Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Elizas

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

The Elizas
Saras Shepard
Expected publication date: April 17, 2018
When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness.

Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it?

The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

TV Shows I'm Obsessed With Lately #5

Hmm, am I watching TOO much TV lately?  Here are some more shows I've been watching...

Tyra. Is. Back.  I used to watch America's Next Top Model religiously, but I haven't seen it in so long!  I decided to try it out again this cycle, with Tyra Banks returning after leaving for a year.  The drama, the cattiness, the photos - I'm obsessed.

Future Man is a comedy about a janitor who is recruited by two resistance fighters from the future to help save the world.  If you're not easily offended, you'll probably love this one, too - it's raunchy, it's outrageous, but it's so fun!  And it stars Josh Hutcherson and Eliza Coupe, both of whom I love.

So, 9-1-1 doesn't have the most original premise (it focuses on the EMTs, police officers, and firefighters of Los Angeles), but it's so good and has a great cast.  I especially love Connie Britton as a 9-1-1 operator who is also dealing with a mother with early onset Alzheimer's.

Have you seen any of these?  What are you watching lately?

Monday, February 19, 2018

5 Historical Fiction Books About First Ladies

It's Presidents Day in the United States, and I thought it would be fun to change things up a bit and put together a list of historical fiction novels about the women beside the men, the First Ladies! All blurbs are from Goodreads.

 Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini (2013)

In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White House, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.

In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of applicants to be her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first her son, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the nation and the world. 

The Secret Letters of Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy by Wendy Leigh (2003)

The Secret Letters is a thrilling, compulsive novel with a unique premise: What if Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy---the two most iconic women of our time---had met and begun a secret correspondence?

A compelling page-turner set against the glittering backdrop of Hollywood and Washington during the 1950s and 1960s, The Secret Letters presents Marilyn and Jackie as you have never seen them before. As the story unfolds, we discover the two legends, the wife and the mistress, as friends and enemies, both in love with the same man---Jack Kennedy.

Author Wendy Leigh has created a daring concept and delivers it in fascinating detail. Each letter is rich with factual research on both women, the turbulent era in which they lived and loved, and the people who touched their lives.

Dolley by Rita Mae Brown (1994)

She had the president's ear and the nation's heart.

She's the wife of the fourth president of the United States; a spirited charmer who adores parties, the latest French fashions, and the tender, brilliant man who is her husband. But while many love her, few suspect how complex Dolley Madison really is.

Only in the pages of her diary—as imagined by novelist Rita Mae Brown—can Dolley fully reveal herself. And there we discover the real first lady—impulsive, courageous, and wise—as she faces her harshest trial: in 1814, the United States is once more at war with mighty Britain, and her beloved James is the most hated man in America.

From the White House receptions she gaily presides over to her wild escape from a Washington under siege, Dolley gives us a legend, made warmly human. For there has never been a first lady so testedèor, one who came through the fire so brilliantly.

Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini (2015)

In 1844, Missouri belle Julia Dent met dazzling horseman Lieutenant Ulysses S Grant. Four years passed before their parents permitted them to wed, and the groom’s abolitionist family refused to attend the ceremony.

Since childhood, Julia owned as a slave another Julia, known as Jule. Jule guarded her mistress’s closely held twin secrets: She had perilously poor vision but was gifted with prophetic sight. So it was that Jule became Julia’s eyes to the world.
And what a world it was, marked by gathering clouds of war. The Grants vowed never to be separated, but as Ulysses rose through the ranks—becoming general in chief of the Union Army—so did the stakes of their pact. During the war, Julia would travel, often in the company of Jule and the four Grant children, facing unreliable transportation and certain danger to be at her husband’s side.

Yet Julia and Jule saw two different wars. While Julia spoke out for women—Union and Confederate—she continued to hold Jule as a slave behind Union lines. Upon the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Jule claimed her freedom and rose to prominence as a businesswoman in her own right, taking the honorary title Madame. The two women’s paths continued to cross throughout the Grants’ White House years in Washington, DC, and later in New York City, the site of Grant’s Tomb.

Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert (2016)

When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok—Hick—is assigned to cover Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1932 campaign, the two women become deeply involved. Their relationship begins with mutual romantic passion, matures through stormy periods of enforced separation and competing interests, and warms into an enduring, encompassing friendship documented by 3300 letters.

Set during the chaotic years of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War, Loving Eleanor reveals Eleanor Roosevelt as a complex, contradictory, and entirely human woman who is pulled in many directions by her obligations to her husband and family and her role as the nation's First Lady. Hick is revealed as an accomplished journalist, who, at the pinnacle of her career, gives it all up for the woman she loves. Then, as Eleanor is transformed into Eleanor Everywhere, First Lady of the World, Hick must create her own independent, productive life. Loving Eleanor is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see, celebrating the depth and durability of women's love.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: Miss You

Miss You
Kate Eberlen
Published April 4, 2017 (originally published 2016)
Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven't met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .

Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can't get it out of her head, even though she's in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever - but not in the way she expects.

Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.

For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.

Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there's no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there? - from Goodreads
Miss You is the tale of Tess and Gus, but it's also a story about missed connections, family, and identity.

The approach to this story is unique.  This isn't a second-chance romance, it's not "the one that got away."  It's the stories of two people and how they finally connect with each other, after random meetings and near-misses over a period of 16 years.  The reader sees everything leading up to the beginning of their relationship and how they got to that point, with the twist that they've actually come across each other before.  It's an interesting look at fate and makes you wonder if all the people you come across on a daily basis will later have some greater meaning in your life.

The book switches back and forth between the points of view of Tess and Gus.  It's basically two stories in one, and each was fairly interesting enough that it could have been a stand-alone book.  Tess and Gus first cross paths in Florence, Italy, seeing each other at a church and later on the street.  However, they don't really talk and each returns to their own lives.  Gus goes on to medical school, while Tess' plans for college are put on hold after her mother passes away, leaving Tess to take care of her younger sister, Hope (their father is basically useless).

One thing I enjoyed a lot was seeing the parallels between their lives.  Both Tess and Gus are dealing with grief (Tess with the loss of her mother and Gus with the loss of his older brother).  Neither are living the lives they want to.  Tess feels responsible for her sister, especially after she's diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and I felt for her.  She made so many sacrifices for her family.  Gus, on the other hand, I had less sympathy for.  He's kind of awkward and timid, afraid to tell his parents that he doesn't really want to go medical school, yet he goes through with it all anyway.  He's like a bystander in every area of his life.  Both Tess and Gus are in various relationships that are each problematic in their own way.  Neither are particularly happy, which led to a somewhat melancholy feel over the whole book.

I did have a couple issues with the book.  I felt there was far too much infidelity, in both the stories.  It was a little disappointing that the plot hinged on cheating.  Also, I wasn't crazy about the ending.  It went on a bit too long and I didn't think the characters acted consistently with the rest of the story.  A much simpler ending would have gone a long way.

3.5 stars

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Try It, You Might Like It #8: Science

"Try it, you might like it" - it's what someone says when they present you with some food you've never had before or your mom wants you to try on some clothes she picked out for you.  I'm using it here on the blog as inspiration to choose books in genres I don't normally read; to branch out from my reading comfort zones; and to maybe find some new favorites!

Wow, I haven't done one of these in forever!  Over Christmas, I was talking to my sister and brother-in-law about books and how I was looking for something new and different to read.  My BIL suggested Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson (2017).

I was a bit leery.  Science fiction is one thing, but actual science?  And astrophysics at that?  Science and math were not my best subjects in school (I only passed calculus by reading over my twin sister's shoulder).  I was worried that this book would just make me feel stupid, but my BIL assured me it would not.  Deciding to trust him on this, I took a chance on it - and I'm so glad I did!

In Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Tyson has compiled a short book touching on the major areas of his field.  I wouldn't say this book "dumbs down" the science - there were definitely sections I could have used more background or definitions - but it does give an overview on various subjects explained in a more approachable way, like bringing in comparisons to dancing or cooking, for instance.  Tyson's dry humor kept the book from getting too textbook-y and made me chuckle a few times (like when he calls dark matter our "frenemy").

I have to admit, the first couple chapters were not my cup of tea.  He starts out with some of the most abstract topics, like dark matter and dark energy.  I was more than a little confused.  But as the book went on, I became more and more interested.  Tyson talks about different types of telescopes; why the sphere is the most common shape found in the universe; and the various types of matter found in our own galaxy.  I even started reading some of it out loud to my husband.

Some of the things in the book just blew my mind; these definitely aren't topics I think about on a daily basis - how the building blocks of the universe are smaller than you can even imagine; the sheer size, scale, and even age of our own galaxy, let alone the universe; how science has come forward in leaps and bounds in such a short period of time.  It's just astonishing the things we know now, compared to even 10 years ago, and new discoveries are being made all the time.  Tyson freely admits that there are so many things we still don't understand, and his last chapter reflecting on the role science plays in society is particularly inspiring.

I may have said before that I'm not a science person, but this is one book I would gladly read again and again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Hotel on Shadow Lake

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

Hotel on Shadow Lake
Daniela Tully
Expected publication date: April 10, 2018
When Maya was a girl in Germany, her grandmother was everything to her: teller of magical fairy tales, surrogate mother, best friend. Then, shortly after Maya’s sixteenth birthday, her grandmother disappeared without a trace, leaving Maya with only questions to fill the void.

Twenty-seven years later, her grandmother’s body is found in a place she had no connection to: the Montgomery Resort in upstate New York. How did she get there? Why had she come? Desperate for answers, Maya leaves her life in Germany behind and travels to America, where she is drawn to the powerful family that owns the hotel and seemingly the rest of the town.

Soon Maya is unraveling secrets that go back decades, from 1910s New York to 1930s Germany and beyond. But when she begins to find herself spinning her own lies in order to uncover the circumstances surrounding her grandmother’s death, she must decide whether her life and a chance at true love are worth risking for the truth. - from Goodreads

Monday, February 12, 2018

Quotables #7: Love Is In The Air

This edition of Quotables is all about love!  Happy Valentine's Day (a little early)!

Why it speaks to me: When you're truly happy, you feel like you can do anything.  You feel like you have everything to look forward to and the possibilities are endless.

Why it speaks to me: I think love can make us better people.  Our lives are no longer singular; there's someone else to think about and take into account.  It can make us less selfish and more selfless.  And when you really love someone, you want to do everything you can for them.

Why it speaks to me: I love that this quote acknowledges that we don't need a husband/wife/partner to be fulfilled in life, but that it's okay to want one.  It's a wonderful feeling knowing someone is waiting for you at home, who will share your highs and lows.
Which of these is your favorite?  What's your favorite quote about love?