Monday, October 14, 2019

Quotables #15

I'll be honest, I've heard this quote many times before, but until I read Anne of Green Gables a couple months ago, I had no idea it was from that book!  In any event, I love this quote because I love the month of October!  

I thought this quote was hilarious, because it's so true - all of us want things without having to put in the work to get it (like, I want to lose weight without having to change my diet or exercise!).

I can hardly have a round of Quotables without highlighting at least one bookish-related quote, and I loved this one - no matter what else is going on, we'll always have our books!

Which of these is your favorite?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Mini-Reviews: 2019 Releases

A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause (2019)

Country girl Emmy is chosen to participate in a design competition in the big city, but nothing turns out like she hoped or planned.

I was interested in this novel because it was described as Project Runway meets historical fiction, and I thought that was a fun combination.  While there were things I enjoyed about the book, a lot of it was a disappointment.  First, the world-building was almost non-existent.  If I hadn't known going in that the story took place in a kind of alt-universe Victorian London, I would never have guessed it.  The dialogue felt very modern, and there wasn't a whole lot of description of the outside world.  It was unclear why if fashion was such a huge part of the economy of the country, there was only one major fashion house (helpfully called Fashion House), other than that was what the "monarchy" wanted.  It's hard to describe - everything felt very generalized, like the story had broad ideas that were never fully nailed down or given much detail in later editing.  There were at least 3 secondary stories that either went nowhere or were dealt with in literally one sentence.

I did like Emmy, though.  It's hard not to feel for her when this competition is her one chance to get out of her small town, yet she's being sabotaged at every turn.  It's obvious that no one takes her seriously, even though she has talent and ambition.  3 stars

Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein (2019)

Eliza runs a jewelry store and finds her business booming after she accidentally posts a photo of herself wearing an engagement ring, although she doesn't even have a boyfriend.  When her store is threatened by rising rents, she decides to run with the false story and find herself a fake fiance.

I liked several of the themes of the story, but it ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth.  There's some good stuff here regarding social media influencers, honesty, and staging photos.  I also liked the tidbits we got about Eliza as a business owner; her company is her dream, her life, and she would do anything to save it.  However, how far is too far?  I could get on board with Eliza finding a fake fiance who was also in on the "scam," but she begins dating a guy Blake, who has a lot of potential, and then manipulates him and the relationship into what she needs.  She fast tracks the romance, even though she admits several times that if the circumstances were different, she'd take way more time to develop the relationship or even dump him; she doesn't feel a huge spark with him, but could maybe learn to love him.  I felt so bad for Blake, who seems head over heels for Eliza, since he had no idea what was going on and how she was lying to him.  I didn't like the way she purposefully sought out press and sponsored partners, committing to a wedding before she even had a boyfriend.  I know she was doing it to help her business, but she put herself (and those around her) in this awful predicament.  Minor spoiler alert - you know a story like this is going to have a happy ending, which makes it all the more infuriating, because it's showing that even though you can do terrible things to other people, lie and cheat and steal, you may very well still end up winning in the end.  For people like Eliza, there are no consequences for her actions.  3 stars

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Guinevere Deception

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

The Guinevere Deception
Kiersten White
Expected publication date: November 5, 2019
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution--send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name--and her true identity--is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old--including Arthur's own family--demand things continue as they have been, and the new--those drawn by the dream of Camelot--fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur's knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself? - from Goodreads
Whenever I hear or see anything King Arthur or Camelot-related, I'm reminded that I'm totally intrigued by the story, yet I never seem to read anything about it!  I'm hoping this retelling will change that.

Monday, October 7, 2019

15 Ways To Support Your Book-Loving Partner (or Friend, or Family Member...)

Three years ago, in honor of our wedding anniversary, I wrote a little post about what happens when a book lover marries a non-reader.  Since Tom and I just celebrated another year of marriage, I was inspired by him to write a post about all the ways someone can support their bookish partner and their reading habits, because he has always been so encouraging towards me and my books!  Although I had my husband in mind when I put together this list, I don't see why many of these couldn't apply to other relationships in your life, as well!  So, without further ado, here are 15 ways to support the bookworms in your life:

  1. Buy them books
  2. Or, if you don't know what book to buy them, give them a gift card so they can pick out their own!
  3. Don't get annoyed if they pick up a book while you're watching a TV show or movie together - multitasking!
  4. Understand that a trip to the library will likely be included in many weekend errand runs...
  5. And have a fully charged phone to play on while your partner inevitably disappears in the library to browse the shelves, even though they were just running in to pick up some holds
  6. At least pretend that the location of a library nearby is a legitimate concern when choosing a house to buy
  7. Help create space in your home for your bookworm to display their treasured tomes...
  8. And stay calm when said bookworm quickly overfills that space and books start ending up in every room of your house
  9. Really listen when they want to tell you about their current read
  10. Comfort them when a book makes them cry or angry
  11. Take them to browse a bookstore
  12. Help them choose what to read next
  13. If you need gift ideas, a book-loving individual can never have too many bookmarks/bookish mugs/tote bags/other book-related merch
  14. Understand that if you're watching a book-to-movie or TV adaptation together, they will point out every little thing that's been changed and that most likely, "the book was better"
  15. Cultivate your own hobbies for those times your bookworm is lost for hours in a story
Photo by The Markows Photography

What are some other ways to support book lovers?  What's the nicest thing someone has done for you as a bookworm?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Review: Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune
Roselle Lim
Published June 11, 2019
At the news of her mother's death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn't spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco's Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She's even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother's restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant's fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother's cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around--she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along. - from Goodreads
Natalie returns to her hometown of San Francisco upon her mother's death, after seven years of being away.  When she finds out she has inherited her grandmother's former restaurant, she decides to stay and reopen the restaurant, and hopefully help the ailing neighborhood at the same time. If you're looking for a book filled with family, community, and culture, then this is the book for you!

Natalie Tan hasn't been to San Francisco since her mother refused to support her dream of becoming a chef.  She's been all over the world, but now has the opportunity to reopen her grandmother's restaurant, which used to be the center of the neighborhood.  But before she can do so, she has to help other shop owners in the area by cooking for them.  I liked the idea that Natalie has to become a part of the community and help others as she pursues her own dream.  She can see how much the neighborhood has changed, and she throws herself completely into helping it regain its former glory (even if the consequences aren't exactly as she intended).

Family is really at the heart of this novel.  Natalie and her mother were estranged, and even before that, Natalie didn't know much about her grandmother or her father.  I felt bad for her that her mother kept so many secrets and that she had to find out so much after she died.  However, I felt like we were able to get to know these family members along with Natalie as the story progressed.  Along with the idea of family is the theme of culture in the book.  The Chinatown setting really shines, and I felt like I learned a lot about Chinese customs through Natalie's journey.  And the food - OMG, don't read this on an empty stomach!  The descriptions of food and even the way it was prepared were mouth-watering.

There are some elements of magical realism that I wasn't expecting but which added immensely to the overall vibe of the book.  From the grayscale coloring of the neighborhood, to the bird imagery, to the way food literally lit people up, it was a really beautiful addition.  Along with this, Lim's writing is, for the most part, extremely elegant, and so the book just had this smooth, almost lyrical quality to it.

I only had a couple quibbles with the book.  Oddly, the dialogue was sometimes stilted, simplistic, and repetitive.  It was a bit jarring at times, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment too much.  In addition,  the romance felt underdeveloped and almost unnecessary. 

4 stars

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Month in Review: September 2019

September was so busy!  Fantasy football is back, and once again we have a team in my family league.  So far, Team Outlaw is off to a great start at 4-0!

My sister, stepmom, and I got our craft on one Sunday afternoon and took one of those paint and sip classes that we love so much!  I always think my paintings turn out terrible, but it's really more about the experience and spending time with loved ones!

Our Project Linus chapter held our fall blanket drive, and it was a great success!  We had so many people coming in and dropping off their incredible handmade blankets.  We ended up collecting, labeling, and bagging up for delivery over 300 blankets!  That is really going to be helpful as we enter the last couple months of the year and try to deliver as many as we can.

At the end of the month, we spent a very fun day in New York City with my sister and her husband.  We walked the High Line, which I talked about yesterday, and then we saw Billy Joel in concert!  My sister has seen him a couple times, but this was my first time, and it was an incredible show!  He played basically all of his most well-known songs, so I was singing and bopping in my seat the whole time!  I basically lost my voice, but it was so worth it!

I wanted to mention that Lauren at Bookmark Lit has come up with a lovely way to honor Grace of Rebel Mommy Book Blog, who passed away over the summer.  On October 14, Grace's birthday, read a book from Grace's TBR or one of her favorites, using the hashtag #ReadForGrace.  Lauren has very helpfully put together a list of books, as well as links to Grace's blog and Goodreads (linked above).

And just a quick reminder to NJ-NY-PA-CT readers and bloggers - the Morristown Festival of Books is coming up on October 12.  This is a FREE event and many fiction, YA, and nonfiction authors will be giving talks and signing books!  I had a blast last year, but can't make it this year, unfortunately.  The line-up looks amazing, though!

The Books

The Posts and Reviews

How was your September?  Any fun plans for October?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The High Line, New York City

Ever since I found out about the High Line in New York City, I've wanted to go there, and over the weekend I finally got the chance!

So, what is the High Line?  It's a 1.45-mile park and walkway built on the remnants of an elevated railroad freight line on the west side of Manhattan. How cool is that??  For a few years, I worked in historic preservation, so this really appealed to me, how this old rail line was saved and repurposed.  And since my husband works for a railroad, there was an even bigger connection for both of us!

The High Line runs from 34th Street south to Gansevoort Street, and there are several entrances (both stairs and elevators) to the park.  We got on at 30th Street and 10th Avenue at an area known as the Spur.  From here, we walked north for a little bit and saw views of the Hudson River and the rail yard.


From the picture above, you can see how in some areas, the park area has enveloped the old rail bed, while in other areas, the original track has been preserved and runs alongside the walkway, like below.


We then started walking south, and I was immediately struck by how lush and green the walkway was.  It is just surrounded by plant growth.  Even though there are buildings practically within reach, it still definitely feels like a park.

Even though the picture above doesn't have too many people in it, the High Line was actually super crowded when we went.  There were people everywhere, walking, taking pictures, lounging on one of the many benches and other sitting areas.  It was almost hard to absorb the beauty of the park because I was worried about bumping into other people!

There are several areas of interest along the way - art installations dot the walkway, a water feature allows you to dip your feet and cool down, there's an actual lawn to play on, and enough trees to make you feel completely secluded at times.


These LOVE sculptures aren't official High Line art installations, but rather part of a show from a nearby gallery - I just included them because I adore these sculptures and they're right next to the High Line!


Of course, you can't be in NYC and not talk about views, and the High Line has some great ones!  Like I mentioned above, you can see the Hudson River and across into New Jersey.  The Empire State Building peeks through at turns.  If you're really observant, you can spy the Statue of Liberty and Hoboken Terminal.  But, it was also really neat to be able to look up the streets and avenues from high up!


The High Line is a completely unique public park, and I would highly recommend taking a walk there on your next visit to New York City!