January 2019 New Releases

Happy end of 2018, everyone! This year I was fortunate enough to reach my 2018 goal of 100 books in early December, aided by the sheer volume of books, audiobooks, galleys and ebooks that seem to come in and out of our house on a daily basis.

I spent the month of December traveling and celebrating the holiday season, but also trying to get ahead of the various ARC titles that I needed to read and review for you all! Read on for my reviews on four new titles coming to you in January of 2019!

An Anonymous Girl  | Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen | www.deniseadelek.comAn Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
4 out of 5 stars, out 1/8/2019

Whoa. An Anonymous Girl was a fun, twisty thriller that was refreshing after a sea of many other “thrillers” that seemed to read the same. Jessica, a young makeup artist in New York City, volunteers for a paid psychological study under false pretenses with the well-known Dr. Shields. She is tasked with answering questions on ethics and mortality, and is selected for a higher level of interviewing.

Jessica gets mixed up in a very cat and mouse sort of way with Dr. Shields as the project quickly goes off the rails. This book nailed all of the necessary twists and turns to make a good psychological thriller, and I appreciated the gratuitous level of creepiness that didn’t leave me afraid of the dark.

Watching You | Lisa Jewell |

Watching You by Lisa Jewell
2.5 out of 5 stars, out 1/9/2019

Do you ever finish a book and you’re not entirely sure what just happened or if you liked it? While I LOVED Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell, I can’t say that Watching You lived up to my expectations. I struggled to get into this book, but was cheered on by a few friends on bookstagram who had deemed it un-put-down-able.

Nestled in a nice suburb, where all eyes are on all of the town’s citizens, a gruesome murder happens. The book switches between perspectives as well as time periods and police depositions, which helped to keep the plot moving. Most of the characters seem like they could be guilty, and the reader is strung along until the very end to learn who the real killer is.

The Last Woman in the Forest } Diane Les Becquets |

The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
4.5 out of 5 stars, out 1/22/2019

Living a life relatively isolated from other people, Marian works with trained dogs to track and monitor endangered species in pockets across the country. When on assignment in rural Montana, she falls for her mentor and colleague, Tate. Tate has a domineering personality, and he makes Marian feel like he can give her the world.

This story is set against four very graphic murders by an at-large serial killer in the vicinity, and some of Tate’s actions give Marian cause for concern. After his untimely death on assignment in Washington State, Marian begins to questions the things she thought were true.

I loved that this book featured a forensic psychologist who was developing profiles of the women who were murdered, as well as the potential suspect. I learned a lot from these chapters, as well as about tracking endangered species!  This book kept me guessing until the end, and I really enjoyed it.

Freefall | Jessica Barry | www.deniseadelek.comFreefall by Jessia Barry
3.5 out of 5 stars, out 1/31/2019

Freefall tells the story of an estranged mother-daughter duo (Maggie and Allison) in the wake of a plane crash that is thought to have taken the life of Allison and her fiance. Maggie feels that more than a few things are amiss, and is in denial that her daughter is actually dead. Allison’s body was not found at the scene of the crash, and even though the two have not spoken in years, Maggie feels that Allison is still out there.

Allison’s side of the story alternates between telling the tale of her survival, and how she got into the situation. Overall, a good page turner that kept me going from start to finish.


What books are you looking forward to most in 2019? Tell me in a comment below!


beauty & lifestyle

Last-Minute Gift Guide

We’ve all been there. You forgot about the 7th Christmas party that you were invited to, you need a hostess gift, or you’re struggling to find some goodies for your coworkers in the eleventh hour.

While I’m all for shopping local and shopping small, sometimes Amazon Prime same-day shipping is second to none. When you’re in full-on Grinch mode and don’t want to set foot in another store, ordering from the comfort of your warm house without having to talk to another human is key.

Stay tuned for my favorite small business picks, but in the meantime here are some Denise-tested and approved choices to save the day!

Amazon Gift Ideas

Wristology Rose Gold watch | What Do You Meme game | Kendra Scott Elisa necklace | Bridgewater Candles Sweet GraceCozy pullover | Le Pen 30-Pack




November Update

It’s been a moment or two since my last post, and as I sit down to write this I’m coming up with exactly zero good excuses as to why I haven’t been posting… rather than come up with a good story, here’s what I have been up to:

Trying (and succeeding) to eat healthier
Back in August, I bit the bullet and admitted that counting my macros was not for me. I downloaded the Weight Watchers app, and after seeing my mom almost effortlessly lose 25 lbs over the summer, I decided to give it a go! I consider myself a reformed candy queen now, which is saying something, and I’ve cut out alcohol during the week. It’s easy to be accountable, but also to eat/drink out in moderation. The programming is definitely worth checking out, and with their new re-brand, this is not the Weight Watchers of the 1990s.

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Taking advantage of weekend getaways
A few weekends ago, my husband and our friends took advantage of Nashville only being a few hours down the road and took a weekend trip. Lately a lot of our trips have involved flying somewhere warm when it’s cold, but there are so many great cities within driving distance from the Midwest. We’ve really been feeling a trip out to Kansas City to check out the brewery scene out there, and I’ve been dying to make an Art Deco pilgrimage out to Detroit. Anywhere else we should add to our list?

Beau and Delaney

Doubling the four-legged fun
We rescued the sweetest little angel, Delaney, last month from a rescue that is based out of the boarding and training business we take Beau to. Delaney had been found by animal control more than a year earlier and pulled in by the kennel’s rescue. Our timid, shy girl had been kicking it at the kennel living her best life, but was not fond of going to adoption events. The rescue had thought she would be the perfect kennel mascot, but when she tore her ACL playing (lol), they thought it might be good for her to have a forever home. Beau and Delaney are old friends from day care, and she’s fit right in at our house. She’s come out of her shell a ton and is the sweetest little couch potato around.

Hope you all are gearing up for a fun and relaxing holiday weekend, with lots of delicious Thanksgiving food to be shared!



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 |


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 |

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! I also have status on American, which helps in the free bag department.


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!



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)