Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: Miss You

Miss You
Kate Eberlen
Published April 4, 2017 (originally published 2016)
Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven't met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .

Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can't get it out of her head, even though she's in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever - but not in the way she expects.

Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.

For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.

Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there's no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there? - from Goodreads
Miss You is the tale of Tess and Gus, but it's also a story about missed connections, family, and identity.

The approach to this story is unique.  This isn't a second-chance romance, it's not "the one that got away."  It's the stories of two people and how they finally connect with each other, after random meetings and near-misses over a period of 16 years.  The reader sees everything leading up to the beginning of their relationship and how they got to that point, with the twist that they've actually come across each other before.  It's an interesting look at fate and makes you wonder if all the people you come across on a daily basis will later have some greater meaning in your life.

The book switches back and forth between the points of view of Tess and Gus.  It's basically two stories in one, and each was fairly interesting enough that it could have been a stand-alone book.  Tess and Gus first cross paths in Florence, Italy, seeing each other at a church and later on the street.  However, they don't really talk and each returns to their own lives.  Gus goes on to medical school, while Tess' plans for college are put on hold after her mother passes away, leaving Tess to take care of her younger sister, Hope (their father is basically useless).

One thing I enjoyed a lot was seeing the parallels between their lives.  Both Tess and Gus are dealing with grief (Tess with the loss of her mother and Gus with the loss of his older brother).  Neither are living the lives they want to.  Tess feels responsible for her sister, especially after she's diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and I felt for her.  She made so many sacrifices for her family.  Gus, on the other hand, I had less sympathy for.  He's kind of awkward and timid, afraid to tell his parents that he doesn't really want to go medical school, yet he goes through with it all anyway.  He's like a bystander in every area of his life.  Both Tess and Gus are in various relationships that are each problematic in their own way.  Neither are particularly happy, which led to a somewhat melancholy feel over the whole book.

I did have a couple issues with the book.  I felt there was far too much infidelity, in both the stories.  It was a little disappointing that the plot hinged on cheating.  Also, I wasn't crazy about the ending.  It went on a bit too long and I didn't think the characters acted consistently with the rest of the story.  A much simpler ending would have gone a long way.

3.5 stars

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Try It, You Might Like It #8: Science

"Try it, you might like it" - it's what someone says when they present you with some food you've never had before or your mom wants you to try on some clothes she picked out for you.  I'm using it here on the blog as inspiration to choose books in genres I don't normally read; to branch out from my reading comfort zones; and to maybe find some new favorites!

Wow, I haven't done one of these in forever!  Over Christmas, I was talking to my sister and brother-in-law about books and how I was looking for something new and different to read.  My BIL suggested Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson (2017).

I was a bit leery.  Science fiction is one thing, but actual science?  And astrophysics at that?  Science and math were not my best subjects in school (I only passed calculus by reading over my twin sister's shoulder).  I was worried that this book would just make me feel stupid, but my BIL assured me it would not.  Deciding to trust him on this, I took a chance on it - and I'm so glad I did!

In Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Tyson has compiled a short book touching on the major areas of his field.  I wouldn't say this book "dumbs down" the science - there were definitely sections I could have used more background or definitions - but it does give an overview on various subjects explained in a more approachable way, like bringing in comparisons to dancing or cooking, for instance.  Tyson's dry humor kept the book from getting too textbook-y and made me chuckle a few times (like when he calls dark matter our "frenemy").

I have to admit, the first couple chapters were not my cup of tea.  He starts out with some of the most abstract topics, like dark matter and dark energy.  I was more than a little confused.  But as the book went on, I became more and more interested.  Tyson talks about different types of telescopes; why the sphere is the most common shape found in the universe; and the various types of matter found in our own galaxy.  I even started reading some of it out loud to my husband.

Some of the things in the book just blew my mind; these definitely aren't topics I think about on a daily basis - how the building blocks of the universe are smaller than you can even imagine; the sheer size, scale, and even age of our own galaxy, let alone the universe; how science has come forward in leaps and bounds in such a short period of time.  It's just astonishing the things we know now, compared to even 10 years ago, and new discoveries are being made all the time.  Tyson freely admits that there are so many things we still don't understand, and his last chapter reflecting on the role science plays in society is particularly inspiring.

I may have said before that I'm not a science person, but this is one book I would gladly read again and again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Hotel on Shadow Lake

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

Hotel on Shadow Lake
Daniela Tully
Expected publication date: April 10, 2018
When Maya was a girl in Germany, her grandmother was everything to her: teller of magical fairy tales, surrogate mother, best friend. Then, shortly after Maya’s sixteenth birthday, her grandmother disappeared without a trace, leaving Maya with only questions to fill the void.

Twenty-seven years later, her grandmother’s body is found in a place she had no connection to: the Montgomery Resort in upstate New York. How did she get there? Why had she come? Desperate for answers, Maya leaves her life in Germany behind and travels to America, where she is drawn to the powerful family that owns the hotel and seemingly the rest of the town.

Soon Maya is unraveling secrets that go back decades, from 1910s New York to 1930s Germany and beyond. But when she begins to find herself spinning her own lies in order to uncover the circumstances surrounding her grandmother’s death, she must decide whether her life and a chance at true love are worth risking for the truth. - from Goodreads

Monday, February 12, 2018

Quotables #7: Love Is In The Air

This edition of Quotables is all about love!  Happy Valentine's Day (a little early)!

Why it speaks to me: When you're truly happy, you feel like you can do anything.  You feel like you have everything to look forward to and the possibilities are endless.

Why it speaks to me: I think love can make us better people.  Our lives are no longer singular; there's someone else to think about and take into account.  It can make us less selfish and more selfless.  And when you really love someone, you want to do everything you can for them.

Why it speaks to me: I love that this quote acknowledges that we don't need a husband/wife/partner to be fulfilled in life, but that it's okay to want one.  It's a wonderful feeling knowing someone is waiting for you at home, who will share your highs and lows.
Which of these is your favorite?  What's your favorite quote about love?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Mini-Reviews: Sister, Sister

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase (2017)

A dual timeline story: In summer 1959, four sisters visit Applecote Manor, the home where their beloved cousin Audrey disappeared from 5 years prior.  In the present day, a woman seeks a fresh start at the manor with her husband, daughter, and stepdaughter.

I love stories about families, secrets, and especially old English manors, and I was not disappointed by The Wildling Sisters.  In 1959, the four Wilde sisters visit their aunt and uncle, and it is a summer of upheaval for them all.  The relationships between the sisters are pulled apart and back together again.  In the present-day timeline, Jessie has a hard time connecting with her stepdaugher.

Chase did a tremendous job creating these delicate relationships, and each story feels a bit haunted.  The story is very atmospheric, and I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the house and surrounding lands; it almost felt as if the manor were another character in the story.  While I was a bit more drawn to the 1959 story, I thought both parts of the book were strong.  4 stars

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (2017)

Leia, a graphic novel artist, finds out she is pregnant after a one-night stand at the same time she discovers her grandmother is suffering from dementia.

This book had a lot going on, almost too much at times: Leia's pregnancy, her grandmother's health issues, small-town politics, discussions about racism in the South, Leia's sister's marital issues, even a body found in the attic of Leia's grandmother's house.  It seemed like there was a lot of talking, but nothing got resolved; for example, Leia is constantly thinking about how her child will be biracial, yet we don't get to see how this plays out.  Normally, I don't mind open-ended stories, but here everything just felt... unfinished.

I never felt connected to the characters, and I couldn't get a handle on the tone of the story - sometimes it seemed light, while other times it tried to be serious and impart some deep thoughts.  The secondary characters were cliché, especially (unfortunately) Leia's elderly Southern grandmother, with her cutesy nickname and overly prominent standing in the community.    2.5 stars

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Not That I Could Tell

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

Not That I Could Tell
Jessica Strawser
Expected publication date: March 27, 2018
When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else. - from Goodreads

Monday, February 5, 2018

TBR Book Tag

I saw this tag over on Kirsty Chronicles and bookmarked it as something I'd like to do eventually.  Well, today is that day!

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I actually keep my TBR on Pinterest.  I have a separate board for it.  I use Goodreads for a lot of things, but for some reason Pinterest is just more visually appealing for my TBR!

2. Is your TBR pile mostly print or e-book?
It's exclusively print at this point.  I don't read e-books yet, although my sister is always trying to get me into them!

3. A book that's been on your TBR the longest?

I will read this in 2018!
4. A book you recently added to your TBR pile?

5. A book in your TBR pile strictly because of its beautiful cover?

I don't think I've ever added a book to my TBR based only on the cover, but this cover is pretty beautiful!

6. A book on your TBR pile you plan on never reading?
Occasionally I'll put a book on my TBR thinking I should read it rather than really wanting to, but if I don't think I'll read a book, or it doesn't appeal to me anymore or whatever, I just delete it from my TBR.

7. An unpublished book on your TBR you're excited for?

8. A book on your TBR pile that everyone's read but you?

9. A book on your TBR everyone recommends to you?

10. A book on your TBR you're dying to read?

11. How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?
There are only a couple books on my Goodreads TBR shelf - it's pretty much only for books I own but haven't read yet - but on my TBR I have over 150 books.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Review: Wild Bird

Wild Bird
Wendelin Van Draanen
Published September 5, 2017
3:47 a.m. That's when they come for Wren Clemens. She's hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who've gone so far off the rails, their parents don't know what to do with them any more. This is wilderness therapy camp.

The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can't put up a tent. And bitter won't start a fire. Wren's going to have to admit she needs help if she's going to survive.

In her most incisive and insightful book yet, beloved author Wendelin Van Draanen's offers a remarkable portrait of a girl who too a wrong turn and got lost--but who may be able to find her way back again in the vast, harsh desert. - from Goodreads
Wren is an out-of-control 14-year old - she smokes a lot of weed, she steals, she lies, she destroys things.  Running out of options, Wren's parents decide to send her to a wilderness therapy program.  Wren is dropped off in the middle of the Utah desert, joining a group of other troubled young women.  As the weeks go on, Wren must decide if she's willing to change her ways.

The author did a great job capturing Wren.  I really felt like I was in the mind of this 14-year-old; her tone of voice, her actions, everything felt very quintessential teenager.  The anger she felt towards her parents, her sister, and the bad group of kids she had gotten mixed up in leapt off the page.  I could feel her resistance towards the therapy program, but I loved those moments when Wren's walls came down and she could be really honest with herself (and others) about why she acted the way she did.

The story moved very quickly.  I flew through it in just a few hours; I found myself desperate to know what would happen to Wren.  I appreciated that the author mixed in both successes and failures for Wren within the program.  It felt realistic for her to have breakthroughs but to also experience setbacks.

There were only a few downsides to this book - the program Wren is enrolled in is only 8 weeks.  I don't think that's enough time to really explore one's issues and make lasting changes.  And although the story ends on a high note, I almost wanted some sort of epilogue or jump forward into the future, to see how Wren is doing now.

4 stars

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Month in Review: January 2018

Does anyone else feel like it's hard to start your New Year's resolutions (like exercising more and eating healthier) when it's cold and dark outside and all you want to do is sit on the couch under a blanket?  I hope it's not just me.  So, what happened this month?
  • The weather was out of control - brutal cold and snow followed by random days of above-normal temps.  Make up your mind, Mother Nature!
  • We went on a double date with my sister and her husband to see Jumanji, which was a lot of fun and I loved the Robin Williams reference.
  • We celebrated our niece's 2nd birthday - she is the sweetest girl, and she loves books, so that makes me a happy aunt! 
  • I feel like I was in a bit of a blogging lull.  I don't have as many scheduled-ahead posts as I normally do and I feel like I have no good ideas for new posts.  Hopefully this will end soon!

The Books:

The Posts & Reviews:

The Posts I Loved:

Amy at A Magical World of Words seeks to bring awareness to romanticized abuse in books, films, and media
Jordan at Forever Lost in Literature talks about why she blogs

Marie at Drizzle and Hurricane Books talks about why she doesn't do TBRs

Kristen at Metaphors and Moonlight discusses separating the author from the book

Greg at Book Haven asks if your personality shines through on your blog

Katie at Doing Dewey puts together a beginner's guide to nonfiction

Suzanne at The Bookish Libra discusses blogging while traveling
What was your first book of 2018?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: She Regrets Nothing

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

She Regrets Nothing
Andrea Dunlop
Expected publication date: February 6, 2018
In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.

When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth. - from Goodreads

Monday, January 29, 2018

4 Strategies For Making More Time To Read

For many people, one of the reasons they give for why they don't read is that they don't have time.  I can understand this - we're all busy, between families, work, and other obligations.  Free time is often at a premium.  So, for anyone looking for even just a few extra minutes to squeeze in some chapters, today I've come up with four ways that can help you gain some extra reading time!

Meal prep
I bring my lunch to work every day, and many weeks I will make a big batch of *something* on Sundays, portion it all out, and I'm done for the week!  Those 10-15 minutes each morning or night I would spend putting my lunch together or trying to find something to eat have now been freed up for other things.  My husband will also often do this for our dinners, so we spend less time in the kitchen on weeknights.

Just 10 minutes
Instead of diving right in and trying to carve out hours per day to read, start small - wake up a few minutes earlier or stay up a few minutes later to read a few pages.  Start your nighttime routine at 10:50pm instead of 11pm, then use that extra time to get comfy and get reading.  Waking up at 7am instead of 7:10am isn't a huge commitment, and you can use that quiet time to read a chapter or two before starting all the other things you need to do.  Or, just set a timer during your evening and devote just that 10 minutes to reading.  Everyone has 10 minutes, right?

Create a tech-free reading zone
Whether this is your bedroom or just a random chair in your house, designate one area as technology-free (except for e-readers!).  Most of us spend a ton of time checking social media, reading emails, or bingeing something on Netflix - spending some of that time reading instead would be great!  Having an area where you can go to just read, without any other distractions, may make you more likely to devote the time to it. 

Sometimes it's not about creating more free time or giving something up, but using our time more wisely.  I'm still a fan of paper books, but the days of lugging around large hardcover books are a thing of the past.  With audiobooks and ebooks, we can basically read anywhere and everywhere.  When my work commute got longer, I started listening to audiobooks in the car - that's literally an extra HOUR per day I can spend reading.  You can listen to books while you're exercising or cleaning the house.  Your phone or e-reader can ensure you never lack a book to read while you're sitting in a doctor's waiting room.  If you always have a book with you, you'll never have an excuse to not read!

What are some of your tips for making more time to read?  How do you make reading a priority?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Mini-Reviews: Time Travel Romances

Back in December, I did a post on time travel romances I've read and enjoyed.  Since then, I've read a couple more, so here are my reviews!

The Dream Keeper's Daughter by Emily Colin (2017)

Isabel has been raising her daughter Finn alone since her boyfriend Max disappeared shortly after she told him she was pregnant.  What she doesn't know is that Max has been pulled back through time, to his ancestor's plantation in 1816 Barbados, and that he's trying to get back to them before he gets caught in the middle of a deadly slave uprising.

This book had a lot going on - not only was there time travel and romance, there were also some supernatural/paranormal elements, historical fiction, friendships, relationships between parents and children, and family secrets.  It worked for awhile, but by the end I was lost and felt the story was dragging on.

I loved the writing; the author had an easy, flowing style.  At the beginning, the pacing was also really good - although some might feel it's slow, I liked the way the story moved back and forth between Isabel and Max's points of view (Isabel wondering if she should have hope that Max is still alive and Max trying to stop the rebellion).  However, the last 100 pages or so didn't work for me.  Isabel's best friend Ryan reveals that he has been in love with her for years, and the drama between the two of them as they decide whether to embark on a relationship was just awkward.  I don't think the story needed this element; I would have been more happy to have the focus on Isabel's conflicting feelings about both Max and her mother, who also disappeared when Isabel was younger. 3.5 stars

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer (2017)

A neurosurgeon taking care of her late brother's estate in Siena, Italy, is transported back to the 14th century, where she finds herself falling in love with an artist on the eve of the Plague's arrival.

I really enjoyed this book - the writing was absolutely lovely, the characters were fully fleshed-out, and the setting was rich.  Winawer did a great job in setting the scene; the descriptions of 14th century Italy and life at that time transported me to the era.  Beatrice was a multi-dimensional main character - although a neurosurgeon by trade, she also had an interest in history, and when she found herself in 1347 Siena, she adapted very quickly to her new surroundings, even finding herself a job and surprising herself with a lack of desire to get back.  The secondary characters added a lot of heart to the story.

Besides being just a love story between Beatrice and artist Gabriele, there is also quite a bit of intrigue, as Beatrice tries to figure out why Siena will be hard-hit by the Plague, causing the city's downfall.  She and Gabriele are pulled into situations more dangerous than they expect.  My only quibble with the story was that it did seem to move quite slowly at times.  4 stars

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: A Lady's Guide to Selling Out

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

A Lady's Guide to Selling Out
Sally Franson
Expected publication date: April 10, 2018
An ambitious young woman navigates the slippery world of advertising--and the equally slippery question of who she wants to be. Mad Men meets The Devil Wears Prada in this smart and witty debut novel.

Casey Pendergast, once a book-loving English major, is now a clothes-loving brand strategist at a top ad agency. Casey is a superstar, and her career has skyrocketed: she knows what people want, and she knows how to give it to them. When her hard-to-please boss assigns her to a top-secret marketing campaign that pairs authors with corporations hungry for creative copy and upmarket cache, Casey is initially thrilled--but as she begins to meet and woo her literary idols, she can't help but question the cost on her conscience. With an unforgettable voice--plucky and razor-sharp, equal parts feminist and pop-culture--this is the story of a young woman untangling the contradictions of our culture, and finding her way out of the rat race by returning to her first love: literature. - from Goodreads

Monday, January 22, 2018

4 Free Things We Did in Las Vegas... and 5 For The Next Trip

(In an effort to freshen up the "wanderings" part of my blog, I want to start incorporating more travel posts, so this is my first attempt!)

I was so excited to go to Las Vegas for the first time last year, but I was also a bit worried about the costs - the restaurants, the gambling, the drinking - it wouldn't be cheap!  So I did some research before we left and came up with a list of things that we could do for free.  Because our trip was rather short and my list was really long, we only got to a few of them, so I guess that just means I'll have to go back!

1. Walking the Strip and checking out the casinos.  After parking our car, we basically walked anywhere we wanted to go along the Strip.  There's so much to see both inside and outside the casinos.  The themed hotels are so ornate and busy, we didn't even need to gamble to have fun.  And with the way we ate, we definitely needed the exercise.

2. The Park.  The Park is an outdoor area located between the Monte Carlo and New York-New York hotels.  It offered some respite from the craziness of the Strip and also housed some very cool sculptures.

3. The Bellagio fountains  The fountains run on a schedule, so it's pretty easy to figure out when you should get there to see the show.

4.  The Welcome to Las Vegas sign.  The sign is actually located down Las Vegas Boulevard from the heart of the Strip, but since it was on the way to where we were staying, it was a quick stop for us.  There's actually a parking lot in the center of the road, which makes for an easy visit.  Also, it was quite a bit smaller than I thought it would be!

So, we ended up hitting the major tourist attractions while we were there, but if (when) we go back, there are five other attractions I'd like to check out, all for free:

Neon Museum: The Neon Museum houses an outdoor collection of classic neon signs.  Most of their collection is accessible through guided tours for a fee, but they also have a gallery of 9 restored signs that is open and free to the public, 24/7.

Ethel M. Chocolates: The Ethel M. Chocolates factory is actually located in Henderson.  You can do a free self-guided tour of the viewing aisle to catch a glimpse of them making the chocolate, and afterwards you can take a walk through their Botanical Cactus Garden, the largest in Nevada.

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden: The conservatory at the Bellagio houses a multitude of plants, flowers, and trees, and the design is changed for each season.  Unfortunately, we were in Las Vegas for the couple days each quarter when the Garden is closed to create the next season's scene!

The Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo: Inside the flashy Flamingo resort is a wildlife habitat that features fish, turtles, and of course, flamingos. 
ARIA fine art collection: All over the ARIA hotel campus, you can find stunning pieces of public art, from sculptures to paintings.

Las Vegas isn't just about gambling and drinking - there really is something for everyone, and you don't always have to spend a ton of money to have fun!
What are some of your favorite Las Vegas attractions?  What's your favorite thing about Las Vegas?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Review: The Night She Won Miss America

The Night She Won Miss America
Michael Callahan
Published April 18, 2017
Inspired by a true story, a young woman is swept up in the glamour and excitement of chasing the title of Miss America 1950—only to vanish the night she wins.

Betty Jane Welch reluctantly enters the Miss Delaware contest to make her mother happy, only to surprisingly find herself the judges' choice. Just like that, she's catapulted into the big time, the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.

Luckily, her pageant-approved escort for the week is the dashing but mercurial Griffin McAllister, and she falls for him hard. But when the spirited Betty unexpectedly wins the crown and sash, she finds she may lose what she wants most: Griff's love. To keep him, she recklessly agrees to run away together. From the flashy carnival of the Boardwalk to the shadowy streets of Manhattan to a cliffside mansion in gilded Newport, the chase is on as the cops and a scrappy reporter secretly in love with the beauty queen threaten to unravel everything-and expose Griff's darkest secret. - from Goodreads
This was one of those impulse grabs from the library new release shelf.  I didn't know anything about the book, hadn't checked out any reviews, but I thought the cover was adorable and the blurb was interesting, so I took it home.

In 1949, Betty Jane enters the Miss Delaware pageant as a favor to her mother, not expecting she would ever win - but she does, and she is swept off to the Miss America pageant.  There, she meets her escort for the week, Griff McAllister, and the two fall head over heels in love.  However, Griff tells Betty that if she were to win, he couldn't be with her; it would be too stressful for him.  When Betty unexpectedly wins, she has to make the choice between being Miss America and being Griff's girlfriend, and she chooses Griff - but was it the right choice?

I really enjoyed the first half of the story, up to when Betty wins the pageant.  The behind-the-scenes pageant tidbits and mid-century Atlantic City setting were fun.  After Betty runs away with Griff, the story got quite a bit more outlandish.  With stops in New York City and Newport, car chases, and an attempted rape, it felt like a soap opera.

At times it was hard to pin down Betty Jane as a character.  She seemed like a typical young woman, a college student who hasn't led the most interesting of lives.  When she meets Griff, she falls hard, and as a girl who hasn't had many boyfriends before, she loves the attention Griff gives her.  When she ultimately wins the Miss America title, Betty Jane vacillates practically every page.  Although the win isn't something she wanted, she begins to see all the possibilities and advantages it could bring, not to mention all the scholarship money, but she is worried about Griff.  To his credit, Griff never asks Betty to give up her title; she does that all on her own.  As the story goes on, she shows a cunning level-headedness that I didn't expect from her.

Griff, although charming at times, is hiding a big secret from Betty.  Maybe it's a bit of a spoiler, but Griff has schizophrenia, and by the time Betty learns the truth, it's too late; she's in too deep to just leave.  Griff's schizophrenia was a somewhat heartbreaking addition to the story, but the touches upon treatment and prognosis of mental illness in the 1940s were rather interesting.

Overall, I thought this story was engaging and quick-moving, although a bit inconsistent. 

3.5 stars

Thursday, January 18, 2018

TV Shows I'm Obsessed With Lately #4

Although I probably liked the first season slightly better, I'm still loving the second season of The Crown on Netflix.  It's no secret that I love royalty, so I am fascinated by this show about Queen Elizabeth II.  And this season devotes whole episodes to other members of the royal family, including the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, and her son, Prince Charles.

By Unknown - Netflix, Public Domain,

Travelers is yet another fantastic original series by Netflix.  In this series, the future is a bleak place, so "travelers" are sent back to the present-day to try to prevent all the things that caused society to collapse.  The consciousness of the traveler is transferred into the body of someone who is just about to die, saving them and taking over their lives in order to complete missions.  If you love time travel and sci-fi, there are two great seasons of this show to binge!

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

No matter how many years it's been since my own wedding, I will never get tired of looking at pretty dresses (especially ones I could never afford!) and hearing about people's love stories.  I can lose an entire afternoon watching reruns, and the new season has finally started!

What tv shows are you watching lately?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Sociable

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

Rebecca Harrington
Expected publication date: March 27, 2018
The Assistants meets The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. in this exuberant comedy of manners set in the world of Internet media, a brilliantly irreverent novel about what it means to be young, broke, dumped, and scarily good at creating viral content.

When Elinor Tomlinson moved to New York with a degree in journalism she had visions of writing witty opinion pieces, marrying her journalist boyfriend, and attending glamorous parties with famously perverted writers. Instead, Elinor finds herself nannying for two small children who speak in short, high screams, sleeping on a foam pad in a weird apartment, and attending terrible parties with Harper's interns wearing shapeless smocks. So when Elinor is offered a job at, the digital media brainchild of a Silicon Valley celebrity, she jumps at the chance. Sure, her boyfriend is writing long think pieces about the electoral college for a real website while Elinor writes lists about sneakers and people at parties give her pitying glances when she reveals her employer, but at Elinor discovers her true gift: She has a preternatural ability for writing sharable content. She is an overnight viral sensation! But Elinor's success is not without cost. Elinor's boyfriend dumps her, two male colleagues insist on "mentoring" her, and a piece she writes about her personal life lands her on local television. Broke, single, and consigned to move to a fifth-floor walkup, Elinor must ask herself: Is this the creative life she dreamed of? Can new love be found on Coffee Meets Bagel? And should she start wearing a smock? With wry humor and sharp intelligence, Sociable is a hilarious tale of one young woman's search for happiness--and an inside look at life in the wild world of Internet media. - from Goodreads

Monday, January 15, 2018

5 Little Mermaid Retellings For Adults

I am a huge Disney fan, and when I was a kid, my favorite of the Disney princesses was (and still is) Ariel (although Belle the bookworm also holds a place in my heart!).  I loved The Little Mermaid, but it was only when I got older that I realized that original Hans Christian Andersen tale is actually pretty dark.  So today I wanted to compile a list of Little Mermaid retellings for adult fans!

The Seafarer's Kiss by Julia Ember: A mermaid falls in love with a maiden trapped on a glacier.

The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb: An opera student in Boston feels stabbing pains in her feet, unless she's touching the sea.  I can highly recommend this one - check out my review here.

The Summer Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler: A singer loses her voice, but a potential new relationship may give her renewed hope.

Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon: Close to the original story, this retelling focuses on a love triangle between the mermaid, prince, and another princess.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama: A mermaid's decision to join her human love echoes through generations.

Do you have any other recommendations for Little Mermaid retellings?  What's your favorite fairy tale retelling?