Monday, July 24, 2017

Quotables #4: The Taylor Jenkins Reid Edition

I've finally gotten on the Taylor Jenkins Reid bandwagon and I am loving her books!  They're so relatable and so quotable!

Why it speaks to me:  Some people are always looking for the next best thing; they think "perfection" is out there and they have to find it.  But perfection doesn't exist and I think our happiness is what we make of it.  I'm not saying you should settle for a less-than-ideal job or a guy who kinda makes you happy, but I think we can find contentment in lots of things and make our situations work for us.

Why it speaks to me:  I'm not so sure I totally agree with this quote.  I believe in things like fate and karma, but I don't rely on those things to govern my life.  I'd like to think I have some say in what happens.  I don't think believing in fate means blindly doing whatever you want, regardless of consequences, "knowing" that things will work out the way they're supposed to.  It kind of sounds like a dangerous way to live.

Why it speaks to me:  I love this quote because it reminds me that beauty and excitement are all around us.  I dream of going to Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower or touring the historic sights of London, but there are so many things closer to home that can inspire just as much wonder. 

Which of these quotes is your favorite?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: This Time Around

This Time Around
Tawna Fenske
Published April 4, 2017
Allie Ross is not living the life she once dreamed. Her law career ended before it ever started, her parents landed in jail for running a Ponzi scheme, and she just inherited her grandmother’s B&B—which is nice, even if it is full of extra-toed cats. As for her love life…she’d rather not talk about it.

When Jack Carpenter reaches out to reconnect with Allie, the girl who broke his heart in college, his plan is to impress her with the adult he’s become. Sure, he was a deadbeat then, but life has forced him to grow up. And it’s a relief to find out that things didn’t necessarily go the way Allie expected either.

As Allie and Jack get reacquainted, they rediscover the things they loved—and hated—about each other. But who they are now isn’t who they were then, and secrets—old and new—will test whether they have a future together, or if the past is destined to repeat itself. - from Goodreads
I don't generally read a lot of contemporary romance books, but I really liked the sound of this one and I was not disappointed!

Allie and Jack dated as teenagers, eventually getting engaged early in college.  But then they break up and don't see each other for 16 years, until Jack moves back to town and gets in touch with Allie.  The spark is still there, but could a relationship between them work now?

A huge part of the story is who Jack and Allie were the first time they dated versus who they are now.  Back then, Allie was the organized, responsible one, with dreams of going to law school and getting married, and she came from a wealthy family who didn't approve of Jack, who was basically a slacker with no real ambitions and terrible with money.  Fast forward 16 years, and the two have basically switched places in life.  Allie never finished law school and has three more failed engagements to her name; her parents are now in prison.  Jack, however, really turned his life around - he eventually finished college, started a successful career, got married (his wife unfortunately passes away), and had a daughter. 

A lot of the issues that plagued their relationship as teenagers aren't really factors anymore, because of the benefit of time.  Allie and Jack have both grown up, and their experiences (plus the chemistry they always had) potentially make them better partners for each other now.  There's a sense of familiarity combined with chances to learn new things about each other.  But - and there's always a but - there's still some hesitation.  Maybe some of their old problems will resurface, or maybe there will be new ones...

Fenske has crafted a fast-moving, sexy, and mostly lighthearted second-chance romance.  Allie and Jack are relatable and realistic main characters, and there is a good cast of secondary characters that provide humor and heart.

4 stars

Thursday, July 20, 2017

TV Shows I'm Obsessed With Lately #2

Tom and I watched this show years ago and I loved it, so for Christmas he bought me the box set of the entire series and now I'm working my way through it again.  I'm just fascinated by the Tudors and I'll pretty much read or watch anything related to this family!

Tom watches BBC America for Doctor Who; I watch it for Graham Norton.  Graham Norton hosts a British talk show and he is just hilarious.  It's similar to our late-night talk shows here in the US: he does a monologue, chats with celebrities, and has a musical guest each week.

Ah, Neflix, you've done it again!  This series tells the story of a young woman starting her own online vintage clothing store.  It's just a really cute and fun show!  And it's based on the autobiography #GIRLBOSS, by Sophia Amoruso, which I really should read.  (Unfortunately, I just found out it's been cancelled and won't be getting a second season, but hey, at least you can binge this season.)

Have you watched any of these?  What shows are you watching lately?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Waiting on/Can't Wait Wednesday: The Address

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Address
Fiona Davis
Expected publication date: August 1, 2017
After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she'd make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility--no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one's station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey's grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won't see a dime of the Camden family's substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda--Camden's biological great-granddaughter--will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda's vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell's Island.
One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages--for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City--and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side's gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich--and often tragic--as The Dakota's can't hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden--and the woman who killed him--on its head.  - from Goodreads

Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer TBR Wipeout 2017: Update #1

Hey, all!  Hope you're enjoying your summers and getting some good reading in!  Two weeks ago I started the Summer TBR Wipeout 2017 hosted by The Candid Cover, so it's time to update my progress!


I started with Caraval by Stephanie Garber, which I've had on my TBR since last year.  I'd seen some mixed reviews on this one, but the magic and fantasy aspects drew me in (for some reason, this summer I've really been wanting to read a lot of fantasy stories!).  I loved the magical parts of this book - the idea of this fantastical game, the crazy buildings, the clothes that change according to your mood, the idea that NO ONE is who they say they are.  But, the writing was overly flowery with some strange descriptions (how can something smell like the moon or laughter?) and the main character Scarlett was kind of infuriating at times.  However, the epilogue did get me a bit excited, because it seems like the next story will be from sister Tella's POV, and she's definitely the more interesting of the two sisters!

Next, I moved onto Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman, a book I bought at B&N on a whim.  This story is about a woman and her husband who move to Virginia from NYC for a slower pace of life, but when her best friend is diagnosed with cancer, she goes back to NYC to help her out.  Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this one that much.  The story felt very disjointed - I would have preferred more of a "fish out of water" story set solely in Virginia.  The main character is obnoxious and grumpy, and the story is too heavy-handed with the topics of babies and pregnancy.


Then, I moved onto Last Summer by Holly Chamberlin, a story about two women, their daughters, bullying, and a ruined friendship.  I couldn't get into the stuffy writing of this book, so I DNFed at page 25.

Based on a great review from The Bookish Libra, I wanted to make sure I read The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti sooner rather than later.  I was impressed by this story about a father-daughter relationship.  Not only is it a great coming-of-age story for daughter, Loo, but it's also kind of a coming-of-age story for father, Hawley, too.  Flashbacks show Hawley's violent past but also how he has now evolved into a very protective and loving father.  And it was interesting to see how growing up with a father like Hawley has affected Loo (she's definitely not a meek character!).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: Sisters One, Two, Three

Sisters One, Two, Three
Nancy Star
Published January 1, 2017
After a tragic accident on Martha’s Vineyard, keeping secrets becomes a way of life for the Tangle family. With memories locked away, the sisters take divergent paths. Callie disappears, Mimi keeps so busy she has no time to think, and Ginger develops a lifelong aversion to risk that threatens the relationships she holds most dear.

When a whispered comment overheard by her rebellious teenage daughter forces Ginger to reveal a long-held family secret, the Tangles’ carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. Upon the death of Glory, the family’s colorful matriarch, and the return of long-estranged Callie, Ginger resolves to return to Martha’s Vineyard and piece together what really happened on that calamitous day when a shadow fell over four sun-kissed siblings playing at the shore. Along with Ginger’s newfound understanding come the keys to reconciliation: with her mother, with her sisters, and with her daughter. - from Goodreads
Hmm, I seem to be really into stories lately that feature dysfunctional families and the secrets they keep.  Sisters One, Two, Three tells the story of the Tangle family, which imploded after a deadly accident during a family vacation.

The story is told in a dual narrative, two different time periods but both from the point of view of oldest sister, Ginger.  One narrative shows Ginger as an adult, married with a teenage daughter (with whom she has a very tense relationship).  The other narrative takes place during the 1970s, leading up to the accident.  We know pretty early on that son/brother Charlie has died, but we don't know how, so I was on pins and needles waiting for it to happen.  I took everything as foreshadowing!

After Charlie dies, mother Glory has a bit of a breakdown, so it is decided that the family will never talk about what happened.  But of course, this is a terrible way to handle things, and the family continues to deteriorate, first with the death of father Solly.  Then youngest sister Callie is sent away to boarding school, and her sisters Ginger and Mimi don't hear from her for over 25 years, until after the death of their mother.  They don't know where she's been or what she's been doing.

After Callie returns, secrets are revealed as to where she's been all this time and honestly, I was kind of horrified to find that out.  It just seemed unusually cruel to me.  It was also cruel to find out that Glory had known for years where she was and kept that from the other siblings. 

It was interesting to see how Ginger's childhood affected the woman she became.  When we meet Ginger as an adult, she's an extreme worrier, way overprotective of her daughter, and definitely a planner in every aspect of her life.  As the book moves along, it's obvious that Glory was a pretty terrible mother - she lied about everything, she was often cruel to her children, and sometimes it seems like she forgot they were even there.  I wouldn't say it was abusive - Glory was just supremely selfish.  Ginger had to learn how to manage her mother's moods and watch out for her younger siblings, and she was deeply affected by her brother's freak accident.

The overall feel of the book was quite melancholy, so this wasn't quite the summer read I was expecting it to be.  I appreciated that the ending didn't just tie everything up in a happy bow.  It was actually pretty open-ended, leaving the reader to wonder where the characters go from here.

4 stars

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Waiting on/Can't Wait Wednesday: Emerald Coast

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Emerald Coast
Anita Hughes
Expected publication date: August 1, 2017
Lily Bristol arrives at a luxurious resort in Sardinia for the grand opening of her newest home furnishing store on the Emerald Coast. She's a successful business woman with an international chain of stores from San Francisco to Milan. Thirty-two and newly divorced, she's ready to handle things on her own. At least until her private butler, Enzo, escorts her to a beautiful suite where she notices a suspiciously familiar pair of men's slippers and shaving kit.

Lily is horrified. Her ex-husband Oliver moved out of their restored Connecticut farmhouse six months ago, but they booked this trip when they were trying to save their marriage and never cancelled the reservation. Oliver, a food critic for the New York Times, is here covering Sardinia's hottest new restaurant. The only other available room is the adjoining suite; and worse, Oliver isn't alone. He's brought a twenty-something named Angela with him.

Lily is determined to make do and enlists Enzo to find her a suitable man. But it's not as easy to find new love as they both expected. When Lily and Oliver find themselves alone on a very important night, they turn to each other. Sparks begin to fly, but can they be together without breaking each other's hearts?

Set on the glamorous Italian island, Emerald Coast is a touching and humorous story about marriage and the difficulty of finding love and happiness at the same time. - from Goodreads

Monday, July 10, 2017

What The Kids at My Old High School Are Reading This Summer

I remember having to do summer reading when I was a teenager, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at the current summer reading list for my old high school!

I personally think summer reading is a good idea (admittedly, I'm not a parent who is fighting with a kid the day before school starts to finish said reading).  It keeps kids in the mindset of learning and critical thinking.  It gives them something to focus on.  Maybe they'll realize that reading isn't so bad, after all!  I like when the schools give kids a wide range of books to choose from - the students can pick for themselves if they want something in their comfort zone or maybe out of it if they're feeling adventurous.

So, now for the specifics at the high school I attended (longer ago than I would care to admit to!): except for the AP students, who get a separate assignment, each student has to read two books this summer: one required book for each grade and an additional book from a list of suggestions, which are different for each grade.  Sounds pretty reasonable to me, for both students (who only have to read 2 books) and teachers - the teachers get the benefit of being able to discuss one book that everyone has read and then maybe everyone can be more creative for another assignment based on the suggested reading.

Here are the required books for each grade:
Of these, the only one I've heard of is The Kite Runner.  I'm kind of surprised that all of these are relatively recent books, and from my perusal of Goodreads, they sound really good.  Has anyone read any of these?

The lists of suggested titles for each grade offer anywhere between 26 and 29 choices, with at least a couple non-fiction titles, and this is where things get really interesting, at least from my perspective (I'm not going to list all the books, since I haven't even heard of a lot of them, just ones that stand out to me). 
  • The 9th grade suggested list includes Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  With the Netflix series being so controversial, I'm surprised yet not surprised to see this one.  I bet a lot of kids will be reading this and maybe it will spark some deep discussions.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky are just a couple of the YA titles on the 10th grade list, which I think is really fun!  There's even some fantasy YA with a book by Maggie Steifvater.  Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes and John Krakauer's non-fiction Into Thin Air (both of which I enjoyed) are some of the more adult titles on the list.
  • The 11th grade list starts adding in more classics, with titles by John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I thought a nice inclusion on the non-fiction side was The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story, since the movie version is coming out this year.
  • The 12th grade list also features popular classics like Emma by Jane Austen.  This list had quite a few titles that I recognized, like Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier and Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper.  Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone is also on the list, and I'm pretty sure the copy I have at home is the one I bought for my own summer reading a million years ago!

What do you think of required summer reading?  Did you have required reading when you were in school?  What types of books did you have to read?  If you have kids, what kinds of summer reading are they doing?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: The Forever Summer

The Forever Summer
Jamie Brenner
Published April 25, 2017
When a DNA test reveals long-buried secrets, three generations of women reunite on Cape Cod for the homecoming of a lifetime.

Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it's paid off: at twenty-eight she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and the hard-won admiration of her father. But one moment of weakness leaves Marin unemployed and alone, all in a single day. Then a woman claiming to be Marin's half-sister shows up, and it's all Marin can do not to break down completely. Seeking escape, Marin agrees to a road trip to meet the grandmother she never knew she had. As the summer unfolds at her grandmother's quaint beachside B&B, it becomes clear that the truth of her half-sister is just the beginning of revelations that will change Marin's life forever. THE FOREVER SUMMER is a delicious page-turner and a provocative exploration of what happens when our notions of love, truth, and family are put to the ultimate test. - from Goodreads
Marin is not having an easy time of it - she begins an affair with a superior at her law firm, then breaks up with her fiance, and when her affair is discovered at work, both she and the man are fired.  And to top it off?  A woman who says she is Marin's half-sister shows up, upending Marin's beliefs about her perfect family.  Rachel and Marin, along with Marin's mother, travel to Provincetown to meet Amelia, the girls' shared grandmother, where they spend a summer getting to know each other and facing up to the many issues they all have.

There are so many secrets in this novel, and they come fast and furious.  I felt like every chapter brought a new revelation - it was really astounding how many things all of these characters were hiding from each other, and how a fluke DNA test caused all of these decades-old secrets to spill out over one summer.

While I generally enjoyed the main female characters, I thought the secondary male characters were very weak.  How these women put up with such wishy-washy, can't make up their minds men is beyond me.  It was a little frustrating that the men were so similar.  However, I did like the sense of community in the novel - Amelia and her wife Kelly have built a solid life running a B&B and they have a close group of friends that all take care of each other.

There were a lot of heavy topics in this book (like adultery and cancer), but it didn't feel like a heavy read.  I flew through this book in just a couple days.  If you're looking for a fast-moving story about family ties, with a beachy summer setting, I'd recommend taking this book on your next vacation.

3.5 stars

Thursday, July 6, 2017

2017 Blogging Goals Mid-Year Check-In

Since 2017 is half over (already???), I thought it would be a good time to check in on the blogging goals I set at the beginning of the year!

  1. Learn more about the technical side of creating a blog/website.  FAIL so far.  I changed the design slightly, but that's it!
  2. Create better graphics.  It's getting there!  I definitely work on the graphics more, but they could be better.  Tell me - what programs do you use to create your graphics?
  3. Come up with more/better discussion posts.  I've been posting at least 1 or 2 discussion posts a month, and I've gotten a pretty good response to them!  I have a list of potential topics, so we'll see how the rest of the year goes!  I've also come up with some new features, like Quotables.
  4. Have at least a month's worth of posts ready to go.  Doing good with this one so far.  I've kind of gotten into this routine where I have some sort of discussion on Mondays, memes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, sometimes a random Thursday post if nothing on Tuesday, and book reviews on Fridays, and that's actually really helped streamline my posts and scheduling.
  5. Immerse myself more in the book blogging community.  So far, so good!  I've found a ton of new blogs to follow, I'm commenting on more posts, and I'm participating in a backlist reading challenge and a summer TBR challenge!
  6. Don't forget about my other passion, the outdoors.  This one has been difficult - the weather in the spring just wasn't cooperating, so we didn't do a lot of hiking.  I'm hoping the rest of the year will be better!
  7. Have fun!  Definitely having lots of fun!
Did you have any blogging goals for the year?  How are you doing on your goals?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Waiting on/Can't Wait Wednesday: Because You Love to Hate Me

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Various authors 
Expected publication date: July 11, 2017
In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains' points of view.

These fractured, unconventional spins on classics like "Medusa," Sherlock Holmes, and "Jack and the Beanstalk" provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains' acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage--and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on. No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!

Featuring writing from . . .

Authors: Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon. - from Goodreads
This sounds so fun and unique - who doesn't love a good villain??

Monday, July 3, 2017

Summer TBR Wipeout 2017: Intro Post

When I saw that The Candid Cover was hosting the Summer TBR Wipeout, it was the perfect opportunity to finally get to some books that have been sitting on my shelves for awhile and clear out some titles from my TBR (especially because there are tons of great books coming out later in the year!).

Here are the books I've chosen for the Summer TBR Wipeout:

What are you planning to read this summer?

Friday, June 30, 2017

2017 Backlist Reader Challenge: June Roundup

It's time for another roundup of mini-reviews for the 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by Lark at the Bookwyrm's Hoard!  I can't believe this challenge (and year!) is already half over!  So far, I've read 18 of the 26 books I listed for this challenge, so I'm 69% done!

The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year by Andy Cohen (2014)

I love me some Andy Cohen; I mean, he's the man behind my beloved Housewives series, so yeah, he's up there.  And while I enjoyed reading about a year in the life of Andy Cohen, part of me wondered what the point of it really was.  This book was literally a diary, a day-by-day account of Andy's life between September 2013 and September 2014. 

Andy talks about pretty much everything: adopting his dog, Wacha; attending various events; meeting up with his friends, famous and non-famous; and going out on Tinder dates.  It was fun to get a behind-the-scenes look at things like the Met Gala and late-night television, and of course I loved the tidbits about Housewives (and house-husbands) behaving badly (although he didn't often name names).  And jeez, he knows a lot of celebrities - name-dropping was a huge part of this book.  I mean, when your best friends are Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos, it's to be expected.

But it did get very repetitive - I don't need to know about every walk he took his dog on, every restaurant he ate lunch at, and every time he got a two-hour massage.  Perhaps not every day needed to be included in the book.  3 stars

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen (2009)

Jane Austen with a twist - Seth Grahame-Smith takes Austen's classic work and adds zombies.  At first, the addition of "unmentionables," as the book refers to the zombies, was a fun twist.  It was nice to see the Bennet sisters appreciated for more than a pleasing countenance or proficiency in music - they are lady warriors known for their deadly skills in taking out zombies.

But about halfway through the book, I started to get a bit bored.  It felt too much like the original with just a few sentences added in to bring forth the horror aspect.  And it just started to seem comical - the ninjas, the constant vomiting, the deer wrestling.  The fates of Charlotte/Mr. Collins and Lydia/Wickham were over the top.  The characters retained their original personalities, for the most part, though I could have used more snark from Mr. Bennet.  3 stars

 The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)

An unconventional love story between Clare, an artist, and Henry, a librarian and reluctant time traveler.  Henry doesn't use a machine to time travel; he just disappears and reappears at random times, with no control over it, because of a genetic abnormality.  He first meets Clare when she is 6 and he knows from his future that they will get married someday.

Although Clare and Henry come off very pretentious at times, I enjoyed their story.  Even with all the difficulties their relationship faced, they have an obviously deep love for each other.  However, the time travel factor was an issue for me at times; I wondered how much Henry was actually changing the past and influencing the future by showing up at random times, particularly through his early interactions with Clare during her childhood.

The last third or so of the book is where we see the toll Henry's ability has taken on their relationship.  Clare wants a baby, but there is so much heartache involved; I was kind of surprised at her insistence, knowing the baby could inherit Henry's time-traveling abilities - I mean, how scary would that be for a child?  3.5 stars

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Waiting on/Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Goddesses

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Goddesses
Swan Huntley
Expected publication date: July 25, 2017
When Nancy and her family arrive in Kona, Hawaii, they are desperate for a fresh start. Nancy's husband has cheated on her; they sleep in separate bedrooms and their twin sons have been acting out, setting off illegal fireworks. But Hawaii is paradise: they plant an orange tree in the yard; they share a bed once again and Nancy resolves to make a happy life for herself. She starts taking a yoga class and there she meets Ana, the charismatic teacher. Ana has short, black hair, a warm smile, and a hard-won wisdom that resonates deeply within Nancy. They are soon spending all their time together, sharing dinners, relaxing in Ana's hot tub, driving around Kona in the cute little car Ana helps Nancy buy. As Nancy grows closer and closer to Ana, skipping family dinners and leaving the twins to their own devices, she feels a happiness and understanding unlike anything she's ever experienced, and she knows that she will do anything Ana asks of her. - from Goodreads
This sounds like a really interesting story about relationships, but it seems like there could be something darker going on, too!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I've Read in 2017... So Far

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is best books we've read so far this year.  My favorites of the year so far are pretty varied - some backlist titles, some new releases, some I've reviewed and some I haven't!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Beachy Book Covers

When I was a kid, I loved visiting my grandparents' house at the Jersey shore.  I loved everything about the beach - running along the sand, playing in the water, baking in the sun.  These days I'm more content to sit under an umbrella with a good book and plenty of sunscreen!  To celebrate the beginning of summer, I've put together a collage of covers that all feature the beach!

What are some of your favorite beachy book covers?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: The River at Night

The River at Night
Erica Ferencik
Published January 10, 2017
A high-stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller. - from Goodreads
I love a good survival story, and that's what I was expecting from The River at Night - but it quickly became more like a horror movie!

The story starts off a bit slow as we're introduced to the four main characters, a group of late 30-something women, who decide to go on a whitewater rafting trip in basically an uncharted area of Maine.  For me, red flags were already going up - they are literally going to be in the middle of nowhere with only a new and very young guide.

The action picks up quickly and doesn't stop once the group starts their rafting trip.  Not long into their trip, a freak accident kills their guide on the river and their raft and supplies are lost, leaving the four women stranded.  Should they try to find the raft downriver, or should they try to hike back to where they pushed in, assuming they could even find it? 

When the women see a campfire not far from them in the woods, they think their prayers have been answered, but in reality, things are about to go from bad to terrifying.  This part of the novel, where the women meet these two creepy people in the woods, totally cut off from civilization, is where the book went a bit off the rails for me.  It read a bit like a slasher film and was more than a little unbelievable.  However, the short length of the book kept the story moving quickly, and so I actually didn't mind it that much.

I appreciated that the author took the time to develop the characters, despite the nature of the book.  I felt like I really got to know each distinct woman - the tough-as-nails Rachel, the kind-hearted Sandra, the adventure-loving Pia, and the timid narrator Wini.  I understood their motivations, and their feelings and reactions felt very true-to-life.  I was really rooting for all of them!

The River at Night is a great summer thriller (even though it came out in January!).  If you're looking for a quick, suspenseful read, check this one out.

4 stars

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Chocolate Book Tag

I was tagged by Uma at Books.Bags.Burgers, so today I'll be doing the Chocolate Book Tag!  Thanks, Uma!  Plus, I just love chocolate, so this sounded really fun anyway!

1. Dark chocolate - a book that deals with a dark topic

Jodi Picoult doesn't shy away from difficult topics, but this book about a school shooting is definitely hard to read at times.

2. White chocolate - your favorite light-hearted or humorous read

This was a fun and funny story and it definitely had some relevant lessons on how we let social media rule our lives!

3. Milk chocolate - a book that has a lot of hype that you're dying to read

I'm pretty sure I'm the last person on Earth to read this book!  I really need to get to it soon!

4. Chocolate with a caramel center - a book that made you feel all gooey in the middle while you were reading it

This book makes me melt into a puddle of tears every time I read it.  The relationships between the Bommarito siblings are complicated yet loving, and Henry himself will just steal your heart.

5. Wafer free Kit Kat - name a book that has surprised you lately

Unfortunately, I didn't love this one as much as I thought I would!

6. Snickers - a book you're going nuts about

I've been obsessed with this book since I read it earlier this year, and I'm recommending it to everyone I know!

7. Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows - a book you would turn to for a comfort read

I love this non-traditional love story, but my favorite character is the main character Joyce's dad.  He is funny and sweet and lovable and wise - I just feel happy when I read this book.

8. Box of chocolates - what series have you read that you feel has a wide variety and something for everyone?

Ok, this is a bit of a cop-out, but Harry Potter really does have something for everyone!  I read it as an adult, and I enjoyed just as much as kids do!

I'd love to read your answers, too, so consider yourself tagged if you want to participate!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waiting on/Can't-Wait Wednesday: Where The Light Falls

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Where The Light Falls
Allison Pataki & Owen Pataki
Expected publication date: July 11, 2017
From the courtrooms to the battlefields to the alleyways of Paris, with cameos from infamous figures in French history, the Patakis have crafted an epic, action-packed novel of the French Revolution as it has never been seen before. Three years after the storming of the Bastille, Paris is enlivened with the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The monarchy has been dismantled and a new nation, for the people, is rising up in its place. Jean-Luc, a young optimistic lawyer, moves his wife, Marie, and their son to Paris, inspired by a sense of duty to contribute to the new order. André, the son of a former nobleman, flees his privileged past to fight in the unified French Army with his roguish brother. Sophie, a beautiful young aristocratic widow and niece of a powerful, vindictive uncle, embarks on her own fight for independence.

Underneath the glimmer of hope and freedom, chaos threatens to undo all the progress of the revolution and the lives of these compatriots become inextricably linked. As the demand for justice breeds instability, creates enemies out of compatriots, and fuels a constant thirst for blood in the streets, Jean-Luc, Andre, and Sophie are forced to question the sacrifices made for the revolution. Liberty proves a fragile, fleeting ideal, and survival seems less and less likely—both for these unforgettable individuals, and indeed for the new nation itself. - from Goodreads
I'll read anything Paris-related and the focus on the French Revolution is a really interesting time period!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Decluttering My Bookshelves

I would love to have tons of shelves, filled with books, but in our current living situation, that's just not possible or practical.  I was running out of shelf space before my husband moved in several years ago, and since then, I've completely run out of room as Tom is using my bookshelves for some of his things and my collection of books has become overwhelming.

I used to be an indiscriminate book-buyer.  The bargain rack at Barnes & Noble was my best friend.  I rarely went to the library and didn't vet books as well as I do now before buying them.  The result was a collection of books that numbered close to 300.  That might not seem like a lot, but it definitely feels that way when you're living in a one-bedroom condo.  In the last several months, I've taken on the large (but sometimes slow) project of decluttering my bookshelves.  The main reasons are threefold:

  1. I like things to be neat and organized.  Right now I have too many books and not enough space, so there are books stacked in front of other books and it's driving me nuts!
  2. Eventually we'd like to move to a larger place, and packing up and transporting all those heavy books is not going to be fun.
  3. In my former book-buying frenzy, I ended up with a lot of books I'm not crazy about.  At this point, I'd rather just have a collection of books that I love, ones that I can see myself reading for years to come.
My primary method of decluttering is rereading my way through my bookshelves!  I love to reread, so this isn't a problem for me, although it's not necessarily the quickest way since I fit the rereads in between all the other books I want to read.  There are a lot of books that I felt meh about the first time I read them, so I feel like I need to give them one more chance before I let them go.  My feelings about a particular book have been known to change, but if I've read something twice and I still don't feel a spark, I'm getting rid of it.  There were also some that I really didn't like the first time I read them but for one reason or another just hadn't gotten rid of yet; those were the first to go in the donate pile.  I might have problems purging my TBR, but I seem to have way fewer qualms about getting rid of physical books, as much as I love them! 

I've been donating my used books to Goodwill.  I like the idea that they're going back out into the world for someone else to enjoy, instead of gathering dust in my house.  Over the past year, I've brought 24 books to my local Goodwill center, and I have 22 more books waiting to be brought over.  I still have more work to do, but this is a good start!

How many physical books do you own?  How often do your purge your collection?  Do you donate them, sell them, etc.?