Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Famous In A Small Town

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

Emma Mills
Expected publication date: January 15, 2019
For Sophie, small-town life has never felt small. She has the Yum Yum Shoppe, with its famous fourteen flavors of ice cream; her beloved marching band, the pride and joy of Acadia High (even if the football team disagrees); and her four best friends, loving and infuriating, wonderfully weird and all she could ever ask for.

Then August moves in next door. A quiet guy with a magnetic smile, August seems determined to keep everyone at arm's length. Sophie in particular.

Country stars, revenge plots, and a few fake kisses (along with some excellent real ones) await Sophie in this hilarious, heartfelt story. - from Goodreads
I've loved all of Emma Mills' books, and she always has the best covers!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Morristown Festival of Books

So you may have heard me mention on the blog that Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors.  When she announced on Instagram that as part of the book tour for her new release, The Clockmaker's Daughter, she would be coming to the Morristown Festival of Books, my first thought was, OMG, that's only 30 minutes from me, I need to go!  My second thought was, there's a Morristown Festival of Books?  I can't believe I had never heard of this FREE bookish event that was so close by.

Even though Kate Morton was the obvious draw for me at the festival, the more I read about it and what other authors would be there, the more excited I got.  The Morristown Festival of Books brings dozens of authors (nonfiction, fiction, and YA) to several locations around Morristown to discuss their books and interact with readers through Q&A sessions.  After the panels, the authors immediately go to a book signing tent.  You can bring your own books to get signed, and they also sell them all right on site.

On October 13, my sister Michele and I drove to Morristown and went right to one of the first panels, which featured Fiona Davis (The Address, The Masterpiece) and Kate Quinn (The Alice Network) along with a moderator.  When we arrived, the church where their talk was held was only partially full, but it soon quickly filled up.  Both authors were great speakers and I'm looking forward to reading more of their books!

Fiona Davis (center) and Kate Quinn (right)

Afterwards, we had a bit of time before Kate Morton's panel, so we wandered around, down to the book signing tent and also Kidfest, where they had all this fun stuff for kids to do, as well as tons of books and author talks.

Book signing and sales tent

Church of the Redeemer, where we attended 3 talks

After seeing how crowded the first session was, we knew we wanted to get to Kate Morton's early.  Good thing we did, because it was basically standing room only.  Along with a moderator, Diane Chamberlain (The Dream Daughter) was also part of this panel.  Kate Morton was as lovely and charming as I'd always imagined she'd be, and Diane Chamberlain was wonderful, and funny!

Kate Morton (center) and Diane Chamberlain (right)

The church was such a beautiful setting for the panel!

After the Q&A session, we ran down to the book signing tent to get on line.  I was so nervous to meet Kate Morton, totally star-struck, I could hardly think of anything to say!  I eventually told her that I'm a huge fan and I recommend her books to everyone, including my mother, who isn't a big reader but is now obsessed with her books.  She loved that we share books together.  My sister got another of her books signed for me because I didn't want to just give her a whole stack to sign.

Because the signing was right after the session, we figured we might miss Kate Moore (The Radium Girls) speak because she was on about 20 minutes after Kate Morton, but by the time we got our books signed, we had only missed 10 minutes of her talk, so we ran back to the church.  Kate Moore talked about how she came across the story of the radium girls and a little bit of the history.  The room was packed, and everyone was just enraptured by Kate Moore.  She spoke with such passion and emotion, and you could just tell how much the story of these poor women really impacted her.  When I got my copy signed by her, I told her how The Radium Girls is my favorite book of the year and I recommend it to everyone; it's such a powerful read.  She was so happy to hear that more people are reading it.

Kate Moore

I'm so glad I finally went to my first bookish event, and now I'm looking forward to next year's!

Monday, October 15, 2018

TBR Expectations

One day my sister Michele and I were having a chat about our TBRs.  She had just added a bunch of new books and lamented that she would never get ahead, because she was always adding more than she was reading.  I told her that she would always have a good selection to choose from and asked if she thought that she would finish her TBR someday.  Michele said no, but that she wanted to feel like she was making progress and also not forget about books she added at the beginning.

That got me thinking - as readers, do we have expectations for our TBRs?  When I started this year, I had 158 books on my TBR; at the time I'm writing this post, there are 123 books on it.  Even though I've read A TON of books this year, I'm always adding new titles.  If I stopped adding books, I could probably finish my TBR in about a year. 

But that's unrealistic, right?  I don't think most readers actually expect to read their entire TBR and get it down to zero.  New books are coming out all the time and then there's all those backlist titles that you find out about.  However, is it realistic to have some sort of expectations for your TBR?

There are a few things I want out of my TBR:
  • A manageable number.  I do try to keep the actual number of titles on my TBR pretty small.  There are already books that I've put off for a couple years, and I want to at least have the possibility that I will see these books, remember I wanted to read them, and then actually pick them up.  I feel like I'm too picky sometimes, though, and I haven't added enough to my TBR.  Even with over 100 books, there are some days where I feel like there's nothing to read.
  • Routine purging.  I go through my TBR every once awhile and get rid of those books that I'm no longer interested in, wonder why I put them on in the first place, or have seen too many poor reviews of.  I don't want the books I'm really interested in to get lost among those I'm not.
  • Read my unread physical books.  Although there aren't a ton of these, I do sometimes have a bad habit of buying books and then not reading them.  One way to cut down my TBR would be to actually read some of those books!  Likewise, instead of constantly getting new books from the library, one month my sister only read the books that were already on her e-reader, and that really helped her focus and cut down her TBR.
When I think about all the books that are out there in the world, and all the ones that will be released in the coming months, it can be overwhelming to know that there's so much I want to read and not enough time!  But, there are worse problems to have, right?  ;-)

How big is your TBR?  How do you manage it?  Do you ever purge your TBR?  Do you have any TBR expectations (i.e. getting it down to a certain number or finally reading all those unread physical books on your shelf)?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Review: The Other Side of Lost

The Other Side of Lost
Jessi Kirby
Published August 7, 2018
Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself. - from Goodreads
Mari Turner is a social media influencer; she's beloved by thousands of followers, but in reality, she's all alone.  She and her cousin Bri were very close as kids; they grew apart over the years and Bri has recently passed away.  Bri had planned to hike the John Muir Trail on her 18th birthday, but after quitting social media in spectacular fashion, Mari decides to take her place, in an effort to help her rediscover herself.

Right from the beginning, I felt so sad for Mari, as she created meals just for the photos and bought a birthday gift for herself and pretended to her followers that it was from her boyfriend.  Her life is consumed by how many likes and followers she can get.  When Bri's box of hiking supplies shows up on Mari's doorstep, she takes a wild leap and heads to the trail.  I was surprised Mari even lasted a day; she had no experience, no training, she didn't even know how to use most of the equipment.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster!

But fortunately for Mari, she meets people along the trail that help her out, eventually joining a group of friends as they make their way down the trail.  I understood why Mari kept some secrets from them, but I wish she had told them earlier about Bri and who Mari really was; they were so friendly and understanding, I know it wouldn't have mattered to them.

Mari's growth was one of the best parts of the book.  She gained confidence along the trail and learned to live beyond her phone screen.  She also worked through her grief over losing Bri.  Speaking of Bri, she sounded amazing and I could see why everyone loved her.  She was so courageous and full of life in her journal entries.  I could feel her presence during Mari's trip.

Kirby did a really great job setting the scene.  The descriptions of the trail really made me feel like I was there, and Kirby's writing is just so warm and enveloping that I got swept away in the book.

I did have a couple issues with the book.  The ending felt really rushed and although I knew Mari had changed, I kind of wanted an epilogue or something to see where Mari goes next.  There were also hints of a romance that I thought were unnecessary. 

4 stars

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Forget You Know Me

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

Jessica Strawser
Expected publication date: February 5, 2019
In this riveting domestic thriller, Jessica Strawser takes readers deep into the intimate friendship of two women and the distance, secrets, and lies that threaten to break them apart.

Liza and Molly are life-long best friends—or at least they used to be. Ever since Liza moved to Chicago to pursue her career, leaving Molly behind in Cincinnati with a husband and two kids, the distance between their two lives has grown more and more insurmountable. In a last-ditch effort to save their friendship, they arrange a “girls night” over webcam, wine in hand, catching up like they used to. But when Molly runs upstairs to check on a crying toddler, Liza watches, horror-struck, as a masked man enters the home of her best friend.

After calling the police, Liza frantically tries to reach Molly, but when she finally responds, her message is icy and terse, insisting that everything is fine. Liza is still convinced something is wrong—that her friend is in danger. But after an all-night drive to rescue her ends in a brutal confrontation, Liza is sure their friendship is over.

Meanwhile, Molly finds herself wondering whether she’s dodged one ruinous mistake only to make another in its place. Did she sacrifice her oldest friendship to save her marriage? Or has she inadvertently sacrificed both?

Liza and Molly can’t avoid each other forever, and soon, they’ll face a reckoning that will force them to decide just how much weight a shared history can carry. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Longest Books I've Ever Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is longest books I've ever read.  I went through my Goodreads list and found 10 books (actually 11, but I wanted to stick to the Top Ten!) that were over 1,000 pages.  And many of them came from just two series!

What's the longest book you've ever read?

Monday, October 8, 2018

5 Books To Read Before You Take A Trip To Disney World

I love Disney World - it's one of my favorite places to visit, even as an adult!  I thought it would be fun to put together a list of books inspired by the rides and atmosphere at Disney World (particularly the Magic Kingdom), so here are my five recommendations to read before you visit!

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller: The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is one of my favorites in the Magic Kingdom, and this book will definitely get you in the swashbucklin' mood, with its awesome cast of lady pirates!
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells: Tomorrowland was meant to be Walt's Disney vision of the future and a glimpse towards the advances society would make.  I chose this classic novel because it helped pioneer the concept of time traveling, and within its pages, H.G. Wells imagined what the future of our planet would look like.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer: I could have done a whole post about retellings related to Disney princesses and their original fairy tales, but I chose Cinder because Cinderella Castle is arguably the most iconic part of the Magic Kingdom.  Plus, it was just a really awesome book!
The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel:  In this book, two sisters take a trip around the world, which perfectly pairs with the ride "It's a Small World"!  You know you love those singing dolls!
The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo:  The main character in this book plays Cinderella at a Florida theme park that shares a lot of similarities with Disney World.  I love this book because it includes some fun behind-the-scenes stuff into the inner workings of a theme park.
What books remind you of Disney World?  What would you read to get excited about a trip there?

Friday, September 28, 2018

Blog Break + Month in Review: September 2018

Just a little housekeeping note that I'll be taking a short break from the blog next week!

September was a great month!  As soon as September 1st hits, I consider it fall, and the weather has finally started cooperating.  I've been wanting to practice my photography, so my sister and her family graciously let me take their Christmas card photos; my niece is turning into quite the little model!  Labor Day was spent with a good chunk of the family.  We were finally able to get some hiking and long walks in, at Sourland Mountain Preserve and the Morris Arboretum.  We did some work in the yard and planted two boxwood bushes; I also got some mums for the front porch.  Fantasy football is in full swing; unfortunately, Team Outlaw is off to a slow start at 1-2, but hopefully we can turn it around!

The Books

Until We Meet Again (review to come) // The Rose Garden (review to come) // The Lightning Thief (audio) // Playing With Matches (review to come)

Wonder Women // Alex & Eliza (review to come) // The Cheerleaders // The Silent Companions (review to come)

The Widow's House (review to come) // The Sea of Monsters (audio) // Reawakened // Wide Sargasso Sea

I, Eliza Hamilton (review to come) // The Girl from Everywhere // The Paper Magician

The Posts and Reviews

The Posts I Loved

  How was your September?  Have you had a pumpkin spice latte yet?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Au Pair

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

The Au Pair
Emma Rous
Expected publication date: January 8, 2019
A grand estate, terrible secrets, and a young woman who bears witness to it all. If V. C. Andrews and Kate Morton had a literary love child, Emma Rous’ The Au Pair would be it.

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her. - from Goodreads
So... a bunch of secrets, a big estate house, and a comparison to Kate Morton?  I'm definitely in for this one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Sourland Mountain Preserve

Ever since we moved to our new house last year, I've been wanting to check out the nearby Sourland Mountain Preserve, and we finally got a chance to!

Sourland Mountain Preserve is a 4,000 acre preserve located in Hillsborough. For more information about the park and to get a trail map, visit the Somerset County Park Commission here.

The preserve has a couple major trails and then a few connector trails that you can take to visit other areas or make your hike shorter or longer.  Our plan was to take the 5-mile Ridge Trail around the outer limits.  From the trailhead, we started moving up the eastern portion of the trail.  It had a pretty steady incline up to Devil's Half-Acre Boulders.  The trail had an outcropping of rocks and roots through this entire climb, so we definitely had to watch our footing.

Just a small portion of Devil's Half-Acre Boulders

Once we passed the boulders, the trail mellowed out a bit and we were able to move a lot quicker.  Even though there were a lot of cars in the parking lot, we only came across a group of Boy Scouts and it was really quiet most of the way.  That's something that always surprises me when we hike - even though I know we're in the middle of a pretty populated area, it can feel entirely isolated and peaceful.

Unfortunately, the trail conditions weren't the best the day we went (it had rained a lot the night before, so it was pretty muddy), so instead of doing the entire Ridge Trail, we took advantage of a connector trail that basically bisected the preserve.  Coming down a pipeline, this trail had a pretty good view of the area and was somewhat steep - going downhill can be just as hard as going uphill sometimes!

Connector Trail
We ended up doing almost 3 miles, and we're definitely planning on going back and hitting the rest of Sourland Mountain Preserve!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Reading Habits Book Tag

I saw this fun tag about reading habits over at Cornerfolds, and I wanted to do it, too!

 Tom and I have "assigned" seats on the couch; it's just where we always sit, so that's where I do most of my reading, even if I'm by myself!  If it's nice, sometimes I'll read outside.  I want to use the comfy reading chair in my office/library more, and I probably will once the cooler weather gets here and it's not so hot upstairs in our house.

Definitely bookmark!  I have a lot of cute ones (one of my favorites is a bookmark with my niece's school picture) and I even have some from different countries that my co-worker picks up for me on her travels.

I have to stop at the end of a chapter.  If I just stop in the middle of something, I'll forget everything!  If a chapter is super-long, I can stop during it if there is some sort of break in the text.

I'm usually drinking water, or tea if it's cold outside.  Sometimes I'll read while I eat dinner, but it's hard to eat while reading a physical book.

The TV is usually on in the background when I'm reading, sometimes just for white noise.  If Tom and I are watching something together, I read during the commercials.

These days I usually have two books going at once: one physical book and then an audiobook in the car while I'm driving to and from work.  I feel like utilizing that extra hour in the car to "read" has really helped my reading goals!

Usually I just read at home, but if I think I'm going to have to wait awhile at a doctor's office or something, I'll make sure to bring a book with me.  And of course, an audiobook in the car!
Silently in my head!  The only exception to this is if I'm reading some really cool nonfiction book and there's some interesting tidbit that I just need to tell someone - then I will read it out loud to Tom.

Well, we all know I read the last page first.  I count the pages until the end of the chapter so I know how long it is, so sometimes I'll read a little bit ahead.  But I don't skip pages completely; if I'm really bored, sometimes I'll skim paragraphs.

I try to keep it looking like new, but I also feel like a broken spine is a sign of a well-loved book!  I've read my hardcover copy of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova so many times that the spine is completely cracked and it's falling apart.

Do you have any strange or funny reading habits?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Marriage Edition

Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give by Ada Calhoun (2017)

A collection of essays about what marriage really means to the author and an honest look at the ups and downs of binding yourself to another person.

In general, marriage doesn't turn out to be the complete "happily-ever-after" we envision on our wedding day, but neither is it the soul-sucking institution that some would have you believe.  Calhoun takes a look at some things you may not necessarily realize about marriage until you've been in one for awhile.  I thought she made some good points, ones that made me think.  A lot of married life revolves around the mundane - paying bills, going to work, etc.  Your partner will probably change throughout their life, as will you, and you both will need to find ways to be happy with each new version.  Communication is so important, but sometimes there can be comfort in silence.

However, I had a lot of issues with this book.  At less than 170 pages of actual text, it's just way too short.  It seems like Calhoun did a lot of interviews/research and she probably could have included more of it.  The writing felt very scattered, even for an essay format.  I didn't care for her cavalier attitude about infidelity, and when she and her friend fantasized about becoming widows, I almost had to quit.  3 stars

How To Be Married by Jo Piazza (2017)

After a whirlwind courtship, Jo Piazza and her husband Nick spend their first year of marriage traveling the world and learning what it means to be married in various cultures.

I really enjoyed this book - it was part travel memoir and part personal memoir.  Piazza included a lot of research and interviews that she did with people in her travels, but she also opened up about issues such as her health and the stress of buying a home.  Her writing style is very comfortable and easy to read.

I loved learning about the different ways marriage is viewed throughout the world:
  • In Chile, women spend a lot of time nurturing their husbands egos, when really they are the ones in charge.
  • In Denmark, couples work hard to create a cozy home where they can relax and be present in their relationship.
  • A work-life balance is super-important in Holland.
  • Gratitude, especially for the small things, keeps Indian marriages alive. 
Aside from all the cultural discussions, Piazza also touches on other general relationship issues such as marrying older and how to become a unit while still maintaining your own life.  A lot of the things she discussed resonated with me, and I think they'll be relevant for a lot of people.  4 stars

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Kingdom of the Blind

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

Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #14)
Louise Penny
Expected publication date: November 27, 2018
When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing.

The investigation into what happened six months ago—the events that led to his suspension—has dragged on, into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip though his hands, in order to bring down the cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception.

Enough narcotic to kill thousands has disappeared into inner city Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers.

As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there. - from Goodreads
I'm just so in love with this series and the characters, and I can't wait to see what Penny does in the next installment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: My Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our fall TBR.  I want to try to read some creepy/scary books to fit the season, so I have some of those mixed in with other books I want to read:

Have you read any of these?  Where should I start?