books

5 of my favorite books in 2018

The second I finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, I took to Facebook, Instagram, text and even talking to random people to share how much I loved the book. I’ll be the first to admit that I get a little evangelical when I read something great.

My Facebook post prompted a few friends to ask what other books I would highly recommend, and while I posted this on my personal timeline a few days ago, I wanted to create a post to live on my blog with my favorites of 2018, as of early October. Be sure to read to the bottom to see what I didn’t love (but thought I would), and what I’m excited to read.

where the crawdads sing by delia owensWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I loved everything about this book. The distinctly low-country town without feeling overly “Southern fiction-y,” the resiliency and gumption of the main character, Kya, and the way this book sucked you in slowly and then all at once.

I can’t wait to see what this debut author weaves together for her next title. I also can’t stop loaning this title out to my friends… which I guess isn’t a bad problem to have.the hate u give by angie thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I listened to this book and couldn’t get it to go fast enough to devour it as quickly as I wanted to. I feel like this book should be required reading for all young adults, especially in this day and age. One of my friends teaches at a private boarding school in a very affluent area, that also has many scholarship kids that attend and live on campus who come from disadvantaged areas. She mentioned to me that their school book club was reading this book, and I wished I could be a fly on the wall to hear what kids from all different walks of life had to say.

I wanted to hug each and every character in this book by the time I was done with it, and I really feel like this movie has the potential to live up to the expectations of the book.

Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman | deniseadelek.comThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

I’ll be the first to admit that I came across this book based on the cute cover. What really drew me in, however, was that this was so much more than what you’d usually get from “contemporary women’s fiction.” This was such a sweet story about beginning again, gardening, but also dealt with some complex grief and guilt. This book and Ghosted by Rosie Walsh both pleasantly surprised me in how the characters lived through their grief.

This book also led me to be really productive, resulting in a backyard herb garden that yielded approximately 9,000 basil leaves, and enough cilantro for 2.5 tacos.


how to walk away by katherine center | deniseadelek.wordpress.comHow to Walk Away by Katherine Center
This book is the quintessential “Instagram-made-me-do-it” moment. I was following along with the Booksparks Summer Reading Challenge this summer and it seemed like everyone on my feed was reading this book except me. I am clearly a sucker for influencer marketing, but alas, I LOVED this book.

I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this book in one sitting, and it satisfied like a mid-afternoon cappuccino on a brisk fall day. You can read more from my standalone review here

Circe by Madeleine Miller | www.deniseadelek.comCirce by Madeline Miller
I’ll preface this final title by saying that I do not enjoy mythology. Blame it on being Greek, therefore being expected to like mythology, but my whole life I have avoided mythology like the plague.

I drove six hours from home to visit my best friend in Des Moines, and was in a pinch when my audiobook ended, but I still had the return trip left to go. Over a delicious slice of Casey’s pizza (literally the best pizza- from a GAS STATION), I scrolled through Overdrive for something to download and Circe kept coming up at the top of the search results. I figured it was some sort of sign, and dove right in. This book was incredibly narrated, and brought the story to life in a way that made me a firm believer in Madeline Miller’s retelling skills.

I didn’t love: Clock Dance, The Kiss Quotient, and There There. I feel badly not having enjoyed these as much as everyone else seemed to, especially because The Kiss Quotient and There There were written in “own voices.”

What I’m reading next: Next Year in Havana, since I seem to be the last person on earth to have read this book, and because I know my mom has wanted to talk to me about it for at least three months. I’m also picking up November Road to do a buddy read with some fun bookstagrammers.

What are your top books of 2018? What was a miss for you?

2018 Favorite Books | www.deniseadelek.com

Travel

Making the most of traveling for work

As the queen of wanderlust, I feel like getting to travel for work is one of my best job duties. In the last year or so, I’ve gotten to travel to major U.S. cities, rural Appalachia, Las Vegas, and even Jackson, MS. While I am by no means an expert traveler, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help you be a better work (or fun) traveler!

making the most out of traveling for work | deniseadelek.com

Get a credit card with a great rewards program
I use the Capital One Venture card and can’t say enough great things about it. Originally, I snagged it to take advantage of the possibility to get points towards airfare, but realized that gift cards were the way to go. After using it for a few trips, I was able to compile the rewards into an Amazon gift card to buy my Canon Rebel T6. Patience was the key here, but it was well worth it!

Additionally, Capital One covers the cost of getting TSA Pre Checked (or global entry, from what I recall), which savesyou time and shenanigans in the airport.

Take advantage of what’s around you
If I have a choice in where I’m staying, I always try to pick a hotel that’s in a walkable area near multiple things to do. One of my favorite things to check out while on the go is an indie bookstore, although a prolific library will do just fine. Coffee and craft beer is a close second, both of which are easier and easier to find.

Like a true millennial, I always check out locations on Instagram before I get somewhere, too. I feel better about having some down time on my hands when I have a list of places to check out!

Master the art of packing
I have a go-to bag of items I know I will end up needing that floats around in my suitcase, sparing me from late night trips to a CVS. Without fail, I always end up needing: a safety pin, extra hair tie, a bandaid (ask me about the time I got poison ivy on a work trip), a sleep mask and earplugs. I’m also that person who packs for any and all occasions, because you never know.

This type of packing is not becoming of a budget-friendly personal trip, and I recently learned that exclusively carrying on is not for me. I do know that whatever I have to pay to check a bag is well-worth it over having to pay $17 for a pair of tweezers in the hotel gift shop!

IMG_0272

Maintain some of your routine
When I’m at home, I’m a dedicated 5:00 PM Crossfitter. I pass our gym on the way home from work, so there’s really no excuse! I do my research ahead of time to see where the closest affiliate is and make sure that I can find a time to drop in. Sometimes this means waking up extra early to get to a 5:30 AM class, but I’m always glad that I made it in.

I make a point of dropping in when I’m on vacation as well, just to offset the vacation calories I’m consuming! No matter what you do to exercise, most things are universal. Bring your running shoes, yoga mat, or try to snag a discounted guest pass at a fitness center. I never thought I’d admit this, but even hotel gyms are starting to step it up!

 

books

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain | www.deniseadelek.comI’ll preface my review with sharing that time travel is not really my cup of tea… Diane Chamberlain, however, IS my cup of tea and I am now convinced that this is the perfect combination. I’ve read most of Diane’s recent works, including one of my all-time favorites, Necessary Lies. I’m thrilled when I hear of a new release, and I was even more excited to get the opportunity to read it in advance thanks to SheSpeaks.

Beginning in 1970, Caroline finds herself pregnant with a daughter that has a fatal heart condition if unaltered. The caveat? She will have to travel through time in order to have the surgery- in New York City in 2001. Assisted by her physicist brother-in-law, Caroline takes the ultimate leap of faith in order to do what is best for her unborn daughter.

Caroline is a Vietnam War widow who feels like she has nothing to lose. She makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the life she is carrying, and jumps forward in time without knowing what to expect or what the world is like.

I loved the juxtaposition of the Vietnam War with the months leading up to 9/11, as well as everywhere in between. I found myself rooting for all of the characters on every single page, just like in every single other one of her books I’ve read. Diane Chamberlain is the master of developing complex characters and emotional storylines.

For: readers with a touch of magical realism, or those who loved the Time Traveler’s Wife.

Pairs well with: something comforting, like a big mug of tea or hot chocolate. Also, a salty breeze, or at least a beachy scented candle.

Rating: 4/5 stars, I think that the time travel aspect detracted from the incredible drama that Chamberlain is usually able to create in her more conventional stories.

I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley, and a beautiful advanced reader copy from SheSpeaks. This book is officially available in stores October 2, 2018.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain | www.deniseadelek.com

Uncategorized

a few things I’ve been up to

You may (or may not have, until I called it out) noticed that it’s been almost a month since my last post here. I wanted to share what I’ve been up to that has kept me off my laptop.

7652801424_IMG_1869

Embarking on some low-key adventures
My parents and I took off on a short weekend trip to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin in their new home in northern Massachusetts and enjoyed a ton of delicious mussels, oysters and lobster rolls. We spent lots of time enjoying the many, many couches and reading nooks at my aunt’s house, and got to relax without feeling the pressure to get out and do a million things. My aunt lives in what I would consider the ideal reading retreat– very Walden-esque in a small country town outside of Boston.

I wrote the majority of this post on a cozy couch in New Orleans, where Brendan and I have joined my parents for a long weekend, that will probably be anything but low-key!

where the crawdads sing by delia owens | deniseadelek.com

Reading- of course
My snuggle buddy, Beau and I have have been tearing through books in the last few weeks, including a bunch of exciting advance read copies. I loved The Dinner List by Rebecca Searle, and Beau loved The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain so much that he left some saliva on it. I jumped right into Where the Crawdads Sing for my book club’s October pick, though I’m trying to take it slow and savor this beautiful title.

D_and_B

Enjoying my husband’s extended and uninterrupted time home
Brendan was gone for an entire month earlier this summer, many of those days without a cell phone or a way to communicate. Since he’s been back in mid-August, I’ve loved having plenty of time to spend together without having to think about when his next drill weekend is, or my next work trip. We have almost two uninterrupted months and we’ve done lots of things! We had a concrete patio poured in our yard, perfect for hosting friends for dinner and using our new Big Green Egg to smoke and grill delicious meals.

Hope you’re having a wonderful beginning to an eventful fall! This week I’m looking forward to dinner with our parents, some much-needed yard projects and hopefully a glass of champagne (or two)

-Denise

n

books

two books to keep you up at night

If you’re a perpetual seven year-old like me, then you also happen to be afraid of the dark, and easily influenced by the things you read, see and hear right before you go to bed. When my husband was away for work last month, I only read lighthearted books (and the mammoth Chernow Hamilton biography) so I wouldn’t skyrocket our electrical bill by having every single light on in our house.

Spoiler alert- I had all the lights on anyway. Below are two books you should read when you aren’t home alone, or if you’re a real adult (unlike me) that you could read whenever!

the last time i lied by riley sager | deniseadelek.comThe Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

I ordered this as my July Book of the Month, fully knowing that I wouldn’t permit myself to read this until I was well into August. Three girls go missing from a sleepaway camp in upstate New York, with their fourth cabinmate, Emma, being the last person to see them alive.

Fifteen years later, Emma is invited back to the newly reopened camp to teach painting classes to the new batch of girls. Assigned to the same cabin where her life changed forever, someone at the camp is tormenting Emma and keeping her from getting the closure she desperately seeks.

I loved the seemingly endless twists and turns in this book, even though they had me drawing the curtains.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paristhe breakdown by ba paris | deniseadelek.com

After listening to Behind Closed Doors as an audiobook at 2x speed driving home from a trip to Iowa, I knew I had to snag the next book from B.A. Paris and dedicate some supervised time to tearing through The Breakdown.

Cass drives home in a rain storm and detours down a country road where a woman is stopped on the side of the road. The next day, she finds out that the woman has been killed, and she may have been the last person to see her alive.

Consumed with guilt, and beginning to forget everything but that fateful night, Cass can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. I finished this and wanted to start right back over again. Full disclosure- I did NOT like the most recent title from B.A. Paris, Bring Me Back.

*

What books kept you up at night? I need to backload my “read while supervised” list since Brendan is home for the next two months straight! Thanks for reading!

 

beauty & lifestyle

when you spend your wedding anniversary alone

As soon as my husband received the 2018 drill schedule for his unit, I had a sinking feeling we wouldn’t be going on an anniversary trip this year, or even get to spend the day together. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that both of us would be able to celebrate our birthdays together, and that there weren’t any (planned) major life events in conflict, but was absolutely not looking forward to the month that Beau and I would be spending on our own. And by not looking forward to, what I actually mean is– quietly enjoying a much tidier house with very low socks left on the floor quotient and snuggling with Beau as we read a lot of books and miss Brendan.what happens when you spend your anniversary alone | deniseadelek.com

This is by no means a post complaining about the situation that we are in. I am over-the-moon proud of my husband and everything that he has accomplished in his career in the Army, and my heart goes out to those whose partners are overseas, in combat, or never came home.

What this post is: ruminations about just how much I talk to myself and to the dog, an update on my attempt to not grocery shop for a whole month, and a wellness check to make sure I haven’t completely turned into an introvert.

About a week and a half in, I started to “text” Brendan from the Notepad app on my phone. Rather that inundating him with 900 messages that come in all at once like a stalker, I decided to itemize and prioritize an agenda of topics that I wanted to present to B upon his return. When Notepad stopped serving its purpose, I created a new notebook in OneNote.

kainrath-418.jpg

Some women complain of “mom brain” but here I am using my mental capacity to power rank conversation topics that I plan to present to my husband like it’s a quarterly sales meeting. Someone please stop me when I begin to prepare an on-boarding manual– “Chapter One: I Tried to be Relatable In an Instagram Caption and Received Many Offers to Help Me Start the Mower, Because in Fact, EVERYONE Knows How to Start a Mower.”

This time has really taught me who our biggest supporters are, whether it’s people offering to mow our lawn when I made a lame attempt to be funny in an Instagram post (see above), the friends who invited me over/out for dinner, and of course both sets of our wonderful parents. Shout out to Beau, who loves going for long walks and sniffing every light post. Thanks to him, our half mile walks actually take a half an hour!

deniseadelek.com

What did I actually learn from spending my second wedding anniversary without my husband? To be less of a baby about it. Brendan and I have the entire foreseeable future together to make memories. Our anniversary is a single day, just as these last four weeks have only been a small blip on the radar.

When our official anniversary rolls around, I know that I’ll be grateful for the love, partnership and friendship that we have, because absence has absolutely made our hearts grow fonder. Well, I guess I can only speak for myself here. I’m thinking as Brendan spends yet another day at 900% humidity, that he’s mostly thinking about air conditioning and a shower.

Thanks for reading my ramblings, and a special thanks to everyone who has reached out over the last few weeks to make sure that Beau and I are feeling the love!

 

 

books

the masterpiece by fiona davis | book review

I don’t know where to begin when describing how much I loved The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis! I received this book earlier this summer as an advanced reader copy, and my only regret is that I didn’t start reading it sooner! I really loved how this story reminded me of the intrigue and vivid detail of The Girl You Left Behind, while still feeling fresh and new.

the masterpiece by fiona davis book review

The Masterpiece is a juxtaposition of two women’s stories, one in the late 1920s and one in the mid 1970s, both during difficult financial times in New York City. The earlier story features a female illustrator, Clara, who is teaching at an art school nestled in the top floors of the illustrious Grand Central Station. Fast forward more than fifty years to Virginia, who has not been dealt the best cards following her divorce, and is working at the information desk in a now decrepit Grand Central Station.

I loved how this story shed a light on how challenging it was to be a female artist in the beginning of the twentieth century, as well as the challenges faced by working women in the 1970s. Both characters were women you wanted to rally behind and cheer for, no matter what happened to them.

the masterpiece fiona davis book review | deniseadelek.wordpress.com

Another thing I really loved about this book is that you could enjoy being a fan of art, without having to be an expert to catch on to what Davis was writing about. I like to be able to focus on books without having my phone near me when I read, and I didn’t feel like I had to google such-and-such painting by xyz artist to fully get the plot- which I loved!

Having recently stayed at the Hyatt Grand (which has an entrance that feeds directly into the Grand Concourse, read more about NYC here and here) earlier this summer, I loved reading about one of my favorite historical landmarks in New York City. Fiona Davis really brought the location and the time periods to life, and I could picture myself exactly where the characters were standing.

The Masterpiece is out in just two short weeks (August 7, 2018) and you won’t want to miss a great read that everyone will be talking about!

For: lovers of historical fiction juxtaposed with more modern times, readers who love to root for the main characters, and love some accuracy to their fiction, especially when it comes to art or architecture.

Pairs well with: a trip to New York City, either scheduled or something to think back to. Preferably with a stop at Grand Central, or somewhere else to appreciate art deco design (there are PLENTY of options in NYC).

Rating: 5/5 stars