Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Once and Future Witches

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

The Once and Future Witches
Alix E. Harrow
Expected publication date: October 13, 2020
In 1893, there's no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters--James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna--join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women's movement into the witch's movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There's no such thing as witches. But there will be. - from Goodreads
I think this sounds very cool!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Down The TBR Hole #15

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:

 Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz

This book, I think, is about a kidnap victim who returns to her previous life.  It seems from the blurb that there are some revelations and twists associated with the kidnapping.  Interesting premise, but I think I'll pass.
 The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

In 1960, a woman wakes up in a hospital, remembering nothing.  She finds a letter from someone imploring her to leave her husband.  In 2003, a journalist finds the letter and begins a search to find out what happened to the woman in 1960.  I love Jojo Moyes, and since this is one I haven't read from her yet, I'm definitely keeping it!
 The Second Home by Christina Clancy

Three siblings have to decide what to do with their family vacation home on Cape Cod, 15 years after a summer there changed their lives.  I've seen some mixed reviews for this one, but I'm still intrigued.  Keep!
 Followers by Megan Angelo

This sci-fi book is about two women who want to be famous and how their actions affect literally the entire world decades later.  This sounds fascinating - keep!
 All about Evie by Cathy Lamb

A DNA test reveals long-hidden family secrets and leads Evie on a path of discovery about her past.  There's a lot going on the blurb, and it sounds a little too quirky for me.  Pass!
 Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin

A young musician is hired by a group of wealthy New York City mothers to sing to their children and gets herself a front-row seat to their drama-filled lives.  I love stories like this, that give an insider view on how the uber-wealthy live - definitely keeping this one!
 The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan

Thirty years after her beloved nanny disappears, a woman discovers that her family (and maybe her nanny) were keeping lots of secrets.  This one just isn't grabbing me - pass!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, September 25, 2020

Mini-Reviews: The "What If?" Edition

You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley (2020)

For years, Mia has had dreams about a man she doesn't know.  However, she meets him in real life when she and her husband move to a small Pennsylvania town.  When Oliver reveals he's been dreaming about Mia, too, they begin to search for answers.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  I really liked the premise, but as the story went on, I worried that it would take a too-predictable turn.  There was so little happiness in this book (Mia and her husband Harrison are struggling to start a family; Harrison also has work issues), and at times it felt like the story was taking advantage of all these conveniently timed issues to move towards one conclusion.   That's the part I wasn't crazy about.  Thankfully, the author did surprise me a bit in the end.  I also have to say, I don't think I loved any of the characters.  I sympathized with Mia, but she also annoyed me a bit.  Oliver felt flat, and I feel like Harrison was a good guy but I was steered to feel differently about him for a majority of the book.  However, the writing was good and I might seek this author out again.  3 stars

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (2020)

Lawyer Dannie Cohan has it all - her dream job, a proposal from her dream guy, and a plan for her future - until a too-realistic dream, showing her in five years with a different man in a different apartment, makes her start to question everything.

I love a premise like this - it really makes me think about things like fate.  Is Dannie's future set in stone?  Can she change it, or is everything she tries to do to avoid it just bringing it closer?  I had some issues with this book.  I wasn't a fan of the writing, which felt very choppy.  I also didn't really like Dannie - she's pretentious and superficial, and there was too much name-dropping.  However, there's an unexpected plotline that actually takes the story in a totally different direction than what I thought it would be from the synopsis - I won't say what it is, because it's better to go in blind, but I will say that it changed the tone of the book and made me care about the characters more.  I was even more interested to know how things would play out.  3 stars

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: In A Holidaze

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

In A Holidaze
Christina Lauren
Expected publication date: October 6, 2020
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but thirty-year-old Maelyn Jones is in the midst of a major crisis. She’s living with her mom, hates her boring job, and has yet to make any romantic progress with Andrew, the friend she’s been in love with for the last thirteen years.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born. Devastated as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple wish to the universe: show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows there’s a screech of tires and metal, followed by Mae gasping awake…on an airplane bound for Utah. Now Mae has the chance to live the holidays all over again but with one disaster after another sending her repeatedly back in time, she has to figure out how to end this strange holiday loop and get Andrew under the mistletoe. Otherwise, she’s going to need a miracle.

With Christina Lauren’s trademark “heartfelt and funny” (Kirkus Reviews) prose, this swoon-worthy romance will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays. - from Goodreads
I'm always on the lookout for holiday-themed books for my winter TBR, and I can't resist the writing duo of Christina Lauren, so this sounds perfect for me!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our fall TBR.  Normally I am pretty bad at completing my seasonal TBRs (as much as I love putting them together), but I actually read all the books on my summer TBR!  I have high hopes for this one, too - lots of highly anticipated books that I've been dying to read!

Where should I start?

Monday, September 21, 2020

Blog Tour + Review - Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art

Thank you to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour for Nancy L. Pressly's Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art!  I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Nancy L. Pressly
Published May 5, 2020
While recovering from a near fatal illness, Nancy Pressly discovers a treasure trove of family material stored in her attic. Haunted by images of her grandparents and her parents in their youth, she sets out to create a family narrative before it is lost forever. It takes several more years before she summons the courage to reconstitute a path back to her own past, slowly pulling back the veil of amnesia that has, until now, all but obliterated her memory of her childhood.

In this sensitive and forgiving meditation on the meaning of family, Pressly unravels family dynamics and life in a small rural town in the 1950s that so profoundly affected her—then moves forward in time, through to her adulthood. With an eye attuned to visual detail, she relates how she came into her own as a graduate student in the tumultuous sixties in New York; examines how she assumed the role of caretaker for her family as she negotiated with courage and resilience the many health setbacks, including her own battle with pancreatic cancer, that she and her husband encountered; and evokes her interior struggle as a mother as she slowly traverses the barriers of expectations, self-doubt, and evolving norms in the 1980s to embrace a remarkable life as a scholar, champion of contemporary art, and nationally recognized art museum strategic planning consultant. Full of candor and art-inspired insight, Unlocking leaves the reader with a deep appreciation of the power of art and empathy and the value of trying to understand one’s life journey. - from Goodreads
During her cancer recovery, Nancy Pressly found a trove of family photos and documents in her attic, prompting her to put together a family history, explore the childhood she thought she had forgotten, and reflect on her life as a whole.

I love the idea of creating a comprehensive family history filled with facts and memories.  I think a lot of us kind of forget that our parents and grandparents were young at one point, with their own lives before we came along.  It's so important to keep these memories alive and write them down before it's too late.  I really enjoyed this portion of Nancy's story and wished it had been longer.  She also explored memories of her own childhood.  I almost expected her to reveal a traumatic event that caused her to repress much of her early years, but that didn't really seem to be the case.  She does talk about her first love and how that relationship caused some fractures in her family.

The bulk of this memoir is spent on Pressly's education, her marriage, her career, and her son.  I think there are aspects of her life that many women can relate to.  Pressly loved her chosen field of art history and her work in museums was very interesting, but early on in her career, she had to learn that it was okay for her as a woman to express her intelligence and leadership qualities.  One big theme was the idea of "having it all" - while she wanted a career, she also felt guilt about being away from her son during his formative years.  She had an intense love for homemaking and cooking and had to figure out how to reconcile her professional and personal lives - is it possible to be successful at both?  Her relationship with her husband, though, is one to be admired - they obviously love and respect each other, enjoy their time together, and make sacrifices for each other.

Pressly a talented and engaging writer.  The memoir flowed nicely, but although it was brief (about 200 pages), I felt it could have been edited better.  There was information that felt almost too personal or extraneous.  Overall, though, this was an interesting memoir, a look at an impressive woman, career, and family.

3.5 stars

Friday, September 18, 2020

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Debutante Edition

Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (2018)

Eighteen-year-old Sawyer Taft and her mom have been estranged from their family her whole life - until her grandmother approaches her with an offer.  She'll pay for Sawyer's education, if Sawyer joins her high-society life and completes debutante season.  Sawyer becomes friends with some of the other debutantes, but also becomes involved in more than one scandal.

For some reason I thought this was going to be kind of a fluffy read set in the world of debutantes, with pretty dresses and good manners.  It definitely was not, but I still enjoyed it!  Our main character Sawyer is a reluctant deb - she's gritty and sarcastic.  Her main motivation for accepting her grandmother's offer is to find her biological dad, thinking it might be someone in the society set.  Although we see the girls attend a few deb events, it's more about what happens between those scenes and the trouble the girls (and their elders) get into.  So many scandals, so many secrets!  I loved the snappy writing, the quick pace, and all the banter.   There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and how they're all related to each other, but it was a fun ride!  4 stars

The Season by Kristen Richardson (2019)

In The Season, Kristen Richardson explores the history of the debutante ritual, from its beginnings in England to its spread to the American colonies and beyond.

Although rather short, I thought this was an interesting social history and look into a world that most people will never experience.  Richardson looks at how initially the debutante ritual was a way for young women to find husbands as they were introduced into society and later began to include a charitable element.  I enjoyed the exploration of the ways the tradition differed between the American north and south in the antebellum period and late 19th century.  I also enjoyed her look at current trends in a couple American cities.  I did think she got a little snarky when describing her experience attending a debutante ball; she herself refused the opportunity, and I kind of felt like she was judging others for choosing to do it.  3.5 stars

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

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

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
V.E. Schwab
Expected publication date: October 6, 2020
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name. - from Goodreads
This sounds incredible - I can't wait to read about the life Addie LaRue has lived over these 300 years!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: We'll Always Have Paris

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is a cover freebie.  I've never been to Paris, but it's at the top of my list of places I want to visit someday, so I decided to put together a collage of covers that feature the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Have you ever been to Paris?

Friday, September 11, 2020

Mini-Reviews: Anticipated 2020 Releases

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

In an upscale neighborhood in South Carolina, a monster is stalking the community - and the only people that may be able to stop him are the members of a local book club.

Normally I'm not drawn to horror, but the premise of a book club saving the neighborhood was too good to pass up!  Patricia is our main character - a former nurse, she's now a stay-at-home wife and mother.  Her one escape is a book club where the ladies read true crime and suspense novels.  One day a stranger, James, moves to the neighborhood.  At first, Patricia is attracted to him, but she soon realizes that there's some weird stuff going on - she thinks he might be a vampire.  I loved Patricia - at times I felt bad for her because no one would believe her, but she never gave up.  She's smart and determined.  There were some truly gruesome scenes in this book, but I honestly couldn't stop reading - I loved the themes of friendship and female strength and the campy, almost retro feel to the story.  4.5 stars

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

The original trilogy of The Selection series is one of my favorites, so I was really looking forward to Kiera Cass' new book - unfortunately, it was a big miss for me.

Lady Hollis is sure that a proposal from King Jameson is coming soon, but when a stranger from a neighboring kingdom arrives seeking sanctuary, she's drawn to him instead.  I don't even know where to start with this one - Hollis is so shallow and immature, I'm not sure what the king sees in her, although he's not a prize himself.  She seems content with her life, so when she meets Silas and within days falls in love and runs away with him, it felt like insta-love at its worst.  The world-building is almost non-existent - it's painted in such broad strokes that it could be taking place anywhere at any time.  It also felt like there was no plot to this story - the whole time I was listening to it, I was wondering what the point of it was.  Cass tries to inject some drama near the end of the story, I guess to set it up for the next book, but I don't think I'll be reading it.  2 stars

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Midnight Library

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

The Midnight Library
Matt Haig
Expected publication date: September 29, 2020
'Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices... Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?'

A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place. - from Goodreads
What a fascinating concept - that not only are there infinite realities but that there's a book for each of those realities, that every choice you make results in a different future that you can read about!  How would you ever choose which reality is the best one?

Monday, September 7, 2020

Pride & Prejudice Retellings

I never read Pride and Prejudice in school, and it wasn't one of the classics I ever sought out on my own.  Then, I won a copy of a P&P retelling in a Goodreads giveaway, and I figured it was time to finally read it, so I could have an understanding of the story that inspired the retelling.  I really enjoyed the original, and since then I've read many P&P retellings.  Today I have a list of some of my favorites, as well as a few I'm looking forward to!

These first nine are retellings I've read and enjoyed:




Here are a few that are on my TBR!

What's your favorite Pride and Prejudice retelling?

Friday, September 4, 2020

Summer 2020 Rereading Project

One of my reading goals for 2020 was to reread more.  Through July, I had reread 10 books, and at the beginning of August I decided to take two weeks to just reread.  I did something similar last year and really enjoyed it.  It's always nice to revisit some old favorites!

One of my favorite romance tropes is royalty falling in love with a regular person, so I wanted to start there!  The Royal We was actually one of the first books I reviewed on the blog more than 4 years ago, and since the sequel came out this year, I wanted to refresh my memory before I read it.  The Royal We is basically a retelling of Prince William and Kate Middleton's romance, although Kate is replaced by an American in this one.  It follows Nick and Bex as they meet in college, get together, break up, and eventually get married over the course of several years.  I love the depth of the characters in this story, and all the behind-the-scenes royal tidbits are fun, too!  Although it's a long book, it moves so quickly, and the dialogue is full of sharp wit.

I then read The Runaway Princess, which is one of my favorite books ever.  Garden designer Amy meets Prince Leo and they quickly fall in love - but is "normal girl" Amy ready to become a princess?  There's just something so comforting about this book; it feels like wrapping yourself up in a warm blanket.  I love Amy and her passion for gardens, wildflowers, and bees; I love Leo and his charm and unpretentious attitude.  I can't not root for these two!

Sticking with the "royalty" theme, I then picked up The Truth About Happily Ever After, which is about a young woman who works as Cinderella at a Disney World-esque theme park.  She thinks she's going to have a great summer with her boyfriend, but when he dumps her, she has to find a new way to her HEA.  There's plenty to love about this book - Alyssa confronting her body image issues and her growing friendship (and more?) with Miller, especially.  I can't help but adore Alyssa - she's such a genuinely good person, with a huge heart and positive attitude.

I first read The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper over two years ago, but I still think about it all the time.  I don't often come across books with elderly main characters, but I fell in love with 70-year-old Arthur immediately.  He is cleaning out his deceased wife's belongings when he finds a charm bracelet he never saw before.  He thus begins a journey to learn more about his wife's life before they met, but he's also worried that he disappointed her with their quiet life.  I loved this one just as much the second time around.  If you enjoy heartwarming stories, then give this one a try!

I first read One Day in December less than a year ago, but I couldn't wait to read it again.  I remember bringing this one to work to read during my lunch break because I couldn't bear to be away from it for too long.  This story of friendship, love, fate, and missed opportunities between the star-crossed Laurie and Jack will remind you that few things in life come easy and sometimes the best things are worth the wait.  Silver's writing flows so beautifully, and she creates characters that are flawed yet still lovable.  If you haven't picked this one up yet, please do!

The Devil Wears Prada is one of my go-to books.  This is the first time I listened to it on audio, and it was just as fantastic!  Andrea is a recent college grad who lands a job as the assistant to a very demanding magazine editor, in hopes that it will open doors in her career, but she ends up sacrificing everything.  I think most of us have had difficult bosses, but Miranda Priestly takes the cake.  Just reading about some of the things Andie has to put up with made my blood boil!  But it's also a really fun look inside the magazine and fashion industries, and even though it was published almost 20 years ago, it still feels relevant.

I have to admit, Overseas is not my favorite of Beatriz Williams' books - it's her debut novel, and I think you can kind of tell that from the writing.  But, I cannot resist a time travel romance, so I wanted to pick this one up again.  It tells the story of Kate and Julian in dual timelines - in 1916, he's an army officer in WWI when he meets Kate, and she seems to know all these mysterious things about the future.  In 2008, Kate is a Wall Street analyst when she meets Julian, and she can't help but feel an intense connection with him.  Although a little heavy on the insta-love, the story is still interesting, especially waiting for how the two storylines will collide!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Book of Two Ways

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

The Book of Two Ways
Jodi Picoult
Expected publication date: September 22, 2020
Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She's on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband, but a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.

Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, her beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, where she helps ease the transition between life and death for patients in hospice.

But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a job she once studied for, but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.

After the crash landing, the airline ensures the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation wherever they want to go. The obvious option for Dawn is to continue down the path she is on and go home to her family. The other is to return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways--the first known map of the afterlife.

As the story unfolds, Dawn's two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried beside them. Dawn must confront the questions she's never truly asked: What does a life well-lived look like? When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices...or do our choices make us? And who would you be, if you hadn't turned out to be the person you are right now? - from Goodreads
I have to admit, I kind of burned myself out on Jodi Picoult's books for awhile; I read too many too fast, and they began to feel formulaic to me.  But, this sounds like a bit of a departure for her, and I enjoy stories that incorporate two simultaneous timelines.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Make Me Hungry

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is books that make us hungry.  Fun topic!


The Brutal Telling: It might seem weird to include a murder mystery on this list, but all of the books in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series that take place in Three Pines have insanely delicious descriptions of the food served in the cafe - soups, sandwiches, everything!

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: I don't even know what Turkish Delight is, but Edmund's obsession with it makes me hungry.  There's quite a few references to food in such a short book!


Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune: My review for this book contains the following line, "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."  Enough said!

Cravings - Hungry For More: One day I am going to make some of the yummy-sounding recipes in this cookbook!


The Coincidence of Coconut Cake: This book is a loving ode to the food scene of Milwaukee!

The Wrath & The Dawn: The sumptuous descriptions of clothing, jewelry, and especially the food in this book really transported me.


Food - A Love Story: With his signature delivery, comedian Jim Gaffigan talks about his love affair with food and his favorite items and restaurants.

The Confectioner's Tale:  If you have a sweet tooth, this book is for you.  Pastries, sugar, chocolate - it's got it all!

Have you read any of these?