March 13, 2019

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
It's still pretty cold here in Virginia, and there's no escape like a read about somewhere sunny and warm. This adult fiction read, Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt, takes place in Mexico and has a gorgeous beachy cover that screams warmer weather.

In this book, two families head to a gorgeous villa in Puerto Vallarta on a joint vacation and birthday celebration. But as they always say, there's soon trouble in paradise. Jenna's husband keeps taking secretive calls, and she's on edge from her recent cancer diagnosis and the trouble she is having finishing her next book. Not to mention the fact that the family they are with is getting on Jenna's last nerve, and there is unrest in Puerto Vallarta dealing with rival drug cartels. 

What appeared on the surface to be a pretty light read was actually really heavy. It has the struggling family dynamic, drug violence, medical drama, references to autism, and more. Even though the dust jacket said this book was funny, I don't think I laughed once. To me it was much more serious, and evoked anger and sadness rather than comedy. 

I absolutely felt for Jenna. I thought that everyone around her treated her like crap when she was just trying to be a good wife, mother, and friend. I absolutely hated how they treated her diagnosis like it was nothing, just because the prognosis was good. I hope to God I never find myself in her shoes, because I don't know what I would do if I was surrounded by such cruel people.

I did fly through this read, as it was only 275 pages, but it left me feeling on edge and really uncomfortable. While I thought it was a good book, I don't think I can quite say that I enjoyed it simply because of the way it made me feel. But it was written well and thoroughly developed. I'm glad it's over, but I'm also really glad I read it.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Pamela Dorman Books for a finished copy of this read! Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt is out now!

March 12, 2019

Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Pull me out of the oven...I'm done. I don't think any book will ever top the adorableness of this read. Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren is a YA contemporary that not only checks all the fluffy and cute love story boxes, but also focuses on sports and women's equality. 

Holland "Dutch" Delviss is a girl player on a boys varsity hockey team. All her life, she has fought to prove herself and make it known that she deserves her spot, even though she is better than half the boys on the team. When her town is thrust into the spotlight for HockeyFest and the shot at a televised game falls on Holland's shoulders, the pressure starts to get to her more than it ever has. And it certainly doesn't help that she suddenly finds herself falling for Wes "Hot Sauce" Millard, the asshole team captain she has always despised. 

Oh how I loved every minute of this book. I was so sad to put it down when it was over. Every element of this story was fantastic. Yes, it was an adorable romance, but it was so much more than that. Holland had to face so much pressure as a woman in a man's world, and she held her own so well. Even when she got hurt, both physically and emotionally, she stuck to her guns to prove herself. 

The stereotypes in this book about women, that we are vulnerable and weak, are very alive in our world. We are not yet done trying to prove that they are wrong, that we are equal, and this book definitely shone a light on that.

Plus can we talk about Holland's and Wes' TASTE IN MUSIC!? Unbelievable. Glam bands, the Foo Fighters, Metallica, Poison. Their love of vinyl!? All of this spoke to me on so many levels. I feel the same way Holland does when I walk into a record store, and I really appreciated this element of the story. And the fact that there were playlists throughout the book? A total win.

And I loved so many other things that I could just go on forever. The family dynamic, the setting, the journalism references. But I'll just stop here and let you read it and discover all these wonderful things on your own.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Amulet for an ARC of this read! Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren is out TODAY, March 12th, so be sure to grab a copy of this adorable yet powerful story.

March 8, 2019

Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've talked it about extensively on my Twitter, but I have a HUGE Hamilton obsession. So much so that recently I've jumped head first into the world of Hamilton-themed fiction. The first book I picked up was Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz. 

Eliza Schuyler, rich as she is, wants nothing more than to help with the war effort. But her parents and sisters focus more on the finer things in life, even as their fortune starts to dwindle. Eliza has no time for suitors, especially Colonel Alexander Hamilton. But the more time she spends around the soldiers, and Hamilton in particular, the more those feelings start to shift.

This obviously had a very basic plot, and exists simply to further a fictional back story between these two famous characters. That being said, this absolutely did what I was hoping for-it gave me more time with characters I love. It also developed Eliza more extensively than you see on stage, and I enjoyed getting to see more of Angelica and Peggy and their own relationships.

While a lot of this is steeped in historical fact, you have to remember that much is a creation of the author's imagination. I won't go into details as to what is real and what isn't, because if you take this simply for what it is-a work of fiction-that just doesn't matter.

Historical fiction, historically, has not been my thing at all. But I think I just hadn't found the right subject matter. I fell in love with these characters through the musical, and I'm not sure I would like this is much if I had read the book first. Regardless, I enjoyed the time I spent with this read and don't think I will get tired of Alexander or Eliza any time soon.

The second book in this trilogy, Love & War, is out now and I can't wait to pick it up. And the last installment, All for One, comes out in April!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

March 7, 2019

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
So I read this book over Christmas break and completely forgot to post a review. I'm usually so good about that so I'm over here kicking myself! But better late than never right? The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox is a detective/crime thriller that follows Detective Aidan Waits. This is actually the second book in the Aidan Waits series. 

Resigned to his lack of any real future and his permanent delegation to the night shift on the force in Manchester, Aidan has lost his zeal for pretty much everything. But when he and his partner come across a body one night, Aidan is suddenly invigorated with a new zeal for his career. You see, the dead man is smiling. But why? With no trace of his identity except for a patch sewn into his pants (his teeth and fingertips had been replaced, offering no help in identification), Aidan throws himself headfirst into trying to figure out who this man is and what happened. Even when colleagues and his supervisor tell him to stay away from the case, he just can't leave it alone.

This book was INCREDIBLY gritty, but I really enjoyed that! While I read a lot of thrillers, I don't read a ton of detective focused crime reads, so this ironically offered a breath of fresh air for me.  This really invoked a lot of film-noir vibes  and I really did envision everything in black and white. I loved the abandoned setting of The Palace hotel, and while I actually hated Aidan's partner Sutty, appreciated what he and all the other characters did for the story. There were some great side stories in this book in addition to the main plot as well.

I actually was not aware at first that this was the second book in the series, but apart from a few conversations where I didn't understand what was being referenced, it was easily to jump into this as a standalone.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Crown Publishing for an advanced copy of this read! The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox is out now!

March 5, 2019

Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I'll start this by saying I completely missed that this was the second book in a series when I requested it. That being said, it was still very easy to figure out what was going on. Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney is a YA historical fiction blended with sci-fi (with a little bit of a retelling thrown in!) that is definitely different from anything on the market today.

It's the Victorian era in England, and Aggie is training to be a nurse. The hospital where she is completing her studies is controversial due to its research in Bio-Mechanicals: human robot hybrids. The hospital becomes aflutter when the Kaiser plans a visit hoping to pit his bio-mechanical soldier against British technology, but thus far nothing they have produced has been successful enough to face the challenge. Aggie doesn't like the focus placed on this research, and would instead rather help the average patients that walked through the door. But she gets trapped in the Bio-Mechanical research, like it or not, and soon discovers things she never would have imagined.

I liked the story fine, but nothing special jumped out to me. As unique as this was, I just didn't feel any attachment to the book or the characters. Between the sci-fi elements, the historical fiction setting, and the Oliver Twist retelling, I honestly thought this book was trying to do to too much. Two of these elements combined might have been more successful rather than trying to squeeze in all three. 

There were too many story lines to follow and too many points of view for my liking. I kept losing track of who each chapter was about, and with so many characters to care about I ended up not really caring about any of them at all. I don't think reading the first book would have made a difference for me in these opinions, as my struggles were more with the writing style and too much content, rather than not understanding the back story. This was one of those books that I couldn't wait to get through so I could read something else.

I will absolutely give credit where credit is due however, and I thought the world building in this book was phenomenal. I also appreciated Kwitney's inventiveness and creativity, even if it didn't quite hit it out of the park for me. All this being said, I do actually want to give the first book, Cadaver & Queen, a shot if I can fit it into my reading schedule, as I did like the overall premise and this may just be a case of "second book in a series slump."

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thank you to Inkyard Press for an advanced copy of this read! Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney is out now!

March 2, 2019

Barnes and Noble Book Haul Sale

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know about the Barnes and Noble Book Haul Sale happening right now! Barnes and Noble rarely has sales, so this is a great time to pick up both new release and backlist titles at a great price.

I went to two different stores to get everything I wanted, which meant two free bags! I love these bags so much more than the green ones with classic covers on them and was so excited for this perk. You get a free bag when you purchase three books from the sale.

Now for what I picked up!

Even though I keep telling myself I'm going to move away from YA, I couldn't help but pick up a couple of titles. I chose A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel, Anna and the Apocalypse by Katharine Turner with Barry Waldo, and The Similars by Rebecca Hanover.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I've been on a huge Hamilton kick lately, so I snagged I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott. I really wanted to grab The Hamilton Affair, but it was sold out at both stores I went to. 

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer has been on my wish list for ages, and I keep hearing a lot about The Black Prism by Brent Weeks, so I grabbed it on sale as well.

I really enjoy self-help nonfiction, and Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee caught my eye. Plus this book is gorgeous under the dust jacket-it's covered in confetti!

And finally, The Priory of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon was NOT in the sale but I have been so eager for it to come out I just had to add it to my haul. This book will be my Everest.

I'm so happy with what I was able to grab, and hope that Barnes and Noble continues offering this sale periodically! I'm excited to add these 8 books to my ever-growing TBR. The sale runs through March 4th so you still have time to add a few new books to your collection!

February 28, 2019

Making Reading More Magical for Little Ones

While I don't have any kids of my own, I know that many of my readers do. To this day, I credit the exposure I had to books as a child as the reason I am such a voracious reader today. I know that many of my friends' children sneer at reading when they could be playing video games instead. But here are a few ways to combat that and help make reading a more magical experience for the children in your life.

We all know the magic of delving deep into a new novel that is ready to test our emotions, senses and thoughts. Escaping to another enchanted world that is quite different from your own everyday life is simply unexplainable. The excitement of reading a new book will never get old to you, but what about the younger generation? Perhaps you have younger siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews or children of you own. You want to pass down the baton and let them know about the awesome adventures they can have by picking up a book. In the modern age children are becoming more and more enticed by gadgets, television and social media, but whatever happened to reading a good old fashioned book? The following ideas will help you to set a great example to youngsters in your life so that they can enjoy the magic of reading throughout their lives.

woman sitting while reading book
Audio Books
It can be quite a battle trying to get youngsters to read nowadays, not only because their video games are more appealing, but because some are struggling with learning difficulties. Children with dyslexia find it extremely overwhelming to look at a whole bunch of small words on a page. By introducing books on tape to these kids who are struggling to read, we can introduce books without the stress. They can follow along in their own time and enjoy the true meaning behind the story without getting frustrated. Reading should be accessible to everybody, especially those with special needs. This is an excellent way to give everyone the opportunity to get into brilliant books.
Choose Books For Their Age Range
Kids can easily become disengaged with books because they are too mature or babyish for them. Make sure you’re choosing a subject that is appropriate for their age group so that they have a better chance of getting drawn into the story. Their school will be able to provide you with book that are appropriate for their reading level and age group too.
Lead By Example
If we are all sitting around on our smartphones and browsing Netflix every evening, what do we expect the younger generation to do? When it comes to getting your kids to read more it is important to lead by example. When you sit down to read for half an hour, encourage the little ones around you to do the same. You will soon get into a routine and reading will become an everyday habit for all involved.

It is sad, but true that many people are misunderstanding the magic of reading, especially in the younger generations. Making reading accessible to everybody and enjoyable is one of the most important arts-related matters our society faces at the moment. So spread the joy of books and make reading more enticing to the people around you. The more of us that pick up a book, the more will soon follow suit. Everyone deserves to laugh, cry, and become absorbed into another fairy tale land within a story, so it’s time to make that possible right now.

Disclaimer: Partnered post that may contain affiliate links.

February 27, 2019

The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
If there was ever a book written just for me, it's this one. I was so excited when Karole reached out to me asking if I wanted a copy of her book, The Truth About Happily Ever After, because it sounded like the perfect book for me: a fluffy contemporary filled with Disney-inspired theme park magic. And it absolutely was. I do want to put a trigger warning on this for eating disorders, however.

Alyssa plays Cinderella at the famous Enchanted Dominion theme park. She loves her job, her long-distance boyfriend is about to come down for the summer, and everything seems perfect. Until suddenly it isn't. As Alyssa's fairy tale fantasy starts crashing down around her, she has to decide what is more important: the illusion of that fairy tale, or the joy that real life can bring.

Being a former cast member, this book spoke to me on so many levels! Even though I wasn't a character performer, I had many friends that were, and I experienced so many of the things mentioned in this book. While it definitely isn't 100% accurate in terms of cast member life, privileges, etc. it was very close. And I will say that the parts about character performers being under extremely intense scrutiny for appearance, weight, etc. is absolutely true. I really identified with Alyssa. From her love for Lilly Pulitzer and her sorority sisters (proud Alpha Gamma Delta alum here!), to her unwavering optimism and desire to stop at nothing to get what she has her heart set on, I saw myself in her from the very beginning. I loved watching her grow throughout the story, and just about cried at the ending!

I do think I would classify this as New Adult rather than Young Adult, since the main character and all her friends are college students rather than in high school, and there's a decent amount of sexual innuendo. This is actually great because I don't think there are nearly enough NA books and we need more!

I just couldn't put this one down, and flew through it as fast as my schedule would allow. This book was sugary sweet, and I know I will turn to Alyssa and the Enchanted Dominion again and again when I need a fun book to get me out of a reading slump.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Karole Cozzo for sending me a copy of this magical read! Be sure to pick up a copy!

February 25, 2019

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
So the irony with this book was that it arrived in a hurricane. This book about no water was physically soaked through by a tremendous rain storm. After several rounds with a blow dryer and placing it under a pile of heavy stuff to flatten out for a few months, I was finally able to get to Dry, a YA dystopian by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman!

In Dry, water has become a scarcity, and panic ensues when people realize that it is no longer readily available. Riots break out, and friends and families turn on each other as days go by. When Alyssa's parents set off to try to find water and don't return, Alyssa has to take control of the situation to ensure that she and her little brother survive.

Unfortunately I did not love this one. I think the Scythe series wrecked it for me, since that series was so good and I didn't think this one matched it in quality. Page after page I found myself cringing at the decisions these kids made. Many plot points in this book did not seem plausible to me at all, and overall it was more annoying than entertaining. I was pretty happy to be finished when it was over. 

I do think the concept was really good, and definitely something we could see happen in our lifetime. I also thought this was an interesting discourse on human nature, our survival instincts, and how we as a society handle disaster. But that wasn't enough to save the rating from the poor characters and plot line.

Also, this book made me hella thirsty.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman! This YA dystopian is out now!

February 21, 2019

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This YA contemporary was hugely popular about a year or so ago I think, but I never got around to reading it even though I had a copy. Lately I've been gravitating towards trying to alternate quick, fluffy reads with heavier thrillers, so I knew this one would be a good choice. What I did not know, however, is how much I would actually love this one. There is a big trigger warning on this book for suicide and suicidal thoughts that I do want to mention.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia follows teenager Eliza Mirk. On the surface, she appears to be a regular teenage girl. She hates school, she tends to keep to herself, and she spends all her time online. But the truth is that she is secretly the creator of a hugely popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. When Eliza comes face to face with a Monstrous Sea superfan and fanfiction writer in the new boy at her school, she is faced with the decision of whether or not to tell him who she really is.

This book was so amazing! I was invested in Eliza and her life from the very beginning. I loved the concept of her webcomic and getting to see snippets of the art and story throughout the book. But more importantly, I really appreciated how this book tackled mental illness. Eliza struggled with anxiety, and later panic attacks. Another main character also had some struggles that I can't detail too much without spoilers. The book also handled the issue of how intense online communities can be, and the pressure that online creators (and even just creators in general) face. 

If you have ever been part of a fandom, you will enjoy this read. If you've ever thought your are a loner and spend too much time online (*raises hand*), you will enjoy this read. If you love YA contemporaries with adorable romances and impossible-to-not-root-for characters, you will enjoy this read. I absolutely can't wait to pick up more of Zappia's work now. And there is even a serial novel highlighted in this book, The Children of Hypnos, that Zappia wrote that can be found online. This was a fantastic book, and I can definitely see myself revisiting it!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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 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" (

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!

January 17, 2019

The Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Just looking at the covers of these books immediately drew me in. But the stories themselves were so worth staying for. The Wayward Children series of novellas by Seanan McGuire has four books so far: Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Beneath the Sugar Sky, and In An Absent Dream. I tried to avoid spoilers, but as always, in describing multiple books in a series it is sometimes inevitable.

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
In Every Heart a Doorway, we are introduced to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. This is a school for children who have mysteriously disappeared to another world, only to return later and be deemed insane for their stories and desires to return to those worlds. Think falling down a rabbit hole or climbing through a dresser. Each world is the type of world the child is meant to be in, whether that is Nonsense or Logic based, Virtuous or Wicked, and when they return to our world after emerging from their rabbit hole, dresser drawer, etc. all they want to do is go back to where they perfectly fit in. 

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This first story follows Nancy as she gets to know her schoolmates and longs to return to her world, The Halls of the Dead. But when people start turning up dead at the school, the children have to fight to solve the mystery.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones follows twins Jack and Jill, who were prominent characters in the first book. This is almost a prequel of sorts, as the story follows the twins when they first find their world, The Moors. This one was definitely creepy and very dark, as The Moors is a very horror movie-esque world. I think this is my favorite out of the books so far.

Beneath the Sugar Sky takes place in a Nonsense world, Confection, that's basically a huge Candy Land board. This story centers around Rini, Sumi's (a character from the first book) daughter. Rini is on a mission to turn back time and save her land from the Queen of Cakes and enlists the help of the children at Eleanor's. This was my least favorite of the four, but that's really not saying much because I still really enjoyed it! We are introduced to some new characters and worlds in this book as well.

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
In An Absent Dream also seemingly functions as a prequel, telling Miss Lundy's story from when she was a child, back in the Goblin Market, and what led her to her strange condition today. I was getting serious Labyrinth vibes from this one!

I am so in love with this series. It has the perfect mix of fantasy and realism. The plots are full of adventure or mystery. The asexual, pansexual, and trans representation in these stories is out of this world. The writing is lyrically beautiful and immersive. I've seen this compared to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, but this series is so much more than that. 

These book covers are probably the most beautiful I have ever seen, and each is actually incredibly short, making it a series that is easy to binge-read over and over again! It looks like another book in the Wayward Children series, Come Tumbling Down, is set for release in 2020, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Every Heart a Doorway Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Down Among the Sticks and Bones Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Beneath the Sugar Sky Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

In An Absent Dream Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Overall Series Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars