review: june

3.5/5

Since I loved Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's Bittersweet so much, I was thrilled to pick out her new book, June, as one of my summer reads. June alternates between two stories: one which belongs to twenty five year old Cassie Davers and takes place in the present, and the other belonging to her grandmother, June, and transporting you back six decades. The premise of the story is that Cassie learns that she has been named as the heir to iconic actor Jack Montgomery's $37 million fortune (a man that she has never met!) Cassie is told that she is related to Jack, which is shocking to both her and also to Jack's own daughters. As she begins to delve into how and why this happened, Cassie learns that Jack and June's paths did cross during a time in a small town in Ohio where Jack was filming a movie and June grew up.  Could Cassie possibly be Jack's granddaughter? And what other secrets did her grandmother hide from her?

June was a good book, and it was right up my alley with the whole Hollywood scandal theme! It's definitely a great choice for someone who is a fan of historical fiction like I am. Admittedly, I was more interested in June's story than Cassie's, but I loved going back and forth between both women's accounts. It took me a while to get into the book so it's definitely something that you need to commit to, but the last 100 or so pages were absolutely addicting. 

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

review: food with friends

4.5/5

I love to cook, but certainly don't consider myself to be anywhere near a professional when it comes to preparing meals and appetizers. The same goes for entertaining.. I really like being a hostess, although it's more of an occasional thing rather than every week, but it's still very enjoyable when I get the time/chance.  This is why Food with Friends by Leela Cyd is the perfect book for someone like me. 

The book contains many recipes that are easy to throw together, but still more elevated than a cheese plate/veggie platter for a simple weekend gathering, but also provides more complex options when you really want to impress your guests. I can see myself making the pickled fig, pistachio and ricotta canapes for a summer date night at home, or whipping up a batch of the vegan hot chocolate with coconut cream for a family get together around the holidays. There are endless options for a variety of different events. 

I love how these recipes are healthy, based on fresh ingredients, and inspirational for every season. The spring green couscous cups, purple cauliflower hummus, and chopped radicchio salad are ideal for those hot summer days when you just want something refreshing. I also plan to try the mango sorbet rose sparkler as soon as possible! It sounds like the absolute perfect summer drink to enjoy on a hot evening.

If you feel like you're in a cooking rut and need some innovative recipes that are still completely do-able for beginners, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of Food with Friends. I know that my copy will certainly be getting a ton of use!

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

the big short

Ryan's birthday was yesterday and we celebrated with a delicious meal at When Pigs Fly in Kittery, Maine which consisted of sausage stuffed calamari, duck confit pizza, and a divine piece of blueberry cheesecake. Afterwards, we headed out to the movies to see The Big Short (mostly because The Hateful Eight had a running time that was wayyyy too long for a weekday night and Dirty Grandpa had terrible reviews) and we were pleasantly surprised by how great it was.

The Big Short follows a group of people who predict the 2008 financial crisis and try to profit from the downfall. Writer/director Adam McKay is previously known for comedies like Step Brothers so this movie is certainly out of character for him but it manages to expertly inject humor into a dark subject matter. This movie is clever, entertaining, and will have you thinking about it long after you've left the theater since it's based on real events. It also will make you wonder when an economic crash like this will happen again, which may seem a little dark, but I like thought provoking films like this.

Not to mention that the acting is top notch. Although I loved Christian Bale's portryal the most, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and even Brad Pitt in a smaller role, really deliver amazing performances. It's definitely worth seeing!

review: doodletopia

5/5

Believe it or not, when I was a child, I was quite the little artist. Coloring was one of my favorite pastimes and I even won an art award in first grade, which was presented to me by the governor of Maine. Art is not something I have practiced over the years since then, but this book with instructions on drawing your own cartoon characters seemed to reignite my interest a bit. 

Doodletopia provides clear instructions on how to draw adorable characters (animals and humans) and even walks you through how to illustrate different expressions. I just love how nostalgic and cute the characters look- they remind me of cartoons I used to watch as a kid! The funny thing is that if you haven't drawn in a long time (like yours truly), you might start off a bit shaky, but find that you get your footing back after just a few sketches. 

Towards the end of the book, you will get to learn about how to write in fun fonts, which is very cool. We all can think of instances where we might want to do some creative, unique lettering by hand, right? Although Doodletopia would be a great gift for little ones (kids as young as 7 would probably LOVE this!), it's just as much fun for unleashing the inner child in adults. 

In our crazy, hectic world, sometimes it's nice to take a break from social media/electronics and just do something therapeutic like draw, color, make art, etc. This is an enjoyable activity book that anybody would love!

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

review: hipster animals

3/5

Hipster Animals is a fun and quirky "field guide" to some pretty fun stereotypes. The illustrations are well done and you'll have a good laugh at some of the characteristics associated with the various hipster species, each which is portrayed as a different animal.

For instance, the "Vegan Gelato Scooper" lives off a diet of coconut milk, frozen bananas, avocado pulp, soy dust, and pistachio paste. He/she also "doesn't call their sweetheart 'honey;' it endorses exploitation of bees. Prefers the pet name 'agave nectar."

I related a little too well to the "Fashion Place Photo Diarist" whose habitat is "second bedroom used as a walk in closet" and the "Nail Art Tutorial Queen" whose spoor is "whiff of acetone; spilled glitter trail."

This book is a unique addition to my collection and definitely a great conversation starter to leave on my coffee table when we have friends over. 

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

review: food: a love story

2/5

Let me start off by saying that I am a HUGE Jim Gaffigan fan. I re-watch his stand-up routines anytime I need a laugh, and am even planning to see him live later this month.  He's hilarious and one of my favorite comedians (second to Mindy Kaling, of course). A while back, I tried to read his previous book Dad is Fat, and was disappointed when it fell flat to me. After chalking it up to the fact that it was probably due to the subject matter, which was raising kids (something I can't relate to since I don't have children yet), I began to anticipate his next release Food: A Love Story since this is DEFINITELY a subject matter that speaks to me.

Unfortunately, the jokes about donuts and hot pockets that leave me in fits of hysterical laughter when watched on television, did not have the same effect on me in written form. I think that maybe his formula of punchy one liners one after another are better left to the stage.  Although his books didn't work out for me, I would highly recommend checking out his specials on Netflix such as Beyond the Pale and Mr. Universe.

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

review: the mapmaker's children

4/5

As I've mentioned before, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. However, I've been stuck in a rut with this lately by primarily reading books set in the 1920's-1950's, and it was time I diversified this a bit. The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy transported me to the 1850's, where John Brown and his daughter Sarah, an incredible artist who uses her talents to make maps, are helping slaves escape to Canada through the Underground Railroad.

Meanwhile, there is a parallel story set in modern times. Eden is distraught over trying unsuccessfully to conceive a child with her husband. After moving into an old home, she finds a porcelain doll head that remained from the days of the Underground Railroad and begins to look into its profoundly important history. 

Although I had studied the Underground Railroad and slavery in school, it wasn't a topic I was at all knowledgeable about. I'm grateful to have found this book, which reminded me of such a significant period of time and history, and did it in a way that didn't feel like I was reading out of a textbook. It's an incredible story with amazing characters that the reader will grow to care about more with each passing paragraph. 

I'm a big fan of novels like this that have two related stories, especially when they flow together effortlessly. If you enjoy this as well, I would highly recommend both this book and Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

review: brew better beer

5/5

I chose to pick up Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen as a cool informational resource (not planning on actually brewing right now!) since my husband is very interested in everything having to do with beer. It's a beautiful hardcover book that looks great on my coffee table and contains many easy to follow recipes. Some recipes are very specific for certain flavor profiles in each respective beer type, but many of them can be substituted for other ingredients to make your own creations.

The first portion of the book is a general education on brewing beer and the main steps involved in brewing most basic beer types. Even if you aren't planning to brew, this section will appeal to all beer lovers who are curious about how their favorite cold beverage is made. There is an outline of the materials and hardware you'll need to begin the process and even a photographic guide to reduce any confusion you might have. The recipes are written for small or large batches so no math involved in order to scale up your production (within reason). The author includes a helpful FAQ and a list of things that can go wrong during the brewing process; explaining how each impurity/issue with the beer and brew process can occur and the ways to fix them.

Now moving onto the recipes! All of the beers sound delish, but a few stood out to me. For the warmer seasons, you could try a Watermelon Saison or Lemonade Stand Shandy. For winter? The Chai Spiced Winter Warmer will help you beat the freezing temps. The Smoky Chipotle Porter would also be a tasty option, and there's even a recipe included for how to turn it into a Mexican Hot Chocolate version. 

To summarize, Brew Better Beer is a fantastic resource filled with stunning pictures and worthwhile information. It would make a perfect gift for a beer lover!

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

review: the little paris bookshop

4/5

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is about a bookshop on a floating barge along the Seine, and its mysterious owner, Monsieur Perdu, who believes that the right book can heal a person. With intuition and care, he asks each customer a set of questions about their life and then proceeds to find them the right title for that reader, much like a prescription. The only heart he can't seem to mend? His own. Perhaps that is about to change when his neighbor, Catherine forces him to open a 20 year old love letter that he has purposefully left sealed. Afterwards, Perdu impulsively sets sail to find the truth, meeting a slew of quirky and lively characters along the way. 

"Books are more than doctors, of course. Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you've got the autumn blues. And some... well, some are pink candy floss that tingles in the brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful void. Like a short, torrid love affair." 

Nina George's writing is melodious and beautiful. When I read a book, I like to dog-ear pages with memorable quotes, but it was impossible to do with this one, since each sentence was just so lovely. This isn't a book that you tear through quickly- every page must be savored. It started off a bit slow for me, but I was soon captivated by this special story about lost love. 

If you're an avid reader like me, you will adore this tribute to books. 

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

review: i take you

3/5

It's no secret that "chick lit" is near the top of my reading list when it comes to go-to genres. I love humorous stories that make me laugh with every page and forget about real life problems for a while. My favorite author in this category is Sophie Kinsella, but since I read her books immediately after they're released, I'm always looking to discover new writers.

Eliza Kennedy's debut I Take You is exactly what I was looking for. It's funny, scandalous, and exciting. The protagonist is Lily Wilder, a young lawyer, who is planning her wedding to a handsome and intelligent archaeologist named Will. The problem? Lily is completely incapable of being faithful to Will and has been going behind his back since the beginning with other men. The other problem? She goes and back and forth between wanting to get married and wanting to cancel the wedding.

The fun starts when Will and Lily go to Florida, where she's from and where the wedding is set to take place, and we meet a slew of fun characters: Lily's mom and stepmothers (yes, plural) who are trying to convince her to run away from the whole marriage idea, Lily's grandmother who is a retired lawyer, her insane wedding planner, and her best friend from childhood, among many others.

The whole "will they- won't they get married" scenario has been done a million times but Kennedy makes the story fresh and new by writing about a hot mess of a bride and her outrageous history. Lily became a real character to me and the author did a great job making her more than just an unfaithful fiance, but a conflicted person with a dark past, climbing career, and true feelings.

I rated this book a 3 because although Lily's character is developed, I feel like there could have been more done with a few of the others. A lot of the twists and turns in the story were great, but there was a side story about a legal case that bored me a bit and could have been made more exciting. Regardless, this a fun and wild beach read that will give you some great laughs. I'll definitely check out Eliza Kennedy's next book. 

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

review: bittersweet

4/5

Pick up this book and prepare to be transported to a summer cottage by the lake in serene Vermont . Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is intriguing, ominous, and extremely hard to put down once you get started. Mabel, a plain Jane college student attending school on a scholarship, is surprised when her beautiful, wealthy roommate Ev invites her to spend the summer at Bittersweet, Ev's personal summer cottage at her family's estate called Winloch.  Mabel is in awe of the blue blooded Winslow family from the beginning and eager to immerse herself in their world which includes expensive artwork (a Van Gough!) and elaborate parties. 

One of the first family members Mabel connects with is Aunt Indo, who has a reputation for being a little crazy. Aunt Indo immediately takes a liking to her and divulges that the Winslows have very dark past that Mabel should look into. This is where the story really gets good, and this is where I'll leave you to go and pick up this book on your own! It's well written with richly developed characters and many twists and turns. Simply stated: it is truly a must read. 

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

friday film spotlight

I know I've told you all that I love Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, but I realized recently that one of my other favorite leading ladies hasn't gotten much attention on the site.. Doris Day! My #1  movie of hers is Move Over, Darling (mentioned here) but I also enjoy her films with Rock Hudson.

Today's spotlight is on Pillow Talk from 1959.

Independent woman/successful interior decorator Jan Morrow (Doris Day) is perfectly content except for one little problem- her neighbor, Brad Allen (Rock Hudson), will never get off the telephone and they share a party line. After picking up the phone numerous times and not being able to use it for her business calls, due to his charming women with his singing voice, she institutes a schedule and some rules for each of their phone time. 

One evening, Brad sees Jan in person and decides to make things interesting by creating a new persona- a wealthy Texas rancher named Rex. Jan can't help but brag about Rex, her new love interest, on the phone with Brad.. but when an outside party discovers his masquerade, will the show be over?

Pillow Talk is elegant (seriously, Doris is dressed impeccably), humorous, and worth a watch. It brings back memories of fighting with my sisters over using the land-line phone after school.

Did you know?

This is the first of three movies Doris Day and Rock Hudson made together.

Down with Love ( from 2003 starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor) was inspired by Pillow Talk.

friday film spotlight

You all know what a film fanatic I am, so I hope that holds some weight when I tell you that this is my favorite one of all time. My husband and I watch it together on Valentines Day every year, which makes it even sweeter to me. This movie is funny and romantic, and I just seem to love it even more after every viewing. 

Today's spotlight is on When Harry Met Sally from 1989.

After graduating from the University of Chicago,  two acquaintances Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) carpool to New York. They initially don't quite get along and disagree on everything. Fast forward to a time in both of their lives where they've each had their hearts broken and have once again found each other. This time, they seem to be on the same page and really connect as best friends. But can a man and a woman really be just friends?

Did you know?

Molly Ringwald was intially offered the role of Sally. Although I adore her, can you imagine this movie without Meg Ryan?

Hope you have a wonderful weekend. Do you have any special plans? Ryan and I will be binge watching Bloodline on Netflix (seriously, so good) and going to a baseball game! See you on Monday, loves XO

friday film spotlight

Hi loves! So sorry about my lack of posting this week. I was having some internet issues and wasn't able to get my post up on Wednesday. Thankfully, I'm back for my favorite post of the week. 

Today's spotlight is on Sixteen Candles from 1984.

Although I wasn't born until the late 1980's (1987 if you're curious), I grew up loving every Molly Ringwald movie made during this era. She just seemed so genuine, a little awkward (weren't we all at that age?) and vulnerable, and it's likely that every girl in the world could totally relate to her emotions.  Sixteen Candles is my personal favorite, although I also have a soft spot for The Breakfast Club

In this movie, Molly Ringwald plays Sam, a girl who is having a pretty rough time turning sixteen. With the commotion of her sister's wedding,  no one in her family even remembers her birthday. Never mind the stress of dealing with crazy grandparents who visit with a foreign exchange student they've taken in named Long Duc Dong, and the fact that the boy she likes, Jake, is dating a girl named Caroline who looks like a supermodel. 

Did you know?

Molly Ringwald was sixteen years old when this movie was released. No wonder she seemed so perfect for the part!

The character Caroline was played by actress Haviland Morris, who was 25 years old during filming. Of course she had a more womanly figure, which Ringwald's character is envious of. 

Have a wonderful weekend! xo

review: cookie love

4/5

Although I'm not an expert baker by any means, I'll proudly admit that I'm able to whip up some delicious treats (it might not be humble to say, but my blueberry lemon bars are delish). I was excited to receive Cookie Love by Mindy Segal so I could learn more advanced techniques and elevated dessert recipes that would wow at my next dinner party. The book is beautiful, with clear photographs that make you want to dig into every scrumptious treat pictured.

The reason I'm giving it four stars instead of five, and I may have to alter this after trying a different recipe, was that I tested out the Snickerdoodle recipe and came out with something that wasn't terrible, but wasn't incredible either. They just didn't have that crisp exterior/ soft interior that the cookie is famous for. Cookie Love is definitely not a book for beginners, but for those that have mastered the basics and want to impress with ingredients like goat butter and infused sugars.

I'm going to test out another cookie (leopard print shortbread is first on my list to try) and will let you know how it all goes. Until then, please let me know if you have a Snickerdoodle recipe to share with me:) 

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

friday film spotlight

This morning's film will take you on a fun adventure full of laughs! As one of the most well known screwball comedies of all time, it definitely deserves a moment to be recognized. What is a screwball comedy? It's a genre of comedy that originated in the 1930's and focuses on a battle of the sexes dynamic- where the female character dominates the male.

Today's spotlight is on Bringing Up Baby from 1938.

Cary Grant plays David Huxley, a paleontologist who is trying to impress Mrs. Random, a wealthy woman who is considering donating a million dollars to the museum, which would allow him to finish a major project. On top of that, he is preparing for his own wedding. While on the golf course the day before his wedding, David meets a free spirited girl named Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) who immediately falls for David and decides that she must have him. From that point, you'll be taken on a wild ride that involves a pet leopard named Baby and a missing dinosaur bone!

Did you know?

The leopard's trainer had to, of course, be on set for all of the cat's scenes. A tame leopard was chosen for the role. There was one close call when the leopard lunged at Katharine, while she was wearing a swingy skirt. 

When Christoper Reeve played Clark Kent in the Superman movies, he based his character off of David Huxley, Cary Grant's character in Bringing Up Baby

friday film spotlight

I'm so used to seeing Marilyn Monroe in the romantic comedies that I love so much- Some Like it Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch, that her intelligent, vulnerable, moving performance in this movie truly blew me away. She had such talent.

Today's spotlight is on The Misfits from 1961.

Although The Misfits was not considered a commercial success, critics have praised the acting and script. Beautiful divorcee Roslyn Tabor (Marilyn Monroe) is being pursued by two very different men. One is an older cowboy/ excessive gambler, Gay Langland (Clark Gable) and the other is a former WWII aviator, Guido Racanelli (Eli Wallach).  The unlikely group, with Perce Howland (Montgomery Clift), go out to the desert to round up some wild horses- where morals and values are put to the test. 

Did you know?

This screenplay was written by Arthur Miller, Marilyn's husband at the time, although their relationship could be described as troubled/ estranged when this was in production (and that's putting it very nicely). 

Clark Gable died of a heart attack ten days after filming ended. Marilyn died the following year. This was both of their final completed movie. 

review: ruby

3/5

I really didn't know what I was getting into when I selected Ruby. I had heard that it was an incredible read, and a book that would someday be a classic.  Set in the rural South, this is the story of Ephram Jennings and the pretty girl with the long braids that he could never forget, Ruby Bell. After a childhood in the small, oppressive, racist town of Liberty, Texas that can only be described as traumatic, Ruby heads off to New York in hopes of finding the mother she hasn't seen since she was an infant. After receiving a telegram from her cousin that her forces her to return, adult Ruby finds herself reliving the brutal memories of her childhood. Will Ephram save her? Read and find out!

This book was well written and I can't deny that it's an amazing debut, but the some of subject matter (child rape, violence, etc) made it really difficult to read. At times, each scene broke my heart even more than the last and it was just really hard to keep turning the page. I think the story is supposed to be hopeful, but it just devastated me.

* I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.*

friday film spotlight

So sorry for my lack of posting lately! I've had a crazy week and am in the middle of transitioning jobs so it's been a little hectic. Expect everything to be back to normal next week though! :)

Today's movie is one that every person must see. It is widely regarded as one of the best films of all time, and I must agree. 

Today's spotlight is on The Godfather from 1972. 

The aging head of a family famous for organized crime, Vito Corleone, shifts control over to his son, Sonny (James Caan) only to have that go terribly wrong. His youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino) is a decorated World War II soldier who has always shied away from the family business, but finds himself having to step up and take the reigns.

Did you know?

Although the movie is centered around an Italian family, not all the main actors were of that descent: James Caan is Jewish & German and Marlon Brando was Dutch. 

George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola have always been good friends. Lucas served as an assistant on set and shot some of the footage in the film. 

friday film spotlight

I've always been a fan of suspenseful films.. not the ones that are gory and gross (hello Saw) but those that are compelling and leave me on the edge of my seat because the story line is so intriguing. A few years back, I watched M, one of the first thrillers ever, and it shocked me that these crime based dramas go back so far, and even still feel a little current. 

Today's spotlight is on M from 1931. 

Little Elsie is walking home from school when a man approaches her, offering to buy her a balloon. Seconds later, we are shown Elsie's empty spot at the dinner table, and the balloon flying away. Watch as the story unfolds and the search for the criminal begins..

Did you know?

This was Director Fritz Lang's first film with sound, a cutting edge new technology at the time. He once said that he was glad he made this film since it taught mothers to not neglect their children.

The subject matter is certainly startling, although due to censorship most things are implied and not shown, but it's a classic that any film buff (like myself) should see.