them to Rosemary's killer--or send Penny to the electric chair . . . - from Goodreads
This sounds like a really fun mystery, and I love the 1940s Hollywood setting!

Monday, October 16, 2017

TV Shows I'm Obsessed With Lately #3

The Bold Type is such a fun show about three young women who work for a Cosmo-like magazine - one is a secretary, one is a social media coordinator, and one is a writer.  It's pretty cool to see some behind-the-scenes stuff about how magazines are run, and of course, there's always lots of personal drama as well!

Based on a novel by James Patterson, Zoo is about a group of people who investigate an outbreak of violent animal attacks around the globe.  We've been binge-watching the first two seasons on Netflix and, yeah, it gets a little outlandish at times, but it's so addictive!

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of disaster stories, so when I heard about this summer series about an asteroid heading towards earth, I knew I had to watch it.  Government conspiracies, shady reporters, and confusing science abound - but if you suspend disbelief for awhile, it's actually a pretty fun show!

Are you watching any of these shows?  What have you been watching lately?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Summer House

The Summer House
Hannah McKinnon
Published June 6, 2017
Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.

No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves.- from Goodreads
Two words kept popping into my mind as I read The Summer House: relatable and nostalgic.  Flossy and Richard have invited their grown children, Paige, Sam, and Clem, to their summer house in Rhode Island to celebrate Richard's 75th birthday.  What their children don't know yet is that Flossy and Richard are planning to sell the house their family has spent generations vacationing at.

The first thing I could relate to in this book is the trouble with trying to get a lot of people together for a vacation.  In my family, sometimes we start planning a year in advance, making sure everyone can get their work and personal schedules coordinated.  It can be hard to get everyone together - people have a lot going on.  I thought Flossy was a bit hard on her kids, getting angry with them because no one had visited the shore house the previous summer.  But Clem had just lost her husband; Sam and his husband Evan are trying to adopt a baby; and Paige has a growing vet practice and some tension with her husband and teenage daughter.

The second thing I related to was the sibling relationships.  The bonds between Sam, Paige, and Clem felt so real - siblings can be best friends or worst enemies.  They know each other so well and they know what buttons to push. 

As I read this book, it brought back memories of visiting my grandparents at the shore: packing up all our stuff - snacks, chairs, and umbrellas - and dragging it to the beach.  The Merrill family has their own traditions that they lovingly follow each time they visit the summer house, like the first visit to the beach and going for a ice cream and a ride on the carousel.  No matter how long it has been since their last visit, they still follow their traditions, and these parts of the book brought out a feeling of nostalgia for me.

The beachy setting was so well-established in this book.  I felt like I was right there with the Merrill clan, smelling the salty ocean breeze, feeling the warm sand, eating the fresh seafood.  The story was very character-driven, and I loved getting to know all the members of the family.

So - this review seems a bit different from my normal reviews, but that's because this book felt like taking a walk down memory lane for me.  If you enjoy stories about families and have fond memories of your own childhood beach vacations, I think you'll love this book!

4 stars

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Unqualified

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Anna Faris
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017
Anna Faris has advice for you. And it's great advice, because she's been through it all, and she wants to tell you what she's learned. Her comic memoir and first book, Unqualified, will share Anna's candid, sympathetic, and entertaining stories of love lost and won. Part memoir, part humorous, unflinching advice from her hit podcast Anna Faris Is Unqualified, the book will reveal Anna's unique take on how to navigate the bizarre, chaotic, and worthwhile adventure of finding love.

Hilarious, authentic, and actually useful, Unqualified is the book Anna's fans have been waiting for. - from Goodreads
Anna Faris has been one of my favorite actresses for a long time.  She's hilarious but she also seems really down-to-earth.  And I have to admit, I was a bit upset when she and Chris Pratt announced they were separating!  I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say in her memoir.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall-Themed Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week's topic is books with fall/autumn covers or themes.  Since I love fall and I'm a cover snob, I decided to make a collage of fall-themed covers.  This was surprisingly a bit difficult!  In the end, I found some covers that featured the red and orange colors of fall, some covers with leaves or fall landscapes, and even one with some seasonal fruit!

What are some of your favorite fall-themed book covers?

Monday, October 9, 2017

5 Reasons Why Taylor Jenkins Reid Has Become One of My Favorite Authors

One of my favorite parts about reading is finding new favorite authors, whether it's learning about them after they've written a few books (and then devouring their backlist) or discovering them with their debut novel and following their careers.  I love finding those authors I can rely on to bring something amazing with each new story.  I had never heard of Taylor Jenkins Reid before I started blogging, but when I saw her name popping up on many other blogs, it made me want to check out her books.  From the first one I read, I fell in love, and so here are the reasons why Taylor Jenkins Reid has become one of my favorite authors (and why you should check her out, too!).

1. Relatable characters
For the most part, her characters are somewhat close to me in age and stage of life.  In Forever, Interrupted, Elsie is a pizza lover, tv watcher, and reader - I can definitely relate to that!  Lauren and Ryan from After I Do are a married couple who met at 19 in college - which is the age I was when I met my husband, and we also met in college.  I enjoy reading about characters that I can see parts of myself in; it makes the story feel that much more real to me.


2. Relatable scenarios
When I read the synopsis for each of Jenkins Reid's books, one of the things that attracted me most was how realistic and relatable the plots were.  Whether it's a 20-something woman whose life could change drastically based on one decision she makes (and we get to see the fallout from that decision in Maybe In Another Life) or a marriage that's on the rocks, TJR has crafted stories that really *could* happen.  Sometimes the plots seem larger than life, such as the decision a woman has to make after her long-lost (and presumed dead) husband returns to find she has moved on to another man in One True Loves, but that just makes things more interesting (and honestly, that scenario isn't unheard of!). 


3. Big questions
Maybe it's because the scenarios are so relatable, but her books always seem to bring up what I consider to be "big questions" - those philosophical questions that force us to take stock of our lives and decisions.  Is there such a thing as a soulmate?  How big of a role does fate play in our lives?  When you've vowed to love someone forever, what happens if you fall out of love? How hard should you try to get it back? Is it inevitable that romance will fade over the years?  Are longer marriages better or more important than shorter ones?  Is there a time limit on grief?

4. Great writing
I like good, straightforward writing, writing that is honest and dialogue that feels like a real conversation.  There's nothing overly flowery or poetic about Taylor Jenkins Reid's writing; yes, that kind of writing has a place and I'm not trying to knock it, because in many instances I do enjoy it, but I appreciate that her books are very readable.  The stories flow so well and are so easy to read.

5. Something different for her latest novel
While her first four novels were basically contemporary women's fiction, Taylor Jenkins Reid's fifth novel was a bit of a departure.  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tells the life story of an aging actress, as told to a journalist.  Although it focused on relationships, it felt different than her previous novels.  Jenkins Reid went outside her box, and the result was something just as amazing as her previous works.  I'm so excited to see where she goes next!

So, have you read anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid?  Which of her books is your favorite?  What makes an author your "favorite"?