Great Reads

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

the shark club
Publish Date:
Elin Hilderbrand

Goodreads Summary:
One summer day on the beach in Florida, two extraordinary things happen to Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams. Then, she is bitten by a blacktip shark.

Eighteen years later, Maeve has thrown herself into her work as a world-travelling marine biologist discovering more about the minds of misunderstood sharks. But when Maeve returns home to the legendarily charming and eccentric Hotel of the Muses where she was raised by her grandmother, she finds more than just the blood orange sunsets and key lime pies she’s missed waiting for her.

While Maeve has always been fearless in the water, on land she is indecisive. A chance meeting on the beach with a plucky, irresistible little girl who is just as fascinated by the ocean as Maeve was growing up leaves her at a crossroads: Should she rekindle her romance with Daniel, the first love she left behind when she dove into her work? Or indulge in a new romance with her colleague, Nicholas, who turns up in her hometown to investigate an illegal shark-finning operation?

My Review:

If you know me, you probably know how much I love anything related to the ocean. When I was a kid, I had wanted to be a marine biologist but decided against it because I didn’t want to move away from my family where ideal locations for this job would be. Although I love my job, I sometimes find myself envious of this’d adventurous souls who chose this career. I’ve swam with sharks, fed and held with stingrays, and played with dolphins. I donate often to marine causes and watch countless documentaries. These preferences of mine made this book even more perfect for me but even without these personal preferences I would recommend the book!

This book is so underrated. It’s not only a book full of love, forgiveness, and adventure. It was funny, surprising, and kept me turning the pages as quickly as I could. I got to read this in the middle of the Caribbean and I’m so happy I picked this place to read it because although I wasn’t in the settings of the actual book, it was similar enough for me to get all the feels!

I felt connected to most of the characters.  This book also is a great example of being a role-model and it will make you want to find a little to help guide through the world and let that little experience their dreams! Maeve and Hazel’s relationship was amazing and I loved how Maeve was able to become a great mother figure to Hazel and look past her relationship woes finally.

Without giving up too much of the book, it is a great example of love, forgiveness, selflessness, and adventure! I have two wishes for the book which is why I knocked one star off. I wish Maeve and her twin brother, Robin’s, relationship was played out a little more. Robin ends up being such a major part and I felt like I didn’t get to know him enough. I also wish the ending and suspense was built up more. This could have turned into more of a thriller which only would have elevated this book for me. All in all, it is a book that I highly recommend. It is the perfect beach read!


Great Recipes

Iced London Fog Latte WW FRIENDLY!

Hey Ya’ll! How many of you like tea lattes? I definitely do but you can’t get them at many places around me other than Starbucks. As much as I was loving my London Fog Latte, I wasn’t loving the points and I wasn’t loving the price. A Venti was costing me $5.70 or so and that just wasn’t something I wanted to spend every single day. And then one day as I was watching them make my iced latte, I thought to myself, “Why the heck am I just not making these?” And so the next day I did and it tasted EXACTLY like what I was buying. It was less calories AND cost way less. Starbucks offers almond milk but it’s sweetened and I wasn’t sure how much they were actually using so I couldn’t count points accurately and I didn’t want it sweetened anyway! So here’s my Mock Starbucks Iced London Fog!

Iced London Fog Latte

Serves 1


  1.  Two tea bags of Earl Grey tea. You can use whatever brand you like. Amazon has many like the one I linked but you can definitely find them in your local grocer.
  2. 1/2 Cup of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  3. Sugar Free Vanilla Coffee Syrup (I use Torani and it can be found at most grocers as well as Amazon here)
  4. Ice (I usually use at least 1/2 of a tray because I like mine super cold)
    Continue reading “Iced London Fog Latte WW FRIENDLY!”
Great Recipes

Ground Turkey and Butternut Squash Soup

This soup recipe is so versatile and forgiving which is why it is my favorite. You can sub veggies or add veggies such as beans or spinach (at the very end). It is super filling and is literally one of my favorite soups I’ve made!

Ground Turkey and Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 6-8


  1.  One 16 oz package of ground turkey meat (I use 98% fat free but you can sub what  type of meat mixture that you want)
  2. Two large carrots
  3. Three celery stalks
  4. One red onion
  5. Six cloves of garlic (we’re garlic lovers but you can minimize your cloves if your family is not)
  6. One butternut squash
  7. Two small potatoes (about 8-10 grams total)
  8. Four cups of vegetable stock
  9. One cup of chicken broth
  10. One 28 oz. can of tomatoes
  11. Two tablespoons of dried oregano
  12. Two bay leaves
  13. One and a half cups of radiatore pasta (or other small pasta such as shells) Continue reading “Ground Turkey and Butternut Squash Soup”
Great Reads

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

Publish Date:
Elin Hilderbrand

Goodreads Summary:
From New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand, a summertime story about identical twins who couldn’t be any less alike.

Nantucket is only two and a half hours away from Martha’s Vineyard by ferry. But the two islands might as well be worlds apart for a set of identical twin sisters who have been at odds for years. When a family crisis forces them to band together — or at least appear to — the twins slowly come to realize that the special bond that they share is more important than the sibling rivalry that’s driven them apart for the better part of their lives. A touching depiction of all the pleasures and annoyances of the sibling relationship, Elin Hilderbrand’s next New York Times bestseller, THE IDENTICALS proves once and for all that just because twins look exactly the same doesn’t mean they’re anything alike.

My Review:
I tried reading a Hilderbrand novel some point last year. I was not a fan and although so many people always reccommend her books, I’ve steered clear of reading anything else from her. I decided to read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and I was having a hard time getting into it. Because of this, I decided to start what I would consider a lighter read to enjoy in the car. Looking through available reads in my Libby app from the library, I came across The Identicals. I decided, why not?

With that being said, I was pleasantly surprised. I got into the book quicker than I expected and also quite enjoyed it. I believe that Hilderbrand is good to pick up when you’re looking for a lighter read. The Identicals had some pretty heavy topics but the way Hilderbrand writes, the topics seem much lighter than they actually are. This is good and I believe it is a perfect beach read. This isn’t a bad thing! Sometimes, beach reads are just what I want and these types of reads have their own following!

I wouldn’t pick up The Identicals if you’re looking for a heavy, page-turning, shocking text. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and found myself opening it whenever I had a chance. I laughed a bunch, felt connected to the text (even though I’m not from Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket), and really felt like Hilderbrand left me wanting more.

Great Reads

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Hello and Happy New Year!!! For those of you wondering if I’m alive, I am! I’ve been super busy with my new job but in a really good way. I enjoy it a ton but I never have a second to myself during the day. BUT before we went on Christmas break, I went overboard and did a bunch of work early so today I actually have a free second. With resolutions flying around, I don’t like making them because I never truly stick to them; however, this year I’d like to get back to more regularly posting because it truly did make me happy. Being off this last week allowed me to emerge myself in some reading again and it felt great. With that being said, I finished 91 books for the 2019 year! I would be happy to reach even half of that goal with my busy schedule for 2020 but we’ll see! So, here’s a review for a book I DID actually finish recently!






Publish Date: 10/8/19
Kim Liggett

Goodreads Summary:

A speculative thriller in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power. Optioned by Universal and Elizabeth Banks to be a major motion picture!


No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

My Review:
MAJOR UNPOPULAR OPINION HERE: I DISLIKED The Handsmaid’s Tale. I went into this a little weary because it’s been compared to it. BUT I have recently found more of a love for Dystopian and Fantasy reads. They’re not usually what I go for but recently I’ve been craving them so with The Grace Year popping up EVERYWHERE, I figured why the hell not?! So onto what I thought… QUESTIONS! THIS BOOK HAS LEFT ME WITH SO MANY QUESTIONS! Why is The Grace Year an actual thing? What has happened to make this world so primitive? What started these horrific traditions? ANSWERS…NONE. The book works and you don’t actually need any of these clarifying questions to understand it but it’d be nice to understand what occurs in this world to lead to The Grace Year.

I’ve seen a ton of wonderful reviews for the book and I’m not knocking them. I enjoyed the story but I felt a little underwhelmed. Tierney and Ryker’s relationship felt like it needed more clarification and was underdeveloped for what it turned into. I also felt like with such a wrenching premise, that more could have been added to keep me at the edge of my seat. The first 150 pages or so for me was a roller coaster. I would get interested, something would happen, and then I would be bored again. This happened again and again but the interesting parts were just enough for me to keep flipping those pages.

More questions that I felt could have been answered without adding more layers to the story…  What made Kiersten so evil? I want to know more other than the obvious reasoning. And why did the girls so blindly follow her as a leader? These questions took a bit away for me. Because of this, I felt like character development was underwhelming. And Hans! His character development was lacking as well. His entire character was underused in my opinion which left me wanting more from him as well.

I really teeter tottered with what to actually rate the book because I wasn’t blown away for a five star read and I wasn’t underwhelmed enough for a three star read. For me I felt like there could have been so much more. The last 125 or so pages really redeemed the book for me. It got super interesting and crazy in my opinion but again, I feel like the book could have been this good in its entirety.

Overall, I recommend the read for the insight.

Great Reads

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Publish Date:
7/15/14 (earlier in Sweden)
 Fredrik Backman

Goodreads Summary:
A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

My Review:
Hey all! It’s been quite a busy few months lately and my posts have really died down so I apologize! Life has been awesome but a whirlwind for sure. I’ve read so little and so sporadically that now as I sit down to update I am embarrassed to say it’s difficult to write a review on something I read so long ago. But I do have something to comment on and it’s what I’ve just finished!

A Man Called Ove is my very first Fredrik Backman and it won’t be my last. I wish that it hadn’t taken me so long to pick one of the many books I own by him off of my shelf. The book had all the feels to it! Ove is a very likable grumpy old man in my opinion. His life story had me laughing and crying in many points. I liked Ove a lot because he reminds me of my fiance and my father and late grandfather. They are all not overly friendly and not much of people people. Ove’s scheduled visits policing his neighborhood is something that reminded me of my grandfather as he was someone who believed in what was right and what was wrong. Ove had quite a few short straws drawn in his life and for the traumatic life he had, Ove was rather pleasant in my opinion.

I adored the relationship he had with Sonja. Like my fiance, father, and late grandfather, Ove simply melted for their significant other whereas others were not exactly well taken to by him.

The actual basis to the story is quite sad and had me feeling so sorry for Ove. His conversations with Sonja and his thought process was so bittersweet that it’s hard for me to give an exact feeling about how I felt about the situation. It is important to note that this sad story is not exactly for everyone and people should tread with caution who have dealt with suicide or suicidal thoughts in their own lives.

I have to comment on Fredrik Backman himself. He writes with such maturity and brings about life experiences so raw and filled with emotion that I honestly expected Backman to be a 70 year old man that has lived through some experiences himself. Although Backman’s young age does not mean that he has not lived through such profound experiences, it does speak on his maturity level profusely. He is a great writer and his writing feels as if he had been writing for ages (in a wonderful way).

I highly recommend A Man Called Ove. It has all the feels and I loved every moment of it!

Great Reads

Spin by B. John Gully

Publish Date: 6/18/19
Author:  B. John Gully
Started: 8/12/19
Finished: 8/13/19
Pages: 96

Goodreads Summary:

In the midst of an election, a career politician finds that he is unable to sleep at night. The bags under his eyes are becoming increasingly noticeable as he yawns his way through interviews. His eight-year-old daughter seems to be mimicking his poor sleep habits, but to her, staying up late is as cool as it gets. The current trend in politics is an age of spin. If one is not careful, they may spin so much that they find it hard to rest. 

My Review:! Being in the book community, I get a ton of books to read. Many of them are sent from big house publishers, WHICH I LOVE. However, sometimes an opportunity comes up where I get to read something that is self-published and you just think to yourself, “someone should have picked this up!” Spin is just that!

Spin follows a mayor up for re-election and the qualms that follow such a high profile job. It follows what it’s like to be constantly “spinning” in the world of politics and shines light on the perspective of the candidate. 

This book had me laughing out loud countless times! From the second I picked up the book, I was immediately hooked. Gully has a real knack for writing. He was detailed and thorough the entire time without giving me too much information that I found myself skipping lines or paragraphs. No fluff involved! Super descriptive while being straight to the point and I SUPER appreciate that. 

Our characters were real and their relationships valid and believable. I zipped through the book. So why my four star rating for something that I loved? It’s just that! I loved it and wanted so much more! The book is short and sweet and I wanted more and more! Gully set this story up so well that he could have gone on! But, I get it. This was a snapshot of the life of a politician spinning and that’s what was accomplished. I just wish I could have gone on and read more about lives of the characters I grew so attached to after our unique conclusion. 

This is an awesome debut and I honestly hope that Gully gets around to writing more. More about these characters, or even a completely different premise and book, I’ll be lined up to read it! Take a chance and read an independently published book! It’s not something we get around to sometimes and this one was so well worth it. 

Great Restaurants

Duffenetti’s – Wildwood, NJ. STOP BY!

What’s better than spending some time during the Summer at the Jersey shore? The answer is finding a restaurant at the Jersey shore that’s so good you need to write home about it! That’s what Duffinetti’s is! This restaurant has a rich history and an even richer following! I don’t blame the following that this restaurant gets but that’s only just the start of it!

Duffenetti’s has been making Italian goodies starting in the 1960’s. 1965 to be exact. In the many decades, the restaurant has been an Asselta family staple. In the 70’s and at the moment, the gracious owner is Trish Asselta,  Duffy and Mary Asselta’s daughter. Even after closing for ten years for personal reasons, Trish knew that something was missing and in 2015, Duffenetti’s picked up a new location and has been back in business! Trish is so amazingly gracious, walking into the restaurant truly feels like walking into Nonna’s kitchen; but, that isn’t just Trish’s doing these days. Chef Stephen Quici came to Duffenetti’s in 2018 and if Duffenetti’s didn’t already have a following, Chef Stephen Quici added to it, for sure!

Chef Stephen Quici is out of this world. Culinary-trained, his food is amazing and the amount of love and hard work that he puts into his dishes back in the kitchen is beyond obvious! Quici has only elevated an already solid restaurant. He’s brought some amazing recipes and his dishes really shine.

My family and close friends have visited the restaurant many times already and no one’s stopping anytime soon. I had the pleasure of visiting Duffenetti’s last week and it won’t be my last. Trish does a wonderful time hiring entertainment. During my recent visit, there was a live singer who was singing amazing hits from Sinatra to Neil Diamond. It added to the wonderful atmosphere and delicious food I was about to experience! The ambiance of the room is great and you feel like you’re in an Italian restaurant but definitely still taking part of being at the Jersey Shore! Let me take you on this culinary experience I was able to partake in!

We started with long hots (don’t take the “hots” lightly, they’re insanely hot!). We also had some fresh bruschetta. I could have licked that plate clean! It was served on toasted seasoned semolina bread and also featured some fresh shaved cheese on top. We ordered a round of calamari because I don’t recommend ever going for Italian and skipping out on calamari.

Our waitress also brought us warm bread served with an olive oil filled with fresh herbs and cheese. The bread was so good our table devoured two baskets! To go with our dinner choices, a special house salad was brought out. This dressing is a Balsamic Vinaigrette but it’s a house recipe and so unique! It’s sweeter than what I expected but in a great way! You can take home a bottle while you’re at the restaurant or even order online and I highly suggest it!

As for our dinners, everyone was so happy with our dinners! I ordered chicken marsala and had it served over a bed of angel hair, a favorite Italian dish of mine over my absolute favorite pasta. It was so good that I ate the ENTIRE thing! I ALWAYS bring home leftovers. I try to have some self-control and always look forward to a second helping but, I.JUST.COULDN’T.STOP. I finished it and even wanted more!

My fiance’ had a chef’s special of Eggplant Parm with “the best gravy ever”. He enjoyed it a lot! Gravy is definitely a very subjective topic in Italian families and he had no complaints!

We had a chef’s special bronzino sauteed with escarole, beans, and bruschetta. Another plate-licking dish!

Also at the table was the crab cakes with a side of roasted veggies. The crab cakes are topped with a lobster bisque and had rave reviews!
crab cakes

Last but certainly not least, my father had the seafood pescatore (he’s had it every time he’s gone). It’s served with fresh shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, clams, and topped with a HUGE dungeness crab cluster. It’s sauteed in fresh Italian herbs, garlic, and white wine. It’s not only delicious but a beautiful dish!

Also, I did not have them but I’ve been told by MANY people how amazing Chef Quici’s gnocchis are! They are said to be literally melt in your mouth pillows. Literally, my only regret of the night is not ordering these!

We were so full that there was no room for dessert but I truly believe the food was so amazingly decadent that it wasn’t even missed!

If you’re in Wildwood, or even if you’re not and don’t mind the drive, I’d highly recommend shooting down to Duffenetti’s! It’s not something that you’ll regret. AND Duffenetti’s is NOW OPEN YEAR ROUND! That’s right, you can enjoy Duffenetti’s even during Jersey’s off-season. There’s no excuse not to give it a shot! I promise, it won’t be your last and make sure to tell them I sent ya!

Duffenetti’s can be found at:
Duffinetti’s Restaurant & Lounge
4600 Pacific Ave
Wildwood, NJ 08260
Restaurant: 609-522-0002

Great Reads

ARC REVIEW OUT TOMORROW -Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Publish Date: 
 Katherine Center

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley who provided me this book to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Goodreads Summary:

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about family, hope, and learning to love against all odds. 

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

My Review:

There has been many books that highlight mental illnesses recently. I think it’s great but because I’ve read so many recently, I think that I need a break and it may have influenced my overall thoughts on the book. Many of these books have been giving us just a glimpse on how dark mental illness can actually be and they’re all too similar in my opinion. I have recently read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (review found here) and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill which I really enjoyed and the review will be posted closer to publication date. However, even though I enjoyed these books, they are all too similar to one another.

Dear Lily is a tad different as it is presented by letters to our narrator, Joy, to her sister, Lily. It’s through letters that we learn of the struggles Lily is going through in her new country of Denmark. The letters convey so many different levels of emotions. I found myself laughing, cringing, feeling sad, and even upset during some of the letters. There is  a lot of depth to Joy and the letters definitely portray that, however; I was always searching for more. Many of the books that I’ve mentioned have done a good job just portraying everyday humans going through hardships and mental illness, and maybe that’s what’s needed but I am always looking for more drama and more of a story line to follow. This is at no fault to the book itself but more of my preference so I can see many people really enjoying Dear Lily. 

Overall, it delivers a great message and can be very insightful. The format was unique and really helps the story feel personal. I commend Davies for this and do suggest it for a light read on dark themes.


My Review:

Wow, just wow! I don’t usually enjoy romance type novels but I LOVED this. I actually almost put it down. It started very slow for me and it seemed like it was going to be predictable but it was not! There is definitely romance in here but so much drama I ended up loving it. At first I was thinking, “Okay, I get it. We’re going to read about a badass woman firefighter that isn’t getting the credit she deserves. She’s going to fall in love and repair some broken relationship with her mother.” And yes, there is all of that in there but so so much more! Once, I got over my hump of wanting to put it down, I couldn’t put it down!

The theme of forgiveness is so prominent in this story and I can’t begin to express how much I truly admire Ana. If this was a true story, she’d deserve all the awards not only in firefighting but in life itself. The book is inspiring in every way and I recommend the novel to everyone. I feel like there is so much that people who enjoy every different genre would enjoy this.

This was my first Center novel and as soon as I was finished, I ordered her previous How to Walk Away.  I enjoyed this more than I thought I would and it was my first five star read of books being published this year! It’ll definitely be a favorite of mine for the year and I will be purchasing a finished copy to admire for years to come!

Great Reads

ARC REVIEW OUT TOMORROW – A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell

michele campbell
Publish Date:
Michele Campbell

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this to read and review before publication. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Summary:

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aiden, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aiden for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aiden’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

My Review:

This was my second Campbell book and I had some issues with it. I did enjoy it and thought that it was creepy at times but I wanted more from it. My issue with it is that it seemed like two different books to me. Although everything connected, I felt as if after Caroline disappears, the entire novel changes into a completely different book. I didn’t feel as invested at that point even though I had just reached the major turning point. It became somewhat predictable for me and I started to pull much of the plot together. Aiden was super unreliable as a character and I figured that the story couldn’t just rely on him creepy self. I have an unpopular opinion here and I can see why so many readers are giving high praises for this. It just didn’t work as well for me really due to the lack of cohesiveness I felt the story had. I also felt like the author could have given us more into Caroline’s husband’s life and less of Aiden and Caroline herself. That could have helped as I feel like there were some situations that were answered but just a bit cloudy for me. I still finished this read super fast and will pick up Campbell’s future works. For me, this one just left me wanting more.