Tag: #bookblog

Recipe Taste Test: Quarantine Edition

So I am late on March’s recipe taste test. This month I wanted dessert, but the stores didn’t have a lot on the shelves. This recipe for an Icebox Cake in the Pioneer Women’s new cookbook only had four ingredients. Three of the ingredients, heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla, I already had on hand. So I only had to buy Oreo thins. The recipe calls for mint Oreo thins, but the store only had originals. I replaced the peppermint extract with vanilla. It was a hit with my husband. He loves all things cookies and cream. It was so light and tasty. The Oreo’s softened the perfect amount. It is a great recipe for quarantine because it has so few ingredients. I have been really impressed with this new cookbook. Every recipe I have tried has been great. I highly recommend it.

ThePioneerWomenCooks:TheNewFrontier


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March Wrap Up

March is finally over. It has been one of the longest, craziest months that I have ever experienced. I hope everyone has been happy and healthy. This month has been a decent reading month, even though I didn’t stick to my tbr. I did find a new favorite so it was worth the mood reading.

Synopsis:

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

After reading The Familiar Dark I wanted to read more thrillers. I have always loved thrillers, but I had gotten away from reading them. I saw this everywhere on Instagram and it is worth the hype. I hit a few spots that dragged, but it was still great.

My Rating: 4/5

My Full Review: https://readinginthewildwood.com/2020/03/23/the-sun-down-motel-by-simone-st-james-review/

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Synopsis:

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager–and who professed to worship only her–may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

I am so glad I read this. My Dark Vanessa is all I can think about. I have a major book hangover because of it. It is definitely a new favorite.

My Rating: 5/5. I would give it more if I could.

My Full Review: https://readinginthewildwood.com/2020/03/25/my-dark-vanessa-by-kate-elizabeth-russell/

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Synopsis:

All cemeteries are history made tangible. Each neatly laid out plot, each lichen-dotted headstone, each lovingly crafted monument, is a representation of a personal history. While each cemetery has its own collection of stories to tell, Bonaventure Cemetery has more stories than most. For more than 150 years, citizens of Savannah have buried their loved ones at Bonaventure Cemetery. Among its grounds, monuments bearing the names of such famous people as Johnny Mercer lie alongside markers bearing names of those known only to their family. Bonaventure s stately beauty seems the perfect setting for a cemetery. Historic Bonaventure Cemetery illustrates the development of Bonaventure as a Victorian-style cemetery and the
transformation from a private estate to a public cemetery. Historic Bonaventure Cemetery, the first book solely about Bonaventure, includes images of Bonaventure and Greenwich the two plantations that became Bonaventure and provides information about the people and the monuments there.”

This is a great quick way to learn about the Bonaventure Cemetery. The pictures are beautiful. Learning the story of the land before it was a cemetery was interesting as well.

My Rating: 5/5

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The Familiar Dark|Amy Engel

Synopsis:

Sometimes the answers are worse than the questions. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the reality about her daughter’s death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother’s trailer for a final lesson.

The Familiar Dark is a story about the bonds of family—women doing the best they can for their daughters in dire circumstances—as well as a story about how even the darkest and most terrifying of places can provide the comfort of home.

I was gifted a copy to review in exchange for my honest opinion. I was so happy to jump back into thrillers. The Familiar Dark was gritty and dark. I loved it.

My Rating: 5/5

My Full Review: https://readinginthewildwood.com/2020/03/07/the-familiar-dark-by-amy-engel/

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Audiobooks

The Shadow of the Wind|Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Synopsis:

Barcelona, 1945—just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn’t find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.

Wow! What a wild ride this book was. This month’s Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge was to “read a book recommendation from a source you trust.” So I asked my friend Karter. He truly knows my taste. This book had so many plot twists that I felt like I needed to take notes. There were the smallest details that ended up being big details in the end. And of course I teared up at the end. Thanks for a great recommendation, Karter!

My Rating: 5/5

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Wuthering Heights (Seasons Edition -- Winter)|Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights Seasons Edition

Synopsis:

In the classic Wuthering Heights Catherine is forced to choose between passionate, tortured gypsy Heathcliff and gentle, well-bred Edgar Linton. Catherine surrenders to the expectations of her class and sets off a domino effect with lasting consequences. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance at his betrayal are visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the lovers tortured past.

At the first of the year I set the goal to read more classics. In my mind I pictured most of the classics to be just romance novels. Boy was I wrong. I have jumped into the world of classics and I have not been disappointed. The Bronte Sisters are brilliant. And let me just tell you this edition of Wuthering Heights is stunning in person.

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March was a successful month. I read some awesome books and visited a some great bookish places. Let me know in the comments if you read any new favorites this month. Also, tell me your favorite classic because I am always looking for a new one to check out.

Come Shop with Me: Quarantine Addition

So I have a major book hangover from My Dark Vanessa. Usually to fix a book hangover I will go to a bookstore, grab a coffee, and just browse the shelves. Well obviously right now that is not an option. So I thought I would do a little online shopping today. Check out what I bought.

Synopsis:

In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind YA fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history–because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

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Synopsis:

A journalist uncovers the dark secrets of an abandoned boarding school in this chilling suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel.

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the ones too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall, and local legend says the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears….

Vermont, 2014. Twenty years ago, journalist Fiona Sheridan’s elder sister’s body was found in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And although her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of the murder, Fiona can’t stop revisiting the events, unable to shake the feeling that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during renovations links the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced….

Purchase The Broken Girls

I also decided to renew my Books a Million membership. If you join the membership you get free shipping on any order. I thought it would come in handy right now until the stores open back up.

Learn how to get Free Shipping at Booksamillion.com — with no minimum purchase!

Shopping online is still not the same as wandering through shelves of books, but I am thankful to have the option to shop from home. I have also decided to try Rakuten. It is formerly known as Ebates. You get cash back when you make a purchase online. I decided if I am going to be shopping online I might as well get cash back. If you are interested you can use this link and get $10 when you sign up. Right now Books a Million has 5% cash back, but there are other online retailers to choose from.

I hope you all are staying happy and healthy! Hopefully soon we can get back out and shop until our hearts are content.

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

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Sometimes you just know a book is going to stick with you long after you read it. My Dark Vanessa is one of those stories that just gets stuck in your mind. I found myself thinking about it several days after reading it. I will be shocked if this doesn’t end up being my favorite book of the year. I have a lot of thoughts so grab a cup of coffee. This is going to be a long one.

2000. Fifteen year old Vanessa Wye longs for adulthood. She feels that she can’t relate to the kids her age. Vanessa finds herself attracting the attention of her charming forty-two year old English teacher, Jacob Strane.

2017. During the wave of sexual allegations brought on by the Me Too movement Strane is accused of sexual assault by another student. She also reaches out and wants Vanessa to share her story. Vanessa is faced with a hard choice. Should she confess or should she stay silent. She strongly believes that she was not sexually abused. She believes that Strane was her first love. Why would she rat out a man who transformed her life and worshiped her? Could the man that she loved be different from what she believed?

I am not sure where to begin, so lets jump in. We start out in 2017 right after the article about Strane is released. The thing the shocked me is that Vanessa is still in contact with Strane. That’s not a spoiler I promise. It is on the first page. They discuss how he is handling the allegations. He asks if she plans to tell and she says no.

The next chapter starts in 2000. We begin to see Vanessa on her first day at Browick Boarding School where she meets Strane for the first time. He is a Harvard graduate and an English teacher. He grabs the attention of Vanessa who loves to write.

The book continues to alternate between timelines. We see the aftermath first and then we get the story build up. Strane starts to flirt with Vanessa. He is subtle enough that she begins to wonder about his intentions. She begins to crave and seek out his attention. As time goes on and a relationship develops we see how manipulative Strane is. At one point he tells Vanessa he doesn’t want to ruin her. He said if they got caught she would be expelled and that Child Protective Services would take her from her parents.

His manipulation is disgusting. There were times I wanted to scream. From my perspective it was easy to see what he was doing, but Vanessa thought he worshiped her. He preyed on a lonely self-conscious girl. He told her so many times how he tried not to love her. He had her convinced that he was brave for loving her. She was honored he put his trust in her.

Eventually, the giddy excitement of the new relationship turns negative. Vanessa starts getting jealous of a female teacher. She is jealous to the point that she reads Strane’s e-mails. Even if you take away the underage aspect their relationship is still toxic and unhealthy. The manipulation and lying continues to show up even in 2017.

My Dark Vanessa is a dark read. It is not an easy read. It deals with topics that are hard to talk about. It could be triggering to certain people so please read triggering warnings before picking it up. It is such a haunting, thought-provoking book. I have never been more impressed by a debut novel. Kate Elizabeth Russell’s talent is astounding. I can’t wait to watch her career grow.

My Rating: 5/5

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The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James Review

The Sun Down Motel

I have been loving thrillers lately. When I read the synopsis of this beauty I knew it was perfect for me. I took it to Savannah and devoured it when we were on the beach.

1982. Viv Delaney is headed to New York City to pursue an acting career. When she makes an unexpected stop at The Sun Down Motel she decides to take a job as the night clerk to help finance her dreams. Quickly, she find out that there are some horrible secrets lurking at the motel.

2017. Carly Kirk wants to solve the mystery of her Aunt Viv’s disappearance. When she visits The Sun Down Motel she learns things have not changed since 1982. She ends up in wrapped up in the same secrets and mysteries that captivated her aunt so many years earlier.

For the most part, I loved this story. The dual timelines were interesting. There were a few times where Viv would be researching something and the answer would be revealed in Carly’s timeline. Then we would see Viv live the results out. The research/reveal aspects were handled in a unique way.

Toward the middle of the book I did feel like there was a lull in the action. There were less pieces of the puzzle that fit together. I felt myself losing interest until a major plot twist happened and all the puzzle pieces began to make sense again.

I also loved the paranormal elements that were included. I love a good haunted motel story. This one gave me the creeps.

The Sun Down Motel was a well executed mystery told in an interesting way. I want to talk about the ending, but I don’t want to spoil it. I will just say that the ending was satisfying. It took a different direction than I expected.

My Rating: 4/5

I hope everyone is staying well!

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