Book Club January 2019- The Alice Network

I got the honor of picking the first book club book of the year for 2019! I was a bit nervous because  I wanted to make sure that we got off to a good start. I also have been a bit disappointed in my past few picks so I really wanted to pick a good one this time around. I tend to gravitate towards World War II historical fiction in the winter and I had had The Alice Network on my TBR for a while, so it seemed like the perfect pick.

By: Kate Quinn
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 532

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the matter where it leads.

What I thought

I am so glad that this was my first read of the year. I absolutely loved it and am hoping that this is a foreshadow of my reading year to come!

The Alice Network alternates between two stories in two different times that intersect. In 1914, Eve is in France as a spy during World War 1. In 1947 (present day), Charlie is unwed and pregnant in London and France, searching for her cousin Rose who disappeared in World War II. Charlie’s only lead is Eve.

So often when a book has multiple storylines across multiple timelines there is one story that I connect with and enjoy significantly more than the other. That is most definitely not the case for this book. I loved both of the storylines and never found myself rushing through one to get back to the other. Quinn did a wonderful job of balancing the stories. The book moved constantly because when one story was a little slower the other story picked up. I also feel like a lot of the times with historical fiction it can take a little while to get into the story because it’s setting up a lot of information, but The Alice Network jumps you right in!

I am a fan of learning about how women made a difference in previous wars since so often it is the men/soldiers that are haled as heroes. Learning about the real life Alice Network and the female spies in World War I was fascinating. Eve and Eve’s superior, Lili are such strong women and I loved reading about them.

Charlie is a good contrast to Eve. She starts off a bit more shy and reserved to Eve’s hard and strong, but she grows nicely as the story goes on. The only bit that shocked me was the point in the story at which Charlie’s story reveals certain information. I hit a point in Charlie’s story where I wondered where it was going to go, but it was handled better than I expected and I still enjoyed Charlie’s story a lot.

I am going to push this book on anyone and everyone. Even if you don’t think you’re a historical fiction person, I think you would enjoy this book. It has a very modern feel to it and I enjoyed all (well…most) of the characters.

What Book Club Thought

Everyone loved this book! A lot of the comments were similar to the ones that I have already talked about. It was a great book to discuss and there were a lot of aspects that we talked about. We also discussed how we would like to see this as a mini-series on HBO or Amazon. Maybe, since it’s a part of Reese’s book club, she’ll pick it as her next project for a TV show! I would highly recommend this book in general but if you are looking for a book club suggestion then you should definitely add this to your list.

Favorite Beauty Finds of 2018

This year I decided to start eliminating products from my life that were not cruelty free. As a result, I have found a lot of new products that I love. Below are the top products that I found that, if I haven’t already, I will be repurchasing in the future.

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My number 1 find of this year is probably the Herbavore Coco Rose body polish. I talked about this in my Skincare Empties post. I had tried the sample size in a set that I purchased but I did buy the full size version. My skin loves this product. It exfoliates my skin without drying it our or causing irritation. In fact, it takes away a lot of the redness that my skin gets. Also, who doesn’t love this pretty pink?

Another produce that I love (and have already repurchased) is the Tula Illuminating Serum. This was a product I discovered towards the end of the year and I just love it. The Tula website describes it as a serum used to target dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and dull skin. I have always had difficulty with dark spots and redness in my skin. While this hasn’t made every single spot disappear, the redness of my skin has dropped significantly. I even had family members comment on the glow of my skin at Thanksgiving! If you need a new serum, I highly recommend this. And not just because I love their blue packaging.

Staying in the Tula category, another find that I’ve been enjoying is their Multi-Spectrum Eye Renewal Serum. This is a serum that is caffeine infused and is meant to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and puffiness as well as hydrate. I have been using this every night before bed and the packaging makes it relaxing to spread around my eyes. I immediately feel some tightness after application and in the morning I feel like I look more awake than on the nights when I don’t use it. I also appreciate that it’s not ridiculously expensive for an eye cream. You only need one pump for both eyes, so I think it will last a while.

For moisturizing, I found and loved the Tatcha Water Cream. Yet another product with glorious luxe packaging, the product inside is just as luxurious. It’s a little pricey for a moisturizer, especially since it doesn’t have an SPF. Although, I haven’t found many SPF skincare products that are also cruelty-free. This product is oil-free and is said to provide optimal hydration, tighten pores, and smooth skin texture. I don’t know if I noticed it tightening my pores, but my skin did drink this product up. And even though it’s expensive, it does last a long time since a little goes a long way.

Another product that I had mentioned in my Skincare Empties post that I have loved is the Korres Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser. I honestly didn’t expect much from this cleanser. It’s been a while since I have found a cleanser that I have loved enough to purchase the full size. I get a lot of samples of cleansers and while they all so the job, that’s kind of all they do. This was the first cleanser I’ve used in a while that I saw significant improvements on my skin. I always get hormonal breakouts and this even helped lessen those!

Finally, the last skincare product that I found this year are the Lapcos sheet masks which I previously reviewed here. I wasn’t crazy about sheet masks before finding these. I love that they offer a variety pack because I enjoy so many of these masks that I couldn’t choose just one. I love using the various moisturizing and soothing ones after travel because airplanes do a number on your skin. I find these to do just what they say they will and they actually fit pretty decently on my face.

End of Year Book Survey- 2018

Every year Jamie from Perpetual Page Turner puts out this end of year book survey. I haven’t filled it out the last few years, but felt up to the challenge this year. I know I’ve been a bit MIA the back half of this year, but I’m hoping to be more consistent again next year. I hope you enjoy this survey and have a Happy New Year!

2018 Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 80
Number of Re-Reads: 0
Genre You Read The Most From: General Fiction

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1. Best Book You Read In 2018?

Because I’m terrible at picking just one book, I have three that were my favorites. The first was How to Walk Away by Katherine Center, next was Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka, and Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating.


2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn. This was the first book I read this year and I had requested it for review. I was really looking forward to it and it just left me feeling a little meh.


 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2018? 

Good Way: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo


 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center


 5. Best series you started in 2018? Best Sequel of 2018? Best Series Ender of 2018?

Started: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Sequel: Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) by Robert Galbraith

Finished: I did not finish any series this year


 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2018?

Tie between Maureen Goo and Christina Lauren. I read multiple books by these authors this year after discovering them and have enjoyed each one.


7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I kind of stayed within my comfort zone for genres this year.


 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

I finished this book so fast! I loved it. It wasn’t action-packed by definitely unputdownable


 9. Book You Read In 2018 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I don’t really have a lot of time to re-read anymore. Especially the ones that I have just read.


10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018?

So many book covers I’ve loved. I think I’ll go with The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

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11. Most memorable character of 2018?

Yekide from Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

This story was so unique and different from what I typically read that her struggle really stuck with me


 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2018?

The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker

This book made the setting come to life for me and I can still picture the beautiful Northern California winery


13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2018?

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo was very thought-provoking. I don’t think I really read anything life-changing


 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read? 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

The movie finally convinced me to pick up this book and I can’t believe it took me so long to do so


 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2018?

I don’t typically highlight or remember quotes from books, so I have nothing to put here.


16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2018?

Longest: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith- 656 Pages

Shortest: A Shoe Addict’s Christmas by Beth Harbison


 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith- I could not figure this one out


18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

 Josh and Hazel from Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

 Desi and her dad from I Believe in a Thing Called Love

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2018 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

I haven’t read a book by her in a while and I really liked this one


21. Best Book You Read In 2018 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Since I don’t really have a book that I read this year based solely on a recommendation, I will pick by favorite Book Club Book of the year

Artemis by Andy Weir

Which, also, if you had told me after I read it that this would be my favorite book club pick of the year I would’ve looked at you like you were crazy


22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2018?

I can’t remember… haha

23. Best 2018 debut you read?

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

This is kind of a cheat because Wibberley has published before, but this was the firt book they have written together


24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Maybe Artemis by Andy Weir?


25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Josh and Hazel had be laughing a lot


26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2018?

I did not cry over a book this year


27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson


28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Didn’t really have one of those types of books this year


29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2018?

Hey Ladies!: The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way, Too Many Emails by Michelle Markowitz & Caroline Moss


30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Hey Ladies made me so mad. Also maybe Happiness For Humans by P.Z. Reizin

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1.   One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2018 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2019?

Would it be cheating to say The Alice Network by Kate Quinn since I picked this for January’s book club?

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2019 (non-debut)?

Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills


3. 2019 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

 If, Then by Kate Hope Day

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

This is one of those sort-of series where the books aren’t tied together by story but by world


5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2019?

 I’d like to read more books that I find joy in. I think I got stuck in a rut. And as always, grow readership


6. A 2019 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

I usually stay pretty current on my reads. The only book that is a 2019 release that I have read so far is my current read, so I can’t recommend anything that I haven’t finished.

Belated Black Friday Haul

I know that this post isn’t going up immediately after Black Friday, but I had a few items that were coming in the mail that I wanted to wait for. Now that I have everything in, I figured I could post my haul. Also, please excuse my outfit photo attempts. I don’t typically do flat layout for clothing so I’m no expert.

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Top is the eye serum, left pot is the exfoliating mask and right is the day/night cream.

Top is the eye serum, left pot is the exfoliating mask and right is the day/night cream.

The first item (and possibly the one I was most excited about) is the Tula Holiday Ultimate Self-Care Kit ($148). A month or two ago I started using the Tula Illuminating Serum and fell in love with it. It has visibly reduced redness in my skin and I even had family at Thanksgiving compliment me on how glowy my skin was! Because I enjoy this product so much, I wanted to try more from the line. Tula is a probiotic based skin care company that is cruelty free and free from phthalates, parabens, propylene glycol, petrolatum, gluten, and mineral oil. They’re definitely a bit pricey but when compared to similar products, very reasonable. Plus the packaging is lush! I knew that this kit was expensive, and almost talked myself out of purchasing it, but then realized that I’ve been wanting to try the eye serum and that I’d repurchase the Illuminating serum in the future, so those two products alone equaled the value of this kit. Especially when it was an extra 25% off! Unfortunately, this kit is sold out but there are a bunch of different holiday kits, so if this brand sounds interesting to you, now is the time to check it out. I will do a more in depth review on this kit after using the products for a few days.

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The next few items were purchased when I was out Black Friday shopping with my mom. Our first stop was The Gap. Gap had 50% off plus an additional 10% off. I don’t know why they didn’t just say 60% off, but I’m not in advertising so?

Normally I love getting sweaters from Gap, but nothing really caught my eye, so I focused on the workout gear and got three tops, one short sleeve and one long sleeve. I fell in love with the workout capris in store, talked myself out of them, and then ended up purchasing them from home later that night. They have mesh detailing on the bottom (that of course did not come up in pictures) and they are quite possibly the softest workout pants I own.

Above are the backs of the two long sleeve workout tops that I got. The pictures of the tops are truer to color in the first picture but I thought it would be fun for you to be able to see the backs, as they were the reason I purchased these shirts.

Our next stop was Bath and Body Works. Normally, I stock up on a bunch of winter candles, but nothing really grabbed me this year other than my old standby, Winter. This is a candle I get every year and it now holds so many nice winter memories. I also picked up a Frosted Cranberry hand soap as this is another one of my yearly scents. The deal was buy 3 get 3 free on Black Friday, but Saturday was $12.95 candles plus $10 off of $30, so my mom and I actually went back on Saturday to exchange for a better deal. Definitely going to have to remember that for next year!

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The final pit stop we made the day of was Loft. I usually do some serious damage in this store around Black Friday because Loft has some great sweaters that I can wear for work. I did, in fact, pick up these three sweaters and am excited to add them to my wardrobe. I was also tempted by an adorable reindeer sweater but decided that since I had bought a cute polar bear sweater in a similar color last year that I couldn’t justify it. I also got a free tote bag which was an exciting bonus! I did end up returning the black and white sweater (the left one) because when I went to take the pictures for this post, I had kind of forgotten that I had bought that sweater. I figured that wasn’t a good sign, so I ultimately ended up returning it. It’s a very cute sweater and fit very well, but in the end I tend to lean more towards color and I wasn’t sure if I’d reach for it in my closet.

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Another online purchase that I made was this $25 sherpa hoodie from American Eagle. I own one of the Thread and Supply sherpa sweatshirts and it is one of my weekend go-tos. This one feels more like wearing a blanket. It’s the same material inside and out so it’s very warm and comfy. I also love the purple color, which may be hard to pick up on in the pictures.

That’s about it for my Black Friday haul. I picked up a few items as gifts as well, but I don’t want to post anything on here, just in case. Did you make any exciting purchases on Black Friday?

The Holidays...

Between the holidays, work stress, and life stress, I haven’t been reading as much as I used to. I’ve fallen behind on my multiple challenges and have probably taken the longest amount of time to read a single book than I have in years.

This isn’t an excuse for my lack of blogging, but just a bit of an explanation. I do have a Black Friday Haul post planned that I’m hoping to post on Friday and then I am also planning on doing an official update on my failed challenges.

Anywho, I hope that you’re enjoying the busy holiday season and finding some good books to watch and fun Christmas movies to watch.