A Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – The Traveling Bookworm
Last weekend, we took our first trip to lovely Miami, Florida, for the wedding of our dear friends Conner and Alex. My husband Michael was an usher, so we had to be there, but even if he wasn’t, we would have made any excuse to visit Miami! Who doesn’t want to spend a few days in sunshine, warm weather, and near the ocean?
Accommodation: Hotel Arya at Coconut Grove
The hotel was chosen by the bride and groom, and it was in a lovely location that was not too busy for a homebody like me. We stayed at Hotel Arya in Coconut Grove, which is about 25-30 minutes away from Downtown Miami. Our hotel was right near the water and had some amazing views! Surrounded by smaller restaurants, cafes, and bake shops, we could easily walk to lunch or dinner and save some money instead of taking an Uber or Lyft.
The hotel was nice, but also had a few quirks. We were in a suite with a “full kitchen,” a living space, and a room with a King-sized bed. I put kitchen in quotes because although it did have a full-sized refrigerator, a cooktop, a microwave, a sink, and pantry, it did not include pots and pans. A few plates, mugs, glasses, silverware, and even a tea kettle were provided. As an avid tea drinker, I was excited about the tea kettle, but it was actually so dirty inside, that I just microwaved my water and made hot tea that way. A small one-cup coffeemaker was also provided.
The suite also had a half bath near the kitchen and a full bath off the bedroom, which was nice when getting ready for the day. Our shower was a combo tub inset, but we had trouble with our showerhead. It was partly broken, but we didn’t think it was enough of a big deal to complain about.
Other than that, I enjoyed our stay at the hotel. A fitness center is also on the Roof floor, which was nice. They do require masks to be worn at all times in public spaces, but I did not leave my mask on while working out alone in the fitness center. No one came in while I was exercising, so I didn’t worry about it. Our breakfast was also provided as part of the wedding. Cereal, toast, eggs, quiche, sausage, bacon, and croissants were some of the food at the buffet-style breakfast. I thought it was a good breakfast, but my husband was disappointed that waffles weren’t on the menu.
Getting Around Miami
Most of our Lyft rides were pricey, each one at least $20 one-way, not including tip. But there were plenty available, so we could easily get a ride within 10 minutes. There was only one instance where a trip was canceled by the driver, and I think she had a hard time finding us in a busy area. Other than that, there were no qualms! Our Lyft ride from the Miami airport was roughly $26. There is a special lane for rideshares and hotel shuttles, and our driver did not have trouble finding us at all.
Because our hotel was near so many things, we were able to walk much of the time, which was very convenient.
Things to Do in Miami
Since we were only there for a few days, we didn’t get to see much. For the most part, we stayed close to Hotel Arya in Coconut Grove. But we did manage to visit the historic Art Deco District near South Beach. I really wanted to see the unique buildings since I am a huge fan of architecture. (Little known fact about me: I wanted to be an architect before I realized how bad I was at math.) We walked along Ocean Drive, which reminded me of L.A.’s Venice Beach, although it was much less crowded. Mind you, we were there in the morning and around lunchtime, so there wasn’t a whole lot of action, which I was totally fine with. We had lunch on Ocean Drive in the outdoor space of one of the hotels, which was pretty good!
Places to Eat in Coconut Grove
On the first day of our trip, we had lunch at the Latin-American inspired Jaguar Restaurant, which was about a 5 minute walk from the hotel. The restaurant seemed like it would be expensive but was actually pretty affordable for lunch. I had a grilled chicken sandwich, which was great. From the looks of their website, they would probably be more expensive for dinner.
Across the street and down a ways from Hotel Arya is Harry’s Pizzeria. My husband loves pizza, so we had to try it! This little pizza shop was absolutely adorable with very friendly staff and excellent service. I was pleasantly surprised. The size of the pizzas were smaller, about 10 inches, so you could easily eat a whole pizza by yourself if you’re hungry. If you have ever been to Blaze or Pyro’s, the size of the pizza was comparable to those.
Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop
We visited Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop twice. I have an enormous sweet tooth, and I bought a cookie as a snack the first time around, and then ordered carrot cake the next day. It was delightfully delicious. My husband Michael ordered red velvet cake, and I tried some of his, and it was really good, too! According to the website, Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop was started by Former Miami firefighter Derek Kaplan. All the treats are baked fresh daily. This shop also had friendly service, and easy, no-contact payment options.
If you’re a lover of ice cream and you’re ever in the Coconut Grove area, you have to stop by Chill-N7, a little ice cream shop right next to Books and Books Cafe and Bookstore. What makes this ice cream parlor unique is that the ice cream is made from liquid nitrogen, which freezes at a much lower temperature than water. They liquid nitrogen tank is featured as part of the storefront, which I did not realize until I was waiting for my ice cream. The menu was a wall of elements for each flavor of ice cream. It was adorable!
Featured Bookstore: Books and Books at Coconut Grove
Adjacent to Jaguar Restaurant was Books and Books Cafe and Bookstore, which of course, I had to go to. It’s a cute, navy blue storefront with some interesting, rounded windows. I wish I had taken pictures, but you can see more on Yelp or the bookstore website. As much as I wanted to buy a book here, I couldn’t justify it as I had so many books waiting for me to read at home. This bookstore has two stories and was really cute. It had some fun books about Miami and even some guides displayed on the front tables for tourists like me! They also had a good section for children on the second floor. I would definitely recommend this bookstore for anyone who wants a smaller store with all the NYT bestsellers!
No One Knows by J.T. Ellison – 4.5 Stars
Our trip was four days total. We left on a Thursday and came back Sunday. I bought three books in anticipation of the trip, but particularly wanted a smaller paperback that could easily fit in my carryon. I settled on No One Knows by J.T. Ellison. Ironically, the author is from Nashville, and we flew out of Nashville for our trip! I am very familiar with the Nashville area, and Ellison featured a few landmarks in her book that I appreciated.
Now, let’s get to the book review! I won’t go into too much detail or reveal too much information, just in case you want to read this book sometime.
J.T. Ellison’s book No One Knows is a mystery novel about a woman named Aubrey whose husband, Josh, goes missing. The book begins five years after his disappearance, specifically on the day the state has declared him dead. Because no body was found, Aubrey has held out hope that her husband is alive and has not moved on from his disappearance. Aubrey’s former mother-in-law Daisy begins as a type of villain in the novel, as she despises Aubrey and always thought she had something to do with her son’s death. The very same day the state declares Josh deceased, a man gets out of a cab and Aubrey is struck by how much he looks like her husband. She even calls out to him and runs up to him, but of course, it isn’t Josh. The two meet again several hours later and get to talking. She learns his name is Chase, and he’s visiting from Chicago. Although she knows he isn’t her husband, Aubrey can’t help but notice the similar mannerisms Chase shares with Josh. She’s convinced they are somehow the same person.
That is where the mystery is tuned up. Is this new guy actually Josh? Or is something else going on?
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads, but it was probably closer to a 4.5. It was very entertaining, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s roughly 500 pages, but in mass paperback format, the pages are very short, so you’ll get through it quickly. I read the last 150 pages on the plane flight home!
The only critique I have for the book is that I felt the mother-in-law Daisy was one-note. She had a backstory, and although the author delved into it a little too much, I still didn’t quite understand much of her motivations or why she was the way she was. I also was not particularly convinced about Chase’s love for Aubrey. Also, Ellison goes back and forth between viewpoints and time periods, and it can be confusing if you are the type of reader who puts a book down for days or weeks and then comes back to it. I did, however, like the main character Aubrey. Her thought process was very relatable.
Also, I want to note that this book has different endings. I learned from the Author’s Note that the version I picked up is the original ending intended for the book, but there is another version with an ending that is much more brief and left readers feeling like it was lacking. Glad I got the version I bought! But I have a feeling the reason this book has less than 4 stars on Goodreads is because of the different endings. Overall, I think this book is worth a read, especially if you enjoy mystery novels with a little bit of romance mixed in.