where I’ve been.

After a blogging break in September, The Pretty Good Gatsby is back in action! Earlier in the week I kicked things off with a gushing, rambly review of Kelly Bowen’s Last Night with the Earl, the second novel in her Devils of Dover series, and my final read in September. After a seriously lackluster summer, this one was an absolute joy!

But before we can get to the exciting posts and reviews I have planned for October, let’s do a recap of September! So what have I been up to this past month?

I TURNED 30 By far the highlight of the month. Unfortunately, I spent the day at a funeral. My bonus grandfather passed away a few days prior, so the day itself wasn’t exactly the celebration we had in mind, but birthdays can be celebrated any time. So while I wish the circumstances would have been different, when we all got together, the party was lovely.

I CHOPPED OFF MY HAIR As much as I’m obsessed with long hair, I absolutely love it super short. Every Fall I chop it off, letting it grow out again throughout the year, and by the time Fall rolls around once more I’m sick of it and ready for it to be gone ha. I shared a quick pic on IG: chin-length is my go-to. My ultimate hair dream is to one day be brave enough to do a pixie. About five years ago when partially shaved heads were super trendy, I went for it, so you’d think a pixie wouldn’t be a big deal!

I BASICALLY LIVED AT MY LIBRARY After a seemingly never-ending string of awful, disappointing, or just plain blah ARCs, I decided to put review copies on the back burner for a bit. And honestly? It was awesome. September started with an ARC of And the Ocean was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, a bizarre Moby Dick retelling told from the perspective of a whale pod. This book sealed the deal and the next 10 books I read were all library grabs. Definitely the highlight was Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor, a time-travel romance. I furthered my Dilbert obsession (and still have several collections checked out that I’m eager to dive into) and played catch-up with Harrow County, a fun graphic novel series that put me in a Fall mood…despite the VERY Summer temperatures lol. I’ve shared my love of nonfic before and had a fun time with Of All the Gin Joints, a trip through old Hollywood. Lastly, I dipped back into ARCs with Last Night with the Earl to close out the month and what a way to finish!

What’s been going on in YOUR life??

weekly wrap-up 7/29

• Remember the cheddar jalapeno bread I drooled over a few weeks ago? Yesterday Matt and I stopped by for more – it’s so good! He also got us croissants and I was initially hesitant but wow. They were phenomenal and not at all greasy and gross like the croissants I’ve had in the past!

• I just finished reading a nonfic, Love From Boy, a collection of letter Roald Dahl wrote to his mother. The letters span about 40 or so years, from when he was 9 and just off to boarding school throughout adulthood. His mother had kept over 600 of them! A sweet, quick read, and now I’m in that dreaded limbo between books! What are you reading??

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Rosie Walsh’s fantastic debut, Ghosted, completely captivated me. A couple fall madly in love over the course of a week, then he vanishes. No phone calls, no texts, he doesn’t even reply to her facebook messages. Though Sarah’s friends think she needs to forget about Eddie and move on, she’s absolutely convinced there’s a reason. There was a twist in this one I wasn’t expecting at all! I also shared what’s making me happy this week!

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
This magical realism novel has been getting a fair bit of buzz this summer! Compared to One Day and Me Before You, this book explores that age-old question of if you could invite anyone – living or dead – to dinner, who would you pick? It’s Sabrina’s thirtieth birthday and as she arrives, she sees not just her friends, but people from her past…and a very perturbed Audrey Hepburn who does NOT appreciate waiting an hour for the birthday girl! I am so so so looking forward to this one! Thank you, Flatiron Books!

June 2018 recap


Cars & Coffee is always one of my favorite parts of the month. This bi-weekly event (held in Warrendale, hi local friends, come join us!) features “exotic and performance” cars…basically suped-up sports cars and cars that cost more than my house ha. There are McLarens and Lotuses alongside Subarus and Hondas. Matt takes his car and we always have a good time! I can’t wait to see what July will bring (the next meet-up is this coming Saturday) and I would love to meet new people!

• Usually after Cars & Coffee, Matt and I will go for random drives – one of our favorite things to do. We’ll take randoms turns and back roads, yours truly playing DJ obvs. The photo above is one I took during one of those drives, out of nowhere a family of geese crossed the road in front of us!

• There’s a Loafers Bread Co next to our local Whole Foods and I’ve always been so tempted to stop in (hello, bread). In June we finally went it (in a different location, one close to my work that I had NO idea even existed!! This is going to be bad hahaha). This Panera-esque has delicious sandwiches and soup and, of course, the bread was phenomenal as well! We grabbed a loaf of Struan and totally demolished it in a few days oops.

• Our Netflix binges included Safe (a Harlan Coben-penned British thriller starring Michael C. Hall…yep, Dexter with a British accent) and the second season of GLOW.

• I received my first Sips by box. Before signing up, you complete a profile where you choose your likes and dislikes and tea preferences, then each month you receive a personally curated box specifically for your tastes. So fun!

• June was jam-packed with family time. Not only was it my brother’s birthday and Father’s Day, but summer always seems to have a way of bringing people together. Father’s Day was a blast and I spent the day back in my hometown where I caught frogs with my nieces and my dad, my siblings, my nieces, and I all stood outside to see who would be the first to spot a rainbow after a sudden, five-minute storm.

• The new Jurassic World made me cry and that’s all I’m saying about that!

• When I looked at the books I read in June, I was a little disheartened. But then I realized just how much I did last month and I don’t feel too bad! I read 7 books, all were either print of e-books, no audio this time! Out of the bunch, I enjoyed Save the Date and It Takes Two the most, but Kate Messner’s Breakout was also wonderful and surprisingly thought-provoking!


MURDER AT THE MANSION BY SHEILA CONNOLLY had my name written all over it: this start to a new cozy mystery series featured a Civil War historian, small town charm, a grand old estate, and a dead body discovered on the grounds. Unfortunately, the main character was so awful and nasty she completely ruined any enjoyment I could have had. Kate’s comments about how it was so cute that her best friend’s biggest problems in life were finding her kids’ lost sports equipment while Kate’s job dealt with multi-million dollar deals with global companies was grating. Her high and mighty attitude constantly had her belittling everyone around her and I was glad to see this one come to an end.

SAVE THE DATE BY MORGAN MATSON had my kicking myself for not having read one of her books before! Though this YA was a teensy bit too long (clocks in around 400 pages), I enjoyed every second with the Grant family! The wedding nightmares – a band who can only play Journey covers, a dry cleaner mix-up leaves the groom with a bright purple suit – the sibling dynamic, the coolest job (the mom is the writer of Grant Central Station, a nationally beloved comic strip that’s getting ready to end its 25-year run), it all came together perfectly. I also loved how romance isn’t a big plot point here. There’s the barest of teases of a romance to come for Charlie, but Save the Date focused on family and I was all about that.

IT TAKES TWO BY JENNY HOLIDAY was such a fun read. When I wasn’t reading this book I was counting down the minutes until I could get back to it. The super fun settings, the swoony romance (complete with banter!), the amazing group of women who define friend goals, I fell hard for this book and can’t wait for the next one to come out!

BRING ME BACK BY B.A. PARIS had me a little hesitant at first. Behind Closed Doors was one of my top reads of 2016 (only beaten out by one other book as my favorite read of the year), but her follow-up, The Breakdown, was terrible. Bring Me Back was TINY…to the point where I honestly thought a good chunk of my copy was missing. While I was completely glued to the page and kept reading, the big reveal was absolutely bonkers.







weekly wrap-up 7/1 + giveaway winners!

• Pittsburgh is potentially reaching triple digits today and we’ve got cook-outs, parades, and fireworks lined up! Our house is literally across the street from where the town does fireworks – when we first bought the house they weren’t…of course it wasn’t until after we moved in and adopted pup #1 that the fireworks rolled in. Neither pup is a big fan, but Bay especially hates them. Last year Nacho was only 4 months old, so I’m curious to see how he’ll react this year! Either way, we’ll be celebrating indoors.

• I can get behind this: Lord Farquaad is a style icon.

• SO many sales this weekend! Am I the only one who won’t bat an eye at dropping $$$ but the second that shipping cost appears I’m like um no thank you?? I recently found an adorable shop on IG – major bonus: they’re local! – and they’re currently running a pretty great sale. Then I was hit with a shipping cost that was nearly the full price of one of my items! Yeah that’s a pass.

• Matt & I binged the second season of GLOW yesterday. ♥ So good.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Jenny Holiday’s It Takes Two is A+ beach read material. Humor, chemistry, a core group of women who seriously define friend goals, this book has it all and when I wasn’t reading, I was counting down the minutes until I could get back to it. The next book in the series comes out in January and once it’s released, you know where to find me!

B.A. Paris is back with her third book, Bring Me Back. Her debut was among my Top Reads of the year (my 2nd favorite book of 2016 actually!), but her follow-up was a massive letdown. I admit I went into this one a bit hesitantly and while the reveal was totally bonkers, I couldn’t stop reading.

GIVEAWAY WINNERS!! It’s time to reveal the winners of my Baby Teeth giveaway! Each lucky lady will receive an ARC! Congratulations to Kimberly M, Robin J, and Ashley S!!

Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky
I snagged an e-ARC of this one a few months ago but was thrilled to see a finished copy arrive! I haven’t read anything of hers before, but this one sounds intriguing: Mackenzie took her eyes off the road for only a second, but in that second she lost her daughter and, in the aftermath, her marriage and friends – particularly once the media got wind of her story. Now living in Vermont as Maggie, she hopes to make a new start. She has cats and a dog, new friends, even a successful job, but her newfound privacy quickly shatters when a neighbor boy is accused of hacking a Twitter account. Maggie has done everything possible to lay low and avoid the spotlight…but it seems to have a way of findind her and it’s only a matter of time before her painful past is exposed. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!

The Corpse at the Crystal Palace by Carola Dunn
This is the 23rd Daisy Dalrymple novel! I have received several of these over the years – a mega-binge just might be in store! April, 1928. Daisy is visited by her cousins and during their stay in London, the top of the Must See list is the Crystal Palace. Once at the palace, however, a the body of a nanny is discovered. To make matters worse, Daisy’s children’s own nanny has gone missing – and is later found unconscious. Things take an interesting turn when a third nanny is introduced into the mix…and this one just might be a murderer. Fun, fun, fun! Thank you, Minotaur!

Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine
While I never fully connected to the characters in last year’s Beyond the Wild River, the book was so atmospheric and the setting unbelievably detailed that I couldn’t help but be excited for Sarah’s follow-up! Women of the Dunes is set on the Scottish coast and weaves together a tale about a ninth century Viking maiden, a Victorian murder, and a present day archaeologist. Yes, yes, and yes. Thank you, Atria!

The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall
This one has received a ton of buzz already to the point where I honestly thought it was already released and now it’s coming out in softcover. Nope! Bouncing between 1949 and the present day, this one explores the lives between two women and the Miss Subways beauty contest. Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!

The Clockmaker’s Daughters by Kate Morton
AAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Thank you, Atria!

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
Pub. Date: June 19, 2018
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?
Genre: Domestic Thriller

Paris’s 2016 debut, Behind Closed Doors, was one of my top reads of the year and still remains one of my go-to recommendations. Her follow-up, last year’s The Breakdown, unfortunately didn’t hold up to my expectations and it’s sloppy, predictable plot made the book one of the year’s biggest disappointments. Still, I know Paris has wicked talent and wasn’t yet ready to write her off when a copy of her latest appeared at my door.

Bring Me Back features one of my favorite storytelling methods: the before and after, the now and then. Twelve years ago, Finn and Layla were on holiday in France when Layla disappeared one night. Though a search was launched, nothing ever turned up and, devastated, Finn went back home to London to carry on with his life. Now engaged to Ellen – Layla’s sister, their shared grief having brought them together – the two live a quiet, if unremarkable, life with their dog in a small village. When mementos of the past begin showing up (matryoshka dolls, something of Layla’s past only Finn and Ellen knew about), the two can’t help but wonder if Layla is back. Where has she been all these years? Why return now? And what does she want?

Bring Me Back is tiny. My review copy is 223 pages and I honestly thought half the book was missing. No, turns out this is just an incredibly short aka blindingly fast read. The book doesn’t wait around before letting the reader know Finn isn’t all that he seems; in the opening pages Finn’s police statement from the night Layla disappeared is presented. At the end, Finn admits he held back some of the truth, so right from the start it’s clear there’s much more to his story than he’s letting on. From there the book bounces around, traveling back to the past when Layla first came into Finn’s life and the present day, ultimately giving way to Layla’s own story.

Finn’s chapters became an endless loop of finding a doll, hiding the doll from Ellen, and avoiding going to the police, particularly once he began receiving odd e-mails (from Layla?). As the possibility of Layla’s return becomes more and more concrete, it’s clear Finn is struggling: does he still love Layla? Did he ever love Ellen? If Layla truly is alive and well and wants to be back in Finn’s life, how would he react? Kick Ellen to the curb to rekindle a decade-old romance with her sister? Finn was a garbage human – not unlike another Finn – and I couldn’t look away.

As the book draws to a close and the Big Reveal is announced, Bring Me Back become so over-the-top and bonkers in an absurd, totally unbelievable way. As much as I disliked Finn, I still felt he was aware/intelligent enough to have been able to see what had happened. I won’t give anything away, but I simply couldn’t see how no one figured it out. Especially Finn.

Despite the disappointing-slash-ridiculous reveal, Bring Me Back kept me entertained the entire (albeit incredibly short) time. I’m still totally biased when it comes to Paris’s first novel and, as yet, neither of her follow up releases have come close to being as great as Behind Closed Doors. Still, this one was riveting and I truly didn’t want to put it down, regardless of the wacky, cartoon villain-esque reveal. Someone who doesn’t read nearly as many thrillers as I do might be a bit more inclined to be shocked by the ending, but I still enjoyed the time I spent reading this one and look forward to whatever B.A. Paris does next.

It Takes Two by Jenny Holiday

It Takes Two by Jenny Holiday
Pub Date: June 26, 2018
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you Estelle + Forever Romance!)
Summary: Wendy Liu should be delighted to be her best friend’s maid of honor. But after years spent avoiding the bride’s brother – a.k.a the boy who once broke her heart – she’s now trapped with him during an endless amount of wedding festivities. Luckily she’s had time to perfect her poker face, and engaging Noah Denning in a little friendly competition might just prove that she’s over him for good…

Noah Denning is determined to make his little sister’s wedding memorable. But it seems Wendy is trying to outdo him at every turn. Challenging each other was always something he and Wendy did right, so when she proposes they compete to see who can throw the best bachelor or bachelorette party in Sin City, Noah takes the bait – and ups the stakes. Because this time around, he wants Wendy for keeps. And when you’re fighting for love, all bets are off.
Genre: contemporary, Romance

To say Jenny Holiday’s debut, One and Only, was wildly popular would be the understatement of the century. I felt like this book was everywhere earlier this year, from Best Of lists to gushing, heart-filled tweets. So when I heard the sequel was due (just a few months later – Jenny is a writing machine!), my ears were definitely perked. And when I received a surprise bundle in the mail that included It Takes Two? I couldn’t push aside my other books fast enough!

Jane and Cameron, the pair who hit it off in the first book, are mere months away from their wedding. Jane insists she wants everything super low-key (though as the date rapidly approaches, her idea of ‘low-key’ hilariously does a 180 – think having the entire wedding party do away with their outfits and refitted with kilts and tartan sashes days before the big day), which is perfectly fine with her best friend Wendy. Though Wendy fiercely loves Jane and is determined to be the best maid of honor, she is not looking forward to spending time around Jane’s brother Noah.

Wendy has spent the past 17 years avoiding Noah after being stood up at prom. She still harbors a grudge – and a broken heart. Naturally Noah, who always treated Wendy like a second little sister, was totally clueless (ugh, boys), and views Jane’s wedding as a chance to rekindle his friendship with the woman who practically lived in his house growing up. But as the lawyers’ sparring becomes more heated and one-up challenges are thrown into the mix, Noah, once oblivious, slowly begins to realize his feelings for Wendy definitely aren’t sisterly…and he’s not about to let her go again.

I’m just going to cut right to the chance, okay? I loved this one. A lot. Between the banter, the amazing group of women (#goals, seriously), the Toronto/New York/Las Vegas setting, and the romance, I was completely sold. It Takes Two was a book I was constantly thinking about if I wasn’t reading it and had me counting down the hours until I could get back to it – I mean, who really needs work?

Though this is a shaping up to be a series that heavily features characters from previous books, don’t feel as though you need to read them in order. Sometimes I actually prefer, going back and discovering how a couple ended up together!

I did have one teensy problem and that was with the cover. Normally I wouldn’t even give it a second thought, but Wendy is constantly described as tiny, small, overly petite. At one point it’s mentioned she came up to Noah’s chest. I viewed the height difference between her and Noah as the difference between me and Matt: he’s 6’2, I’m 5’0. Had her stature not been described so frequently I honestly wouldn’t have even noticed, but the models on the cover threw me off. Something worth mentioning, though it in no way detracted from the story!

If summertime reads are on your mind, Jenny Holiday is your girl. Although the romance is great, her books are so much more than that and I’d say the love and friendship this group of women has for each other is just as wonderful – if not more so! When I wasn’t reading It Takes Two, I was counting down the moments until I could get back to reading it, and that is the mark of an excellent book. I’ll be not-so-patiently waiting for the next book, Three Little Words, which comes out in January (seriously, Jenny, do you ever sleep??)

weekly wrap-up 6/24

• Saturday Matt and I went to see Jurassic World…and I cried. Three times. One scene was so bad I actually had to look away.

• I know people aren’t typically a fan on Sundays: it’s the end of the weekend and just hours away from Monday and the start of a new work week. ..but me? They’re my favorite day. Yesterday I shared a photo of my current read, but more importantly, how much I was loving that particular Sunday. My siblings and I all found our way back home and in between catching frogs with my nieces (check out my IG story – those frogs were TINY!) and trying to be the first to spot a rainbow (gotta love PA weather and it’s bright sunshine that turns into a random storm and back again in the span of five minutes), yesterday was just perfect.

• This BLT pasta salad (with avocado, obviously) looks delicious!

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? I shared a new edition of recently added, highlighting 3 upcoming releases (a murder mystery by one of biggest names in romance, a YA retelling, and a historical romance) and an older title (lately I’ve been on a seriously old school historical romance kick!)

I also shared a giveaway for Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage! If this isn’t one of the buzziest books of the summer, I don’t know what is! I’m giving away three ARCs of this one – head over for the post for a chance to win! Giveaway ends July 1.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
Twelve years ago, Layla disappeared one night while she and Finn were on a trip in France. Though Finn gave his statement to the police (leaving out the complete truth), his girlfriend was gone. Now over a decade later, Finn has moved on. …then he receives a phone call from a detective. An old neighbor of Finn’s claims to have just seen Layla. 2016 was such a fantastic year of books for me and Behind Closed Doors was one of my top reads – even earning 5 stars (which you know is practically unheard of for me!) Then last year’s follow-up, The Breakdown, was one of my biggest disappointments. So I was a little hesitant about this one to say the least, but I’m currently reading it and really enjoying it! Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!

The Real Deal by Lauren Blakely
This is one of my most anticipated summer releases and I was SO excited to see it at my door! I absolutely love the pretend relationship trope, in this case April’s going home for a family reunion and can’t take one more comment about her (non-existent) love life. Theo has made a nice chunk of change playing a boyfriend-for-hire and this new gig will finally free him of his debts – and the past he’s been running from. This is going to be the perfect summer read! Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!)