Friday, July 20, 2018

Review: The Academy

The Academy
Katie Sise
Published May 22, 2018
Frankie Brooks knows what she wants in life: to become the world’s next great fashion editor. All she needs to do is get into the elite American Fashion Academy in New York City. If she gets in, her life plans will be going right on schedule. Anna Wintour, watch out.

But after Frankie messes up one too many times—hey, it’s hard keeping up with classwork and an acclaimed fashion blog—her parents come up with entirely different plans for her future: Military school. How is Frankie, the least athletic person in the world, who knows absolutely nothing about the military, going to survive a whole semester at the famed—and feared—Academy?

With students who seem to be totally uninterested in her, a course-load that’s even more difficult than at her old school, and the weird athletic War Games competition Frankie has to join—her life is way harder than it used to be. And no one, including her roommate Joni, seems to understand Frankie at all.

As she learns how to cope in about a million drills, a hundred different specialized classes, and is maybe even falling for super-hot and super-smart cadet Jack Wattson, can Frankie prove to everyone that being a fashionista doesn’t mean she can’t succeed? - from Goodreads
After cheating on a chemistry test and throwing a party while her parents were away, Frankie's parents decide that military school would be a good place for her to learn some discipline and get her grades back on track.  Frankie, however, would rather work on her fashion blog and is appalled at her new situation.

For most of the book, Frankie is the most unlikable character.  She is at times snobby, snotty, disrespectful, immature, and materialistic.  The only thing she seems to care about is her fashion blog, which she mentions at every chance she gets.  I had to keep reminding myself that she's only 16, and that kind of comes with the territory.  But when she is answering her phone during training and telling her lieutenant she can't wear her uniform because she already has a "fashion moment" picked out, it was a struggle.

At least, though, Frankie could recognize when she was being snotty and disrespectful; she just couldn't seem to control herself.  However, as the book goes on, Frankie gets some extra incentive to keep her grades up and try to make the best of her situation.  I liked that she remembered how amazing it felt to be a good student, before her fashion blog took over, and she wanted those feelings of pride and accomplishment again.

The military academy was a really unique setting.  I enjoyed learning about its structure and classes.  It really seemed like a good place for Frankie to learn discipline and teamwork.  The secondary characters also brought a lot of heart to the book, although I could have used less of the romance plotline with fellow student Jack.  I really just wanted Frankie to focus and grow.  There was a lot of diversity among the students, and it was interesting to learn how they all ended up at this school.

Overall, I thought the book was well-written and the author did a good job in capturing the 16-year-old main character, but I wanted a bit more depth in the story.

3 stars

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Our House

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

Our House
Louise Candlish
Expected publication date: August 7, 2018
On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she's sure there's been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird's nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona's children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram's not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rutgers Gardens and Frank G. Helyar Woods

Rutgers Gardens is a place I never would have known about if I hadn't seen it on another blog, but when I found out that this botanical garden wasn't too far from us, we decided to check it out.

For more information about Rutgers Gardens and Helyar Woods, including maps, visit their website here.

Rutgers Gardens is open 365 days a year, and there's no entrance fee!  Not only do they host public events like farmers markets, but the Gardens also provide educational opportunities for Rutgers students.

Although it was smaller than I thought it would be, there was still plenty to look at.  There are several small gardens and groves of different tree types.  Cute benches are strategically located throughout the property.  We started at the bamboo garden and then headed to the shrub garden.  In a memorial garden we found these two massive Adirondack chairs, which Tom refused to climb in so I could get a picture of him (JK!).  There were also a couple lovely gazebos.

We then went over to Frank G. Helyar Woods, which is attached to the botanical garden.  Although there are smaller blazed trails, we stuck to the main Pond/Forest Trail (we tried one of the smaller trails, but it was overgrown with lots of downed trees).  The main trail was really easy to walk and pretty flat except for one drop down into a ravine.  At some points we could see glimpses of Westons Mill Pond.

After the pine forest the trail opens out into a meadow, and there's actually a small maze carved into the brush.  At this point in the year, the plant growth was probably about 3 feet high, so it would be fun for kids to run through while still being able to see them.

The main trail is less than a mile, so it didn't take us long to finish.  Although it was a short visit, I'm glad we checked out Rutgers Gardens.  And since it's free, I wouldn't mind coming back at different points during the year to see the flowers changing with the seasons.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer TBR Wipeout 2018: Update #1

It's time for my first update of the Summer TBR Wipeout hosted by The Candid Cover!

I started with The Party by Robyn Harding, which I've been wanting to read since Suzanne at The Bookish Libra reviewed it last yearThe Party is the story of the aftermath of an accident at a Sweet 16 sleepover.  I liked the idea behind this book because it sounds so realistic, and I was interested to see how the lawsuit would play out, but the characters were all pretty terrible people.  The parents who hosted the party told anyone who would listen that they weren't responsible for the accident - if I read that one more time, I was going to scream.  But the book held my attention and I flew through it; I didn't even mind the open ending.

I ended up getting Legendary by Stephanie Garber from the library way sooner than I expected, so I dove into that for my second read. I was looking forward to this one because it's from Tella's point of view, and even though she didn't have a huge role in the first book, I got the impression she was spunky and confident and fun.  I was a little disappointed with her boy-crazy thoughts and the flowery writing (which was also an issue I had with Caraval), but I did like that the stakes were higher in this game - I didn't know what was real or who to trust.

Then I picked up Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey.  This was a summer read from last year that I didn't get to, so I figured now would be a good time for it! Slightly South of Simple tells the story of Caroline Murphy, whose husband leaves her while she's pregnant, as she flees to her mother's home  in Peachtree Bluff.  She is joined there by her sisters.  I think this was a good beach read; it had plenty of drama and a fun Southern setting.  Although there were some random storylines that I felt were unnecessary, I enjoyed the relationship between Caroline and her sisters.

What have you been reading this summer?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Reality TV Edition

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm (2017)

When Dylan's sister Dusty becomes engaged to a Scottish lord on a reality show, the whole family finds themselves traveling to Scotland to prepare for the wedding.  For shy and awkward Dylan, being followed around by cameras is a nightmare, especially with a blossoming romance and family issues coming to the forefront. 

I enjoyed this book so much; I couldn't put it down and finished it in a day!  I loved the royalty aspect; I loved the reality tv aspect; I loved the Scottish setting.  Everything worked!  The pacing of the story was perfect.  There were never any dull moments.  Dylan was an adorable main character.  She just wants to live her life and appear as little as possible on the show.  She and groomsman Jamie were so cute together; I loved their witty banter and how comfortable they seemed around each other, almost right away.  I was a bit wary of Jamie in the beginning, because he seemed a little cagey and too good to be true.  I mean, the producers of the show messed around with other storylines, so why not this one?  But by the end, I understood Jamie and fell in love with him even more, especially because of his love of reading.    4.5 stars

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman (2018)

Confession: I love reality TV, but I don't watch The Bachelor.  However, I do read a lot of articles about it and I'll kind of keep up with it online as the season goes on.  And I'm a sucker for anything "behind-the-scenes"!

I wouldn't say that anything Kaufman revealed in this book surprised me too much, but it was still kind of shocking.  The producers and casting directors are very calculating, choosing cast members to fill particular roles.  Reading about how the contestants are manipulated and treated during the show made me never want to be on a reality show.  The contestants aren't allowed to watch TV or even read books during their time in the mansion, and there's alcohol everywhere.  Producers practically force contestants to say certain things, like they're in love with the bachelor or bachelorette even if they aren't.  The short timeline, the overly-romantic dates - this isn't how dating works in the real world, yet millions of us tune in every week, and we expect a proposal.  I could have done without the chapter on the history of TV dating shows and perhaps a little less on how contestants try to capitalize on their newfound fame after the show, but I did appreciate the research Kaufman put into the book.  I guess in the end maybe I wanted a little more, but I think other fans of reality TV will enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at one of the country's most popular and enduring shows.  4 stars

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Daisy Children

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

The Daisy Children
Sofia Grant
Expected publication date: August 7, 2018
Inspired by true events, in Sofia Grant’s powerfully moving new novel a young woman peels back the layers of her family’s history, discovering a tragedy in the past that explains so much of the present. This unforgettable story is one of hope, healing, and the discovery of truth

Sometimes the untold stories of the past are the ones we need to hear...

When Katie Garrett gets the unexpected news that she’s received an inheritance from the grandmother she hardly knew, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She flees Boston—and her increasingly estranged husband—and travels to rural Texas.

There, she’s greeted by her distant cousin Scarlett. Friendly, flamboyant, eternally optimistic, Scarlett couldn’t be more different from sensible Katie. And as they begin the task of sorting through their grandmother’s possessions, they discover letters and photographs that uncover the hidden truths about their shared history, and the long-forgotten tragedy of the New London school explosion of 1937 that binds them. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of 2018... So Far

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is best books we've read so far this year.  I've had quite a few great reads in the past few months, and they're a good mix of new and backlist titles.






Have you read any of these?  What are some of your favorite books of 2018 so far?