Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Weasleys: A Truly Magical Family

For some reason, I always think of Harry Potter in the fall.  I don't know if it's all the wizards, witches, and magic that remind me of Halloween or what, but I was inspired to write a post about one of my favorite magical families, the Weasleys!  There are so many reasons to love this wizarding family...

Their willingness to forgive
Unlike some other wizarding families, who cast out and shun family members who don't agree with them, the Weasleys value all their members.  When Percy distances himself, refusing to believe that Voldemort has returned, the Weasleys don't cut him off.  They still love him and worry about him.  And when he realizes he was wrong, they welcome him back, and he helps the family in the Battle of Hogwarts.

They would do anything for each other
The best example of this is Molly Weasley killing Bellatrix Lestrange after she tried to hurt Ginny.  But it also extends to honorary family members Harry and Hermione.  Ron sticks up for Hermione against Draco Malfoy, and the family is an integral part of moving Harry from the Dursley home to the Burrow on his 17th birthday, despite the serious danger they were all put in.

They don't discriminate
Being a pureblood family means a lot in the wizarding world, but the Weasleys don't tout this status.  They treat everyone with the same respect, as long as they deserve it.  They fully embrace Muggle-born Hermione, inviting her to stay at their home and celebrating her achievements (and of course, we know she marries Ron!).  Arthur Weasley is actually fascinated by Muggles, their devices, and how they manage without magic.  Even when it comes to Harry Potter, they're still down-to-earth.  Although at first they are a bit stunned by his "celebrity" status, they soon treat him like just another member of the family.

Their gifts are always from the heart
It's no secret that the large Weasley family doesn't have a lot of money; in fact, they're often mocked for it.  But that doesn't stop Mrs. Weasley from giving her kids Christmas gifts each year.  Her thoughtful gifts of mince pies, candy, and personalized sweaters show that one can be thrifty yet still give meaningful gifts.  And I love that they always include Harry, who never really got Christmas gifts before he met them.  Even if there weren't gifts, the Weasley household never lacks in love and cheer.

They're just like us, in a lot of ways
What makes the Weasley family so special to me is that J.K. Rowling has created a family that is still normal, despite the fact that they can do some pretty serious magic.  Molly Weasley is the harried wife and mother, taking care of everyone.  The siblings taunt each other (and their mother).  The twins are rebellious jokesters.  They're a real family, with highs and lows just like anyone else.

I know I'm not the only one who loves this family, so what are some of your favorite things about the Weasley family?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Nonfiction November 2017: Introduction Post

When I saw Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves promoting the upcoming Nonfiction November back at the beginning of October, I was really excited.  I hadn't heard of this blogging event before, but nonfiction is a genre I enjoy and never seem to read enough of, so I wanted to participate!

This week of introductions and a look back at our personal year in nonfiction is hosted by JulzReads.  My nonfiction reading this year has been pretty sparse, unfortunately!  I've read four memoirs (even though I'm not normally crazy about this particular sub-genre).



I chose these particular memoirs mostly because of the person behind the book, either they personally or their story interested me in some way.  I've had mixed reactions to them, but if I had to recommend one, it would be Anna Kendrick's book.  She's funny and relatable, and I enjoyed this one even more than I expected.
I also listened to my first audiobook, comedian Jim Gaffigan's Food: A Love Story.  If you've never heard Gaffigan's bits on Hot Pockets, go listen and I dare you not to bust out laughing.
I wanted to participate in Nonfiction November to broaden my horizons a bit when it comes to this genre.  I gravitate towards celebrity memoirs or certain historical events, and I want to get some recommendations from the book blog community!  I'm not even totally sure what I'm looking for, I just know there's so much out there that I'm missing!  I also want to use this month to commit myself to reading at least two nonfiction books in the coming weeks.  High priorities for me are:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34219897-death-in-the-air?ac=1&from_search=true# https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25899336-when-breath-becomes-air?ac=1&from_search=true

What are some of your favorite nonfiction reads?  Are you into memoirs, history, true crime?

Friday, October 27, 2017

2017 Backlist Reader Challenge: October Roundup

I used this month to make one final push to finish the last three books on my TBR for the 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge, hosted by Lark at The Bookwyrm's Hoard!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)

Rebecca is the classic story of a newly-married woman who realizes that her husband's late wife is still a huge presence in their home.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this book; it has so many elements I like.  For some reason, I thought this was going to be scarier or even have a ghostly element, but it didn't.  However, I still loved it.

I identified a lot with the unnamed narrator.  She is so socially awkward, even going to great lengths sometimes to hide from visitors to her home.  And she has a very vivid imagination, creating entire scenarios and conversations in her head.  She is timid and shy, but by the end of the book, she has really come out of her shell.  I felt so bad for her during the course of the story, when everyone keeps comparing her to her husband's first wife, Rebecca - even to her face!  It was kind of rude!

Two other characters really stood out for me - the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (this woman was seriously mental) and Manderley itself, the stately home owned by the narrator's husband.  The descriptions of the house and surrounding grounds, although a bit long-winded at times, helped create a vivid picture in my mind, and I really felt Rebecca's presence, from the way certain rooms were decorated to how the servants ran the estate.

At times early on the story felt a bit slow, but as more secrets were revealed, the pace picked up quite a bit and I found I couldn't put it down!  4 stars

The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #11) by Louise Penny (2015)

In the 11th installment of the series, the search for a missing child leads to an almost unbelievable discovery in the woods near Three Pines. When the body of young Laurent is found, at first it seems like an accident, but Gamache realizes that the child has been murdered, and it may have something to do with the enormous weapon they find in the woods.

Gamache and the residents stumble on the Supergun, a larger-than-life weapon designed with enough power to shoot projectiles into space.  It sounds a bit ridiculous, but it's actually based on a true story, according to the Author's Note.  It was interesting to see how Penny broadened the focus of the story and introduced many new characters.

There is a subplot involving a play to be performed by the residents of Three Pines.  The play, as it turns out, was written by a serial killer, and there is an interesting debate on whether they should continue on with the play: should plays or books be judged by their writers?  Or should readers separate the two and just focus on the merits of the work itself?

As always, Penny's writing is amazing.  She has such a talent for subtlety and elegance.  I love how she doesn't come right out and tell the readers everything; she lets us draw our own conclusions, based on the mood of the scenes and the words she's carefully chosen.  4 stars

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)

I really wanted to love this book; it's such a beloved story, it takes place during WWII, and it's about a little girl's love for books - all these things should have made this a fantastic read for me.  But guys, I could NOT get into this story, and I DNFed it at page 150. 

Unpopular opinion time.  The writing style did not work for me; it felt so choppy.  I didn't feel like the story was going anywhere, or that there was even much of a plot.  It just felt like a bunch of anecdotes strung together.  And the language used was often too poetic.

So that's it!  Challenge completed!  At the end of the year, I'll have a wrap-up of the challenge, the books I loved, the books I didn't, and what I learned.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Everything You Came to See

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

Everything You Came to See
Elizabeth Schulte Martin
Expected publication date: January 2, 2018
Set just before the millennium in the dusty world of fire-eaters, tightrope walkers, and contortionists, Everything You Came to See follows Henry Bell, a talented new performer with a small traveling circus. Henry left behind the only family he ever knew, but among the other performers—and on the stage—he’s found a new home.

Though the circus was once a larger attraction, audiences have grown sparse and Caleb Baratucci, the show’s manager, knows they are on the verge of bankruptcy. Still, he’s determined to revive the circus—if only for the sake of the performers—and provide for his wife, Adrienne, a retired giantess facing a dangerous surgery.

Recovering at home and no longer a headlining act, Adrienne finds herself longing for the comfort of her circus family. When Henry strikes up a friendship with her, Adrienne’s loneliness eases, but Caleb senses that Henry’s feelings run deeper, and if not managed wisely, they could set off a chain of events that will threaten everyone—and everything—they hold dear. - from Goodreads
I love the circus setting of this one, and the idea of a family created from the performers also intrigues me!

Monday, October 23, 2017

4 Things I Want to Do Because of Recent Reads

I think we've all wanted to visit the settings of our favorite books or to try something new or different because of something we've read about in a book - at least, I hope it's not just me!  So, here are four things I'm adding to my to-do list, inspired by stories I've recently read.

When I was a teenager, we did a fair amount of camping around the northeast.  While I enjoyed it at the time, as an adult I've been reluctant to break out a tent and sleeping bag and spend a night or two under the stars.  Enter glamping - "glamorous camping."  Luxury tents, pods, or cabins, easily accessible restrooms, sometimes even gourmet meals - you can be outdoorsy but in the utmost comfort!  I wanted to try glamping after reading about it in Sophie Kinsella's My Not So Perfect Life.  The main character's father starts a glamping business on his farm, and it just sounds like so much fun!  Now, to start looking for glamping sites near me!

Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite books, so I was really excited to read A Touch of Stardust  by Kate Alcott, which partially takes place on the set of the movie.  It was so fun to read about the behind-the-scenes stuff, about the casting or how different scenes were filmed.  I haven't seen the movie in years (I'm not even sure if I've actually seen the whole thing!), but reading about it makes me want to watch it and swoon over Clark Gable/Rhett Butler!


In The Forever Summer, Marin discovers that her father isn't really her biological father based on the results of a fluke DNA test that show a very different heritage than his own.  Now, I'm not in the same situation as Marin, but I would like to take one of those DNA tests that give you more specific information on your ethnicity and genealogy.  Of course, I have an idea of where my ancestors came from, but it would be cool to know if those things match up.


So many of Elin Hilderbrand's books take place on Nantucket, an island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Her stories make me want to visit this quaint community - the beaches, the fresh seafood, the charming architecture.  Even though I do get seasick quite easily, I'm still drawn to all things nautical.  I love the whole vibe - Nantucket has so much history, but it's also quite trendy, with cute shops and restaurants.  It just seems like an idyllic place to spend a few days!

Have you done any of these things?  What things have you added to your bucket list because you read about them in a book?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: The It Girls

The It Girls
Karen Harper
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017

One sailed the Titanic and started a fashion empire . . .

The other overtook Hollywood and scandalized the world . . .

Together, they were unstoppable.

They rose from genteel poverty, two beautiful sisters, ambitious, witty, seductive. Elinor and Lucy Sutherland are at once each other’s fiercest supporters and most vicious critics.

Lucy transformed herself into Lucile, the daring fashion designer who revolutionized the industry with her flirtatious gowns and brazen self-promotion. And when she married Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon her life seemed to be a fairy tale. But success came at many costs—to her marriage and to her children . . . and then came the fateful night of April 14, 1912 and the scandal that followed.

Elinor’s novels titillate readers, and it’s even asked in polite drawing rooms if you would like to “sin with Elinor Glyn?” Her work pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable; her foray into the glittering new world of Hollywood turns her into a world-wide phenomenon. But although she writes of passion, the true love she longs for eludes her.

But despite quarrels and misunderstandings, distance and destiny, there is no bond stronger than that of the two sisters—confidants, friends, rivals and the two “It Girls” of their day.- from Goodreads
I received an ARC for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

The It Girls tells the story of sisters Elinor Glyn, a boundary-pushing writer, and Lucille Duff-Gordon, a fashion pioneer, from their days as young girls on the brink of poverty through the success of their later years.  I expected a good historical fiction story, but the book lost me along the way.

The sisters are at the heart of this book, and their relationship was not an easy one.  At times, they were totally supportive of each other and stood up for one another through scandals; other times they were jealous of each other and argumentative, sometimes not seeing each other for years at a time.  I wanted a bit more interaction between Elinor and Lucille, but they each lead such interesting lives on their own that I could almost forgive this.  The biggest thing I knew about Lucille Duff-Gordon before reading this book was the scandal that erupted after the sinking of the Titanic, in which she and her husband were accused of bribing ship employees to not take more survivors onto their lifeboat, but I learned that both she and Elinor had many personal and professional successes and failures.

The writing is good, not great, but it's the dialogue that really hampered my reading experience.  It's cringe-worthy at times: totally too descriptive and too much telling rather than showing.  It's just not how real people talk; I think at times the author was using dialogue to fill the reader in on what happened during time gaps or to give more information, but it was hard to read.

The book covers several decades, so I expected that not everything could be covered in great detail.  However, sometimes several years pass with no warning.  For example, Lucille's daughter goes from a newborn to 7 years old in one turn of the page.  At the same time, I often felt that there was too much information.  It's obvious that Harper did extensive research on the sisters, but the inclusion of several random anecdotes made me wish she had been more discerning about what she chose to feature in the book.  These anecdotes didn't move the story forward in any way and weren't connected to anything else; they could have been left out without any effect on the story.

2.5 stars

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Expelled

James Patterson and Emily Raymond
Expected publication date: October 23, 2017
A secret Twitter account
An anonymous photo
Everyone is a suspect

Will Foster's Twitter account used to be anonymous--until someone posted The Photo that got him and three other students expelled, their futures ruined forever. But who took the picture, and why are they being targeted?

To uncover the truth, Will gets close to the suspects: the hacker, the quarterback, the bad girl, the class clown, the vice principal, and...his own best friend. What secrets are they hiding, and even worse--what do they know about each other? The terrible truth will haunt them forever.

New York Times bestselling author James Patterson brings us another fast-moving tale of suspense, with danger, romance, and twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the very last page. - from Goodreads
I received an ARC of this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

It's books like this that make me glad I'm not in high school anymore!  I didn't even go to high school that long ago, but we didn't have all these social media issues like the ones in Expelled.  A crude photo of some students is posted on Theo's (it says the MC's name is Will in the blurb, but in my ARC, it's Theo) Twitter account, and because of the school's zero tolerance policy, Theo and the identified students in the picture are all expelled.  But Theo knows he's innocent, and he wants to prove it.

Patterson and Raymond have created a group of students that may seem at first glance like typical high school cliches, but they become much more than that as the book goes on.  Theo is kind of an average kid - he gets decent grades and he sometimes writes for the school paper, but he's dealing with a lot in his home life.  His best friend Jude is an artist, Parker is a jock with a huge secret, and Sasha is a tough girl.  I thought the authors did a great job in creating these distinct characters and actually making them realistic - they act and talk like real teenagers (although Sasha can get a bit pretentious at times).

Theo has the idea to prove his innocence by making a film, questioning his "suspects" and others in order to find out what really happened and why the picture was uploaded to his Twitter feed.  I guess he wanted proof on camera, but this plot device didn't work so well for me.

In any event, what Theo discovers in his investigation was actually not what I was expecting.  I appreciated that the authors tied in bigger issues and questions about doing what is right versus doing what is popular.  However, the book dragged on a bit after this revelation, and one big bombshell right at the end of the book was completely unnecessary, in my opinion.  In a book with a lot of heavy topics, that one felt like overkill.  Overall, though, I thought this was a quick-moving, well-written story.

4 stars

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Glamorous Dead

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

The Glamorous Dead
Suzanne Gates
Expected publication date: October 31, 2017
Set in the dream factory of the 1940s, this glittering debut novel follows a young Hollywood hopeful into a star-studded web of scandal, celebrity, and murder . . .
The chipped pink nail polish is a dead giveaway--no pun intended. But when a human thumb is discovered near a Hollywood nightclub, it doesn't take long for the police to identify its owner. Miss Penny Harp would recognize that pink anywhere: it belongs to her best friend, Rosemary. And so does the rest of the body buried beneath it. Rosemary, with the beauty and talent, who stood out from all other extras on the Paramount lot. She was the one whose name was destined for a movie marquee--not for the obituaries. And for an extra twist, now an LAPD detective thinks Penny is the one who killed her . .
Penny is determined to prove her innocence--with a little help from an unlikely ally, the world-famous queen of film noir, Barbara Stanwyck. Penny met "Stany" on the set of Paramount's classic comedy The Lady Eve, where the star took an instant liking to her. With Stany's powerful connections and no-nonsense style, she has no trouble following clues out of the studio backlot, from the Los Angeles morgue to the Zanzibar Room to the dark, winding streets of Beverly Hills. But there's something Penny isn't telling her famous partner in crimesolving: a not-so-glamorous secret that could lead them to Rosemary's killer--or send Penny to the electric chair . . . - from Goodreads
This sounds like a really fun mystery, and I love the 1940s Hollywood setting!

Monday, October 16, 2017

TV Shows I'm Obsessed With Lately #3

The Bold Type is such a fun show about three young women who work for a Cosmo-like magazine - one is a secretary, one is a social media coordinator, and one is a writer.  It's pretty cool to see some behind-the-scenes stuff about how magazines are run, and of course, there's always lots of personal drama as well!

Based on a novel by James Patterson, Zoo is about a group of people who investigate an outbreak of violent animal attacks around the globe.  We've been binge-watching the first two seasons on Netflix and, yeah, it gets a little outlandish at times, but it's so addictive!

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of disaster stories, so when I heard about this summer series about an asteroid heading towards earth, I knew I had to watch it.  Government conspiracies, shady reporters, and confusing science abound - but if you suspend disbelief for awhile, it's actually a pretty fun show!

Are you watching any of these shows?  What have you been watching lately?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Summer House

The Summer House
Hannah McKinnon
Published June 6, 2017
Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.

No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves.- from Goodreads
Two words kept popping into my mind as I read The Summer House: relatable and nostalgic.  Flossy and Richard have invited their grown children, Paige, Sam, and Clem, to their summer house in Rhode Island to celebrate Richard's 75th birthday.  What their children don't know yet is that Flossy and Richard are planning to sell the house their family has spent generations vacationing at.

The first thing I could relate to in this book is the trouble with trying to get a lot of people together for a vacation.  In my family, sometimes we start planning a year in advance, making sure everyone can get their work and personal schedules coordinated.  It can be hard to get everyone together - people have a lot going on.  I thought Flossy was a bit hard on her kids, getting angry with them because no one had visited the shore house the previous summer.  But Clem had just lost her husband; Sam and his husband Evan are trying to adopt a baby; and Paige has a growing vet practice and some tension with her husband and teenage daughter.

The second thing I related to was the sibling relationships.  The bonds between Sam, Paige, and Clem felt so real - siblings can be best friends or worst enemies.  They know each other so well and they know what buttons to push. 

As I read this book, it brought back memories of visiting my grandparents at the shore: packing up all our stuff - snacks, chairs, and umbrellas - and dragging it to the beach.  The Merrill family has their own traditions that they lovingly follow each time they visit the summer house, like the first visit to the beach and going for a ice cream and a ride on the carousel.  No matter how long it has been since their last visit, they still follow their traditions, and these parts of the book brought out a feeling of nostalgia for me.

The beachy setting was so well-established in this book.  I felt like I was right there with the Merrill clan, smelling the salty ocean breeze, feeling the warm sand, eating the fresh seafood.  The story was very character-driven, and I loved getting to know all the members of the family.

So - this review seems a bit different from my normal reviews, but that's because this book felt like taking a walk down memory lane for me.  If you enjoy stories about families and have fond memories of your own childhood beach vacations, I think you'll love this book!

4 stars

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Unqualified

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

Anna Faris
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017
Anna Faris has advice for you. And it's great advice, because she's been through it all, and she wants to tell you what she's learned. Her comic memoir and first book, Unqualified, will share Anna's candid, sympathetic, and entertaining stories of love lost and won. Part memoir, part humorous, unflinching advice from her hit podcast Anna Faris Is Unqualified, the book will reveal Anna's unique take on how to navigate the bizarre, chaotic, and worthwhile adventure of finding love.

Hilarious, authentic, and actually useful, Unqualified is the book Anna's fans have been waiting for. - from Goodreads
Anna Faris has been one of my favorite actresses for a long time.  She's hilarious but she also seems really down-to-earth.  And I have to admit, I was a bit upset when she and Chris Pratt announced they were separating!  I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say in her memoir.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall-Themed Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week's topic is books with fall/autumn covers or themes.  Since I love fall and I'm a cover snob, I decided to make a collage of fall-themed covers.  This was surprisingly a bit difficult!  In the end, I found some covers that featured the red and orange colors of fall, some covers with leaves or fall landscapes, and even one with some seasonal fruit!

What are some of your favorite fall-themed book covers?

Monday, October 9, 2017

5 Reasons Why Taylor Jenkins Reid Has Become One of My Favorite Authors

One of my favorite parts about reading is finding new favorite authors, whether it's learning about them after they've written a few books (and then devouring their backlist) or discovering them with their debut novel and following their careers.  I love finding those authors I can rely on to bring something amazing with each new story.  I had never heard of Taylor Jenkins Reid before I started blogging, but when I saw her name popping up on many other blogs, it made me want to check out her books.  From the first one I read, I fell in love, and so here are the reasons why Taylor Jenkins Reid has become one of my favorite authors (and why you should check her out, too!).

1. Relatable characters
For the most part, her characters are somewhat close to me in age and stage of life.  In Forever, Interrupted, Elsie is a pizza lover, tv watcher, and reader - I can definitely relate to that!  Lauren and Ryan from After I Do are a married couple who met at 19 in college - which is the age I was when I met my husband, and we also met in college.  I enjoy reading about characters that I can see parts of myself in; it makes the story feel that much more real to me.


2. Relatable scenarios
When I read the synopsis for each of Jenkins Reid's books, one of the things that attracted me most was how realistic and relatable the plots were.  Whether it's a 20-something woman whose life could change drastically based on one decision she makes (and we get to see the fallout from that decision in Maybe In Another Life) or a marriage that's on the rocks, TJR has crafted stories that really *could* happen.  Sometimes the plots seem larger than life, such as the decision a woman has to make after her long-lost (and presumed dead) husband returns to find she has moved on to another man in One True Loves, but that just makes things more interesting (and honestly, that scenario isn't unheard of!). 


3. Big questions
Maybe it's because the scenarios are so relatable, but her books always seem to bring up what I consider to be "big questions" - those philosophical questions that force us to take stock of our lives and decisions.  Is there such a thing as a soulmate?  How big of a role does fate play in our lives?  When you've vowed to love someone forever, what happens if you fall out of love? How hard should you try to get it back? Is it inevitable that romance will fade over the years?  Are longer marriages better or more important than shorter ones?  Is there a time limit on grief?

4. Great writing
I like good, straightforward writing, writing that is honest and dialogue that feels like a real conversation.  There's nothing overly flowery or poetic about Taylor Jenkins Reid's writing; yes, that kind of writing has a place and I'm not trying to knock it, because in many instances I do enjoy it, but I appreciate that her books are very readable.  The stories flow so well and are so easy to read.

5. Something different for her latest novel
While her first four novels were basically contemporary women's fiction, Taylor Jenkins Reid's fifth novel was a bit of a departure.  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tells the life story of an aging actress, as told to a journalist.  Although it focused on relationships, it felt different than her previous novels.  Jenkins Reid went outside her box, and the result was something just as amazing as her previous works.  I'm so excited to see where she goes next!

So, have you read anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid?  Which of her books is your favorite?  What makes an author your "favorite"?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Review: Wild Mountain

Wild Mountain
Nancy Hayes Kilgore
Published October 1, 2017
Vermonter Mona Duval loves the covered bridge beside her store. She loves local history and the rugged, rural nature of her home state. But when an ice storm collapses the bridge, she is bereft. Frank MacFarland, a seasonal resident who is beguiled by Mona, lends his political expertise to help rebuild the bridge. But they meet with powerful opposition. Tensions arise in the town, compounded by resistance to the soon-to-be-voted on Freedom to Marry bill. And then, unexpectedly, Mona's abusive ex-husband arrives. Wild Mountain is a page-turning, beautifully written novel about the love between Frank and Mona, the love of place, freedom to marry, and freedom from the past, by a writer whose prose has been compared to Alice Munro’s. - from Goodreads
I received an ARC from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Wild Mountain is a slice-of-life look at a small town in Vermont in 2008.  The residents of the town are faced with both the collapse of a historic bridge and an upcoming vote on the Freedom to Marry bill, and these two issues bring out both the best and worst in the locals.

There are a lot of characters packed into this book, but the author was able to develop different personalities to represent the many sides of the local political scene.  Some of the characters had quite extreme views that I didn't always agree with; it was difficult at times to read their hateful words.

I enjoyed getting to know the main character, Mona.  She's a local woman with a deep love for her town; she's a bit of a historian (which I can relate to) and an expert on the covered bridge.  The loss of the bridge felt so personal to her; not only was it a relic of an earlier era, but it was also a physical connection between the two sides of town, meaning her general store suffered a bit because customers could no longer easily reach it.  Although I didn't always feel that Frank was the best match for her (I wasn't convinced he could give up his jet-setting lifestyle for small-town living), it was nice to see Mona grow and learn to trust someone in regards to her love life.

At times, it felt like there were too many storylines going on.  I thought the book was mainly going to be about the collapse of the historic bridge and the fight to recreate the bridge or find a cheaper alternative, but there seemed to be more about the Freedom to Marry bill than the bridge.  There was also a side story about Mona's ex-husband coming around town again and yet another about a hermit, Gus, who lives on the mountain.  With so many things going on, I felt the side stories suffered; some were left unresolved while others were quietly and sometimes too conveniently wrapped up.  If the bigger issues had been fleshed out further and the side stories left out completely, I think the entire story would have felt more cohesive.

However, the author did a great job in setting the scene.  As I was reading, I could picture this small town, the covered bridge, and the surrounding mountains.  It made me want to take a trip to Vermont! 

3.5 stars

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Tom and I recently took a walk through Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

For more information, visit this website. 

The Great Swamp is an almost 8,000-acre wilderness area and refuge for many species of birds.  From the Wildlife Observation Center, you can take a boardwalk trail over the swamp out to observation/photo blinds to unobtrusively observe the nature and wildlife.

Then we ventured to another area of the refuge to walk some nature trails through the swamp.  The trails were definitely not what I expected - at best, they were very narrow, trodden paths; at worst, the paths were almost completely overgrown with barely a suggestion as to where we should head.  At least this area is very flat; it would have been pretty treacherous to climb up or down in these conditions.

I'm so glad I wore long pants the day we went.  At times, it felt like we were forging our own path and Tom said he couldn't even see me sometimes because the overgrowth was so tall.  My clothes were covered in leaves and any bare skin was scratched up by the time we were done.  Here are two pictures that show how crazy the trails were:

The trail runs right down the middle

We took the Orange Trail and on the way back veered off onto the Green Trail, which offered some relief.  The Green Trail conditions felt more familiar: more forest and wider trails, with some nice views out into the swamp meadows.

Despite the tough trail conditions, the Great Swamp was beautiful and peaceful - so much greenery and many different types of trees. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

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

The Afterlife of Holly Chase
Cynthia Hand
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017
On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn't.

And then she died.

Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . . - from Goodreads
This one sounds so fun, for both Halloween and Christmas!

Monday, October 2, 2017

5 TV Shows I Didn't Know Were Based On Books

There are tons of TV shows out there based on books - Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why, Gossip Girl, True Blood, Pretty Little Liars... the list goes on and on.  But I was surprised to find out recently that a show Tom and I were binging on Netflix was based on a book, so it got me thinking - what other shows out there are book adaptations and I didn't even know it?


Shooter - I knew of the movie of the same name that tells the story of a marksman framed for an assassination attempt on the President, but when we started watching season 1 on Netflix, I read an article about the upcoming season 2 that pointed out which books in the Bob Lee Swagger series by Stephen Hunter were being adapted for television.


Friday Night Lights - This is another one where I knew of the film but not the book, which is actually a non-fiction book that tells the story of a high school football team in Texas in the late 1980s.


Boardwalk Empire - The HBO drama is based on a true crime story written by a New Jersey judge about the politics and criminals of Atlantic City.


Longmire - This show, about a sheriff in a Wyoming county, is based on a series of mystery novels by Craig Johnson.


The Last Ship - This action/drama series about the aftermath of a global virus that kills most of the world's population, leaving a lone American naval ship to find a cure and save the world, is adapted from a post-apocalyptic fiction novel of the same name, although with some pretty big changes (namely, the book is about nuclear warfare, not a virus).

Have you ever watched a TV show not realizing it was based on a book?  What other shows out there have been based on a book or a series?