Friday, January 31, 2020

Audiobook Mini-Review: Dear Girls

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life
Ali Wong
Published October 15, 2019
Ali Wong's heartfelt and hilarious letters to her daughters (the two she put to work while they were still in utero), covering everything they need to know in life, like the unpleasant details of dating, how to be a working mom in a male-dominated profession, and how she trapped their dad.

In her hit Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, an eight-month pregnant Ali Wong resonated so heavily that she became a popular Halloween costume. Wong told the world her remarkably unfiltered thoughts on marriage, sex, Asian culture, working women, and why you never see new mom comics on stage but you sure see plenty of new dads.

The sharp insights and humor are even more personal in this completely original collection. She shares the wisdom she's learned from a life in comedy and reveals stories from her life off stage, including the brutal singles life in New York (i.e. the inevitable confrontation with erectile dysfunction), reconnecting with her roots (and drinking snake blood) in Vietnam, tales of being a wild child growing up in San Francisco, and parenting war stories. Though addressed to her daughters, Ali Wong's letters are absurdly funny, surprisingly moving, and enlightening (and disgusting) for all. - from Goodreads
Ali Wong is a comedian I know a little bit about (and I've seen her Netflix movie Always Be My Maybe), but I've  never seen her stand-up act.  Nevertheless, I wanted to read her book Dear Girls, a sort of memoir/advice book inspired by her two young daughters.  I thought the audiobook would be a good option; I tend to enjoy listening to comedians' books because often it's their voices and way of speaking that really sells the humor.  This one did not disappoint!

In Dear Girls, Ali Wong writes a series of letters to her daughters, recounting some experiences from her life but also giving them some tips and advice.  She prefaces the book by saying that they shouldn't read it until they're at least 21, and I'd agree with that - in many places, it's raunchy, vulgar, and gross, but also funny!  She's not afraid to "go there" and describe some truly disturbing and disgusting situations.  She's loud and brash and honest - but then there are all these wonderful moments when she buckles down and gets serious and emotional.  I love that you can really hear the change in her voice when she's talking about something near and dear to her heart.  The letter on pregnancy (and the miscarriage she suffered) was very touching, and I also liked the tips she gave on wedding planning.  She encourages her daughters to embrace their Asian culture and heritage (especially the food) but also to explore the world and people around them.  She's a huge travel advocate.  The section on her mother, and the relationship she has with her and how it has changed over the years, was a nice addition and introspective on the relationship she wants to have with her own daughters.  The last chapter is written and narrated by Wong's husband, and although I perhaps didn't enjoy it as much as other chapters, you can tell that he is a truly supportive partner and loving father.  Overall, if you're looking for a quick audiobook that's both funny and touching, I'd highly recommend this one!

4 stars

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Oona Out of Order

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

Oona Out of Order
Margarita Montimore
Expected publication date: February 25, 2020
Just because life may be out of order, doesn’t mean it’s broken.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order

Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met?

Oona Out of Order is a remarkably inventive novel that explores what it means to live a life fully in the moment, even if those moments are out of sequence. Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family. - from Goodreads
I love time travel novels, and this sounds like a really unique twist!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Anywhere But Here

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is a cover freebie.  January is one of the worst months, weather-wise, where I live - it's cold, dark, and gloomy a lot of the time, plus this year we've had lots of rain, too.  I decided to put together a little collage of covers from my TBR of places I'd rather be!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #7

Down the TBR Hole is a feature created by Lost in a Story (although the blog seems to be down recently).  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:

 One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase

I've enjoyed Bethany Chase's two previous novels, so this novel about friendship and love and betrayal is still high on my list - keep!
 Carnegie Hill by Jonathan Vatner

Carnegie Hill is about a 30-something woman who moves into a wealthy NYC building with her fiance and then begins to look to those around her to decide if she should marry him or not.  I thought this sounded cute when I added it, but I think this woman's lack of decision making will probably annoy me.  Pass!
 The Shortest Distance Between Love & Hate by Sandy Hall

I read Sandy Hall for the first time in 2019 and especially enjoyed A Prom to Remember, so I was excited to hear about this book that actually takes place in college, which I don't come across often.  This one is about a girl who realizes that the guy she's falling for is actually her middle school bully - how do these two not realize that immediately, I wonder?  The ratings on Goodreads are not great, so I think I will pass on this one!
 The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo

I love stories about weddings/wedding planning and stories about sisters, and this book combines both of those things.  Even though I can see from Goodreads that my own sister DNFed this one, I think I will keep it for now!
 The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

This book about family, a farm, and a brewery sounds really good, plus it takes place in the Midwest, which isn't the most common of settings, so I'm keeping this one!
 Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler

I've really gotten into science fiction, especially books about space.  This story is about a young girl's desire to become an astronaut, but also about her father's secrets.  Keep!
 First Cosmic Velocity by Zach Powers

Another book about space!  This is an alternate reality fictionalized account of the Soviet space program during the Cold War.  Keep!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Backlist Mini-Reviews

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber (2019)

Anna Kate travels to Wicklow, Alabama, after her grandmother Zee's death to settle her estate, which includes a stipulation that Anna Kate run her restaurant for two months.   Zee was known for her pies that many believed contained a bit of magic.  Also returning to Wicklow is Natalie, who has a family connection to Anna Kate and is healing from the loss of her husband.

I really enjoyed this story - it had a little bit of everything.  Magical realism, a small Southern town where everyone knows everyone else's business, family drama and secrets, and hints of romance.  It's told from two POVs, Anna Kate and Natalie, and each woman has her own obstacles to overcome.  Anna Kate is planning to go to medical school, but as the weeks pass at the cafe, she finds it hard to imagine a life away from it, and she has to decide if she'll keep a long-ago made promise or build a life in Wicklow.  Natalie is dealing with many family issues, but she also has her young daughter to think about.  Surrounding these two women are a cast of (mostly) charming people and hints of whimsy.  Magical realism doesn't work for every reader, but I thought it was a nice addition to the story.  4 stars

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton (2018)

Marisol travels to Cuba after her grandmother's death to honor her last wishes, and there she learns of secrets her grandmother kept.

This book was so hyped and that normally puts me off from reading a book, but I'm glad I finally took a chance on this one.  I really enjoyed this dual timeline story that highlighted the difficulties faced by the people of Cuba, both in the 1950s and today.  In 1958, Elisa Perez's family is part of Cuba's high society, yet she finds herself falling for a revolutionary.  I think Cleeton did a fantastic job bringing to light the fears and dangers of this period of Cuban history, although some aspects of this storyline were a bit predictable and cliche.  In 2017, Marisol is able to travel to Cuba as a journalist; her storyline also served to show how many Cubans found a home in America, yet still felt a strong connection to their homeland.  There was a bit of suspense in Marisol's story that I wasn't expecting, as well.  Cleeton's writing is strong and emotional, and the themes of family and identity really shone through.  4 stars

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: A Witch in Time

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

A Witch in Time
Constance Sayers
Expected publication date: February 11, 2020
A young witch is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist, in this haunting debut novel.
In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother -- a witch -- attempts to cast a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly summons a demon, binding her daughter to both the artist and this supernatural being for all time. Juliet is fated to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history. The demon -- who appears to Juliet in all her reincarnations as a mysterious, handsome, and worldly benefactor-has been helplessly in love with her since 19th century France, even though she forgets him each time she dies. He falls for her in 1930s Hollywood, in 1970s Los Angeles, and finally in present-day Washington D.C. -- where she begins to develop powers of her own. In this life, she starts to remember her tragic past lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle...
A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of Witches, Outlander, and The Time Traveler's Wife. - from Goodreads
The idea of this love affair playing out time and time again across the ages is really intriguing!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Book Haul #6: The Christmas and Kindle Edition

The end of the year always seems to be a big time for me in acquiring new books, and this most recent holiday season was no exception.  I received a few of my favorites of the year (which I won't recap here), but I was also gifted a few surprise books that will be really helpful in the coming months.  Plus, as a new Kindle owner, I went a little crazy downloading some books courtesy of some Amazon credits!  Here are some new additions to my shelves and where I got them from:



 Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win (my sister) // Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Little Free Library) // Little Women (purchased)

As for my Kindle acquisitions...



Have you gotten any new books recently?

Friday, January 17, 2020

Review: What I Carry

What I Carry
Jennifer Longo
Expected publication date: January 21, 2020
For readers of Robin Benway's Far From the Tree, a powerful and heartwarming look at a teen girl about to age out of the foster care system.

Growing up in foster care, Muir has lived in many houses. And if she's learned one thing, it is to Pack. Light.
Carry only what fits in a suitcase.
Toothbrush? Yes.
Socks? Yes.
Emotional attachment to friends? foster families? a boyfriend? Nope!
There's no room for any additional baggage.
Muir has just one year left before she ages out of the system. One year before she's free. One year to avoid anything--or anyone--that could get in her way.

Then she meets Francine. And Kira. And Sean.

And everything changes. - from Goodreads
I received this book for free from Goodreads Giveaways.

This book gave me mixed feelings - on one hand, there were aspects I really liked, but on the other, I had some issues with it.  Perhaps a pros and cons list will help better explain!

  • Muir has been in foster care her entire life and she's developed her own coping mechanisms, which for her include never staying too long in one placement.  I cannot even pretend to understand Muir's life, but to me it didn't make sense that she would choose to leave situations or homes that were decent places.  At various points throughout the book, she would describe to the reader some of the items in her suitcase and the stories behind them, so we got only glimpses of what her childhood was like.  By the time we meet her, at 17, she has almost completely closed herself off from any type of relationship, believing that there is no one she can rely on but herself.  It was kind of frustrating, and also heart-breaking.
  • The characters are a little too perfect.  It was almost too big of a coincidence that in her last placement before aging out, Muir lives with the perfect foster mom, meets the ideal boyfriend, and gains a best friend, all within days of moving in.  She never really had anyone before, besides her social worker, and suddenly she has all these people - in addition to also finding the perfect job at a wilderness camp.
  • There's not much drama.  In a book about a girl who is about to be thrown into the adult world all alone, there is surprisingly little conflict.  Muir's best friend, Kira, has some tough stuff in her background and is bullied at school, but "bad" things are solved so quickly it's almost like they didn't happen.
  • As much as I was frustrated by Muir at times, I also had to admire her.  She's so independent and down-to-earth; she gets good grades and is polite to pretty much everyone she meets.  I admired the decisions she made, even as a young child, to be a good person and not create unnecessary drama or conflict for herself, knowing how difficult her life already was.
  • Even though I mentioned above that it was a con that there wasn't much drama, this really was a feel-good book that had me rooting for Muir to accept the love and help that Francine, Sean, and Kira were trying to give her.
  • The author's adopted daughter was born into foster care and was in a few placements before coming to the author, so the story was written for her.  I feel like I learned a lot about the foster care system, and it was nice to see the "good" side of the system, since mainly you only hear about the horror stories.
3.5 stars

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Straight on Till Morning

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

Straight on Till Morning
Liz Braswell
Expected publication date: February 4, 2020
What if Wendy first traveled to Neverland… with Captain Hook?

Sixteen-year-old Wendy Darling's life is not what she imagined it would be. The doldrums of an empty house after her brothers have gone to school, the dull parties where everyone thinks she talks too much, and the fact that her parents have decided to send her away to Ireland as a governess-it all makes her wish things could be different.

Wendy's only real escape is in writing down tales of Never Land. After nearly meeting her hero, Peter Pan, four years earlier, she still holds on to the childhood hope that his magical home truly exists. She also holds on to his shadow.

So when an opportunity to travel to Never Land via pirate ship presents itself, Wendy makes a deal with the devil. But Never Land isn't quite the place she imagined it would be. Unexpected dangers and strange foes pop up at every turn, and a little pixie named Tinker Bell seems less than willing to help.

But when Captain Hook reveals some rather permanent and evil plans for Never Land, it's up to the two of them to save Peter Pan-and his world. - from Goodreads
I've really been loving this Twisted Tale series, which asks What if... questions and reimagines your favorite Disney movies - now it's time for Peter Pan!

Monday, January 13, 2020

2020 Goals

I don't want to go too crazy setting goals for 2020, but there are a few things I'd like to accomplish this year!


  • Reread more.  I love to reread, but it's really fallen by the wayside since I started blogging.  Not only will I get to revisit my favorite stories, but it will also serve the dual purpose of helping me weed through my shelves and get rid of books I'm no longer interested in.
  • Reread the Harry Potter series.  This kind of goes along with the first one, but I know I won't be giving these books away!  It's been so long since I read the series.
  • Make a dent in the unread physical books on my shelf.  This is a goal I'm carrying over from last year.  I tend to overlook these books in favor of my library books, but I really want to do better, because they are starting to pile up!
  • Attend at least 2 bookish events.  I've been fortunate enough to meet and/or hear some amazing authors speak in the last couple years, and these have been wonderful experiences.


  • Respond to comments faster.  I really appreciate everyone's comments and thoughts on my posts and so, for my own peace of mind, I want to get in a better habit of replying faster.
  • Get ahead on my book reviews.  When I first started blogging, I was really good about blogging ahead - I always had a huge cache of posts ready to go.  Lately, though, not so much.  Even though I only post reviews once a week, I forever seem to be scrambling to get one up.  I need to come up with a better system - either reviewing books more quickly after I read them, or reviewing more books, or something.
  • Build up my #bookstagram account.  I've noticed lately that lots of bloggers are migrating to Instagram over traditional blogging.  I don't plan on doing that, but I do want to grow my Instagram account.  I love taking and sharing pictures and Instagram can be more conducive to that.  I've started participating in photo challenges, which really helps drive my content and introduce me to more #bookstagrammers.  If we're not already, let's be friends!


  • Get new passports.  This really shouldn't be a year-long goal, but Tom and I can be really bad procrastinators.  I need to renew my passport (which I never even updated when we got married over 6 years ago, oops!) and Tom needs to get his first passport ever, since our goal is to travel somewhere outside the United States this year for the first time together.
  • Drink more water.  Enough said.
  • Run a 5k.  In the last few months, my husband has really gotten into a good exercise and diet routine and it has inspired me to do better.  I thought doing a 5k would be a fun goal to work towards (at least, in my head it sounds good, I've never been a runner!).
  • Make 100 blankets for Project Linus.  This total is actually slightly less than I did in 2019, but since coming on as Assistant Coordinator for our chapter, I have other responsibilities, like putting together our newsletter and other literature and helping out with events.
Do you have any goals for 2020?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Review: Dear Edward

Dear Edward
Ann Napolitano
Published January 6, 2020
Inspired by a true story of one child’s incredible survival--riveting, uplifting, unforgettable.

After losing everything, a young boy discovers there are still reasons for hope in this luminous, life-affirming novel, perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Ann Patchett.

In the face of tragedy, what does it take to find joy?

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward's story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery--one that will lead him to the answers of some of life's most profound questions: When you've lost everything, how do find yourself? How do you discover your purpose? What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again. - from Goodreads
I received this book for free from Goodreads Giveaways.

Dear Edward is the story of a sole survivor of a tragic plane crash, a young boy who has to figure out how to move forward in a life he never expected.  Interspersed with Edward's coming-of-age story are flashbacks to other passengers on the plane in the final hours of their lives.

As soon as I heard about this book, I wanted to read it, and it did not disappoint.  I was drawn into Edward's story immediately - you can't help but feel for this boy who loses his entire immediate family in one moment.  After the crash, Edward goes to live with his aunt and uncle, who had their own issues before his arrival, and he quickly forms a friendship with Shay, a girl his age who lives across the street.

The story follows Edward in the months and years after the crash, and it really is an intimate look at grief and moving on.  Edward clings to memories of his brother, Jordan, especially, continuing to wear his clothes.  He seems to almost float through life, not always noticing things around him while the crash is forever in the forefront of his mind.  He also has to contend with the fact that he has some element of fame due to the crash and he struggles with what he may owe the families of the victims, if anything at all.  Edward is fortunate, though, that he has such a strong network around him to watch out for him and help him through this time, from Shay and her mother, to his aunt and uncle, and even the principal at his school. 

I liked the way the story moved between Edward's life after the crash and snippets of the other passengers in the last hours of their lives.  It was a touching juxtaposition that gave the story even more of a personal feeling, yet at the same time it almost felt a bit chilling because we the readers know their fate before they do.  Each of the passengers had their own reasons for being on that plane and Napolitano did an exceptional job creating realistic characters.

4.5 stars

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Wife After Wife

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

Wife After Wife
Olivia Hayfield
Expected publication date: January 21, 2020
If Philippa Gregory and Jackie Collins went out for cocktails and wrote a book, they'd come back with Wife After Wife.

A wickedly entertaining and utterly absorbing modern take on the life and marriages of Henry VIII...if he were a twenty-first-century womanizing media mogul rather than the king of England.

Master of the universe Harry Rose is head of the Rose Corporation, number eighteen on the Forbes rich list, and recently married to wife number six. But in 2018, his perfect world is about to come crashing to the ground. His business is in the spotlight--and not in a good way--and his love life is under scrutiny. Because behind a glittering curtain of lavish parties, gorgeous homes, and a media empire is a tale worthy of any tabloid.

And Harry has a lot to account for. - from Goodreads
I love anything Tudor-related, and this modern spin on the life and many wives of Henry VIII sounds so scandalous and fun!

Monday, January 6, 2020

2020 Reading Challenge Sign-Ups

I love a good reading challenge, especially one that spans the entire year and gives me more time to read!  This year, I'm signing up for three challenges - two I've done in the past and enjoyed and one new to me!

The 2020 Audiobook Challenge is hosted by Hot Listens and Caffeinated Reviewer.  The challenge runs all year and pretty much anything counts as long as it's in audio format - you can get all the details here.  Since I listened to so many audiobooks last year, I thought this would be a great challenge to participate in and see if I can beat last year's total of 26 audiobooks.  I'm aiming for the Binge Listener achievement level, which is 20-30 books.

I had a great time doing the Retellings Reading Challenge hosted by Tracy at Cornerfolds last year, so I'm definitely doing that one again!  You can get all the details here.   I'm going to aim for the Elemental Witch level, which is 11-15 retellings.  There's also a fun Bingo element, here's the card:

The last challenge I'm going to join is Beat the Backlist, hosted by Austine at NovelKnight; you can get all the details here, but basically any book published in 2019 or earlier counts.  I read a lot of backlist books and have participated for a couple years now, so this one is a given!  This year I'm not going to set a TBR at the beginning, but I will try to aim for at least 60 books.  I'm also going to play for Team Borrowers, since I practically live at my library!

What challenges are you going to do this year?

Friday, January 3, 2020

Month in Review: December 2019

Let's get the bad news out of the way: after coming in first place in regular season fantasy football (11-2, baby!), Team Outlaw fell apart during the playoffs and we ended up coming in third overall.  Oh, well, it was a fun season anyway!

Now on to the good things!  December is all about the holidays and celebrating, and we did a lot of that!  We went to NYC one day with some of my family to see a Cirque du Soleil show, "Twas The Night Before," and it was very cool!  At first I thought maybe it was only going to be a lot of dancing, but then they broke out the acrobatics and it was amazing!  After that, we walked over to Macy's to check out the holiday windows and some of the decorations inside.  This was my niece's first time in NYC and it was so touching to see how excited she was by everything!

We typically spend Christmas Eve with my mom and while we normally do a more Italian Christmas (sit-down dinner with lots of fish), we decided to try something different this year with a "tapas" spread.  We each made a couple small dishes and so we got to try all these different things.  It was more casual but still fun!  We spent Christmas Day at my dad's house and it was a wonderfully relaxing day.  Tom's family came over the Saturday after Christmas; he cooked for them and we watched 6 Underground on Netflix.  Our New Year's Eve was very low-key - we ordered dinner in, watched a couple movies, and I fell asleep early!

A huge thank you goes out to Aj at Read All The Things! as I was the lucky winner of her generous end-of-year giveaway!  I can't wait for all my new books to arrive!

The Books

Royal Holiday // The President is Missing // The Rain Watcher (audio) // Circe

Thank you to Stephanie at Bookfever for convincing me to finally read Circe!  Loved it!

The Wolves of Winter // The Starless Sea // Fix Her Up (audio) // Dear Edward (review to come)

The Undomestic Goddess

The Posts and Reviews