May 2018 Reads

Who else thinks May is the official start of beach reads season? I don’t exclusively associate beach reads with bright book covers depicting the seashore or a woman in pink heels and, instead, I like to think of them as books that just make you happy. I love an engrossing, literary read as much as the next gal, but I just adore when the weather is finally nice enough to just sprawl out in a hammock and cruise through a well-written yet easygoing book.

That being said, I definitely read my fair share of “happy” books this month, but I have some more serious reads planned for June. I have Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere ready to go on my Kindle, and I’m also hoping to get through The Handmaid’s Tale and the new Robin Williams biography this month. After recently finishing the TV series Home Fires in the course of a single weekend (I was obsessed), I’ve also been reading its novelized continuation, Keep the Home Fires Burning. 

As for May’s reads, I’m so proud of what I got through. All of these books were easy to dive in and out of, helping prevent any reading slumps and motivating me to seek new books when the time came. Keep scrolling to see what I thought of each individual read!

In Your Dreams, by Kristan Higgins (★★★★☆) 

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Mark this one down as an actual 4.5-star read. I selected In Your Dreams from my library Overdrive without knowing it was a later book in a series, but I went into it knowing enough praise about Higgins to feel positive about it. Given the details allotted to certain secondary characters, I quickly figured out there were other books about the main characters’ friends and family, but I became so invested in the story of Jack, the beloved only son in a family of vineyard owners, and Emmaline, a lonely neighborhood cop who’s in need of a date for her ex-fiancé’s wedding. Tortured by what he did in a recent local accident, Jack agrees to accompany her for the big day, but their weekend away introduces a romantic streak between the pair that Emmaline isn’t quite ready for.

On the surface, it sounds like an often poorly executed Hallmark movie but, apart from a somewhat abrupt happy ending, I loved Higgins’ writing. She built the characters of Jack and Emmaline so well through backstory and witty dialogue, and I fell in love with their small upstate New York town. I also liked that the book’s “conflict” actually happens quite quickly, allowing the reader to learn more about Jack and Emmaline in their normal, everyday setting rather than the heightened situation of said conflict. The book’s strong writing style and the lovable dynamic of Jack’s family convinced me to read the rest of the Blue Heron series, or at least Jack’s sisters’ stories. As you’ll see below, I didn’t wait too long to check out one of the other books!

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More “If These Book Were Movies…”

My “If These Books Were Movies” posts are some of my favorite to write. Books have always played like movies in my head, and I love when a certain actor immediately comes to mind upon the introduction of a book’s main character. The books I’ve gravitated toward lately have led to particularly vivid characters, which made the following “dream cast” selections some of the most “right” picks in awhile.

The downside of these kind of blogs is that I’m often so set on these actor portrayals that any chance of me enjoying an actual future adaptation is slim. But then again, some books are best lived in your head, right?

1) Matt Lanter as Jack Holland (In Your Dreams / the Blue Heron series, by Kristan Higgins)

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“The driver was a teenage boy, Jack guessed, because there was no one on earth who believed in his driving skill and immortality more than a teenage boy.”

Blame it on the #RenewTimeless mission dominating my mind for two weeks now, but I immediately pictured Timeless’s Matt Lanter as Holland golden boy Jack. In Your Dreams is the Blue Heron story centering on him and stoic local cop Emmaline (who I may have pictured as Timeless leading lady Abigail Spencer, but let’s not get too cutesy). I like that on the surface, Jack is seen as a protector, but he has some intense personal demons that In Your Dreams explores. I’ve only seen Lanter in Timeless, but Jack definitely has overlapping personality traits with his soldier character Wyatt, which made this casting choice obvious.

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What I Wish I Hadn’t Missed

Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.

~ Robert Morgan

1) Simon & Garfunkel’s Central Park concert

2) Newsreels played before movies

3) Wearing a hat and gloves for your daily errands

4) Midnight releases of the early Harry Potter books

5) The original Broadway productions of My Fair Lady and The Music Man

6) Experiencing high school without text messages

7) A television world with only three main channels

8) The heyday of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies

9) Nights that ended with watching Johnny Carson

10) The prime era of drive-in movies

11) The hair and fashion of the 1940s and ’50s

12) Sitting with loved ones while watching the very last episode of M*A*S*H 

13) Nora Ephron’s New York

14) Baggy flannels and wide-rimmed glasses being ’90s men’s go-to fashion

15) The Tina Fey-Amy Poehler era of SNL‘s Weekend Update

16) Watching new Friends episodes on Thursdays

17) Gene Shalit’s TODAY Show segments

18) The novelty of the first few seasons of Real World

19) Swaying to Glenn Miller at USO dances

20) Needing to watch TV in real time at risk of never seeing a certain episode

21) Consciously living through the height of the Spice Girls’ fame

22) Big, wavy hair being in style, a la Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally

23) Being able to avoid feeling engulfed by the news or that I’m missing the next best thing, and knowing that we can disconnect without realizing we’re doing so

One of the virtues of being very young is that you don’t let the facts get in the way of your imagination.

~ Sam Levenson

News Worthy: 5/21 – 5/28

When blogging was something I did in between college classes, in a busy student union with my battered water bottle and on-the-go lunch next to me, the News Worthy feature was something I managed to post here quite regularly. After I started my current job, I became less inclined to pore over pop culture essays or YouTube travelogues. Guiltily, I turned to more America’s Next Top Model reruns for entertainment in this pre-summer fog than I’m proud to admit.

However, what with the busyness of the past month — TV cancellations and renewals, the royal wedding, the beginning of beach read season — I’ve come across so much on the web that excites me.

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It took me a few episodes, but I eventually fell in love with the world of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when I watched the first season on Amazon earlier this year. As I wrote before, I totally agree with the theory that Amy Sherman-Palladino’s writing style is meant for a eclectic period setting like Maisel‘s. Season 2 is currently in the works, but Amazon also recently renewed it for a third season as well. But the recent Maisel-related news that has most excited in me is Zachary Levi’s Season 2 casting. 

Um, swoon.

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What I’m Watching Lately: Spring/Summer 2018

As I said in my last post about what I was watching on TV, the past year has seen me go through phases of not wanting to watch many shows outside of work. Maybe it’s because the big shows I usually cover, This Is Us and The Bachelor, are in between seasons now and new TV is winding down for the summer, but I’ve become way better in keeping up with my other shows and starting ones I’ve always meant to watch. So, while I’m more than ready for The Bachelorette to premiere and take over my Monday nights again, I’ve loved having the freedom to just watch whatever TV I’d like at night the past few weeks!

The past month has also brought me amazing work opportunities allowing me to watch new content, dust off my English major’s analyzing skills, interview interesting people, and produce features that I’m very proud of. Read on to hear more about these experiences and how they affected my recent TV viewing, plus thoughts on what shows I’ve been loving lately!

Stranger Things

Okay, guys, I know I’m like two years late on this, but I was on the fence about starting Stranger Things for a long time. Sci-fi has never been my thing, so I was very skeptical about whether I’d enjoy the show. I finally figured that in the immediate lead-up to Season 3, I would inevitably have to work on Stranger Things content, and it sounded like the type of the show I’d rather not just rely on online summaries in order to write about. So, admittedly after discovering David Harbour and developing a bit of a crush, I caved, and now I’m about halfway through Season 1. I don’t love it so far, but I’m definitely invested and have enjoyed each episode. Also, the slimy, breathing substance in the Hawkins lab never ceases to remind me of “The Beast Below” episode of Doctor Who. 

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April 2018 Reads

Sooo April’s reading was not that diverse. I read three nonfiction books, two of which related to The Bachelor, and four books in total, three of which were written by authors named Amy and all of which were written by women whose first names started with A. Looking back at my month, those are funny little coincidences, but the lower number of reads isn’t too surprising. I had a busy month, but warmer weather always seems to help me breeze through tons of reading, so I have high hopes for May!

From Sand and Ash, by Amy Harmon (★★★★☆)

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I’ll wolf down a World War II story like nobody’s business, but I’ve never come across one set in Italy like From Sand and Ash. Even more specifically, the book delves into how Italian Jews were affected by the Holocaust, which I’ve never heard anything about before. Growing up in Florence together, Eva and Angelo are best friends who could’ve been something more, but Angelo follows a calling to priesthood, while Eva can’t pursue a career in music thanks to wartime laws against Jews. Both become involved in guiding Jews to safety and hiding them within Catholic convents and churches, which is truly how a lot of the country’s Jews managed to make it through the war unscratched.

I’ve read way too many World War II stories set in France, so I was excited for this more unique take on the wartime experience. It lacked a little something that made me absolutely love it, but it’s a great story!

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure, by Amy Kaufman (★★★☆☆)

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March 2018 Reads

After a very low-key month of reading in February, I read such enjoyable books in March! We had some snow days this month that coincided with my own days off, which encouraged plenty of reading, and I was away from home for Easter weekend, which helped me finish off two books before the month ended.

As I predicted last month, a big chunk of my recent reads were by British author Harriet Evans, who I discovered at the end of February. Her books have quickly joined the ranks alongside the work of people like Meg Cabot and Jill Mansell as stories I can just dive into and happily cruise through till the end. Exploring her canon and reading a good balance of fiction and non-fiction resulted in a very satisfying March lineup of seven books!

Happily Ever After, by Harriet Evans (★★★★☆)

Out of the three Harriet Evans books I read this month, this one was my favorite, likely because it was the first book I read by the author. Once I read some of her other books, I realized that she resorts to a lot of the same character traits and situations, which can make it a little tricky to keep her books straight – all of the ones I read were still very entertaining, though!

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Happily Ever After first introduces Eleanor Bee as a young, clueless 22-year-old dreaming of a job in publishing. She falls in love with the wrong man, and as her career develops over the next 10 years, her family and personal life takes unexpected twists and turns. I’m a sucker for stories that follow the same characters over a long period of time, so this was a winning combination for my introduction to Harriet Evans’ work.

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10 More Favorite Book Quotes

I’m a total sucker for a good quote in a book. With my notebook of favorite book quotes approaching its seventh anniversary, I love seeing the progression of reading choices and what kind of writing or subject matters stuck out to me at different points of my life.

Picking up almost exactly from the point of my quote notebook I left off at in my last Favorite Book Quotes post, the 10 more quotes below date from the second semester of my junior year of college to as recently as this past fall.

“I ask you to pass through life at my side – to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Confession: I didn’t finish reading Jane Eyre when I was assigned it for a Victorian Lit class in college. I probably read the entire first half, but lost interest when Jane left Rochester’s home. Still, I couldn’t help but be moved by this quote said by Rochester.

“In the arts, you need to learn not to expect that success will equal money.”

Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong, excerpt by Cheryl Strayed 

I’ve balanced at least two writing/editing jobs simultaneously for over two years. I’ve done editorial work since at least a year before that. I’m proud of the experience I’ve had so early on in my professional life, but this little snippet is something I do want to remember moving forward.

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February 2018 Reads

Compared to January, February was a slower reading month for me. I was working a lot and had several night shifts, which swallowed up my usual reading time. The month also completely sped by, which I stupidly wasn’t expecting! I still think people are recovering from their post-Christmas laziness, but spring is just around the corner.

While I wasn’t as satisfied with February’s crop of books as much as I was with last month’s, I feel very optimistic for March! I just discovered the British author Harriet Evans at my library this week, and she writes contemporary women’s fiction primarily set in London and New York, which is right up my alley! I can already sense that some of her books will very easily become favorites over the next few weeks.

But for now, these are the four books I finished in February.

We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter  (★★★☆☆)

If I could figure out how to make half-star ratings, We Were the Lucky Ones would actually receive 3.5 stars from me. It’s based on the author’s Jewish family’s true experiences in World War II Europe, but to the point of all but one of the characters having their real-life names and there being little to no fictional aspects of the story. It does read like a novel, but jumps forward in time each chapter and includes the POV of nearly every family member.

Despite the nontraditional storytelling, I was definitely invested in finding out what happened in this book and it kept me reading. That being said, chapters would end with characters in very stressful or unpredictable situations, and then the next time you’d hear about the character, it would be anywhere from a few months to a year ahead in time. I think that, although it was very readable, the book did work with too many characters, preventing me from growing particularly attached to any of them individually.

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Yes, Even More “If These Books Were Movies…”

I’ve read a lot of nonfiction lately, but the novels I have read have had characters who instantly match with a certain actor in my mind. I love thinking of actors whose looks or past roles just immediately link to characters in a book I’m reading. My “If These Books Were Movies” posts are some of my favorite to write, and I can never resist adding another blog to that archive!

If this is the first “dream cast” post of mine you’ve come across, check out the tag for the series here!

1) James Norton as Liam Finucane (The Jane Austen Project, by Kathleen A. Flynn)

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“We are just vessels. The art is eternal.”

I was totally crushing on Henry Austen in this time travel story, and although I never fully got over him, Liam is quite the stoic charmer. He’s an actor-turned-academic, and as he and Rachel begin their mission in 1815 to find a lost Jane Austen manuscript, he’s quite unreadable. It’s not until the mission intensifies and the two grow closer while posing as siblings that their goal becomes a tad more far-fetched.

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