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{July 12, 2020} Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Pages: 528
Genre: Young Adult / Dystopian

I’ll start this review off by admitting that I should have brushed up on my Hunger Games knowledge before starting the prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. That being said, I didn’t realize that the main character was actually a young President Snow until about half way through the book. I felt complicated emotions once I made that discovery because I was rooting for him initially but I also know the monster he becomes…

While this book added more context to the trilogy, I’d say that it wasn’t my favorite by Collins. I enjoyed the part of the story where the tributes were in the games but the ending didn’t land for me. I wanted more from Lucy Gray’s character, in terms of the ending, and less lyrics/singing. 

Would I read it again? Definitely. What a nice escape from our current shitstorm that is America & 2020. 

I enjoyed this book with a glass (or two) of Free Reign Rose‘. Summer has me wanting something chilled and fruity and Free Reign does just that.

Cheers,

Courtney 

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Spring 2020 Reading Roundup

Welcome friends!

Thanks to COVID I have had more time to get through my reading list. I’m on book #9 for the year, which is fewer than I wanted but we still have 6 months to go. 

Here are three of my favorites since starting quarantine. . .

Continue reading “Spring 2020 Reading Roundup”

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{July 25, 2019} Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

This week’s read was Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. Book of the Month chose this as one of their picks for July, so it was already all over my Instagram feed, but since I’ve read two other books by Sager I figured I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Here’s the deal, I didn’t love or hate this book. It was a mere “meh” in my opinion.

The main character, Jules, is down on her luck. She lost her job and walked in on her boyfriend cheatingunnamed on her, all in one week. As she’s staying on a friend’s couch, she sees an ad for an apartment sitter at an elegant building in Manhattan. The Bartholomew is infamous for being creepy but Jules doesn’t see it. Even though the rules are a bit odd – no visitors, cash at the end of each week, no social media, and no pestering other tenants – Jules takes a leap of faith and moves in.

When Jules’ neighbor goes missing, Jules starts down a path to search for her. And down the rabbit hole she goes! Was this a murder mystery? Was it a ghost story? Was it a satanic thriller? I’m truly unsure and to be honest I don’t really know why the book was named Lock Every Door.

I will say, at least the book was easy to read. I sat down and read 200 of the 350 pages in one afternoon. Would I recommend it to someone? I’d probably steer them to The Last Time I Lied instead.

All that being said… the book kept me busy. So that’s that.

Have you read Sager’s recent book? If so, message me! I’d love to chat about it.  

Have a great weekend everyone.

Salute,

Courtney  

Books · children's literature · Comedy · life advice · Movies · mystery · nonfiction · Reviews · suspense · Television · thriller · wine

Life Advice From A New Friend.

There’s an older gentleman in my neighborhood that walks around regularly and I find him completely adorable. In typical old guy fashion, he’s wearing suspenders, a fishing hat, and will stop to chat anyone up.

Yesterday he stopped me as I was walking to work and he gave me some great advice:

“Enjoy life while you’re young.” 

While this may seem ominous to some, I thought it was incredibly sweet. We got to talking and I learned that his name is Bill and he has been married to his wife for over 60 years. Bill doesn’t have a great memory anymore (which explains why he asked me my name three times) so his family no longer lets him drive. The only way for Bill to get out, is to have his wife drive him or to stroll around the neighborhood.

As our conversation was ending, Bill said to me, “when you see me around, please say hi. I don’t get to talk to too many people now that I’m old.” I almost started to cry right then and there. Needless to say, Bill just got a new best friend.

Coincidentally, I recently finished reading The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur. The book is a collection of poetry and was released in 2017. Kaur leads the reader through the journey of life and heartbreak in five main sections: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming.

I truly enjoyed Kaur’s first collection of poetry, Milk and Honey, and recommend both to anyone and everyone. I found myself folding corners of poems I enjoyed in The Sun and Her Flowers and by the time I finished, the majority of the book was folded. It was moving and relatable to anyone who has faced heartbreak.

See the source imageWith all that being said…

Here is your reminder to take a step back and remember that we are not guaranteed anything in life. Bill is one of the lucky ones. He has a family and has lived a long happy life. Not all of us will be that lucky.

As you go about your day or weekend, make sure to take time for yourself, and as Rupi Kaur beautifully states “enjoy the view.”

 

Salute,

Courtney

Find me on IG as @HemmingwayAndChardonnay

 

Books

Life is tough.

I don’t openly talk about my anxiety/depression with most people. It’s not a great happy hour topic if you know what I mean. However, I think it’s important to call out and let others know that the life you see on Instagram is a highlight reel and not an every day occurrence.

So here I am, telling the world that my depression has gotten the best of me the last two months. For those who are lucky enough to not struggle with mental illness, let me tell you… it fucking sucks. Imagine depression as a hole in the ground. Some days the hole is only a few feet deep and your significant other is able to lend a hand and grab you out. Or maybe a phone call to your sister allows you to pull yourself out of the hole. Then there are days when the hole is deeper than normal. This requires more from you and everyone around you. For some people talk therapy helps. For others medication helps.

Then there are the days, weeks, and months when you find yourself in a hole that is so deep you can barely see the sun. You think “well this is my new normal… It will always be like this.” Slowly you let the hole win. You find it getting deeper and deeper and you actually don’t care if you ever get out.

It’s not easy. Unfortunately just because you’re in a depression hole doesn’t mean your life gets to pause. You still have to interact with people at work and still have to go grocery shopping and give the dog a bath. The worst part is that smallest tasks feel like they may kill you and the things that you typically enjoy, don’t feel worth it.

In my case, this all happened when life was already chaotic. My fiancé had major surgery at the beginning of the month and has required us to both take time off work and me to take on a caregiver role. On top of that, the company I work for started going through a re-org and it is affecting everyone. My role and duties have changed and everyone around me seems a bit unsure as to how the next few weeks are going to play out.

With all that being said… If I’ve learned anything about mental illness it’s this: Don’t forget to take time for yourself and make sure you find little bits of happiness each day. I realized that while I’ve been so consumed with life the last few months, I haven’t been taking time to do the things I enjoy. Which is why I’m embarrassingly pouring my heart out to strangers on the internet.

My vow moving forward is to not lose sight of this blog and to keep reading and trying new wines (this shouldn’t be too hard lol). Thank you to everyone who still reads this and follows me, I truly appreciate it.

Onward and upward.

Courtney

P.S To those who do know the struggle, please don’t suffer alone. Find someone to talk to. If that’s someone you know, myself, or a stranger… make it happen.

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{April 10, 2019} Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Well 2019 got off to an interesting start… January and February flew by, then March hit. 

Although there were lots of ups and downs, I’m so grateful for my family and friends for support during hard times. Luckily I was able to find time and read to escape all the madness.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman was my first book of the year, so I’ll start by reviewing that. First off, I want readers to know that this book is in no way funny, I didn’t even crack a smile during the damn book. I officially cannot trust what Reese Witherspoon has to say aboIMG-6969ut books.

The book follows a young woman, Eleanor, who lives a simple life. Eleanor goes to work, talks with her mom once a week, and keeps to a strict schedule that includes vodka on the weekends. One day on her way out of work she witnesses an older gentleman fall in the street; as she’s trying to help him she meets her new coworker. From there on out her and her coworker, Raymond, start a friendship.

That’s basically it. There really wasn’t much of a plot and the so-called “twist” happened in one page. Overall, I thought the book was over-hyped online and underwhelming. To be frank, Eleanor was kind of a dick. She couldn’t pick up on social cues and her emotional intelligence was 0. It became clear why she didn’t have many friends.

Who else was lucky enough to read this gem? Would you recommend it to a friend?

Salute,

Courtney  

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Wrapping up 2018

My OCD is so happy knowing that this is my 18th post for 2018. It feels very serendipitous.

Before the year wraps up I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone reading this. In November of 2017, I was inspired by a coworker to create a blog and made it my personal mission to get something started before the new year (and keep it going, obvi). The fact that I have written 24 posts over the last 14 months is a testament to how important it is to create goals that are attainable.

Is this the most popular blog on WordPress? Nope. Do I have less than 100 followers? Yep. But to me, these weren’t my KPI’s. I am happy to know I made time for myself each month to read almost 2 books but also sit down and reflect on said books. So THANK YOU! Continue to come back and comment on my boozey reviews.

On another note, it’s almost 2019! Have you completed your TBR list yet? Well, I have ya covered! Below (and a link above) are some of my favorite books categorized together.

Have suggestions? Comment below!

Cheers,

Courtney at Hemingway & Chardonnay


Historical Fiction (Not in specific order)

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  4. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  5. The Kite Runner by Khaleed Hosseini

Romance (Not in specific order)

  1. The Selection by Kiera Cass (the entire series is fire)
  2. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  4. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  5. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Biographies (Not in specific order)

  1. Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden
  2. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
  3. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  4. Superficial by Andy Cohen
  5. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Mystery / Thriller (Not in specific order)

  1. Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
  2. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  3. In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
  4. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
  5. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
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{December 8, 2018} “Toxic Masculinity Ruins The Day Again…” in Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

Image result for before the fall bookSynopsis

A struggling painter, a money laundering power couple, and a millionaire family that owns a news network walk onto a plane….

It sounds like this might be a joke but it’s actually closer to tragedy.

Here’s the breakdown. 11 individuals get on a plane to fly from Marthas Vineyard to Manhattan but 16 minutes in they find themselves crashing into the Atlantic. The only ones to survive are Scott Burroughs (struggling painter) and a boy named JJ (child to millionaire moguls). Not only do these two survive the crash but Scott finds a way to swim with the boy on his back to land without dying from hypothermia or a shark attack.

Neither of the two remembers what happened or the events that lead to the crash. Federal agencies, the private jet company, and the media go crazy for details but are left to come up with their own conclusions.

The remainder of the book follows these two characters through what becomes a complete media shit storm. Sprinkled between chapters are the stories of the individuals on the plane and what landed them on the private jet to begin with.

This novel dives deep (no pun intended) into our current media culture and how one person on screen can shape the opinions of millions. Specifically, one of the characters is known for starting ALC, a 24/7 news cycle with anchors who have strong opinions, little facts, and unethical actions. The author makes several comparisons to FOX News and Bill O’Reilly, which would have annoyed me but honestly it was what the teenagers call “on point.” I disliked one of my last books because the comparisons to our political climate were too much, but in this situation, I felt like it wasn’t the ENTIRE plot, more like a sub-plot.

Although this is a piece of fiction, it had me thinking about coincidences and fate. The relationship between the two survivors is beautiful and in the end, you could tell they were meant to meet and have a connection.

Compliments and Complaints (Spoiler Alert!)

Fucking toxic masculinity ruins the day AGAIN. (MFM reference to anyone not hip to the podcast.)

Don’t get me wrong, I loved this book. I think the author did a fantastic job pulling everything together and keeping me in suspense until the final pages. However, I was kind of hoping the ending wasn’t going to revolve around a lovers quarrel that ends badly. The copilot and stewardess are ex-lovers and when she turns him down he decides to take things into his own hands…. and fucking kill everyone on board. I mean that sounds like a reasonable reaction right? For goodness sake dude. Ever heard of the phrase “there are other fish in the sea”? (LOL get it? Fish? Sea? Because they crashed into the ocean..? I digress.)

When reading the copilot’s section and watching things unfold, I kept thinking “I really really hope that there aren’t men out there like that.”  Unfortunately, after listening to enough My Favorite Murder, I know that some men get their egos bruised and just simply can’t handle it.

All in all, I’ll take Before The Fall for what it is… a good story.

Tell me what YOU thought of the book?

Cheers,

Courtney

P.S. Fun fact: The author Noah Hawley is a writer on the FXX television series Fargo.

Books · Movies · mystery · Reviews · suspense · Television · thriller

{December 5, 2018} The Outsider by Stephen King

I wasn’t planning on covering “The Outsider” by Stephen King for multiple reasons.

  1. I didn’t finish the book. That hasn’t stopped me before but I stopped before the climax so I don’t really know how it ends. (I looked up the ending online BTW. So happy I stopped when I did.)
  2. This is my first King book and if I left a bad review I’m pretty sure his colt following would slash my tires.
  3. I was really busy in November and just didn’t have time.

However, since Good Reads came out with their “Best Books of 2018” list and The Outsider won, I felt obligated to tell the world how I feel.

To all 62,170 individuals who voted for this book, you have shit taste. Specifically shitty thriller/mystery book taste. This book was long winded and flat out boring. Stephen King starts with a superb plot: A little boy is found in the park and has been assaulted and murdered. The man the cops identify as the killer is arrested publically, only for the man to have a solid alibi. So the reader has to ask themselves, how can someone be in two places at once?

The plot was set up for success until you meet the characters and they decide it’s a demon doing the murdering. That’s where you lost me. (Sorry not sorry for the spoilers)

If you’re going to put it in a category, it should be science fiction and not mystery/thriller. I got zero thrills from this book. To add insult to injury, not only did it win on GoodReads, HBO also just ordered it as a television series.

Am I crazy on this? Or is this book legitimately terrible?

Please share your thoughts. Unless they’re different than mine, then keep them to yourself. (just kidding….kind of.)

Cheers,

Courtney