Friday, October 30, 2020

Quick Reviews, Just In Time For Halloween

How To Survive a Horror Movie by Seth Grahame-Smith (2019)
How to Survive a Horror Movie is a fun, tongue-in-cheek examination of scary movies: how to know if you're in one and if so, how to ensure you make it to the end credits.  The author explores different types of horror films - slashers; haunted houses and other evil objects; vampires, zombies, aliens, and other monsters; and even movies that deal with the Devil himself.  This was a quick read that mostly relies on lists to give the reader advice.  It does kind of make fun of horror movies a little and point out all the cliches and stereotypes you often find in these movies.  Fun illustrations and a list of "additional study materials" (horror movies) round out the book.  My only quibble is that the formatting is a little wonky; the author throws in these short articles in the middle of a chapter, sometimes cutting off a paragraph that's going onto the next page.  It just took me out of what I was reading for a moment.  4 stars

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall (2019)
Sara's sister Becca disappeared a year ago, and Sara believes it has something to do with a local legend and ghost story.  When a mysterious road appears in the woods, Sara and her friends take it, in hopes of finding Becca.  I loved the format of this book - it's set up kind of like a documentary, with different evidentiary sources.  It incorporates interviews, statements, text messages, and transcripts of cell phone footage to reveal some crazy twists.  The pacing of the story was really great.  The world-building was also pretty incredible; the road the teens travel is filled with monsters and I never quite knew what was real and what was not.  It's creepy, eerie, atmospheric, and filled with tension.  I feel confused by the ending and I don't know if it's just me not understanding it, but I wish there was a little more clarity.  4 stars

The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller (2019)

Alva Webster, a widow, purchases a grand home in hopes of restoring and decorating it, but there's a problem - the locals insist the place is haunted.  She brings in professor Sam Moore to look into the possibility of ghosts and finds herself falling for the scientist.  This was a great read that had a little bit of everything - a Gothic feel, romance, some mystery and spookiness.  I loved Sam - he's so intelligent, but also a little goofy and innocent, and his adoration of Alva leapt off the page.  He's also surrounded by an incredible family.  Having been in a terrible marriage, Alva is understandably wary of any new commitments, but I just wanted her to forget about her problems and take a chance on Sam.  The ghost element of the story was interesting and not the usual haunting.  I wish there had been even more focus on the spooky elements; I think there was a bit too much about Alva's past.  Overall, though, this was a great fall read for readers who like a little romance with their ghost stories.  4 stars

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Ready Player Two

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

Ready Player Two
Ernest Cline
Expected publication date: November 24, 2020
An unexpected quest. Two worlds at stake. Are you ready?

Days after Oasis founder James Halliday's contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything. Hidden within Halliday's vault, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the Oasis a thousand times more wondrous, and addictive, than even Wade dreamed possible. With it comes a new riddle and a new quest. A last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize. And an unexpected, impossibly powerful, and dangerous new rival awaits, one who will kill millions to get what he wants. Wade's life and the future of the Oasis are again at stake, but this time the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance.

Lovingly nostalgic and wildly original as only Ernest Cline could conceive it, Ready Player Two takes us on another imaginative, fun, action packed adventure through his beloved virtual universe, and jolts us thrillingly into the future once again.
- from Goodreads
I'm excited to re-enter the world of the Oasis, and the stakes are even higher this time!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Down the TBR Hole #16


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:
Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman
A couple resorts to some extreme measures in order to divorce-proof their marriage after several of their friends' marriages end.  This one isn't grabbing me - pass!

The Tenant by Katrine Engberg
The murder of a young woman seemingly has ties to the woman's landlord, an aspiring writer who may have included the gruesome scene in her draft novel.  This sounds pretty great - keep!

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters
In order to inspire a screenwriter, an assistant sets out to prove that love can happen in real life just the way it does in the movies, but there are some hiccups along the way.  I've been really into romances this year, but this one just sounds kind of confusing.  Pass!

I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi
A YA novel about three teens who must face their pasts when they find out that the world may end in a week.  I'm interested to see where this story goes - keep!

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
Journalist Dolly Alderton pens a series of essays about young adulthood and growing up.  Although this is missing a bit of a spark for me, I think it has potential - keep!

Rocket Man: The Life of Elton John by Mark Bego

I have always enjoyed Elton John's music, so I'd love the chance to learn more about him - keep!

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring

Mavi is a new teacher at a boarding school at the tip of South America, but when one of her students disappears, she can't deny the school's eeriness.  I'm torn - I love the setting and the gothic feel, but the reviews are pretty abysmal.  Pass!

Have you read any of these?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Cover Reveal: Bet The Farm by Staci Hart

Guys! I'm so excited! Staci Hart has a brand new rom-com standalone coming January 26th! Bet the Farm is a heartfelt, flirty story of opposites attract and I cannot WAIT to read it! Mark your calendars and pre-order your copy today!

Amazon | AppleBooks | Kobo | B&N | Goodreads

Olivia Brent has one summer to save the dairy farm she just inherited.

But there’s one problem, and it’s not her lactose intolerance.

Jake Milovic.

The brooding farmhand has inherited exactly fifty percent of Brent Farm, and he’s so convinced the city girl can’t work the land, he bets she can’t save it in a summer. 

Determined to prove him wrong, Olivia accepts what might be the dumbest wager of her life.

His strategy to win seems simple: follow her around, shirtlessly distracting her between bouts of relentless taunting. And it’s effective—if his dark eyes and rare smiles aren’t enough to sidetrack her, the sweaty, rolling topography of the manbeast’s body would do the trick.

What they don’t know: they’ll have to weather more than each other. 

Mysterious circumstances throw the farm into disarray, and with the dairy farm in danger, Olivia and Jake have to work together. But when they do, there’s more to fear than either of them imagined.

Because now their hearts are on the line, and the farm won’t be the only casualty if they fail.

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life -- a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can't forget that. She's also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She's been a wife, though she's certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She's also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she's been drinking whiskey. When she's not writing, she's reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Website | Newsletter

Friday, October 23, 2020

Quick Reviews: 2020 Releases

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

With each book I read by John Marrs, I'm more and more impressed by his stellar writing and utterly unique scenarios.  In his newest release, Maggie and Nina live together, but not necessarily by choice.  Maggie is Nina's prisoner, and through alternating POVs and flashbacks, we learn what has happened to them over the years to get them to this point.  I think it's good to go in pretty blind, but I will say that once you find out what the relationship is between Maggie and Nina, it'll start to make sense and all these new layers will become apparent.  The pacing of the story is excellent, and it felt like there were batsh*t crazy reveals in every chapter.  So many lies, secrets, and misunderstandings!  4.5 stars
Mia is a social media influencer, and Paige works for the social media site that Mia uses.  When Mia goes off the radar, Paige takes over her page as a way to help Jessica, her sister and one of Mia's biggest fans.  I tend to enjoy stories that incorporate social media; I think they feel so timely and relevant and can offer some good insight.  This was no exception, although it did have its issues, too.  I loved Mia; she kind of fell into being a social media star by accident and now she wants to quit, but is unsure of who she is without it.  I could tell she had a big heart.  Paige's character was a miss for me.  She has issues in her life, but her actions didn't always make sense to me.  I felt like she could have helped her sister more by being honest with her. Also, her dialogue and personality seemed to have some inconsistencies throughout the course of the story.  3.5 stars

This Is Not How It Ends by Rochelle B. Weinstein

Charlotte and Philip had an instant connection, and their love seems effortless and perfect - until it's not.  Charlotte begins to doubt their love even more when she meets Ben, and one fateful night forces her to choose which man she wants to be with.  I wanted to like this book more than I did.  I have to say, I loved the writing - it's smooth and velvety and so easy to read.  However, I had some issues with the plot.  I loved Philip, his breezy attitude and love for Charlotte, but it was so obvious to me that he was hiding something, and I don't know how Charlotte didn't see it.  Ben, the romantic rival, was so bland, and I'm not quite sure what she saw in him.  Unfortunately, the story was very predictable and the second half of the book kind of went downhill for me.  3 stars

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Crazy Stupid Bromance

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

Crazy Stupid Bromance (Bromance Book Club #3)
Lyssa Kay Adams
Expected publication date: October 27, 2020
A hacktivist and a cat café owner decode the friend zone in this romantic comedy from the author of Undercover Bromance.

Alexis Carlisle and her cat café, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan.

Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush.

Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had. - from Goodreads
I've been loving this series, and I'm excited for more book club meetings!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is books we've read because someone recommended them to us.  Although not all specifically recommended to me, I've put together a list of books that I came across through other bloggers, ones that I might not have heard of otherwise that I ended up reading because of them.

Virginia and The Vagabond - recommended by Stephanie at Bookfever
The Duke and I - recommended by Christina at Confessions of a Book Addict  
Southern Lady Code - recommended by Susie at Novel Visits 
Goodbye, Perfect - recommended by Suzanne at The Bookish Libra  
What's the best book recommendation you've ever gotten? 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Trexler Nature Preserve

Tom and I hadn't done any any traveling or hiking this year, for obvious reasons, but to celebrate our anniversary, we decided to do a little weekend getaway in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Honestly, I felt a little selfish and guilty about it, because now is not the best time to travel, but we had a good time.  I wanted to spend time outdoors, and I came across Trexler Nature Preserve, not far from Bethlehem in Schnecksville.


The Trexler Nature Preserve was established as a game preserve and today offers 18 miles of hiking trails, mountain biking, and wildlife observation.  Extra bonus, the Lehigh Valley Zoo is also within the borders of the Preserve!

We parked at an area called "the Ford," which we used as a jumping off point for two trails.  We started with the Elk Viewing Trail, a 1.7 mile loop.  The first section of the trail was pretty steep, but the view at the top was so worth it!

One of the points of interest on this trail is Schlicher's Covered Bridge, which we saw on the way down from the top.

The last part of the trail is flat and at least partially paved in some areas, close to the shore of Jordan Creek.  This made for a lovely walk and views of the fall foliage.

We then made our way down the Covered Bridge Trail, a 1.2 mile loop that, yes, features another covered bridge, Geiger's, built in 1860!  I really liked this trail; it was an easy walk along the creek, one side more woodsy and the other more open.

We wore masks when other hikers and walkers were close by, and pretty much everyone else was also respectful with mask use.  I'm glad we were able to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather and changing leaves!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Backlist Quick Reviews

One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase (2019)

I've been waiting for Bethany Chase to release a new book for awhile now, and I was not disappointed!  One Night at the Lake is told from the dual POVs of best friends Leah and June, seven years apart.  I liked the format of the story; in June's later timeline, we know that something terrible happened to Leah at Seneca Lake years before, and now June is engaged to Leah's boyfriend.  In Leah's timeline, she seems so happy and vibrant that it's hard to imagine what could happen to her.  Chase's writing is very readable and the characters are so fleshed out and real.  I loved the setting of Seneca Lake; having been to the area before, I could picture much of it in my head, and Chase did a great job of describing it.  If you like a lot of action in your stories, this might not be the book for you; it is a quiet book that focuses on love and friendship.  4 stars

The Blue by Lucy Clarke (2015) (Thanks to Greg at Book Haven for the recommendation!)

While traveling in the Philippines, best friends Lana and Kitty are invited to join the crew of The Blue, a yacht worked by a loose group of friends wandering the seas.  When one of the crew is lost at sea, the group is fractured.

I think I was expecting this to be more of a thriller, so in that sense, I was a little disappointed.  It was more character-driven and less "murder on the high seas."  But, this was still a good read.  It was interesting to meet all the characters and learn their different reasons for wanting to get away from their old lives, why this yacht and the wandering lifestyle appealed to them.  I also liked the structure of the story, told in dual timelines from when Kitty and Lana join the crew and several months later, after Lana has left the yacht and finds out that it has sunk and the crew is missing.  There are plenty of secrets and lies in this one!  4 stars 

Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay (2019)

New York City erupts in chaos when the elevators of its high-rise buildings are taken over by a terrorist.

This book was a wild ride!  When I first heard of it, I thought it would make a great movie, and so I'm glad I listened to the audiobook.  The narrator was really wonderful; he had a very distinctive voice.  The story opens with a bang with a body found along the High Line.  Then, the elevators start plunging.  Several characters are introduced and we see the story from the perspective of the police, a journalist, and the mayor.  I thought the author was very creative in his depiction of how New York City would be affected if all the elevators had to be shut down.  I think there were a bit too many sideplots going on; at times I almost wondered if I had picked up a book in the middle of a series because there was more characterization than I'm used to in thrillers and I thought maybe it was referring back to things that had happened in earlier books.  So, the story could have been a lot tighter, but in the end, I definitely didn't guess the identity of the killer, and that's always good when reading a thriller!  4 stars

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Love Your Life

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

Love Your Life
Sophie Kinsella
Expected publication date: October 27, 2020
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of I Owe You One, an utterly delightful novel about a woman who ditches her dating app for a writer's retreat in Italy--only to find that real love comes with its own filters

Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers' retreat in coastal Italy. She's determined to finish writing the novel she's been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.

At the retreat, she's not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by "Aria," meets "Dutch," a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.

But then their real identities--Ava and Matt--must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there's the prickly situation with Matt's ex-girlfriend, who isn't too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can't love each other's lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together? - from Goodreads
This sounds absolutely adorable, but really, it's Sophie Kinsella, and I will read anything she writes!

Monday, October 12, 2020

5 Ways The Pandemic Changed My Reading Habits

Who could have predicted in January that by March, many of us would be in lockdown and quarantine, our lives completely changed by a worldwide health crisis?  The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our social lives, jobs, education - you name it!  Things are opening up in my area, but the past almost 7 months of staying at home have had an impact on what I read and how I read.

  1. I'm reading more books than before.  The day before the stay-at-home order came down in my state, I left my job to start a new one.  It had been in the works for weeks, and I never anticipated that I wouldn't be able to start my new position.  But, that's what happened - it was a month before I could actually start, so I had a ton of free time.  I'm working fewer hours than I was at my last job, too, so even after I started, I still had a lot of free time, and since everything was closed, it was the perfect excuse to stay home and read.  It seems like I'm finishing a book every couple days, or even less sometimes!
  2. I'm reading more romance and rom-coms.  I used to be an occasional romance reader, but since the pandemic started, I'm finding myself drawn mostly to romances and rom-coms, over everything else.  They're the perfect escape - light and fluffy, with a guaranteed happily ever after.
  3. I'm listening to fewer audiobooks.  Audiobooks were the key to my work commute, so when that ended, my ability to get through audiobooks went down drastically.  I still listen to them on walks or while I'm doing chores, but it's taking me way longer to listen to each one.
  4. I'm reading more ebooks.  It was so fortuitous that my sister got me a Kindle this past Christmas, because it has been a lifesaver!  My library was closed for months, meaning my main source of physical books was no longer available.  But, I still had access to a huge collection of ebooks, and I've really taken advantage of it.
  5. I feel like I'm retaining less.  Sometimes I almost feel like I'm reading too much, too quickly, and I'm not really retaining much about the books I'm reading (it means my reviews have gotten a lot shorter, too; I've been relying on mini-reviews and quick reviews).  I don't know the exact cause of it; maybe it's due to anxiety or distractions.  But, I still find the act of reading very comforting, so I'm not that worried about it.


Have your reading habits changed during the pandemic?

Friday, October 9, 2020

Quick Reviews: The Romance Edition

Coming Up Roses by Staci Hart (2019)

In this Pride & Prejudice re-imagining, a man returns home to help out at his family flower shop, and sparks fly with the woman who helps run it.  This was a really cute romance, and I can never resist something P&P related.  At first, the characters felt a bit one-dimensional - Luke is carefree but flaky and unreliable, and Tess is rigid and scared to try anything new.  It felt like I was being told this on every page.  But like in the original, the characters open up and see that there's more to each other.  I loved how Luke especially showed so many different sides of himself.  The flower shop setting was adorable, and I could just picture it all in my head.  Hart is always really good at creating a great group of side characters, and this story was no exception.  I loved hanging out with the Bennet clan and watching the close family interact with each other.  4 stars

Baking Me Crazy by Karla Sorensen (2019)

Levi has been in love with Jocelyn (Joss) since the moment he met her five years ago, but she wasn't looking for a relationship at the time and now they're best friends.  When Joss starts showing an interest in someone else, Levi realizes this may be the chance he's been waiting for to reveal his feelings.  This was an adorable friends to lovers romance; Joss is prickly and sarcastic and Levi is just a little too perfect, but they make a great team.  Sorensen's writing is very readable and the story flowed nicely.  I think the best part of this book was the disability representation.  An illness years before left Joss in a wheelchair, and we get to see how this has affected all areas of her life, as well as her physical therapy to gain strength in her legs.  Sorensen did her research and shows thoughtfulness and sensitivity in telling Joss' story.  I'm glad we got to be inside both her and Levi's heads.  4 stars

Tonic by Staci Hart (2016)

In this story, a reality show producer finds herself falling for the star of her show, the owner of a tattoo parlor.  I really enjoyed this "opposites attract" romance between Annika and Joel.  He's not looking for anything serious (until he meets Annika) and she normally goes for the buttoned-up, put-together, ambitious guys.  The fact that she's producing a TV show about his shop adds even more layers to their fledgling relationship.  I don't mind sex scenes in books, but in this one, I felt like they took over a little bit, especially at the beginning of the story - it was just one right after another.  There were so many more interesting things that I thought could be explored (like Annika's family).  The reality TV show aspect was really fun, especially some of the behind-the-scenes looks at the manipulation that goes on.  The story felt like it moved at warp speed sometimes, and I wanted it to just slow down a bit.  But overall, this was a good read!  3.5 stars

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Blog Tour + Review: Sisters of War

Thank you to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for Sisters of War by Lana Kortchik!  I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Sisters of War by Lana Kortchik
Can their bond survive under the shadow of occupation?

For fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The German Midwife comes this unforgettable tale of love, loss, family, and the power of hope.

Kiev, 1941: Watching the Red Army withdraw from Ukraine in the face of Hitler’s relentless advance, sisters Natasha and Lisa Smirnova realize their lives are about to change forever.

As the German army occupies their beloved city, the sisters are tested in ways they never thought possible. Lisa’s fiancé Alexei is taken by the invading army, whilst Natasha falls in love with Mark – a Hungarian soldier, enlisted against all his principles on the side of the Nazis.

But as Natasha and Lisa fight to protect the friends and family they hold dear, they must face up to the dark horrors of war and the pain of betrayal. Will they be strong enough to overcome the forces which threaten to tear their family apart?

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and World War II is a particular interest of mine.  In Sisters of War, Lana Kortchik explores the war from the point of view of a Russian woman living in the Ukraine with her family.  Natasha, her sister Lisa, and their family and friends experience love, heartache, and the struggle for survival against the backdrop of war.
I've read many WWII stories set in England and France, but this is the first book I've come across that's set in Nazi-occupied Ukraine.  The descriptions of Kiev and the terrible conditions the people lived under during the occupation were heart-wrenching.  Natasha's family barely had the basic necessities and they were always worried about where they would be able to find food.

Although the blurb talks about two sisters, this story is mainly Natasha's story.  She meets a Hungarian soldier, Mark, who was forced to fight on the side of the Nazis, and they fall in love.  It was a bit insta-lovey, but this is wartime, so I can forgive it a bit.  I was rooting for them so much, for the characters to at least experience a little bit of joy during these terrible times.  I grasped at any bit of happiness I could because the story is so overwhelmingly sad.

Although I enjoyed the book, I did have some issues with it.  The dialogue felt a bit stilted and unnatural at times.  There were threads that were introduced that felt either poorly executed or were never properly addressed in an ending that came on way too suddenly.
 3.5 stars

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Links: Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Candy Corn Covers


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is book covers with fall colors or vibes.  I was inspired by a seasonal treat, candy corn!