Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Things You Save in a Fire

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

Things You Save in a Fire
Katherine Center
Expected publication date: August 13, 2019
Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she's seen her fair share of them, and she's excellent at dealing with other people's tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it's an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie's old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren't exactly thrilled to have a "lady" on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn't seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can't think about that. Because she doesn't fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don't date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping...but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she's worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage. - from Goodreads
I don't think I've ever read a story about a female firefighter, so that sounds really interesting!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Good Enough to Eat

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is a freebie.  I knew I wanted to do something with covers, so I went through my GR reads to see if any patterns stood out.  Surprisingly, I found a bunch of covers that featured food!  So, here are some picks that look good enough to eat!





Ice Cream

Hot Dogs 

 What are some of your favorite covers that feature food?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Review: The Hunting Party

The Hunting Party
Lucy Foley
Published: February 12, 2019
For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close? - from Goodreads
Every year a group of old college friends plans a vacation together - this year, they're spending New Year's Eve at a lodge in the Scottish Highlands.  However, one of them won't make it out alive.

I enjoy mysteries like this, where the suspect pool is really limited and you're just trying to figure out who's lying or hiding something.  Foley takes it one step further in this book - although we find out that someone has been murdered in the first chapter, it's not until almost halfway through that we even find out the gender of the deceased and their identity isn't revealed until near the end.  So, the reader is trying to figure out which one of the group of friends could be a murderer while also trying to determine which of them is actually killed!

There are many POVs throughout the story, all women with the exception of one.  I don't mind books with lots of character POVs; I think it helps give a well-rounded picture.  Here, I was able to get to know some characters very well, but unfortunately others got lost in the shuffle.  I had to remind myself who some of the characters were because they showed up so infrequently.  However, the author injected a lot of interesting dynamics in the many friendships and relationships among the group.  These people, who have been friends for years, know each other so well and there's lots of history there, both good and bad.  But there's also any element of, how well can you really know anyone?

The book was a quick read - short, snappy chapters kept the action moving.  There were lots of red herrings that kept me guessing.  Several times I thought I had figured it out, but I was always wrong!  The reveal of the killer was spectacular and a total surprise - both the identity of the killer and the reasoning behind it were not what I was expecting at all!

4 stars

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Love at First Like

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

Love at First Like
Hannah Orenstein
Expected publication date: August 6, 2019

Eliza Roth and her sister Sophie co-own a jewelry shop in Brooklyn. One night, after learning of an ex’s engagement, Eliza accidentally posts a photo of herself wearing a diamond ring on that finger to her Instagram account beloved by 100,000 followers. Sales skyrocket, press rolls in, and Eliza learns that her personal life is good for business. So she has a choice: continue the ruse or clear up the misunderstanding. With mounting financial pressure, Eliza sets off to find a fake fiancĂ©.

Fellow entrepreneur Blake seems like the perfect match on paper. And in real life he shows promise, too. He would be perfect, if only Eliza didn’t feel also drawn to someone else. But Blake doesn’t know Eliza is “engaged”; Sophie asks Eliza for an impossible sum of money; and Eliza’s lies start to spiral out of control. She can either stay engaged online or fall in love in real life. - from Goodreads

This just sounds like a fun summer read!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Embracing Technology: The Libby App

Confession: I'm not a tech fiend.  I can barely operate our DVD player.  I got my first smartphone less than a year ago.  And I've said multiple times here on the blog that I don't do ebooks (although I did read my first one earlier this year).  However, sometimes it's good to get outside your comfort zone, and recently I did just that!

To set the stage: I started a new job earlier this year and now have a proper hour-long lunch break.  I've been bringing the unread physical books from my shelves to read during lunch (goals!).  I was driving to work one day a couple weeks ago when it hit me - I forgot to put a new book in my bag after I finished one the day before!  I literally groaned - what would I do for a whole HOUR?  Was there a bookstore or county library branch nearby that I could hit up? Then, I remembered something I had seen a few times on the library's website - they utilize the Libby app to allow patrons to download ebooks and audiobooks.  I had never thought about using it before, but now, I was kind of desperate.  I worried, though, that it would be too tech-y and difficult for me to figure out, and I would give up.

Guys, I was wrong.  It.  Was.  So.  Easy.

Within two minutes, I had downloaded the app, chosen my library, entered my library card number, and was searching for available books!  I chose Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny, the latest installment in the Inspector Gamache series that I'd been wanting to read for awhile.  I downloaded it and fairly quickly learned how to open, navigate, and bookmark.

The purpose of this post isn't to introduce you to the Libby app or be a how-to guide - it's been around for awhile and I'm sure a lot of you are already using it!  Really, it's more of a personal post.  Too often I'm afraid to try new things, because of either frustration (that it will be too hard for me to figure out) or embarrassment (that I won't get it right away).  I avoided apps like Libby even though it could be really helpful.  I carry a book most places I go, but they get heavy and clunky.  This app ensures that I have a book at all times, because my phone is basically glued to my hand these days. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm glad I tried something new and pushed myself outside of my paper book comfort zone!  I learned that sometimes things are not as difficult as you fear they will be.

Do you use the Libby app?  What are some bookish things you've tried that you once thought you never would?

Friday, July 19, 2019

YA Mini-Reviews

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard (2019)

Thank you to Suzanne at The Bookish Libra for the recommendation!

Eden is stunned to find out her best friend Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, who turns out to be their school's music teacher.

I was drawn to the ripped-from-the-headlines premise of the book, and Barnard did a great job of making the story feel very grounded and real.  Having the story be from the POV of the friend of the runaway added all these extra layers.  Bonnie's actions cause Eden to really question their friendship - she wonders how close they were if Bonnie never told her about the relationship.

Eden says many times throughout the book that her and Bonnie had such a good friendship because they had very different personalities and balanced each other out; Bonnie's steadiness helped Eden.  However, the same could also be said for Eden's boyfriend, Connor - he was such a sweetheart, and I loved their relationship.  I also enjoyed the secondary storyline about Eden's adoption and her getting to know her adoptive sister, Valerie, better.  Overall, it was nice to see all this support around Eden as she grappled with Bonnie's betrayal.  I did want to shake her at times, though; I know she felt loyal to Bonnie and didn't want to break her promise to not reveal her whereabouts, but couldn't she see that her friend could be in serious trouble?  4 stars

Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum (2019)

Abbi has spent her entire life being known as the subject of an iconic photo taken on the morning of September 11th.  Now, she just wants one summer of anonymity, but a fellow camp counselor wants her help to get some answers about that day.

Is it bad that I liked the secondary characters more than the main characters?  I sympathized with Abbi about the spotlight that has been on her, and I get that she just wanted to be a normal kid for a little while, but she was keeping a BIG secret, and I was not okay with it.  I wanted her to get the help she needed before things got worse.  And Noah - I didn't like the way he blackmailed Abbi into helping him, even though he tried to make up for it later.  I wanted him to be honest with her from the start.  Their eventual romance was a bit predictable, but they were still pretty awkwardly cute together.

Now, onto the secondary characters - Jack, Noah's best friend, was just awesome.  Funny and blunt, he's what I wished Noah was.  And Abbi's parents were pretty cool, too.  I loved how even though they were divorced, they still got along so well, and Abbi had a great relationship with them both.  Abbi's grandmother also plays an important role in her life and even though she was suffering from dementia, she still managed to have a big impact on the story.

September 11th was a day I'll never forget, and sometimes it doesn't sit well with me when it appears in books - I don't really know why.  However, I thought Buxbaum did an excellent job here of incorporating that day.  She created a unique angle, with Abbi's photo, and brought in some personal stories through other characters.  I also thought the story was informative and sensitive when it came to 9/11-related illnesses.

3.5 stars

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: A Dress For The Wicked

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

A Dress for the Wicked
Autumn Krause
Expected publication date: August 6, 2019
Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Shy in Avon-upon-Kynt. And for eighteen years, Emmaline Watkins has feared that her future held just that: nothing.

But when the head of the most admired fashion house in the country opens her prestigious design competition to girls from outside the stylish capital city, Emmy’s dreams seem closer than they ever have before.

As the first “country girl” to compete, Emmy knows she’ll encounter extra hurdles on her way to the top. But as she navigates the twisted world of high fashion she starts to wonder: will she be able to tailor herself to fit into this dark, corrupted race? And at what cost? - from Goodreads
So apparently this book is what happens when Project Runway is set in a historical fiction book - sounds awesome!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is auto-buy authors.  There are actually very few authors that I will buy (and usually pre-order) every single book they release - in fact, there are just two:


There are also two series that I've been invested in for a long time and when (if?) the next book is released, I will buy those, too, to complete my collections:


I have a few other favorite authors that I follow closely; I may not buy every book they release, but they are definitely auto-reads for me:



Are any of these authors auto-reads or auto-buys for you, too?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Review: The Last

The Last
Hanna Jameson
Published April 9, 2019

Thanks to Jennifer - Tar Heel Reader for the recommendation!

For fans of high-concept thrillers such as Annihilation and The Girl with All the Gifts, this breathtaking dystopian psychological thriller follows an American academic stranded at a Swiss hotel as the world descends into nuclear war—along with twenty other survivors—who becomes obsessed with identifying a murderer in their midst after the body of a young girl is discovered in one of the hotel’s water tanks.

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world? - from Goodreads
Part post-apocalyptic survival story, part murder mystery, The Last was an incredible read!  Jon is a historian attending a conference at a hotel in Switzerland when suddenly nuclear bombs start dropping all over the world.  With little access to the outside world, he and a couple dozen others decide to stay put at the hotel, but their plans for survival are thrown when they discover a body in the hotel's water tank.

The book starts off as Jon's diary, and you can feel his despair and tension.  Then, his training kicks in and he switches to a narrative, with a somewhat more objective tone.  I liked that he wanted to leave this record of what happened and who they were.  The premise felt completely believable, and there were some interesting discussions between the characters as to how the nuclear war came about and whose fault it was.

The mix of a post-apocalyptic story and a murder mystery was an intriguing combination, although the story was less of a thriller than I expected.  The author did a good job incorporating survival tactics, as the guests try to ration and collect food for the winter and also make scouting trips for supplies.  As part of his narrative and also his attempt to solve the murder, Jon spends portions of the book interviewing the guests and hotel employees.  At times those parts felt a bit slow.  I also wondered how reliable of a narrator Jon was, as he dabbles in drugs and alcohol and grapples with feelings of how they were all somehow fated to be at this hotel at what could be the end of the world.  He is also worrying about the family he left behind in San Francisco.

I wasn't super-crazy about the end of the story.  I understood how it fit in with the rest of the book as far as narrative, but it seemed to be kind of a reach and the tone felt a bit off.  Overall, though, I enjoyed this unique approach to an end-of-the-world story.

4 stars

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Ever Alice

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

Ever Alice
H.J. Ramsay
Expected publication date: August 1, 2019
Alice’s stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows—it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she’s willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block. - from Goodreads
A retelling of/sequel to Alice in Wonderland?  Yes, please!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Down The TBR Hole #3

Down the TBR Hole is a feature created by Lost in a Story.  I've seen it on a few other blogs and thought I would try it out myself!  It seems like a really good way to cull your TBR of those books you're no longer interested in.  So how does it work?

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Here are the books I'm looking at this time:

 The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

This is on my TBR for the Retellings Reading Challenge, so I'm definitely keeping this one!
 Mirage by Somaya Daud

Even though I saw good reviews for this one when it first came out, I haven't been in the mood for YA fantasy in awhile and this doesn't sound special enough for me to hold onto until that happens.  Pass!
 The Lantern's Ember by Colleen Houck

Yes, I know I just said above that I'm not into YA fantasy right now, but this sounds really fun and perfect for fall, so maybe I will give it a try then!  Keeping for now!
 Snow in Love by Melissa de la Crus, Nic Stone, Aimee Friedman, and Kasie West

I added this last fall and thought I would read it over the winter months, but I couldn't get a copy from my library and now I'm just not really interested anymore.  Plus, I'm not a huge fan of short story collections!  Pass!

 Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Even though this didn't get great reviews when it came out, it's Liane Moriarty, and I've generally enjoyed her books in the past.  Keeping this one!

So, two out of five this time wasn't bad!  Have you read any of these?

Friday, July 5, 2019

Review: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters
Balli Kaur Jaswal
Published April 30, 2019
The British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina—were never close and barely got along growing up, and now as adults, have grown even further apart. Rajni, a school principal is a stickler for order. Jezmeen, a thirty-year-old struggling actress, fears her big break may never come. Shirina, the peacemaking "good" sister married into wealth and enjoys a picture-perfect life.

On her deathbed, their mother voices one last wish: that her daughters will make a pilgrimage together to the Golden Temple in Amritsar to carry out her final rites. After a trip to India with her mother long ago, Rajni vowed never to return. But she’s always been a dutiful daughter, and cannot, even now, refuse her mother’s request. Jezmeen has just been publicly fired from her television job, so the trip to India is a welcome break to help her pick up the pieces of her broken career. Shirina’s in-laws are pushing her to make a pivotal decision about her married life; time away will help her decide whether to meekly obey, or to bravely stand up for herself for the first time.

Arriving in India, these sisters will make unexpected discoveries about themselves, their mother, and their lives—and learn the real story behind the trip Rajni took with their Mother long ago—a momentous journey that resulted in Mum never being able to return to India again. - from Goodreads
To honor their late mother's last wish, sisters Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina Shirgill find themselves on a spiritual journey in India.  Along the way, they learn more about each other and themselves.

I loved meeting the Shergill sisters; they were each so unique and had their own voice.  Rajni is the oldest by quite a few years; she's the most motherly one, super-organized and kind of strict.  Jezmeen is the middle sister, a struggling actress.  Shirina is the youngest; she recently married and moved to Australia.  Each sister is going through their own personal crisis as they start their journey in India; Rajni's and Jezmeen's issues are spelled out early on, but we are kind of kept in the dark about Shirina's for awhile.  None of them really want to talk about it with their sisters; they just want to finish the tasks on their mother's list and leave.

The author did a wonderful job of creating three distinct characters and also creating such realistic sibling relationships.  Many siblings seem to have this uncanny ability to get along one minute and hate each other the next, and the Shergill sisters are no different.  It was interesting to learn, in bits and pieces, how events from their childhood really shaped their lives and led them to this point.

The cultural aspects of the book were so interesting; India is not a setting I often see in the books I read, so the tour of northern India I took during this story was fascinating.  The food, the spiritual centers, how women are expected to behave - I feel like I learned so much.  Shirina's marriage also added insight into traditional versus modern Indian tendencies.

Although Jezmeen added moments of lightness and the ending saw movement towards hope, for the most part this book felt very heavy, almost verging on depressing.  Between the sisters fighting, their personal issues, and learning about their difficult childhood, there weren't very many moments of happiness.  However, that surprisingly didn't detract too much from my enjoyment of the story.

4 stars

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Chelsea Girls

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

The Chelsea Girls
Fiona Davis
Expected publication date: July 30, 2019
From Fiona Davis, the nationally bestselling author of The Dollhouse and The Address, the bright lights of the theater district, the glamour and danger of 1950s New York, and the wild scene at the iconic Chelsea Hotel come together in a dazzling new novel about the twenty-year friendship that will irrevocably change two women's lives.

From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City's creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine's Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Chelsea Girls deftly pulls back the curtain on the desperate political pressures of McCarthyism, the complicated bonds of female friendship, and the siren call of the uninhibited Chelsea Hotel. - from Goodreads
I've enjoyed all of Fiona Davis' other books, especially since they each focus on a unique historical NYC landmark!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Month in Review: June 2019

Thankfully, it didn't rain as much during June as it did during May, but unfortunately summer has definitely descended and it is HOT.  Much hotter than normal at this time of year.  All I want to do is sit in air conditioning and read a book!

June was a fairly calm and quiet month, but we did get to do some fun things!  Earlier in the month, we took a ride down to Winterthur in Delaware and saw the Costuming The Crown exhibit - a post about our trip is linked below!   We saw Men in Black International, and I'll be honest, I only sat through it for Chris Hemsworth.

Tom and I ordered a new TV stand for the living room, and I'm proud to say we didn't kill each other putting it together!  I think that's kind of a rite of passage of any relationship or marriage - when you can work together and follow those impossible instructions without going ballistic on each other!

We just started summer hours at work, which means we work late Monday through Thursday in exchange for a half day on Fridays.  It's only been one week so far and although it was nice getting out early on Friday, I don't know that it's worth getting home so late the rest of the week.  We'll see, though!

The last weekend of the month, we went to a birthday party for one of our nephews and also checked out a baseball game at our local minor league stadium.

The Books
The Posts and Reviews

How was your June?  What was your favorite book?  Any plans for the 4th of July (if you celebrate)?