Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Warrior of the Wild

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

Warrior of the Wild
Tricia Levenseller
Expected publication date: February 26, 2019
How do you kill a god?

As her father's chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honour, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.
I've enjoyed this author's previous works and the Viking inspiration on this one is really cool!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is authors I read for the first time in 2018.  I read quite a few new-to-me authors last year, including some that are really popular around the blogosphere.  I can't say I would read all of them again, but many I would!


I enjoyed Denise Kiernan's nonfiction books; although I didn't love them, I would seek her out again.
Kate Andersen Brower's The Residence was one of my favorites of the year; now I want to read her books about First Ladies and Vice Presidents.
I did it, guys, I finally read Six of Crows; don't hate me, I didn't really like it!  But I finally read a Leigh Bardugo book, so points for that!

I finally checked out Fiona Davis and her historical fiction novels set in NYC; thankfully she also has a new book coming out in 2019!
I don't know why I didn't read Susanna Kearsley earlier; her books have so many elements I love.  I will definitely  be checking out more of her backlist in the future.
Prince in Disguise was one of my favorites of the year, so I'm looking forward to reading more from Stephanie Kate Strohm!

I loved Arthur Pepper and was so excited to find out Phaedra Park not only had another backlist book, but a new title coming this year!
Pierce Brown is another beloved author around the blogosphere that I finally read in 2018, but I don't think I'll continue with the Red Rising series.


I've had Bethany Chase's books on my TBR for awhile and made a point to read them this year.  She reminded me of some of my other favorite "chick lit" authors, and I would love to read more from her!
The Thousandth Tower was such a fun, soapy read.  I want to continue Katharine McGee's series!

What authors did you read for the first time in 2018?

Monday, January 14, 2019

5 Books To Read Before A Trip To Newport, Rhode Island

I first visited Newport, Rhode Island, as a teenager and loved touring its famous historic mansions.  Tom and I went together a couple years ago and it was just as beautiful as I'd remembered.  During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Newport was a summer haven for the wealthy, and so I wanted to put together a list of books inspired by this locale and the wealth and glamour of the Gilded Age.

Maid to Match: This novel follows a maid working at Biltmore, the North Carolina home of George Vanderbilt.  The Vanderbilts were a prominent family of the Gilded Age.
A Well-Behaved Woman:  Keeping with the Vanderbilt theme, this novel tells the story of Alva Vanderbilt, who was responsible for the construction of Marble House, a Newport cottage (and by "cottage" they really mean super-luxe mansion!).
The American Heiress: During the Gilded Age, it wasn't uncommon for young socialites to travel to Europe to look for husbands, gaining a title for themselves and helping save many English manors.  The American Heiress envisions one such marriage.
Crazy Rich Asians: This one might seem like an odd choice, but when I think of Newport, I think of unimaginable wealth (there was no federal income tax in America until 1913!), and the families within the pages of Crazy Rich Asians definitely compare.
A Hundred Summers: This book takes place in the fictional town of Seaview, Rhode Island, and follows New York socialite Lily Dane in the late 1930s. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Mini-Reviews: The Fiona Davis Edition

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (2016)

A dual timeline story taking place at the Barbizon Hotel in New York City in the 1950s and 2016.  In 1952, Darby arrives in NYC to start secretarial school; in 2016, journalist Rose begins looking into Darby's past and her possible involvement in the death of the a maid at the Barbizon.

I wanted to read this book because it has so many elements I love - historical fiction, an iconic New York City setting, and a dual timeline.  While some things worked, others didn't.  At first, I enjoyed Darby's fish-out-of-water story.  She's not like the beautiful models she shares a floor with at the Barbizon.  She wants to train for a career so she'll never have to depend on a man.  But then she becomes friends with Esme, a maid, and she finds herself doing things she never thought she would - singing in a jazz club, staying out late, and maybe even starting a relationship.  I got the impression that Darby was the type of person who cared very much what people thought of her and wanted to fit in, so her unorthodox friendship with a maid didn't make much sense.  I also felt like Esme was a bad influence on her, causing Darby to flounder in her studies, and I wanted her to see that.

In 2016, Rose is a neighbor of Darby's at the Barbizon and also a journalist looking for her next big story.  Although Rose had a lot of things going on in her personal life, for me that didn't excuse her unethical behavior in getting her story.  However, I enjoyed the way the two storylines came together - the journalism angle felt like a natural fit.  The writing felt a bit stiff at times, but I still felt drawn in and wanted to know how it would end.  3 stars

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis (2018)

A dual-timeline story taking place in Grand Central Terminal.  In the 1920s and 1930s, Clara Darden is a teacher at the Grand Central School of Art.  In the 1970s, Virginia Clay is a woman struggling to support herself and her daughter by working at the information booth in the terminal.

I loved both Clara and Virginia.  Clara is determined and driven, not afraid to find opportunities and further her career.  She came to New York City to become an artist and she knew she had the talent to succeed.  Virginia has had some hardships in her life (divorce, breast cancer), but she keeps moving forward.  I loved her devotion to Grand Central Terminal; she could see its beauty when others couldn't and wanted to save it. I identified with her love for historical preservation.

This is now the 3rd book I've read by Fiona Davis, and her writing improves with each one.  The dialogue flowed well, and she did a really great job of connecting the two storylines.  I appreciated all the research she included about various artistic movements and the history of Grand Central Terminal.  Once the mystery of Clara Darden's disappearance was solved, I thought it was a bit far-fetched, but otherwise the story was very engaging and well-written.  4 stars

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: I Owe You One

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

I Owe You One
Sophie Kinsella
Expected publication date: February 5, 2019
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella, an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants? - from Goodreads
I just love Sophie Kinsella's books - they have the perfect mix of heart and lightness!

Monday, January 7, 2019

2019 Reading & Blogging Goals

It's a new year, so it's time to set some new reading and blogging goals!  I want to keep things simple while at the same time pushing myself a bit.

  1. Keep track of where I'm finding books.  I tend to find a lot of new books to read on my own, but I want to note when I get a recommendation from someone else.  This especially goes for if I read a spectacular review from another blogger and they've convinced me to read a book.  I may try incorporating this into reviews.
  2. Participate in at least two challenges.  Last year I did two year-long challenges, one summer challenge, and Nonfiction November.  I felt like that was a good number and I was able to keep up with everything.
  3. Read at least 12 nonfiction books.  This works out to one per month, but I don't want to commit to that necessarily.  I know some months might just get away from me.  I'm hoping to read way more than 12, but that's a good start!
  4. Bring back my "Try It, You Might Like It" feature.  I haven't done one of these since February 2018!  I have a couple ideas of genres I want to try out, but if you have any suggestions for lesser-known genres, please please let me know!
  5. Host a giveaway.  I've been pondering this for awhile, and I think it's time!  The blog will turn 3 this year and I want to do something to celebrate.  Not sure how to make this happen (I'm thinking an Amazon e-gift card), so if anyone has any tips, I'd be grateful!
  6. Read the unread physical books on my shelves.  I already had a few there and then I went and bought more and... it's kind of getting out of control for me!
  7. Reorganize my book shelves.  My books are generally organized by genre and that's fine, but the shelves themselves are so overstuffed.  I got rid of a lot of books when we moved, but I know I can still get rid of more, or at least put some in storage.  I want my shelves to look pretty!
What are some of your reading and/or blogging goals for the year?

Friday, January 4, 2019

Review: The Coincidence Makers

The Coincidence Makers
Yoav Blum
Published March 6, 2018
In this genre-bending novel, there is no such thing as chance and every action is carefully executed by highly trained agents. You’ll never looks at coincidences the same way again.

What if the drink you just spilled, the train you just missed, or the lottery ticket you just found was not just a random occurrence? What if it’s all part of a bigger plan? What if there’s no such thing as a chance encounter? What if there are people we don’t know determining our destiny? And what if they are even planning the fate of the world?

Enter the Coincidence Makers—Guy, Emily, and Eric—three seemingly ordinary people who work for a secret organization devoted to creating and carrying out coincidences. What the rest of the world sees as random occurrences, are, in fact, carefully orchestrated events designed to spark significant changes in the lives of their targets—scientists on the brink of breakthroughs, struggling artists starved for inspiration, loves to be, or just plain people like you and me…

When an assignment of the highest level is slipped under Guy’s door one night, he knows it will be the most difficult and dangerous coincidence he’s ever had to fulfill. But not even a coincidence maker can see how this assignment is about to change all their lives and teach them the true nature of fate, free will, and the real meaning of love.
The Coincidence Makers is so difficult for me to review, because it's hard to find the words to describe it. It's a little bit science fiction, it's a little bit fantasy - and at its core, it's actually a love story.

Guy, Emily, and Eric are Coincidence Makers - they are secret agents who make changes in the world by setting up coincidences.  They're not really "changing" the world - they're nudging things into the places they are supposed to be.  Like, if an accountant is meant to be a famous poet - the Coincidence Makers will orchestrate occurrences to make sure inspiration strikes.  The whole book was such an interesting look at the debate of fate versus free will.  If there are people like this working behind the scenes, is any part of our life really up to us?  Or does it not matter, because they are helping us get to where we are meant to be?

Guy is the main Coincidence Maker we follow.  Before this job, he worked as an Imaginary Friend, which is exactly what you're thinking.   During one of his many stints, he meets another Imaginary Friend, Cassandra, and the two improbably fall in love.  After it ends, Guy resigns himself to a life without love, for himself at least.  As a Coincidence Maker, he's pretty low-level and does a lot of matchmaking coincidences, helping other people meet and fall in love.   After one such assignment, he is next given the task of working on part of a very high-level mission, and his life is sent on a very different course.

When I first started reading the book, I thought the writing seemed simplistic, almost sparse, but the further I got into the book, I began to realize that was actually kind of deceiving.  The writing and the story all got deeper as the book went on - at times I even felt like it was too "smart" for me!

The story was perfectly plotted and paced.  I loved seeing how the Coincidence Makers work, all the planning and precision that goes into their assignments.  As the story progresses and more layers are revealed about Guy's new assignment, I couldn't help but smile.  The creativity that Blum brought to the book, the world-building he incorporated, and the way the ending played out were masterful.  So unique, so original, and such an unconventional love story.

4.5 stars

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Hunting Party

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

The Hunting Party
Lucy Foley
Expected publication date: February 12, 2019
For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close? - from Goodreads
So much about this intrigues me - the fact that it's a group of old friends, the setting, the secrets?!? 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Month in Review: December 2018

Besides the holidays, December was a pretty quiet month.  Team Outlaw came in second place in the regular season of fantasy football but tanked in the playoffs.  My sister won, though, which was a nice change from all the boys winning!

We had a really great Christmas.  First there was the annual party with my stepmother's family.  One of my brothers was in charge of planning everything and he did a great job, especially with a fun game of Family Feud.  During the party, Santa drove down the street on a firetruck, and we kind of chased him.  Wine may have been involved, on my part at least.

We spent Christmas Eve at my mom's house and Christmas Day at my dad's.  We hosted Tom's family the weekend after.  One of the best parts of this year was seeing my niece open her gifts.  She's almost 3, so she's starting to understand everything.  She kept yelling, "Presents!" and would gladly open them, but she almost didn't even care what was under the wrapping paper.  Some of the gifts came in brown boxes and she would gleefully yell, "A box!"  Oh, the little things.

Lastly, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!  Personally, this past year had some unexpected trials, but I am hopeful for what's to come in 2019 - there is so much to look forward to.  I hope this new year brings you much love, joy, and laughter!

The Books

The Dollhouse (review to come) // The Coincidence Makers (review to come) // The Hunger // The Masterpiece (review to come)

Dear Mrs. Bird (review to come) // Love à la Mode (review to come) // Sous Chef (review to come) // Valley of the Moon (reread)

The Posts and Reviews

The Posts I Loved 

Marie at Drizzle and Hurricane Books talks about how hard it is to avoid hyped books

Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner gives some tips on shaking up your book club

Suzanne at The Bookish Libra talks sentimental attachments to books 

Sam at We Live and Breathe Books wonders why anyone would read the last page first (I do it!  #sorrynotsorry)

How were your holidays (if you celebrate)?  Do you have any personal New Year's resolutions?