Friday, July 13, 2018

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Reality TV Edition

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm (2017)

When Dylan's sister Dusty becomes engaged to a Scottish lord on a reality show, the whole family finds themselves traveling to Scotland to prepare for the wedding.  For shy and awkward Dylan, being followed around by cameras is a nightmare, especially with a blossoming romance and family issues coming to the forefront. 

I enjoyed this book so much; I couldn't put it down and finished it in a day!  I loved the royalty aspect; I loved the reality tv aspect; I loved the Scottish setting.  Everything worked!  The pacing of the story was perfect.  There were never any dull moments.  Dylan was an adorable main character.  She just wants to live her life and appear as little as possible on the show.  She and groomsman Jamie were so cute together; I loved their witty banter and how comfortable they seemed around each other, almost right away.  I was a bit wary of Jamie in the beginning, because he seemed a little cagey and too good to be true.  I mean, the producers of the show messed around with other storylines, so why not this one?  But by the end, I understood Jamie and fell in love with him even more, especially because of his love of reading.    4.5 stars

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman (2018)

Confession: I love reality TV, but I don't watch The Bachelor.  However, I do read a lot of articles about it and I'll kind of keep up with it online as the season goes on.  And I'm a sucker for anything "behind-the-scenes"!

I wouldn't say that anything Kaufman revealed in this book surprised me too much, but it was still kind of shocking.  The producers and casting directors are very calculating, choosing cast members to fill particular roles.  Reading about how the contestants are manipulated and treated during the show made me never want to be on a reality show.  The contestants aren't allowed to watch TV or even read books during their time in the mansion, and there's alcohol everywhere.  Producers practically force contestants to say certain things, like they're in love with the bachelor or bachelorette even if they aren't.  The short timeline, the overly-romantic dates - this isn't how dating works in the real world, yet millions of us tune in every week, and we expect a proposal.  I could have done without the chapter on the history of TV dating shows and perhaps a little less on how contestants try to capitalize on their newfound fame after the show, but I did appreciate the research Kaufman put into the book.  I guess in the end maybe I wanted a little more, but I think other fans of reality TV will enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at one of the country's most popular and enduring shows.  4 stars

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Daisy Children

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

The Daisy Children
Sofia Grant
Expected publication date: August 7, 2018
Inspired by true events, in Sofia Grant’s powerfully moving new novel a young woman peels back the layers of her family’s history, discovering a tragedy in the past that explains so much of the present. This unforgettable story is one of hope, healing, and the discovery of truth

Sometimes the untold stories of the past are the ones we need to hear...

When Katie Garrett gets the unexpected news that she’s received an inheritance from the grandmother she hardly knew, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She flees Boston—and her increasingly estranged husband—and travels to rural Texas.

There, she’s greeted by her distant cousin Scarlett. Friendly, flamboyant, eternally optimistic, Scarlett couldn’t be more different from sensible Katie. And as they begin the task of sorting through their grandmother’s possessions, they discover letters and photographs that uncover the hidden truths about their shared history, and the long-forgotten tragedy of the New London school explosion of 1937 that binds them. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of 2018... So Far

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is best books we've read so far this year.  I've had quite a few great reads in the past few months, and they're a good mix of new and backlist titles.






Have you read any of these?  What are some of your favorite books of 2018 so far?

Monday, July 9, 2018

5 Low-Rated Books I Really Liked

When I saw Hannah at So Obsessed With post about 8 low-rated books she enjoyed, I thought it was such a fun idea and wanted to try it myself!  I went to my Goodreads list and sorted the books by average rating.  I picked books that had an average rating of below 3.5.  For me, a 3-star rating basically just means the book was ok, but there weren't many books below 3 stars that I actually enjoyed, so I moved it up to 3.5.

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger: Goodreads rating of 2.86.  This sequel doesn't live up to the original Devil Wears Prada, but I am still kind of shocked by the super-low rating on this book.  I liked catching up with Andy and Emily in their post-Runway life.

The Clairvoyants by Karen Brown: Goodreads rating of 3.09.  I gave this haunting and atmospheric story about a woman who can see ghosts 4 stars.

The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy: Goodreads rating of 3.2. I rated this book a 4.  I was drawn in by the unique premise (a woman can let the spirit of a deceased person take over her body) and the smooth writing.

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet: Goodreads rating of 3.32.  I gave this book 4 stars.  I really enjoyed the story of four young women who live in a convent.

The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro: Goodreads rating of 3.36.  I haven't rated this one myself, but I would give this book at least a 4.  I love this dual timeline story with a 1930s mystery thrown in.

What are some low-rated books that you've enjoyed?

Friday, July 6, 2018

5 Takeaways From "The Year of Less"

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
Cait Flanders
Published January 16, 2018
In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.

The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food—and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.

Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life—and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less. - from Goodreads
I don't think I have a shopping problem, but always in the back of my mind, there's a little thought of, how can I spend less?  Do I really need all of this stuff in my house?  So when I heard about Cait Flanders' Year of Less, I was intrigued.

At the beginning of the book, Cait Flanders lays out her plan for a shopping ban, making a list of approved and non-approved items.  She also declutters her home, listing what she gets rid of.  Each chapter focuses on a month of the challenge, but after the initial plan, the book becomes more of a memoir and less of a how-to book.  She talks about her sobriety; her parents' divorce and how it affected her; and her plan to quit her job.  I thoroughly enjoyed Cait's writing; it has a great flow and is very personal and approachable without being preachy.  She isn't trying to tell people that they have to do things her way in order to succeed; you can take her ideas and tweak them to fit your lifestyle.

After finishing the book, there are a few things that stuck with me that I hope will help me moving forward.

1. How many clothes does one person really need?  When Cait began weeding through her clothes, she realized that she really only liked and wore very few outfits.  So - get rid of those clothes you feel uncomfortable in; the clothes that don't fit you just right; the clothes you're holding onto for when your weight fluctuates; and pieces that aren't very versatile.  I wear business casual all week to work, so do I really need 5 or 6 pairs of jeans when I only wear them on the weekends?

2. Analyze your mood before you make that purchase.  One of Cait's shopping triggers was trying to make herself feel better or feel less pain.  She says, "I found myself constantly wanting to do anything at all that might brighten my day, or lighten some of the load I was carrying around with me."  She usually did that through buying something.  But although that might help temporarily, was it really solving anything?  I know when I'm sad, I immediately want to spend money, go shopping, whatever.  But now I can take a step back and really ask myself why I want to make that purchase.  Is it to make me feel better now, or for the long haul?

3. Set priorities.  So many of us complain that we want to travel but don't have the money for it.  If we really took a look at our finances and what we're spending our money on, I bet we could all find things we're wasting money on that we could funnel towards travel (or something else we want to do).  I like to go on trips, even short ones, so saving for that is a priority for me.  When I get my first paycheck of the month, I automatically transfer a certain amount of money into an account dedicated to travel expenses.

4. Never stop learning.   Cait realizes during her year-long shopping ban that she could actually save a lot of money if she had more skills.  She regrets not learning more from her parents when she was younger, like asking her mom how to sew or learning how to change her car's oil from her dad.  For many of us, it's just easier and more convenient to pay someone else to do things like this for us.  Maybe if I had paid more attention to my mom in the kitchen, I'd be a better cook and not rely on take-out so much!  But, it's never to late to learn a new skill, whether it's sewing, or gardening, or whatever!

5. Are you buying for the person you are or the person you'd like yourself to be?  Am I buying this shirt because it's trendy and I see everyone else wearing it and I want to be fashionable, or because it's my style and something I truly like?  Am I buying this book because I think I'll actually enjoy it or because I think I should be reading it?  While I agree with Cait that you should accept yourself for who you are, I think a case could also be made for wanting to try new things or better yourself.  I'm not saying to do this all the time, but some things you just won't know until you try them for the first time.  Like, I want to be a craftier person.  I was artistic as a kid, but not so much now.  I think it's ok to start with one small project; it's not ok to buy every crafting supply in the story and then never use it.

Overall, I think this book had a great message to be more mindful, in every area of our lives.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Red, White & Blue Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is red, white, and blue covers, so I thought I'd get a little creative and try to make a flag out of some book covers!

What are some of your favorite red, white, or blue covers?


Monday, July 2, 2018

Summer TBR Wipeout 2018: Intro Post

Last summer I had so much fun doing the Summer TBR Wipeout hosted by The Candid Cover, so I am really excited to join in again this year.  For all the details on this low-stress summer challenge, visit The Candid Cover here.  I think this will be the perfect chance to finally get to some titles I've been putting off.  Here's what I'm planning to read this summer:

Bonus read, if I can get it from the library in time:

What are you reading this summer?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Month in Review: June 2018

June was a low-key but fun month around here.  We took some long weekend walks, including one at Rutgers Gardens.  I spent a Saturday afternoon with my sister and stepmom walking around Michael's, the craft store, getting ideas for our next projects.  I went to a hibachi restaurant for the first time and it was really fun!  We went on a double date with my sister and her husband to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.  No matter how ridiculous these movies get (and this one was pretty ridiculous), I'll still continue to watch them.  We ended the month with a first birthday for one of our nephews and the high school graduation party for another nephew and niece (we have so many nieces and nephews!).  And, as you can see below, I got a lot of reading in!

The Books

The One That Got Away // Outlander // Results May Vary // Hurricane Season

When Life Gives You Lululemons // The Year of Less (review to come) // Hidden Figures (audio) // Prince in Disguise (review to come)

Princesses Behaving Badly (review to come) // Bachelor Nation (review to come) // My Lady Jane (review to come) // Jilliand

The Academy (review to come) // The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo (audio) // The Thousandth Floor // The Husband Hour (review to come)

The Radium Girls (review to come)

The Posts and Reviews

The Posts I Loved 
Suzanne at The Bookish Libra discusses challenge fatigue

Aj at Read All The Things! reviews Jacob Have I Loved, one of my favorite childhood books

Greg at Book Haven lists some kickass movie quotes

How was your June?  Do you have any summer plans?