January releases I need to get my hands on!

With my December reads coming to an end on a very high note, I couldn’t be more excited to see what books 2019 holds. Today I have 9 books coming out in January that I can’t wait to get my hands on! (As always, I’m cheating a bit: three of these I already own – a huge thank you to those publishers!)

The Me I Meant to Be by Sophie Jordan | January 1
Hitting the ground running with The Me I Meant to Be, a YA novel dropping on the very first day of the new year. I have to admit, I love Sophie’s historical romance (somewhat of a new obsession of mine, I only got into the genre in December 2016!) and have read one of her New Adult novels, but I have yet to read any of her YA books.

Willa and Flor are total besties and Willa knows there’s an unspoken girl code that can’t be broken period. Even though she’s practically be in love with her neighbor (aka Flor’s boyfriend) forever. Although Zach and Flor recently broke up, Willa’s determined Zach remain off-limits, despite Zach always being around. As for Flor, she’s got a lot on her plate right now: her dad recently started dating again, the whole break-up with Zach, and Flor’s struggling grades. She needs to focus right now, but she can’t stop thinking about her tutor.

This one sounds fluffy and light-hearted with the perfect amount of romance to kick off the new year.

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly | January 8
WWII fiction is having a massive boom right now and I am SO there. I’ve already put in a request for this one at my library (a few other people managed to snag it before me, just ignore the uncontrollable sobbing you hear). But what’s even better than a WWII novel? A DUAL ERA NOVEL.

While working with an antiques dealer on clearing out an estate, Cara comes across an old tin. Upon opening it, she discovers a WWII-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Enchanted, Cara is determined to find out more about the author of the unfinished diary, the story of the woman, but in doing so, Cara must face the brutal reality of wartime London. Louise is 19 in 1941 and is waiting at home for her wealthy suitor to return from war when he’s sure to propose. An unexpected encounter with an RAF pilot changes everything and Louise finds herself joining the women’s branch of the British Army as a Gunner Girl.

I mean, do I really need to say anything else??

No Mercy by Joanna Schaffhausen | January 15
Last December I read the first book in this series, The Vanishing Season, and was absolutely floored by how much I enjoyed it. When she was 14, Abby seemed to be the next victim of a serial killer that had been terrorizing the nation. Miraculously she was rescued and 15 years later, Abby – now Ellery – is a police officer.

No Mercy seems to take place shortly after the events of The Vanishing Season: Ellie is now on involuntary leave from her job and is forced to attend a group therapy for victims of violent crimes. Instead of getting in touch with her feelings, Ellie finds herself digging around where she shouldn’t: she’s convinced a fellow group member helped to convict an innocent man of a crime years ago and a woman who survived a brutal rape pleads with Ellie to find her attacker.

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli | January 22
Okay, to be honest, I’m not sure if this is a January release or if it comes out in February; there are two release dates. Regardless, this is one of the three books on this list I already have and I’m beyond excited to dive in!

Raina has finally caved and given in to her family’s demands. She’ll allow her grandmother to play matchmaker, but that doesn’t mean Raina will have to like it. As her life quickly spirals into a whirlwind of disastrous blind dates, Raina needs to find a way out of her arranged-marriage nightmare – without crushing her grandmother’s dreams.

All is Fair by Dee Garretson | January 22
It’s 1918 and war is raging across Europe. Lady Mina Tretheway knows she’s destined for greater things than choosing the right fork at dinner and finally sees her chance to shine when she receives a telegram written in code. Returning to her childhood home, Mina is joined by a family friend and a young American, and the three set out on a dangerous project full of spywork and cryptic messages.

WWI, spying, a fancy boarding school for well-bred ladies? YES PLEASE!

The Suspect by Fiona Barton | January 22
Barton’s debut, The Widow, was one of my Top Reads of 2016. Her follow-up, The Child, was a bit of a letdown, however. I’m hoping that was just a fluke, or a case where I had such high expectations since I loved her first book so much. Either way, I have a copy of The Suspect (and will be participating in the blog tour next month).

Two families are thrust into the international spotlight after their daughters go missing in Thailand. Kate Waters is determined to always be the first on the scene, the journalist who gets the exclusive interviews, the one to break the news, and this case is no exception. As she digs deeper into the girls’ disappearance, Kate can’t help but think of her own son; since he left home to go travelling she hasn’t spoken to him in two years.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne | January 29
The wait list for this one is already a mile-long. I expect I’ll be getting my copy by next summer #notfine

Darcy met the love of her life when she was 8. Unfortunately, her brother Jamie claimed Tom as his best friend, making Tom firmly off-limits and leaving Darcy to relish in the 1% of him that wasn’t completely loyal to Jamie. Now grown, Darcy has three months to get her life in order before her brother sells the run-down cottage their inherited from their grandmother. Tom just happens to be a whiz at DIYs and Fixer Uppers and Jamie has sent him to the cottage to give it a massive overhaul that will result in an even more massive bundle of cash once the cottage is sold. For the first time in a decade, Tom is single and, to Darcy’s luck, he’s on her porch. No longer content with just 1% of Tom, Darcy’s determined to have the other 99%.

Do I need to go on? The Hating Game was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and, like the rest of the book community, I’ve been dying for Thorne’s next book.

Governess Gone Rogue by Laura Lee Guhrke | January 29
I currently have the first two Dear Lady Truelove novels from the library and I plan on doing a binge read just in time for the third book! Dear Lady Truelove is a wildly popular advice column, its author’s identity a complete secret. In Governess Gone Rogue, Lady Truelove receives a letter from a pair of twin boys, looking for a new wife for their father (she must be nice, brainy, and fond of cats).

Their father, the Earl of Kenyon, feels what his boys need is a strong male tutor, not a mother. Someone tough enough to tame his wild sons. Though Lord Kenyon insists on hiring a man, Miss Amanda Leighton, former schoolteacher and governess, knows she’s fully qualified to be a tutor. A few ill-fitting suits later and she’s Lord Kenyon’s newest employee.

Three Little Words by JEnny Holiday | January 29
AAHHHH!! The third and final book on this list that I already own and one of my most anticipated 2019 releases!

Three Little Words is Gia’s book and that’s all I need to say about that!


Tackling the TBR 2: The Picks!

I’ll fight anyone who says winters weren’t made for binge reads and finally reading those dreary, 1000-page novels you’ve been meaning to tackle since college.

Just after Thanksgiving last year I decided to knock out my slightly (okay, more than slightly) ridiculous TBR list on GoodReads. At the time there were over 1100 books I had shelved, and my solution? Tackling the TBR. I used a random number generator to choose my picks for me (going by 100: if the first number was 7, my first book would be the 7th listed on my TBR shelf. If the second number was 50, my second pick would be the 150th book, etc). Simple, but oh so fun. I finally had an excuse to discover Disworld! Within the first week I had devoured Terry Pratchett’s Mort (and have grabbed several others from my library – including my current read!). I discovered a Top Read of 2017 at the 11th hour: on Christmas Day I shared my thoughts on Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s phenomenal Never Caught, a nonfic about one of George Washington’s former slaves. On the other hand, I also learned that a book I had been curious about for years just wasn’t the one for me.

It’s that time of year again, the nights are longer and colder and all I want to do is curl up under a mountain of blankets. While my TBR list this time around is much shorter (down to 800 from last year’s 1100), it’s nonetheless an immense project and I’m eager to jump into these books!

Here they are, the picks for round 2 of Tackling the TBR! I’m delighted by the varied genres AND that I actually own several of these! Last time I only had 2 of the picks. This time around I’m thrilled with the 4 I have..double from last time, no complaints here!

The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie
My first (!!) Crusie! VERY excited for this one: Daisy has a soft spot for strays and a good story, the only explanation for why she agreed to her neighbor’s ridiculous offer. Linc Blaise (seriously, talk about a 90s name!!) is a workaholic history professor eager to land his dream job…unfortunately he needs a fiancee, or at least someone willing to pretend to be his fiancee. Just until he lands the job. Enter Daisy.

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens
Published as Murder is Most Unladylike in the UK, this Middle Grade mystery series takes place in a girls school in the 1930s. I’m already psyched. Daisy (I see a theme with these picks..) and Hazel set up a detective agency, only they haven’t had any really exciting mysteries to solve – they certainly aren’t counting Lavinia’s missing tie. Then Hazel discovers the body of their Science Mistress, Miss Bell. She runs to get Daisy and when the two return five minutes later, the body is gone. Now the girls not only have to prove a murder happened in the first place, but they also have to find the killer before he – or she – strikes again.

Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan
I first added this one to my To Read list back in March of 2016! A good friend recommended this one to me and it’s basically screaming my name: a dual-era novel set in 1903 and 1933, Fiercombe Manor features an English house with secrets. My favorite. Twenty-two-year-old Alice is pregnant and unmarried, banished to a country manor under the guise of having recently lost her husband. With the home’s owners abroad, Alice will be able to hide away until the baby is born. But the longer she stays at Fiercombe, the more she senses something isn’t right and soon uncovers the house’s tragic past, one that involves another pregnancy decades earlier.

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce
A woman becomes a secret advice columnist in London during WWII. That’s literally all I know and all I need to know. As if I wasn’t already intrigued, this book has received extremely high praise some several of my favorite bloggers!

You Were Here by Gian Sardar
Pitched as being for readers of Kate Atkinson, tell me more. Thirty-three-year-old Abby has been haunted by recurring nightmares: always being buried alive, the feeling so real she can even taste the dirt in her mouth. Finally the nightmare reveals a name. A name from her family’s past. Searching for answers, Abby heads back to her hometown where her grandmother’s jewelry box reveals a cryptic note, leading Abby to search for traces of a love triangle gone wrong from nearly 70 years ago.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
I was immensely impressed with Sager’s debut, The Final Girls, and have a feeling this new book will be just as great. A woman receives a job offer to work as a painting instructor at her childhood summer camp. The camp where three of her friends disappeared without a trace fifteen years ago.

Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard
One night four friends sit around discussing what the perfect man would look like. Should he be tall? Charming and caring? Will rippling abs be enough? The more the women joke about their checklist, the more they roll with it – soon it become a favorite topic of conversation at work and through email. ..until one of the women is murdered. With their lives on the line, the other women quickly realize Mr. Perfect has become the perfect nightmare.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Um, yeah, somehow I made it out of childhood without reading this one??

Completely Yours by Erin Nichols
The first in the Opposites Attract series, Completely Yours follows Kiera, a graphic designer who loves nothing more than hanging out on her couch and chatting with her online friends. When disaster strikes, Kiera suddenly finds herself up close and personal with Zach, an EMT. This entire series sounds super fluffy and fun and I’m all about opposites attracting!

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
I can’t resist a good WWII novel and this one has had glowing reviews. With the men all going off to war, the Vicar of Chilbury decides to close the choir until their safe return. The women, however, feel otherwise. Battling broken hearts and low spirits, what the women – and the village – need right now is to come together. And these ladies are ready to sing.

November’s mini review round-up!

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick | August 21, 2018
While browsing antique shops, Alison comes across a painting of Anne Boleyn, though she knows the true subject is Mary Seymour, daughter of former queen Katherine Parr. How? Because she was there at Wolf Hall with Mary…five centuries earlier in 1557.

I first became aware of Nicola a few years ago through one of my GoodReads Recoomends posts (based on my most absolute favorite book of 2016!). I instantly fell hard for House of Shadows and had been itching to get my hands on The Phantom Tree since it first came onto my radar.

At sixteen, Alison became pregnant but refused to name the father. As a result, she was exiled, only she saw a chance to run and took it. Unfortunately for Alison, she somehow found herself centuries in the future. While she’s been able to acclimate to 21st-century life, she desperately wants to find her way back to the 1500s, back to her son.

The Phantom Tree has it all: romance, time travel, scandal, a centuries-old scavenger hunt. I enjoyed every moment I spent within its pages and it was over all too soon.

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young | October 8, 2018
Ava is having a nightmare of a week. First there was a dreaded return back to her hometown (where she VERY clearly wasn’t wanted). Then a volcanic eruption in Europe threw up enough ash into the air that flights in America have even been grounded. Finally, just as she thinks she might be able to get back home to Boston – and even score an upgraded seat in first class – a monstrous brute of a Scotsman not only insults her, but also steals that coveted seat. When a layover leads to jumping into bed, they agree it was a one-time thing. However, Caleb seems to have a knack for popping up in Ava’s life and now his business trip to Boston looks like it’s becoming a permanent stay.

Back in 2016 I randomly grabbed the audio of Echoes of Scotland Street and enjoyed it, but didn’t pick up another of Young’s novels until I received a copy of Fight of Flight. This book was such a fun, fluffy way to pass a not-so-fun-and-fluffy week at work: the banter, the secondary characters, it was all great. While this does seem to be a standalone, there’s definitely a chance for a follow-up focusing on another couple in Fight or Flight and I would be a-okay with that!

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory | October 30
Five months into dating her man-bunned, actor-bro boyfriend, the last thing Nikole expects is a big screen proposal at a baseball game (he can’t even spell her name right!) With her refusal comes a massive blow-up, not just from the disappointed fans in the stadium, but also from Nik’s social media once the video goes viral. Carlos was at that game, even helped Nik flee from the camera crews, but Nik knows this handsome LA doctor can’t possibly be looking for anything serious.

Hot on the heels of her massively popular The Wedding Date, Guillory is back with The Proposal. Right from the start I was hooked, from the cringe-worthy proposal and the amazingly diverse cast to the female friendships, this book seriously had it all. I was a little late to the party with The Wedding Date, but now that I’ve discovered how fantastic Guillory is, you better believe my grabby hands will be all over The Wedding Party in July!

For Once in My Life by Colleen Coleman | November 20, 2018
Stranded at the altar three years ago when her groom-to-be ran off with her best friend, Lily is still single and working tirelessly for the local paper where her claims to fame are articles about giant vegetables and dogs who look like Chewbacca. After her boss A, ran the paper into the ground and B, abruptly quit just as the powers that be have announced a visit, Lily finds herself suddenly thrown into the boss’s seat – and responsible for saving the paper. Excited for the chance to finally stretch her wings and write the articles she wants to write, Lily excitedly volunteers to do a series on diving headfirst into things that scare her like skydiving and staying overnight in a haunted house, all the while accompanied by a fellow colleague, Christopher. With readership steadily increasing, things are only looking up for the paper – and for Lily, but will she finally be able to do the one thing that scares her most of all: falling in love again?

For Once in My Life was a completely random NetGalley grab on a weekend where I wanted another lighthearted read. I took a chance with this title and I’m glad I did. I’ll be honest, though I had a great time reading the book (and am pleased to say it held my interest start-to-finish), this wasn’t a book that stuck with me, even just a few weeks after reading. Just to write this mini review I had to go back and re-read the summary for character names and plot details. That said, I did enjoy this one while it lasted and was pleased to have passed a weekend with it.

Merrily Ever After by Jenny Holiday | December 4, 2018
Blissfully in the throes of newlywed life, Elise is looking forward to her first Christmas with her husband Jay. Her holiday spirit comes to a screeching halt, however, when she discovers she’s pregnant – despite all odds, medically impossible, no way no how. While Elise is bouncing between feeling elated and utter panic, she’s terrified to break the news to Jay: right from the start he said he never wanted children. This is their first Christmas together..will it also be their last?

This summer’s It Takes Two was my introduction to the series that’s taken the book community by storm and I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not listening to the praise sooner! Let me put it this way: I do not like short stories. At all. Despite MANY attempts to get into them, side stories and bonus novellas just never clicked for me. Yet I was beside myself with excitement at the thought of having more of this series to read.

Because this is a romance – a Christmas romance no less! – I knew there would be a happy ending, but my heart still went out to Elise several times over the course of this story. Against all odds, she’s going to have a baby and there’s a secret part of her that’s overcome with joy. On the other hand, she’s dreading the thought of telling her husband; when he learned she wasn’t able to have children, he announced she was his dream woman. She doesn’t want to even think about Jay leaving her, but how else could he possibly react to this news? Merrily Ever After was an incredibly short and sweet read that even made this Grinch’s heart grow three sizes – AND cameos from other characters made this novella an absolute delight.

The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood by Frederica Sagor Maas | 1999
Lastly, I wanted to include an older book I recently devoured. Back in 2016 I first shared a few of my favorite podcasts (keep your eyes peeled for an updated list coming soon!). One of those mentioned was You Must Remember This, a podcast about the first century of Hollywood. A recently episode was devoted to the life of Frederica Sagor Maas, a woman who admittedly I had never heard of prior to listening, but by the time the episode had ended, I had already put in a request at my library for her autobiography.

This will come as a shock to no one, but the story ideas and scripts Freddie wrote were ultimately credited to others (and by others I mean men). Some were even stolen outright. Still, she kept at it and her story was fascinating. Her entire life was fascinating: she lived to be 111, passing away just a few years ago in 2012. At the time of her death she was the 44th oldest person in the world, the 18th oldest person in America, and the 2nd oldest person in California. This memoir? She wrote it when she was 99. If you have an interest in early Hollywood I highly recommend this book!

weekend recipe: blueberry cinnamon roll bake

Good morning! Hello December! Happy Saturday! Today I have a recipe for you that – no lie – I MADE THREE TIMES SINCE THANKSGIVING. Y’all.

As much as I love cooking, there’s something so comforting about baking, especially once the weather turns chilly. I’ve talked about this before, but my absolute favorite time of the week is early – and I mean before-dawn early – Sunday morning. I’ve always been an early riser and love to sneak out of bed while Matt and the pups still sleep. It’s just me and a quiet, dark house and, honestly, few things can top that.

If you’re anything like me, chances are you’re bombarded with recipes on facebook. A few weeks ago I was mindlessly scrolling and one in particular caught my eye. It was an ooey, gooey, dish made of cinnamon rolls and blueberries and just looked so warm and cozy. Despite literally sitting feet away from Matt, I instantly sent him the link (#goals, right?) and, much to my surprise, he said I needed to make it. ASAP.

Well that first dish immediately turned into a second (it was a PERFECT dessert to bring to Matt’s family’s for Thanksgiving) and, finally, a third for Matt’s birthday. Seriously, it’s ridiculous how simple and easy this is to make. AND it’s a recipe that came from Buzzfeed of all places!

Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Bake
via Tasty

2 packages cinnamon rolls (save the icing)
4 eggs
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1½ cups blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Cut cinnamon rolls into bite-size pieces and set aside.

2. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon until well combined.

4. Place cut up cinnamon rolls into an 8×8 baking dish. Pour blueberries on top followed by the milk mixture.

5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until fully cooked. If the top is looking too brown, cover with foil for the remaining time.

7. Garnish with icing and serve.

So easy, so delicious, absolutely perfect for frosty winter mornings! I’ve made this three times in the past 2 weeks and I’m positive I’ll be making it again soon.

October 2018 recap


• Now that the weather has turned (hello, sweater weather!), Cars & Coffee has ended for the season and for once, Matt and I didn’t have a single thing planned for the weekend! I stayed in my pjs as long as possible and snuggled up with a good book.

• October started my short work weeks. For the rest of the year I work – at most – 4 days a week, sometimes as little as 2. These extra-long weeks have been spent snuggling pups, time travelling to the 1500s, and being as lazy as possible.

• Instagram photos you might have missed: foggy mornings, I discussed favorite childhood books that managed to pass me by, and some Poe + skull love for Halloween.

• In October I read a total of 8 books: all print! Things were evenly split between library grabs/books I already own and ARCs: 4 each. My favorite reads of the month were The Dream Daughter and The House Next Door (both reviews linked below), and Dear Fahrenheit 451, a delightfully charming collection of break-up notes to books.


LAST NIGHT WITH THE EARL BY KELLY BOWEN is the follow-up to this summer’s A Duke in the Night. As much as I loved the first book, I have to admit, I think I might have loved Last Night even more! An only son and heir – long thought dead – returns from Waterloo horrifically injured. Content to remain “dead,” he secrets away to the family’s country estate, an estate that is now, unbeknownst to him, a school for young ladies. And one of the teachers is the former fiancee of his best friend.

THE DREAM DAUGHTER BY DIANE CHAMBERLAIN might be an exploration of a new genre (sci-fi/fantasy), but it’s still a Diane novel at heart and easily one of my favorite reads of the year. No surprises there, right? A woman in 1970 loses her husband in the Vietnam War and, shortly after, learns their child has a fatal heart defect. Knowing she can’t bear to lose her child too – the last link she has to her husband – her brother-in-law confesses a secret: he can travel through time. And if Caroline wants to save her child, she needs to travel too. If you’ve ever read a Diane novel, you already know you’re going to need a lot of tissues on hand. Silly me for thinking the 9/11 scene would be the emotional one. What happened after was even worse.

THE SPELLBOOK OF KATRINA VAN TASSEL BY ALYSSA PALOMBO is a Sleepy Hollow retelling, giving Katrina’s side of the story. I went into this one expecting a spooky, supernatural read just in time for Halloween. While I read its 400+ pages in nearly one sitting, I was slightly disappointed in the lack of moodiness. As I said in my review, this book has more sex scenes than spells.

OCTOBER’S MINI REVIEW ROUND UP includes a 70s haunted house novel, a contemporary Christmas romance set in Switzerland, and a Middle Grade story about censorship.




November releases I need to get my hands on!

A new month brings new releases that are screaming my name! Inspired by a two-part series I did last year where I highlighted the books of the first and second halves of 2017, this year I’m doing it a little differently. Instead of breaking it down by genre, I’m focusing on each month’s releases I need in my life.

Curious about previous books I featured?
sci-fi/fantasy part 1 | sci-fi/fantasy part 2
contemporary part 1 | contemporary part 2
historical fiction part 1 | historical fiction part 2
mystery/suspense part 1 | mystery/suspense part 2

May releases I need to get my hands on!
June releases I need to get my hands on!
August releases I need to get my hands on!
September releases I need to get my hands on!

Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb | November 1
On the verge of divorce, Kate heads for the comfort of her parents’ home on Lake Superior. Instead of finding solace, however, Kate discovers a body washed up on the shore. Within the folds of the woman’s vintage dress is an infant. No one seems to be able to identify the woman..except Kate. She’s seen her before. In her dreams.

The blurb mentions “haunting folktale that has been handed down in whispers over generations” and a century-old love story that ended in tragedy. Does this scream my name or what?? (Okay, cheating a little here: I have an ARC of this one, but it sounded way too good to pass up putting it on this list!)

River Bodies by Karen Katchur | November 1
I mentioned this one a few weeks ago in a recently added post. When Matt and I bought our house, Karen’s debut was the first book I read, so she holds a special place in my heart. Even more exciting than a new Karen novel is a new Karen series; River Bodies is the first in the Northampton County series. If you like mysteries, you are seriously going to want to check this one out!

A body has just been discovered outside a small Pennsylvanian town. The crime shockingly similar to a two decade-old cold case. Though the detective is desperate to connect the two murders, there’s no concrete evidence to link them and the locals certainly aren’t talking.

My One and Only Duke by Grace Burrowes | November 6
Another ARC I have and one I’ve been devouring these past few days! Practically overnight Quinn Wentworth went from London banker to locked in a prison cell awaiting execution. Unbeknownst to him, he’s just been declared the long lost heir to a dukedom, and offers marriage to a pregnant widow – neither one truly believes they have a chance at a future.

Historical romance with a Cinderella twist? Yes please!

Bringing Down the Colonel by Patricia Miller | November 13
The subtitle is A Sex Scandal of the Gilded Age, and the “Powerless” Woman Who Took on Washington and nothing more needs to be said. I am SO ready.

Madeline Pollard was still a teen when she began an affair with a Kentucky congressman, one of the most powerful men in the country. A decade later, in 1893, the pair were finally to be married after a decade-long relationship (and the passing of his wife)…and then he suddenly broke off the engagement and quickly married someone else. Madeleine sued him for breach of promise and over the 5-week trial, every last detail of their affair was made known to the public. And when the trial was over? Madeleine won.

haunted houses, Christmas weddings, rebel librarians: mini reviews!

The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons | orig. 1978
Colquitt and Walter live a quiet, private, and privileged life. Each house on their street is bigger and more lavish than the one before it and the neighborhood parties are legendary. Unlike their neighbors, however, Colquitt and Walter are fortunate enough to have an empty lot on one side of their property – until the day its sold and a young architect arrives with an even younger couple (Daddy is footing the bill for their wildly expensive dream home). Even before the house is finished, everyone agrees it’s downright gorgeous. Then odd things begin happening, initially written off as tragic coincidences, though Colquitt slowly begins to suspect something far more evil is to blame.

From the moment I first heard about this book and immediately put in a request at the library I was beyond excited to read this book. I’ve mentioned it both on the blog and on Instagram, giddily sharing lines and snippets once I finally was able to dive in. I was in the mood for a good, Halloween read, and what could be better than a haunted house??

On the surface, I enjoyed The House Next Door. It was one of those reads where I was completely immersed while reading and when I wasn’t I was thinking about it and looking forward to my lunchbreaks so I could sneak in a few chapters. However, this book was originally published in the 70s and has some pretty outdated views: the only family in the neighborhood with small children is labeled trashy and low class, allowing their brood to run around acting out and terrorizing everyone in sight. At one point the house turns two men gay. ..yeah. This is highly scandalous and shocking enough to result in death after the father-in-law of one of the men has a heart attack upon discovering the two and dies.

So although there are some scenes and opinions that had me, a reader in 2018, raising my eyebrows, I had fun with this one. How could you go wrong with an evil house doing sinister things to families, especially the week of Halloween? A word of caution though: don’t become attached to any of the animals or pets mentioned.

Christmas at the Chalet by Anita Hughes | October 16, 2018
Prior to this one, I had only read one other novel by Anita Hughes (California Summer), but enjoyed it to the point where I happily picked up a Christmas novel in October. Felicity, owner of Felicity Grant Bridal, is convinced she’ll wake up on Christmas morning to an engagement ring. After all, she’s almost 30 (spoiler: I began the eye-rolling in the first chapter) and has been with Adam six years. They have the same goals and want the same things out of life, so it’s only a matter of time before he finally proposes. Unfortunately for Felicity, the day arrives without a ring and, instead of happily announcing their engagement, the two have a massive fight, resulting in Felicity storming off angry to Switzerland where she’s about to take part in a fashion show that could take her career to a new level. One of her models, Nell, has a wedding coming up..only Nell’s newly-divorced parents hate each other to the point where they insist she has two weddings just so they don’t have to see each other.

Look I’m definitely in the minority here. Other reviews for this book have been great so far. Sadly, I can’t echo their praise. There are three storylines in this one: Felicity’s, Nell’s, and flashback scenes featuring Nell’s parents, and I didn’t care for any of them. If anyone deserved sympathy, it was Nell. Her wedding should be her day and I felt so sorry that her parents were selfish enough to where they couldn’t put aside their difference and act civil for a few hours. Felicity was the worst, though. Her end game is to have a ring on her finger, regardless of how Adam feels. And when it seems she’s finally going to get her wish? She has a complete character change and brushes Adam off. Uh? There’s another love interest here, a doctor named Gabriel, and their scenes literally amounted to a handful of pages where each conversation consisted of Gabriel admonishing Felicity for not wearing a coat/hat and suggesting she might have a concussion or broken ankle. He also told her fairy tales. So imagine my surprise when they confess they’ve fallen in love with one another. Uh???

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes | September 18, 2018
When June brings home a book from her school library, she doesn’t think anything of it. After all, she’s an avid reader and adores her librarian – Ms. Bradshaw has yet to steer June wrong when it comes to books! June’s parents, however, take one look at the title (The Makings of a Witch), say it’s much too scary for their 7-grade daughter, and immediately march down to the school to an emergency PTA meeting. From there, a full-scale investigation is launched; Ms. Bradshaw is put on leave and books are tossed into industrial-size garbage cans. What’s worse, June’s books at home have undergone the same treatment: her parents have taken all of her books, refusing to give them back until they’ve been read and deemed appropriate (and thoroughly edited – her parents have ripped out pages, blacked out sentences, re-written entire endings). June refuses to stand by silently and, with the help of a Little Free Library, becomes the Rebel Librarian, running a full-scale library out of an empty locker.

Oh, this book was great. Characters and scenes saw me seeing red. It was bad enough that the school was banning books, but to have June’s books at home confiscated?? I can’t imagine. There’s some filler with crushes and her best friend, but I was far more intrigued by the library June created. This was a one-sitting read and I have never been more thankful my parents never tried to censor what I read.