Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Book Haul #5

I've been pretty good about not buying too many books this year, but I went a little crazy recently!  I blame most of it on coming across a library book sale while we were in Connecticut a couple weeks ago!




Have you read any of these?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

It's time for one of my favorite blogging events of the year - Nonfiction November!  Julie from Julz Reads is hosting the first week, which is a look back at our year of nonfiction.

My goal this year was to read at least 12 nonfiction books - so far I've read 15, and of course I have plenty lined up for this month!  It's been a bit of a mixed bag in terms of enjoyment, but I've had luck with a couple topics - food and the outdoors (and I'll be offering my recommendations on this topic in a couple weeks!).


These three books were all quite different but wonderful in their own way!

The book I've been recommending the most is Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar - this book was terrifying, and fascinating, and just all-around incredible.  I couldn't stop talking about it after I finished it!

I also have to mention one amazing audiobook, Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis.  Ellis has put together a series of essays of her experiences as a southern woman living in New York City.  While it doesn't always work when an author reads their own book, Ellis is the perfect narrator and she just added so much to her essays.

As always, what I hope to get out of Nonfiction November is more titles to add to my TBR!  There are so many nonfiction books out there that I just don't know about, and I want to make it an even bigger part of my reading. I have a pretty ambitious TBR set for this month - I just picked up seven books from the library this weekend, and I already had a couple on my shelves I wanted to read!  Here are just a few I really want to get to:

What will you be reading this November?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Review: The Bromance Book Club

The Bromance Book Club
Lyssa Kay Adams
Expected publication date: November 5, 2019
The first rule of book club:
You don't talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott's marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville's top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it'll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife. - from Goodreads
I received this book for free from Goodreads Giveaways.

The premise of this book is genius, isn't it?  A man trying to win back his wife and avoid divorce gets help from his buddies, who run a secret book club for men only where they read romance books to get relationship tips.  I had high hopes going into this one and it did not disappoint!

Thea and Gavin have been married for three years, but things aren't always easy - Gavin's career as a professional baseball player means he's gone a lot, leaving Thea to manage their children and home alone.  She is increasingly frustrated with their life, and the fight they have after Gavin finds out she's been faking orgasms for their entire relationship is the last straw for her.  Gavin, however, doesn't want to lose his family, and his friends help him come up with an unorthodox solution to rebuild his marriage.

First off, I just have to say that this book was way funnier than I thought it would be - yes, it has some tough subjects and emotional conversations, but the interactions between Gavin and the other members of the book club are just hilarious.  I actually laughed out loud a couple times, which I pretty much never do when reading.

I loved Gavin because he seemed like such a real guy - he wants to win his wife back and he's willing to put in the work to do it, but he still gets frustrated and lashes out sometimes without thinking.  I could feel his sincerity, though, even when he was using lessons learned from the romance book.  He knows what he feels, he just needed a little help in showing it.  I thought the excerpts from the romance book were a nice touch, and they showed how the guys in the club used them to learn how to really listen to women and express themselves.

For a lot of the book, I was really frustrated by Thea - I wanted her to admit that maybe she had caused some of their problems, too, by lying to Gavin for so long.  I think if she had spoken up about how unfulfilled she felt in several areas of her life, they would have been better off.  She was a really well-rounded character, though, with a full backstory, and by the end of the book, she experienced a lot of growth.  Overall, this book was a winner - it had humor, heart, and some seriously steamy sex scenes!

4.5 stars

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Meg & Jo

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

Meg & Jo
Virginia Kantra
Expected publication date: December 3, 2019
The timeless classic Little Women inspired this heartwarming modern tale of four sisters from New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra.

The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.

One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams. - from Goodreads
I'll admit, I've never read Little Women - although I do plan to!  But I love retellings and I like that the story is set in modern times.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Leaf-Peeping Weekend in Connecticut

One of my favorite things about fall is the changing colors of the leaves, so when my husband Tom suggested we head to Connecticut for a weekend to see the leaves and celebrate our wedding anniversary, I was a happy girl!  He sent me a link to this TripSavvy article and I used their list of parks to help plan our weekend.  I wanted to see as many places as possible, but we only had a short time to visit, so I tried to find parks that were close together.

We decided to stay in Danbury, where we had more options for hotels. On our way in, we stopped at Tarrywile Mansion and Park, a historic home now used as an event venue that has a large park attached to it with a few hiking trails.  From the parking lot, we took the White Trail around the pond and then picked up the Blue Trail.  There were some pretty significant inclines during the hike, but the forest was beautiful, as well as the foliage!

On our second day, we drove up to the Kent area, about 45 minutes from Danbury.  Our first stop was at Kent Falls State Park - while the park is small, it has an incredible multi-level waterfall!  We took the White Trail up alongside the waterfall, and there were several viewing platforms along the way.  At the top, you can practically stand on top of the waterfall!  We took the Red Trail down the other side.

Next, we went to Housatonic Meadows State Park and picked up the Pine Knob Loop Trail.  We went clockwise up the trail, which is an approximately 2.5 mile loop.  It was a pretty steep incline almost the entire way up, so we took our time, but the surroundings were gorgeous - almost the whole forest was yellow!  When we finally made it to the summit, the view was so worth it!

I always say to Tom that as hard as it is to climb up a mountain, it's just as hard going down, and this trail was no exception - while well-blazed, the trail itself was full of rocks, even boulders sometimes, and tree roots.  We really had to watch our steps.  The trail was also really slippery from the fallen leaves and acorns.

After our hikes, we went into downtown Kent to grab lunch.  Although small, the downtown area is really cute with lots of dining options.  My co-worker had told me about a bookstore there, so of course I had to stop in.  House of Books was adorable and had a great selection.  I picked up two books there and, as luck would have it, the local library was also having a book sale that weekend out on the lawn, so of course I grabbed a few more books!

On our way out of Kent, we stopped at Bull's Bridge, which is one of three surviving covered bridges in Connecticut!

We had a great time in Connecticut - perfect weather, gorgeous foliage, and books - what more could I ask for?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Mini-Reviews: The Park Avenue Edition

Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne (2019)

When Naomi has a chance to move back into the posh NYC building she used to live in with her mother and confront the wealthy family that ruined their lives, she takes it - but soon realizes that many things have changed over the years.

This book was a cute, fun, very quick summer read, perfect for taking to the beach or on vacation.  Naomi's mother worked for the Cunningham family years ago, but after having an affair with the husband Walter, she is thrown out and blacklisted, causing a lot of hardship for her and her daughter.  Twenty years later, Naomi is a wealthy entrepreneur. I thought her reasoning for wanting to move back into the building was  a little flimsy - to honor her mother's memory and show the Cunninghams how successful she's become.  What happened to her and her mother when she was a child clearly didn't destroy her life completely, as she now runs her own company and can easily afford the Upper East Side apartment.  And it turns out that Walter now has Alzheimer's and Naomi can't help but feel sorry for him and Oliver, his son and caretaker.

Oliver was such a sweetheart.  He was such an old soul, with his jigsaw puzzles and pressed pants, that I couldn't help but love him.  Watching him and Naomi dance around each other was fun.  Also adding to the story were Naomi's friends Claire and Audrey, who became an unlikely trio after finding out they were all sleeping with Claire's husband.  I'm looking forward to their stories in the next installments!  4 stars

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen (2019)

Alice has big dreams, and what better way to get ahead in NYC than start as the secretary to a magazine editor - except, this isn't just any editor.  It's 1965, and Helen Gurley Brown was just hired as the first female editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine.

This book was an incredible look inside the world of magazine publishing in the 1960s.  The story ideas, the fashion, the smoking and drinking - the setting really came through.  Helen wanted to shake all that up - she had ideas to gain an entirely new customer base.  I couldn't help but feel bad for her when people starting quitting on the spot on her first day, refusing to work for a woman with such risque ideas.  And some of the stories she wanted to run were very risque and controversial, even by today's standards.  But Helen refused to back down, even after they slashed her budget, determined to show that she and the magazine could be a success.  I have to admit, though, Helen's crying every single time something didn't go her way was a little off-putting.

The story isn't all about Helen - it's told from the POV of her secretary, Alice.  Inspired by her mother, Alice wants to be a photographer.  However, she gets swept up in her job and her loyalty to Helen almost puts that dream in jeopardy.  I could relate to Alice's loyalty to a job that isn't necessarily loyal back to you.  However, Alice does a lot of growing up over the course of the book and it was nice to see her take control of her life.  4 stars

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Not The Girl You Marry

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

Not The Girl You Marry
Andie J. Christopher
Expected publication date: November 12, 2019
How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days gets a millennial makeover in this romantic comedy by USA Today bestselling author Andie J. Christopher.

Jack Nolan is a gentleman, a journalist, and unlucky in love. His viral success has pigeon-holed him as the how-to guy for a buzzy, internet media company instead of covering hard-hitting politics. Fed up with his fluffy articles and the app-based dating scene as well, he strikes a deal with his boss to write a final piece de resistance: How to Lose a Girl. Easier said than done when the girl he meets is Hannah Mayfield, and he's not sure he wants her to dump him.

Hannah is an extremely successful event planner who's focused on climbing the career ladder. Her firm is one of the most prestigious in the city, and she's determined to secure her next promotion. But Hannah has a bit of an image problem. She needs to show her boss that she has range, including planning dreaded, romantic weddings. Enter Jack. He’s the perfect man to date for a couple weeks to prove to her boss that she’s not scared of feelings.

Before Jack and Hannah know it, their fake relationship starts to feel all too real—and neither of them can stand to lose each other. - from Goodreads
I don't read a ton of straight-up romances, but this sounds really good, especially because of the reference to How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Quotables #15

I'll be honest, I've heard this quote many times before, but until I read Anne of Green Gables a couple months ago, I had no idea it was from that book!  In any event, I love this quote because I love the month of October!  

I thought this quote was hilarious, because it's so true - all of us want things without having to put in the work to get it (like, I want to lose weight without having to change my diet or exercise!).

I can hardly have a round of Quotables without highlighting at least one bookish-related quote, and I loved this one - no matter what else is going on, we'll always have our books!

Which of these is your favorite?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Mini-Reviews: 2019 Releases

A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause (2019)

Country girl Emmy is chosen to participate in a design competition in the big city, but nothing turns out like she hoped or planned.

I was interested in this novel because it was described as Project Runway meets historical fiction, and I thought that was a fun combination.  While there were things I enjoyed about the book, a lot of it was a disappointment.  First, the world-building was almost non-existent.  If I hadn't known going in that the story took place in a kind of alt-universe Victorian London, I would never have guessed it.  The dialogue felt very modern, and there wasn't a whole lot of description of the outside world.  It was unclear why if fashion was such a huge part of the economy of the country, there was only one major fashion house (helpfully called Fashion House), other than that was what the "monarchy" wanted.  It's hard to describe - everything felt very generalized, like the story had broad ideas that were never fully nailed down or given much detail in later editing.  There were at least 3 secondary stories that either went nowhere or were dealt with in literally one sentence.

I did like Emmy, though.  It's hard not to feel for her when this competition is her one chance to get out of her small town, yet she's being sabotaged at every turn.  It's obvious that no one takes her seriously, even though she has talent and ambition.  3 stars

Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein (2019)

Eliza runs a jewelry store and finds her business booming after she accidentally posts a photo of herself wearing an engagement ring, although she doesn't even have a boyfriend.  When her store is threatened by rising rents, she decides to run with the false story and find herself a fake fiance.

I liked several of the themes of the story, but it ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth.  There's some good stuff here regarding social media influencers, honesty, and staging photos.  I also liked the tidbits we got about Eliza as a business owner; her company is her dream, her life, and she would do anything to save it.  However, how far is too far?  I could get on board with Eliza finding a fake fiance who was also in on the "scam," but she begins dating a guy Blake, who has a lot of potential, and then manipulates him and the relationship into what she needs.  She fast tracks the romance, even though she admits several times that if the circumstances were different, she'd take way more time to develop the relationship or even dump him; she doesn't feel a huge spark with him, but could maybe learn to love him.  I felt so bad for Blake, who seems head over heels for Eliza, since he had no idea what was going on and how she was lying to him.  I didn't like the way she purposefully sought out press and sponsored partners, committing to a wedding before she even had a boyfriend.  I know she was doing it to help her business, but she put herself (and those around her) in this awful predicament.  Minor spoiler alert - you know a story like this is going to have a happy ending, which makes it all the more infuriating, because it's showing that even though you can do terrible things to other people, lie and cheat and steal, you may very well still end up winning in the end.  For people like Eliza, there are no consequences for her actions.  3 stars

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Guinevere Deception

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

The Guinevere Deception
Kiersten White
Expected publication date: November 5, 2019
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution--send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name--and her true identity--is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old--including Arthur's own family--demand things continue as they have been, and the new--those drawn by the dream of Camelot--fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur's knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself? - from Goodreads
Whenever I hear or see anything King Arthur or Camelot-related, I'm reminded that I'm totally intrigued by the story, yet I never seem to read anything about it!  I'm hoping this retelling will change that.

Monday, October 7, 2019

15 Ways To Support Your Book-Loving Partner (or Friend, or Family Member...)

Three years ago, in honor of our wedding anniversary, I wrote a little post about what happens when a book lover marries a non-reader.  Since Tom and I just celebrated another year of marriage, I was inspired by him to write a post about all the ways someone can support their bookish partner and their reading habits, because he has always been so encouraging towards me and my books!  Although I had my husband in mind when I put together this list, I don't see why many of these couldn't apply to other relationships in your life, as well!  So, without further ado, here are 15 ways to support the bookworms in your life:

  1. Buy them books
  2. Or, if you don't know what book to buy them, give them a gift card so they can pick out their own!
  3. Don't get annoyed if they pick up a book while you're watching a TV show or movie together - multitasking!
  4. Understand that a trip to the library will likely be included in many weekend errand runs...
  5. And have a fully charged phone to play on while your partner inevitably disappears in the library to browse the shelves, even though they were just running in to pick up some holds
  6. At least pretend that the location of a library nearby is a legitimate concern when choosing a house to buy
  7. Help create space in your home for your bookworm to display their treasured tomes...
  8. And stay calm when said bookworm quickly overfills that space and books start ending up in every room of your house
  9. Really listen when they want to tell you about their current read
  10. Comfort them when a book makes them cry or angry
  11. Take them to browse a bookstore
  12. Help them choose what to read next
  13. If you need gift ideas, a book-loving individual can never have too many bookmarks/bookish mugs/tote bags/other book-related merch
  14. Understand that if you're watching a book-to-movie or TV adaptation together, they will point out every little thing that's been changed and that most likely, "the book was better"
  15. Cultivate your own hobbies for those times your bookworm is lost for hours in a story
Photo by The Markows Photography

What are some other ways to support book lovers?  What's the nicest thing someone has done for you as a bookworm?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Review: Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune
Roselle Lim
Published June 11, 2019
At the news of her mother's death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn't spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco's Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She's even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother's restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant's fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother's cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around--she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along. - from Goodreads
Natalie returns to her hometown of San Francisco upon her mother's death, after seven years of being away.  When she finds out she has inherited her grandmother's former restaurant, she decides to stay and reopen the restaurant, and hopefully help the ailing neighborhood at the same time. If you're looking for a book filled with family, community, and culture, then this is the book for you!

Natalie Tan hasn't been to San Francisco since her mother refused to support her dream of becoming a chef.  She's been all over the world, but now has the opportunity to reopen her grandmother's restaurant, which used to be the center of the neighborhood.  But before she can do so, she has to help other shop owners in the area by cooking for them.  I liked the idea that Natalie has to become a part of the community and help others as she pursues her own dream.  She can see how much the neighborhood has changed, and she throws herself completely into helping it regain its former glory (even if the consequences aren't exactly as she intended).

Family is really at the heart of this novel.  Natalie and her mother were estranged, and even before that, Natalie didn't know much about her grandmother or her father.  I felt bad for her that her mother kept so many secrets and that she had to find out so much after she died.  However, I felt like we were able to get to know these family members along with Natalie as the story progressed.  Along with the idea of family is the theme of culture in the book.  The Chinatown setting really shines, and I felt like I learned a lot about Chinese customs through Natalie's journey.  And the food - OMG, don't read this on an empty stomach!  The descriptions of food and even the way it was prepared were mouth-watering.

There are some elements of magical realism that I wasn't expecting but which added immensely to the overall vibe of the book.  From the grayscale coloring of the neighborhood, to the bird imagery, to the way food literally lit people up, it was a really beautiful addition.  Along with this, Lim's writing is, for the most part, extremely elegant, and so the book just had this smooth, almost lyrical quality to it.

I only had a couple quibbles with the book.  Oddly, the dialogue was sometimes stilted, simplistic, and repetitive.  It was a bit jarring at times, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment too much.  In addition,  the romance felt underdeveloped and almost unnecessary. 

4 stars

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Month in Review: September 2019

September was so busy!  Fantasy football is back, and once again we have a team in my family league.  So far, Team Outlaw is off to a great start at 4-0!

My sister, stepmom, and I got our craft on one Sunday afternoon and took one of those paint and sip classes that we love so much!  I always think my paintings turn out terrible, but it's really more about the experience and spending time with loved ones!

Our Project Linus chapter held our fall blanket drive, and it was a great success!  We had so many people coming in and dropping off their incredible handmade blankets.  We ended up collecting, labeling, and bagging up for delivery over 300 blankets!  That is really going to be helpful as we enter the last couple months of the year and try to deliver as many as we can.

At the end of the month, we spent a very fun day in New York City with my sister and her husband.  We walked the High Line, which I talked about yesterday, and then we saw Billy Joel in concert!  My sister has seen him a couple times, but this was my first time, and it was an incredible show!  He played basically all of his most well-known songs, so I was singing and bopping in my seat the whole time!  I basically lost my voice, but it was so worth it!

I wanted to mention that Lauren at Bookmark Lit has come up with a lovely way to honor Grace of Rebel Mommy Book Blog, who passed away over the summer.  On October 14, Grace's birthday, read a book from Grace's TBR or one of her favorites, using the hashtag #ReadForGrace.  Lauren has very helpfully put together a list of books, as well as links to Grace's blog and Goodreads (linked above).

And just a quick reminder to NJ-NY-PA-CT readers and bloggers - the Morristown Festival of Books is coming up on October 12.  This is a FREE event and many fiction, YA, and nonfiction authors will be giving talks and signing books!  I had a blast last year, but can't make it this year, unfortunately.  The line-up looks amazing, though!

The Books

The Posts and Reviews

How was your September?  Any fun plans for October?