Tuesday, September 21, 2021

I Can't Wait For... 22 September, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released.

These are a couple books releasing in the next couple weeks that I can't wait to pick up...

The Wish
by Nicholas Sparks
eBook, Hardcover, Audiobook, 400 Pages

September 28, 2021 by Grand Central Publishing

1996 was the year that changed everything for Maggie Dawes. Sent away at sixteen to live with an aunt she barely knew in Ocracoke, a remote village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, she could think only of the friends and family she left behind . . . until she meets Bryce Trickett, one of the few teenagers on the island. Handsome, genuine, and newly admitted to West Point, Bryce gradually shows her how much there is to love about the wind-swept beach town—and introduces her to photography, a passion that will define the rest of her life.

By 2019, Maggie is a renowned travel photographer. She splits her time between running a successful gallery in New York and photographing remote locations around the world. But this year she is unexpectedly grounded over Christmas, struggling to come to terms with a sobering medical diagnosis. Increasingly dependent on a young assistant, she finds herself becoming close to him.

As they count down the last days of the season together, she begins to tell him the story of another Christmas, decades earlier—and the love that set her on a course she never could have imagined.

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Why I Want To Read The Wish:
It's been ages since I read or enjoyed a Nicholas Sparks book but this one really sounds like something I would like. 


World at the Lake's Edge #1
Lyndall Clipstone
ebook, Hardcover, 384 Pages
September 28, 2021

A lush gothic fantasy about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake. Perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Brigid Kemmerer.

There are monsters in the world.

When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.

There are monsters in the woods.

As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…

There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.

Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.

Why I Want to Read Lakesedge:
I fell in love first with the cover, but the description - from the haunted estate and the boy with the dark past to the death god bound to the lake all sound so fantastic to me. 

The Violent Season
Sara Walters
ebook, Paperback, 320 Pages
October 5, 2021 by Sourcebooks Fire

There is something terribly wrong in Wolf Ridge. Every November, every teen is overwhelmed with a hunger for violence…at least, that’s the urban legend.

After Wyatt Green’s mother was brutally murdered last Fall, she’s convinced that the November sickness plaguing Wolf Ridge isn’t just a town rumor that everyone ignores…it’s a palpable force infecting her neighbors. Wyatt is going to prove it, and find her mother’s murderer in the process. She digs up every past brutal act she can find from Wolf Ridge’s past – from car wrecks, suicides, and unnamed victims turning up in rivers—and even reaches out to an out-of-state journalist that seems to believe her. But all of her digging leads to nowhere. Everyone in Wolf Ridge accepts that the November sickness is real, and absolutely no one will talk about it.

As Wyatt’s best friend Cash turns on her, and her friend is almost killed in a tragic accident, Wyatt panics – how can she keep her friends safe, and find her mother’s murderer, when no one believes her?

As the evidence stars to disappear, Wyatt wonders: is she just imagining everything? Is the sickness real, or are the people of Wolf Ridge just naturally prone to doing bad things?

Can Wyatt and her friends come out of the Violent Season unscathed, or is one of them going to be the next victim?

Why I Want to Read The Violent Season:
I read an excerpt of The Violent Season in an email newsletter about a month ago and it grabbed me right away. I can't wait to read more. 

Will you be checking any of these books out? What upcoming releases are you looking forward to?

{Movie Review} THE VOYEURS (Amazon Prime Video)


A young couple (Sydney Sweeney and Justice Smith), find themselves becoming interested in the sex life of their neighbors across the street (Ben Hardy and Natasha Liu Bordizzo). What starts as an innocent curiosity turns into an unhealthy obsession, after they discover that one neighbor is cheating. Temptation and desire cause their lives to become tangled together leading to deadly consequences.

My Review:
I added this movie to my watchlist in August when I saw the trailer before something else I was watching. It gave me Rear Window or Disturbia vibes so I was really excited for it to come on Prime Video, even waiting to watch it until I got back from vacation so I could watch it with my family. 

What I would see in the next 1 hour and 56 minutes was not at all what I was expecting. It was just... not good. In places it was like you were just watching porn. 

You start off with a young couple moving into an apartment. It's weird because they're told they can't put up curtains and they have a perfect view into the apartment across the street. The young couple soon becomes obsessed with watching the couple that live in the apartment across from them. Spying on them with binoculars, crashing their Halloween party, and even doing some kind of weird thing that involves a laser light and a mirror so that they can hear the couple across the way's conversations. It's obsessive and the female lead, played by SYDNEY SWEENEY, becomes obsessed with the couple - almost aroused by both the male and the female. 

Now about the couple across the way - he's a photographer and she, well it's not really clear what she does, if anything. They have a very healthy sex life and he uses his job as a photographer to bang pretty much every female - sometimes more than one at a time - that comes in to get photographed. Then by chance our heroine meets the woman, Julia and strikes up a friendship. But her "moral conscience" makes her "anonymously" alert her new friend that her husband is cheating on her. Putting them all on a deadly path of destructions and a twist at the end that isn't all that satisfying. 

Sydney Sweeney is pretty unlikeable in this movie, although I've seen her in The Handmaid's Tale and a movie on Lifetime and didn't like her in those either so I suppose she just likes playing unlikeable characters. The character of her boyfriend is so one-dimensional you barely know anything about him and occasionally forget he's there so I can't speak to much about the actor. He seemed alright, he just wasn't given much to do. 

The actors who played the couple across the street were slightly better. Julia is clearly a psychopath without the ability to feel remorse or guilt and the actress plays it well. The actor that plays Seb is pretty good looking and made it worth watching all the practically pornographic escapades he gets into. But his part is basically to walk around mostly naked and fuck anything that moves so I'm not sure it took much acting ability. The most emotion you see out of the character is toward the end when unlike Julia he almost feels bad about what he has done. 

Overall, the movie really dragged and I wish I would have either not watched it at all or stopped it once I realized it wasn't anything like what I was expecting. The ending was neither satisfying or conclusive and the only moral of the movie is to mind your own business and be sure to buy some curtains. I would not recommend this movie to anyone but horny teenage boys. 

1 of 5 Reels!

Rating Details:
🎞 - Don't Waste Your Time
🎞🎞 - Not the worst thing I've seen but pretty bad all the same
🎞🎞🎞 - Just okay, neither good nor bad
🎞🎞🎞🎞 - Pretty good, but I still had a couple issues
🎞🎞🎞🎞🎞 - New favorite film alert!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Travel Blog: My First Solo Trip

For as long as I could remember I've wanted to travel. I did a fair bit of it when I was younger with family. I'd been to five states and Canada. But here in 2021, at age 29, I'd never traveled solo. In May, I decided that come fall I was going to go somewhere. And I picked Charleston, South Carolina. 

But here's the glitch: I'd never flown before. I'm a generally nervous person when it comes to trying new things and I was a bit nervous to be traveling by myself as a single woman. I nearly talked myself out of going so many times, even up to the morning of my trip. Then I found this blog post and it really calmed my nerves. 

I think one of my biggest concerns was flying. I'd never been on a plane before and years of watching movies and seeing worst case scenario stories on the nightly news had me a bit... terrified. 

I kept telling myself that thousands of people successfully fly every day without issues and that it's like ripping off a bandage... you just have to do it and get it over with and then you won't be afraid anymore. 

Three out of my four flights (to and from) turned out just fine, the first one was a little turbulent and I got a little nauseous but I was alright. 

I arrived in Charleston around 5:15PM on Tuesday, September 14th and grabbed an Uber to my Airbnb on King Street. The sun was out but the heat was a bit of a shock. We get 80 and 90 degree days in Wisconsin but going from 64 degrees to 84+ humidity was an eye-opener. 

Once I had my things dropped off at my Airbnb, I hopped into another Uber (seriously, most of my expenses on this trip went to Uber) and went to Waterfront Park. 

Waterfront Park was a must-see because I wanted to photograph the Pineapple Fountain. (See photo on left). 

From what I learned later in the trip, the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality in Charleston from back when merchants would bring pineapples to the city as a thank you as pineapples were hard to come by in Charleston at that time. 

Once I walked around the park for a while and took a bunch of photos, I walked over to the Griffon Pub on Vendue Range (roughly just across the street from the park). 

The Griffon is a funky little English-style Pub that has dollar bills covering almost every surface except the tables, chairs, and bar top. One of the major deciding factors in coming to Charleston is my love of seafood and I ordered myself some fish and chips. It was really good but I was still a little queasy from my flights so I took the leftovers back to my room to eat later. 

Day 2 - Wednesday, September 15, 2021

On Wednesday I woke up feeling much better and walked to The Harbinger Cafe less than a block from my Airbnb and had a mocha and a piece of pumpkin loaf. The pumpkin loaf was really good - moist with a crunchy graham cracker streusel on top. 

My loose plans for Wednesday were to go to the Historic Charleston City Market and do a little window shopping on King Street. 

The market was really cool. It is housed in a set of long buildings where vendors set up and sell their wares. 

They sell everything from clothing, jewelry, local artisan pieces, food, and more. One of the buildings is partially air conditioned which is nice as I quickly noticed how oppressive the heat is in Charleston in such a short amount of time. The other buildings are more open air with fans running overhead. Above the first building is a museum, but I didn't stop inside to check it out. 

I did grab a sweatshirt (I'm perpetually cold in A/C), a hat to protect from the sun, some locally made soap, and some postcards to send to my friends in out autumnal pen pal letters this fall. 

Here's a selfie of me sitting outside the City Market before I headed off to King Street.

Also worth mentioning, on the back end of the Market, across the street sits the United States Custom House. Isn't it a cool building? I didn't know what it was so I had to do a little research. 

Custom Houses deal with the importing and exporting of goods into a certain jurisdiction or country and collect customs duty on imported goods. Construction started on the United States Custom House in Charleston in 1852 but was stalled in 1859 because of the Civil War. It would take until 1879 to be completed and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. 

After walking back to King Street I strolled through the shopping district and saw a Louis Vuitton store in person for the first time. (That was a big deal for me) I also browsed in a few other stores before stumbling onto Marion Square. It was a good thing because I was getting pretty overheated by this point and ended up wandering into a Starbucks a few blocks up. 

I finished off my first full day in Charleston at Herd Provisions on Grove Street where I had one of the best burgers I've eaten in a long time. It was juicy, perfectly medium, and had a delicious sauce that was like a thousand island dressing with a kick that I can't quite put my finger on. If you're looking for a break from seafood, I definitely recommend the Herd Burger at Herd Provisions! 

Day 3 - Thursday, September 16, 2021

Thursday I set aside to tour a couple museums - The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon (dungeon photographed on left) and the Aiken-Rhett House on Elizabeth Street. I walked to Rainbow Row and The Battery and took photos of the historic homes. 

In total, I walked 4 miles on Thursday, the most I walked my entire trip, and it was the best group of photos I took. 

The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon above was the original Customs House in Charleston and housed pirates and revolutionaries in the dungeon below. 

Rainbow Row (on right) is one of the most photographed streets in town and people make a point of coming to photograph the beautiful, brightly colored homes. 

The Aiken-Rhett House was once home to South Carolina's former governor William Aiken and the house is considered to be the best preserved complex of antebellum domestic structures in Charleston. Being that it is preserved, not restored, it has largely been left in the condition it was found in with the exception of the art gallery which is air-conditioned and well maintained. It was an interesting museum but it was also very hot and I probably did not enjoy it as much as I would have, had it been cooler. 

I finished off my Thursday at Toast on Meeting Street. Toast is famous for its stuffed French Toast (photo on right) - It's cinnamon swirl bread with currants hollowed out and filled with fruit (peaches or apples) then covered in French toast batter and fried then served with whipped cream. I was not expecting how huge the French toast would be but it was definitely one of the more memorable meals during my trip!

Day 4 - Friday, September 17, 2021

I woke up Friday morning and the weather was a bit iffy. I didn't have any concrete plans; I thought about going to Folly Beach, Charles Town Landing, or tour the Firefly Distillery but Uber was killing me so I decided to do the Historic Charleston Harbor Tour instead. 

First, though, I grabbed breakfast at Another Broken Egg Cafe where I could actually find normal breakfast food that didn't involve a side of greens. I had some time to kill so I ducked back into the City Market before the Harbor Tour. 

For something I did on the spur of the moment, the Charleston Harbor Tour was the best decision I made during my trip. The 90-minute cruise was well worth checking out, the captain was funny and entertaining, and I feel like I learned more about the history and area of Charleston on this tour than any of the other places I'd toured so far. 

Among other things, we saw Fort Sumter, the USS Yorktown, and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (which I personally was looking forward to)

I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone looking to see a lot of interesting things at once. 

Finally, I walked to Hyman's Seafood on Meeting Street. I'm so glad I made a point of stopping here for my last dinner in Charleston. Up the stairs and seated at a table where according to the plaque, Danny Glover once sat at, I was served an amazing bowl of Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo. 

On Saturday, I was headed back home. All my nervousness was for nothing. I'd had a very nice trip, seen a lot of cool things, and eaten some fabulous food. To quote a movie I once saw, the things you're scared of are usually the most worth-while. I've ripped the bandaid off and I'm now ready to check out some of the other places I've always wanted to travel to; perhaps once a year? 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

{Book Review} MARY, WILL I DIE? by Shawn Sarles


Mary, Will I Die? 
Shawn Sarles
YA Horror
304 Pages, Hardcover, eBook
September 7, 2021 from Scholastic Press

Bestselling author Shawn Sarles' most terrifying YA horror yet...

It starts innocently enough. Four kids - three girls, one boy - are at one of their houses, playing games. One of them has read about "Bloody Mary" and the idea that if you look into a mirror and say her name thirteen times, she will show you the future. Some legends say she'll show you your one true love or a skull to mark your death within five years. Others say that conjuring Bloody Mary will bring her into your world.

Both sets of legends are true. The kids go through with the act, saying her name thirteen times. One girl looks in the mirror and sees her longtime crush. One girl looks in the mirror and sees the boy in the group. But she pretends to see something else. One girl looks in the mirror and sees a girl she's never seen before but can't get out of her mind. And the boy . . . he sees a skull. But he pretends to see something else. They try to laugh it off. And mostly they forget about it. Or at least they don't talk about it. Yes, over the next few years, whenever they look into a mirror, it's like there's always another figure standing in the background, getting closer.

Just short of five years later, the four of them are no longer friends, having gone on separate paths. The girl whose house it was has always tried to avoid the mirror they used - because she always sensed someone in the background. One morning as she's passing by, she sees much more than her own reflection - it's a scary figure taunting her. She startles and breaks the mirror. When the pieces are put back together (barely), the figure is gone.

That day in school, a new girl arrives. Her name is Mary...

My Review:

Elena, Steph, Calvin, and Grace used to all ride to school together when they were younger. One afternoon as a tornado is coming in Elena, who really doesn't like any of the others, takes them upstairs into her deceased grandmother's room and shows them the mirror. It starts out as a game to kill boredom. Stand in front of the mirror and say her name 13 times and Bloody Mary will show you an image of your true love or will show that you're going to die within five years. One girl sees the boy she's crushing on, one girl sees a girl she's never seen before, the third girl sees the boy, and the boy sees Bloody Mary. 

Five years later they four are no longer friends and the game is a distant memory. Elena is the most popular girl in school, Steph is tall and awkward but a star on the volleyball court, Calvin is a loner who draws in his sketchbook all the time, and Grace is a horror movie obsessed outcast. But as strange, horrifying things begin happening the four will have to reunite to vanquish an ancient evil. 

I found it difficult at times to like Grace and Steph and I absolutely hated Elena, even at the end of the book. I did read this book pretty quickly, despite not loving it. It was a fast read and I'm always up for anything to do with the Bloody Mary urban legend but it was just an okay read for me. Maybe it's because I'm past YA age, but I feel the book could have been scarier. The ending came together really quickly and was a little underwhelming. 

Overall, this book will probably be great for younger teens and is a nice read for the spooky season but it was a bit of a letdown for me. 

My Rating:
3.75 of 5 Stars!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

{Book Review} HER LAST BREATH by Hilary Davidson


Her Last Breath
Hilary Davidson
Released: July 1, 2021 by Thomas & Mercer
296 Pages


From the bestselling author of One Small Sacrifice comes a suspenseful thriller about a dead woman who predicted her own murder—and the sister who won’t let the truth be buried.

When her beloved sister Caroline dies suddenly, Deirdre is heartbroken. However, her sorrow turns to bone-chilling confusion when she receives a message Caroline sent days earlier warning that her death would be no accident. Long used to being a pariah to her family, Deirdre covers her tattoos and heads to Manhattan for her sister’s funeral.

The message claimed Caroline’s husband, Theo, killed his first wife and got away with it. Reeling from the news, Deirdre confronts Theo on the way to the cemetery, and he reveals both his temper and his suspicion that Deirdre’s “perfect” sister was having an affair.

Paranoid and armed with just enough information to make her dangerous, Deirdre digs into the disturbing secrets buried with Caroline. But as she gets closer to the truth, she realizes that her own life may be at risk…and that there may be more than one killer in the family.

My Review:

CW: Self-Harm

I got this as an Amazon first reads book and I usually go for the thriller picks so this was right up my alley. I finished the book I was reading before this and needed something while I was waiting in the waiting room of my mom's doctor's office and so I started reading this.

The story drew me in right away and before I knew it I was 30% into the book. I enjoyed the alternating perspectives of Deirdre and Theo. If you think this is a simple "woman dies and husband is the suspect/killer" plot, think again. This book has so much more to it taking you into a world of money-laundering, dark family secrets, and morally gray characters. 

It feels like you fall down the rabbit hole with the characters trying to figure out whether Deirdre's sister was murdered, what really happened to Theo's first wife, and who can be trusted. This book is really fast paced but I liked it, it really worked for me. I also like that the author chose to include so much about Berlin landmarks (it's honestly not a city I think of much so it was nice to learn about something other than the remnants of the Berlin Wall) and also how she wove Egyptian mythology into the plot. 

It was a really interesting, suspenseful read and I was hooked until the very end. I'm definitely going to be checking out this author's other books. 

My Rating:

5 of 5 Stars!

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

{Book Review} IT HAPPENED ONE SUMMER by Tessa Bailey


It Happened One Summer
Bellinger Sisters Book 1
Tessa Bailey
Released: July 13, 2021 by Avon Books
416 Pages

Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who’s cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town... where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong.

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar... in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.

My Review:

This was one of my most anticipated releases of the summer and actually inspired me to finally watch the show Schitt's Creek since the blurb said it had Schitt's Creek vibes. 

At first I was afraid I'd hate Piper because she comes off as so shallow in the first few pages of the book but my opinion quickly changed and I loved how big her heart was and how eager she was to prove herself and learn to do things on her own. 

Brendan is this uptight, crusty character that basically embodies the expression "everything in its' place and a place for everything" (or did I reverse that? I can't remember).. anyway.. he's the type of guy that goes into a restaurant and always orders the same thing, not wanting to try anything new in any aspect of his life, and believes that there's only one way to do things in life and Piper shows up and throws a wrench in all of that and its so fun to watch. 

This is no sweet, heat-lacking book, this is actually a really sexy read in spots and I was definitely here for that! Piper and Brendan just compliment each other so perfectly and I loved watching them go from squabbling to passion. 

I also loved the side characters in this book and I'm really looking forward to Fox and Hannah's book next year. 

Overall, this was such a fun, quick read perfect for an afternoon at the beach. It made me want to pack up and find a small town in Washington and a sexy bearded fisherman 😆

My Rating:

5 of 5 Stars!

Monday, August 30, 2021

{Book Review} A TOUCH OF DARKNESS by Scarlett St. Clair


A Touch of Darkness
Hades & Persephone Book 1
Scarlett St. Clair
Released: May 23, 2019
299 Pages

A Modern Hades and Persephone Retelling

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows—and it’s forbidden.

My Review:

I finally decided to pick up this book after seeing it so much on Bookstagram. I was afraid I wouldn't like it but I love the Hades and Persephone myth so much I had to give it a try. And I'm so glad I did!

It was interesting seeing this take on Persephone's relationship with her mother, Demeter. It's definitely unlike any other retelling I've read. This Persephone was kept really sheltered by her cruel, controlling mother until she left Olympus to attend college in New Athens in this awesome urban fantasy world where the Greek gods are modern day celebrities.

Persephone was warned by her mother to stay away from the gods, especially Hades, whom her mother hates. But when her friend gets on the list to go to Hades's club and she makes conversation with a handsome stranger Persephone finds herself face to face with the feared god himself. And in an iron-clad contract with Hades to create life in the Underworld. But Persephone is unable to grow anything and fears she will be stuck in the Underworld forever. 

I loved Hades and Persephone's chemistry, it was such a sexy read and I loved watching their relationship develop from Persephone hating and not trusting Hades to where they were at the end. I also really liked Hecate and the other characters we meet in the Underworld. 

I also really enjoyed the world building in this book and the modern spin on one of my favorite greek myths. 

I couldn't get enough of this book and I can't wait to see what will happen to my new favorite couple in book 2!

My Rating:

5 of 5 Stars!