August 16, 2019

Stacking the Shelves (72)

My last book haul post was in June and I've been feeling a tad scatterbrained lately so I know the list below should probably be longer. But here's what I remember as being newly required!

Here they are:

PURCHASED

What new books have you guys gotten lately?

August 14, 2019

Mini-reviews: The Last Book Party, Soul of the Sword, Say You Still Love Me + Ellie and the Harpmaker

pub 7/9/19 by Henry Holt & Company
Contemporary Fiction
Received e-ARC from pub
⭐⭐ 2 stars | The Last Book Party had certain elements going for it. It was atmospheric and captured this 80s summer feel that in hindsight low-key reminded me of Dirty Dancing. But it also captured the ruthlessness and ambition of the rich and elite "artist," namely writers. Twenty-five-year-old Eve Rosen is drawn to this world and gets to be a part of it for a single summer as she becomes the research assistant for famed New Yorker writer, Henry Grey. I don't know whether this was done purposefully but I didn't connect to, much less like or root for, a single person in this book. And to be fair, I'm not sure any of them are meant to be likable. However, because of that wall between myself and the characters, I felt little to no sympathy for any of the events that transpired and the entire plot line felt like one predictable stereotype after another. As much as I wanted to like it, it just wasn't for me.


pub 6/25/19 by Inkyard Press
Young Adult - Fantasy
Received e-ARC from pub
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars | Soul of the Sword was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint (but its predecessor is still my favorite!). It picks up right where it left off and pushes the overarching story forward – Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko still has her part of the ancient scroll to protect and along with her friends, has to continue her journey towards the Steel Feather temple for protection in order to prevent the summoning of the great Kami Dragon. In only two books, Yumeko has already grown a lot from the playful trickster we first met in the monastery to a Kitsune truly coming into her own abilities. I loved watching that and seeing the friendships she made in the first book strengthen more. The stakes are even higher this time around, especially with the circumstances surrounding Tatsumi (trying to be vague here but man did I miss Tatsumi a lot!). I'm very much looking forward to finding out how this trilogy ends! Is it March 2020 yet?

pub 8/6/19 by Atria Books
Adult - Contemporary Romance
Received e-ARC from pub
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars | Say You Still Love Me is my second KA Tucker book and I am a fan! Tucker's writing seriously just hooks me. Piper Calloway is a 29-year-old VP at her dad's multibillion dollar firm and life is good. Yes, she's dealing with all the BS you'd expect in an environment of mostly middle-aged men who don't take kindly to take orders from an attractive, young woman but she loves what she does. She's out of a relationship that didn't make sense and living with her two best friends. Then she finds out her first love, Kyle Miller, has taken a security job at her firm and sparks (plus questions) fly. We alternate back and forth between the present and the past and I genuinely enjoyed both sides of the story. The first-time all-consuming and passionate love that existed between them as teens is captured perfectly on page. But I'm also a sucker for second chance romances and that was done well in the present too. The reason why I docked a star is because of the one points of conflict didn't quite have the emotional impact it was supposed to and then it got wrapped up too quickly and neatly. But otherwise, I think this is another winner from the author and I already own another book of hers I hope to read soon! (But The Simple Wild is still my fave.)

pub 8/6/19 by Berkley Publishing
Adult - Contemporary
Received e-ARC from pub
⭐⭐💫 2.5 stars | Unfortunately this is another one of those cases where I loved the concept but not the execution or the writing style. It alternate between the perspectives of Dan, a gifted harpmaker somewhat lacking in social skills (it's never directly said and I don't understand why but I got the impression he's on the autism spectrum) and Ellie, a housewife who finds his barn one day and expresses an interest in learning how to play the harp. When he unexpectedly gifts her one, it's the beginning of an unconventional friendship and I'm sure you can infer where it leads. For the entirety of the book, Ellie came across to me as extremely selfish, whiny and obtuse. At one point she describes herself as being the point of chaos and it's true. On the other hand, I found Dan charming but ultimately underdeveloped, which was a shame. He was the heart of this story and the book would've benefited from delving more into his point-of-view and backstory, rather than Ellie's. Again, this was another disappointing read because I wanted to love it (it was touted as another Eleanor Oliphant) but it unfortunately fell flat.

August 12, 2019

San Francisco Cousins Reunion Trip

It's been over a month since my cousins reunion vacation in San Francisco but I'm finally recapping it! You're probably wondering why it's a "reunion" when I mention all my cousins who live in Jersey constantly. But for this trip, it was us, plus our cousins in Australia and LA. So it was 15 people total, which included 8 cousins, 5 spouses and 2 kids. We'd never done a group vacation like this before and when I proposed it over a year ago, everyone was in. At the time I didn't fully realize what it would mean to be in charge of said vacation (note: I have a post coming soon with tips on planning one). I'm not gonna lie, I felt super frustrated half the time I spent planning and I was worried I'd want to strangle them after a few days. But that wasn't the case at all! All the stress was worth it to see their happy faces, knowing how much they were loving the trip (which they told me constantly). We genuinely loved being together and that first morning back home, I actually felt sad waking up in my empty apartment without them. 

We spent 5 days in SF and here's what we did!

Day 1
We arrived in SF! It wasn't easy to find a house in the city to accommodate all of us so we decided to look at Daly City which is still close! This Airbnb was perfect! It exceeded my expectations and everyone was super happy with it. Our first night was about settling in, catching up and eating In-N-Out for dinner.

Day 2
It felt right to kick off exploring with the Golden Gate Bridge. There's a lot of trails for walking plus you can walk across the bridge if you so choose. We ended up only walking a part of it but we still spent a good two hours in the area, probably because we took a ton of pictures everywhere. From there, we went to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch (Sabella & La Torre + Crab Station were our faves), snacks (Trish's Mini Donuts are a must) and shopping along the piers, particularly Pier 39.

Day 3
Alcatraz is a must if you're visiting San Francisco. I've actually been to SF multiple times before, twice for work and once for fun with a friend so I'd done Alcatraz before and knew my cousins needed to see it. It's a short ferry ride and just a really interesting place to check and learn the history of. Plus it's conveniently near the Ferry Building Marketplace, which we went to for lunch afterwards. If you like having a lot of options when choosing lunch, you definitely want to see this place.

Day 4
This was the day I was excited about for multiple reasons – we'd get to venture out of the city and do something outdoorsy by hiking Muir Woods and it was the perfect time to wear the family shirts I made for the trip! I'd never been before and it was a beautiful (albeit slightly scary) drive up with amazing views. Then the woods themselves were just amazing. It's a really easy hike and we walked along the path for a couple miles at a leisurely place, which was great for us to talk the entire time. For lunch, we went to Chinatown and ate at Hong Kong Clay Pot Restaurant. I loved the food! Plus they were super accommodating for a big group like ours. The only downside is parking (but that was the problem almost everywhere in SF). We walked around afterward, made a quick pit stop at Lombard Street, and then headed back to our place to celebrate my cousin's birthday with a surprise party.

Day 5
Our last full day in San Francisco! And probably my second favorite day after Muir Woods. Our group split up, the "older" cousins went to Napa (specifically, Castello di Amorosa which they loved) while the rest of us wanted to see more of the city. We started off at Baker Beach (another new-to-me spot!). It was so calming to walk along the beach, get our feet wet and take photos of the incredible view. From there we headed to Mission which is my favorite area in SF. We went to La Taqueria for burritos (which I am still craving) and Mission Pie for pie and coffee (so freaking good). Then we headed to Aquarium of the Bay, which wasn't just for the kiddos! We all enjoyed it. Finally we ended our day with Swensen's Ice Cream and a drive down Lombard Street.

***

The next morning, we were up bright and early to go to the airport and head home. But those five days passed by so quickly! We all couldn't help feeling sad on our last night and basically said we'd do another vacation like in 3 years. Which means I have 3 years to prepare myself for planning but I can honestly say that I'm 100% looking forward to another trip like this one. 

Have you ever done a big family vacation before?
And have you seen any of places in SF?

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