Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Great Alone

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

The Great Alone
Kristin Hannah
Expected publication date: February 6, 2018
Alaska, 1974.
And for a family in crisis, the ultimate test of the human spirit. - from Goodreads
So that's not much of a description, but I'm still looking forward to this book - Hannah's stories are always very emotional!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is top ten books on our winter TBRs.  Here are just a few of the books I'm hoping to get to in the next couple months!

Any suggestions for where I should start first?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Nonfiction November 2017: New To My TBR!

This week's Nonfiction November 2017 topic, hosted by Emerald City Book Review, is all those books we've added to our TBRs during November!  My TBR has basically exploded with intriguing nonfiction reads, thanks to all of you!  I'm so glad I've participated in Nonfiction November 2017 - I am just astounded at all the topics and new books I've come across.  I'm so excited to get reading!  Here are the books I've added to my TBR, with a thanks to the blog who either recommended it to me or shared it on their blog: 
Thanks to Doing Dewey:

 Thanks to Novel Visits:

Thanks to Running 'N' Reading:

Thanks to Time 2 Read

Thanks to Mind Joggle:

Thanks to The Paperback Princess:

Thanks to Lakeside Musing:

Thanks to JulzReads:

Thanks to Gilmore Guide to Books

Friday, November 24, 2017

Parisian Mini-Reviews

To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin (2016)

Caitriona Wallace, a widow charged with chaperoning two siblings during their European Tour, meets engineer Émile Nouguier during a hot air balloon ride over Paris.  Caitriona and Emile are drawn to each other, even though everyone around them tells them they can't be together.  Emile needs a young, rich wife, like Cait's charge Alice, who can give him heirs and help prop up his family's company.  Cait's options are much more limited.

Although this book was a romance, I didn't really care for the relationship between Cait and Emile.  Emile courts Alice as an excuse to see Cait, and I couldn't really pin down Cait as a character; her personality and actions seemed to change by the chapter.

Much more interesting to me in this book were the descriptions of late 19th century Paris and the construction of the Eiffel Tower, of which Emile is a lead engineer.  It was funny to hear the characters of the period refer to the Tower as a temporary structure for the upcoming World's Fair, knowing today that the Eiffel Tower is such an iconic symbol of Paris. 3 stars

The Confectioner's Tale by Laura Madeleine (2015)

A dual timeline and a Paris setting?  There was little chance I wasn't going to read this book!

Back in 1910, a love affair begins between a high society lady and a man working in her father's patisserie.  In 1988, a student finds out her grandfather had some connection to the couple and wants to find out what happened almost 80 years before, before a potential scandal erupts.

I love a good dual timeline - although sometimes one of the stories suffers a bit, here they both worked.  The older story had a bit more of a poetic, romantic feel, while the "present-day" story was more analytical and even a bit frenzied.  The way the two stories came together was a bit surprising; I was glad the author didn't take the typical route, especially since the love story wasn't breaking any new ground.

Oh, and don't read this story on an empty stomach - the descriptions of the pastries, sugar, and chocolate are mouth-watering!  4 stars

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Unearthed

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

Unearthed (Unearthed #1)
Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Expected publication date: January 9, 2018
When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying's advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study... as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don't loot everything first. Mia and Jules' different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race's secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race.. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Nonfiction November 2017: Nonfiction Favorites

This week's topic for Nonfiction November, hosted by Doing Dewey, is all about our nonfiction favorites.  I have to be honest, I haven't read enough nonfiction in recent years to have too many favorites, but I'll try my best!

It's hard to say what makes any book, regardless of genre, a favorite for me.  There's something about the story and the writing style that just appeals to me.  I enjoy both light-hearted and darker stories, really just depending on my mood.  There are certain topics I gravitate towards in fiction, and the same could be said for nonfiction.  I tend to read memoirs more than other sub-genres, although I wouldn't really say that any memoirs have been favorites for me, except for one.

Into Thin Air is an account by journalist Jon Krakauer of the 1996 disaster on Mt. Everest.  This book was riveting, informative, and emotional. 

I tend to enjoy nonfiction that reads like fiction, and that's probably why I enjoy Erik Larson's books so much.  Larson has written several nonfiction books on a wide variety of topics, but I am always drawn in by his writing style: although obviously well-researched, his stories are never dry.  Even if you're not a nonfiction fan, you've probably heard of Larson's Devil in the White City, about the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 interspersed with the chilling story of serial killer H.H. Holmes.  Larson has also written about the US ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler; the sinking of the Lusitania; the Galveston hurricane of 1900; and Marconi's invention of the wireless telegraph.


If any of these topics interest you, I would highly recommend Larson's books.  He has a huge talent for blending history, science, and great story-telling.
Have you read any of these?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Quotables #6

I hope you all enjoy the quotes I've picked out for this edition of Quotables!

Why it speaks to me:  I love weddings and everything about them.  I love when couples do all the traditional things or when they do things outside the box.  In my family, weddings are one of the few times a year when everyone can get together, so they are always really special times.  I love looking back at our wedding day and remembering all those little moments - seeing Tom for the first time, my parents walking me down the aisle, cutting the cake.  They all added up together to make a beautiful day.

Why it speaks to me:  I love this quote because in my family, food is really important.  Before any holiday or gathering, we all want to know what the hosts are making (and they will gladly tell you because they've had the menu planned for a month).  There are recipes that have been passed down from my grandparents that will hopefully continue to be passed down.  Some of my best memories are of sitting around the dining room table, laughing and talking.

Why it speaks to me:  This quote is just so relevant for today's social media-obsessed culture.  I'm guilty of it - when I see other people's awesome vacations or big houses or nice clothes, I get a bit jealous.  But I have to remember - I'm seeing what they want me to see.  You never know what's going on behind closed doors.  We can't compare ourselves to others all the time - we have to be able to recognize the good things in our own life.

Which of these quotes is your favorite?  Can you relate to any of them?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: The Confusion of Languages

The Confusion of Languages
Siobhan Fallon
Published June 27, 2017
A searing debut novel from the award-winning author of You Know When the Men are Gone, about jealousy, the unpredictable path of friendship, and the secrets kept in marriage, all set within the U.S. expat community of the Middle East during the rise of the Arab Spring.

Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that's about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie's become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret's toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie's boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn't Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret's apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend's whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret's disappearance.- from Goodreads
Cassie and Margaret are military wives living in Jordan in 2011.  After getting into a minor car accident, Margaret goes to the police station, leaving her son Mather with Cassie.  After several hours, she still hasn't returned, leaving Cassie to wonder where she is and what has happened to her.  When Cassie finds Margaret's diary, she realizes Margaret has been keeping many secrets from her.

Most of the story takes place over the course of one night, after Margaret has gone to the police station.  Excerpts from Margaret's diary fill in many blanks for both the reader and Cassie, as we learn more about Margaret's short time in Jordan and Cassie finds out what Margaret really thinks of her. 

The friendship between Margaret and Cassie is at the center of the story.  While the two women have some things in common (both are having issues in their marriages), they are very different from one another.  Cassie, having lived in Jordan for two years, feels she knows the area and culture well; she is very much a rule follower and takes seriously the parameters set up by the embassy.  At times, though, she seems overly suspicious of people around her.  She is controlling and prickly and comes across as almost desperate for a friendship with Margaret, or anyone really.

Margaret, however, is more of a free spirit.  She is very open with new people and wants to fully experience life in Jordan.  At times I couldn't tell if she was willfully ignorant or just naïve - no matter how times Cassie warned her about her behavior or clothing choices, especially around men, Margaret didn't seem to get it.  She didn't seem to understand the ramifications her actions could have, or maybe she didn't really believe anything bad would happen, that Cassie was just being overly cautious.  I wasn't necessarily surprised by what happens to Margaret at the end of the book, but the route it took to get there and what was revealed did surprise me. 

The setting of Jordan was a unique one for me; I don't read too many stories set in the Middle East.  Fallon did a great job in educating the reader on the nuances of the culture and people of Jordan, most likely inspired by her own experience living there as a military wife.

4 stars

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Prince in Disguise

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

Stephanie Kate Strohm
Expected publication date: December 19, 2017
Someday I want to live in a place where I never hear “You’re Dusty’s sister?” ever again.

Life is real enough for Dylan—especially as the ordinary younger sister of Dusty, former Miss Mississippi and the most perfect, popular girl in Tupelo. But when Dusty wins the hand of the handsome Scottish laird-to-be Ronan on the TRC television network’s crown jewel, Prince in Disguise, Dylan has to face a different kind of reality: reality TV.

As the camera crew whisks them off to Scotland to film the lead-up to the wedding, camera-shy Dylan is front and center as Dusty’s maid of honor. The producers are full of surprises—including old family secrets, long-lost relatives, and a hostile future mother-in-law who thinks Dusty and Dylan’s family isn’t good enough for her only son. At least there’s Jamie, an adorably bookish groomsman who might just be the perfect antidote to all Dylan’s stress . . . if she just can keep TRC from turning her into the next reality show sensation.
- from Goodreads

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Nonfiction November 2017: Seeking Stories of Female Heroes

This week's Nonfiction November prompt is "be the expert/ask the expert/become the expert," hosted by Sophisticated Dorkiness.  Since I am a self-admitted expert of nothing, today I'm seeking out your recommendations!  History books are filled with stories of men doing heroic and important things, but it's only been in recent years that there has been a push towards the female contribution.  I want to read the previously untold stories of women who have done amazing things, who have made great contributions without recognition, who worked behind-the-scenes or performed tasks you wouldn't normally have thought women would do.

I have three books currently on my TBR to help me with my quest:
So now I throw it to you, fellow readers - what are some of your favorite nonfiction reads about unsung female heroes?  What women do I need to know about?

Monday, November 13, 2017

#sorrynotsorry: I Read The Last Page First

We're all friends here, right?  So I can confess to what some might consider to be a reading sin without being judged too much, right??  Here goes...

I read the last page of the book first.  #sorrynotsorry

I first made this confession when I did The Blog Squad Tag awhile back, and I got a bit of a mixed reaction, so I thought it would be a great discussion post to talk about WHY I spoil books for myself!

First, I should start by saying that this desire to know the ending first doesn't just apply to books, it spills over into other areas of my life.  If we're streaming a movie on Netflix, five minutes in I'm on Wikipedia reading the entire plot synopsis.  *Spoiler alerts* mean nothing to me; it will almost never deter me from reading an article, review, or blog post about a tv show, movie, book, anything really.

So why do I read the last page first?  I think it started out innocently enough.  I always check the number of pages a chapter is before I start reading it, because I hate stopping in the middle.  I think this naturally progressed to checking how long the entire book was and, well, sneak peeks happen.  I'm also the type of reader who enjoys reading the acknowledgments, which often happen to fall at the back of the book, and for some reason I typically read them first - so I may or may not come across the last page of the book while searching for them! 

Now, part of the reason I read the last page first is that I have no willpower.  If I come across the last page, sometimes I can't stop myself from reading it.  I'm also really impatient, and I just want to know how the book ends NOW.  I don't like surprises - for instance, if the book features a love triangle, I want to know ahead of time who the main character is going to pick.  Or if something sad is coming up, I want to be prepared.  I like being "in the know" - if for some reason I DNF the book, I still want to know how it ends.

So, I'm sure there is someone out there who will say, "What good is knowing the ending if it won't make sense without the context of the rest of the book?"  I say it's fine, because I can read the book knowing what the end goal is, what the author is working towards in the story, and I still get to experience the journey.

Be honest - who else reads the last page first?  Why do you spoil books for yourself?  What are some of your bookish confessions?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Review: When The English Fall

When the English Fall
David Williams
Published July 11, 2017
When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. Once-bright skies are now dark. Planes have plummeted to the ground. The systems of modern life have crumbled. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the peaceable community.

Seen through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob as he tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive? - from Goodreads
When the English Fall is not your typical disaster story.  Told from the point of view of an Amish farmer, this short, quiet story really took me by surprise.

Jacob and his family are part of an Amish community in Pennsylvania.  Jacob is a farmer, but he also makes custom wood furniture, so he occasionally has contact with English (non-Amish) people.  When a solar flare knocks out all electronics, the Amish community is threatened by outsiders.

The point of view of this story is so unique - normally when I read disaster stories, they are about regular people like me trying to come to grips with a "new normal."  But other than a community refrigerator and a washing machine, the Amish in this story rely very little on electronic devices and are a self-sufficient, somewhat isolated community.  The loss of power and dwindling food supplies outside their borders initially have little effect on them.

Instead of getting a first-hand account of how the aftermath of the solar flare is affecting the population, we get rumors and sparse information as Jacob does, from an Amish community member who traverses the area on horseback.  As the book goes on, the stories get more desperate and even dangerous.  The Amish are approached by the military to donate food, but as society breaks down, the community is attacked by outsiders.

The faith-based POV was another intriguing aspect to the story.  The Amish community wonders how much they should be helping the English, if they have a duty to help society as a whole or even those individuals who come to them seeking help.  There's also the issue of defending themselves when they are normally opposed to violence.  It must have been a struggle for Jacob and the others to hear the sounds of gunfire near their farms but not want to pick up their own guns.

The story is in diary form and has a very simple writing style, which at times made the story all the more powerful.  For example, Jacob describes watching the beauty of the solar flare across the sky, but then he sees planes falling out of the air - it gave me chills. Told over the course of just a couple months, the story had an open ending that made me think about the fates of Jacob and his family long after I finished reading.

The only quibbles I had with the book were that, at fewer than 250 pages, it was quite short and could have been expanded upon in certain areas, and there was a bit of a sci-fi feeling with premonitions coming from Jacob's daughter, Sadie.  For me, they just didn't really fit with the rest of the story.

4 stars

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Foolish Hearts

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

Emma Mills
Expected publication date: December 5, 2017
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Nonfiction November 2017: Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings

This week's Nonfiction November topic is fiction/nonfiction book pairings, hosted by Sarah's Book Shelves!  I came up with three pairings to share with you all!

It's no secret around here that I'm a huge Tudor fan, and Anne Boleyn is my favorite of Henry's many wives - but what about her sister, Mary?  Although not an actual Tudor herself, I still find her to be a fascinating historical figure, and I thought it would be fun to pair a biography of Mary Boleyn with a fictionalized account of her life.
My love for royal families continues to the modern British throne.  I remember exactly where I was when I heard Princess Diana had died, and I was very deeply affected by it.  I haven't read this biography yet, but it's on my TBR.  I paired it with The Royal We, a fictionalized version of the love story between Prince William and Kate Middleton.
For my last pairing, I matched up Isaac's Storm, a chronicle of the disastrous and deadly hurricane in Galveston, Texas, in 1900 with The Uncertain Season, which takes place in Galveston after the hurricane.
Have you read any of these?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Who Is The Literary Wanderer?

I like getting to know the bloggers behind my favorite blogs, and I'm hoping you all do, as well!  Yes, you can visit the About Me page, but today I wanted to introduce myself, give a little background, and explain how I came up with my blog name.

Who am I?
I'm Angela, a 30-something who lives in New Jersey with my husband, Tom.  By day, I'm a legal assistant.  At practically any other time, you can find me with my nose in a book.  I've been a huge reader for as long as I can remember.  My parents introduced me to books at a young age and they've always encouraged me to read.  I love books from a wide range of genres and I'm willing to try almost anything once - mystery, thriller, contemporary fiction, YA, chick lit, and fantasy are all genres I'm reading lately.  For a look at how my genre preferences have changed over the years, check out this post. 

And when I'm not reading...
If I'm not reading, you can find me...
  • watching trashy reality shows.  If it features "real housewives," I'm probably watching it.
  • taking a long walk or finding a new hiking trail.  My dad instilled in me a love of the outdoors when I was younger, and in recent years Tom and I have really enjoyed exploring new places and finding different places to hike.  Sometimes we even plan our vacations around what parks we can visit.
  • taking pictures.  I pretty much always have a camera with me, and I love taking photos.  I enjoy landscape photography, but I've also been getting into portraits and candid photography at family events.  My sister and her family are gracious enough to let me practice on them! 

So why "The Literary Wanderer"?
In 2015, I started to read a lot of book blogs, mostly to check out reviews.  I saw the different reading challenges the bloggers were participating in, too.  I also happened to come across Gone Hikin', where the blogger details all of her hikes.  Then, in April 2016, I had the idea to start a blog that combined both my love of reading and my love of the outdoors and talk about things that were important to me.  I wanted to be a part of this blogging community that I had been observing from the outside.  But I was really nervous - what would people think?  Would anyone even read it?  Could I actually do this?

I needed to come up with a name for this potential blog, and so "Literary Wanderer" was born:
  • literary for my love of reading and books
  • wanderer for a couple reasons - it represents my outdoor travels, but it also represents how I wander through books and even genres, and how I use reading as an escape and to visit places I might otherwise not be able to
  • As for musings?  I just like the sound of it - it's kind of whimsical!
So I launched the blog, and since then I've been having an awesome time, talking about books and sharing our travels!

Why did you start your blog?  How did you come up with your blog's name?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Review: The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away
Melissa Pimentel
Published August 22, 2017
A smart, funny, and modern retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, where a young woman comes face-to-face with a lost love, proving that the one that got away is sometimes the one you get back.

Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.

Ten years later, Ruby's single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago? Because there's nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past . . . - from Goodreads
So, I'll be honest - I've never read Jane Austen's Persuasion, so I can't comment on if this is a good retelling or not.  And, I'm wary of second-chance love stories, so I went into this with a bit of hesitation.  But - I couldn't resist that adorable cover!

Ruby is a 32-year-old career woman living in New York City.  When her sister plans a fairy-tale wedding in an English castle, Ruby finds herself face-to-face with Ethan, the boyfriend she broke up with 10 years ago and the best man in the wedding.  She thinks she could possibly still be in love with him, but does he feel the same way?  She knows she ended their relationship badly and has been hiding the true reason she broke up with him.

The story went back and forth between the days leading up to Ruby's sister's wedding and flashbacks to Ruby and Ethan's short-lived romance.  I liked the approach, but I just wanted to know what Ruby did that she felt was so bad that she couldn't tell Ethan.  And when I found out, I was a bit disappointed by the cliché reason.

The main issue I had with the story was that Ruby and Ethan haven't spoken in 10 years, yet Ruby has hinged her whole life on this relationship.  She threw herself into her career and never really opened herself back up to love, and when she sees Ethan, she is convinced she is still in love with him.  It's been a decade, and they are vastly different people at this point in their lives.  It's just a little weird that neither of them have moved on, considering their actual relationship was relatively short.  When Ruby finally admits her feelings for Ethan and the true reason she broke up with him, it's like what she did didn't even matter.  The whole thing is glossed over in literally the last 10 pages or so.  The story ended way too abruptly and neatly.

But, there were high points to this book.  I loved the secondary characters - Ruby's dad is boisterous and I like the relationship Ruby has with her stepmom.  Ruby's sister is the perfect example of a bridezilla.  The writing was very readable and quick-moving - I finished this book in just a day.  The pop culture references and snarky one-liners helped keep the story light and modern.  If you're looking for a quick, easy read, you may enjoy this one.

3 stars