2020, A New Year, A New Decade, A New Outlook

I was watching Eat, Pray Love with my boyfriend recently.  It was his first time watching, but I’d seen it multiple times and partially read the book years ago. He loved the idea of it, how Elizabeth Gilbert abandoned her life for an entire year, the freedom, the beauty, the self-learning, because after-all, that’s really what the whole thing was about right?  Getting to know yourself, healing yourself, growing for yourself.

I think perhaps my favorite part of the movie (again, I did not make it all the way to the end, so I’m unsure if this was in there) was when she discovered what her word would be. Attraversiamo, which is Italian for let’s cross over.  It really fit perfectly with where she was and what she wanted to do next with her life.

I bring this up because I’ve noticed that people are dedicating a word to their new year.  I’m not sure if this is a new thing or if I’m just now noticing it, but I think that it’s a great idea.  I can’t narrow it down to a word–mostly because I feel like it will take me a while to land on the right word–but I believe that 2020 will be a year of transformation. They always say that the life-lasting changes are those that creep up slowly, so slowly that you don’t always register that they’re happening right away. Things feel like they are finally falling into place, but looking at this past decade, I see that everything really does happen for a reason, and those reasons have led me to where I am today.

Ouai Volume Spray = Winter Hair Game-changer

Every winter, I say goodbye to my summer dresses, sun-kissed skin, the less-is-more makeup look (although since I started getting eyelash extensions, it’s always a less-is-more makeup look, but more on that in another post) and perfectly air-dried summer hair. I don’t know about you, but the thing I dread the most about winter is my frizzy, staticy hair.

I know winter is coming when my normal, laissez-faire approach to drying and styling (aka minimum blow drying with almost zero product) results in hair so staticy that I want to chop it all off. Whenever I get to this point, which feels like its coming earlier and earlier every year, I make a pilgrimage to the drug store (or target or Sephora) in search of a miracle product. This year, in anticipation of this, and trying to prevent it, I asked my hair stylist who’s only idea was to try dryer sheets. Just so you know, I tried them and they did not work.

Last weekend, as I was packing to spend my week off at my boyfriend’s house for the holidays, I came across a travel sized bottle of Ouai volume spray and decided to throw it in my bag and give it a try. I had remembered liking it, but had stopped using it once I realized that the full sized product was perpetually out of stock. Why become addicted to something that you cannot purchase? This past weekend we were going into the city and I decided to give it a try. And, can I tell you that my hair looked so good I wanted to cry?! It was not frizzy or staticy, voluminous, and it still looked good on day 3 (and that is including a work out). I did try to recreate the look with a different volumizing product but, even though it did prevent the static, my hair was less voluminous and looked greasy by day 2.

Ouai Volume Spray has been out of stock on Sephora and their own site for over a year…until today when I got an email from Sephora saying that it was FINALLY back in stock. Clearly, I will be purchasing this and if you have the same hair issues as me, you better purchase this too. You’re welcome! 💁🏻‍♀️

Is Bookstagram the new Book Blog?

Please accept my apologies.

It’s been a few months shy of a year since I last posted and I cannot believe that it’s been THAT long.  I can say that there has been a lot going on in my life, which there has, and that I just haven’t had time to sit down and put my thoughts to paper, which is also true.  But really, the biggest reason that I have not posted is because I started a Bookstagram, well, really a Booksandwinestagram.  Is that even a thing?  It is now.

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Ever since before I can remember, books were a huge part of my life.  Before I could read I would have others read to me, then when I could read, I would spend all my available hours reading (okay, I do like tv also).  When I was old enough to drink, I began cultivating my wine palate, and though I’m not a master sommelier, I do know what I like.

Another thing that I grew up with was photographs.  I’m not sure what your household was like, but mine (and more specifically every time I saw my grandparents) was filled of pictures so much so that we developed what we called our “picture smiles.”  When I was in high school, I took all the photography classes they had, learned how to use a manual camera and develop my own film and photos.  Over the past few years my passion for photography (and art) had dimmed, but starting this Instagram page about books and wine has opened that part of me back.

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With all of that being said, I’m starting up the blog again.  I can’t promise that I will post about every book I read, but I do promise that I WILL post.  I’ve always loved writing (it’s why I’m in the book industry), and it feels good to be back!

Robyn Harding’s Her Pretty Face

From the author of the bestselling novel, The Party, comes a chilling new novel of domestic suspense that revolves around two suburban women and the long-buried, dark secrets that they hold.

When Frances Metcalfe met Kate Randolph, she thought she had found a lifelong best friend.  Overweight and insecure, Frances prefers to hide in the background instead of standing up for herself.  Kate is everything that Frances is not: strong, beautiful, confident.  Kate makes Frances want to be a better wife and mother and homemaker.  Best of all, Frances’ troubled son finds a friend in Kate’s son, and stops being labeled as the outcast in the elite private school they attend.  But one of these women is not who she says she is, and her secret – once out – has the power to destroy everything in its path.

Can people ever really change, or are we all stuck in our past, constantly making the same mistakes and never learning from them?  Or, knowing that we’re making these mistakes but not caring enough to change, or worse, not wanting to change.  This is just one of many questions brought up in Her Pretty Face.  Like most of us, I would like to think that, under the right circumstances, everyone is capable of change.  Not just that.  That everyone is capable to want to change.  In the novel, we are introduced to two women – both running away from their pasts – who form a bond.  Neither of them share their secrets with each other, but they don’t need to.  They understand each other in ways that no one else could: the friendship they’ve always been looking for.  Some things are unforgivable, but are they really?  Can their friendship stand the ultimate test?

Told in three narratives, once you pick this book up, it’s difficult to put back down.  I carried it around in my purse for about a week, but read it in three days.  Out now from Scout Press, I cannot wait to see what Robyn Harding does next.

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Robyn Harding’s Her Pretty Face.  Scout Press.  July 2018

Sandie Jones’ The Other Woman

Emily’s fiancé, Adam is the perfect man.  He’s strong, he’s attentive, and he’s good to his mother, Pammie.  But Pammie is a different story.  Undermining Emily at every turn she is the nightmare mother-in-law we all dread.  The only problem is that everyone else thinks that Pammie is the sweetest woman…  But if it’s not all in Emily’s head why is she the only person that can see it?

On first glance, Sandie Jones’ debut novel The Other Woman feels a bit like the JLo movie Monster in Law.  They both feature future MIL’s who lie and manipulate and genuinely make the woman feel crazy, but that’s where their similarities end.  Unlike in the movie – where Michael Vartan’s character is actually perfect – Adam is not the perfect man.  In fact, he’s not even likeable.  Every time that Emily tries to talk to him about what Pammie is doing he shuts her down, refuses to see the bad and makes Emily (and us) think that maybe it’s all really her.  So is it?

I started this book on my plane ride home from vacation and finished it two days later.  It was that good.  And the shocking end that everyone is talking about?  I never saw it coming!  It’s out in stores next week so everyone grab this one!

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The Other Woman by Sandie Jones. Minotaur Books. August 2018

Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway

All too often I find an author who writes a few great books and then goes downhill.  I’m not sure if it’s because they’re out of good ideas, bored with the genre, or just assume that their readers will continue to follow them no matter what and simply stop trying.

All that being said, I’m always impressed when an author continues to grow, whether they change genres or combine them, because then I feel like I can continue to read and enjoy – and Ruth Ware is one of these.  In her fourth novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, she continues to stay in the psychological suspense genre, but adds another layer to her writing which makes it all that much better.

After taking over her dead mother’s psychic reading booth and borrowing money from a loan shark, Hal Westaway’s life is anything but stable.  Just as she’s about to give up, she receives a letter regarding an inheritance from a family she never knew existed.  Despite the fact that she believes it to be some sort of mistake, Hal’s desperation gets the better of her and she sets out to collect.   Once in the midst of it, Hal realizes that nothing is what it seems, and this family and inheritance may very well be the death of her.

Filled with her signature twists and turns, you are kept guessing (and changing your opinion!) until the very end.  Fans of Ware’s previous works, The Lying Game, The Woman in Cabin 10, and In a Dark, Dark Woods will NOT want to miss this!

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The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. May 2018 @ Scout Press

Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted

I finished this novel on the bus this morning, but there was only one problem: I couldn’t ugly cry.

I was sitting in the aisle seat next to someone because there were no empty rows available, and with only about forty pages left, I hesitated to open it.  Knowing that it was an Emily Giffin novel, and that I always end up crying towards the end (and, more importantly, hadn’t cried yet), I knew that it was a gamble, but I also NEEDED to know the ending.

Giffin’s last couple novels departed a bit from her usual storytelling style, but with her powerful new novel, All We Ever Wanted, she brings it back home – and this is truly one of her GREATS (it may even surpass my up-til-now fav, Love the One You’re With).  As a fan of her novels for many years (I’ve read ALL 9 books and gone to 3 signings), I’m already waiting in anticipation of two years from now when her next novel will (fingers crossed) be out.

In All We Ever Wanted, Giffin deals with complex issues of truth, values and family – the lengths that you would go to protect someone you love while also staying true to yourself, the truth, and your values.  Told in three different voices, the novel follows: Nina Browning, a woman who grew up in a middle-class family, married into Nashville’s elite, and whose son may be behind a scandal; Tom Volpe, a single and overprotective dad trying to do the best by his daughter (also Giffin’s first ever male narrator); and Lyla Volpe, Tom’s teenage daughter who, after one drunken night at a party, finds herself the subject of a social media scandal.  Who’s telling the truth?  Who’s lying?  Questioning themselves and their relationships with those closest to them, Nina, Tom and Lyla are thrown together as they search for a way to live truly meaningful lives.

Just published this week by Ballantine, this is a novel that you DO NOT want to miss.  And, as I warned my boyfriend this morning, I will be rereading the ending over the weekend so that I can properly cry.

 

“Maybe he’s thinking about his younger self—and what Nina saved me from all of those years ago.  But maybe, I hope, he’s simply thinking about his mother—and how she somehow managed to save him too.”

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Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted. Ballantine Books 2018.

When A Fictional Book Becomes Reality

When Carrie Bradshaw started reading Love Letters of Great Men in the first Sex and the City movie, everyone (including me) wanted a copy.  Originally created as a prop, disappointed fans did not have to wait long for the anthology to (magically) line booksellers’ shelves.  I have a copy and have probably opened it a half dozen times.  If a movie would do that, it’s no wonder than that a TV show would eventually follow suit.

In the fourth season of Younger, the publisher’s ex-wife comes to Empirical Press with an autobiographical novel about a woman who runs away from her husband and children to find herself.  Knowing that the book would cause a scandal if published anywhere else, they decide to publish it and the love triangle between Liza, Charles and Pauline (Charles’ ex) emerges.  Both the upcoming book AND the love triangle become the prominent storyline for the remainder of season 4/spilling into season 5.

Exactly two weeks ago Season 5 of Younger premiered.  And to coincide with the new season, Simon & Schuster published a real-life version of Marriage Vacation on the very same day.  (Side note: Younger is actually based on a 2005 book of the same name by Pamela Redmond Satran that S&S also published.)  And if you were wondering what all the hype was about with page 58, now it your chance to read it!

Set as a standalone novel, Marriage Vacation follows Kate Carmichael as she flies halfway across the world, leaving her family behind to clear her head and reconnect with the person she used to be.  At times both humorous and thought provoking, this is the perfect novel for the summer (even if you’ve never watched the show)!

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Marriage Vacation by Pauline Turner Brooks. June 5, 2018 Simon & Schuster.

B.A. Paris’ The Breakdown

Trust is one of the most important things in life, without it, your world can be turned upside-down.  But what happens when you don’t know who to trust?  With her sophomore novel (and next one, Bring Me Back out this month!), B.A. Paris joins the ranks of S.J. Watson and A.S.A. Harrison in her story-telling abilities, begging the question: can you even trust yourself?

The Breakdown opens with a torrential storm.  Cass is taking a shortcut home through the woods, the same shortcut that her husband, Matthew, has warned her against taking.  She notices a car pulled over on the side of the road and tries to see if the driver needs help.  She comes close to getting out of her car, but thinks better of it and continues on her way home.  The next morning, Cass wakes to find that the woman in the car was murdered.  She may be the only witness, except no one knows that she was there.

And with that, B.A. Paris’ masterpiece begins.  At first we believe Cass – her recollection of the events that she keeps replaying in her head seems plausible – but soon those thoughts start to take over her life.  She becomes increasingly forgetful and paranoid that you start to question the validity of her story.  Was she even there?  Did she murder the woman?  Is she sane?  Paris weaves the threads so tightly at times that you can’t tell fact from fiction.

What I love most about this story is that moment when the pieces start to fall together – it’s then that you realize just how deep it really goes.  And that sometimes, the truth is not what you think it to be.

 

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The Breakdown, B.A. Paris 2017 St. Martin’s Press.

Caite Dolan-Leach’s Dead Letters

A cat-and-mouse suspense novel following a young woman as she sifts through the chaos left by her twin sister – whose death is cloaked in mystery.

Nearly two years ago, Ava Antipova left her family’s failing vineyard in the Finger Lakes to learn about literature in Paris, but she was really just running away – from an absentee father who left when she was young, from a critical mother who was losing her mind to dementia, from her twin, Zelda, and the man who broke her heart.  After receiving an email from her mother about Zelda’s untimely death – she was burned alive in their barn – Ava leaves her life in Paris behind, returning to her family home to once again clean up Zelda’s mess.  Soon after she’s back, Ava starts receiving messages from Zelda, clues as to what really happened.  Convinced that her sister is still alive, Ava races against time to put all of the pieces together and in the process, rediscovers part of herself she thought had been lost forever.

When I first started reading Dead Letters, I had trouble getting into it and almost immediately put it down, but I’d been surprised by books recently, so I decided to give it a few more pages, and I’m so glad that I did.  Dead Letters isn’t just another suspense novel, and it isn’t at all paranormal either (I dislike anything paranormal).  The story isn’t about the ending, whether Zelda is in fact alive or dead, rather, it’s about the journey.  Ava was always running away from her problems, whether physically or mentally through alcohol – and what Zelda has done really forces Ava to reevaluate her life and discover her identity.  Despite the fact that she hadn’t spoken to Zelda in the two years she’d been living in Paris, Ava could never really see herself as anything other than one half of a whole.  Ava was the smart one, the reserved one, the one who cared too much about what others thought.  Whereas Zelda was the rebel, she was the drama queen, she never censored herself or her needs.

Dead Letters makes you think about yourself – the labels that you have kept, and the ones you have thrown away.  When we’re younger, we’re so much less afraid and more willing to take risks and try new things.  But, as we age, we pair down our personalities and interests, and focus on specializing a few traits rather than a ton.  Here, Dolan-Leach unlocks the door to our childhood so that we can, once again, rediscover our true selves.

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Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach. Random House. Paperback Edition Feb. 2018.