February 19, 2019

Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I'm sad, because I haven't had a book let me down this much in a while. Recently I read and reviewed Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser and absolutely adored it, so I couldn't wait to jump into this one. Unfortunately, this domestic drama fell unbelievably flat for me. 

Best friends Molly and Liza are trying to keep their friendship going after Liza moved away to Chicago, so they set up a Skype date to catch up. When Molly steps out during the call to check on her child, Liza sees a masked figure enter the house. After a frantic call to the police, she is reassured it's nothing, and has the door slammed in her face after driving all night to check on her friend. Was Liza imagining the whole thing? Why is Molly giving her the cold shoulder? What is Molly hiding, and will their friendship ever be the same again?

For me, this book dragged from almost the beginning. After the masked figure incident, the plot slowed down to a snail's pace. It had such promise at the beginning, but jumped the shark early on. There were way too many side stories to keep track of, and I didn't find myself invested in the characters at all (except maybe Liza's love life). I actually dreaded picking up this book in the evenings because I didn't want to read it, but I felt like I owed it to both the book and the author to finish it. I literally screamed "ARE YOU KIDDING ME" at the reveal at the end, because I couldn't believe I wasted so much time for that ending. 

I know, I'm rarely this scathing in reviews. I adore more books than not, and I rarely dislike one enough to give it one star (although I have had a few 1 star reviews on this blog). This read seems like a novice attempt at a novel when compared to Not That I Could Tell. Unfortunately, I had no other option here when it came to rating.

Overall Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for an early copy of this read! Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser is out now.

February 14, 2019

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Happy Valentine's Day, loves!

This was another OwlCrate book that just sat around for a while, but after a few intense and heavy reads, I wanted to pick up something fluffy. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills follows Claudia, a high school student who gets roped into helping with the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream after accidentally overhearing something she shouldn't have. Throughout the story, Claudia has to learn how to deal with change and adapt to it, learn to build new friendships, and let go of the feeling that she is not worthy of love.

This book was absolutely the light and fluffy book I was hoping for. It read extremely quickly, the plot was easy to follow but still engaging, and overall I thought the story was really cute! There was an intense part about a baby being born prematurely, so take that into consideration if that may be a trigger for you. 

This was full of nerd content (think MMORPGs), the perfect bromance, plenty of Shakespeare, unlikely friendships, boy band love, f/f romance, and so many other adorable themes. I loved every minute I spent with this delightful book. There were a few times the main characters were a little annoying or clueless, but hey, they're teenagers. It wouldn't be realistic if they weren't!

While I've seen a few of Emma Mills' books before, this is the first I ever read. It definitely won't be the last. And look at that cover! Mine is slightly different since it's the OwlCrate exclusive edition, but the covers of all her books are so beautifully detailed and textured you can't help but be drawn to them.

Did this book change my life? No. Did it deliver exactly what I wanted? Absolutely. It's not groundbreaking or super unique, but I can definitely see myself revisiting this one, and I can't say that for a lot of books. And for that, the high rating is deserved in my opinion.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

February 11, 2019

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
When I first heard about this book, I wrote it off as not being my thing. I'll be honest, I don't read a ton of fantasy. I like books I can read quickly, and I've found that a lot of fantasy is too heavy and takes a long time to get through. I don't typically like historical fiction either. But I heard some really great things about this book so I decided to give it a try. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi is basically National Treasure, set in France, plus magic.

It's nearing the turn of the century, and Severin is hungry. He's hungry for the House he has been stripped of, and will stop at nothing to earn his deserved title of heir to House Vanth. He, along with his friends Tristan, Enrique, Laila, and Zofia, perform countless heists in the hopes of setting Severin back in his rightful place. But one heist goes badly wrong, and now Severin finds himself locked in a deal with the patriarch of House Nyx, the flashy Hypnos, in order to save his friends. 

I really enjoyed this read! There were heists and treasure, codes and riddles. I loved the different points of view of Severin and the other members of his team. It had great minority representation that was done extremely well. I really enjoyed the comic relief that Hypnos provided. I also was a fan of the fact that the romances in this book were not at all the main story line, and that there was some really good and varied representation.

I REALLY appreciated that this story actually wrapped things up! Yes, this appears to be the first in a trilogy, but so often books end with a major event and they're over. No discussing how it impacted the characters, or the events following. This one actually provided what I felt was a fully developed ending, showing how each character was impacted and behaved as time progressed. I understand the importance of a cliffhanger to keep a reader hooked on a series, but this is proof that you don't have to have one to keep a reader's interest. I can't wait for book two!

But as much as I liked all of those things, something still felt...off maybe? There were some parts I had to drag through that I felt lacked depth and detail. Things didn't always tie together well. I really can't put my finger more specifically what was lacking or what felt wrong, but I just couldn't bring myself to give this a full five stars.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

February 5, 2019

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Cover Art Courtesy of St. Martin's Press
I have not read a book this captivating in a long time. The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib is a haunting tale of eating disorders that follows Anna, a 26-year-old woman with anorexia. 

About the Book:

Yara Zgheib’s poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting portrait of a young woman’s struggle with anorexia on an intimate journey to reclaim her life.  

The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Every bite causes anxiety.  Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.

My Review:

This book was so engrossing that I just couldn't put it down. Told in present day mixed with flashbacks and patient medical reports, the story was hauntingly beautiful. It told the real story of anorexia, and really showed how eating disorders impact the families and loved ones of those that have them.

I absolutely LOVED that this read tackled eating disorders in grown women. So much fiction surrounding eating disorders focuses on teenagers/young adults, and while that population is definitely the most at-risk, adults do still experience eating disorders. It also did not at all glamorize eating disorders, as I've seen some fiction tend to do.

I flew through this story. I absolutely devoured every word of Anna's journey, and became so invested in not only her recovery, but the recoveries of all the girls at 17 Swann Street. It takes a lot for a book to make me emotional, but this one really did. I experienced a full range of emotions while reading, from compassion and understanding, to excitement and hope, to utter despair depending on what was happening. I do suspect this book could be very triggering for someone that is currently dealing with or has dealt with an eating disorder in the past. I will put a trigger warning on it for suicide as well.

Photo Courtesy of St. Martin's Press
About the Author:

Yara Zgheib is a Fulbright scholar with a Masters degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University and a PhD in International Affairs in Diplomacy from Centre D'études Diplomatiques et Stratégiques in Paris. She is fluent in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish. Yara is a writer for several US and European magazines, including The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, A Woman’s Paris, The Idea List, and Holiday Magazine. She writes on culture, art, travel, and philosophy on her blog, "Aristotle at Afternoon Tea" (http://www.aristotleatafternoontea.com/).

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for an ARC of this beautifully haunting read and for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib is out TODAY, February 5th, so be sure to pick up a copy! You can purchase the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Indie Bound, or Powell's

February 1, 2019

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
At first glance this book doesn't look like much, and it might be hard to guess what it's even about, but it quickly sucks you in. The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth follows three moms in the perfect neighborhood, who seem to have it all together. But you soon realize that Fran is hiding a secret. Ange is trying to uncover one. And Essie doesn't know which way is up most days. So when single, childless Isabelle moves in, eyebrows are raised and the women begin to obsess over her to distract themselves from their own issues.

I absolutely did not see the twist coming in this one. Even though this really isn't a thriller per se, there is a huge reveal at the end. Everything you thought was playing out was actually something completely different entirely. Some of the subject matter is definitely heavy, including postpartum depression and infidelity. 

I appreciated getting the perspectives from all the women, in addition to the flashbacks. They were all relatable in different ways, and I really felt for them all at different points. 

I did think a few parts of the book were unrealistic, especially when it came to things like hospital security. I honestly can't comprehend how I would have reacted to the new knowledge at the end, so I don't want to say if the ending was valid or not because it would be such a precarious situation to be in.

I loved that this was set in Australia! So many thrillers are set in the US, or somewhere in England, so this change of scenery was nice. Hepworth is also a Melbourne resident, so this totally makes sense.  This was the first book I'd ever read by Sally Hepworth, but after finishing I know I need to pick up some more of her works ASAP!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Griffin for a finished copy of this read! The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth is out in paperback on February 5th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

January 30, 2019

My Most Recent Walt Disney World Trip (December 2018)

I wanted to start doing more Disney-related content on this blog, so I figured why not start with a recap of my most recent trip to Walt Disney World! My husband and I spent 2.5 days at the resort at the end of December as an early birthday trip for me, and we had an absolute blast!

I actually used to work at Walt Disney World (which is a story for another post!), so I am all too familiar with the parks. My husband on the other hand hadn't been since he was a kid, so this was the first time he was able to experience everything as an adult. We split our stay between two on-property hotels: the Coronado Springs Resort and the All Star Movies Resort. Being that we were there at pretty much the busiest time of year, the week between Christmas and New Year's, we weren't able to get a reservation for the same hotel (at least not one in our budget, anyway!) for all three nights.

Having only two park days, we knew we would have to do some serious park hopping to get everything in. The first day, we hit Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot. DHS was one of my work locations, so walking back through the gates I absolutely felt like I was home. I was so excited, because this was the first time I got to experience Toy Story Land! We had been able to get some great Fast Passes at DHS, so we were done with that park around noon and took one of the Friendship Boats over to Epcot. 

I love Epcot, because it's such a relaxing park. You can stroll through the countries, peruse the various shops, and eat (and drink!) a ton of delicious things. We were able to ride Mission: Space and Journey Into Imagination (I know, I know, yes this ride is crap but I love Figment ok?!). I spent way too much money in the Japan pavilion (as usual), and savored my Grand Marnier slush. I also got to meet Baymax and just about died! Talk about the most awkwardly hilarious but adorable meet and greet ever! Somehow I managed to trick my husband into trying the Beverly at Club Cool, even though I think he knew deep down what I was trying to do.

The second day was split between Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom. It was extra magic hours (early park opening for resort guests) at AK, so we knew we had to try to get there as early as possible to experience the rides in Pandora. This was my first time seeing this land as well! Flight of Passage was AMAZING! You could actually feel the banshee breathing as you rode it. Na'vi River Journey was beautiful, but a little anticlimactic in my opinion. Of course I tried the Night Blossom drink (very sour!) and a Pongu Lumpia (INCREDIBLE) in the Pandora area.

Magic Kingdom was our last stop. Just being there had me feeling giddy, as this was my other work location when I was a cast member! The park was still all decked out for Christmas, and if you've never seen it, the Magic Kingdom is absolutely STUNNING around Christmas time. This was by far the most crowded of all the parks. We were only able to get on our Fastpass rides: Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and Haunted Mansion, plus the PeopleMover and Carousel of Progress, but that was fine with me! I will always be a PeopleMover snob, so as long as I get on that ride I'm happy!

We had so much fun and can't wait to go back. Disney is an absolutely an amazing time, even if you're adults without kids like us! I've always known I'd never outgrow the Disney magic, and now my husband knows he's the same way.

Still riding our Disney high, we just booked a trip to Disneyland for this coming spring! I've never been there, or even to California at all for that matter, so we can't wait to head to see the mouse out west. I'll be sure to do a recap of that trip for you guys as well after it happens!

January 28, 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I picked this for my January Book of the Month, expecting a really intriguing mystery/thriller. Unfortunately it just wasn't quite what I had hoped. 

In The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, famous painter Alicia Berenson is in a psych hospital after apparently killing her husband. I say apparently because Alicia refuses to speak. She has not uttered a word since her husband was killed, in her defense or otherwise. Now, psychotherapist Theo Faber has made Alicia his personal pet project, hoping to finally get her to speak and learn the truth about what really happened that day.

There was a pretty good twist in this book, but unfortunately it wasn't enough for me to completely save the rating. This book was very dry, and I was more interested in Alicia's interspersed journal entries than the actual plot parts. I thought it ended way too abruptly. I didn't like any of the characters, and didn't really care what the outcome was. 

I've seen a ton of people giving this really high ratings, but this was far from a 5 star thriller in my opinion. It just wasn't very special, and didn't live up to the caliber of some of my other favorite mystery thrillers. I would have given it 2 stars, except I did really enjoy the twist and didn't see it coming.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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January 23, 2019

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Ok guys, this book hit me, and hit me hard. It took me a while to get around to reading it (to the point that I actually had three copies in my possession at once), but now that I have I am so upset at myself for not making it a priority earlier. 

Huge trigger warning on this book for domestic violence, so keep that in mind.

In Yellow Springs, a few neighborhood women get together one night for some drinks around the fire. The next morning, one of them and her children are missing. What happened to Kristen? Did her soon to be ex-husband have anything to do with it? Are her and her twins even alive?

This was absolutely a slow burn book, which usually bothers me, but with this one I was hooked. I loved the two different points of view of Clara and Izzy, interspersed with a third that we can rightly assume is Kristen's. Izzy's radio show segment "Second Date Update" is so similar to one I listen to on the radio every morning! I could really see myself in Izzy's shoes as well, and she reminded me of myself back when I was in my early twenties-sort of just drifting through life, lonely but not really willing to admit it, and struggling in a job she didn't like.

It was pretty clear from the beginning what was happening, and I think it was supposed to be, but there was still a reveal at the end that actually made me drop the book. 

The importance of this book is not to be overlooked, as it really shines a light on domestic violence and the struggles a woman must go through to escape an abusive husband. The story, the characters, and the message were all powerful, and were the perfect level of entertaining while still tackling an important issue facing many women today.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much for St. Martin's Press for a finished copy of this read! Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser is out in paperback now, so be sure to pick up a copy!