June 19, 2017

"What kind of maniac travels in time?"

I'm pretty sure that everyone who loves to read has certain things that will make them automatically want to pick up a book. I call them book hooks - the topics or time periods or themes that are right up your alley and are practically guaranteed to make you add a book to your TBR pile. One of mine is Jane Austen.

But there comes a moment in every reader's life where you have to decide how committed you are to a book hook. For example, I love books about sisters but won't read a book solely for that aspect. However, Jane Austen is a different matter entirely. My obsession with her has led me to read numerous Austen retellings, a wide variety of non-fiction about her life and her works, and even a book with Jane as a vampire (which was pretty entertaining, actually). So, when I heard about The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn, I knew I was going to have to read it. After all, Jane Austen + time travel was a combination that totally piqued my interest - especially when the publicist said it was just so good!

In case you're worried, let me promise you that this book doesn't have Jane Austen traveling through time (because that concept would be asking for eyerolls). But what it does involve is even better: two researchers from the future travel back to London in 1815 in order to meet Jane, recover one of her unpublished novels, and learn as much as they can about the illness that ultimately killed her in 1817. Intriguing, right? Rachel Katzman is disaster-relief doctor and Liam Finucane is an actor-turned-scholar, but both are trained by the Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics on how to befriend and steal from Jane Austen herself. They aren't the first people to travel through time, but their journey holds special significance. And their mission will prove more difficult than they ever anticipated...

Honestly, so much could have gone wrong with this novel. And I have to admit that I kind of expected it to. I was intrigued by the summary when I started it, but I had pretty low expectations because I've been let down by so many Austen-related books before. That's the risk you take when you follow a book hook into uncharted territory. However, I'm so pleased to be able to say that The Jane Austen Project far exceeded my expectations - and is already one of my favorite reads of 2017! Now, let me tell you why.


1. It's not an Austen retelling.
Although I'll read almost anything Austen-related, I can't deny that I've gotten so sick of retellings of her novels. I think it's difficult to approach Austen's well-known stories in a way that doesn't feel predictable and actually brings something new to the table. Thankfully, The Jane Austen Project was so unique - an addition that felt fresh and surprising in all the best ways! If you want a new approach to Austen, this is it.

2. The inclusion of Jane Austen never felt like a gimmick.
In addition to retellings, I've read a few too many books where Jane Austen was a character and yet seemed wildly different than I'd ever imagine her or seemed like she was tossed in there as gimmick just to snag readers. That wasn't the case in this book! I loved that Austen wasn't the main character, but she wasn't sidelined either. Flynn's depiction of her seemed so close to how I like to picture her - intelligent, witty, and sharp-eyed.

3. The somewhat mysterious future was intriguing.
Rachel and Liam travel back to 1815, but they aren't leaving from our present day. Instead, they're leaving from a future where time travel exists. Although Flynn doesn't spend a ton of time discussing their world, she provides enough details that you can see the differences - and can almost imagine a novel dedicated to exploring the future she's created. Some readers may want more info about it, but it was enough for me.

4. The time travel element actually works.
Readers who love science fiction novels may find the explanation of time travel slightly lacking in the book, but I'm not sure because it's a genre and theme I rarely read. For me, the explanation answered my biggest questions without going into so much detail that I felt confused or overwhelmed. And I loved the reason behind their journey to the past - I totally believed that someone would travel back to recover a lost Austen novel!

5. 1815 actually felt right.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the setting. Flynn brought 1815 to life in all the ways I was hoping she would when I first started the book. I could tell how much research went into the novel because the time period felt so authentic. I have an above-average interest in those years due to my love of Austen, and yet I still found myself learning new things about that time and place. I could close my eyes and picture it all!

6. The Austen family was depicted in a believable way. 
Rachel and Liam befriend Jane Austen in this novel, but they also meet her sister Cassandra and several of her brothers. In fact, they initially develop a friendship with her brother Henry in order to gain an introduction to Jane herself! I really liked seeing the family dynamics, especially between Jane and Cassandra. I told you I'm drawn to stories about sisters! Meeting the family added a deeper sense of realism to Jane's world.

7. The theory on Jane's unknown medical condition was fascinating. 
If you're interested in Austen, you probably known there's a bit of a mystery surrounding her death. She died quite young (41) after an illness that began in 1816. Although details exist regarding her symptoms, it's impossible to know exactly what ailed her. The most common theory is Addison's disease, but other possibilities exist. But Flynn's Dr. Rachel Katzman suggests something entirely different, and I loved the theory!

8. I loved seeing how their journey disrupted history.
Rachel and Liam are tasked with traveling back in time and recovering a lost Austen novel while being as careful as possible not to change the past too much. Any disruption in the past - no matter how small - can have a profound impact on the future. It's one of the things I find so fascinating about books that incorporate time travel, and Flynn explores it to great effect in these pages. At the end you'll wonder - was it worth it?

9. Rachel Katzman was an excellent heroine and a great anchor for the story.
I've spent so much time talking about the setting and the Austens, but I've barely mentioned Rachel (and Liam, too). I enjoyed exploring the past through the lens of her perspective. I liked the way she mentally acknowledged the restrictions on women in the past without barging in and acting thoroughly modern. I liked the reasons she was driven to sign up for this mission and the way she struggled with aspects of it while there.

10. The ending left me wanting a sequel!
A part of me wanted just a little bit more of Rachel's story at the end because I would have loved a firmer resolution to a particular relationship, but I wasn't disappointed or frustrated. It's just the nosy part of me that wants to know more! However, Rachel's references to The Brontë Project made me long for a companion novel with that time period and family. There are so many possibilities that could be explored!

Can you tell just how much I loved reading this book? As an Austen lover, I can be an easy sell but a tough critic when it comes to books involving her. Thankfully, this one didn't disappoint. Truthfully, it was delight! I could nitpick a little on the romance, but everything else more than made up for it. I hoped The Jane Austen Project would live up to its eye-catching cover and unique premise, but it truly surpassed them and surprised me every step of the way! Flynn's well-researched writing brought this world and these characters to life in an unforgettable way, and I highly recommend picking up this book if you love all things Austen.

So Quotable
"When you dislike someone, and yet you're attracted, your mind does strange things. Every good feature becomes another strike against them."
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.
Released: May 9, 2017 | Publisher: HarperCollins; Harper Perennial
Pages: 384 pages | Source & Format: Publisher; ARC

June 9, 2017

Got a secret. Can you keep it?

Have you ever judged a book by its cover? Let's be real - who hasn't? I'm totally guilty of this cliché. A gorgeous cover can make me pick up a book with an iffy summary or bad reviews, and an ugly cover can make me turn up my nose at a book that interests me or was highly recommended. I try to curb the judgements based solely on looks, however, because I don't want to miss out on something great just because I hate the cover.

But the combination of a meh summary and an ugly cover is basically an automatic rejection... even if someone recommends it to me. And I'd admitting to this because The Mothers by Brit Bennett falls into that category for me. I kept seeing it pop up in magazines and 'Best of' lists year but dismissed it. I assumed it was too literary (not the genre for me) and hated the cover regardless. Then, Cassie read it and loved it. She didn't specifically recommend it to me, but she definitely piqued my interest when she talked about her experience with the audiobook. I moved it to my mental "Maybe" list and figured I'd eventually forget about it. But when I saw it at the library one day, I picked it up and read the first page. The next thing I knew, I was rushing to check it out because the writing enthralled me.

The Mothers is set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, and it begins with a secret:
“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around in our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”
That's all it took for me to take the book home with me. I immediately wanted to know more. Nadia Turner is seventeen, mourning the recent death of her mother, and rebelling against her father. She starts sneaking around with the pastor's son, twenty-one-year-old Luke Sheppard. Their secret relationship has far-reaching consequences when it results in a pregnancy and subsequent cover-up. The years pass, but Nadia and Luke are forever haunted by the choices they made that summer. It explores love and friendship, family and community, resentment and forgiveness in an unforgettable way.

There are so many things I could praise about this book, but I'd be remiss not to start with the writing. It's what helped me overcome my initial dislike of the cover and my hesitation to read it due to some of the subject matter. I have a hard time believing this is Bennett's debut novel - she writes with such maturity and depth! I bookmarked so many quotes in this book that resonated with me. Some were small gems, like:
Could you be nostalgic for a friendship that wasn't over yet or did the fact that you were nostalgic mean that it already was?
And then there were whole passages that stood out:
“But we were girls once, which is to say, we have all loved an ain’t-shit man. No Christian way of putting it. There are two types of men in the world: men who are and men who ain’t about shit. [...] A girl nowadays has to get nice and close to tell if her man ain't shit and by then, it might be too late. We were girls once. It's exciting, loving someone who can never love you back. Freeing, in its own way. No shame in loving an ain't-shit man, long as you get it out your system good and early. A tragic woman hooks into an ain't-shit man, or worse, lets him hook into her. He will drag her until he tires. He will climb atop her shoulders and her body will sag from the weight of loving him. Yes, those are the ones we worry about.”
Because I heard so much buzz for this book, I imagined that it would be too literary or too pretentious for me. But it wasn't, and I was so pleasantly surprised! The characters were well developed, nuanced and memorable. Nadia, Luke and Aubrey (Nadia's best friend) all played important roles in the story, and I was interested in each of them. Bennett was able to create characters who were sympathetic, even when I disagreed with their choices, and I think much of that stems from how emotionally invested I was in their lives.

I believe the title of The Mothers partly comes from a literary device used throughout the novel: a collective voice that represented the women of Nadia, Luke and Aubrey's church community. These "mothers" become somewhat of a Greek chorus - commenting on what was happening and offering additional insight. I have a feeling it won't work for everyone, but I actually loved that aspect. Many of my favorite quotes came from those parts of the novel! But I think there's another layer to the title, and it stems from the fact that Aubrey and Nadia are both essentially motherless. Nadia's mother committed suicide, and Aubrey lives with her sister since her mother cares more about her whatever boyfriend she's currently shacking up with than she does about her own daughter. And so, the book explores coming-of-age without this central female figure.

I loved that it took place over a longer span of time than I'd anticipated because it allowed you to see these characters come into their own. Instead of following them through one season and only seeing the immediate consequences of their actions, you were able to see the long-term repercussions and the what if? questions that haunted each character. The ending was unexpected, but in a good way for me. I actually appreciated the openness of it, even though that sometimes bothers me. This is a book I'll definitely re-read!

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that The Mothers took all of my preconceived notions and turned them upside down. If I ever need a reminder to be careful judging a book by its cover, this is the review I'll return to. I thought I'd hate this book, and I ended up loving it. So, I was clearly wrong in my snap judgment because Bennett's writing blew me away. It tackled serious and heavy issues without feeling bleak, and I can tell that Brit Bennett is a born storyteller. She has a gift, and I'm so glad she's sharing it with the world.

So Quotable
“A daughter grows older and draws nearer to her mother, until she gradually overlaps her like a sewing pattern. But a son becomes some irreparably separate thing.”
Published: October 2016 | Publisher: Penguin; Riverhead Books
Pages: 278 pages | Source & Format: Borrowed; Hardcover

June 6, 2017

May 2017: Recap + On My Shelves

May was a special month full of celebrations, adventures and sweet memories. I had a hard time choosing my top four loves for the month because of it! I hope that's a sign of good things to come this summer.

1. My Baby Turned One - I can't believe that my baby is a one year old! This boy has been such a blessing and a bright spot in our lives. He's changed our family for the better, and I'm so thankful that God chose us to be his parents. We had a Puppy Paw-ty to celebrate, and it was a hit! He is one loved little boy and so worth the wait.

2. Visiting the Zoo + Aquarium - On my boy's first birthday, Nick and I took him to the Atlanta Zoo for the first time. He loved pointing to the elephants and pandas, but I think the carousel was his favorite part. Then, we took him to the Georgia Aquarium on my brother's birthday, and he loved getting up close to the glass.

3. Family Photos + Walking - We had family photos taken at the beginning of May, and they turned out amazing! I am so thankful for the talented photographer, Michele Zakeri, who captured our boy's personality so perfectly. And I decided to do two-for-one with this love because the photo worked: we have a walker! 

4. Little Bitty Kitty - At the very end of May, my brother finally got to pick up his brand-new Bengal cat. Her name is Bitty, and she's a beauty. I'm not a cat person, and even I can't help but love her! She's still shy and getting used to her new home, but my boy already obsessed with her. He can't wait to be her friend.

Read 7 Books | Favorites:
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
The Memory Book by Lara Avery
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
“Only you can decide what breaks you, Cursebreaker. Only you.”
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

“I believe that everything happened, exactly the way it had to... so I could find you.”
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

“Then your mom forced you to join a club, and debate team was the first table at the fair.
(I wish it were more epic than that.) Anyway, everything changed. The brain you used to employ
memorizing species of aliens you used instead to memorize human thought, events, ways of thinking
that connected your tiny house in the mountains to a huge timeline, one just as full
of injustice and triumph and greed as the stories you craved, but one that was real.”
The Memory Book by Lara Avery

“We lingered inside our fragile bubble of happiness, the kind of happiness that sits
on top of melancholy as easily as icing on a cake. I didn't want to leave it.”
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
In May, I started off the month with my April 2017 recap. Then, I talked about my recent binge read of The Bone Season, The Mime Order and The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon. Things started off a little shaky, but I was in love by the end! Then, I talked about a duology that I fell in love with recently: Disruption and Corruption by Jessica Shirvington. I thought I was tired of dystopian novels, but these books definitely reminded me of why I loved the genre. I got to write one of my favorite yearly posts: ten reads for summer getaways! I had so much fun pairing five summer destinations with the books I'd want to read there and with some adorable bags + goodies. Finally, I recapped what I read in April with my Quick Lit: April 2017 post. 
1. 17 Books Everyone Will Be Talking About This Summer and The 2017 Summer Reading Guide by Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy - Are you surprised to see posts from Anne Bogel on my list? I'm in love with all of the content on her blog, but the book lists definitely top the list. I always look forward to her reading guides!

2. Teaching Them to 'Plot Twist' by Ashley from Under the Sycamore - I've been following Ashley's blog for a little while for the photography tips (learning on how to use my fancy camera is on my never-ending to do list) but had to bookmark this sweet post about teaching her kids to be flexible and go with the flow.

3. Why I Was Wrong About the Planner Life by Kelly from Belle of the Literati - Did I bookmark partly so I could gloat and say "I TOLD YOU SO!" to Kelly? Hmm... maybe. All joking aside, I loved having her visit and being able to introduce her to my newfound Happy Planner obsession. I love being her life coach!

Favorite Album #1: After Laughter by Paramore
I was so pleasantly surprised by this album! I was a huge fan of Paramore in college,
but I didn't love their last album. Thankfully, this one is a winner! I can't stop listening to it.

Favorite Album #2: Harry Styles by Harry Styles 
I never really listened to One Direction, aside from when they came on the radio,
but I heard so much hype for this album that I had to check it out. And it really is great!

Anne with an E (2017) starring Amybeth McNaulty - I couldn't wait for this show to hit Netflix, even though I had a feeling it wouldn't compare to the book or the original series. I enjoyed it, but only if I mentally separated it from my Anne. It takes a lot of liberties with the source material - some I could understand and some I found completely baffling. I loved many of the actors, however, and am still glad I watched it. 

Girlboss (2017) starring Britt Robertson and Ellie Reed - I wasn't interested in this show until Cassie mentioned that she was hooked on it, so I decided to give it a shot. And my goodness, talk about an unexpected obsession! I loved watching this series and thought it was so well done. Despite the fact that the heroine was often so unlikeable, I was still rooting for her. How? I have no idea. Maybe it was the magic of Britt Robertson.

La La Land (2016) starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling - I was so hyped for this movie but never got a chance to see in in theaters. When Emma Stone won the Oscar for Best Actress, it just added to my excitement. I loved these two in Crazy Stupid Love, so I had high hopes for the pairing. Unfortunately, I was sooo bored watching it. I'm not a huge musical person, which might have been part of the problem. So disappointing!

Cristela Alonzo: Lower Classy (2017), Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King (2017), Katherine Ryan: In Trouble (2017), and Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (2016) - I have no idea how I ended up binging a bunch of stand-up comics. It's so far from what I normally watch! My favorite was Hasan Minhaj, which I'll re-watch in the future. Ali Wong was my least favorite (though I loved parts) because I skipped a bunch that was just too vulgar. And I laughed the hardest at Katherine Ryan's line: Yeah, but you aren't normal... you're ordinary. It's different.” 

Hot Off the Press: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas, The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein, Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane and Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Bookstore Browsing: Here Goes Nothing by Kendra Broekhuis and The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd

Alexa: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord, The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty and When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

For Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn and The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech

Kindle: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas, Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker and The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

NetGalley: Serenity Harbor by RaeAnne Thayne

May 26, 2017

Quick Lit: April 2017

One of my worst blogging habits is my inability to write about what I've read in a timely manner. So, I'm trying something new: recapping what I read at the end of each month and linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy. I feel like "traditional" reviews have declined in popularity, although I'll still be writing some every month, so I'm hoping this will be a fun way to share what I'm reading. The exception will be review books that I can't discuss yet! 

Does it count as "timely" if I'm writing about April reads at the end of May? Probably not. I don't know why I kept dragging my feet when it came to writing this post... If you missed it, I recently reviewed The Bone Season, The Mime Order and The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon and Disruption and Corruption by Jessica Shirvington. 

And in the next week or so, I should have reviews up for two additional April reads soon - The Mothers by Brit Bennett and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. 

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES BY SARAH J. MAAS | This was my third time reading this book, and it's so interesting how my feelings about it alter with each reading. In some ways, I got to approach it with fresh eyes because I read it in a different format (audio!) and have new insight after the events in the sequel. I loved seeing all the clues included, and I got to pat myself on the back for spotting some of them in my very first read. I still feel like the pace is uneven - the plot goes so slow until the portion under the mountain! Maybe that's because I knew what I had to look forward to in A Court of Mist and Fury? That being said, I So Loved It!

A COURT OF MIST AND FURY BY SARAH J. MAAS | After finishing ACOTAR, I continued my audio re-read by queuing up the second book. The narrator, Jennifer Ikeda, did such an excellent job bringing the characters to life. Although it was a re-read, I still felt the tension, the romance, and the raised stakes while I was reading! I adore the Inner Circle and the Night Court (who doesn't?!) and just lose myself in this world with every turn of the page. However, I'm not a fan of the sexual content, personally, and would recommend it with reservations for that aspect alone. But I have to say I'm So Obsessed With It overall - because I am!

ALEX, APPROXIMATELY BY JENN BENNETT | I hadn't read anything by Bennett before, but I grabbed this one from the library because I kept seeing people talk about it. It's basically a YA version of You've Got Mail! Bailey "Mink" Rydell decides to live with her dad in California - partly as an escape and partly to be closer to the movie geek she met online, Alex. She takes a job at a museum, butts heads with the security guard and discovers life (and love) is so much messier than the movies. I loved the banter, the swoons and the way Bailey grows in a new environment. I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't known Alex's identity, but I still So Liked It.

THE SECRET BY JULIE GARWOOD | I've been hesitant to read the romance genre because there are aspects of it that I know won't work for me as a reader, but I have a few friends whose recommendations I'll trust. This book is one that Kelly and Alexa both love with the promise of a strong female friendship and a swoonworthy love story. While I liked a lot of the elements in it, especially the setting, the romance just didn't work for me. I had major issues with the alpha hero and the way the heroine interacted with him, which was a bummer. I was So Okay With It for the most part, but I did love the friendship and finding out more about midwifery at the time. 

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER BY KATHERINE CENTER | Unfortunately, I hated pretty much everything about this book. Heroine Jenny Harris' fiancé takes off the day before she goes into labor with their child, and it propels her into a life she never imagined. I expected to relate to her somewhat since I'm a relatively new mom, too, but OH MY WORD, I just wanted to rage at her. She needs a Get-A-Grip Friend in her life! Think of the most annoying, whiny, "here's every horrific detail about raising a baby" new mom that you know... Jenny is worse. The plot was a total bore, and there was way more telling than showing. I'm bummed to say I So Over It

PURPLE HEARTS BY TESS WAKEFIELD | Cassie, a struggling singer/songwriter, is drowning in medical bills after she's diagnosed with diabetes. She approaches a friend in the Army about a marriage of convenience for the military benefits, but he declines. But one of his friends, Luke, overhears and volunteers instead. I liked that chapters alternated between Cassie and Luke. However, as the reader, I knew more about Luke than Cassie did, but it ended up making me sympathize with him and have very little patience for her. I wasn't super invested in them together, but I still found myself totally caught up in the book. So, I'd say I So Liked It!*

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

May 23, 2017

Have You Booked a Trip?

There's something about summer that just calls for an adventure. I don't know if it's the warm weather or the feeling in the air, but I start dreaming about packing my bags for a new destination. And if you're a bookworm, you're probably familiar with the age-old question: WHAT BOOKS WILL I BRING? It's a struggle trying to decide 1) how many books I'll pack and 2) what books I'll be in the mood for while I'm there!

It's challenging to guess what I'll want to read, although I can typically predict the type of book that's most likely to catch my eye. But I do love dreaming about the perfect place to read my books! So, every year I put together a post of "themed bags" where I pair summer getaway spots with the books I hope to read while I'm there. Whether I'm at the beach or just in my backyard, here are ten books that will be in my bag this summer.

I want to read something engaging at the beach. Because I'm surrounded by people, I need the book to hold my attention. I definitely don't want a book that requires my undivided attention. After all, you never know when you'll want to grab a snack, take a dip in the water, go for a walk or watch the families nearby. So, ideally, I want it to be easy to put down and pick back up without missing a beat.

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee is about a teen who uses her sensitivity to smells to mix perfumes that help others fall in love. It sounds utterly charming! On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins is the story of two sisters who are drawn closer together by loss. It sounds a little heavier, but I'm drawn to the complicated family dynamics. I'm hoping that both will have the perfect balance of levity and depth!

find that loot: towel | sunscreen | lemonade | speaker | bag

While I'd probably choose the beach first, there are definitely benefits to visiting the mountains in the summer! There's something to be said for the cooler temperatures and quieter days. And unless you're traveling with a big group, there will probably be fewer people, too. You'll find me sipping coffee in my slippers on the back deck, so I'd probably grab a book that's longer (or slower) since there aren't as many distractions. 

In The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during WWI is brought together with an American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947. And The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech is about a talented singer whose past comes back to haunt her when she's on the brink of making it big in Nashville. I can't wait to explore the secrets, drama and (hopefully) strong female characters.

find that loot: slippers | mug | nail polish | backpack | fitbit

At the lake, you'll find me in any number of places: the boat out on the water, sitting on the dock, or swinging in a hammock (if there's one around). Unless it's a slow ride on a pontoon, I likely won't take a book on the boat. I'm not risking the water damage! But on the dock, I'm up for something with a hint of mystery - buried secrets, shocking discoveries, etc. - that will keep me turning the pages until I can find out what happens next.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson is about a woman who uncovers a dangerous secret when she returns to her childhood hometown to put her grandmother's affairs in order and tell her family that she's pregnant. And The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein features a beloved character from Code Name Verity - and the summary mentions an accident, a disappearance and being framed for a crime. Both should have me hooked!

find that loot: lip balm | bag | sunglasses | hair ties | swimsuit top & bottom

It's not always possible (or affordable) to travel to my heart's content. That's when I turn to my backyard! When I need some fresh air, a little sun or a new perspective, I can just step right outside for a little refresh. Plus, you can just head right back inside when the air conditioning is calling or the bugs get to be too much. And I don't have to worry about predicting my reading mood because my bookshelves are just right there!

Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy is a memoir - a journey of her first year in a new house. It seems fitting to read about creating a home while sitting right outside of my own. And What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum is the story of an unlikely friendship between a popular girl and socially isolated boy. I adore this author's books, and I'll read this one on my porch because I won't be able to wait any longer once it arrives.

find that loot: hat | ice cream | water bottle | bag | lip balm

When we moved into our home five years ago, I remember being thrilled that we had a neighborhood pool. But as more and more homes have been built, the pool has filled up faster than I would have ever imagined. With little kids running around, music playing and adults chatting, it's not always the best environment for reading. I need the same kind of books I'd pick up at the beach - engaging and enjoyable. 

Serenity Harbor by RaeAnne Thayne is the newest release in a contemporary romance series that I fell in love with last year. I've grown to love the little town of Haven Point and the new couple introduced with each book. I expect this one will be no different! When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is a YA romantic comedy about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married. It looks adorable!

What books will be in your bag this summer?
Any trips already booked?

This post was inspired by this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish
Here's a look back at my "summer bags" through the years: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

May 22, 2017

"I know that you know."

I first read Disruption by Jessica Shirvington at the end of 2016 and loved it. I got a little burnt out on dystopian fiction a few years ago, but something about this premise made me want to pick it up. In this world, smartphone technology evolves into something called M-Bands, bracelets that promised to make like easier but have instead begun to control it. Some of its functions will sound familiar - it can monitor your heart rate, allow you to pay for purchases, track your location, and so on. But it can also rate your relationships with other people, and everyone fears negative ratings because getting too many has dangerous consequences. 

Two years ago, Maggie Stevens watched her family fall apart. Now, she's determined to make things right... and Quentin Mercer, heir to the M-Corp empire, is crucial to her plan. I really loved the fast pace, the relatable world highlighting the scary potential impact of technology, and the romance that used one of my favorite tropes. I went it with low expectations and finished anxious to find out what would happen next. Since the sequel came out this year, I re-read the first book and loved it just as much as I did the first time around. That's one of the best moments with a book!

Maggie is a totally kickass heroine, and she won't let anything (or anyone) stand in her way. That means she isn't afraid to make decisions that hurt people, but I liked her single-minded focus on her goal. However, I loved the way Quentin disrupted it. He's the symbol of everything she hates - heir to the company that ruined her life and destroyed her family. So, she initially feels very little guilt about using him for her own purposes. But the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes she may have misjudged him. It's an eye-opening journey for both characters: Maggie as she gets to know the boy behind the name and Quentin as he discovers the reality behind the façade. This was definitely one of my favorite aspects of the book.

I was a huge fan of the plot, too. It took me a few chapters to get into at first, but I was hooked before long. Following Maggie on every step of her journey was an adrenaline rush, especially when I got to the end! There were some twists and turns I never expected. The first time I read it, I was so mad that I couldn't immediately start the next book. But thankfully, you won't have that experience since Corruption came out earlier this year!

I started it as soon as I finished my re-read of Disruption, and I was so pleased with the way everything happened. These books are a duology, which is actually perfect for this story. While I would have loved more time with these characters, I think the pace and plot benefited from the fact that it was just two books. I hadn't seen certain things coming in the first book, and it's always exciting when a book really surprises me. I won't say a word about the plot of this one - but I'm happy to report that it was intense, thrilling and still surprising! The romance was even better (SWOON), the stakes were higher and the ending was really satisfying.

If I wasn't afraid to spoil anything, I'd tell you more about Corruption. But I'd hate to ruin the experience, so you'll just have to trust me when I tell you it's a worthy follow-up to a fantastic beginning and an excellent conclusion in its own right! I love that these books surprised me - both with the content and with the way I felt about them. It's a joy to discover a favorite in an unexpected place! I'd definitely recommend this duology.

So Quotable
“But people should have the right to become whatever they’re going to be before they are judged and sentenced.”
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.
Released: October 2016; March 2017 (US) | Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 416 pages; 448 pages | Source & Format: Publisher; Paperback

May 11, 2017

A Moment. A Choice. A Revolution.

Can you think of one book that you just had to buy as soon as it came and yet still haven't read? And I'm not talking about a few months passing... more like years. If you're a blogger, there's a good chance you can think of a lot of books that fall into that category. For me, The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon would be one of the first that came to mind if someone asked me that question.

I bought it around the time it was released - in hardcover, on Kindle when it was $1.99 and then added the audio edition for a couple extra dollars. Y'all, I basically owned three copies of a book I hadn't even read yet. And yes, I know how that makes me sound. I never said self-control was my strong suit! There was so much hype when it was released with news of Shannon's seven-book deal drawing comparisons to J.K. Rowling,  and I didn't want a repeat of my "I didn't read them until they were all published" experience with the Harry Potter books. I wanted to be in the know!

But every time I started it, I set it aside for later. I'd read a few pages, decide it wasn't what I was in the mood for and promise myself that I'd come back to it soon. The next thing I knew, the third book was being released. Kelly and Alexa had been begging me to finally read it, and I figured there was a good chance I'd enjoy it since they both did. But I kept putting it off until I got an email from Little Shop of Stories saying that Samantha Shannon would be in town for a book signing. At that point, I realized I had to finally start this series. Shannon is from England, which meant this event would probably be my only chance to meet her. If I ended up loving the series, I didn't want to kick myself for having missed her! Within a week, I'd finished The Bone Season, The Mime Order and The Song Rising and was desperate to learn what would happen next.

For the first 55% of The Bone Season, I was liking it but slightly mystified by all the love it had received. It was creative and interesting, sure, but it was also overwhelming and confusing. The terminology alone made me feel like I was reading a book written in another language. I just kept moving forward, turning the pages and wondering if any of it would ever make sense to me. And then, there was a shift. The pace picked up, the plot became more engaging and the characters took center stage. Suddenly, I was hooked.

Then, I immediately picked up The Mime Order. Paige returns with a vengeance in the second book. The world and terminology were still a little confusing for me at times, but I found myself so much more immersed in the story. I couldn't wait to find out if - and how - Paige would accomplish her goal. Plus, of course, WHO might help her (and I think we all know who I was hoping to see...). This series seemed to just keep getting better and better! The pace is sometimes uneven, but I didn't have a problem with it. There's a lot of character development in this installment - for Paige and for several secondary characters - and even more world building. I loved it, but the plot does occasionally slow down because of it.

And finally, I raced through The Song Rising. There are things I love about each book in the series, but I think this one is my favorite so far! At her signing, Shannon talked about how she'd always wondered about the larger world in most dystopian fiction. For example, how did the rest of the world react to the Hunger Games in Panem? And this is the book where you see that question explored. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about going beyond London before I started reading, but now I'm sold. The idea of a global dystopia is so fascinating, and I have no doubt Shannon will continue to surprise me! I love the scope of this world, the higher stakes, the fast pace, the complex characters and the dilemmas they face.

Shannon also talked about how books 1-4 in the series have their own arc vs. books 5-7, which makes me both nervous and excited (nervocited?). It reminds me a lot of the shift in tone in the Harry Potter series after the fourth book. But oh goodness, I don't know if my heart can take the "jawdropping ending" she's got planned. Regardless, I look forward to finding out where she takes Paige next. I was a little late to the series, but I definitely consider myself a fan now! If you like the idea of a dystopian fantasy with a global perspective, this is definitely a series you should consider. It's confusing at first, but it's worth it in the end!

So Quotable
“Knowledge is dangerous. Once you know something, you can't get rid of it. You have to carry it. Always.” — The Bone Season

“Words are everything. Words give wings even to those who have been stamped upon, broken beyond all hope of repair.” — The Mime Order

“Never allow yourself to believe you should be silent.” — The Song Rising
Released: August 2013; January 2015; March 2017 | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 466 pages; 510 pages; 363 pages | Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
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