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 |


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.


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 |

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.


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)




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 |

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 |

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.


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!

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!




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 |

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


The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

For me, I was sold on the cover of The Queen of Hearts before I even cracked the book open, but of course I had to read it too. I’d seen a ton of beautiful Instagram posts about this book, and had heard it buzzed about in many different outlets. I finally tracked a copy down from our library and jumped right in following a disappointing jaunt with an advanced reader copy of a late-summer release.

the queen of hearts by kimmery martin | summer beach read book review |

The Queen of Hearts is told from the perspective of two female physicians, Emma, a trauma surgeon and Zadie, a pediatric cardiologist. Emma and Zadie are instant best friends from the moment they meet, and their medical schooling is woven together through their residency and fellowship in Louisville, Kentucky. The story alternates between their residency, when a traumatic event happens to the duo, and to present day, when another event threatens to tear apart their years of solid friendship.

queen of hearts

I liked that this story featured two highly-educated, career-driven women who were nowhere near perfect. They juggled children, marriages and female friendship well, but still struggled with challenges at their jobs, with their friends, and being mothers and wives. All too often, I find myself reading about the *perfect* character who seems to have it all together and live an entirely unrealistic life.

The secrets and intrigue in this story make it utterly readable, I tore through this in about a day and a half with no problem. Stick this in your carry-on or beach bag and you’ll be sure to check it off your list.

For: people with a greater-than-average knowledge of medicine, readers who like strong female characters, and those who want to band together over a mutually disliked character.

Pairs well with: a generously poured glass of red wine and a night you can stay up late to finish.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Have you read The Queen of Hearts? Let me know what you thought below!


six things to always pack

When I sit down to count, my mind is blown when I realize how many times I’ve been on a plane in the last few months to travel away from home. I travel a decent amount for my job, and in case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve also been bitten by the insatiable travel bug on my own time too. I feel like I’m unpacking just to re-pack for a new adventure- minus the few times I’ve forgotten to pack underwear, I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at curating what to bring (and leave behind). Here are a few of my essentials:


At the end of the day, even the best location cannot beat our home, so I’ve learned how to bring the comforts of home with me as best I can. This post features the six things that I don’t even bother unpacking from my suitcase, because they are the end-all-be-all of packed items.

Sleep mask, ear plugs and melatonin

When I travel for work, there’s a lot less to control, and many creeping thoughts come around at bedtime. I’ve found that melatonin can help me wind down in foreign territory, and ear plugs and a sleep mask can help me do the rest. I use dissolvable melatonin, in order to spare myself a trip to the ice machine.

At least three ebooks

This could be me, a crazy person speaking here, but nothing is better than cozying up with a book on a long flight, or tucking into a nice coffee shop to kill some time with a good read on a trip. I’m a little more fickle about my books when I’m on vacation, so I always like to have a few to choose from on my iPad. I also download a bunch of magazines from my library’s magazine app to flip through on the plane as we wait to take off. My love letter to the public library system will come in another post, but having a library card has afforded me so many benefits besides books!

Philosophy Purity face wash

philosophy purity face wash: must pack travel itemsI’m not sure when exactly it was ingrained in my memory, but I never go to sleep without washing my face. Even on my 21st birthday, I somehow managed to take my contacts out and wash all of my makeup off my face. I swear by Purity by Philosophy, since it’s a gentle cleanser that doesn’t make your skin feel like it’s gasping for moisture when all is said and done. I pair it with these cute little eye makeup remover mitts, and it’s a seamless, painless experience.


Have you ever been in fluorescent lighting and noticed that your eyebrows look way more out of control than they do when you’re at home? Hotel bathroom lighting tells all, and it’ll behoove you to make sure you can do something about it while you have the chance! I actually always have a set of tweezers with me in my wallet, but I digress.

Page-a-Day journal

page a day journal and other good habits to make | deniseadelek.wordpress.comIf you read my post on good habits to get into, you may know that I’ve kept a journal since I could hold a pen in my hand. My page-a-day journal has been with me to 10+ countries, and has been with me for the last five years, every single day. There have been nights when I’m too tired (or other things, in which case I get caught up the next day over some tylenol and coconut water :)), but I’m always glad to have the chance to write even a few sentences about where life has taken me.

Packing tape

Finding one-of-a-kind keepsakes and art on trips is one of the best ways to get a memorable souvenir for myself or for friends. I’ve shipped items back home on more trips than I can count, but have always been frustrated by the way I packed items, or by how much extra it ended up costing me to send things home. When I sent goodies home from Mardi Gras (at a whopping $40 for a small but heavy box), paying $7 at the post office for packing tape was a punch in the gut. Having a few things to help make shipping things back home more economical helps make the choice between “should I buy this?” and regretting not buying something a little easier.

Where is your next trip to? I’m leaving for Denver tomorrow morning and am excited to hit the ground running for an exciting work trip with some bonus hours thrown in to spend time with friends! Thanks for reading

Six items you'll always find in my suitcase, travel must-haves packing list