Monday, April 11, 2022

Review: The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki

Title: The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post

Author: Allison Pataki 

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Publish Date: February 15, 2022

Format: Print

Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Mrs. Post, the President and First Lady are here to see you. . . . So begins another average evening for Marjorie Merriweather Post. Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard--even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got. From crawling through Moscow warehouses to rescue the Tsar's treasures to outrunning the Nazis in London, from serving the homeless of the Great Depression to entertaining Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Hollywood's biggest stars, Marjorie Merriweather Post lived an epic life few could imagine.

Marjorie's journey began gluing cereal boxes in her father's barn as a young girl. No one could have predicted that C. W. Post's Cereal Company would grow into the General Foods empire and reshape the American way of life, with Marjorie as its heiress and leading lady. Not content to stay in her prescribed roles of high-society wife, mother, and hostess, Marjorie dared to demand more, making history in the process. Before turning thirty she amassed millions, becoming the wealthiest woman in the United States. But it was her life-force, advocacy, passion, and adventurous spirit that led to her stunning legacy.

And yet Marjorie's story, though full of beauty and grandeur, set in the palatial homes she built such as Mar-a-Lago, was equally marked by challenge and tumult. A wife four times over, Marjorie sought her happily-ever-after with the blue-blooded party boy who could not outrun his demons, the charismatic financier whose charm turned to betrayal, the international diplomat with a dark side, and the bon vivant whose shocking secrets would shake Marjorie and all of society. Marjorie did everything on a grand scale, especially when it came to love."

My Two Cents:

Before reading "The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post," I really didn't know much about Marjorie Post even with all of the local connections to the Washington, D.C. area here (her Hillwood Estate in NW D.C. is lovely if you ever come for a visit). I was really looking forward to reading about her and learning more. As we see in this book, she really had a magnificent life! 

Marjorie Merriweather Post, a woman born into the prestigious Post cereal family. Her home life often seemed equal parts difficult and privileged as she faced her parents rocky marriage and blooming business that her father started. While Post's life definitely has a privileged glow, the underlying theme of the book often seems to be money can't buy happiness. The book follows her through her very young life and then as she begins to carve out a life for herself. She becomes the head of her father's cereal company during a time when women rarely had a seat at the table in any business. She is married four times: each time a new adventure and each of these relationships changes how Marjorie moves through the world. She is always her own woman even when the going gets tough!

Post is in great hands with Allison Pataki! I loved all of the historical detail that Pataki brings in, which really made the book come to life! Having been to places like the Homestead Hotel (the Omni Homestead now) and Hillwood Estate, the descriptions in the book really rang true! 

I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to see what Pataki writes next!

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Review: The Unquiet Dead by Stacie Murphy

Title: The Unquiet Dead

Author: Stacie Murphy 

Format: Print

Publisher: Pegasus

Publish Date: April 5, 2022 (Yesterday!)

Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The new Gilded Age mystery featuring the uniquely talented Amelia Matthew—who has the ability to communicate with the dead—as she uses her special talents to solve the murder of a young girl whose death has scandalized New York City.

Three months after her harrowing experience on Blackwell’s Island, Amelia is doing her best to come to terms with her new abilities to commune with the spirit world. The last thing she wants to do is hunt for another killer through the streets of Gilded Age New York. But when she and Jonas discover the body—and spirit—of a young girl whose kidnapping has electrified the city, Amelia’s resolve wavers. It breaks entirely when a fifteen-year old boy—the son of one of the club’s black waiters and his Irish immigrant wife—is accused of the crime.

With the city in an uproar and an ambitious reporter watching their every move, Amelia and her brother Jonas set out to discover the truth. And they have to do it quickly: in five days, the boy will be transferred to the brutal Sing Sing prison to await trial. For such a notorious suspect, it’s as good as a death sentence.

But all the evidence seems to point to the boy’s guilt. Worse, the murdered child wasn’t the first: there have been at least five other victims. As tensions rise throughout the city, the boy’s family is subjected to an escalating campaign of violence and intimidation, culminating in the firebombing of their home.

In the chaotic aftermath, Amelia taps into her special talents to search for the clues that will unmask the killer."

My Two Cents:

"The Unquiet Dead" is the story of Amelia Matthew, a young woman who has a particular talent where she can communicate with the dead. She is still coming to terms with this gift when the book opens. A slew of murders of young children and a potentially wrongly accused murderer shake Amelia from trying to come to term with her gift to diving in and using her gift before it's too late and more innocence is lost. 

Oh, this book really fit the bill for me! I love a good ghost story and I love how real the author made Amelia's powers feel. The world building in this book was really great. The author does a great job of not only making you care about the main characters but the secondary characters as well. She does a good job of showing some of the past and how it is still shaping how these characters move throughout the world. You are really pulling for all of them!

This is the second book in the author's series about Amelia's powers. Admittedly, I felt a little lost with some of the back story as I have not read the first book. While I ended up loving the characters, I do wish that I would have had more context for where they were coming from in order to connect with them a little sooner in the book. While you get a semi-recap of what happened in the book, I was definitely a little lost at first. I wish I had realized that this book was a sequel but that just means that now I need to go back and read the first book!

Overall, this was a great historical fantasy with strong gothic overtones and a good helping of mystery! I do recommend reading the first book first!

Monday, April 4, 2022

March Round-up!


My March in numbers:

  • I read a total of 15 books. 
  • Five of those books were books I already owned! (I wanted to read seven of my own books! Win some, lose some)
  • One of my March goals was to: Read at least two leadership books (already owned or not), which I did!

Best book I read this month: 
  • This was such a good reading month that I can't just choose one book!

April Goals:
  • Read at least seven of my own books (we'll try this again)
  • Read at least two leadership books. 

What are your reading goals for April?

Monday, March 28, 2022

Literary Locale: Hot Springs, VA and Marjorie Merriwether Post


It's been a hot second since I've been able to do a Literary Locale and this one happened quite by accident. A couple weeks ago, my husband and I escaped to Hot Springs, VA to the Omni Homestead. It's a grand historic hotel surrounded by nature and one of the biggest draws are the natural hot springs that are both on and around the property. We had a lovely time! 

Flash forward about a week and I'm reading Alison Pataki's latest book, The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post. For one of her honeymoons, she travels by train from Washington, D.C. to Hot Springs, VA. There is no longer passenger train service to Hot Springs but you can travel there by car and it's a relatively easy three hours from D.C.

The book pictured with some of the jewelry I bought at the hotel. I feel like Marjorie would approve.

The train service was said to be luxurious and a perfect way to start your travels to this restful place. The train station would have been just in front of this row of buildings:

The hotel would have been and still is the biggest structure around these parts. It is breathtaking even now:

The original hotel was built in 1766 but had to be rebuilt when it caught fire. When it was rebuilt, it went from a log frame hotel to a much grander place featuring the brick work that you can still see on it today. Hot Springs became a place for the well-to-do to escape from the heat (both actual and metaphorical) of Washington, D.C. 

The hotel has a fab library with pictures of many famous people who stayed at the hotel and it was amazing to see even just the highlights of that list. I would love to go back and it's easy to see why Ms. Post would have picked the Homestead for a romantic getaway!

Come back on Wednesday when I'll have a review of the book up!

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

On Vacation

I love to travel and as much as I love airplanes and trains, there is something beautiful about the classic road trip. It’s slower but I love being able to watch the world go by. I also love that it allows me to bring A LOT of books. 

I’ll be back with more reviews next week!

Monday, March 14, 2022

Quick Pick Review: A Train to Moscow by Elena Gorokhova

 Title: A Train to Moscow

Author: Elena Gorokhova

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publish Date: March 1, 2022

Source: Borrowed

What's the Story?:

From "In post–World War II Russia, a girl must reconcile a tragic past with her hope for the future in this powerful and poignant novel about family secrets, passion and loss, perseverance and ambition.

In a small, provincial town behind the Iron Curtain, Sasha lives in a house full of secrets, one of which is her own dream of becoming an actress. When she leaves for Moscow to audition for drama school, she defies her mother and grandparents and abandons her first love, Andrei.

Before she leaves, Sasha discovers the hidden war journal of her uncle Kolya, an artist still missing in action years after the war has ended. His pages expose the official lies and the forbidden truth of Stalin’s brutality. Kolya’s revelations and his tragic love story guide Sasha through drama school and cement her determination to live a thousand lives onstage. After graduation, she begins acting in Leningrad, where Andrei, now a Communist Party apparatchik, becomes a censor of her work. As a past secret comes to light, Sasha’s ambitions converge with Andrei’s duties, and Sasha must decide if her dreams are truly worth the necessary sacrifice and if, as her grandmother likes to say, all will indeed be well.

My Two Cents:

With everything going on in the world right now, "A Train to Moscow" feels particularly timely. In post World War II Soviet Union, Sasha dreams about becoming an actress even though the road may be difficult and it may put her in an undesirable spotlight. Her family is also worried for her and not fully supportive. In addition to her career aspirations, she also knows that her family is hiding a deep secret about her mysterious uncle.

I feel like I really haven't read a lot of historical fiction set in the time period in the book and I loved getting to know more about what it would have been like to live during that time. The world building in this book was really interesting and I loved all of the great detail that the author fit into this book. You can imagine exactly what Sasha is going through and all of the detail makes for a truly engaging read.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Review: The Next Ship Home by Heather Webb

Title: The Next Ship Home

Author: Heather Webb

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Publish Date: February 8, 2022

Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Ellis Island, 1902. Francesca arrives on the shores of America, her sights set on a better life than the one she left in Italy. That same day, aspiring linguist Alma reports to her first day of work at the immigrant processing center. Ellis, though, is not the refuge it first appears thanks to President Roosevelt's attempts to deter crime. Francesca and Alma will have to rely on each other to escape its corruption and claim the American dreams they were promised.

A thoughtful historical inspired by true events, this novel probes America's history of prejudice and exclusion—when entry at Ellis Island promised a better life but often delivered something drastically different, immigrants needed strength, resilience, and friendship to fight for their futures."

What's the Story?:

Heather Webb is on my auto-read list and has been for a long time. Every time she comes out with a new book, I know that I am in for a wonderful, fully engaging story. This book is no different! "The Next Ship Home" is a richly detailed story about two women, Francesca and Alma, in early 1900s  New York City. These two women from very different places will cross paths in very surprising ways during a tumultuous time period in American history.

The character building in the book is really fantastic and I loved how real Webb was able to make both women feel. Francesca is running from a terrible past in her native Italy. She is willing to brave the unknown just to try to free herself and her sister from what would certainly be a terrible future. But is the unknown always better than a terrible known? 

Alma is a young woman trying to break free of being so tightly reliant on her family so she takes a job at Ellis Island. The work is hard and often emotionally draining as she sees people from across the world coming to America to find a better life. Will Alma ever truly have a life of her own design? Alma and Francesca end up being pulled together and linked throughout the story in ways that neither of them expect. The secondary characters are really amazing as well and I am totally pulling for a follow on story about Francesca and what happens after this book ends (no spoilers!!!).

The setting is almost its own character in the book. Ellis Island is a fascinating place and I love New York (who doesn't?). I believe this is one of the first histfic books that I have read about Ellis Island and I loved how Webb was able to capture the tumult of what it would have been like to go through Ellis Island during its heyday. 

Overall, this was a great story that had me captivated! This is one of the best books that I have read so far this year and I cannot wait to see what else Heather Webb comes out with in the future!

Monday, March 7, 2022

Blog Tour: Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck

 Title: Sisters of Night and Fog

Author: Erika Robuck

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Berkley Books

Publish Date: March 1, 2022

Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "1940. In a world newly burning with war, and in spite of her American family’s wishes, Virginia decides to stay in occupied France with her French husband. She’s sure that if they keep their heads down they’ll make it through. But as the call to resist the enemy grows around her, Virginia must decide if she's willing to risk everything to help those in need.

Nineteen-year-old Violette is a crack shot with an unquenchable spirit of adventure, and she's desperate to fight the Nazis however she can. When her mother sends her to find an exiled soldier, Violette meets the man who will change her life. Then tragedy strikes, and Britain’s clandestine war organization—the Special Operations Executive—learns of Violette’s dual citizenship and adept firearm handling and starts to recruit her. But Violette is no stranger to loss and must decide whether the cost of defiance is too great a price to pay.

Set across the European theater of WWII, Sisters of Night and Fog tells the story of two women whose clandestine deeds come to a staggering halt when they are brought together at Ravensbrück concentration camp."

My Two Cents:

I am so pleased to be on the blog tour for this fabulous book!

In "Sisters of Night and Fog," we meet Virginia, an American married to a French man, and Violette, a woman of both French and English heritage, who are drawn to protect the free world in whatever way they can from the terrible destruction of the Nazis. Based on real people, the author creates a fascinating story of two very brave women who will willingly put themselves in harms way if it means that they and their beloved families can be free from tyranny. 

Virginia and Violette are larger than life characters and it was hard for me to believe that they were real people with all of the recounting of their brave deeds (the author's note gave me goosebumps). The author does a really fantastic job of bringing them to life with a lot of rich detail and descriptions of their fantastic deeds. 

Some of my favorite parts of the book had to do with both of the women being trained in the ways of clandestine service. The detail here was great and it was clear that it was meticulously done.  I loved reading about all of the things that both Virginia and Violette encounter. They are terribly brave but the things they face are almost unimaginable and you are definitely cheering them on the entire way! 

One thing I wanted to draw special attention to was the fantastic section at the back of the book entitled "Notes on History and Character Choices." This is like an author's note on steroids and as a history lover, I loved getting this peek at how Robuck pulled all of her research together and what choices she made in order to pull together a tight but still richly detailed narrative. 

Erika Robuck is already on my automatic must read list but this book has even further solidified her place on it. This was a very exciting story surrounding two thoroughly engaging main characters. I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to see what Robuck writes next!

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

On the Radar: March 2022


It's still chilly here but you can feel that the sun is starting to feel warmer! Spring is just around the corner and there are some lovely books coming out this month. 

Sisters of Night and Fog
March 1, 2022

Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron
March 8, 2022

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
March 29, 2022

Monday, February 28, 2022

February Round-Up!


My February in numbers:

  • I read a total of 13 books. 
  • Eight of those books were books I already owned! (I wanted to read seven of my own books!)
  • One of my February goals was to: Read at least three leadership books (already owned or not), which I didn't do. I only read one.

Best book I read this month: 
  • The Next Ship Home by Heather Webb

March Goals:
  • Read at least seven of my own books
  • Read at least two leadership books. 

What are your reading goals for March?

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Bookish Thoughts: New Shelves, Who This?

 If you're a book lover, you probably have the same issue I do where bookshelf space is at a premium always, always, always. We've had a wall in our living room absolutely BEGGING for some shelves around our comfy chair. We finally got up these gorgeous open-style shelves and oh my are they lovely (thanks, husband!). I'm still working on styling them but even empty, the shelves fill out this space oh so well!

Monday, February 21, 2022

Review: From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke

 Title: From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home

Author: Tembi Locke

Format: Audiobook

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio

Publish Date: April 30, 2019

Source: Audiobook

What's the Story?:

From "It was love at first sight when Tembi met professional chef, Saro, on a street in Florence. There was just one problem: Saro’s traditional Sicilian family did not approve of him marrying a black American woman, an actress no less. However, the couple, heartbroken but undeterred, forges on. They build a happy life in Los Angeles, with fulfilling careers, deep friendships and the love of their lives: a baby girl they adopt at birth. Eventually, they reconcile with Saro’s family just as he faces a formidable cancer that will consume all their dreams."

My Two Cents:

"From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home" is the story of actress Tembi Locke who falls in love with an Italian chef named Saro. Their story starts out like something out of a romance novel but they unfortunately don't get their happily ever after. Tembi and Saro's relationship is thrown sideways by Saro's cancer diagnosis. This book explores the devastating debris of lives torn apart but also the sheer force of will that can allow us to pick up the pieces and create a new way forward. 

This book was hard to listen to at some points. You are wishing so hard that things will suddenly turn for Saro and that his wife and young daughter will be able to continue to have him in their lives. I loved all of the author's rumination on love and loss. I also love how committed she is to building a new life after Saro's passing that still honors the wonderful life she had with him. This was a great book and I really enjoyed it. 

I listened to this book as an audiobook, which made for a great experience. The author is the narrator and having Tembi Locke narrate her own story really made for a powerful book. Locke brings a lot of life to the book and also made an already good book even more meaningful. 

This pick would be perfect for when you're looking for a story to pull on your heart strings and perhaps let you shed a few tears.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Bookish Thoughts: Recent Loves


Happy Monday and happy Valentine's Day! I was in training almost all last week and my brain is jelly. Here are a few bookish things I've loved over the past week:

  • This NYT opinion piece on the importance of not banning books by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Key Quote: "But those who seek to ban books are wrong no matter how dangerous books can be. Books are inseparable from ideas, and this is really what is at stake: the struggle over what a child, a reader and a society are allowed to think, to know and to question. A book can open doors and show the possibility of new experiences, even new identities and futures." Isn't that gorgeous?
  • On book bans, I also liked this Book Riot look at book banning and censorship outside of the United States (link)
  • How cute is this Books are Magic sweatshirt from Phenomenal? 
  • Story time: once upon a time, I randomly picked up a book from the library called Chocolate Chocolate, a memoir of two sisters who had a chocolate shop in Washington, D.C. I LOVED the book and had to go find the chocolate store and while I found really good chocolate, I also found some good friends in Frances and Ginger Park. I am SUPER excited that both of them have book releases this year and I loved this story about Ginger's latest The Hundred Choices Department Store.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

On the Radar: February 2022

 Here's to hoping that this blog post finds you warm and cozied up with a good book and a warm drink! February is bringing a few more books that I'm excited about! 

The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull
February 8, 2022
(My local B&N had early copies out this weekend, lucky me!)

The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman
February 8, 2022

The Next Ship Home by Heather Webb
February 8, 2022
(I also got an early copy this weekend from B&N - woot!)

Delilah Green Doesn't Care by Ashley Herring Blake
February 22, 2022

What books are you looking forward to this month?

Monday, February 7, 2022

Review: The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

 Title: The Comfort Book

Author: Matt Haig

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Penguin

Publish Date: July 6, 2021

Source: Library originally but I got my own copy!

What's the Story?:

From "The Comfort Book is Haig’s life raft: it’s a collection of notes, lists, and stories written over a span of several years that originally served as gentle reminders to Haig’s future self that things are not always as dark as they may seem. Incorporating a diverse array of sources from across the world, history, science, and his own experiences, Haig offers warmth and reassurance, reminding us to slow down and appreciate the beauty and unpredictability of existence."

My Two Cents:

Keeping it short and sweet for this fine Monday! Hope you all had a good weekend!

Did any of you have a multi-functional notebook that was part journal/ collection of stories and memories/ beloved quotes? If you're like me and you did have this kind of book (or still do), Matt Haig's "The Comfort Book" is going to feel comfortingly familiar. 

This is a beautiful collection for when you're going through rough times. Drawing from famous people, less famous people, and his own thoughts, Haig pulls together a book that feels somewhat like someone giving you a big hug, a huge cup of tea, and some reaffirming words. I liked it so much that although I originally got this book from the library, I decided to get my own copy. This is a book that you can read in one fell swoop (this is what I did!) or you can read it little-by-little when you need a pick me up (this is how I will probably read this book in the future). 

Friday, February 4, 2022

Review: Maeve's Times by Maeve Binchy

Title:  Maeve's Times

Author: Maeve Binchy

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Knopf

Publish Date: October 28, 2014

Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Maeve Binchy once confessed: "As someone who fell off a chair not long ago trying to hear what they were saying at the next table in a restaurant, I suppose I am obsessively interested in what some might consider the trivia of other people's lives." She was an accidental journalist, yet from the beginning, her writings reflected the warmth, wit, and keen human interest that readers would come to love in her fiction. From the royal wedding to boring airplane companions, Samuel Beckett to Margaret Thatcher, "senior moments" to life as a waitress, Maeve's Times gives us wonderful insight into a changing Ireland as it celebrates the work of one of our best-loved writers in all its diversity-revealing her characteristic directness, laugh-out-loud humor, and unswerving gaze into the true heart of a matter."

My Two Cents:

Maeve Binchy's writing for me is the equivalent of a warm hug or a warm cup of tea. It is comforting and fills you up with sweetness. Losing her almost ten years ago now was a hard loss for the literary world but fortunately, she left behind a wealth of writing to go back to. This particular book is a collection of her writing for The Irish Times. It covers every decade from the 1960s until the 2000s. Within the pages, you can see the changing times all through her witty, warm lens. 

A keen observer of the world around her, these articles are at their best when they are recounting the ordinary everyday and turning it into the extraordinary universal. I loved the article about her striking up conversations on the airplane with strangers (whether or not she wanted to). Being a fellow royal watcher, I also really liked reading her observations as some of the big events in the British Royal Family happened (imagining Fergie trying to put on her best behavior before another showing, royal weddings, etc.). 

I also loved that this book covered such a wide swath of time. You can see how Binchy's writing changed and progressed as well as how the times and things around her changed. This is a great book for both those who already know and love Binchy's writing as well as those who are new to her. This could be the beginning of a beautiful reading relationship!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Woman Beyond the Attic: The V.C. Andrews Story by Andrew Neiderman

Title: The Woman Beyond the Attic: The V.C. Andrews Story

Author: Andrew Neiderman

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publish Date: February 1, 2022 (Yesterday!)

Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Best known for her internationally, multi-million-copy bestselling novel Flowers in the Attic, Cleo Virginia Andrews lived a fascinating life. Born to modest means, she came of age in the American South during the Great Depression and faced a series of increasingly challenging health issues. Yet, once she rose to international literary fame, she prided herself on her intense privacy.

Now, The Woman Beyond the Attic aims to connect her personal life with the public novels for which she was famous. Based on Virginia’s own letters, and interviews with her dearest family members, her long-term ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman tells Virginia’s full story for the first time."

My Two Cents:

I have distinct memories of sneaking through the door between the kids and young adult section of my local library and finding V.C. Andrews' books. In middle school, I devoured so many of her books and fortunately had very tolerant parents that were just happy that I liked to read so much. So many of those stories stuck with me into adulthood but I really didn't know much about V.C. Andrews as a person and so I was really excited to get a chance to read this book, which I hoped would shed some light on this person whose work left such a big mark on the literary world and pop culture. This book gives you a peek behind the curtain.

The book is written by V.C. Andrews long-term ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, which is a unique perspective and I wished that more of his opinion of everything would have been pulled into the story. Ghostwriting is fascinating to me but aside from a bit at the beginning, the book is truly focused on V.C. Andrews herself. The high points of the book are the places where Virginia's (as she was known by her family) words are included. Virginia was a fantastic letter writer who would frequently write huge, voluminous letters to her family members where her feelings and accounting of current events were laid bare. I loved getting to know her through the letters.

Because I didn't know much about V.C. Andrews herself before I read this book, I did not know that she faced a horrendous case of arthritis that made it incredibly difficult to get around and forced her to either her bed or a complex wheelchair that was hard to use. The book really gets at how much writing meant to her and the doors that it opened for her in spite of all of the hardship that she faced. 

The book does end quite abruptly and I wish it would have covered the aftermath of Virginia's death. For V.C. Andrews' fans, the book does include an unfinished manuscript for "The Obsessed" and it's an interesting inclusion that left me thinking of what could have been. This book whet my appetite to learn about V.C. Andrews but didn't satiate it and left me wanting more.

Monday, January 31, 2022

January Round-up

Originally posted on

Ah, the end of January... finally. I don't know about you but it feels like January lasted about three months at the very least. I did get some good reading in though!

My January in numbers:

  • I posted three times each week except for one week. (goal almost met!)
  • I read a total of 16 books. 
  • Five of those books were books I already owned! (goal met!)
  • Only three of the 16 books were fiction (very surprising as I feel like I usually read way more fiction. 
Best books I read this month: 
  • Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
  • People You Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
February Goals:
  • Read at least seven of my own books
  • Read at least three leadership books (already owned or not).
What are your reading goals for February?


Friday, January 28, 2022

Bookish Thoughts: On Book Bans

 I recently read an article about book bans (Book Bans are Back in Style) and if you would have been listening closely at that point in time, you probably could have heard me audibly cringe.  As a book lover and believer that the best way to understand other people, places, and things is through a good book. Books are low-risk ways to understand the challenges that other people facing. The purpose of a book is not necessarily to sway someone to the author's way of thinking but rather to allow the reader to step outside themselves and to examine things through a different lens. While book bans have never gone away (ALA's list of frequently challenged books is fascinating albeit sad reading each year), it is so depressing to me that this is a fight we are still fighting. It is particularly sad to see that not only are we still fighting book bans but that the number of complaints and challenges are actually increasing. 

So many of the books that the article mentions are so fantastic and some of them I even count among my favorite books. I hate that there are so many people that might be missing out on these wonderful books. I am hopeful more people see the goodness of these books and the goodness of our children being able to use critical thinking skills to determine what they do/ do not like and what they should/ should not think. Personally, I have always been thankful that my parents never restricted what I read. I think they were just so happy I was reading that they never policed any of it (looking at you, V.C. Andrews).

In all seriousness, I am hopeful that the tides will turn again and book bans will fade away. I'm not sure how you solve this issue. Is it promoting tolerance? Curiosity? Education? 

How do you feel about book bans?

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Review: The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary

 Title: The Road Trip

Author: Beth O'Leary

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Berkley

Publish Date: June 1, 2021

Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "What if the end of the road is just the beginning?

Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry's enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven't spoken since.

Today, Dylan's and Addie's lives collide again. It's the day before Cherry's wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland--he'll never get there on time by public transport.

So, along with Dylan's best friend, Addie's sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart--and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all."

My Two Cents:

In "The Road Trip," Addie is going to the wedding of one of her good friends. It should be a fun event and great celebration. Unfortunately, things don't often go to plan. Add one car crash, one over-protective sister, a odd hanger on, a sarcastic/ sometimes scathing guy, and Dylan (Addie's ex) and you have all the makings of a good chaotic romantic comedy with a lot of funny moments and a healthy dose of love. 

Initially, it seems that Addie and Dylan are ill-fitted to be together. She is somewhat of a free spirit, while he still seems too involved with trying to figure out his standing within his family and whether or not he really wants to embrace it or to carve his own path. I loved both of these characters. Addie just seems like a fun person to be around and Dylan initially comes off as somewhat of a jerk who cares about appearance perhaps a bit too much. One thing that I love about both this book and some of Beth O'Leary's other books (The Switch and The Flatshare) is that she does a great job of pulling back the layers of her characters so your first impression is not always what you get.

Dylan is a much more complicated character than you initially get to see. Eventually as the story unravels, you get to see what he is really like and all of the directions that he is being pulled in. I really liked seeing how he transforms throughout the book!

This was a great read! Beth O'Leary is becoming one of my go-tos when I'm looking for a good romance with great characters and a lot of heart!

Monday, January 24, 2022

Review: Booked: A Traveler's Guide to Literary Locations Around the World by Richard Kreitner

 Title: Booked: A Traveler's Guide to Literary Locations Around the World

Author: Richard Kreitner

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Black Dog Leventhal

Publish Date: April 23, 2019

Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "A must-have for every fan of literature, Booked inspires readers to follow in their favorite characters footsteps by visiting the real-life locations portrayed in beloved novels including the Monroeville, Alabama courthouse in To Kill a Mockingbird, Chatsworth House, the inspiration for Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice, and the Kyoto Bridge from Memoirs of a Geisha. The full-color photographs throughout reveal the settings readers have imagined again and again in their favorite books.

Organized by regions all around the world, author Richard Kreitner explains the importance of each literary landmark including the connection to the author and novel, cultural significance, historical information, and little-known facts about the location. He also includes travel advice like addresses and must-see spots."

My Two Cents:

"Booked" is a fantastic book for those who love armchair traveling. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I really have not been able to travel widely the way that I used to in the "before times." This book was a great way to get to "see" some other places and add a few more bullets to the list of places I'd eventually like to go. 

Many of the places in the book I was already familiar with but there were also some that I was not as aware of. Some of my favorite parts of the book were the maps and associated paragraphs that laid out multiple literary sites in a single city. It was an interesting way to look at a familiar place with a new lens on it (London and New Orleans were especially cool to me - I'm so ready to go to both again!). 

The downside of the book is that while billed as an around-the-world book, it is very American and Euro-centric, which felt a bit limiting to me. It did raise an interesting conversation for me though: did the book only look at these places because it is what the author picked or is it a reflection of how far our literary world has to go for authors from all different places to have equal footing? It's interesting to think about.

All in all, this was a good book to whet my appetite for literary travel but left me looking for a bit more robust travel guide that truly fits the around-the-world descriptor. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

On the Radar


I feel like there are SO MANY books coming out soon that I'm looking forward to! I wish I would have gotten this up earlier in the month but here we are. 

Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict
Release Date: January 25

Violeta by Isabel Allende
Release Date: January 25

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis
Release Date: January 25 (I was able to get an early copy through Book of the Month Club - yay!)

What book releases are you looking forward to coming out?

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Review: Out of Office by Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen

 Title: Out of Office 

Authors: Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen

Format: Print

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group

Publish Date: December 7, 2021

Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Out of Office is a book for every office worker - from employees to managers - currently facing the decision about whether, and how, to return to the office. The past two years have shown us that there may be a new path forward, one that doesn't involve hellish daily commutes and the demands of jam-packed work schedules that no longer make sense. But how can we realize that future in a way that benefits workers and companies alike?

Based on groundbreaking reporting and interviews with workers and managers around the world, Out of Office illuminates the key values and questions that should be driving this conversation: trust, fairness, flexibility, inclusive workplaces, equity, and work-life balance. Above all, they argue that companies need to listen to their employees - and that this will promote, rather than impede, productivity and profitability. As a society, we have talked for decades about flexible work arrangements; this book makes clear that we are at an inflection point where this is actually possible for many employees and their companies. Out of Office is about so much more than zoom meetings and hybrid schedules: it aims to reshape our entire relationship to the office."

My Two Cents: 

I recently took on a new role at work, which has made me want to add more business and/or leadership books to my rotation. I feel like I had been waiting for this book to come out for a really long time. I have been a huge fan of Anne Helen Petersen's work for a long time and I have also been watching my work world grapple with the idea of working from home (WFH). It has opened so many opportunities but it has been really difficult to move away from the past and embrace WFH as the "new normal." This book examines this "new normal" from many different ways and is somewhat a call to action for workers and management to come together and embrace new possibilities.

As much as I was excited for this book, it did take a bit for me to get into it. A lot of the beginning of the book was scene-setting and sort of the equivalent of a "don't knock it til you try it" explanations. It almost assumed that the reader would walk into this book buckled against the idea that WFH could actually be beneficial for workers and employers.

Once the book hits its stride, it dives into a lot of different research and examples to back up the main theme of the book. The authors do a great job of showing the issue from a lot of different angles and all of the possibilities that are out there if only we reach out to grab them. Some of the most interesting parts of the book were the civil planning aspects (i.e. how towns and cities can benefit by attracting WFH people and how reshaping work can actually reshape both the physical and mental manifestations of community). 

This book ended up being a solid read that gave me a lot to think about that. It also is one that I want to hang on to in order to reference it later!

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