Monday, February 24, 2020

DNF&Y #4

DNF&Y is a feature hosted by Lindsi at Do You Dog-ear?  According to Lindsi, "DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative!"  Since I tend to DNF quite a bit, I thought it would be fun to participate!

Verify by Joelle Charbonneau (2019)

I saw this one on my Goodreads "Want to Read" list and my library happened to have an audiobook copy of it, so I decided to try it.  In a vaguely dystopian near future, Meri tries to figure out the meaning behind her deceased mother's artwork and begins to realize that the government may be hiding some serious things from its citizens.  I ended up DNFing this around 33%.  The writing wasn't great - very repetitive (it felt like the characters were saying "mother" or "artwork" in every other sentence) - and the world-building seemed fuzzy and non-descript.  Maybe 5-10 years ago a dystopian like this could have worked, but these days, the genre has come so far that a story needs to be more defined and have more of a hook.  It's not enough that people don't use paper anymore or certain words have "disappeared" from usage.  It also seemed pretty obvious where the story was going, and I wasn't totally interested.

 Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay (2019)

I've never actually read the original Alice in Wonderland books, but I've seen movies and have a general idea of the story.  I think Wonderland is just not my thing - whimsy that's confusing for the sake of being confusing.  I ended up DNFing this one around page 63.  In this retelling, Alice finds herself back in Wonderland after a stint in an asylum and now she's being tasked with killing the Queen of Hearts.  I felt like the author was just trying too hard, and I think you need to be careful when you're doing a retelling that is still set in the same world as the original.  It can feel too similar, like too much is being borrowed.  I would have preferred the author come up with an original idea that incorporated elements of the classic story.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Blog Tour + Review: 100 Hikes of a Lifetime

Thank you to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for National Geographic's 100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World's Ultimate Scenic Trails!  I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World's Ultimate Scenic Trails
Kate Siber, Andrew Skurka (foreword)
Published February 4, 2020
From the world's expert in outdoor adventure, here is the ultimate hiker's bucket list, with 100 breathtaking experiences for beginners to experts around the globe--from the celebrated Appalachian Trail to the off-the-beaten path (but not to be missed!) Six Waterfalls Hike in Micronesia.

Filled with beautiful National Geographic photography, wisdom from expert hikers like Andrew Skurka, need-to-know travel information, and practical wildlife-spotting tips, this inspirational guide offers the planet's best experiences for hikers and sightseers. From short day hikes--California's Sierra High Route, Lake Agnes Teahouse in Alberta, Norway's Mt. Skala--to multiday excursions like Mt. Meru in Tanzania and multi-week treks (Egypt's Sinai Trail, Bhutan's Snowman Trek, and the Bibbulum Track in Australia), you'll find a hike that matches your interests and skill level. Crossing all continents and climates (from the jungles of Costa Rica to the ice fields in Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Parks), as well as experiences (a wine route through Switzerland or moose spotting on the Teton Crest Trail in Wyoming,) there is a trail for everyone in these pages. So pack your gear and lace your boots: this comprehensive and innovative guide will lead you to experience the best hikes of your life! - from Goodreads
I was very excited when Trish asked me to review this book, because, besides reading, hiking is one of my favorite activities.  In 100 Hikes of a Lifetime, Kate Siber has put together an amazing list of hiking trails from all over the world to satisfy every type of hiker.

The book is arranged by continent, and for each hike, the distance, length of trip, best time to go, and difficulty level are included.  Siber then includes a blurb (varying from one page to several) describing the trek, the surrounding area, where to stay, and who you'll meet (both people and animals!).  Of course, since this is National Geographic, there are tons of incredible photographs, which really served to fuel my wanderlust!

The best thing about this book is how comprehensive it is.  Since the 100 hikes span all seven continents, there really is something for everyone. Almost every type of terrain imaginable is included - jungles, forests, deserts, mountains, and beaches.  While there were many hikes at the difficult or expert-only levels, there were also several easy and moderate ones.  Distances vary from one mile to several hundred, with trip lengths from a couple hours to several weeks or even months.  If you're looking for remote places to enjoy the solitude, this book has it.  If you're looking for something closer to civilization, this book has that, too.

Sometimes I plan trips that revolve around hiking, and for other trips, hiking might be something we only spend one day doing, and a guide like this can help in both instances.  Whether you want to see waterfalls, castles, or ruins, or even drink some wine while you walk, you'll find something here to enjoy.  These trails were chosen because they offer something memorable and you're guaranteed to have a pretty unique experience on any of them.

Although I'd heard of some of these trails (and even hiked parts of them myself), most of them were new to me.  I think maps or websites (if available) would have been helpful for me in envisioning where the trails were or pointing me in the direction of obtaining more information.  Despite that one quibble, 100 Hikes of a Lifetime drove home the point of how vast and beautiful this world is - there is so much to see and do, more than I could ever imagine.  It was really inspiring!

4.5 stars

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Lost Autumn

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

Lost Autumn
Mary-Rose MacColl
Expected publication date: March 3, 2020
An emotional novel of love and the power of lost dreams from an internationally bestselling master of historical fiction, about a young woman's coming-of-age in 1920 and the secrets that surface more than seventy years later.

Australia, 1920. Seventeen-year-old Maddie Bright embarks on the voyage of a lifetime when she's chosen to serve on the cross-continent tour of His Royal Highness, the dashing Edward, Prince of Wales. Life on the royal train is luxurious beyond her dreams, and the glamorous, good-hearted friends she makes--with their romantic histories and rivalries--crack open her world. But glamour often hides all manner of sins.

Decades later, Maddie lives in a ramshackle house in Brisbane, whiling away the days with television news and her devoted, if drunken, next-door neighbor. When a London journalist struggling with her own romantic entanglements begins asking Maddie questions about her relationship to the famous and reclusive author M. A. Bright, she's taken back to the glamorous days of the royal tour--and to the secrets she has kept for all these years. - from Amazon
I love a dual timeline novel, and the addition of royalty makes me even more interested in this story!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #8

Down the TBR Hole is a feature created by Lost in a Story (although the blog seems to be down recently).  I've seen it on a few other blogs and thought I would try it out myself!  It seems like a really good way to cull your TBR of those books you're no longer interested in.  So, how does it work?

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Here are the books I'm looking at this time:

 The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

This book is about a community that's torn apart by competition, secrets, and lies when a school for gifted students opens in their town.  I think this sounds fascinating - keep!
 Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry

Two teenage friends decide they've had enough of their crappy lives and decide to hit the road.  This sounds a little too depressing and unrealistic for me - pass!
 Easily Amused by Karen McQuestion

A romantic comedy about a woman who inherits a house and becomes the "project" of the neighborhood.  Eh, just not into this one - pass!
 Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

I really enjoyed my first Shari Lapena book, and this one about a teenager who breaks into his neighbors' houses and maybe starts sharing their secrets sounds so intense!  Keep!
 The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

This thriller has been getting pretty rave reviews, so I'm going to keep it!
 The Divers' Game by Jesse Ball

I've read the blurb for this book a few times and I still can't figure out what it's about.  I think the story would go way over my head - pass!
 Not The Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher

This book is supposed to be an updated spin on the movie How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days.  Sounds cute, but the reviews are pretty dismal.  Pass!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, February 14, 2020

Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird
Josie Silver
Expected publication date: March 3, 2020
In this next captivating love story from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of One Day in December, a young woman is reunited with her late fiancé in a parallel life. But is this happy ending the one she really wants?

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They'd been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it's just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life--and perhaps even love--again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there's an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there's someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Written with Josie Silver's trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life's crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them. - from Goodreads
I received this book for free from Goodreads Giveaways.

After completely loving Josie Silver's debut, One Day in December, I knew her next book would be a highly anticipated read for me.  While I didn't love it as much as her first, this book was still a solid read.

On Lydia's 28th birthday, her fiance Freddy is killed in a car accident.  She is adrift, unsure how to move forward with her life.  Then, after she begins taking sleeping pills, Lydia discovers that somehow, in her dreams, she's able to continue the life she and Freddy were meant to have together.  However, is that still what she really wants? 

First, I want to talk about Silver's writing - it's so readable and relatable, yet every word and phrase is imbued with so much emotion.  It's so easy to get lost in her stories and swept away in the writing.  I could have finished this book in a few hours, but I wanted to savor it.

You can't help but feel for Lydia when we first meet her.  She's just lost her fiance, she can barely leave the house they recently purchased together, and the wedding and honeymoon they were eagerly planning will never happen.  Her grief is so palpable.  When she realizes what the sleeping pills allow her to do, be with Freddy again, she's tempted to keep taking them, but she realizes pretty early on that this isn't the magic fix she initially thought it was.  She can't just sleep all day, ignoring her real life, but it was still interesting to see what days she chose to take the pills and how even the "dream world" wasn't quite how she imagined her life would be before the accident.

The secondary characters are pretty wonderful in this story.  Lydia's coworkers, sister, and mother are so understanding of her grief and just want to make her life easier.  Then there's also the character of Jonah, who survived the crash that Freddy didn't, and Lydia  has to come to terms with their complicated friendship.

After loving the first 2/3 of the book, I unfortunately thought the story kind of fell apart a little in the last section.  The pacing slowed way down and there were parts that didn't quite fit or seem necessary.  Overall, though, I enjoyed Lydia's journey through this simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming story.

4 stars

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: He Started It

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

He Started It
Samantha Downing
Expected publication date: April 28, 2020
Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven't all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we'll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It's even harder when you're all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won't stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there's a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone. - from Goodreads
Samantha Downing's books have the most deliciously twisted blurbs!  This just sounds too fun to pass up!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotables, The Love Edition

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is a love freebie, so I thought it would be fun to list some of my favorite quotes about love!

“I know part of our story is the electricity of our connection, but the other part is equally miraculous.  It’s the simple fact that you walked into my life at the exact moment you did. You instead of someone else.  In some ways, isn’t that even more incredible than the connection itself? That we found each other at all?” - Blake Crouch, Dark Matter

“Sweetheart, I’m telling you, you love someone like that, you love them the right way, and no time would be enough.  Doesn’t matter if you had thirty years,” she tells me, “It wouldn’t be enough.” - Taylor Jenkins Reid, Forever, Interrupted

“Wanting to find love does not make someone weak; it’s not a character flaw.  Life is hard, and grueling, and having someone root for you and travel beside you is a gift that anyone in the world would be lucky to have.  I’m not saying that people can’t be happy or fulfilled on their own; of course they can. But being open to the possibility of love doesn’t make you weak; it actually makes you strong.”  Crystal Cestari, The Best Kind of Magic

“Love can be an excellent motivator for change.  Falling in love can help us to see the things in life that are truly important.  It can make us want to be better people. It can teach us to sacrifice what is in our own best interest for the sake of someone else.” - Cynthia Hand, The Afterlife of Holly Chase

“Love does that.  It makes you feel infinite and invincible, like the whole world is open to you, anything is achievable, and each day will be filled with wonder.” - Jill Santopolo, The Light We Lost

“Love me when I’m at my worst.  Love me when you don’t agree with me, and when this no longer feels new and surprising.  Love me through it all.” - Camille Pagan, Forever is the Worst Long Time

You are not entitled to me, just because you love me.  And not just because I love you back.  You have to keep on earning that love, every day, again and again and again.” - Bethany Chase, Results May Vary

‘You are in love,’ he said, ‘for that is exactly how love feels.  It is the lifting of a mask, the revealing of one’s true self to another, and the forced acceptance, the awful awareness that the other person may never feel the same way.’ - Kate Morton, The Clockmaker’s Daughter

She fondly recalled the moment when the butterflies disappeared, when she was able to smile to herself and know that this wasn’t a case of falling in love; it was love.  She wasn’t a high school student swept up in romance; she was a puzzle piece that had found the match to interlock beside it.” - Yoav Blum, The Coincidence Makers

Do any of these resonate with you?