weekly wrap-up 8/21

↠ Today my dad is the big 6-0! Happy birthday, Daddy! ♥

↠ Bay got her new BarkBox this week (review to come next week!) and she’s definitely my dog. One of her toys was an avocado haaahaha

↠ My brother has gotten me hooked on Vote Loki and I’ve been binging like crazy.

READING REPORT Last week I had read 116 books for the year with 79 by women, 36 by men. This week I’m at 119 books read, with 82 for the ladies, while the guys are still holding on at 36.

WHAT I FINISHED OHHHHH MAN Erin Watts killed me with Paper Princess! Going in I expected a fluffy contemporary with a hint of Kdrama, but I did NOT imagine reading it in a single sitting and then being crushed by that cliffhanger of an ending! The main character is definitely down on her luck, especially since her mother passed, and out of the blue a man who was friends with her long lost dad arrives at her school. He insists she’s going to move into his mansion with him and his five sons (yes, five) and well, hijinks ensue. Only there’s seriously a TON of drama and it’s just plain good. Thankfully the friend I borrowed it from had the second book on hand! I also read the awesome and super fun Tailored for Trouble by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff (my review below!) I think contemporary romance might be my new favorite thing. Lastly, I read the first volume of Lady Killer, a graphic novel about a 50s housewife who is also a hired assassin. Excellent.

CURRENTLY READING I’m only a few chapters into Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, but so far so good! A couple goes to a small birthday party next door but leaves their 6-month-old daughter at home. When they leave they discover their front door is open and Cora is nowhere to be found. OOH. Apart from being insanely angry at the parents for leaving their daughter alone, I’m intrigued and have been aching to get back to it to know more!

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? I love when I break out of my comfort zone and give authors a chance when I assumed I knew just who they wrote for. Susan Wiggs’ newest, Family Tree was such a fantastic summer read and reminded me of a Lifetime movie: drama galore but oh so fun. I’m a little upset I swore off Susan’s works all these years and am looking forward to reading more of her stuff!! I also reviewed Tailored for Trouble, a contemporary romance that was totally addicting and full of fun banter and chemistry. I’m dying over the wait for the next book!

The Storybook Knight by Helen & Thomas Docherty + Max at Night by Ed Vere
I CAN’T HANDLE THE CUTE. I’m participating in blog tours for both of these and oh my goodness. A sleepy kitty up past his bedtime, a knight-in-training who discovers scary dragons like stories too. These two are beyond perfect. Thank you, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!

Going Geek by Charlotte Huang
A girl who was supposed to have an amazing senior year surrounded by super cool people and the greatest boyfriend finds out she’s stuck in the worst dorm and complete strangers. A little white lie and one massive betrayal courtesy of her BFF and, well, Skylar is looking for a fight. I’m beyond excited for this one and a thousand kisses to the awesome publicist team for dealing with my ridiculous antics! Thank you, Delacorte!

Death of an Avid Reader by Francis Brody
This book is the 6th in the Kate Shackleton series about a WWI widow-turned-detective. Already I’m sold. This book is about a murdered body in the basement of a library and oh my I’m starry-eyed! Thank you, Minotaur!

Wonder Women by Sam Maggs
I lost my mind when this arrived at my door. It’s subtitled 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History and I am ECSTATIC. There are women of all races and ages and from all over the globe and AAAHHH ♥!! Thank you, Quirk Books!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling
idk this is about a wizard or something??? Okay, so everyone is reading this and I honestly wasn’t too interested until Matt’s aunt threw her copy at me, so yay free book!

Tailored for Trouble by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Tailored for Trouble by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Pub. Date: August 9, 2016
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Ballantine books!)
Summary: SHE WANTS TO CHANGE THE WORLD.

Taylor Reed is no stranger to selfish, uncaring CEOs. She was fired by one, which is why she has created her own executive training program—helping heartless bosses become more human. So Taylor shocks even herself when she agrees to coach Bennett Wade, the cutthroat exec who got her unceremoniously canned. She’d love to slam the door in his annoying but very handsome face, but the customers aren’t exactly lining up at her door. Plus, this extreme makeover will give Taylor the golden opportunity to prove that her program works like a charm.

HE WANTS TO BUY IT.

Bennett Wade is many things—arrogant, smug, brusque—but trusting isn’t one of them. Women just seem to be after his billions. So when he hires Taylor Reed, he has no desire to change. Bennett is trying to win over the feminist owner of a company he desperately wants to buy, but something about the fiery Taylor thaws the ice around his heart, making Bennett feel things he never quite planned on. And if there’s one thing Bennett can’t stand, it’s when things don’t go according to plan.

They are a match tailor-made for trouble.
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Taylor Reed is the black sheep in a family of overachievers. The daughter of a former NASCAR driver and a famous actress, sister of an award-winning vintner and a surgeon, Taylor has recently been fired by a heartless, cruel billionaire and has been struggling to turn her misfortune into a living. With the launch of HumanitE, Taylor hopes to help teach CEOs and big wig executives how to come down from their high horses and gain a better understanding of their employees. Things seems to be going fairly well until the day she receives word that Bennett Wade is interested in her program. Bennett Wade, the ruthless, horrible, a-hole who had recently sent her packing.

Her first instinct is to refuse, but her pitiful bank account could seriously use the $50,000 he’s offering…plus this could be her big moment. Either her program could change Bennett into an entirely new person, or she could use it to her advantage and make him look like the pompous ass he is. What Taylor doesn’t know is that Bennett isn’t all that interested in her program; he is however interested in winning over the owner of a company he wishes to buy and needs Taylor’s help. Unfortunately for them, things don’t exactly go according to plan.

OH MAN, this was fun. That’s it, review over. Seriously though, this one arrived totally unannounced at my door and I couldn’t have been more eager to dive in. I’m still a newbie at all things contemporary romance, but the moment I started Tailored for Trouble, I was hooked. The fact that this is the start of the Happy Pants series should tell you a little something about its content, but this one is definitely not for the innocent! You know the emoji of the monkey covering its eyes? Yeah that was basically me reading this book, but with more giggling and tee-heeing.

Pamfiloff struck gold with these characters. Taylor was sassy and fierce, Bennett was a damaged jerk with a past and the banter between these two was an absolute joy. The chemistry was off the charts and watching as they finally admitted their feelings for one another (and the uber embarrassing mishaps along the way!) had me turning pages in record time.

My only issue with this book is that is fails miserably at the Bechdel test. Taylor’s two BFFs are great characters, as are the other females in the book, but any interaction focuses on one topic: Bennett. Griping about Bennett, swooning over Bennett, swearing off Bennett forever, praising Bennett’s accomplishments, coming to the aid of Bennett’s company, etc. However that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book.

Tailored for Trouble is a novel that randomly appeared at my door one day and I’m SO glad it did. Summer and contemporary romance go hand-in-hand and the banter between the two leads went a long way in helping to pass a miserably hot and humid week! I’m a little appalled I had never heard of Pamfiloff before – she’s got a ton of books under her belt. That’s a good thing for me though, since the second book in this series doesn’t come out until next year. If you’re in the mood for a ridiculously fun read, do yourself a favor and check out Tailored for Trouble!

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs
Pub. Date: August 9, 2016
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, William Morrow!)
Summary: Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Manhattan home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child.

But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a year-long coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.

Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned ex-cop. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance

As a book lover, I should know better than to judge books by their covers so-to-speak, but as a bookseller, I couldn’t help but notice certain authors had particular audiences. I had written off authors like Susan Wiggs and Jude Deveraux as being writers for old ladies…only to wind up loving Deveraux’s latest, The Girl from Summer Hill, so that goes to show how little I know!

Family Tree isn’t a novel I would have ever picked up were it not for the publicist reaching out to me. She was so excited about this latest book and that zeal was infectious – plus food plays a huge role in this story. How could I possibly say no?

To say Annie Harlow is ambitious is an understatement. The ink on her degree was barely dry when she moved across the country to Los Angeles to produce a television show. Ten years later The Key Ingredient is a sensation with Annie producing and her drop-dead gorgeous husband Martin as the host. The day Annie discovers she’s pregnant changes her world completely. Rushing to the set and into Martin’s trailer to tell him the good news, Annie instead gets some news of her own: she walks in to find Martin in a rather compromising position with his cohost Melissa. Refusing to listen to their excuses, Annie blindly runs through the crowded set and straight into the path of a falling piece of equipment.

In a fraction of a second, Annie lost a year of her life: she wakes up in a hospital back in her hometown in Vermont and finds out that, not only has a year gone by, but she’s now divorced. Determined to get her life back on track, Annie moves back into her childhood home, surrounded by her family, their maple farm, and a lost love from her past.

There are no surprises here: right from the start it’s clear Annie and Fletcher would wind up together, but watching their relationship unfold (again) was such a joy I didn’t mind one bit! Family Tree alternates chapters between the past and the present and in the past chapters we meet Fletcher as the new boy in school, as a hired hand on the farm, as – at first – Annie’s friend, then slowly turning into something more. This was all so sweet and perfect, I could have read an entire book about them as teens. Once college starts, however, they realize their relationship isn’t going to be so easy anymore. Fletcher’s dad is in a horrible accident and loses a leg; Annie is already away at school and tries to be understanding, accepting that Fletcher’s silence means he’s focused on his dad. As more and more time elapses, they move farther away from one another (both emotionally and literally) until one day they find themselves married to other people, though they never truly got over one another. Annie’s accident brings them back together – now both divorced – and watching their love blossom once more was totally swoon-worthy!

Reading Family Tree was like watching a Lifetime movie – and I don’t mean that in a bad way! There was drama galore: a cooking show that’s falling apart, a pregnancy, a cheating spouse, an accident that leaves Annie in a year-long coma, an ex-boyfriend who’s back in the picture, and problems that were very conveniently resolved. Anything that could happen did happen and I lapped it all up. For me, Family Tree was the perfect way to spend a lazy summer weekend and I feel I need to apologize to Susan Wiggs for judging her books without ever reading one. It turns out I’m a HUGE fan and will for sure be reading more!

weekly wrap-up 8/14

↠ This week was Bay’s adoptionversary!! ♥

↠ We have a dog bakery in town so obvs I bought her a treat – this was the same bakery who made her birthday cake back in February!

↠ One of my sisters and I had a lunch date and I took her to one of my favorite cafes. She wasn’t too thrilled when we first walked in (to be fair, they gave us a seriously awful seat) but once our food arrived she was SOLD.

Salud is bae.

READING REPORT Last week I had read 113 books for the year, 76 written by women, 36 written by men. I’m currently at 116 books for the year with 79 written by women, 36 still for the men.

WHAT I FINISHED Rena Olsen’s The Girl Before (my review linked below) was so disturbing and chilling but I enjoyed it immensely. Family Tree was my very first Susan Wiggs and I had a great time reading it! It read like a Lifetime movie with a crazy amount of drama (woman discovers she’s pregnant and goes to tell her husband only to walk in on him and his costar getting it on and promptly leaves…only to have a piece of filming equipment fall on her head and put her into a year-long coma and when she wakes she realizes that not only is she now divorced, but she’s back in her hometown in Vermont) and very convenient resolutions to problems. THAT SAID, I liked it a lot. I also listened to the audio of Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10. It wasn’t quite as intriguing as I had hoped, but that’s mostly due to the book being overhyped.

CURRENTLY READING I literally just started Ali Shaw’s The Trees, a magical realism novel where a forest springs up in a city overnight. Kind of terrifying and a little dystopian but I’m interested!

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? B. A. Paris killed it with Behind Closed Doors, one of my only 5 star reads of the year! There are so surprises about what’s in store: this is a perfect marriage on the outside only, but the true depths of Jack’s depravity are straight out of nightmares. I absolutely loved this one and believe the hype. I shared Bay’s adoption story for our one year with her. Finally, Rena Olsen’s The Girl Before was another fantastic novel. This one involves abduction and human trafficking, so it’s clearly not going to be for everyone, but I was hooked from the first page.

Wedding Bell Blues by Ruth Moose
I received the first book, Doing It at the Dixie Dew back in 2014 and wasn’t overly impressed. This new series about a Southern bed and breakfast was just okay, a pretty average read, and I admittedly forgot all about the book! I’m a little surprised it took Moose two years to write the sequel, but I’ll probably check it out – cozies are a guilty pleasure of mine and the first book was an extremely easy read. Thank you, Minotaur!

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen
Pub. Date: August 9, 2016
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Putnam!)
Summary: Clara Lawson is torn from her life in an instant. Without warning, her home is invaded by armed men, and she finds herself separated from her beloved husband and daughters. The last thing her husband yells to her is to say nothing.

In chapters that alternate between past and present, the novel slowly unpeels the layers of Clara’s fractured life. We see her growing up, raised with her sisters by the stern Mama and Papa G, becoming a poised and educated young woman, falling desperately in love with the forbidden son of her adoptive parents. We see her now, sequestered in an institution, questioned by men and women who call her a different name—Diana—and who accuse her husband of unspeakable crimes. As recollections of her past collide with new revelations, Clara must question everything she thought she knew, to come to terms with the truth of her history and to summon the strength to navigate her future.
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller

Clara Lawson’s life changes in the time it takes a team of armed men to break into her home and separate her from her husband and their daughters. As they’re being hauled away, her husband yells one final message: say nothing. The next thing Clara knows, she’s locked inside a room and is visited everyday by agents looking for answers. Answers she swore never to provide.

Told in alternating chapters, The Girl Before slowly brings Clara’s past to light, showing the tiniest of hints as to the horror she’s witnessed and the atrocities her husband and his parents have committed, for before Clara there was Diana, a sweet 6-year-old who was ripped from her home and sent to live a new life involving meticulous training and clients willing to pay exorbitant sums for the girl of their choice.

The Girl Before is absolutely fascinating in a horrifying and chilling way. Although Clara is in her early 20s, she seems painfully young and naive, totally brainwashed by Mama Mae and Papa G’s lies of an exciting future with a wealthy man who will enable her to travel the world. Through their grooming Clara knows the ins and outs of laundry and cooking, how to remain silent and demure but still charming. Her studies have provided her with a wealth of knowledge including a fluency in numerous languages, but it’s so excruciating to see how unaware she is to the horrors of what awaits. Clara has known other girls who have arrived at the house who were too wild to go through their training and they ended up being sent to the Treehouse, Papa G’s brothel he runs on the side.

Clara was the star daughter until she did the unthinkable: she fell in love with Mama Mae and Papa G’s son Glen. Their love cost Papa G a hefty amount of money plus several other girls (in an attempt to appease the client who had his sights – and wallet – set on Clara) but they’re determined to be together and eventually take over the business.

In the present day, the agents, along with a support group and therapist, slowly crack Clara’s walls, allowing doubt to creep in. Does she have another family out there? Why would they be looking for her if Mama Mae told her they no longer wanted her? Would Glen really be hitting her to keep her in line if he truly cared about her? And what is this human trafficking the other girls in the group keep mentioning?

Although The Girl Before was downright disturbing, I tore through it, needing to know more. The then and now chapters were an absolute joy – though I’m a total sucker for past/present narratives. Watching the events of Clara’s past unfold and slowly piece together had me glued to the page and as she eventually reached an understanding about the truth of Glen’s business, well… hard to read as it was, I couldn’t look away. There’s an awful lot to discuss regarding human trafficking and abduction and whether or not Clara was really a victim and I can see this one appealing to many book clubs! Personally, I loved this one (though I could have done without the sheer amount of times Clara threw up..) I’ve been on a roll with debut thrillers this year and The Girl Before is no exception. Its subject matter might not make it a book for all readers, but this reader definitely enjoyed it and I look forward to what Olsen does next.

one-year adoptionversary!

One year ago today Matt and I adopted Baylor and I never shared the story of how she came into our lives!

The house we were renting had a strict no pets rule and Matt always promised that when we bought our own house I’d be able to get a dog. WELL. That’ll teach him to stand in the way of a girl and her pup! We closed on our house July 28, 2015 and two weeks later we were both bored on a Saturday and I threw out the idea of looking at dogs.

I’ve always had a dog and the few years we were renting was the only time in my life I didn’t have a pet. Matt, on the other hand, only had a dog as a child and, since then, has been pet-free (which is totally mind boggling to me!) I know some people find a breed they like and stick with it, but the pups in my life have been every size, every color imaginable: Husky, Lab, Australian Shepherd, a Chihuahua/Cocker Spaniel mix, etc. I’ve always wanted a Wishbone, though, and a Jack Russel shot straight to the top of my list. Matt, however, wanted something big, and that Saturday he actually called a store about a mastiff puppy. SIDENOTE: as much as I would have loved a mastiff or basically any dog bigger than me, I am VERY against pet stores and refused to even look. Instead, I talked Matt into looking at a local shelter.

Animal Friends is a Pittsburgh shelter that’s not far from us. We checked out the dogs on the site and found a dog we were both interested in. His name was Oakley and he was a 3-year-old Retriever mix. We were both super excited and called immediately to give them a heads up we were on a way to visit.

You know those moments where it seems like a higher power takes over and steps in? Animal Friends is about a twenty minute drive from our house and we had just called them about Oakley. Well, the moment we walked in the door, we saw Oakley walking out with his new family. Obviously we were both baffled and a little disheartened, but we decided to check out the other dogs anyway, though I honestly wasn’t expecting to see one I liked.

And here’s where that destiny/fate moment happened: we walked into the kennel and there was Bay. She jumped up and licked our hands but I was a bit hesitant. Bay is a pitbull mix and until seeing her, I had never been around a pit and completely believed each and every stereotype movies and the media put out there. Matt, however, was absolutely smitten and since there was another couple looking at her too, we went to talk to the employees to schedule another visit and ask about a possible adoption.

UNFORTUNATELY we were told Bay wasn’t going to be available for another month since she was going to be part of a class for kids to learn basic commands. Excellent for her, but a little nerve-wracking for us since that other couple wanted her too. Again, though, you don’t stand in the way of a girl and her dog, because a few phone call later, Animal Friends reached out and said they would be more than happy to adopt her out to us.

A few days later we brought her home and I’m not at all joking when I say she completely changed my world. Nervous about pits, remember? Almost immediately I realized how ridiculous that is and now I get upset whenever someone makes a rude comment. No lie – Bay is the friendliest dog I’ve ever had: she absolutely loves to meet new people, especially kids, and I’ve lost count of the people who have come up to say hello while we’re out walking. Seriously, if you want to meet your neighbors, get a dog. I’ve actually had a couple yell down from their balcony for me to wait a moment because they wanted to pet Bay. :)

As I’m typing this, she’s napping (we go for a long walk in the morning, then she comes home to nap while Mama gets to work) and even though she somehow climbed onto the counter to steal an entire chicken a few weeks ago, I love her to death and can’t imagine a life without her ♥

One year down and a million kisses to go!

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris
Pub. Date: August 9, 2016
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?
Genre: Contemporary, Psychological Thriller

THIS. BOOK. This book. Let’s be honest: we’re all a little wary of those hyped-up, overbuzzed books, right? The books that are hailed as the Second Coming and the Next Best Thing, the novels that will change your life. I tend to take those praises with a grain of salt (I’ve been burned way too many times) but I’ll admit I couldn’t help but be intrigued by Behind Closed Doors. For one thing, it’s a debut and I’ve been all about debuts this year. Second, Mary Kubica has a big ol’ blurb right there on the front cover and I love her books. When a copy arrived at my door one day it was all I could do not to immediately drop everything and dive right into it!

Jack and Grace are the kind of picture-perfect couple that the neighbors all secretly envy. Still newlyweds (their anniversary having just passed last week), this pair is nothing but stolen glances and secret smiles. Jack is a high profile lawyer who focuses on defending domestic violence victims and has never lost a case. Combine that with his good looks, easygoing charm, and the perfect last name, Angel, and, well, it’s no wonder Grace all but instantly fell for him. Grace too has a perfectly fitting name and always amazes the guests that she can pull off such elaborate meals yet stay so slim. Once she married Jack she left her equally high profile job in order to run the home and master the arts of cooking and gardening until the day her special needs sister turns 18 and leaves her school to come live with them. A newly-built custom home and frequent vacations to exotic destinations only solidifies that envy. No one thinks twice about the one bedroom window encased in bars or the fact that Grace has an excuse for every lunch invite.

Believe the hype. Told in chapters alternating between the past and present, Behind Closed Doors is a novel that had me hooked from the very first page and tightened its grip the further I dug into this horrifying relationship. With a title like Behind Closed Doors and the pretty transparent summary, it should come as no surprised just what this book involves. Jack is no angel and his way or torturing Grace was chilling. He thrives on fear and control and Grace’s terror and helplessness came through with every beating and punishment. He uses visits with Grace’s sister Millie as a way to keep Grace in line. If she talks back or refuses to eat, oh look at that, another weekend they stay home. However, if she says all the right things at a dinner party or manages to create Jack’s wildly difficult menus, Grace is granted a few precious hours with her beloved sister.

Millie is by far the star of the show. She’s the first to suspect there’s something off about Jack and I couldn’t help but love the scenes with her. That said, Jack is such a vile and disgusting person. He’s using Grace to get to Millie, for in someone as vulnerable as Millie he’ll truly be able to completely dominate.

Watching Jack and Grace’s relationship unfold was equal parts fascinating and terrifying. Seeing the pair meet and begin to date, being there as Jack tells Grace he plans on building them a house and wants to know all of her requirements and wishes, witnessing the pivotal moment at their wedding that set the wheels in motion for what’s to come. I couldn’t tear myself away.

Behind Closed Doors is easily a Top Read of 2016 for me. I was thoroughly captivated in a car-crash kind of way. I knew what was happening but I couldn’t stop it and couldn’t look away. I stayed up way too late reading this one and I love the book all the more for it. While I wouldn’t necessarily believe the Gone Girl and Girl on the Train comparisons, Behind Closed Doors is one hell of a thriller that kept me turning the pages until the very end.