Saturday, December 16, 2017

2018 Beat The Backlist Sign-Up and TBR

While I enjoy reading the newest releases, there's no getting around the fact that there are tons of great books already out there.  So, I'm joining the 2018 Beat the Backlist Challenge hosted by NovelKnight!  I have a lot of older titles on my TBR; some have been there for awhile, others have been added more recently as I came across them.  Either way, blogging has caused me to focus more on new releases, so I want to make a concerted effort to get to those older titles!

For all the details, head over to NovelKnight - but the basic premise of the year-long challenge is to read any book published in 2017 or earlier.  You make your own reading list, earning points for each title you read - and there's a team component!  I think it'll be fun to work together to earn points!

I have so many backlist titles on my TBR, but I've chosen 30 to start with.  This year I'm trying to get to a lot of books that I've seen other bloggers rave about.  Any suggestions for where I should start?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday-Themed Mini-Reviews

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak (2017)

The Birch family is under quarantine over Christmas, due to daughter Olivia coming home after treating the Haag epidemic in Africa.  The family, consisting of Olivia, sister Phoebe, mother Emma, and father Andrew, don't normally spend a ton of time together, so this forced holiday may be a strain on all of them.

We find out pretty early on that each family member is hiding something from the rest - Olivia had a relationship with a fellow doctor, who ended up contracting Haag; Phoebe is newly engaged but doesn't seem all that happy about it; Emma just found out she has cancer; and Andrew was recently contacted by a son he knew nothing about.  While I thought all of these secrets were realistic in their own way, it seemed a bit coincidental that they were all happening at the same time. 

Emma is probably the only likable character in the family - she just wants to take care of everyone, have the perfect holiday, and not worry anyone with her health issues, at least not until after Christmas.  Andrew seems pretty unhappy with his life, especially with the way he and his wife have grown apart.  Olivia is rather detached from her family, and Phoebe is kind of spoiled and immature.  I thought the book was well-written and I appreciated that the story didn't get too outlandish.  It felt real, and often melancholy, but there were glimmers of hope, as well.  3 stars

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz (2017)

A modern and gender-swapping take on the classic Pride and Prejudice.  Darcy Fitzwilliam is a rich and successful woman living in NYC; Luke Bennet is a carpenter still living in their hometown.  When Darcy comes home for the first time in years, sparks fly between her and Luke.

For some reason, I've been into Pride and Prejudice retellings lately, and this was a fun one.  I loved that the author made the "Darcy" character a women - it was an interesting dynamic having her as the more "successful" one.  And since the book was from her POV, we got to know her way better than Luke; although people often saw her as cold, she actually had quite a big heart and longed for love.  It really made me see that the original Darcy character was probably a bit misunderstood!

This book was super-short, only 225 pages, so I flew through it in just a couple hours.  The writing was good, but sometimes I felt like I was getting whiplash from how quickly things were happening; conflicts seemed to get resolved too quickly.  However, because it's a holiday story, I appreciated the sappiness more than I normally would.  3.5 stars

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Sweetest Kind of Fate

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

The Sweetest Kind of Fate (Windy City Magic #2)
Crystal Cestari
Expected publication date: February 13, 2018
GREAT. I’ve somehow found myself tangled up with a siren, a mermaid, and a homicidal wicked witch who once tried to strangle me to death. Way to go, Amber!

Amber Sand, legendary matchmaker, couldn’t be more surprised when her arch nemesis, Ivy, comes asking for her help. Ivy’s sister, Iris, is getting married, and Ivy wants to prove her sister is making a huge mistake. But as Amber looks into Iris's eyes, there doesn’t seem to be a problem—Iris has clearly found her match.

It seems happily ever after is in the cards, but when Iris seeks out a dangerous, life-altering spell, it’s up to Amber and Ivy to set aside their rivalry and save the day.

While Iris is willing to put everything on the line for love, Amber continues to wrestle with her own romantic future. Her boyfriend, Charlie, is still destined for another, and no matter how hard she clings to him, fear over their inevitable breakup shakes her belief system to the core.

Because the Fates are never wrong—right? - from Goodreads
I absolutely adored the first book in this series, and I'm hoping the second book captures the same magic!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is our favorite books of 2017 - back in June I made a list of my favorite books of the year so far, so today I want to list my favorite reads from the second half of the year!

What were some of your favorites of the year?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday Decorations for Book Lovers

We all love to give and receive books and bookish gifts during the holidays, but how about taking it one step further and using our holiday decorations to reflect our love of reading?  Here are some fun ways to incorporate books and reading into your holiday d├ęcor!

1. Paper Garland (Etsy) - starting at $10.00
2. Snow is Falling, Book is Calling Print (Etsy) - $5.00
3. Origami Christmas Tree (Etsy)

4. Christmas at the Burrow Candle (Frostbeard Studio) - $18.00
5. Wuthering Heights Christmas Ornament (Etsy) - $16.50
6. All I Want for Christmas is My Hogwarts Letter Pillow (Society6) - starting at $29.99

7. Book Page Wreath (Etsy) - $35.00
8. Madeline Book Paper Tree (Etsy) - $35.00

** I apologize if any of these items are not available!  I've been checking these as close to the post going live as I could, but since some of them are one-of-a-kind, they could be bought at any time and the links will no longer work!

What are some of your favorite holiday decorations?  Would you ever upcycle an old book into something new, or would it be too hard to destroy a book?

Friday, December 8, 2017

If You're One of These Types of People, You Should Read "How To Disappear"

How to Disappear
Sharon Huss Roat
Published August 15, 2017
Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

In this beautiful and illuminating narrative, Sharon Huss Roat shines a light on our love of social media and how sometimes being the person you think you want to be isn’t as great as being the person you truly are. - from Goodreads
I've been shying away from contemporary YA lately, because too many of the books I've read have felt unrealistic and unrelatable.  And then I came across How to Disappear.  I identified with Vicky, a high schooler with social anxiety who uses social media to create an alternate life for herself and ends up helping so many others.  I think everyone should read this book, but especially if you relate to any of these types of people:

If you were a loner in high school: After her best friend Jenna moves to Wisconsin, Vicky finds herself alone, barely able to look another student in the eye and skipping class when she feels overwhelmed or embarrassed.  As a way to prove to herself that she actually does exist, Vicky starts an Instagram account, "Vicurious," in which she photoshops a disguised version of herself into crazy situations, like riding a hippogriff.  When the account explodes in popularity, Vicky realizes there are so many others out there who feel alone like her.

If you were popular in high school: Maybe you were the homecoming queen or the star quarterback; it seemed everyone knew and loved you.  But more likely than not, you had your own problems that maybe you tried to keep hidden.  As Vicky gets to know her classmates more, she sees that even the people who seem to have it all together have their own issues and struggles.

If you've ever faced your fears: Vicky isn't just shy, she has social anxiety, but as the story progresses, she makes small steps towards conquering her fears.  She joins the yearbook staff and even starts a relationship with her classmate, Lipton.  I don't have social anxiety, but I am extremely shy, and I really identified with Vicky's desire to kind of hide from others and not draw attention to herself.  I cheered her on as she found the courage to even just say hello to her classmates.

If you use social media: We use social media for so many things - to show off our vacation photos, share funny stories, or promote a business.  Through Vicurious, Vicky encourages people to be kind to one another and really see each other.  She is surprised when she finds out some of her classmates are Vicurious followers and that they've really taken her words to heart, even bringing them into their offline interactions.  Even though Vicky started the account just for herself, it was refreshing to see it being used for good once she started gaining followers.

If you've ever felt invisible: Vicky uses her Instagram account to reach out to these people who feel alone or invisible, to let them know they're not alone and that someone cares about them.  She knows all too well how bad it can feel to be lonely and feel like you don't matter, and she wants to show that sometimes all it takes is just one person reaching out to another to help.

Overall, How to Disappear was a heartfelt story that I got completely swept up in.  Well-written and believable, I think you'll find yourself rooting for Vicky as much as I did.

4 stars

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Longwood Christmas

Earlier in the year, we went to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.  It was so beautiful, and we knew we wanted to come back for their holiday light show.  Christmas at Longwood Gardens is a super-popular time, so it was a good thing we got our tickets early.  We went the day after Thanksgiving, and it was the perfect kick-off to the holiday season!

Since it was still light out when we got there, we went to the Conservatory first.  Each room was decked out with lights and Christmas trees.  There were so many people that you couldn't just wander around; we had to follow a marked path through the rooms.

Floating display made of apples and cranberries

Succulent Christmas Tree

Then we made our way outside.  In addition to all the lights, there were also carolers, a model train set, fire pits, and spiked hot chocolate at various locations around the grounds.

Some of the trees were just wrapped with lights around the trunks, but others were wrapped all the way to the tip-tops of the branches.

Floating "trees" dotted a couple of the lakes.

My pictures really don't do this place justice.  It's just something you have to see for yourself.  A Longwood Christmas is perfect for kids and adults; it'll put everyone in the holiday spirit!