Monday, August 20, 2018

5 Things I Would Tell Myself As A New Blogger

I've been blogging a little over two years now, so I'm by no means an expert, but there are definitely things I know now that I wish I knew then, or at least some tips I would give myself as a new blogger.

Don't obsess over your stats.
This is still something I struggle with, obsessing over my stats and checking them a million times a day, but I would tell myself to TRY not to worry about them so much.  Sometimes they aren't the best reflection of how the blog is doing anyway, or rather, they're not the only way to measure success.  Look instead at how much interaction is going on within the posts and how people are responding.  This may take awhile, too, but it's okay.

Don't compare yourself to other bloggers.
As a new blogger, the easiest thing (and one of the worst things) to do is to compare yourself to other bloggers, especially ones that have been around for years.  Don't do it! It'll just get you feeling down.  You'll wonder why you don't have as many followers and why they're getting all the ARCs.  Remember that it takes time to grow a following, to find your voice, to create a visually interesting blog.  Everyone has to start somewhere, so just try to focus on what you're doing. 

Be yourself.
It's tempting to try to model yourself after successful bloggers - if it works for them, it should work for me, right?  But it's one thing to be inspired and another entirely to be something you're not.  There are so many book blogs out there, and the best way to distinguish your blog is to be yourself.  Read the books you want to read, talk about the stuff you want to talk about - you'll find an audience that's drawn to your authentic, honest voice.

And don't be afraid.
As a shy and introverted person, it may seem difficult at first to put yourself, your words and thoughts, out there on the internet (although I've explored why blogging is actually good for shy people).  But I've learned over the past two years that the book blogging community is amazing - thoughtful, kind, supportive.  Don't be afraid when people start finding your blog - it's actually going to feel really great to have people comment and respond to your posts!  And don't be afraid to put yourself out there - visit other blogs, comment A LOT, and participate in challenges and memes.  You're going to "meet" some awesome people!

It's okay to take breaks.
Sometimes you're going to get busy or even feel a little uninspired, and at those points, it's okay to take a break for a little while.  Readers, especially other bloggers, will totally understand, and they'll be there when you come back!

What advice would you give yourself as a new blogger?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Science Fiction Mini-Reviews

Obscura by Joe Hart (2018)

In the near future, a dementia-like disease called Losian's is striking Earth's population.  Dr. Gillian Ryan is researching a cure when she accepts a position to study a crew on a space station that's exhibiting similar symptoms.  However, the mission turns out to be not what she expected and she finds herself in serious danger.

This book was part science fiction, part thriller, and part mystery.  When Gillian finds out after she's already in space that they're actually headed to Mars to examine a crew working on a top secret mission, I felt for her - she had no clue she would be millions of miles away from her daughter, who is suffering from Losian's.  During the journey and after they reach the Mars station, there's this pervasive sense that something is very wrong.  It didn't help that Gillian was somewhat of an unreliable narrator (she has an addition to painkillers), so sometimes it was hard to know what was real and who to trust.

The  twists and turns just kept coming, and the space setting really added to the tension.  I thought the mystery got a bit muddled at times, but the pacing of the story was so good and I loved the ending.  4 stars

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (2018)

Romy has been alone for years on a spaceship speeding away to a potential Earth II since her parents died when she learns that another ship is on its way.

Being alone in space is probably one of my worst nightmares, but Romy seems to handle it fairly well.  Her father taught her a lot about the ship and survival, so even though it literally takes years to send communications back and forth to Earth, teenage Romy isn't doing too bad.  Then, communications with Earth slow and stop, but Romy is hoping she'll get some answers from J, commander of the ship that is joining her mission.  However, strange things start happening and J seems a bit off.

It takes awhile for the real action to start in the story, but I was never bored.  It was interesting learning about Romy's life (although I wish the story of how she came to be alone had been presented a tad earlier), and I think the author did a great job capturing how Romy is a captain of a ship (although not by choice) but still a teenager (forming a crush on J).  This book was more of a thriller than I was expecting, and I loved all the surprises that kept cropping up during the second half of the book.  If you're looking for a space thriller that will give you the creeps and yet still has a lot of heart, this is the book for you.  4 stars

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Kennedy Debutante

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

The Kennedy Debutante
Kerri Maher
Expected publication date: October 2, 2018

A captivating novel following the exploits of Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, the forgotten and rebellious daughter of one of America's greatest political dynasties.

London, 1938. The effervescent "It girl" of London society since her father was named the ambassador, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy moves in rarified circles, rubbing satin-covered elbows with some of the 20th century's most powerful figures. Eager to escape the watchful eye of her strict mother, Rose, the antics of her older brothers, Jack and Joe, and the erratic behavior of her sister Rosemary, Kick is ready to strike out on her own and is soon swept off her feet by Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire. But their love is forbidden, as Kick's devout Catholic family and Billy's staunchly Protestant one would never approve their match. When war breaks like a tidal wave across her world, Billy is ripped from her arms as the Kennedys are forced to return to the States. Kick gets work as a journalist and joins the Red Cross to get back to England, where she will have to decide where her true loyalties lie--with family or with love . . . - from Goodreads
I love historical fiction, and the Kennedys are such a fascinating family!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer TBR Wipeout 2018 Wrap-Up

I can't believe it's already time to finish up the Summer TBR Wipeout, hosted by The Candid Cover!  After my last update, I had three books left on my TBR for this challenge, and I was really looking forward to them!


The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari is just such a sweet and adorable book.  It's the second book in the Windy City Magic duology and it's about a teenager who's also a matchmaker.  I love all the magical realism in these books: you have high school students doing regular things, like applying to college and working after-school jobs, but there's also mermaids and sirens and witches.  Friendship, love, and family are all themes of this book, without being too heavy on the drama.  Highly recommend!

Then I moved onto Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  I don't know why it took me so long to read this book; I remember seeing the movie and enjoying it, and I always thought the cover looked cool, and a bit creepy.  I enjoyed the world building in this book and the way the author incorporated all the old photographs.  Even though the story took a long time to get going, I still liked this one.
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter was my last, and shortest, read for this challenge.  At only 134 pages, I flew through this book in less than two hours.  Basically, it's kind of a dystopian/post-apocalyptic book that focuses on a woman who has just given birth when flood waters rise exponentially and she is forced to flee her home.  The writing is very sparse and straightforward, and the juxtaposition of the massive changes in the environment and civilization versus a mother watching her child grow was pretty cool.
So, that's it!  The Summer TBR Wipeout 2018 is complete!  I'm so glad I did this challenge and knocked 9 books off my TBR!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Sweet Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: Everything Is Better With Ice Cream

Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian (2018)

Amelia has been looking forward to spending her summer working at the local ice cream stand, but when the owner passes away, leaving the business to her grand-nephew, Amelia's plans are put on hold.

I thought this was a cute story.  I love the idea that the ice-cream stand has an all-female staff, and the girls become very close.  Amelia is very much a rule follower and almost becomes obsessed with keeping the business alive, but I loved her passion.  She kept everything going, even after Grady took over, I felt like he had some good ideas, like incorporating more social media, but he seemed so over his head.  He was trying to prove himself to his father; however, he didn't have the experience or the money to really make the ice cream stand thrive when things got tough.

One thing I didn't care for was Amelia's friendship with Cate.  Cate didn't seem to take anything seriously; even when she became Head Girl at the ice cream stand, she was more interested in having fun and gossiping than making sure the stand was clean and serving the customers.  However, I loved the excerpts from the diary of Molly Meade, the original owner.  I wanted even more of her story.  3.5 stars

Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America by Amy Ettinger (2017)

A journalist with a love for ice cream delves into the history of ice cream and other frozen treats, as well as visiting several ice cream businesses.

I thought this would be a fun summertime read where I would learn a few things, and it was, partly.  The author talked about the history of different large ice cream companies, various types of cold desserts, such as gelato and frozen yogurt, and visited some cool places, such as one that's making ice cream out of water buffalo milk.  I discovered that there's a short college course that one can take at Penn State on making ice cream, and I finally found out what happened to the Chipwich!  For those interested in trying their own hand at making ice cream, some recipes are included.  I appreciated these parts of the book, but the overall tone of the book could be quite negative.  The author comes across as obsessed (seriously, I think her entire life revolves around ice cream and where she can get her next fix), snobbish, and judgmental.  Just one example: upon finding out that most ice cream places don't make their own base (it's an intensive and highly regulated process), she is horrified and sometimes seems to lose respect for the business owner.  Her negativity left a bad taste in my mouth, and I feel sorry if any of the people she interviewed actually read this book.  3 stars

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Last Wish of Sasha Cade

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

The Last Wish of Sasha Cade
Cheyanne Young
Expected publication date: October 2, 2018
The day Raquel has been dreading for months has finally arrived. Sasha, her best friend in the whole world -- the best friend in the whole world -- has died of cancer. Raquel can’t imagine life without her. She’s overwhelmed and brokenhearted.

And then a letter from Sasha arrives. Has she somehow found a way to communicate from the afterlife?

In fact, Sasha has planned an elaborate scavenger hunt for Raquel, and when she follows the instructions to return to Sasha’s grave, a mysterious stranger with striking eyes is waiting for her. There’s a secret attached to this boy that only Sasha—and now Raquel—knows.

This boy, Elijah, might be just what Raquel needs to move on from her terrible loss. But can Raquel remain true to herself while also honoring her friend’s final wish? - from Goodreads

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Six Mile Run

We took advantage of a break in the heat one Sunday morning to check out Six Mile Run in Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey.  There are three parking areas for the park, which is part of the D&R Canal State Park, and we started at the Canal Road lot.

For a trail map, click here.

Our original goal was to hike to the parking lot at the eastern end of the trail, on Route 27, and then come back.  We started on the Blue Trail, and I immediately loved it.  It moved from forest to wide open fields and back, and it was just so peaceful and lovely.  The trail was very winding, almost curling back on itself several times.  This area is also really popular with mountain bikers, and there were quite a few of them on the trail that day.

However, after being on the trail for a really long time and still not coming to the intersection with the Red Trail, our plan changed.  I feel like either the map wasn't super accurate or I had completely misjudged the length of the hike.  

When we finally reached the fork in the trail, we met up with some bikers we had come across a couple times.  They told us if we made a sharp right turn on the Red Trail, it would take us almost straight back to the parking lot, in half the time it took us on the Blue Trail.  This isn't marked on the map, so I'm glad they confirmed it for us.  And since we had been out there for almost 2 hours already, we took that option! 

The Red Trail was so scenic, overlooking the creek.  Although it had a couple big dips (very popular with the bikers), it wasn't a hard trail at all.

Overall, our hike was almost 6 miles, and we barely covered half the park.  I would love to go back someday and start at the other end, to see the rest of the area.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Coffee Book Tag

I saw this tag, originally created by BangadyBangz, over on He Said Books Or Me, and thought it sounded really fun.  I mean, books and coffee - what could be better?

Black - a book or series that was hard to get into but has a die-hard fanbase.  I'm going with Caraval on this one; although I know a lot of bloggers had the same issues I did with this book, there's no denying that it's really popular.  I wasn't a huge fan of the flowery writing, but I did get drawn into the game.

Peppermint Mocha - a book that gets popular around the holiday season.  A Christmas Carol.  It's such a classic and instantly recognizable as a holiday favorite.

Hot chocolate - your favorite children's book.  Behind the Attic Wall.  It's one of the first books I remember rereading as a child.  I named my cat after one of the characters!  Although, since this book is about talking dolls, I'm surprised it didn't give me nightmares.

Double shot of espresso - a book that kept you on the edge of your seat.  The Girl on the Train was such a thrill ride for me - I had to know what would happen.  I lost sleep, I got to work late, I couldn't put this one down!

Starbucks - a book you see everywhere.  The Kiss Quotient.  Am I the only person not reading this book?

Hipster coffee shop - shoutout to a book by an indie author.  This one is hard for me, as I don't really read indie authors.  But this book, Wild Mountain, will make you want to take a trip to Vermont.

Decaf - a book you expected more from.  I chose Red Rising.  After seeing so many other bloggers rave about it, I finally read it and I was... underwhelmed.  I did a lot of skimming and the world just didn't make sense to me.

The perfect blend - a book with the perfect combination of bitter and sweet.  At times both completely heartwarming and heartbreaking, Henry's Sisters is a good mix of bitter and sweet.  You'll laugh, and then you'll cry your eyes out.

Consider yourself tagged if you'd like to do this one, too!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Month in Review: July 2018

I don't know about you guys, but I'm glad that July is over.  I'm really hoping August is a better month, overall.  The weather didn't help; it was way too hot, muggy, and rainy.  We did see a couple great movies (Ant-Man and the Wasp, Mission: Impossible Fallout), but that was about it.

I noticed I've been getting a lot of hits from Twitter, so thank you to everyone who has been sharing my posts over there!

And lastly, some semi-exciting news: I finally got a smartphone and joined Instagram; you can check out my page here.  Right now it's set to private because it will also be my personal account, but please feel free to send me a request and I'll follow back!

The Books

Zoo (audio) // All We Ever Wanted // Obscura (review to come) // The Garden of Small Beginnings

Stay Sweet (review to come) // Sweet Spot (review to come) // The Address // The Loneliest Girl in the Universe (review to come)

Daughter of the Siren Queen // Code Girls (review to come) // Jurassic Park (audio) // The Sweetest Kind of Fate

The Posts and Reviews
The Posts I Loved

Laura at Boats Against the Current tells the story behind her blog name

How was your July?  What was your favorite book of the month?

Friday, August 3, 2018

Review: The Husband Hour

The Husband Hour
Jamie Brenner
Published April 24, 2018
When a young widow's reclusive life in a charming beach town is interrupted by a surprise visitor, she is forced to reckon with dark secrets about her family, her late husband, and the past she tried to leave behind.

Lauren Adelman and her high school sweetheart, Rory Kincaid, are a golden couple. They marry just out of college as Rory, a star hockey player, earns a spot in the NHL. Their future could not look brighter when Rory shocks everyone-Lauren most of all-by enlisting in the U.S. Army. When Rory dies in combat, Lauren is left devastated, alone, and under unbearable public scrutiny.

Seeking peace and solitude, Lauren retreats to her family's old beach house on the Jersey Shore. But this summer she's forced to share the house with her overbearing mother and competitive sister. Worse, a stranger making a documentary about Rory tracks her down and persuades her to give him just an hour of her time.

One hour with filmmaker Matt Brio turns into a summer of revelations, surprises, and upheaval. As the days grow shorter and her grief changes shape, Lauren begins to understand the past-and to welcome the future.
Rory Kincaid was a star athlete with a career in the NHL, newly married to his high school sweetheart Lauren, when he decided to enlist in the army.  After he is killed in combat, Lauren spends the next four years at her family beach house, isolated until one summer finds her entire family sharing the house with her.  To make things worse, a documentary filmmaker wants to tell Rory's story.

I have to say, one of the main reasons I was drawn to this book was the Jersey shore setting.  I spent my childhood summers up and down the shore, so I was eager to see how the author incorporated that.  I think she did a good job, with the references to local landmarks and overall relaxed lifestyle.

Onto the story!  Much of the plot revolves around the documentary being put together by Matt Brio.  He wanted to do a portrait of American hero Rory, but through his research and interviews, he comes across some things about Rory that were kept quiet, which leads his film in a different direction.  He wants to talk to Lauren to fill in some of the gaps.  She, understandably, doesn't want to be involved at first. 

I didn't really know what to make of Lauren at first.  She was only 24 when Rory died, and she has spent the last few years living alone at the shore.  As more of the story is revealed about her and Rory's relationship, we find out that their life was not as perfect as it had been portrayed.  They had issues, a lot of which stemmed from something beyond their control (I don't want to spoil it too much, although it is revealed pretty early on), and I finally understood that Lauren held a lot of guilt regarding Rory's death.

Lauren's sister and parents also play roles in the story, and everyone is dealing with their own issues.  Stephanie, the sister, is going through a divorce, but for me that totally didn't excuse her partying, drinking, and neglect of her son.  Lauren's parents are losing the store they owned for 30 years and their marriage is on the rocks.  I think Lauren's mother Beth was my favorite character.  She tried to be the glue holding everyone together.  Although she could be a bit na├»ve in that way, she was also a lot smarter than everyone gave her credit for.

I read this book very quickly; the writing was very approachable and the story flowed well.  However, for some reason I never became fully invested in the characters.  I didn't feel as moved as I thought I would be.  I also had two major issues with the book, the first being the romance, which I felt was forced.  There was also a surprise reveal near the end which I felt was completely unnecessary and really tainted my view of some of the characters.  However, this book has so many great reviews, so this may be an "it's not you, it's me" thing.

3.5 stars

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Glass Ocean

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

The Glass Ocean
Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White
Expected publication date: September 4, 2018
May 2013
Her finances are in dire straits and bestselling author Sarah Blake is struggling to find a big idea for her next book. Desperate, she breaks the one promise she made to her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and opens an old chest that belonged to her great-grandfather, who died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915. What she discovers there could change history. Sarah embarks on an ambitious journey to England to enlist the help of John Langford, a recently disgraced Member of Parliament whose family archives might contain the only key to the long-ago catastrophe. . . .

April 1915
Southern belle Caroline Telfair Hochstetter’s marriage is in crisis. Her formerly attentive industrialist husband, Gilbert, has become remote, pre-occupied with business . . . and something else that she can’t quite put a finger on. She’s hoping a trip to London in Lusitania’s lavish first-class accommodations will help them reconnect—but she can’t ignore the spark she feels for her old friend, Robert Langford, who turns out to be on the same voyage. Feeling restless and longing for a different existence, Caroline is determined to stop being a bystander, and take charge of her own life. . . .
Tessa Fairweather is traveling second-class on the Lusitania, returning home to Devon. Or at least, that’s her story. Tessa has never left the United States and her English accent is a hasty fake. She’s really Tennessee Schaff, the daughter of a roving con man, and she can steal and forge just about anything. But she’s had enough. Her partner has promised that if they can pull off this one last heist aboard the Lusitania, they’ll finally leave the game behind. Tess desperately wants to believe that, but Tess has the uneasy feeling there’s something about this job that isn’t as it seems. . . .

As the Lusitania steams toward its fate, three women work against time to unravel a plot that will change the course of their own lives . . . and history itself. - from Goodreads
Dual timeline and historical fiction on the Lusitania?  Yes, please!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Summer TBR Wipeout 2018: Update #2

I can't believe it's time for the second update on the Summer TBR Wipeout, hosted by The Candid Cover!  Since my last update, I've read 3 books:

I've been wanting to read The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman since last summer, but for some reason kept putting it off.  I'm so glad I added it to my TBR for this challenge, because I really loved it! The Garden of Small Beginnings tells the story of widow Lilian as she and her young daughters take a gardening class.  I loved the cast of characters around her, especially her sister, and watching Lilian try to open herself up to love again made me cry some happy tears.

Next I moved onto The Address by Fiona Davis, which is set at the historic Dakota apartment building in New York City.  The story is told in a dual timeline: the first is in the 1880s, when the building first opens, and the second is in the mid-1980s and focuses on cousins living in the Dakota who are related to the fictional architect of the building, Theodore Camden.  I loved learning about the historic building; however, even though I enjoy dual timeline stories, it seems like one story is usually more interesting than the other.  In this case, I preferred the 1880s story about the female manager of the building.

The third book I read was Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller.  I really enjoyed Daughter of the Pirate King and was looking forward to the sequel - it didn't disappoint!  I love these strong female pirates, and this book was so action-packed!  There were a lot of tense moments, and not everyone makes it out.  Definitely a great conclusion to the duology!

So, I have three books left on my TBR for this challenge, and I'm looking forward to getting started on them!