Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Chocolate Book Tag

I was tagged by Uma at Books.Bags.Burgers, so today I'll be doing the Chocolate Book Tag!  Thanks, Uma!  Plus, I just love chocolate, so this sounded really fun anyway!

1. Dark chocolate - a book that deals with a dark topic

Jodi Picoult doesn't shy away from difficult topics, but this book about a school shooting is definitely hard to read at times.

2. White chocolate - your favorite light-hearted or humorous read

This was a fun and funny story and it definitely had some relevant lessons on how we let social media rule our lives!

3. Milk chocolate - a book that has a lot of hype that you're dying to read

I'm pretty sure I'm the last person on Earth to read this book!  I really need to get to it soon!

4. Chocolate with a caramel center - a book that made you feel all gooey in the middle while you were reading it

This book makes me melt into a puddle of tears every time I read it.  The relationships between the Bommarito siblings are complicated yet loving, and Henry himself will just steal your heart.

5. Wafer free Kit Kat - name a book that has surprised you lately

Unfortunately, I didn't love this one as much as I thought I would!

6. Snickers - a book you're going nuts about

I've been obsessed with this book since I read it earlier this year, and I'm recommending it to everyone I know!

7. Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows - a book you would turn to for a comfort read

I love this non-traditional love story, but my favorite character is the main character Joyce's dad.  He is funny and sweet and lovable and wise - I just feel happy when I read this book.

8. Box of chocolates - what series have you read that you feel has a wide variety and something for everyone?

Ok, this is a bit of a cop-out, but Harry Potter really does have something for everyone!  I read it as an adult, and I enjoyed just as much as kids do!

I'd love to read your answers, too, so consider yourself tagged if you want to participate!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waiting on/Can't-Wait Wednesday: Where The Light Falls

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Where The Light Falls
Allison Pataki & Owen Pataki
Expected publication date: July 11, 2017
From the courtrooms to the battlefields to the alleyways of Paris, with cameos from infamous figures in French history, the Patakis have crafted an epic, action-packed novel of the French Revolution as it has never been seen before. Three years after the storming of the Bastille, Paris is enlivened with the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The monarchy has been dismantled and a new nation, for the people, is rising up in its place. Jean-Luc, a young optimistic lawyer, moves his wife, Marie, and their son to Paris, inspired by a sense of duty to contribute to the new order. André, the son of a former nobleman, flees his privileged past to fight in the unified French Army with his roguish brother. Sophie, a beautiful young aristocratic widow and niece of a powerful, vindictive uncle, embarks on her own fight for independence.

Underneath the glimmer of hope and freedom, chaos threatens to undo all the progress of the revolution and the lives of these compatriots become inextricably linked. As the demand for justice breeds instability, creates enemies out of compatriots, and fuels a constant thirst for blood in the streets, Jean-Luc, Andre, and Sophie are forced to question the sacrifices made for the revolution. Liberty proves a fragile, fleeting ideal, and survival seems less and less likely—both for these unforgettable individuals, and indeed for the new nation itself. - from Goodreads
I'll read anything Paris-related and the focus on the French Revolution is a really interesting time period!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Decluttering My Bookshelves

I would love to have tons of shelves, filled with books, but in our current living situation, that's just not possible or practical.  I was running out of shelf space before my husband moved in several years ago, and since then, I've completely run out of room as Tom is using my bookshelves for some of his things and my collection of books has become overwhelming.

I used to be an indiscriminate book-buyer.  The bargain rack at Barnes & Noble was my best friend.  I rarely went to the library and didn't vet books as well as I do now before buying them.  The result was a collection of books that numbered close to 300.  That might not seem like a lot, but it definitely feels that way when you're living in a one-bedroom condo.  In the last several months, I've taken on the large (but sometimes slow) project of decluttering my bookshelves.  The main reasons are threefold:

  1. I like things to be neat and organized.  Right now I have too many books and not enough space, so there are books stacked in front of other books and it's driving me nuts!
  2. Eventually we'd like to move to a larger place, and packing up and transporting all those heavy books is not going to be fun.
  3. In my former book-buying frenzy, I ended up with a lot of books I'm not crazy about.  At this point, I'd rather just have a collection of books that I love, ones that I can see myself reading for years to come.
My primary method of decluttering is rereading my way through my bookshelves!  I love to reread, so this isn't a problem for me, although it's not necessarily the quickest way since I fit the rereads in between all the other books I want to read.  There are a lot of books that I felt meh about the first time I read them, so I feel like I need to give them one more chance before I let them go.  My feelings about a particular book have been known to change, but if I've read something twice and I still don't feel a spark, I'm getting rid of it.  There were also some that I really didn't like the first time I read them but for one reason or another just hadn't gotten rid of yet; those were the first to go in the donate pile.  I might have problems purging my TBR, but I seem to have way fewer qualms about getting rid of physical books, as much as I love them! 

I've been donating my used books to Goodwill.  I like the idea that they're going back out into the world for someone else to enjoy, instead of gathering dust in my house.  Over the past year, I've brought 24 books to my local Goodwill center, and I have 22 more books waiting to be brought over.  I still have more work to do, but this is a good start!

How many physical books do you own?  How often do your purge your collection?  Do you donate them, sell them, etc.?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: Gem & Dixie

Gem & Dixie
Sara Zarr
Published April 4, 2017
Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep. - from Goodreads
This book just about broke my heart, so many times.  When the story opens up with 17-year-old Gem not sure where she's going to get her next meal from, you know things are going to be rough.

Gem and her younger sister Dixie haven't had an easy life.  Their father hasn't been around for most of it.  Their mother doesn't have steady employment and often does drugs.  Gem was more like a mother to Dixie, but by the time we meet them, Dixie has grown up, way too fast, and now seems more like the older sister (she has a fake ID and a tattoo and buys pills for her mom at school).

The sisters' dad comes back to town and when they find the bag of (probably illegally obtained) money he hides in their room, Gem decides she needs a break, so she and Dixie run away for a couple days.

I felt so bad for Gem.  A teenager shouldn't be the most responsible person in her family.  Her parents' poor choices and behavior have really taken their toll on her.  She often feels lost and lonely, yet she dreams of being on her own someday, away from her family.  Dixie, however, doesn't want to leave their parents, no matter how neglectful they are.  She still believes in them and wants to give them another chance.  The three days Gem & Dixie spend together are a pretty good reflection of their relationship.  Even though they don't always get along, there are moments of closeness and honest conversation between them.

The story was a very quick and easy read, but it didn't end in the way I expected or wanted it to.  Suddenly everything was happening way too quickly, and I'm still not sure how I feel about where the sisters ended up.  Also, at times it was hard for me to believe Gem was 17 years old; there was just something about the character that kept making me think she was much younger.

3.5 stars

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Waiting on/Can't-Wait Wednesday: Cocoa Beach

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.  Both help us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Cocoa Beach
Beatriz Williams
Expected publication date: June 27, 2017
Burdened by a dark family secret, Virginia Fortescue flees her oppressive home in New York City for the battlefields of World War I France. While an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, she meets a charismatic British army surgeon whose persistent charm opens her heart to the possibility of love. As the war rages, Virginia falls into a passionate affair with the dashing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, only to discover that his past has its own dark secrets—secrets that will damage their eventual marriage and propel her back across the Atlantic to the sister and father she left behind.

Five years later, in the early days of Prohibition, the newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives in the tropical boomtown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, to settle her husband’s estate. Despite the evidence, Virginia does not believe Simon perished in the fire that destroyed the seaside home he built for her and their young daughter. Separated from her husband since the early days of their marriage, the headstrong Virginia plans to uncover the truth, for the sake of the daughter Simon never met.

Simon’s brother and sister welcome her with open arms and introduce her to a dazzling new world of citrus groves, white beaches, bootleggers, and Prohibition agents. But Virginia senses a predatory presence lurking beneath the irresistible, hedonistic surface of this coastal oasis. The more she learns about Simon and his mysterious business interests, the more she fears that the dangers that surrounded Simon now threaten her and their daughter’s life as well. - from Goodreads
I'm looking forward to this one because Beatriz Williams is one of my favorite authors!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Would Buy For My Dad

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is a Father's Day freebie, so I wanted to list some books I'd buy for my own dad!  My dad is a pretty cool guy (I mean, he'd have to be, to put up with me during my teenage years!).  He instilled in me a love of the outdoors and was a big influence in me becoming the reader I am today.


Into Thin Air: My dad is an avid outdoorsman - he loves hiking, skiing, and backpacking.  I think he would be fascinated by this account of the 1996 disaster on Mt. Everest (maybe not so much the disaster part, but the prep that goes into a climb like that!).

Rick Steves Germany 2017: Rick Steves' guidebooks are a must-have when you're traveling.  My dad and stepmom have taken some amazing trips in the last couple years, and I know Germany is on their wishlist.

Braving it: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild: I get my love of hiking from my dad, so I thought this memoir about a father and daughter traveling and working together in Alaska would be perfect.

Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life: My dad is a huge Mets fan, so I think he would really enjoy this in-depth look at Game 7 in the year they won the World Series.

The Devil in the White City: My sister and I love the non-fiction works of Erik Larson.  She mentioned his books to our dad, and he seemed really interested in them.  This is the perfect one to start with.

What book would you buy for your dad?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Try It, You Might Like It #7: Short Stories

"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!

For this installment, I've chosen short stories - or rather, short stories chose me.  I was browsing the new release shelves at my library and Jojo Moyes' distinctive font caught my eye.  At first I was a little reluctant to check out Paris for One and Other Stories (2016), but since I loved Me Before You so much, I decided to give it a try.

From the #1 "New York Times" bestselling author of "Me Before You" and "After You," a sensational collection featuring the title novella and eight other stories. Quintessential Jojo Moyes, "Paris for One and Other Stories" is an irresistibly romantic collection filled with humor and heart. 
Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She's never even been on a romantic weekend away to anywhere before. Everyone knows travelling abroad isn't really her thing. But when Nell's boyfriend fails to show up for their romantic mini-vacation, she has the opportunity to prove everyone including herself wrong. Alone and in Paris, Nell uncovers a version of herself she never knew existed: independent and intrepid. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life? Funny, charming, and irresistible, "Paris for One"is vintage Moyes as are the other stories that round out the collection. - from Goodreads
I think there must be a real art to writing short stories - being able to create characters and a story arc in just a few pages, adding just enough detail so the reader understands what's going on without inundating them.  I think Moyes was successful here in that each short story (and one novella) felt mostly complete; I was able to get a clear sense of the characters and what was happening in each story, without the benefit of many pages and chapters of background.  Some of them had twist endings, which helped.

The novella is a cute story about a woman stood up by her boyfriend who makes the most of a weekend in Paris; it's quite romantic and hopeful, but almost a bit too sweet.  However, some of the stories were just strange - particularly the ones about a robbery at a jewelry store and a woman finding someone else's cell phone.  There wasn't anything particularly special about most of them.  They are all told from a female point of view, and many feature an unhappy woman who is taking control of her life.  The writing was good, but not great. 

My issue with short stories is that I just want more - I know I said the stories here felt mostly complete, but in a lot of the cases, I wanted more detail.  The stories could be fleshed out, particularly the stories about long marriages.  I wanted to know how the characters got to these places in their lives instead of being dropped in, in the middle of the story.  It's hard to feel connected or invested when you only get a few pages.