weekly wrap-up 9/25

↠ I think fall is finally here: when I woke up this morning the temperature was in the 40s! hahaha Baylor is not happy about having to wait for it to warm up a bit before we go on our walk!

↠ This afternoon there’s a LuLaRoe pop-up at my local coffee shop and I’m thinking about heading over to check it out. If you follow me on instagram you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been posting some photos for my ambassadorship lately!

↠ Yesterday there was a humane society event in town and OBVIOUSLY Matt and I went. …unfortunately it wasn’t too exciting and the volunteers who were there didn’t even bother to speak to us. Sorry, Bay, no little brother or sister for you just yet. BUT while we were there we picked up some caramel apple popcorn and it was heavenly.

READING REPORT Last week I was at 132 books read for the year with 93 female author, 39 male authors. This week I was a reading fiend: 140 books read with 98 female authors, 42 male authors!

WHAT I FINISHED I don’t count storybooks, but since I participated in blog tours, I felt justified in adding two to my tally: Ed Vere’s Max at Night (a little kitten is SO SLEEPY and wants to go to bed but first needs to say goodnight to the moon but can’t find it!) and Helen Docherty’s The Storybook Knight (Leo would much rather read books than fight monsters but his parents insist that he go save a nearby village from a ferocious dragon). Both were adorable and my thoughts (and giveaways) are linked below! Kari Lynn Dell’s Reckless in Texas was just okay and I ended up skimming the final chapters. I wanted a fun and fluffy contemporary romance and it looked like a good pick: rodeos, cowboys, Texas, but I never became invested in the characters. M. G. Hennessey’s The Other Boy was an excellent Middle Grade novel about a boy Shane and how he’s been hiding a secret from everyone at his new school: he was born a girl. Check back next week for my review, I REALLY liked this one! Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game has been taking over the blogosphere lately and I had requested it from my library…and didn’t read it until the day it was due. Oops! Once I did I was hooked and ended up turning it in late. Totally worth the late fee. I thought All at Sea, Decca Aitkenhead’s memoir about the tragic death of her partner (while on holiday, their son nearly drowned and while Tony was able to save Jake, the waves ended up pulling him under and Decca was witness to the entire thing) would be far more heartbreaking than it turned out to be. On audio I wanted to listen to an engaging thriller and Jame Patterson’s The Murder House fit the bill and Rainn Wilson’s The Bassoon King was SO fantastic I tore through it in record time.

WHAT I’M CURRENTLY READING For once, NOTHING! Or, rather, nothing yet.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Laura Madeleine’s debut, The Confectioner’s Tale was lovely: 1910 Paris, a forbidden romance, a pastry shop, family secrets. An absolute delight! And like I mentioned above, I participated in the blog tours for Max at Night and The Storybook Knight and there are giveaways for both!

Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese
I had actually contacted the publicist about a different book (keep your eyes peeled for that one soon!) and she suggested I take a look at this one as well. I hadn’t even heard of it until she brought it to my attention and man oh man it is such a ME book: 1900 through World War II, the creation and near destruction of one of Gustav Klimt’s masterpieces. The ARC has a gorgeous gold foil cover that is SO SHINY and the inside is just as stunning and I can’t wait to jump in! Thank you, Atria!

The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth
Last year I read Hepworth’s The Secret of Widwives and surprisingly enjoyed it. She put out a new novel this year, though I have yet to read it, and The Mother’s Promise is due out in February. This one seems like a gut-punching novel: a single mother is dying, a teenage daughter is dealing with her own inner demons, and together with a nurse and a social worker, a chain of events is set in motion. Thank you, St. Martin’s!

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
I read this one last year and it tore me to pieces. I love Diane’s novels and HIGHLY recommend her! The paperback had a beautiful new novel and book club questions! Thank you, St. Martin’s!

BLOG TOUR: The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty

The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty
Pub. Date: September 6, 2016
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Sourcebooks!)
Summary: Even though Leo would rather sit at home and read, his parents send him out into the world in the hopes that Leo will become a famous knight. But when Leo comes up against the land’s most fearsome beasts, he soon discovers that scary monsters enjoy a good book as much as anyone…
Genre: Storybook

A HUGE thank-you to Sourcebooks for inviting me to participate in the blog tour!

Leo is a gentle knight. …perhaps too gentle. He would much rather spend his days reading books instead of going off to faraway lands and fighting fearsome and ferocious creatures. When he parents tell him he must go save a nearby village from a dragon, Leo doesn’t want to go, but he saddles Old Ned and the pair take off. Along the way they run into all sorts of magical and mythical beasts and, instead of battling these monsters, Leo reads them stories.

The Storybook Knight is the second storybook I’ve reviewed this week and unlike Max at Night, this one is loud and bold and vibrant, bursting with a variety of colors and I ADORED it.

From the first page I was instantly reminded of Redwall, one of my favorite series growing up. Medieval kingdoms, villages populated by animals, a tiny little mouse for a main character who’s sent out into the world to become a hero. Obviously the target audience for Redwall is much older, but the parallels had me giddy the entire time I was reading.

What truly won me over, however, were the illustrations. Not only were they beautiful (the stained glass window and the Griffin’s wings had me swooning!) but hidden throughout the pages were all sorts of fun objects that might be overlooked at first glance. The titles of Leo’s books, the brand of cereal Leo eats for breakfast, the dragon poop. Yep. Dragon poop. If that alone doesn’t convince you to go out and buy this book I don’t know what will!

The Storybook Knight is a fantastic book bursting with color and a great cast of characters and Sourcebooks wants YOU to have a copy of your own! For a chance to win a copy of The Storybook Knight AND an original sketch by Thomas Docherty, simply head over to the giveaway. GOOD LUCK!!

BLOG TOUR: Max at Night by Ed Vere + giveaway!

Max at Night by Ed Vere
Pub. Date: September 1, 2016
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Sourcebooks!)
Summary: Max is tired and all ready for bed, but when he can’t find the moon to say goodnight to, he sets out to find it. But that’s not as easy as Max had hoped…
Genre: Storybook

A HUGE thank-you to Sourcebooks for inviting me to participate in the blog tour!

Max has had his milk, he’s brushed his teeth, and has said goodnight to everyone…except the moon. He can’t seem to find it! This sweet little kitten is just so sleepy, but he simply cannot go to bed before saying goodnight and goes on a hunt to find the moon.

Reviewing a storybook is far harder than I imagined! Max at Night is downright adorable – Vere does the illustrations at well and he captures Max’s emotions perfectly (or, should I say, purrfectly). From his sleepy face to his frustration over where is that moon hiding, Max’s personality totally took center stage. The muted colors also fit the story wonderfully: lots of dark oranges and navy blues, muted hues for bedtime.

Through short, simple sentences and minimal yet eye-catching illustrations, Ed Vere’s Max at Night is a fantastic bedtime story! It’s sweet and charming and an absolute delight that I know I’ll be sharing with my nieces! Even better: there’s another Max book! Max the Brave came out last year and is about Max wanting to be a brave kitten who chases mice…only he doesn’t know what a mouse looks like! TOO CUTE!

And if you love Max at Night, be sure to check out the activity kit!

Sourcebooks is giving a lucky winner a copy of Max at Night AND an original sketch by Ed Vere!! All you have to do is follow the rafflecopter link! GOOD LUCK!

The Confectioner’s Tale by Laura Madeleine

The Confectioner’s Tale by Laura Madeleine
Pub. Date: September 20, 2016
Source: ARC + finished hardcover via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: At the famous Patisserie Clermont in Paris, 1909, a chance encounter with the owner’s daughter has given one young man a glimpse into a life he never knew existed: of sweet cream and melted chocolate, golden caramel and powdered sugar, of pastry light as air.

But it is not just the art of confectionery that holds him captive, and soon a forbidden love affair begins.

Almost eighty years later, an academic discovers a hidden photograph of her grandfather as a young man with two people she has never seen before. Scrawled on the back of the picture are the words ‘Forgive me’. Unable to resist the mystery behind it, she begins to unravel the story of two star-crossed lovers and one irrevocable betrayal.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga, Forbidden Love

Paris is the place to set your novel. It’s the city of romance and intrigue and several books I’ve read this year have been set either in the city itself or in France (two stand-outs – coincidentally also from the same publisher – are Michelle Gable’s I’ll See You in Paris and Serena Burdick’s recent debut, Girl in the Afternoon), so when I received The Confectioner’s Tale it was a no-brainer.

It’s the late 1980s and Petra Stevenson is a few weeks away from being kicked out of her university. For a PhD candidate, she’s severely lacking the discipline she desperately needs to pull her thesis together: what originally began as an exploration of the Belle Époque has quickly lost steam and unraveled out of control, particularly after a writer interested in penning a biography about her grandfather gains access to his estate. Petra’s beloved grandfather is suddenly shrouded in controversy and she fiercely wants to protect his reputation…until she discovers a photograph that spins her world upside-down. What could her grandfather have possibly done that had him carrying around guilt for seven decades?

In 1909 Guillaume du Frère is a laborer on the railway, sending whatever pay he can spare back home to his mother. One night he helps unload a delivery for the famous Patisserie Clermont and it changes his life forever. Not only is he utterly mesmerized by the sights and sounds (and smells) of the bakery, but the owner’s daughter is equally enchanting. After a flood nearly claims Jeanne’s life, Gui is rewarded with an apprentice position at the bakery and, soon after, a forbidden romance blossoms between Gui and Jeanne.

The Confectioner’s Tale hit all my buttons and then some! At times I couldn’t believe this was a debut; Laura Madeleine crafted a gorgeous world (hello, Parisian pastries!) with compelling characters and I quickly became invested in both storylines. Gui and Jeanne’s romance was swoon-worthy with all the drama a forbidden romance entails and Petra’s desire to defend her grandfather’s reputation was moving. Despite both storylines being equally well done, I’ll admit I kept looking forward to jumping back in time to Gui’s story – though that’s totally a me thing. I love historical fiction and the Patisserie Clermont kept calling my name.

I wish more would have been done with the ‘present day’ storyline (can 1988 be considered present day??). Petra’s lackadaisical attitude toward her thesis (and ultimate boot from the program), the biographer looking to shed light on a rumor, Petra’s budding romance with a friend, the mystery itself – there was so much potential with this side of The Confectioner’s Tale, but the end of the novel left me with several unanswered questions.

If you’re in the mood for a novel full of mouth-watering descriptions of pastries, secret romance, and family drama, this is the novel for you! I do feel the present day story could have been tightened up a bit, but it in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. The Confectioner’s Tale is being compared to one of my favorite authors, Kate Morton, and it certainly lives up to that praise! This was a phenomenal debut and I’m thrilled to see Laura Madeleine already has another book in the works, scheduled for a 2017 release!

weekly wrap-up 9/18

↠ Although my birthday was last week, the parties were this week. Happy birthday to me!

↠ Last night a tornado touched down a few counties away! All we got was some rain and an early morning rainbow…and immediately after I took this photo, it started to pour. While Bay and I were on our walk.

↠ In the beginning on the month I was chosen to be a lularoe ambassador for a lovely, lovely lady. Part of my duties is a regular posting on instagram and facebook and it just so happens that cozy sweaters go GREAT with leggings!

READING REPORT Last week my total for the year was 128 books with 90 female authors, 38 male authors. This week I’m at 132 books read, 93 of those are by female authors, 39 are by male authors.

WHAT I FINISHED Dawn Kurtagich’s latest, And the Trees Crept In is reviewed below, but it was fun and wonderfully creepy! Charlotte Huang’s Going Geek is also reviewed below and it was another fun, quick read that had fantastic characters I would love to know in real life. After months of waiting for my library hold, I finally got a turn at Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall and, while it wasn’t a life-changing book, it was extremely engaging and I finished this audio in just three days – practically unheard of for me! Finally, Laura Madeleine’s The Confectioner’s Tale was oh so lovely and romantic and Parisian. Be on the lookout for my thoughts next week!

CURRENTLY READING Years spent as a bookseller made me VERY familiar with James Patterson, though I had never read any of his books. One I’ve been curious about is The Murder House and when I saw the audio was available at my library I wasted no time in grabbing a copy. This is another one I’m getting through quickly, though that’s more of how Patterson writes – very short, action-packed chapters have you flipping the pages (or, in my case, going a little further on my walks with Bay)! I’m 71% done and will most likely finish before the weekend is over. I’m also reading my very first Nicci French, Friday on My Mind, a psychological thriller where the MC (a psychotherapist in London) becomes the prime suspect in a gruesome murder. I’m just a few chapters in but MAN OH MAN this is not a book for the queasy! I like a bit of gore in my murders and the opening scenes graphically describe a bloated body in the Thames. This is excellent so far.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Two mini-reviews went up this week: And the Trees Crept In (a blood red manor, characters who are slowly going insane, trees that keep moving closer) and Snow White (a Jazz Age retelling/graphic novel)! Naturally I had to post about Roald Dahl Day, especially exciting this year since he would have turned 100! I focused on three of his adult short stories. Lastly, Charlotte Huang’s Going Geek, was a total fish-out-of-water story: a rich girl suddenly finds herself without money and relocated to the worst dorm on her school’s campus. Although it took a little while for me to warm up to the main character, I absolutely LOVED Huang’s characterization of the rest of the girls to the point where I wish I could be irl besties with them.

Friday on My Mind by Nicci French
This is actually the fifth book in the series (they all have titles based on the days of the week) but the publicist assured me they could be read as standalones, so here we go! When a corpse, bloated with its throat slashed, is discovered floating in the Thames, police are at a loss. The only clue is the hospital band on his wrist with the name Dr. F. Klein. When Frieda is brought in to identify the body, she tells police he’s her ex-boyfriend and although she has an idea as to who murdered Sandy, fingers keep pointing to Frieda herself. I couldn’t help myself and picked this one up yesterday – I’m just a few chapters in but am enjoying it immensely! Thank you, Penguin!

Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn
I legit squealed when this showed up at my door. 1, it’s about Eleanor and y’all know I love my Roosevelts! 2, it’s about her friendship-turned-romance with reporter Lorena Hickok! I am going to inhale this book!! Thank you, Penguin!

Going Geek by Charlotte Huang

Going Geek by Charlotte Huang
Pub. Date: September 13, 2016
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Delacorte!)
Summary: It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Skylar Hoffman’s senior year at her preppy East Coast boarding school should have been perfect: amazing boyfriend, the coolest friends, the most desirable dorm.

But it’s far from it. To her dismay, Skylar’s not going to rule senior year because she’s stuck in Abbot House, a tiny dorm known for, well, nothing. Living with a group of strangers everyone thinks is lame is bad enough. Worse is that Skylar wasn’t exactly truthful about how she spent summer break in Los Angeles—and her little white lie is causing her once rock-solid romance to crumble fast. And when it turns out that Skylar’s best friend is the one responsible for having her booted from Lincoln? It’s an all-out war.

Stepping out of her comfort zone never felt so scary—or necessary. But everything is different now. Including, maybe, Skylar herself…
Genre: YA, Contemporary

Skylar is a girl who has it all: her mom became a household name with the uber popular movie Over It and has been working on a sequel and she’s about to start her senior year at her elite (aka very expensive) East Coast boarding school where she has the coolest friends and hands down the best dorm – not to mention the perfect boyfriend. Unfortunately for Skylar, her world gets flipped upside down: her mother just can’t seem to find a company to green-light the movie and with no income, Skylar’s once-privileged life has taken a serious turn for the worse. Instead of a summer spent with Hollywood heartthrobs, Skylar has instead been waiting tables at a country club.

With the ultimate bombshell: her parents might have to sell the house, Skylar counts down the days until she’s back at her beloved Winthrop…until she receives word that, due to a computer error, more students were placed in her dorm than it can house and living arrangements had to be shuffled. Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse, Skylar discovers she’s to be moved from Lincoln to Abbott, aka the dorm with all the losers. Even more shocking is how her friends react to the news about what Skylar was really up to over summer break.

When I first heard about Going Geek I knew it was a book I wanted to read: a popular girl is suddenly thrown into the geek crowd. Total fish-out-of-water story and I couldn’t wait to dive in! Before I even started I knew how things would play out, Skylar would be outraged at being stuck with a group of social outcasts, said social outcasts would turn out to actually be really awesome, and eventually Skylar would have a dawning realization that how she had originally treated them was wrong. Easy peasy. That said, I still enjoyed the ride immensely.

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure how to feel about Skylar initially. She’s stuck up, indignant, believes she essentially rules the school. How could I possibly root for this girl? I won’t ruin anything, but it turns out she has a surprising amount of depth and her character felt genuine, like someone I could picture in the flesh. The other girls in her dorm were beautifully written too, from vegan Opal (who takes her yoga very seriously) to spunky Raksmey who holds her own rave every Thursday night. Abbott isn’t a large dorm, but the girls who lived within those walls were great and I would honestly love to be friends with them.

While Abbott’s residents were individuals, I have to admit that Lincoln’s students felt a little cartoon-y and caricature-ish. These girls were supposed to be Skylar’s squad, her absolute besties, but the moment they found her she was working over the summer, they turned on the Mean Girl charm real quick. They shunned her, caused her boyfriend to break up with her. When she tried to come up with events for the Social Calendar, her ideas were shot down or begrudgingly agreed to and then sabotaged. I get that they were the villains, but I would have liked to have seen something a little more realistic, their reaction to her news and treatment made it extremely hard to believe they had once been her closest friends.

While it took me a little while to warm up to Skylar’s rich girl attitude, once I did I was hooked. Going Geek is such a quick read and so perfect for these last lazy days of summer. Huang breathed life into characters I would love to know in person and that for me is huge. Although I could have done with less of the Mean Girl-esque drama, I really enjoyed this one and look forward to seeing what she does next!

the adult side of Roald Dahl for #RoaldDahlDay!

It’s here, it’s here, Roald Dahl Day is here!! For a few years now I’ve talked about Roald Dahl Day, but this year is just a little more magical: today marks his 100th birthday. There are celebrations all over the world (sadly none near me!) and this year I wanted to do something different. Today I wanted to highlight three of Dahl’s adult stories.

LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, first published in 1953 in Harpers Magazine
Dahl loved his horror and his admiration of the genre is on full display here. Mary Malone spends her days taking care of the home she’s made with her husband Patrick, a detective on the local police force. One night he comes home and acts very strange, sitting in his chair and not saying a word, not wanting to go out for dinner (their usual Thursday night plan) and not wanting to have dinner at home either. Eventually he gives Mary startling news, although it’s never stated just what that news is (it’s hinted Patrick wants a divorce). Mary, just about ready to give birth at any moment, never suspected her husband was anything less than perfectly content with their marriage and does the unthinkable: she bashes him over the head with a leg of lamb and then proceeds to cook it, ultimately feeding it to the police officers who come to investigate Patrick’s sudden death.

Lamb to the Slaughter is one of Dahl’s more widely-known short stories and has been adapted for television twice: one episode of Alfred Hitchcock’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the second for Dahl’s own Tales of the Unexpected.

THE WISH, first published in 1953 in the collection Someone Like You
At just a handful of pages, this is an extremely short story about a little boy who wants a puppy for his birthday. In order to make that wish come true, however, he must first make it to the other side of the room while only stepping on the yellow bits of carpeting. When my siblings and I were little we would gather all of the couch cushions and arrange them on the floor and then jump from cushion to cushion – anyone who fell would fell into a fiery pit of lava and that’s basically what this little boy in this story is doing. The black designs on the carpet are long, winding rivers that’ll sweep him away and, instead of lava, there are poisonous snakes, their fangs ready to attack.

I had actually never heard of this story before until just a few years ago when I bought a short story collection. I tore through it in a matter of minutes and the very ambiguous ending hints that maybe there were poisonous snakes after all…

GENESIS AND CATASTROPHE: A TRUE STORY, first published in 1959 in Playboy
While I totally spoiled Lamb to the Slaughter, I absolutely refuse to do so here. Originally titled A Fine Boy, this story took me by surprise when I first read it and continues to be among my favorites. A woman has just given birth and demands to know whether or not the baby is alright, how big is he, why did he stop crying, etc. As the doctor soon discovers, the woman’s heightened state of panic comes from losing three children within a matter of months. This new baby, a little boy, cannot be small and weak like the others; her husband wants strapping heirs. Eventually the husband comes into the room and the doctor and nurse both beg him to be compassionate toward his wife and new child. In the end he relents and the chill upon the realization of the gravity of the situation still gets to me.

This story was also adapted for Raold Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected and in 2000 it was made into a short film!