Friday, July 31, 2020

Month in Review: July 2020

Another month gone!  July was pretty quiet - we had a couple stretches of really hot weather, so honestly, we spent a lot of time inside!  We're both still working from home, too.

The 4th of July was spent at my sister's house - she had a very small family gathering and we spent most of the day poolside.  It was just so nice to have everyone together!

I watched way too much TV this month.  Along with the rest of the world, we watched Hamilton on Disney+.  We would never be able to find or afford tickets to the actual show, so it was pretty cool to finally watch it and see what all the hype was about!  I have to say, I really enjoyed the music - and I think King George was my favorite character!  #sorrynotsorry.  I also watched The Baby-Sitters Club, which totally brought me back to my childhood.  My sister and I loved those books when we were younger and were always buying them.

I attended my first virtual book event this month!  Taylor Jenkins Reid interviewed Katherine Center for the release of her new book, What You Wish For.  Katherine was so bubbly and personable, and I really enjoyed learning about her inspiration for the book.  And I just love TJR, so that was a big draw for me as well!

My state is slowly starting to open up, although our governor is still being cautious and has no qualms about pausing specific phases of the reopening if he sees things getting out of control.  My mom and I did a little shopping at the mall and Barnes & Noble one weekend; it was nice to get out of the house for awhile!

The Books

You Were There Too (review to come) // Reflection // A Thousand Letters (review to come) // The Deep

The Ship of Dreams // Mr. Nobody // Lady in Waiting (review to come) // The Viscount and the Vicar's Daughter (review to come)

The Splendid and the Vile // Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me (review to come) // Rogue Princess (review to come) // The Betrothed (review to come)

Little White Lies (review to come) // The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires (review to come) // The Season (review to come) // Love Scene, Take Two (review to come)

Charlie Glass's Slippers (review to come) // Blood Countess // Lucky Caller // In Five Years (review to come)

Coming Up Roses

The Posts and Reviews

How are you doing?  How was your July?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Louisiana Lucky

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

Louisiana Lucky
Julie Pennell
Expected publication date: August 4, 2020
From the critically acclaimed author of The Young Wives Club, a “heartwarming story about friendship, heartache, and self-discovery” (Karen White, New York Times bestselling author), comes a charming novel reminiscent of the works of Mary Alice Monroe and Kristy Woodson Harvey, about three sisters who win a huge lottery prize and learn what it truly means to be lucky.

Lexi, Callie, and Hanna Breaux grew up in small-town Louisiana, and have always struggled to make ends meet. For years, they’ve been playing the lottery, fantasizing about how much better life would be if they had the money.

For Lexi, it means the perfect wedding; for Callie, it means having the courage to go after her career dreams; and for Hanna, it means buying a house that isn’t falling apart and sending her bullied son to private school. When the incredible happens and the Breaux sisters hit it big—$204 million dollars big—all their dreams come true. Or so they think. Because it’s actually not a cliché—money isn’t the answer to everything, and it often comes with problems of its own.

Heartfelt, engaging, and featuring characters you’ll root for from the first moment you meet them, Louisiana Lucky is a satisfying page-turner from a rising star in women’s fiction. - from Goodreads
I love stories about sisters, and this one makes me think about what I would do if I won the lottery!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been On My TBR The Longest

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  I recently reviewed three books that had been on my TBR for a long time, so since today's TTT topic is a freebie, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the other books that have been on my TBR the longest!  Maybe it will inspire me to finally get to them!

Have you read any of these?  Where should I start?

Friday, July 24, 2020

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Titanic Edition

The Deep by Alma Katsu (2020)

In 1912, Annie Hebbley is a stewardess on the Titanic; in the days before its tragic loss, she and other passengers experience some strange happenings.  In a dual timeline, it is 1916 and Annie crosses paths with other Titanic survivors aboard the hospital ship Britannic during WWI.

I loved how atmospheric this book felt.  Katsu does an incredible job of setting the scene aboard the Titanic, bringing together historical details and figures with an eerie feel that something isn't quite right aboard the ship.  Could something be calling from the ocean?  Could there be a demon among the passengers?  The supernatural elements didn't feel over the top.  The fact that Hebbley is quite the unreliable narrator only added to the mysterious feel.  Although I enjoyed Katsu's writing, my biggest issue with this book was the pacing.  I remember having a similar issue with her previous book, The Hunger.  It takes forever for the story to set up, and unfortunately the payoff came too little, too late.  By the time everything was explained, it felt both convoluted and rushed.  3 stars

The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era by Gareth Russell (2019)

In The Ship of Dreams, Gareth Russell explores the tragic end of the Titanic through the stories of six passengers and posits that the disaster helped mark the end of the Edwardian era.

I have mixed feelings about this one.  On one hand, I don't think Russell proved at all that the sinking of the Titanic marked a major change in society.  Considering that WWI was only a few years away, changes were already happening in the world.  Although I enjoyed his writing, I though the formatting was challenging at times - the paragraphs were entirely too long and there was extraneous detail.  However, I love learning about the Titanic and even though some of the information I already knew, there were plenty of new things here, too.  I enjoyed the in-depth look at some of the passengers, especially ones I didn't really know about before, and Russell did a great job dispelling some common myths about the ship, as well.  His detailed description of the ship's last hours even brought me to tears a couple times, knowing how things would end for so many of the passengers.  4 stars

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Midnight Sun

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

Midnight Sun
Stephenie Meyer
Expected publication date: August 4, 2020
When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting beautiful, mysterious Bella is both the most intriguing and unnerving event he has experienced in his long life as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he let himself fall in love with Bella when he knows that he is endangering her life?

In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and, drawing on the classic myth of Hades and Persephone, brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love. - from Goodreads
I know there have been some mixed reactions to the announcement of this book, but I have to admit, I'm excited!  I still have copies of the original series, and I think it will be interesting to go back into this world!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #13

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:

 About That Night by Elaine Bedell (2019)

A television producer is drawn into a murder investigation when her show's host dies on live TV.  Just not interested anymore in this one - pass!
 Long Bright River by Liz Moore (2020)

A story about two sisters affected by opioid addiction and the search when one goes missing.  I know this one has gotten rave reviews, but it's not grabbing me - pass!
 The Silent Treatment by Abbie Graves (2020)

A married couple hasn't spoken to each other in six months, but when the wife ends up in the hospital, the husband has to find his voice again.  I love stories about marriage - keep!
 Sweet Melody by Heidi McCahan (2019)

A struggling bakery owner and an equally struggling singer work together on a food truck.  Although I've been loving romances lately, this one seems a little meh to me.  Pass!
 If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman (2019)

A woman wonders if now is the time to reveal a big secret, in hopes it might bring her family back together.  I enjoy stories about families, especially mothers and daughters, plus I love this cover - keep!
Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter (2019)

Journalist Adam Minter explores thrift shops, flea markets, and vintage stores around the world as he contemplates our love for things new versus old. I'm always on the lookout for a good nonfiction - keep!
A Mind Unraveled: A True Story of Disease, Love, and Triumph by Kurt Eichenwald (2019)

Journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald tells his story of a lifetime dealing with epilepsy.  Another nonfiction book that sounds fascinating - keep!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, July 17, 2020

Quick Reviews: Longest on My TBR

It's so easy to be distracted by new releases and books that have been added recently to my TBR and are therefore at the top, but recently I made an effort to read some books that have been on my TBR the longest! 

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald (2019)

A mother searches for the truth and what really happened the night her pregnant daughter fell from a bridge, leaving her brain-dead.

I really wanted to love this story, but it just ended being an ok read for me.  Even though I didn't guess the ultimate ending, it didn't surprise me at all and I felt that many elements of the plot were predictable.  Too much was given away too soon.  The writing felt stilted at times.  I did enjoy the dual POVs of Abi (the mother) and Olivia (the daughter) and the way the story moved back and forth in time.  I also liked the way Abi never stopped searching for the truth, even when she faced opposition, although her actions at times felt a bit unbelievable.  3 stars

The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb (2013)

After her mother's death, Grace Alban returns home to the family mansion.  While there, she realizes her mother, and the house, have been hiding secrets for half a century.

This story reminded me of a Kate Morton novel - a stately manor, a mystery to solve - although it takes place in America and the story and writing lacked the finesse of Morton.  I liked how Alban House is practically a character all on its own - so much history, so many rumors, maybe even a ghost or two.  Seeing the mystery, the death of an author at a party in the 1950s, unfold over the course of the novel was interesting, and I definitely didn't guess the major points.  However, Grace was often quite annoying, and unfortunately, when the plot began to include some magical realism, it lost me.  It was just such a jarring addition to what had been a fairly straightforward and intriguing story that it took away from my enjoyment.  3.5 stars

 Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan (2018)

Becoming Mrs. Lewis tells the story of Joy Davidman, C.S. Lewis' wife, from the time they begin their correspondence to their marriage years later.  I normally love historical fiction, but this one didn't totally grab me.

When we first meet Joy, she's in an unhappy marriage, but she loves her two sons.  She recently found religion and begins writing to author C.S. Lewis, since he also found religion later in life.  Their friendship deepens over the years through their letters, and she eventually moves to England.  I thought the writing was a little high-brow; the dialogue often felt unrealistic.  The story was tedious and often seemed like nothing was actually happening.  Joy was quite unlikable at times - she constantly complains about money, but spends frivolously.  I did enjoy how she and Lewis worked with each other, especially the way he relied on her to critique his work.  It was nice to see how much he valued her intelligence, although I'm not sure I quite felt their love story in this book.  3 stars

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Paris Is Always a Good Idea

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

Paris Is Always a Good Idea
Jenn McKinlay
Expected publication date: July 21, 2020
It's been seven years since Chelsea Martin embarked on her yearlong post-college European adventure. Since then, she's lost her mother to cancer and watched her sister marry twice, while Chelsea's thrown herself into work, becoming one of the most talented fundraisers for the American Cancer Coalition, and with the exception of one annoyingly competent coworker, Jason Knightley, her status as most talented fundraiser is unquestioned.

When her introverted mathematician father announces he's getting remarried, Chelsea is forced to acknowledge that her life stopped after her mother died, and that the last time she can remember being happy, in love, or enjoying her life was on her gap year. Inspired to retrace her steps--to find Colin in Ireland, Jean Claude in France, and Marcelino in Italy--Chelsea hopes that one of these three men who stole her heart so many years ago, can help her find it again.

From the start of her journey nothing goes as planned, but as Chelsea reconnects with her old self, she also finds love in the very last place she expected. - from Goodreads
Even though there are some heavy topics, I think this book will be a great escape as we travel with Chelsea!

Monday, July 13, 2020

2020 Goals and Challenges Mid-Year Check-In

I can't believe this year is already officially half-over - so much has happened, yet at the same time, it feels like nothing has happened!  Today I'm taking a look back at the goals I set at the beginning of the year, as well as the progress I'm making on my reading challenges.


  • Reread more. I've reread 10 books so far this year, including the Harry Potter ones listed below.  I definitely want to do more; last year I set aside a two-week period to just reread, and I would love to do that again.
  • Reread the Harry Potter series. I've read 4 of the 7 books so far!
  • Make a dent in the unread physical books on my shelf. I've definitely read a few, but I keep borrowing books from my sister, so it always looks like I have a full shelf!
  • Attend at least 2 bookish events.  This is a total fail so far, and I know that the major bookish event I was planning to attend this year has already been cancelled.  I need to look more into virtual events.

  • Respond to comments faster.  I think I've been doing really good at this - I've gotten into the habit of responding to comments within a day or two.
  • Get ahead on my book reviews. Well, some months are better than others for this one.  I've started doing more "quick reviews," which means the actual writing takes less time, but I tend to review more books.  If I have a couple weeks' worth of reviews scheduled at any given time, that's a good feeling and what I'm aiming for.
  • Build up my #bookstagram account.  My #bookstagram has grown about 25% since the beginning of the year!  I'm having fun participating in photo challenges and coming up with creative pictures.  If we're not already, let's be friends!

  • Get new passports.  Done!  Aaaaand we have nowhere to go, for now at least!
  • Drink more water.  This is kind of hard to quantify, but I think I'm doing ok at this.  I try to limit my caffeine intake to three days a week, so the rest of the time, I'm drinking water, sparkling water, and seltzer.
  • Run a 5k. Total fail.  I thought that being at home for so long would give me the time and motivation to do this, but after trying jogging a couple times, I realized this was going to be hard.  It's still something I'm thinking about, though, so we'll see!
  • Make 100 blankets for Project Linus.  I've made 43 blankets, so I'm a little behind schedule, but many of the charities we work with were also closed down due to the coronavirus.

The 2020 Audiobook Challenge is hosted by Hot Listens and Caffeinated Reviewer.  My goal was 20-30 audiobooks and so far this year I've already listened to 22, although it has really slowed down in the last couple months without my work commute.

The Retellings Reading Challenge is hosted by Tracy at Cornerfolds.  My goal was the Elemental Witch level, which is 11-15 retellings, and I've already beaten that with 21 retellings read!  I've made a lot of progress on the Bingo card and hope to complete it by the end of the year:

Beat the Backlist is hosted by Austine at NovelKnight; my goal was to read at least 60 backlist books this year, but I've already crushed that!  I've read 94 backlist books this year!

How are you doing on your goals and challenges?

Friday, July 10, 2020

Backlist Mini-Reviews

Veins of Gold by Charlie N. Holmberg (2018)

Gentry and her siblings are abandoned by their father, who heads to California to find fortune in the gold rush.  When strange natural phenomena begin occurring, Gentry is introduced to a world of magic by a beguiling stranger.

I really enjoyed this quiet, thoughtful book set in Utah during the 1850s (or, at least sometime during the gold rush, the book never actually specifies the date).  Holmberg did a beautiful job combining history and fantasy.  The struggles Gentry faces trying to keep her family afloat felt so real, and the magical realism added to the story.  The magic fueled by gold (and how the earth responds when too much is taken from it) was very imaginative.  There's also a sweet love story!  If you're looking for a lot of action, this probably isn't the book for you, though.  Like I said, it's a pretty quiet book, but Holmberg's writing is beautiful and the setting is not one I come across often.  4 stars

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett (2015)

I've read a couple of Jenn Bennett's books before and really enjoyed them, but this one missed the mark for me.   Beatrix wants to be a medical illustrator and Jack is a graffiti artist - their connection is strong, but each has family issues that may get in the way of their happiness.

Is it weird to say I enjoyed everything but the main characters?  I felt like Bennett was trying too hard to create these quirky, interesting characters, and to me it felt insincere.  Beatrix felt like a stereotypical "artist," and Jack alternately seemed way too old and also very immature for his age.  Their insta-love never really grabbed me.  I was more interested in the family issues that each was facing.  The way Jack dealt with his sister's mental illness was so touching.  Beatrix was dealing with the fallout from her parents' divorce, and I liked that there ended up being more to that story than initially appeared.  I even think it could have been explored more; I still had questions after the story ended.  3 stars

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: What You Wish For

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

What You Wish For
Katherine Center
Expected publication date: July 14, 2020
From Katherine Center, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel full of heart and hope.

Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.

When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good. - from Goodreads
I love the cover, I love the premise, I love the setting - I think this is going to be a great read!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: My Most-Read Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is authors we've read the most books by.  This was an interesting topic - I had an idea of some of them, but others were a total surprise!

Louise Penny - 15

Sophie Kinsella - 15

Kristin Hannah - 12

Beatriz Williams - 11

Philippa Gregory - 10

Emily Giffin - 10

Diana Gabaldon - 9

Barbara Delinsky - 9

Liane Moriarty - 8

Taylor Jenkins Reid - 7

Do we have any in common?