Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore

Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore
Pub. Date: July 22, 2014
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Bloomsbury!!)
Summary: Pretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got great friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with Tommy Lawson.

Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future – she’s participated in every extracurricular activity and volunteer committee she could. But, at home, she watches her mother go on date after date with dud-dudes, still searching for “the one.” Lily realizes that she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend.

While they live on each other’s periphery at school, Lily and Marijke never seemed to have much in common; but, after a coincidental meeting at the movie theater, Lily gets an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using movie techniques?

Once the girls come up with the perfect plans, they commit themselves to being secret cohorts and, just like in the movies, drama ensues.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Marijke Monti is the IT girl: blonde, beautiful, star track athlete, with the hottest boy in school on her arm. Behind her facade of confidence and poise, however, she’s crumbling. After dating for over a year, Tommy still hasn’t told her he loves her. Oh, sure, he puts on grand gestures, buys her flowers for no special reason, picks her up everyday for school (always late, but at least he shows up). He tells her she’s the only girl for him, but he certainly makes no effort to shy away from the attention he gets from the girls at school. Marijke tries to be understanding, she knows that her boyfriend is not only hot, but also a musician – naturally there will be girls fawning over him. Hastily changed plans, bits of overheard conversations, and Tommy’s flirtatious ways lead Marijke to wonder if she’s the only one interested in their relationship.

Lily Spencer is the definition of a wallflower. She puts all of her time and effort into volunteer work and student councils that her social life is totally nonexistent. She’s always having to remind classmates of her name – assuming they recognize her at all. Her curly hair is unmanageable and she’s quick to pull on a pair of jeans and comfy tee. It’s no surprise that her crush has no idea she’s alive, despite the number of classes they’ve shared.

After a particularly disastrous day (an argument with Tommy left Marijke stranded and Lily wanted to get away from her mother’s flavor-of-the-week boyfriend), the girls find themselves at the local theater. Although they had never had a reason to talk in school, Lily and Marijke come to realize they’re not all that different, particularly in the romance department. Over coffee the two concoct a plan: why can’t real life be like the movies? Why can’t they get their sweep-you-off-your-feet moment? Marijke is determined to show Tommy just how much he means to her and Lily simply wants Joe to notice her. First thing’s first: they need a boombox.

Just Like the Movies was an absolute delight! This was a single-sitting read, perfect for a lazy afternoon or the beach, and fast-paced to boot! A part of me wishes the romance wasn’t even a factor in this book; the friendship between these girls made the story. They support each other, they guide one another, and their bonds strengthened over the course of the story. This is how to write a friendship! Bravo, Kelly!

While I felt the connection between the girls, the romance was entirely a different story. Lily and Joe were cute, but I couldn’t see what made Tommy so great. Marijke lived her life on Tommy’s time. She held off deciding on a college because she wanted to see what Tommy had planned. She had a ton of friends, but threw them away to focus on Tommy. She puts up with the flirty texts, facebook messages, and looks from other girls. This guy hasn’t said ‘I love you’ in all the time they’ve been dating – over a year – and yet she’s still madly in love with him. He blows her off multiple times, stands her up any time they make plans, gives her ‘buddy’ nicknames like Champ (what’s next, Slugger? Sport?). I didn’t get it. If Matt ever treated me that way it’d take a lot more than flowers to make up for it.

There were some side plots added in that I didn’t really care for (mainly the family drama) and felt they didn’t add much to the overall story. Despite its predictability and character flaws (I’m looking at you, Tommy), Just Like the Movies was fun, fast, and featured an awesome friendship! The references to classic rom-coms were a blast, too – and I have a feeling there will be a movie marathon in my future!

Get Your Fix: Romanov edition!

image via wikipedia

Today marks the 96th anniversary of the death of the Romanovs. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know I have a slight fascination with this family. What better way to remember them than with an edition of Get Your Fix.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
Becoming a bestseller and adapted into a movie, The Kitchen Boy tells the tale of the Romanov’s final moments as seen through the eyes of a kitchen boy, Leonka. Alexander is also the author of a few other Romanov-centric novels, Rasputin’s Daughter and The Romanov Bride.
Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick
I’m all for author’s taking liberties with their fiction, but for some reason I’m hesitant to read this. This is basically a love story involving Alexei..who died when he was 13. I grabbed it from the library multiple times – one day I’ll actually read it!
The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
This series follows Catherine’s rise to power. The more I read about it the more I want to read these books; they remind me of all the Tudor fiction and Philippa Gregory novels that are so popular.
The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry
This was my introduction to Berry’s works and the one that made me fall in love. Berry is one of my go-to authors when I’m in need of a good comfort read. His books are wickedly fast-paced and keep me entertained throughout the whole ride. I’m a sucker for stories where one of the children survives AND Berry adds in some dual era narratives.
The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam
A fifth daughter was spirited away before the Revolution and the royal lineage is alive and well. A present-day historian, a servant in the Russian court, a ballerina in the Second World War. This is basically a Leah novel!
The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne
While Boyne is more widely recognized for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, this is the novel I’d like to read. A boy finds himself a hero and bodyguard of the Tsarevich. Nearly seventy years later, memories of his old life come flooding to the surface as he watches over his dying wife.
The Curse of the Romanovs by Staton Rabin
This novel is the equivalent of a bad movie and shouldn’t be read if you’re in the mood for something good. A time-traveling Alexei learns all about cell phones – Matt and I STILL text each other lines from these scenes – and falls in love with his sort-of-kind-of cousin, a 15-year-old who has been doing studies and experiments on gene therapy and has nearly discovered a cure for hemophilia. Yep. You can read my review here.
The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen
A girl with the gift of second sight is taken into the Imperial Court. Decades later she’s over 100 years old but never gave up hope that one of the Romanov children survived, the hope that there’s a heir to the throne somewhere. You can read my review here.
BONUS: The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello (my review here) and The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges (my review here)

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie
Massie is basically THE source for all things Romanov. Nicholas and Alexandra follows the Tsar and Tsarina from their meeting to their final moments and details not only the political aspect of their lives, but also who they were as people, as parents, and as a couple who loved each other.
The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert K. Massie
In this book Massie follows the scientific breakthroughs that arose when nine skeletons were discovered in a grave in 1991. Scientists from Russia, America, and Great Britain worked together to uncover the truth behind the fall of the Romanovs – including whether or not any of the children survived.
The Resurrection of the Romanovs by Greg King & Penny Wilson
In the 80s a novel was published that detailed the life of Anna Anderson, a woman who claimed to be Anastasia. She certainly knew her facts, but this was long before DNA testing came about. For decades the mystery thrived: was this woman really who she said she was? Published just a few years ago in 2010, The Resurrection of the Romanovs completely turns the mystery upside-down, going through the case and evidence and finally shedding light on the truth.
The Last Days of the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport
Rappaport is well on her way to earning herself a spot next to Massie in terms of go-to Romanov historians. While there are countless books about the family’s final days, Rappaport focuses on other witnesses to the murder: a British consul, an American journalist. She also takes a look at the Kaiser and King George V, both cousins of Alexandra and grandchildren of Queen Victoria.
The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport
While many books focus solely on Anastasia, Rappaport combs through the lives of all four Romanov girls: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia – OTMA as they dubbed themselves. Letters, diary entries, and archival material were all used to recreate their lives and much of it is previously unpublished. I’m currently reading this one and look forward to getting to know these girls!
The Rasputin File by Edvard Radzinsky
You can’t have a list of Romanov reads without a book on Rasputin, the monk who wormed his way into their inner circle and prophesied their downfall.

Alexander I: The Tsar Who Defeated Napoleon by Marie-Pierre Rey
A handsome man known as The Sphinx, Alexander rose to power after the assassination of his father. When Napoleon’s troops burned Moscow in 1812, Alexander fought back, ultimately taking Paris and defeating the Emperor. This is one of the only biographies I’ve seen of this tsar.
Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky
Alexander II was known as the Liberator and Russia’s Lincoln. He freed 23 million slaves and reformed both the justice system and army. He was also quite the playboy and escaped numerous assassination attempts, finally falling victim to a bombing. I honestly know nothing about this man other than he was Nicholas II’s grandfather, but just the summary alone makes me want to read this biography!
Once a Grand Duchess by John Van der Kiste
This is a biography of Xenia, Grand Duchess and Nicholas II’s sister. During the Revolution, she fled to Europe, aiding wounded soldier in the First World War and ended up penniless in England. Maybe it’s just me, but I always thought her name was pretty fantastic!
Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie
This is the book that earned Massie his Pulitzer. Clocking in at over 900 pages, this definitely isn’t a lazy afternoon read, but I think it would be fascinating. Peter took the throne at 10 years old – I’m not surprised the book is so long!
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
Massie’s most recent work. Catherine was a German noble who entered Russia at 14 and changed history.

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen
Pub. Date: July 8, 2014
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.

With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their never ending game.
Genre: Fantasy

Everyone knows the evil Captain Hook, the villain of Neverland. What Alias Hook delivers is the tale of Jamie Benjamin Hookbridge, the eleven-year-old boy obsessed with ships. James Hookbridge, the charming young man who enjoyed women and drink and was in no hurry to settle down. The curse that cast him a devil, the boy who haunts him day and night, and his only chance at a way out.

I’m a big fan of retellings. A big fan. When I first heard about a retelling that focused on Captain Hook, the story that told his side, I couldn’t contain myself. This was a story for me. Unfortunately, after an extremely strong start, I quickly found myself losing focus; Alias Hook lost its steam hardly a quarter of the way into the story.

Hook’s childhood was fascinating and I loved these early alternating chapters between his life in London in the late 1600s and his hellish existence in Neverland in (what turns out to be) 1950. I’m a total sucker for a good backstory and I think it’s crucial to a successful retelling. Hook’s time spent with his father, his passion for the sea, even his early adulthood when he was often found in a saloon with his uppercrust pals or entertaining ladies in a seedy brothel. These windows into just who this man was made the story for me. I’ll take some good old-fashioned character exploration over action scenes any day of the week.

Unfortunately, once his backstory was established and there were no longer any of those lovely looks into his previous life – his mortal life – I found it was a struggle to continue. There was a woman Hook loved, though he secretly wasn’t looking forward to a life at home with a wife and children. He took to the seas and never returned. A dark curse was placed upon him, sending him to a boy’s fantasy world where he would forever be tormented and challenged. Two centuries later – two centuries worth of shipmates, Lost Boys, Wendys, and Pan’s antics – Hook discovers something new to Neverland: a woman.

Stella Parrish was a nurse who aided wounded soldiers in the Second World War. When that world became too unbearable, she sought the refuge of her childhood dreams and soon found herself in a place she immediately recognized from her storybooks. Naturally she doesn’t believe Hook is really the Captain Hook, nor does she take Pan’s word as truth; he’s just a silly boy, a child. What power could he possibly wield? It’s not until she witnessed firsthand just how deadly Pan’s games are that she comes to realize this isn’t silly, this isn’t a game. For centuries Pan has acted out his heroic fantasies while Hook is predestined to lose every single time. While he is never fatally harmed (despite his longing for release from this dreadful place), his men, mere mortals, die for Lost Boys grow up to become men and Pan would never allow grown-ups to plague his world.

Stella’s arrival is met with confusion – if Pan’s in charge and he adamantly refuses to allow adults, just how did a grown woman appear? Hook takes her aboard his ship in an attempt to protect her and possibly gain the upper hand on Pan for once (Hook reasons that Stella made her way to Neverland without Pan’s knowledge and he won’t pass up any advantage he could have over the boy). Over time the two become close and, yeah, I wasn’t at all surprised by the romance – anyone reading this book should not be surprised. The only woman in Neverland and the first woman Hook has seen in over two hundred years? Yeah.

There’s lovely homage paid to J. M. Barrie. Although he’d long since passed by Stella’s arrival, Hook remembers him as Pan’s Scotch Boy. Barrie was one of the Lost Boys and when he returned to our world and grew up, a part of him retained those childhood memories. In his recollections, however, Barrie viewed Peter as a great leader, as all Lost Boys do, thus making Peter Pan beloved and renowned while Hook was demonized.

While I felt the story began to drag once James became Hook, I was never not interested. I certainly wasn’t nearly as invested in the story as I had been in the beginning, leading to it taking nearly two weeks to read when I typically get through a book in two or three days. By the halfway mark I found myself skimming over the longer passages, usually those scenes where Hook was lamenting Stella’s absence or discussing matters with his men. A large part of the book was slow-going and as much as I love a story that takes its time, Alias Hook didn’t have enough to keep me turning the pages. Many nights I only got through a chapter – two if they were short. Although I wasn’t as in love with Alias Hook as I had hoped, I like the idea behind it and I loved the look into Captain Hook’s life before Neverland. His quest for redemption, for death, captivated me and the ending is open to a variety of interpretations. And, really, the cover is seriously spectacular in person. The colors are astoundingly vivid!


We were the envy of every clerk and apprentice in London, and most of their masters. We were dazzling. We were immortal.

This is what I am, what I’ve become in this place: handmaiden to the dead. My last, my only desire is to one day be rewarded for my centuries of service, earn my own passage into the Kingdom of Hades, and be allowed to rest in peace. But I am aged Charon ferrying the souls of the damned to the Underworld where I can never follow. The obolus has yet to be coined that will purchase my passage out of this never-ending Purgatorio.

my week in pictures 7/13

Happy Sunday! There are still fireworks and festivities going on a week later ’cause that’s how freedom works! My hometown is the Fireworks Capital of America and I’m so sad I wasn’t able to see the show this week. Instead Matt and I stayed home and went to Art Brew, a local event that paired Pittsburgh food trucks with hometown breweries to create an awesome beer + food combo. I’m a total wimp when it comes to beer and anything dark has me running for the hills (Matt, on the other hand, loves his lagers, IPAs, and stouts). There was a honey blueberry that I really liked & the coriander-infused beer was interesting. There was even a cucumber wheat we both wanted to try! Also: chocolate-covered bacon. YUM.

Mandolin covers of Prince songs was a Thing That Happened and I loved it! This band is Broke Stranded & Ugly and they were a ton of fun! I’m all about bluegrass AND covers, so a band that did bluegrass covers was basically perfect for me.

Only one book this week: Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming. It’s a memoir of the author’s childhood as an African American in the South in the 60s/70s. AND it’s told in verse. The verse part worries me a bit – I’ve never read a novel written in verse before! – but I’m moving this one to the top of my TBR pile. (Thank you, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin!)

In Case You Missed It
Greg Weisman’s Spirits of Ash and Foam was a huge letdown and suffered from the horrible Second Book Syndrome. Despite answering some questions I had leftover from the first book, I just couldn’t get into this one and it tried too hard to do too many things in too many different genres. 2/5
Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera’s The Awakening of Miss Prim, however, was the total opposite. This debut (!!) completely sucked me in and held me thoroughly captivated until those final pages. The writing was breathtakingly beautiful, the characters were incredible, the story was magnificent. GORGEOUS! 5/5

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
Pub. Date: July 8, 2014
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Atria!)
Summary: The Awakening of Miss Prim is a charming debut novel about a young woman who leaves everything behind to take a librarian job in a remote village of France. Though proud and self-assured, Prudencia Prim’s four advanced degrees make her a little overqualified. Nevertheless, there is something glimmering beneath the surface of the picturesque town of San Ireneo de Arnois that cannot be learned from books. Little by little, the peculiar and unconventional ways test Miss Prim’s world vision, her most intimate fears, and her most profound convictions.
Genre: Literary Fiction

Close your eyes. Picturesque. Charming. Quaint. What do you see? Offbeat. Unconventional. Quirky. This is exactly what you’re getting from The Awakening of Miss Prim. There’s something decidedly old-fashioned about this story – and that’s certainly high praise! One part The Village (bear with me here), one part The Sound of Music, this novel was just plain good and this is a review that scares me. Despite sitting on my thoughts, I’m still unable to come up with the right words to say (apart, of course from I LOVE IT).

Prudencia Prim has more degrees to her name than I have fingers on my hand. With a blatant disregard for a firm “graduates and postgraduates need not apply” and ignoring the “preferably without work experience,” Miss Prim marched up the hydrangea-lined path to inquire about a posting for a librarian position. The Man in the Wingchair (a man never named throughout the duration of the novel) decides to hire her on and Miss Prim quickly comes to realize San Ireneo is a town unlike any other.

The tiny village was founded as a refuge of sorts for those seeking to get away from the intensity of city life. In San Ireneo, values are sacred, gardens are perfectly tended, any goods are produced locally, education is prized (the Man in the Wingchair’s nieces and nephews – all under the age of 11 – are able to recite ancient Greek and Latin works and hold their own in philosophical debates). What makes this town different is that the school teacher? The bookseller? None of these positions are filled by professionals. Shops open simply because the town lacks a particular ware. Miss Prim comes to learn this way of thinking came largely out of the want for the town’s children to have an unbiased education, they learn the basics from the school teacher, but the bulk of their education is learned at various homes, largely the Main in the Wingchair’s private library (which Miss Prim has recently taken to organizing).

The Awakening of Miss Prim is such a delightfully sleepy tale, exactly the kind of story I adore. There wasn’t much in the way of action; instead, there’s a wealth of character development and depth. A variety of topics are explored – religion, philosophy, there’s even a debate on the merits of Mr. Darcy. While I’m relatively unfamiliar with the main bulk of 18th-Century British Literature (sorry, Janites!), The Awakening of Miss Prim felt right at home with those works. The Man in the Wingchair is a gentleman in every aspect of the word, San Ireneo itself had an old, primitive feel, the characters are all exceedingly formal. I loved every minute.

In addition to the story, the storytelling was beautiful too. Entire passages gave me pause and there were pages I read and reread because the language was so breathtaking. What boggles my mind is not only that this is a debut, but it’s also a translation. That a translation could be this gorgeous is nothing short of amazing! It pains me to say that I feel The Awakening of Miss Prim will go unnoticed by the majority, but those of you who actively seek out under-the-radar novels will find a true gem. Fiercely character-driven, intensely thought-provoking, and with an ending that left me wanting more (I need to know!!), The Awakening of Miss Prim is a fantastic debut that I eagarly look forward to revisiting again. If you like your characters prim and proper (Prudencia Prim is a most apt name) with more than a hint of quirk, do yourself a favor and read this book.

Spirits of Ash and Foam by Greg Weisman

Spirits of Ash and Foam (Rain Cacique #2) by Greg Weisman
Pub. Date: July 8, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley + print ARC via publisher (thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!!)
Summary: Welcome to the Prospero Keys (or as the locals call them: the Ghost Keys), the beautiful chain of tropical islands on the edge of the Bermuda Triangle where Rain Cacique lives. When Rain’s maternal grandfather passed away, he left her his special armband: two gold snakes intertwined, clasping each other’s tails in their mouths. Rain soon discovers that the armband is actually a zemi – a very powerful talisman created by the island’s native Arawak Taino Indians – and that it allows Rain to see ghosts, including her own grandfather who is determined to help her uncover the Ghost Keys’ hidden world of mystery and mysticism, intrigue and adventure.

Now, Rain Cacique’s looking for a few answers — and the second zemi, a Taino relic that allows her to see dead people. But it’s the first week of school, so she’s pretty busy juggling teachers, homework, baby-sitting duties, new friends, missing tourist kids… and a vampire with a tribal twist.
Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal, Adventure

This is a review for the second book in a series. I’ll try to keep vague, but there might be some spoilers for the first book.

Last year’s Rain of the Ghosts was a quick, fun read that kept me entertained but left me with a few questions. The sequel, Spirits of Ash and Foam was one I was really looking forward to and I couldn’t wait to get back to the Ghost Keys. Unfortunately, it seems this book suffers from the dreaded Second Book Syndrome. The bad outweighed the good here.

There’s a string of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known to the locals as the Ghost Keys. Rain Cacique and her family run an inn on one of the islands and she recently inherited a magical bracelet from her grandfather. The zemi is just one of nine and Rain isn’t the only one who’s searching for them.

With literally no time elapsed since the first book, Spirits of Ash and Foam kicks off the morning after Rain of the Ghosts ended. Rain is still coming to terms with everything: magic, her new-found ability to see ghosts, her recently-deceased Grandpa ‘Bastian-turned-ghostly sidekick…and the beginning of the new school year is just around the corner. It was a joy to see Charlie and Miranda again (although Charlie’s massive crush on Rain still hasn’t gone anywhere) and there were some new faces too. While the other characters were beautifully crafted, Renee was little more than a Mean Girl stereotype. Miranda unknowingly sits in a seat Renee had wanted, and now Renee is out for blood. She enters their group, goes along with them on adventures…all the while intent on getting revenge. She wouldn’t let it go – even AFTER they finally became friends. Did this girl really have nothing else going on in her life?

The only thing I enjoyed about Spirits of Ash and Foam was that, in the first ten pages, I had answered to the questions I had from the first book. Everything was spelled out for me and I appreciated that. Sadly, that was where the good ended.

In a novel this short – 280 pages – there’s only room for so much. Whereas I had been under the impression this series was about the mysterious zemis and Rain’s quest to find the rest of them, here there were numerous plots and hardly any of them went anywhere. Callahan, the Bad Guy, is back. The inn has new guests and Rain’s forced to babysit the three unruly children. A murder or two. A search party. Mermaids and ancient legends. Charlie’s crush. There was so much packed into these pages and I felt that there wasn’t enough attention devoted to any of them. Cut out a few storylines and the book as a whole would have been far stronger.

A large chunk of this book was devoted to a strange woman/manatee the children glimpse one afternoon. Rain is told the tribal tales of the woman and how she’s an evil witch that, for centuries has been luring children away from their families and they’re never seen again. Centuries, remember. Many, many years. ‘Bastian simply asks her to return the missing children (the guests at the Cacique’s inn) to their parents and that’s it. Hundreds of years of suffering could have been avoiding if the parents had simply asked nicely. Turns out this woman was never evil at all, just misunderstood and lonely. Right.

Another issue I had was with the logistics. There are a handful of ghosts in this book and, for the most part, they’re free to come and go as they please. They can walk through walls and floors with ease. Yet they still need to take ferries to get from island to island. I couldn’t wrap my mind around this concept.

It’s such a shame when a solid first book is followed by a lackluster sequel. It wasn’t until the very end that Rain discovered the second zemi. There are still seven more to find and if the rate is one per book I really don’t see myself keeping up with this series. While I enjoyed Rain of the Ghosts, Spirits of Ash and Foam was such a downgrade that, unless something drastic changes in the third book, my time with this series is over.

my week in pictures 7/6

I hope all my fellow ‘Muricans had a lovely 4th! Sadly, no pictures of fireworks from me (hahaha, I certainly tried, but my timing was AWFUL. I’ve got lots of photos of smoke and sparkles fizzing out) and it was way too cold for a July night (we were all wrapped in blankets around the fire!), but I got to spend the day with family and had way too much to eat. So it was basically perfect & included dandelion wine – yum!

This week was full of excitement – both good and bad. The week started with a terrible fire that destroyed our favorite place to go for wing/trivia night. There’s also a barber shop and dentist there (with apartments above), but thankfully, no one was there at the time. I drove past the next morning and at some point after we left, half the building came down. It’s currently an empty shell.

Saturday was a perfectly redneck day. We hung out with friends, played around with leftover fireworks, and shot at empty pop cans. Later that night we went to see Deliver Us From Evil and, honestly, it felt more like a random Netflix movie than a legit film. There was so much going on; it tried to be too many things: part crime drama/buddy cop, part supernatural, part horror. It just didn’t work for me. Edgar Ramirez was nice to look at though!

A TON of bookish goodies this week!
Spirits of Ash and Foam by Greg Weisman
This is the second in the Rain Cacique series, Middle Grade with a nice dose of mystery and supernatural (with a Barmuda Triangle setting!). I had grabbed this one from netgalley a few months ago, but it was a nice surprise to see a finished copy! My review for this one goes live July 8. (Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!)
2AM at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
Since reading Bright Before Sunrise, I’ve been eager to discover one ‘one-day’ novels (did I just make that up? idk). I heard about this one last year and am VERY excited to start it! Three stories are told on the day before Christmas Eve: a 9-year-old wishes to become a jazz singer and head’s to the hottest jazz spot in Philly, The Cat’s Pajamas. Her teacher has recently moved back to Philadelphia after a divorce and is about to attend a dinner party where her high school crush will be. The owner of The Cat’s Pajamas may have to close the doors forever unless he can come up with $30,000. (Thank you, Random House/Crown!)

Hannah is the best ever. Thank you!!
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker & Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary
Although Hannah wasn’t really sold on either I’m looking forward to them – especially Someone Else’s Skin. I’m all about gory, gruesome murders and I’ve been on a thriller kick lately!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
The Theory of Light and Matter by Andrew Porter
Drown by Junot Diaz
Adding to my Roald Dahl collection:
The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar
Switch Bitch
Going Solo
Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life
My Uncle Oswald
Someone Like You

In Case You Missed It
Jojo Moyes is back with a new novel and – no surprises here – I loved it. 5/5
Kelly Harms’s debut, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane was great for a beach read – but wasn’t for me. 2/5