Let’s Talk About What No One Else Will Talk About

Hopefully the title of this blog post captured your attention. Today I want to talk about what it seems like no one else on bookstagram likes to talk about. Now I’m not saying that people are purposefully avoiding this topic, but I am saying that I think people don’t like to talk about it because it’s an unpopular opinion that may receive backlash or may be misunderstood. Well bear with me, because I’m about to enter this uncomfortable area and share with you, my readers, 5 things that no one else is talking about.

  1. Reading is hard. Yep, I said it. This is what I’ve seen no one else admit. Reading. Is. Hard. Think about how easy is it to watch tv or a movie, not much brain power is required for this activity other than following along with the plot. It’s a simple fact that reading requires more brain power. It’s an activity that requires you to completely shut out everything else and comprehend the words and sentences your reading. Now this fact is not a bad thing. However, there are some days that my brain just doesn’t have the energy to read and is completely content with being a couch potato and binge watching Criminal Minds. I sometimes feel like bookstagram has this unspoken pressure to glorify books and reading, to not talk about the opposite side of the coin. Well my friends, this is the dirty, ugly truth that I’m serving up today: reading is hard.
  2. Reading is not our whole world. Bookstagram also has a way of making it appear like we sit around and read books all day. Don’t let social media fool you, most of us have non-book related jobs or other responsibilities and we most definitely are NOT just sitting around and reading all day. This is why I like to include lifestyle posts on my page, I like to remind myself that it’s okay not to post about books 24/7. I’m not saying that’s it’s bad if you do either. I just think it’s good to remind people that reading is an important part of our world, but it’s not our whole world.
  3. Reading is a choice. Some of you may choose to watch the Bachelorette, or go out to drinks with friends, or catch up on social media. I choose to spend that extra time reading. This is not always easy, but it’s definitely rewarding. We all make choices every single day, bookstagrammers are choosing to either read in their extra time or make extra time to read. So the next time you think, “I don’t have enough time to read,” think again.
  4. Feeling guilty for not interacting/posting. Here it is again, the unspoken nature of bookstagram. Why is it that if we are absent on the gram for a week or a month, that we feel guilty and feel the need to apologize to our followers? Some of you may not experience this, but I know I’ve had this feeling first hand and a lot of people I follow have exhibited this behavior. Fellow book lovers, we should NOT ever feel this way! Instead of saying, “I’m so sorry I’ve been sick for a week and am just now feeling better,” instead we should just be saying, “I’m back!.” If you took a week off because you were sick, good for you. If you took a month off because you were on vacation, good for you. If you took a YEAR off because you just weren’t feeling it, GOOD FOR YOU. I truly don’t believe that any of our followers are going to be mad or upset that we weren’t posting due to personal reasons. On the chance that they are, they have every right to unfollow us. I just feel the need to remind people that they are the owners of their accounts, that they are not subject to needs and wants of followers. People follow people because they respect their individuality and their choices. If we choose to leave the world of bookstagram for awhile, we do not need to apologize .
  5. That being in a reading funk or slump is a bad thing. You guys, we all have those times where we don’t want to read. Those times where you just finished an amazing, magnificent, one-of-a-kind book that you just don’t think anything else can compare. I’ve seen so many people post about this like it is a bad thing. NEWSFLASH – being in a slump is not a bad thing. I personally think that taking time off from reading can be good for the soul. Not only does it give you time to process that amazingly, great book you just finished, but it gives you time to get rejuvenated and revamped for the next book you pick up. I think a lot of people think that as soon as we finish one book, we have to go immediately pick a new one and start reading it. WRONG. It’s okay to not be reading anything at the moment. It’s okay to not be reading anything for a week or a month. Time away from books can be just as healthy as time spent reading them.

Okay, now I realize this may come off as a very negative post. My intent was to actually do the opposite. In my personal experience, along with the 1,800 people I follow, I find that bookstagram has a lot of unwritten and unspoken rules that can affect us. I think it’s healthy to recognize these nuances, and take a step back. I think this really can be said for all social media too. My point is to take everything with a grain of salt. What you see is not always what’s in the big picture.

Take care my readers and have a fabulous day.

Respectfully yours,

B & B

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Travel Review: Carmel, CA

My last travel review for the summer! Welcome to my official “blog,” Books and Bowquets. Where I blog about everything from books, bookstagram, food and travel. This blog post is dedicated to reviewing the most recent trip I took with my husband to Carmel, California. If this doesn’t interest you at all, I encourage you to look at my other posts that are more book related. Okay enough is enough, let’s get started.

Carmel is located on the California coast below Santa Cruz. The city was founded in 1902 and is located in Monterey county. A little fun fact… Clint Eastwood was mayor of Carmel for about two years in the 1980s. I have attached a link below if you’re interested in more of the city’s history.

Carmel History

Image result for map of monterey and carmel

Why Carmel? I traveled to Monterey for a work conference in February of this year. My colleagues and I went out to dinner a few times in Carmel and I completely fell in love with this town. My husband had never been so that’s how we decided our second trip for the summer

Hotel

Lighthouse Lodge and Cottages

We stayed at the Lighthouse Lodge in Pacific Grove, located only 5-10 minutes from Carmel and Monterey. (See picture of map above). When researching hotel and lodging options, you will quickly learn that this area is very expensive. We looked for places in Monterey, in Carmel and in Pacific Grove. We decided on the Lighthouse Lodge because it received good reviews, was centrally located and decently priced. Monterey tends to have more “big-wig” hotels like The Hyatt and The Hilton…etc. Pacific Grove and Carmel tend to have more lodges and inns. Our room was smaller than I had anticipated, but was fully functional and cozy. We picked the lowest rate, so we did not have a private balcony or fireplace. But we did have a comfy bed, a mini-fridge to keep the wine cold, a small seating area and a TV. The lodge has room options that include studios and suites that would definitely be more roomy and spacious if you were wondering. We didn’t decide to “upgrade” because our last trip to Fort Bragg, our room had a private balcony with views of the ocean and was very spacious. We’re not ones to go all out every trip… at least not just yet. Maybe down the road somewhere close to retirement when saving money isn’t at the forefront of our minds. I would recommend the Lighthouse Lodge to any travelers who aren’t looking for lush, lavish rooms. This location provides clean, functional rooms that serve as your sleeping space. If you’re looking for the lush and lavish – head to the Tickle Pink Inn. My Aunt highly recommends this and I can see why just looking at the website. I hope one day we can stay here maybe for an anniversary.

Food

Il Vecchio

Night One – For dinner we choose Il Vecchio, a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant known for their homemade pasta. If you’ve read my review on Fort Bragg, you know that we didn’t have the best luck with food. I first visited Il Vechio in February at that work conference I attended, so I already knew how yummy it was. My second trip definitely did not disappoint! This restaurant serves the yummiest bread with oil and balsamic vinegar, it tastes extremely fresh. We started with an appetizer called polpette – which is meatballs Piemontese, red wine, bread, caramelized onion, fontina cheese and cream. My husband ordered the frutti di mare, which is a seafood pasta containing salmon, rock cod, calamari, shrimp, mussels and tomato sauce. I ordered the pesto gnocchi, which is house-made potato dumplings. I cannot tell you enough how much I love this restaurant and their food. My mouth is watering as I look at the pictures. If you’re ever traveling in the area, you must stop at this restaurant!

Mission Ranch Restaurant

Night Two – For our second night, we chose the Mission Ranch Restaurant. Mission Ranch is actually comprised of 22 acres of land owned by the actor and director, Clint Eastwood. The Ranch not only has the restaurant but an Inn with 31 rooms, a sheep grazing meadow, and a tennis and fitness club. The pictures just don’t do it justice, it is absolutely breathtaking! We looked up the hours and it states that dinner isn’t served until 5. So we arrived at 4:50, thinking we were beating the crowds and being smart. What we didn’t realize, was that the bar opened at 4 and appetizers were being served. So all the guests that arrived between 4 and 5, were able to put in their reservation for a table when dinner opened at 5. Fear not, this did not discourage us. We put our name on the list and waited patiently. Although we did not get seated till 5:40ish, let me just say it was completely worth the wait. The service was off-the-charts amazing. They serve complimentary garlic bread which is to die for. I ordered a glass of the house chardonnay and was not disappointed. For dinner, we shared a bowl of Clam Chowder which was super delicious. It didn’t have that fishy taste that some chowders do and just came across as really fresh. For entrees, my husband ordered the prime rib that comes with seasonal vegetables and a twice baked potato. I ordered the fresh fettucini pasta with wild mushrooms which included a blend of exotic mushrooms, shallots, butter, Madeira, fresh herbs and sun-dried tomatoes. We both were extremely happy with our meals and pleased with ourselves for sticking it out. The only thing I would comment on, is the seating is a little crowded. If you can, arrive at 4, order some drinks and appetizers, and get a table on the patio. Highly recommend eating here.

Bagel Kitchen (Pacific Grove)

Unfortunately I could not find a website or menu for Bagel Kitchen. I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it. Bagel Kitchen is located in Pacific Grove in a small shopping center off one of the main roads. We just happened to spot it while driving to our hotel and decided to give it a try. This is why I love exploring new places and trying new things!!! This place has, hands down, the best bagel sandwiches, both for breakfast and lunch. We were pleasantly surprised our first morning that we decided to go a second time on our final morning before we headed for home. It has the cutest vibe with the various signs and seating areas. Another place I would highly recommend trying. I had the classic breakfast sandwich which consisted of a bagel of your choice, a fried egg, bacon and cheese. YUM.

Activities

17 Mile Drive

What is 17 Mile Drive you ask? It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s 17 miles of road that costs $10.50 to drive and is completely worth it. The first day of our trip, our check in time wasn’t until 4 o’clock and we needed something to do, so we decided to do this! The drive consists of lots of coastal stops, some more scenic, some more beach-y. It also consists of great views of the famous golf-courses such as Pebble Beach. I also enjoyed the views of the million-dollar mansions sprinkled throughout the drive. There are several ways to enter the 17 mile drive but I would recommend entering at the northern most entrance. This ensures that you’re driving on the coastal side and makes stopping easier. I don’t have many pictures from this activity as I was driving. But please enjoy this picture of the iconic – Lone Cypress Tree.

Pilgrim’s Way Books & Secret Garden

What kind of travel review doesn’t include a bookstore? Not mine! You may recognize this store from one of my earliest bookstagram posts. I found this store back in February and of course had to make a return and drag the hubby along. Can’t say enough great things about this store. It’s small but cozy and makes book shopping so much fun. It has a very calm and quiet vibe that I appreciate. They have the cutest section in the back for children as well. Not to mention the secret garden in the back-back that offers customers a whimsical garden oasis. I found a posted article about the owners, a husband and wife duo, that I included in the pictures below. I had the privilege of talking to the male owner, who let me know that they have been at this for 50 years. I’m starting to seriously question my career choice and look into owning my own bookstore complete with a coffee counter and fresh flowers. Maybe my post-retirement job?

Carmel by the Sea

This might be confusing so hang in there with me. Carmel is a city. Carmel by the Sea is a smaller part of the city that is where all the shops and restaurants are in a confined area. This is the part where everything happens. There are so many cool shops and restaurants that walking and browsing is an activity in itself. It has a village-like quality that attracts many people. Ocean Avenue is the main road but there are so many other shops located off the side streets as well. My favorites include – Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co, Carmel Bay Company, Carmel Bakery and All About the Chocolate. At the end of Ocean Avenue is , you guessed it, the ocean. Carmel Beach is amazing and also highly recommended. After dinner at Mission Ranch, my husband and I made our way back to the beach and enjoyed views of the sunset while eating salted Carmel milk chocolates and toasting with some red wine (shh don’t tell).

Conclusion: Carmel has my heart and I forsee many trips in my future. I highly recommend this as a travel destination for all my readers. I’m just giving you a small window into the vast world that is Carmel and Monterey. There are too many restaurants and lodging places to name. Which is why I invite you to explore this wonderful part of California and find what it has to offer you.

Sincerely,

B & B

Travel Review: Fort Bragg, CA

As promised lovelies, I am writing a review on all my trips this summer! The first place I’m going to review is Fort Bragg, CA. So sit back, relax and enjoy my blabbering!

Fort Bragg, CA is located in Mendocino County on the California coast. It is north of San Francisco and south of Humboldt. If you’re interested in the town’s history, click the link to learn more: https://mendocinofun.com/ftbragg-history/

You may be thinking, why Fort Bragg? Well, when I was younger, I was on a soccer team that traveled to tournaments. Our big tournament of the summer was in Fort Bragg. I have so many good memories with my family and teammates in this town that it was only natural to want to return! Knowing that I had summer off of work, I went into planning mode and booked a weekend getaway with my husband. Below I will be reviewing our hotel/lodge, restaurants and activities.

Hotel: Surf and Sand Lodging https://surfsandlodge.com/overview/

I’m going to start off by saying that if you google this place, the rating comes up as 4.5 / 5 stars. This is the place I stayed as a youngin’ when we came for soccer tournaments so I hold it very near and dear to my heart. This particular lodging location is located right on the ocean bluffs. If you reserve a room with a view, you will be looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Other room features include mini fridges, microwaves, fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and private balconies. It’s also pet friendly which is great! Okay, now time to get real. This is not a brand new hotel, it’s fairly old. There’s a few cracks here and there and the bed was a little squeaky. I am not the high maintenance kind, but I do have some standards when it comes to picking a place to stay. I know there are other hotels in Fort Bragg that are much nicer and also more expensive. I will give you my honest opinion and say that this place is somewhere in the middle. It’s not the nicest, but it’s also not a dump. With that being said, you can’t beat the location. You walk straight off your balcony and onto a path that leads you down to the ocean. For an ocean loving soul, this is my heaven. Take a peak at some pics I snapped of the room and the view.

Food

North Coast Brewery & Restaurant (Night 1): https://northcoastbrewing.com/brewery-taproom/taproom-menu/

My husband and I actually visited Fort Bragg several years ago when we had only been dating for about a year. What we both remember from this trip was the amazing food at this restaurant. We remember eating at this place BOTH nights that we came the first trip because it was so good. So naturally, this was the first restaurant we wanted to go to for dinner. Sadly, we were not impressed. In fact, we were actually really disappointed. (sigh) Where to start? I guess I’ll start by saying that I have high standards for restaurants (food snob?). If I’m paying good money, I expect to not only eat good food but to have good service. Call me crazy, but it doesn’t seem like too much to ask for. With that being said, I do NOT like talking bad about places. I just don’t. So believe me when I say that what you’re about to read was very hard for me to type. Let’s start with the fact that there were flies in the restaurant (EW). Okay I know what you’re thinking, the doors open, flies come in. But still, the last thing you want to do at an inside restaurant is be shooing away flies from your meal. The second part is that the waiter was completely rude. I had ordered a glass of white wine ($6), and he brought me out a glass of red. I love red wine, BUT I did not want to be charged $20 if he brought out an expensive kind. So when he returned, I just apologized and said I’m sorry if I was mistaken but I was hoping for the Sauvignon Blanc. He didn’t say sorry, he said (*very rudely) – “Zinfandel is red, Sauvignon Blanc is white.” and walked away. I was so taken aback… I didn’t even know what to do. (Mind you- I’m a wino and know my wines to a T. So yes, I know zin is red and sauv is white.) Even my husband confirmed that I ordered the white wine. After the whole showdown, he did bring me that glass of white wine. But the taste in my mouth was already sour before we ate. For food, I ordered a bowl of clam chowder and a house salad. My husband ordered shrimp and chips. The food was very average and nothing I would rave about or recommend. My husband and I were very saddened that it did not live up to our previously held standards. I don’t know if management changed or if we caught them on a bad night, but it’s safe to say I will not be visiting this restaurant anytime soon.

Silver’s at the Wharf (Night 2):

http://www.wharf-restaurant.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Dinner-Menu-with-New-York-Steak-2018.pdf

We had never been to this restaurant, but we found it through googling: “Best Places to Eat in Fort Bragg.” The menu has various seafood items but mainly American food. The location is awesome – right on the water in a marina. We got there fairly early and were seated next to a window. We were able to watch the fishing boats come in as we ate. We ordered the calamari, roasted garlic and mushroom linguini (for me), and prime rib (for hubby). Calamari was very average. I was expecting it to be fresh (seeing as we were in a coastal town), but I’m pretty sure it was the frozen kind. My pasta was very yummy, but strong with the blue cheese element. My husband was not impressed with his prime rib at all. It had no flavor and was overcooked for his request for medium rare. Service was just okay. I would not say this was a bad restaurant, but I’m not entirely sure I would recommend it to anyone.

Luna Trattoria (Night 3): https://www.lunatrattoria.com

For our final dinner, we were determined to have something super yummy. So we decided that we were willing to do whatever it took, including driving out of our way. Luna Trattoria is located in the town of Mendocino, about 20 minutes south of Fort Bragg. Let me first say – we finally had success! This was the most tastiest meal I’ve had in awhile. I ordered the homemade gnocchi with meat sauce, my husband got the chicken parmesan and we split a canoli for dessert! YUM, YUM, YUM. I’m so glad we were able to end the trip on a good note with good food. Highly recommend this restaurant! It’s a very small, cozy place with the cutest entrance through a garden.

Food Conclusion: Fort Bragg is a small town. So you have to take reviews on restaurants with a grain of salt. If someone says that it’s the best restaurant in town, you have to know what they’re comparing it to, which is not much. It’s not like a major metropolitan area that has too many restaurants to choose from. Next time we travel to that area, I would be more apt to choose restaurants for dinner in the Mendocino area vs. Fort Bragg. For breakfast, I baked banana bread and blueberry muffins for something easy to grab while we were in the hotel. For lunch, we got cheese, bread, crackers and grapes from the local grocery store.

Activities:

Glass Beach: https://www.californiabeaches.com/beach/glass-beach/

Glass Beach is what it sounds like. It’s a beach abundant in sea glass due to the years of dumping garbage on the coastline. There are many tide pools to explore and sea glass to sort through. There is a free parking lot with easy access from the main road. This is one of the main attractions in the town. When we visited this most recent trip, I was surprised how little sea glass there was. I think the years of advertising this beach for tourism has took it’s toll. It’s still a great place to go and take pictures!

Gallery Bookshop: https://www.gallerybookshop.com

Okay you guys, you know me. I can’t go anywhere without finding a bookstore! This is one of my new favorite independent book stores. The architecture of the store is very different, with varying levels and rooms. Not only do they have a great selection of books, but they had many other bookish things as well. They featured puzzles of bookstores, book candles, book totes, bookmarks… etc. It was amazing! The storefront is overlooking the ocean and they have these large windows with seats you can lounge on. I had to visit this store TWICE on our trip because I was so obsessed. Definitely a must-see if you’re in the area!

I’m going to be frank, there’s not much to do here, but that’s why I love it. I did a whole lot of reading and relaxing and listening to the ocean. What more can a girl ask for in a vacation?

Ohhhh Fort Bragg. A wonderful place with nothing in it. (LOL). It’s true. If you’ve never been to the northern California coast you might not understand. My husband and I had an amazing time and came back feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Okay this was my first travel review – please let me know how I did! I welcome the feedback. Also- if you have any questions please leave a comment!

Respectfully yours,

B & B

The Golfinch: A Review

Title: The Goldfinch

Author: Donna Tartt

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publishing Date: 09/23/2013

Pages: 784

Rating: (5.0 Scale) 4.85

Synopsis (from back cover): Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a wealthy Park Avenue family. He is bewildered by his strange new home and, tormented by his longing for his mother, clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that has come into his possession. As an adult, Theo moves easily between the antiques store where he works, the drawing rooms of the rich, and the underworld of art. He is alienated, unmoored, and in love – and drawn inexorably by the power of that painting into a narrowing, dangerous circle.

Review: I first picked up this book in 2015 or 2016 and only got 30 pages into it before putting it down. At the time, I was going through nursing school and I felt like I didn’t have the time to fully read and appreciate it. I finally decided to pick it back up again and spent the majority of my Spring Break devouring it. With almost 800 pages to go through, you definitely have to take your time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but was also surprised by it as well. It has won the Pulitzer Prize and been a national bestseller as well, which immediately set the expectations high for me. In the next few paragraphs, I won’t be giving away too much, but there is definitely going to be some spoilers. If you want the short version of it: scroll to the bottom for the conclusion.

Where to start… I guess I’ll first say that for as long as the book is, you kind of have to expect the writing to be detailed. For some, that may seem daunting and you may prefer shorter and simpler writing. I prefer to read both, but this book proved to me that detailed writing can still make a book an easy read. The descriptions of scenes, characters, environments, and feelings is unreal. You can see the book being played out like a movie in your mind with each word. I always have a great appreciation for detailed and well-written books. Anyone can put words together and publish a book. It takes a true word wizard to create a book that’s 784 pages long and has it’s reader hanging on every word.

The main character, Theo, in my opinion starts off as a blank slate. This can be said for many children, however Theo encounters a major life event at the ripe age of 13. This starts the snowball effect of many events in Theo’s life that count as “life experience.” As the story continues and as Theo grows up, he meets many complex and flavorful characters that all affect him in some way or another. Sidenote – in looking up the actual genre of the book, I learned a new term: Bildungsroman. It is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood, in which character change is extremely important. I feel as though this couldn’t be a better description for the book. I was surprised to learn that most characters in the beginning appeared insignificant in the bigger picture to me. In the end, a lot of those characters were of extreme importance to Theo as an adult. All of the characters that Theo interacts with have their own distinct touch on the story and also bring out various qualities he possesses. Hobie brings out the business and responsible side of Theo, Boris brings out the adventurous side, Pippa brings out his truthful and romantic side, Mrs. Barbour brings out his affectionate side… etc. However, with all the characters Theo has relationships with, I found it interesting that he doesn’t entrust anyone with his life-size secret. The character development in this book was amazing to witness.

This book is full of unsuspecting prizes. I think what surprised me the most was that it seems like a somewhat light hearted and uplifting book. Based on the summary given, I imagined a young boy, set out to find an old painting that belonged to his mom, and his mom’s mom and so on and so forth. My oh my was I wrong. The cover actually has a gold finch bird that is trapped under layers of paper it appears. The finch itself is almost inviting you to open the book and read the content of it’s pages. With that being said, the mood of the book is extremely depressing and sad, something I was not expecting. Whether it be the short and nondescript summary or the lightness of the cover, I thought I was in for a much different story. The majority of the book is very dark, dreary and drug abundant. However, I think this was done purposefully. This story is very complicated and the darkness of it is almost necessary to give power to Theo’s struggle and make the reader understand the depth of his demons.

Conclusion: The Goldfinch truly knocked my socks off. It’s not every day that you come across a novel that impresses you as The Goldfinch has done for me. It’s a book that will invade your thoughts and occupy your time, a book that is well worth every chapter, page and word, a book that grows on you and always leaves you wanting more. Although this book is centered around a piece of art, the book itself is truly a masterpiece. I would recommend this book to anyone who has the time and patience to read it, but also the gratitude for detailed and descriptive novels. Well done Tartt, well done.

Respectfully yours,

B & B

Little Fires Everywhere: A Review

Title: Little Fires Everywhere

Author: Celeste Ng

Genre: Domestic Fiction

Publishing Date: 09/12/2017

Pages: 352

Rating (5.0 scale): 4.25

Synopsis (from back cover): In Shaker Heights, a placid progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempts to adopt a Chinese American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

Review: As mentioned in an earlier instagram post about this book, the reviews I had seen about Little Fires Everywhere were not great. With that being said, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed this book very much. It’s not the most positive or light-hearted novel, it explores very complicated topics and characters. However, I thought it was a very well-written book with a good story. Below you will find various thoughts I had while reading the book. I don’t give anything away that isn’t already in the synopsis above. Please enjoy and comment your thoughts!

One of my favorite parts of this book was Ng’s writing style. There are many characters in this novel from the Richardson family to Mia and Pearl to the McCulloughs to many other individuals vital to the story. My first impression of each character was not good. When she introduces a person, I felt as though she did it in a way that would immediately put you on the opposing side of that person. I like characters that I can relate to, and when he or she does something I can’t understand, I tend to not like them. However, as Ng gets further into the character’s story, you end up not only liking the characters, but relating to and sympathizing for them. I recently attended a presentation on mental health and the presenter brought up Mr. Rogers. Apparently Mr. Rogers always kept a piece of paper in his wallet that read, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve hear their story.” I couldn’t help but feel like Ng capitalized on this principal. As humans, we’re so quick to judge others. But I completely agree with Mr. Roger’s wallet quote, once I learn someone’s story, I can learn to love them.

Another thought that struck me was how this story reminded me of the movie Spanglish, starring Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni. In Spanglish, a woman and her daughter – Flor and Cristina Moreno – emigrate from Mexico in search of a better life in America. The mother ends up working for the Claskys – the epitome of a “perfect family” in American society. The two families become intertwined, with Cristina Moreno becoming enthralled with the Clasky family, and the Clasky children taking a liking to Cristina and her mother, Flor. In Little Fires Everywhere, Mia and Pearl move to Shaker Heights, home of the Richardsons – also the picture perfect family. Mia ends up working for the Richardson family. Pearl ends up loving the Richardson family as their life embodies everything she never had. The Richardson children end up loving Mia and Pearl in ways that can only be divulged by reading the book.

Conclusion: I thought this book was a great story about domestic America and how families, friends and stories can affect one other. I can see why this book didn’t win praise from some – there’s not some overriding sparkly feature about this book to draw in the masses and keep them hooked. With that being said, I would still recommend this book to others who have time to read the books that don’t necessarily receive all the hype. I think this book deserves to be read and appreciated.

“Absorbing books as if they were air,” – My favorite quote from this book.

Respectfully yours,

B&B

America’s First Daughter: A Review

Title: America’s First Daughter

Authors: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publishing Date: 03/01/2016

Pages: 624

Rating (5.0 scale): 4.5

Synopsis (from the back cover): “From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes America’s minister to France. It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of the French Revolution, that fifteen-year old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemmings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love – with her father’s protege, William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions if she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter. Her choice will follow her in the years to come – to Virginia farmland, to Monticello, and even to the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father’s reputation, in the process defining not just Jefferson’s political legacy but that of the nation he founded.”

My two cents: I choose to include the synopsis from the back cover of the book because before writing this review, I wanted to be reminded of what I thought I was in store for when I first started it. Although the synopsis does a very good job of summarizing the context of the book, I feel as though it does it a great injustice. I really loved this book and in the next few paragraphs I will explain why. I can’t guarantee I won’t give anything away, but I will try my hardest. [For those stopping here – I would recommend this book to any book lover. Fast forward to the bottom to see why.]

My thoughts: The beginning of the book provides the reader with an acknowledgment section. The section explains that during the lifetime of Thomas Jefferson, he wrote thousands of letters, eighteen thousand to be exact. The book was framed from these letters as well as primary sources. With that being said, the book is a work of fiction. There were many missing letters and blanks to which the authors were forced to fill and dramatize certain parts of Patsy’s story to make a good book. This review is centered around three themes that I felt were important enough to share. If you’ve read this book, please comment your thoughts!

One of the themes I found myself appreciating was how the authors made the characters and story relatable. The colonial days may seem so far removed from today’s world, but the authors truly created a book that reminds us how individuals of that time period still experienced common themes we deal with everyday with regards to human behaviors. Lives were lost, tears were shed, love was found, children were had, money was struggled for and so much more. Another way in which I felt the authors worked to make the book more relatable was their effort to edit and refine the language and vocabulary. The Jefferson era spanned through the 1700s and 1800s, but the novel is so beautifully written that I found myself delighted to open the book as I was truly enchanted all 624 pages. I recognize that parts of the book were fictional but I truly savored how real it felt.

The second theme I recognized was Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with slavery. Thomas Jefferson was one of the Founding Fathers and an author to The Declaration of Independence. He also served as our third President, a member of Congress, a Governor, a minister to France, Vice President and secretary of state. It’s obvious he was a man who spent his life in service for his country. He was a revolutionary who prided himself on the notion of freedom, specifically freedom of the American people from Britain. Ironically enough, he was a slaveholder. Throughout the book he reveals to his daughter that he doesn’t agree with slavery, and it’s clear that Patsy doesn’t either. Yet they both maintain slaves on each of their properties and rely on them for all if not much of the work required. To further the irony, Thomas Jefferson cultivates a very intimate and involved relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemmings. I believe that if he truly denounced slavery that he would have made his position known. He clearly had the platform to make change happen, but didn’t. Interestingly enough, towards the end of his life he calls upon the next generation to eradicate slavery as he claims his time is up. Although we can’t change history, we can certainly learn from it. Not only does this book shed light on the sensitive subject of slavery, but it also actually gives praise to Sally, the woman who never got the recognition she deserved.

The third theme I was enamored with is Patsy’s unwavering dedication to her father. As a leading lady in his life, she supported him to his death and even after. The book clearly shows that no matter who they encountered or what events in their life occurred, that they would always be in support of each other. The relationship went both ways. When Patsy was in need of support, her father was always there until his last living day. I won’t give too much away, but the relationship between Patsy and her father was refreshing, heart-warming and endearing to watch unfold between the pages of the book. It reminds us all how strong the bonds of a parent and child can be. A quote from the book reads as follows, “What your father needs right now is a . . . a first lady. And given that he’s a widower, a first daughter will have to do” (Dray & Kamoie, 381). Patsy certainly rose to the occasion and earned her title as ‘America’s First Daughter.’

Conclusion: I was pleasantly surprised by this book and enjoyed every chapter, every paragraph and every word. It is filled with a great balance of history and fiction, making it an enjoyable read for all. I would recommend this book to any and all kinds of readers.

Respectfully yours,

B&B


1 Month on Bookstagram!

In honor of completing my 1st month as a book blog, I have decided to share six things that I’ve learned. Please enjoy and comment with any things you’ve learned about bookstagram or book blogging in general!


1.Book Blogging Requires Work

I know many of you might disagree with this statement, but in my month of being on bookstagram I found myself overwhelmed. I felt pressure to keep up with the popular pages by regularly posting new content and interacting with other accounts. As someone who isn’t always on my personal social media accounts, I found this difficult. Book blog accounts are constantly posting and adding to their stories. I would literally carve out 30-40 minutes of time when I got home from work simply to liking all the posts and viewing all the stories on my timeline/feed. In addition, creating new content for your own blog is hard work too! You have to find the right lighting, position all the objects correctly, make sure everything is in focus…etc. And that’s all for one picture! I knew starting up a blog would require a good deal of work but I don’t think I expected it would be this intense. I get that I can make it harder than it needs to be and I also realize that I do not have to like every single post or view every single story, but hey – I’m dedicated here people!

2. Lighting Is Everything

Okay, lighting may not be everything but it’s definitely important. Looking at my pictures on my page as a group has opened my eyes to how my pictures blend together versus individually. A lot of the successful blogs have consistent themes which I’m really striving for. I use presets (another topic I talk about below) but they don’t solve all my problems. What I mean is that the preset, like a filter, can only do so much. The lighting of the picture plays a big part into how the final product comes out. Natural lighting I’ve found is best, at least for my pictures, so a lot of my content is created during the day. Lately it’s been rainy and overcast so I can’t wait for that sun to come out again and shine some light into my photos!

3. Hashtags Help

When starting a new blog and trying to gain a following – hashtags are big helpers! I haven’t used a hashtag on my personal Instagram account for so long that it felt kind of weird using them again. But with that being said, hashtags allow people from all over the world to view your photos under a common search. I’ve learned the popular book blogging hashtags and have kept a few as staples in my hashtag comments. When you type in a hashtag, it will populate possible tags based on what you typed. The options will have next to them a number. That number is how many people have used that hashtag and it’s obvious how other hashtags are more used than others. A couple of popular ones are: #bookstagram #book and #reading. I usually do a combination of general hashtags and specific ones relating to the picture.

4. People Love Dogs

If you follow me, you know I’ve posted a few photos about my dog, Bowser. It’s interesting to see how bookstagram reacts to pictures of a dog versus a bookshelf. I wasn’t too sure how he was going to be perceived but people love him! Sometimes I think it’s nice to break up the book heavy feed and insert a cute dog face here and there. Bowser obviously doesn’t mind posing for the camera so I shall continue to keep posting pictures of him every now and then. He is, after all, my reading buddy.

5. Presets. Presets. Presets.

I did not know what a preset was until a personal blog account I follow started talking about them. [Preset is basically a combination of effects in a photo editing app that alters your pictures in exactly the same way – similar to a filter.] The blog is called Chalkfulloflove and it’s exclusively on Instagram. If you follow it, you know that the pictures are so amazing and have a definite theme to them. Sarah, the blog’s creator, actually made and now sells her own presets. When I first started the blog I didn’t think I needed them and was just using the filters through the Instagram app. After a week or two I decided to buy the presets from Chalkfulloflove and boy I was not disappointed. Although I may not need the presets, I definitely love having them. You can pretty much tell when I started using them by looking at my feed. For the most part, I just pick a picture, select the preset and the picture is automatically transformed and blog ready. Sometimes it needs a few tweaks here and there. The great part about the app the presets are through (Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC) is that you can do all the adjusting you want. Just because you selected the preset doesn’t mean you can’t change the color or lighting. Thank you Chalkfulloflove for providing me with the best presets!

6. Engaging Posts are Key

People love to engage with each other on bookstagram. I mean we’re all essentially part of one big book club if you think about it. We started our blogs to not only document what we’re reading but to share with others. That’s the whole point of social media right? I’ve found that the posts and pages I’m most drawn to, are ones that are engaging. For example, when accounts put polls or questions on their stories. Or when they ask a question on their post like, “What are you reading today,” or, “What book do you recommend from my TBR pile?” I think it all comes down to being relatable. We’re all bookworms at heart in a big book world. I love that other book lovers allow me to be a part of their journey and invite me to participate.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post! Stay tuned for my next post: A book review of America’s First Daughter.

Sincerely yours,

B&B