Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Perfect Little World

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Perfect Little World
Kevin Wilson
Expected publication date: January 24, 2017
When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she's just about out of options. She recently graduated from high school and is pregnant with her art teacher's baby. Her mother is dead and her father is a drunk. The art teacher is too much of a head-case to help raise the child. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or prospects, she's left searching.

So when Dr. Grind offers her a space in The Infinite Family Project, she accepts. Housed in a spacious compound in Tennessee, she joins nine other couples, all with children the same age as her newborn son, to raise their children as one extended family. Grind's theory is that the more parental love a child receives, the better off they are.

This attempt at a utopian ideal-funded by an eccentric billionaire-starts off promising: Izzy enjoys the kids, reading to them and teaching them to cook. She even forms a bond with her son more meaningful than she ever expected. But soon the gentle equilibrium among the families is upset and it all starts to disintegrate: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project's funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy's feelings for Dr. Grind, who is looking to expunge his own painful childhood, make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday Holiday Gift Guide: Books for Baby's First Christmas

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week's topic is holiday gift guide.  We were so excited to welcome a niece and two nephews into our family this past year, so I wanted to share some books to buy the little ones for their first Christmas!  There are so many classic Christmas books, but for the first Christmas, I tried to stick to simpler books.  I chose some that celebrate the holiday season and others that they can enjoy throughout the coming year! 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Love, Alice

Blog note: I was on vacation last week - thank goodness for pre-scheduled posts!  I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving, and I'm looking forward to getting back to blogging and catching up with everyone's posts!

Love, Alice
Barbara Davis
Expected publication date: December 6, 2016
The truth lies between the lines... A year ago, Dovie Larkin’s life was shattered when her fiancĂ© committed suicide just weeks before their wedding. Now, plagued by guilt, she has become a fixture at the cemetery where William is buried, visiting his grave daily, waiting for answers she knows will never come.

Then one day, she sees an old woman whose grief mirrors her own. Fascinated, she watches the woman leave a letter on a nearby grave. Dovie ignores her conscience and reads the letter—a mother’s plea for forgiveness to her dead daughter—and immediately needs to know the rest of the story.

As she delves deeper, a collection of letters from the cemetery’s lost and found begins to unravel a decades-old mystery involving one of Charleston’s wealthiest families. But even as Dovie seeks to answer questions about another woman’s past—questions filled with deception, betrayal, and heartbreaking loss—she starts to discover the keys to love, forgiveness, and finally embracing the future… - from Goodreads
I received an ARC of this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

Love, Alice is a story about grief, hope, finding answers, and family.  Dovie Larkin visits her fiancĂ©'s grave everyday, wondering why he committed suicide just two weeks before their wedding.  Nearby, a statue marks the gravesite of Alice Tandy, who was a nanny for the wealthy Tate family decades earlier.  One day, an old woman, Dora, leaves a letter at Alice's statue, and Dovie, in hopes of maybe helping someone else find the answers that elude her, reads the letter and strikes up a friendship with the woman.  The book explores the ties between Dovie, the Tandy family, and the Tate family.

The story moved a bit slowly at times and the plot was predictable.  I also didn't care for the character of Austin Tate, no matter how integral he is.  I disliked the way he so obviously led Dovie on, then turned around and said he couldn't be with her.  However, the good far outweighed the bad, and I really enjoyed this lovely but sometimes heartbreaking story.

I loved the way we got to know Alice through the letters she wrote to her baby.  Alice was a young and pregnant English girl, sent to an institution by her mother, Dora, to have the baby.  Alice, however, couldn't accept her child being taken away, and she followed the trail all the way to Charleston.  I could feel the love Alice had for her child, and her conflicting emotions of hope and despair.

Dovie and Dora were also fantastic characters.  The friendship that bloomed between them was beautiful and I loved the way they helped each other.  Dovie was intelligent and thoughtful, although at times she seemed very scattered.  Dora spent years not knowing what happened to Alice.  I felt so bad for her; she was trying to do what was best for her daughter, but Alice didn't understand and couldn't forgive her.  These characters aren't perfect, but they are relatable.

Davis' writing is flowing and easy to read, and I loved the way she brought the setting of Charleston, South Carolina to life.

4 stars

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: You Will Know Me

You Will Know Me
Megan Abbott
Published July 26, 2016
Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate. From a writer with "exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl," (Janet Maslin) You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition. - from Goodreads
You Will Know Me is one of the most anticipated releases of the year, so it pains me to say this and I know I'll be in the minority, but I did not enjoy reading this book.  There's no doubt that Megan Abbott is an incredible writer.  I loved The Fever and the way she creates her characters and the tense relationships between them.  But I felt so uncomfortable and uneasy reading You Will Know Me that I almost stopped several times.  I suppose making a reader feel so strongly is the mark of a great writer, but in this instance it didn't work for me.

Devon Knox is a gymnastics star working her way up to the highest ranks.  Her parents, Katie and Eric, have devoted themselves to her career.  But their lives are severely disrupted when the boyfriend of Devon's coach's niece is killed in a hit-and-run accident.  The story focuses on the Knox's family dynamics and their small gymnastics community in the wake of the accident.

Katie, Devon's mom, is the main character, but she is so clueless about everything around her.  The amount of times she is surprised by something told to her by another character is really astounding.  It's like everyone knows what's going on except her, especially when it comes to her daughter, Devon.  And Devon is one of the most artificial characters I've ever come across.  She's cold, stoic, robotic - she doesn't even cry when she's injured.  Yes, she's an elite athlete and her focus is strong, but it's almost unnerving.

It was pretty obvious early on where Abbott was going with this story, although the ending was not quite what I thought it would be.  There were some pretty big legal and moral issues that were completely glossed over.  I also had some problems with the writing.  Certain details and descriptions felt repetitive and almost too personal, like I was reading someone's diary (and not in a good way).  Another issue was the unrealistic dialogue.  Almost every conversation (between any characters, no matter their age) is peppered with statements that are vague, cryptic, ominous, fraught with double meaning - take your pick.  I can see how Abbott was trying to create some mystery and tension, but it was just way too much.  No one speaks like that in real life.

2 stars

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Greenwood Gardens

Last Sunday was a beautiful day, and Tom and I were looking for something to do.  I started Googling "New Jersey hidden gems" and came across Greenwood Gardens.  Since it wasn't too far from our house, we decided to check it out!

Greenwood Gardens, located in Short Hills, Essex County, New Jersey, is a fairly new 28-acre public garden, located next to South Mountain Reservation.  Formerly a private estate, the last family to own the property established Greenwood Gardens as a public space in 2003.  The main house and terrace have been restored, and work continues on the gardens and other structures.  There is a $10.00 entrance fee.

A Georgian Revival-style home looks out onto the main lawn.  From here we walked down into the gardens.  There are so many little pathways to take, with something new to see down each one.  I think my favorite part of Greenwood Gardens was seeing all these little structures and details everywhere.  It was so quaint and charming!

The Summerhouse
It was so appropriate that I had just finished reading Heartless by Marissa Meyer when we visited, because dotting the landscape were lifesize chess pieces, like this guy!

The Teahouse
The estate used to have many water features, like The Cascade below, that are now used for plantings.

These gorgeous colored tiles can be found in many places around the estate, and they add such a sense of whimsy - really beautiful!

Although Greenwood Gardens isn't huge (we were probably there for an hour and a half), it really was a magical place to visit.  Check their website for information about hours of operation and tours!

Monday, November 21, 2016

2016 Book-to-Movie Releases to Add to My TBR and Netflix Queue

So many book to movie adaptations were released in 2016!  Normally I read the book before the movie comes out, but sometimes I just don't have a chance to! 

Here are some books I'm adding to my TBR based on movies we've seen this year.

An alien attack splits up a family.

A daring rescue by the Coast Guard.

Jane Austen with a horror twist.

Adapted into the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot with Tina Fey, about a reporter in the Middle East.

Here are some I've read but haven't gotten to see the movie yet - I'll be adding these to our Netflix queue!

A woman's life changes when she becomes a caretaker to a quadriplegic charge.

A woman claims to have witnessed a horrific act, but can she be trusted?

A childless couple find a newborn.

Robert Langdon uses his skills to stop someone bent on changing the world for the worse, this time relying on Dante's Inferno.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you to Suzanne at The Bookish Libra for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award!

Rules of the Tag:

- Show the award on your blog
- Thank the person who has nominated you
- Share 7 different facts about you
- Nominate 15 different blogs of your choice
- Link your nominees and let them know of your nomination

Seven Facts About Me:

1. I'm a twin!  My sister is the older one.  Yes, people sometimes get us confused.  No, we've never switched places.  And extra fun fact: our mom is also a twin!

2. My husband and I have been married for 3 years, but we've actually been together for 13 years.  We met doing volunteer work in college and got married on the 10 year anniversary of when we met.

3. I joined a fantasy football league for the first time this year.  Technically, it's my husband's team, but it's a family league, so I've taken over.  We're in last place, and it's driving me nuts!

4. I'm not a girly-girl (although sometimes I wish I was, my hair and clothes are always a mess!), but one thing I do indulge in is nail polish.  Giving myself a fresh pedicure always makes me feel better, even in the winter when no one can see it!

5. I would eat pizza everyday if I could.  And French fries.

6. When I started college, I wanted to be a history teacher - and then I realized I could never stand in front of a group of students and talk all day.  I worked as a historian for awhile after college, and now I work in the legal field.

7. I can be really shy, even around members of my family.  I'm usually on the outskirts of a group, listening way more than talking.


1. Just Us Book Blog
2. Mom With a Reading Problem
3. The Reading Geek
4. Books & Beauty Are My Bag
5. La Jersey Chika Reads Indie Books
6. Opinionated Book Lover
7. Somewhere Only We Know

Friday, November 18, 2016

Review: Three Dark Crowns

Three Dark Crowns
Kendare Blake
Published September 20, 2016
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest. - from Goodreads
Based on the Goodreads blurb (and that awesome cover), I was expecting a dark, action-filled read from Three Dark Crowns.  That wasn't what I got, but it set itself up nicely for the sequel.

Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe - triplet queens who each have their own unique power and who will fight until only one is left standing.  Except Katharine and Arsinoe's powers are practically non-existent, while Mirabella is stronger than many queens in recent memory.  The book takes a long time setting up the story, introducing us to each queen and the large cast of characters surrounding her, raising her and honing her skills.  The triplets were split up when they were 6 years old, and we meet them as they are turning 16 years old and preparing for the battle.

I was drawn to this story because of the focus on powerful women.  I loved that a queen rules this island, and her husband is not called king, but only king-consort.  However, this is also YA, so there are, of course, love interests and love triangles, which I could have used way less of. 

Even with all the set-up in the story, I wanted more world-building.  I still had so many questions - where are the triplets' parents?  Why are they called queens when they seem to have no power at this point in their lives?  Why do they have to fight to the death?  I needed more about the world they inhabit.  In addition, the writing was a bit stilted and unrefined, particularly in conversations.  It didn't flow very well in some areas.

However, I did enjoy the book.  I liked the political intrigue and the flashes of magic.  I loved how the strongest sister, the one everyone assumes will win, is also the most sensitive and reluctant to hurt her sisters.  And I LOVED the twist ending - so many things happen in the last 50 pages or so, and it really ratcheted up the suspense and action.

3 stars: A solid read with some problems, but Three Dark Crowns was saved by the ending, and I have high hopes for the next installment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Kathleen Rooney
Expected publication date: January 17, 2017
It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop. - from Goodreads

Monday, November 14, 2016

Gift Ideas for Book Lovers

The holiday season is right around the corner!  The book lovers in your life will always welcome new books to read, but here are some gift ideas for bibliophiles that aren't the traditional tomes!  (And if my husband is reading this, some of these items may or may not be on my Christmas wish list...)

Personalized journal ($19.95 from Paper Source).  A lot of book lovers are also writers, in one way or another, and I think they would appreciate a pretty journal to write their thoughts in. 

Banned book socks ($10.00 from Uncommon Goods).
Literary scarves ($48.00 from Uncommon Goods). Choose from passages from Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Alice in Wonderland, and Pride and Prejudice.

Books throw blanket (starting at $49.00 from Society 6)
Book Lovers' Soy Candle ($18.00 from Frostbeard Studio). Scented candles inspired by settings, characters, and books in general.

Literary candles ($16.00 from Uncommon Goods).  Not as many to choose from as Frostbeard Studios, but still some fun scents inspired by iconic literary locations.

Always Fully Booked tote bag ($18.00 from Etsy)

Wicked Witch bookmark ($25.00 from Etsy)

Happy shopping!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10
Ruth Ware
Published June 30, 2016
From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong… - from Goodreads
I've been looking forward to this book for a couple months.  The premise sounds so terrifying - a guest on a luxury yacht is the sole witness to a woman being thrown overboard in the middle of the night.  I mean, you're trapped on this boat in the middle of the sea and you know your suspect list is limited to the people on board with you - and if it were me, I'd also be seasick!

Lo Blacklock is a travel journalist assigned to cover a luxury cruise for a week.  In The Girl on the Train-style, Lo is somewhat of an unreliable narrator.  Just a couple days before she leaves on the trip, her home is burgled and she is injured by the intruder.  So when she gets on the yacht, she is already jumpy and anxious, plus from the start she admits that she drinks too much and too often, including to help her sleep.  And mixed with her anti-anxiety/anti-depressant pills?  Not a good combo.

Lo goes to the head of security, who casts doubt upon her story - no one is staying in the room where the alleged attack took place, and none of the guests or crew match the description of the woman Lo saw in the room earlier in the day.  Lo even starts to question what she actually saw.

It's hard to review a book like this without giving too much away.  I did enjoy the twist, although it maybe dragged on a bit too long.  Interspersed throughout the book are newspaper articles and emails from Lo's family and friends which indicate that Lo disappeared sometime during the cruise, so I was intrigued to see what would happen when those two points intersected.  A couple things I didn't care for her were that an ex-boyfriend of Lo's just happened to be another guest on the cruise (seemed a little too convenient) and though the boat is small, there is a rather large cast of secondary characters to keep track of.  The story did get a bit repetitive at times, as well.

3.5 stars: Overall, I liked this book!  It was a really quick read - I finished it in a day.  If you enjoy thrillers, give The Woman in Cabin 10 a try.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"Waiting on" Wednesday: This Is Our Story

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

This Is Our Story
Ashley Elston
Expected publication date: November 15, 2016
No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.

Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the District Attorney’s Office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.

Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As she and Stone investigate—the ageing prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot—she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own. - from Goodreads