Monday, April 30, 2018

Month in Review: April 2018

April was a super-busy month, as you can probably tell from my low reading total!  So, what made it so busy?
  • So many birthdays!  April is a huge month for birthdays in my family, so in addition to my sister and I celebrating ours, there were also numerous aunts, cousins, my BIL, and two of our nephews.
  • We finally sold our condo!  It had been on the market for a few months, but we closed this month and it's a relief to not have to worry about it anymore.
  • Tom and I traveled to Tulsa for our nephew's 1st birthday party, and on the way back, we stopped in Chicago for a couple days.  I'll have a post next week about the fun time we had!
  • I celebrated my two-year blogoversary by doing... nothing!  But it was fun to realize that it's already been two years!
  • I had a few friends and family over and we made 25 blankets for our local Project Linus chapter. 
  • We saw Avengers: Infinity War and I.. don't even have words.  I think I'm in shock.

The Books:

How To Walk Away (review to come) // Of Mice and Men // First & Then (review to come) // Revenge Wears Prada

Foolish Hearts (review to come) // Sorority (review to come)

The Posts and Reviews:

The Posts I Loved:
Greg at Book Haven asks what bookish or pop culture world you'd want to visit

Jenn Renee and Ash at JennReneeRead featured my blog in their Bloggy Buddy series

Marie at Drizzle and Hurricane Books lists 10 underrated books we should be talking about

Aj at Read All The Things admits to a reviewing crisis

Jordan at Forever Lost in Literature discusses genre snobbery

Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves goes behind-the-scenes of being a book blogger

How was your April?  Is it finally feeling like spring where you live?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Women Who Lived and Worked in "Atomic City"

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan (2013)

In 1942, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was founded as a secret work location for the Manhattan Project.  It was more than just labs and factories - an entire town was created, and because of the ongoing war, many women were recruited or applied to fill the positions.  Secrecy and discretion were of utmost importance to the government at this site.  Workers couldn't discuss their daily work with anyone, not even family members.  And no one there knew they were enriching uranium for use in an atomic bomb until the first one was dropped on Japan.

Kiernan offers a broad overview of how Oak Ridge came about and what life there was like, at times through the personal stories of some women who lived and worked there.  While the writing was good, I had a hard time keeping the women straight and the story was at times repetitive.  I thought the book would be focused on women and the types of jobs they did, but there isn't really much about the specific work done.  The book focuses more on life in general in the town - how all the residents tried to make it feel more like home; how there was often a general unease among the residents, because of all the secrecy.  You couldn't ever be sure you weren't speaking to someone who was purposely sent in to spy on everyone.  The narrative ended with the town's reaction to finding out what they had been working on; many residents had conflicting feelings - they were proud that they helped end the war, but at what cost?  3 stars

The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard (2018)

In 1944, June Walker begins work at the secretive Oak Ridge site.  She immerses herself in her new life, forming a friendship with her social climber roommate Cici and beginning a relationship with scientist Sam, but very few people in Oak Ridge know that they are actually helping build an atomic bomb to end WWII.

I love WWII historical fiction, and this is an angle that is relatively new to me.  Because I had read the nonfiction story of practically the same name first, I was familiar with the basic facts behind the story.  I could tell the author had done her research; some parts felt more like info-dump and were very reminiscent of the nonfiction book.

Although the story is mainly about June's journey in Oak Ridge, two of the four main characters are men, so I'm not sure why the book is called "Atomic City Girls."  In any event, I think I enjoyed Joe Brewer's storyline the most.  He is a black construction worker, and while his story didn't really fit with the rest of the book (he doesn't interact with the rest of the characters for 95% of it), it highlighted how differently (and poorly) African Americans were treated in Oak Ridge.  3.5 stars

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: When Life Gives You Lululemons

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

When Life Gives You Lululemons
Lauren Weisberger
Expected publication date: June 5, 2018
New York Times bestselling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada—Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who’s just landed the client of a lifetime.

Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She’s working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She’s the former face of L’Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It’s all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina’s arrest for a DUI—with a Suburban full of other people’s children.

Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.

Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they’ll navigate the social landmines of life in America’s favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths—and the lies—that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears. - from Goodreads
I've loved Lauren Weisberger's books for years, beginning with (of course) The Devil Wears Prada.  Finally, Emily gets her own book!

Monday, April 23, 2018

5 Books Guaranteed to Make You Shed a Tear

It's no secret around here that I love books that make me cry.  Happy tears, sad tears - it doesn't matter.  Keep the tissues handy when reading these next five books!

Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb: This is one of my favorite books, no matter how much it makes me ugly cry.  Three sisters return home to take care of their mother and mentally disabled brother.

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth: Books in which a character is suffering from Alzheimer's will always have me sobbing, and this one is no exception.  Anna has early-onset Alzheimer's, and her story is alternately heartbreaking and hopeful.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes:  It took me awhile to get into this road-trip book, but as it progressed, I found myself falling in love with the characters.

Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell: Jill Mansell writes such heartfelt books.  In this story, three women are brought together through the gift of organ donation.

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny: Flashbacks to a hostage situation and thwarted terrorist attack involving Inspector Gamache's team will definitely have you reaching for the tissues in the 6th book of the series.

What are some books that have made you cry?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Blog Break + Review: She Regrets Nothing

Just wanted to let you all know that I'll be taking a break from the blog next week.  I look forward to catching up with everyone soon!  Now, onto this week's review!

She Regrets Nothing
Andrea Dunlop
Published February 6, 2018
In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.

When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth. - from Goodreads
This is one of those books that had so much potential for me (NYC setting, family secrets), but unfortunately, it fell flat.  After her mother dies, Laila Lawrence finds out she's actually a member of a very wealthy New York family.  Two years later, she moves to NYC to claw her way into the lives of her cousins (Liberty, Nora, and Leo).

Laila is probably one of the most unlikable main characters I've ever come across.  She's a conniving, manipulative social climber.  She feels she's entitled to a glamorous lifestyle and is willing to dredge up old family secrets in order to get her way.  Lying is second-nature to her, and she readily puts on different personas depending on who she's trying to manipulate.

Many of the other characters are just as bad as Laila.  Nora and Leo are stereotypical socialites, allergic to hard work and addicted to gossip and spending money.  Pretty much all the male characters are sexist and ageist (such as believing only women in their 20s are worth marrying, for their looks and fertility).  Perhaps it's an accurate look at the lives of the wealthy (I wouldn't know), but it was hard to get past.  Pretty much the only redeeming character is Liberty, who is so dedicated to her career as a literary agent despite not needing to work (I love that she is always reading a book!).

The writing was kind of bland and stilted at times, and it was hard to get a handle on the tone of the book.  It wasn't really scandalous enough to be dark, nor light enough to be chick lit.  Then, an event near the end of the book comes out of nowhere and unfortunately for me brought the whole book down with unnecessary drama.  If the story had just focused more on Laila and how she tries to insert herself into the rest of the family (and been about 50-75 pages shorter), I think the book could have been more successful.

2.5 stars

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: All We Ever Wanted

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

All We Ever Wanted
Emily Giffin
Expected publication date: June 26, 2018
Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville's elite. Her husband's tech business is booming, and her son, Finch, is bound for Princeton.

Thomas Talone is a single dad working multiple jobs. His daughter, Lila, was recently accepted to Nashville's most prestigious private high school on a scholarship.

Then one devastating photo changes everything. Lila passes out at a party, drunk and half-naked. Finch snaps a picture, types out a caption and--click--sends it out to a few friends. The photo spreads quickly, and before long, an already divided community takes sides, throws blame, and implodes. And in the midst of it all, Nina and Tom are forced to question all their assumptions about love and loyalty.

In this riveting novel, Emily Giffin tells a story of characters who face impossible choices--but emerge to live more truly to themselves than they ever have before. - from Goodreads
Emily Giffin is one of my go-to authors.  I've already pre-ordered this one and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Is It Hard to Fairly Review a Favorite Author?

Hooray - your favorite author is coming out with a new book!  Even before the book has hit your hands, do you assume you'll love it, or do you keep an open mind?  When it comes to our favorite authors, do you find it easy to fairly review their newest releases?  Do you treat them the same as any other author, or are you even harsher on them because you have high expectations?  As reviewers, I think it's important to us to be as objective and honest as we can, but who knows what is subconsciously affecting our reviews.

This topic is on my mind because a couple of my favorite authors have new releases coming out this year; I pre-ordered Emily Giffin's All We Ever Wanted months ago, even though it doesn't come out until June.  I haven't been reviewing books long enough to have come across this potential problem before; however, now I find myself thinking, "Well, I love Emily Giffin and all her other books, so I'm going to love this one, too!"  But is this coloring my review before I've even started reading?

Our favorite authors are favorites for a reason - we love the stories, the writing - they consistently give us books that resonate with us.  So, are we pre-disposed to love their next book?  Do we assume it will be good based on our previous reading experiences?  And, does that affect how we review their books?  Is it harder to be subjective when it comes to our favorite authors?

On one hand, maybe it makes us harsher judges, because we have higher expectations.  We've come to know the author and their work, and we all have these previously wonderful reading experiences to compare it to.  If we give this book 4 or 5 stars, it is well-deserved because we've really critically read the book.

On the other hand, maybe we're a little easier on them, because of those previous experiences and a strong desire to love their newest book.  Maybe we're more willing to let problematic things slide and just chalk it up to being an anomaly.  Perhaps if a different author had written the same book, we might review it differently.

Do you think there's a difference between reviewing a favorite author and any other author?  Do you find it easy to be objective in reviews regardless of who wrote a book?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Mini-Reviews: Unconventional Love Stories

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig (2018)

Tom Hazard may look like a typical 40-year-old, but he's actually over 400 years old, due to a rare condition.  As a member of a society of similar people, he knows he must follow the rules of keeping to a quiet life, moving every 8 years, and never falling in love.  But when he meets Camille, he begins to question the life he's been leading.

This book was so much more than just a love story.  In fact, for me, the love story was just a small part.  It's more a character study of this man who has lived an incredible life (he's sailed with Captain Cook, had a drink with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and worked alongside Shakespeare) but who still feels incredibly lonely.  At one time he had a wife and daughter, but to keep them safe, he left.  His daughter, however, has the same condition as him, and he has never stopped hoping he will find her again.

The story is very light on action and plot, and even becomes very predictable in the end, yet I was still taken in by an imaginative look at someone who has experienced so much of history and how it has affected him.  3.5 stars

The One by John Marrs (2018)

Imagine if you could find your soulmate just by taking a DNA test - when Match Your DNA finds your perfect genetic match, you'll live happily ever after.  Right?  In The One, five people send their DNA swab to Match Your DNA, hoping the database will find their soulmate.

This book captured me from the start.  I was totally intrigued by the premise.  The author has come up with such a unique approach to finding love, but could it really be foolproof?  Each storyline explores the "what ifs" - what if you were already in a relationship?  Would you take the test and risk finding out your partner isn't your perfect match?  What if your match is terminally ill, deceased, or even the same gender as you (and you've always considered yourself heterosexual)?  Or, what if your match is a psychopath?  Every storyline is distinctive and interesting

This book was darker than I was expecting, but in the best ways.  It's a thriller, but it also has a lot of heart, and even though I guessed some of the outcomes, I was still surprised many times.  Short, snappy chapters that ended with a bit of a tease kept me reading.  It was such a fun ride and proved that nothing in life or love is a guarantee.  4.5 stars

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: All The Ever Afters

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

All The Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella's Stepmother
Danielle Teller
Expected publication: May 22, 2018
We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of “happily ever after.” - from Goodreads
I've been so into retellings lately, and I especially love when they're told from the POV of one of the side characters!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Month in Review: March 2018

All month I kept thinking it was still February - probably because of all the cold and snowy weather we had!  Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of March:
  • I started working on my new office/library!  Painting and gathering furniture is underway - I can't wait until it's finished and I can show you all!
  • Our water heater failed and leaked water all over the floor of our utility room.  Thankfully, we were home when it happened and we caught it fairly quickly.  A new hot water heater and three days of fans blowing to dry the room out later, and we are good to go!  The joys of being a homeowner!
  • I ate way too many cupcakes with green frosting for St. Patrick's Day.
  • We saw Ready Player One and really enjoyed it!  I meant to read the book before we watched the movie, but unfortunately, that didn't happen. Maybe if I get to the book soon, I can do some sort of comparison post!

The Books:

The After Party // How To Stop Time (review to come) // In Harm's Way (audio) // The One (review to come)

The Girls of Atomic City (review to come) // She Regrets Nothing (review to come) // American Wife // The Atomic City Girls (review to come)

The Posts and Reviews:
The Posts I Loved:
Sam at We Live and Breathe Books talks about why she reads YA

Kristen at Metaphors and Moonlight discusses the issues she's having with audiobooks

Laura at Boats Against the Current writes a letter to herself as a new blogger

How was your March?  Did you do anything to celebrate St. Patrick's Day?  What was your favorite book of the month?