What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: An Anonymous Girl

Thrillers are more of a recent adventure for me and I’m not sure why I don’t pick them up more often. This month’s book club pick was An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen and I was captivated the entire time.

What is it?

An Anonymous Girl is a psychological thriller that follows Subject 52, Jessica Harris, in an ethics and morality study. Dr. Shields is an NYU professor seeking girls 18-32 to participate in a study to reveal what is involved in the decision making process.

Jessica soon realizes this isn’t your average study. It’s like the computer knows her and can sense her hesitations. After piquing Dr. Shields’ interest, Jessica is invited to participate in Phase II. The only downside? Phase II definitely wasn’t approved by the Institutional Review Board and Jessica no longer knows what is real and what is a test.

Why I liked it…

As I mentioned earlier, while I may not automatically gravitate towards thrillers I find them really interesting. I really enjoyed the psychological thriller aspect of An Anonymous Girl. The authors had me constantly questioning what was part of the study and how much Dr. Shields actually knew. The chapters were short but I kept thinking, “just one more, just one more, just one more…”

This story is filled with parallels between Jessica and Dr. Shields as well as Jessica and Subject 5 that really keep you saying this can’t just be a coincidence. There’s also some interesting family dynamics/forgiveness themes that give you a break from the experiment side of things.

Would I recommend it?

100%

This is a perfectly paced novel that keeps you intrigued the whole time. I would recommend this for anyone looking for a little excitement in their TBR pile.

I haven’t read The Wife Between Us yet but I’ll definitely be looking into it. It’s another thrilled co-authored by Hendricks and Pekkanen and if it’s anything like the first, it’s definitely worth it!

Happy reading!

xox,

Marissa

What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: Winter Street Series

Winter Street cover in front of the Nantucket in Boston Harbor
Winter Street in front of the Nantucket in Boston Harbor

It’s been awhile since I posted a review but I’m back! I figured I would review all four books in one post as the Winter Street series follows the Quinn family through four Christmases on Nantucket. If you’re looking for a Hallmark movie in a book: this is it. Hilderbrand has taken her classic beach read and transformed it into a Christmas drama spectacular.

Winter Street

This is the first introduction to the Quinn family and I fell in love immediately. I had only read two Elin Hilderbrand novels before this one (The Rumor and Winter in Paradise) and this sucked me in as predicted.

If you’ve read Crazy Rich Asians, imagine that level of family drama but all under the roof of a quaint Nantucket inn (with considerable less money). Kelley and Margaret had it all: good jobs, a brownstone in NYC, and three kids but eventually Margaret needed to make sacrifices so she could go on to be America’s favorite news anchor. Which led Kelley to Mitzi (real name: Margaret), and together they left the city and bought an inn on Nantucket. Kelley raised his three kids on the island and had another son with Mitzi. This book takes place as all the kids are adults and have started their own lives.

Patrick, the oldest son, is living in Beacon Hill and faces temptations that may get him in trouble at work. Kevin is secretly dating the housekeeper. Ava is head over heels but can’t get a ring. And Bart, Kevin and Margaret 2.0’s daughter has been deployed to Afghanistan and shortly after arriving his convoy goes missing. Throw in some infidelity with the inn’s Santa Claus, you have yourself one entertaining Christmas.

To avoid giving away too much I’m just going to be sharing my thoughts on the next three!

Winter Stroll

The Quinns are back! My favorite part of this one was Ava and her relationship issues. I felt like I needed to ask Ava to meet me at the nearest coffee shop and talk through all her options. I also liked that we got to see more of Patrick’s wife, Jennifer. But giving Jennifer a starring role means adding a whole new level of complicated.

Winter Storms

At this point I was starting to lose the story. Similar to how I felt with Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians #3) , it felt like the drama was starting to get old. This was originally supposed to be the end of the Winter Streets series and to me it read rushed to tie the story with a nice little Christmas bow on top.

Winter Solstice

But wait there’s more! We’re adding even more tragedy to the Quinn family but my interest was piqued again. Allegra Pancik, from The Rumor, takes center stage in the lives of the Quinns (coincidence?? I think not) and I am here for it. She seems to have grown since we last saw her, she’s learned from her mistakes and comes across as somewhat naive but also incredibly understanding. And the story ends with the ultimate present from Santa Claus himself.

Overall

I would 100% recommend the Winter Street series. I think while they may not be your traditional, fluffy Christmas read but it’s entertaining through and through. My absolute favorite thing about Hilderbrand’s writing is that you really feel like you are in Nantucket. I’ve never been (yet!) but after becoming a part of the Quinn family I feel like I’ve walked Main Street during the Christmas Stroll. If you’re looking for something that will transport you to a place to quintessentially New England, this is it!

Up next on my reading list is the sequel to Winter in Paradise, and then I’ll be taking a break from Elin Hilderbrand until May (expect her to come back in full force as now I’m hooked!)

Happy reading!

xox,

Marissa

PS: last year my goal was to read 30 books and I did it! I’ve upped my game to 45 this year, so drop your recommendation in the comments!

Lifestyle, What I'm Reading

Book Club Crashers // Finding Mrs. Ford

Finding Mrs. Ford cover, marina
My copy of Finding Mrs. Ford on location at the Watch Hill marina.

Today’s post has two parts: first I’m going to set the scene (trust me this is a scene worth setting) and then we’ll get into the actual discussion.

How I ended up in Watch Hill.

About a week ago I saw a post on @sarahkjp‘s page about an event with the Newport Ladies Book Club in Watch Hill. I showed my mom and after realizing she had the day off we figured we would go. I have a book club on Instagram but I had never been to one in person and it sounded like an entertaining night.

Then Monday rolled around and my mom and I rolled up to the Ocean House and it was stunning. I’ve seen it so many times on Instagram, and mostly from Sarah’s page oops, but wow. We were a little early and were planning on walking around outside when one of the people who worked at the Ocean House asked us if we were here for the book club and took us to the Secret Garden Champagne Bar. As soon as we stepped onto the deck someone handed us drinks and we found somewhere to sit so we could listen to Deborah Royce (the author!!!) talk about her book. I thought it was a little bizarre that they were already deep in discussion because we were half an hour early but I was too busy living what I can only describe as truly, my best life to think about it. Until two women came in a little later and I realized it. We had unknowingly crashed the book club only discussion. Kylie, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry we crashed the group photo too!

The rest of the night was magical as well. We got to meet several of the ladies in the book club and talk to the author about her creative process. One question that had been in my head after reading this book was “where did she come up with the idea for the necklace?” To me it seemed like such a significant detail but I had never heard of a necklace like that before and it turns out, Royce had been given one by a former beau. Let’s just hope it wasn’t under the same circumstances!

It was such an unforgettable night discussing the book with the author, in a location that was central to the novel! I never knew such a thing could be on my book bucket list, but it has since been added and then crossed off.

veuve clicquot
A few moments before I realized we were book club crashers.

And now my thoughts on the book!

When I first read the book jacket I thought this was going to have a political plot but I was surprised to find out that it was more of political undertones and it focused on the idea of who a person is and more specifically what’s in a name.

I usually opt for historical fiction but this was a thriller through and through. I am not used to having such short chapters and the way Royce ends each chapter brought me back to when I used to read the Goosebumps books because each chapter had a cliff hanger than had me saying “oh just one more chapter”.

Mrs. Ford taught me a life lesson that I think may come in handy at some point in my life. While I never plan on having the FBI show up to my house, I may file away the “make them uncomfortable” tactic should I ever need it.

Royce is a very descriptive author. Prior to reading this book I had never been to Watch Hill, but when I arrived it was déjà vu. The same goes for her descriptions of Detroit. I felt immersed in the disco-era. One thing I didn’t pick up on until a woman in the book club brought it up was Royce’s skill in knowing when not to elaborate. There were a few scenes (the most poignant being the scene with the polaroid) where she had given just enough detail to get the point across.

This book also reminded me of a favorite that I read earlier this year. Like, Next Year in Havana, Finding Mrs. Ford tells a story by flipping back and forth between present and past. But there was one line that brought me back to Havana. Sammy, a Chaldean, is describing the political climate in the Middle East and mentions that Saddam Hussein may bring a good future. Which reminded me of all the discussions about Castro bringing good fortune to Cuba. It’s a comment that may go unnoticed but I think it hammers home the idea of choosing between the devil you know and the devil you don’t know.

This was a quick read so either run to the beach tomorrow or save it for next summer because it is the perfect beach day book!

At the end of our night Royce shared details of her next book with us and I can only say, Ruby Falls is already on my TBR list!

Happy reading!

xox,

Marissa

What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: Pursuits Unknown

Always carry a book in your bag! It gets you through long rides on the T and the long wait for your food.

 Today I am sharing my first book review from BookSparks! I shared in June that I was accepted as part of the #booksharks team and now I get to share my thoughts on the first ARC I have received!

I was instantly intrigued when I read the description. While science fiction isn’t my go-to I often think I can communicate with my dog telepathically so it seemed super interesting. The description also mentions a disease called “Disorientation” which is much like Alzheimer’s and I thought a human/dog search team that goes after missing people seems like it would be right up my alley. Add in the fact that one of the people who goes missing is a famous scientist and I was hooked.

While I enjoyed the storyline, the narrating style wasn’t for me. I felt like I was coming in in the middle of a series, it’s a science fiction/alternate reality kind of story and at the beginning I had trouble figuring out what kind of world we were living in. It was also difficult to keep the characters straight, I had a similar feeling to the third Crazy Rich Asians book where there is a lot happening and I need to take the time to remember who everyone is.

However, this was a really quick read. I feel like I flew through it! The story was compelling and I was intrigued the whole way through to figure out what the answer was. There were a lot of pieces to the puzzle to be fit together but overall it was a good read.

Reading the author’s note at the back I discovered she wrote this as part of NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month was something I had taken part in when I was in high school and I loved that that’s where this idea was born.

Overall, I would say that if you love dogs, science-fiction, a good mystery, or any combination of the three this book is worth picking up. For me it was more of a stylistic thing that didn’t match up for me so it’s worth a try! You’ll never know if you don’t pick it up!

Happy reading! Let me know what’s in your TBR in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

I just finished The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and I knew I immediately had to start writing my review. There was so much in this book that I knew if I let myself fall asleep tonight, I would miss something.

While this book doesn’t quite earn five stars from me it comes pretty close. The main reason this book doesn’t get five stars- I’m selfish. I didn’t like the ending. Well, I liked the true ending and I saw that coming but what had happened a few pages before was too much for me. I don’t even know why it hit me so hard, I understand wanting to protect your own family but at the expense of another family? It got under my skin.

But let’s get to the everything else that is jam packed into 380 pages. There a lot to unpack in this book so let’s start with the dedication. Before the book even started Reid dedicated the book to her daughter and wrote “Smash the patriarchy, sweetheart”. With that I knew this was going to be a good read.

And smash the patriarchy she did. While this isn’t a true biography there is word going around the internet that it is loosely based on multiple early movie starlets. Hugo started life in New York City and dreamed of being a star. She had no easy way to get out of the city so she did the only thing she could think of- she used men. A common thread in this book is that Hugo gives men what they want as long as she can get what she wants.

It is a call to action of sorts. Now I’m not saying we should all move to Hollywood and make movies topless, it seems like they have enough of that, but rather that we should all be unafraid to ask for what we want. If we all had the confidence of Hugo, girls really would run the world.

Another huge part of this book that I was completely unaware of when I picked it up was the LGBTQ+ content. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo shows the hard reality of the 1930s if your dream wasn’t to get married, have two and a half kids, a dog named Spot, and a white picket fence.

Overall this book touched a lot of gray areas. People that aren’t fully good but cannot be described as evil. Characters that felt stuck between two worlds, not white enough for one but also too far away from the culture they want to call their own. There’s even a little medical gray area thrown in there, with the moral debate- do I stop it or was I trusted to let it go.

While the first few chapters went by slow, and by husband five I thought how could we possibly get through two more, I would definitely recommend this book. It is the perfect summer read, once I reached the 2/3 mark in the book I knew I had to power through the rest of the book because I had to understand.

Let me know what you think of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in the comments below!

Happy reading!

xox,

Marissa

Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: The Woman in Cabin 10

This book was a Christmas present and I have to say it is my favorite book I’ve read this year. While it started out slow, I’m not exactly sure why I thought it was slow because there was a home invasion but I wasn’t really feeling it. But then I got to Lo’s time on the boat and wow I could not put it down!

Maybe it’s my unhealthy obsession with the Titanic and tragedies at sea (a story for another time) but I was hook line and sinker for this book. I would describe this book as a psycho-thriller, I was on edge the whole time and just as I thought I figured it out, there was a plot twist to hide the truth yet again.

I will say I had some serious Shutter Island vibes going on here. But I was completely wrong, there’s so much going on here and that’s the least of Lo’s worries.

If you’re looking for something to keep you on the edge of your seat that isn’t scary (I’m not good with horror movies) this is it!

Let me know what you’re reading in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: Autumn

Welcome to What I’m Reading Valentine’s Day edition! You might be thinking “The book was called Autumn but it’s February” and well get to that!

Over break I went into Boston and while I was on Newbury Street I stopped by Trident Books. It’s right next to Pure Barre and I don’t know how I never stopped there before!

They have this cute bookshelf at the front of the store called Blind Date with a Book! Ta-da! So I’m writing today to tell you all about my blind date. How this works is that all of the books on this shelf are covered in paper bags and have pictures drawn on them so you have no idea what’s underneath.

The shelf was filled with so many books and I was so torn on what to pick until I saw this:

If you haven’t picked up on it yet I’m a huge fall fan so this was just calling my name!

I took the commuter rail in to the city and on the way home I finished the book I was reading at the time and so I was left with a decision: open the book now and risk tearing the paper or wait until I could show my mom (she’s also a huge fan of Trident Books). Still having 30 minutes left on the train I opened the book. Very. Carefully.

The cover was absolutely stunning. I fell in love with the book almost immediately.

So now onto the real deal…

Autumn by Ali Smith is the first in a series of 4 seasonal novels. Summer has not been released yet which is fitting as it seems summer is years away at this point.

At first glance, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Smith’s writing can be overwhelming until you get used to it. She alternates between the story and another narrative that took me awhile to pick up but I’m so glad I did.

If you like linear plots, this is one you should put aside (unless you want to challenge yourself and expand your bookshelf of course). Smith switches between past, present, and everything in between. This book covered everything from intergenerational friendships, a pop-artist, feminism, and Brexit.

The wise people of Goodreads have put my feelings into words and I will share that with you know: I’m not exactly sure what I’ve read. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed what I read, I’m just not exactly sure I picked up on all of the references she included. I think Smith is a brilliant writer and I will definitely be picking up the other two, and eventually a third, but I don’t think there’s anyway I could have possibly picked up all of the things Smith addressed.

While I was able to understand the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Gluck, and I fell in love with it, the Pauline Body part was just too much for me. If there had been less Body I think I would have enjoyed it more but it tied together Elisabeth’s childhood to finding her thesis. It’s just that it kept going on and on and on.

That being said, I am very excited to pick up the next few books in her series. Something I find extremely interesting about this series is that it’s called a “series quartet” in that they’re stand-alone books that relate to each other as seasons do.

Let me know what you’re reading in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

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What I’m Reading: Stiff

The first book I finished in 2019 was Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach and I have to say it was slightly disappointing. I was so excited to read this one as I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from cadavers in my anatomy lab and it didn’t live up to my expectations. This was the non-fiction book I selected for my book club and luckily they picked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine instead, I may not have been allowed to choose another book.

Before I get into the book itself, I’ll explain what I was looking for. Retrospectively, my expectations are kind of unrealistic. I was looking for the backstory to Gail, Ruth, Richard, or Robert- the cadavers we see in class. I wanted a book that gave me the backstory of how a librarian becomes a cadaver. The story of how the charter boat captain with PAD found his way into my anatomy lab. I wanted the biography of someone who I don’t even know their real name (we only use first names to protect their identity). I wanted to learn how they were embalmed, wound up at the medical school and then transported to my school. Although I have asked my anatomy professor and she said the two bodies that are new this semester were dropped off while we were all in class his summer! So you see, my expectations were slightly unrealistic and now I’ll get into the actual book.

There were parts that really intrigued me but there were parts that I wanted to skip over completely.

Here are the topics that fascinated me:

  • The first chapter started out really strong: the use of cadavers so that surgeons can practice their skills. I found this section particularly interesting because it surrounded plastic surgery and using cadaver heads. This was particularly interesting to me because we cover the head all year. I love anatomy lab but I think I would feel very differently if we dissected this part.
  • Later in the book it talked about crucifixion experiments. I found this chapter intriguing because it talked about the physics and physiology of crucifixion. There have been multiple people that have studied the nail placement and this chapter was a quick look into the research that has been done using cadaver arms as well as the living.

The topics that were interesting but went on for too long:

  • The use of cadavers as crash test dummies. The Test Track dummies you find in Epcot are used along with cadavers to make sure your car has a high vehicle safety rating. I’m not even going to hide the fact that Test Track is the reason I was interested in this section at all. I imagined all of the impact testing that use to be featured in the queue line and replaced the dummies with cadavers.
  • This is another one that had never crossed my mind: using cadavers to analyze a crash site. The bodies at the site of a wreck can give you as much information as the black box can. The most interesting thing from this section in my opinion: bodies found in the water.

The topics that I really could have lived without:

  • Army tests in cadavers. Don’t get me wrong I think this is very important research that needs to be done but even though I read this chapter yesterday I couldn’t tell you too much about it. This is another thing I didn’t even know you could use cadavers for and although it’s an interesting concept I didn’t retain anything.
  • Cannibalism for wellness. I don’t even think I need to expand on this one.

So if you’re looking for the story of Gail, Ruth, Richard, or Robert… this isn’t the book for you. There are still six topics left to be discovered in this book and I suggest you go for the topics that interest you. I personally felt that this book took me forever to get through and I would have enjoyed it more if I read the parts that intrigued me and skipped over the extra ten pages on crash test dummies.

While this wasn’t one of my favorite reads I am glad I read it as it expanded my view of cadavers. Going into this read my only knowledge of them was being wheeled out of a freezer and peeling the skin back to pin muscles but now I can appreciate more areas of science that I didn’t know existed.

A question you may be asking is will I do it? This is a question that Roach answered in her book and I thought it would be fitting to share my point of view. Nope. Probably not. Once you donate your body to science there are a number of places you could end up. While I’ve benefitted from dissection in anatomy lab and plasticized brain tissues in my neuro lab, I wouldn’t want the Mark Sloan’s of the world practicing their Botox skills on me. And I’ve learned from this book that while I could mark off certain things I wouldn’t want to end up doing there’s no guarantee some future PT would learn about the origins and insertions of all the muscles from me and that’s the thing I would want the most. But sign me up for organ donation… in fact I just donated blood today!

Happy reading! Let me know what’s on your to be read shelf in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: Paris for One

One of the last books I read in 2018 was Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes.  I was looking for the third book in the Me Before You series when I went to the library but I stumbled upon this instead. 

I’ll start by talking about my love of Paris for One. Moyes did it again, this was both an empowering book about finding yourself and falling in love all at once. 

This was one of those books I wished was a million times longer, even more so because it’s a novella and not a full novel. At the same time though, the story was so well done and as a firm believer in quality over quantity I’m content saying this left me wanting more. Maybe we can compromise on a sequel?

Nell was such a lovable main character and made me want to fly solo. While I’ve never been to Paris, I took five years of French in junior high/high school and it felt familiar going to all of the places I had learned so much about. In ultimate Parisian style, Nell finds herself on the back of a moped to to take in all the city has to offer and you feel like you’re right there with her. 

Nell reminded me of another lovable heroine I read recently. The way the people in Nell’s life talk about her paralleled the way Eleanor Oliphant‘s coworkers talked about her.

My favorite scenes happened along the Seine with the bateaux mouches that glide along the river. I think when my time to travel to the City of Lights I’ll be finding a locally owned boat for my tour 😉

The short stories however, weren’t as special to me. I felt like there really wasn’t enough to them that they stood out to me. My favorite short story was called The Christmas List. This story followed a woman in search of the perfect Christmas gift but has the most unexpected ending. 

I think Moyes is such an excellent romance writer because she uses strong female leads and throws in a little humor here and there. Another thing Moyes incorporates is the use of the classic plot twist, and it’s one that isn’t what you expected and comes when you least expect it.

Let me know what’s in your to be read pile!

Happy reading!

xox, 

Marissa

Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I had The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society in my To Be Read pile for quite some time now and I wish I had picked it up sooner!

Historical fiction is my favorite genre and one of my favorite time periods to read about is is WWII. You can see there were pretty high expectations to live up to and this book knocked it out of the park! I fell in love with each of the characters and I can say that now Guernsey is on my travel bucket list.

Just to give you a little background information: Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands. It is not part of the U.K., although they are a British Crown dependency. Guernsey was occupied by the German army from 1940 to 1945. The Germans landed there and thought they would sweep through the U.K. only to realize it would not be that simple. The army continued to inhabit Guernsey until the end of the war.

This novel by Shaffer and Barrows follows the life of a writer, Juliet, who published a series of short stories about life during WWII. She is asked to continue writing her Izzy Bickerstaff books but Juliet wants to venture out and create something new. A resident of Guernsey stumbles upon Juliet’s name in a book and suddenly she is pulled into the life of a literary society in the midst of the German occupation.

One of my favorite things about this book was that it takes the form of a series of letters. It’s a narrative you don’t see often and it was a nice change from the usual.

Another thing that I loved about this book was all of the characters. Falling in love with Juliet and all of the residents of Guernsey was so easy and I could have kept reading about them forever.

It does have a movie adaptation on Netflix but I haven’t dared to watch it, the book was that good! If you’ve watched the movie, let me know if you think I should give it a try!

Let me know what you think of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and be sure to leave any book recommendations in the comments!

xox,

Marissa