Book time! It was another huge reading month for me. Eighteen books! And two that I read a big chunk of, but decided not to finish. It’s been a good escape from life and my selections are all over the board, genre-wise. There were some great ones, though!
My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars
I really enjoyed this book about a group of 30ish year old friends who decide to join a dating app to try and find dates for a big event at the college where they work. There are four men and one woman and they’ve been the best of platonic friends for years. But slightly drunk night on a whim, Millie decides to seduce the one she’s closest to, Reid. They have a “half-night stand” and then go back to being friends. Of course, they end up matching on the dating app, though Millie has her profile set to her middle name with an abstract photo and Reid doesn’t know it’s her. This book then follows their friendship with occasional benefits as they learn to become more emotionally available to each other. I thought that Reid was a fantastic character and I understood his frustration at how closed off Millie is emotionally, despite being a great person. Their group of friends made the story funny and enjoyable. It was a fun book to get my reading year off to a great start!
Stretched Too Thin by Jessica Turner
Rating: 4 stars
This was a great book about being stretched too thin as a working mom. While I’m not the traditional working mom that needs to leave the house every day, I still got a lot of great insight out of it as I struggle just as much to find balance in every area of my life. I like that Turner is straightforward, approachable, and relatable in her chapters. The book is easy to read and provides many helpful tips. While I didn’t find anything to be mind blowingly unique, it was really nice to have so many ideas collected in one space. I’m glad I read it.
Delish by Joanna Saltz & The Editors of Delish
Rating: 3 stars
I’ve decided to start adding cookbooks to my book lists because I do usually read them cover to cover before deciding what to make from them. It IS a book, so it should count, right? This was an impulsive add to my Christmas wish list that I received as a gift. The general feeling throughout the cookbook is that cooking should be fun and food should be delicious. The pages are silly and fun with a lot of input from the editors of Delish, as well as tidbits about unique restaurant foods. I did mark quite a few recipes to try out in the future, but there were so many that I knew I’d never even consider. So many casserole type dishes – and a ton of pasta – which I don’t like at all, in any form. I’ll definitely give it a few months, but I’m not sure this is a cookbook that’ll stay on my shelf for long. It just didn’t feel that memorable to me and there was nothing that I saw that I’m dying to make.
Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith
Rating: 5 stars
I loved this step by step approach to redesigning your home to rooms filled with cozy minimalism. Even though I don’t exactly love all of Myquillyn’s personal style, I can surely appreciate how she goes about decorating and found a lot of inspiration for my own home. I’m not yet ready to fully commit to so many changes, but the book has given me so much to think about and convinced me I should seriously stop buying any more decor – EVER. I’m very tempted to want to start over, but it does feel overwhelming. But overall – a great and approachable book I plan to keep around for future decorating needs.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Rating: 4.5 stars
This book was such a change of pace from the style of books I tend to prefer (fast paced, contemporary, character and dialog driven). I admit that it took me a solid 25% to really get into the story and what felt like way too many days wasted that I could have spent reading something else. BUT, it was such a beautiful book. It takes the approach of a slowly told folk tale of a drowned girl found in the Thames who later comes back to life. Three families come to claim her and after a very, very lengthy introduction to all of the characters, the story finally unravels. The writing was slow, but so colorful and descriptive. By the end I was enraptured and so glad I spent my time on it. A lovely book that I truly recommend.
Fail Until You Don’t by Bobby Bones
Rating: 5* stars
I once saw this on a list of great audiobooks to listen to and added it to my library list. It took until the second extremely long wait for it to come up before I finally listened. And I’m so glad I did! This is the best and most straight forward self help book I’ve ever come across. Granted I haven’t read a ton of them, but this one really made an impact. I loved it as an audio version because Bobby Bones is a radio show host and talks for a living, so he makes it fun and entertaining. But I loved this book so much that I am absolutely going to buy the book so I can read it again, armed with a handful of highlighters. Most of what he has to say is geared toward furthering your career, but all of the advice can be taken for any area of your life you’d like to succeed in. Knowing more about the enneagram these days, I can tell you that Bobby is most definitely a 3 and basically a male Rachel Hollis. He did have a chapter about how hard he continues to work even if he’s violently ill – which is kind of the point where I can no longer agree with him. But for the most part, so much of what he had to say was so worthwhile and easy to understand and easy to put into practice. I highly, highly recommend.
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Rating: 3.5 stars
This was an interesting psychological thriller about a girl with very few ties in NYC who sneaks into a psychology study in order to earn a little extra money. The psychologist in charge of the study takes a keen interest in her and abandons the study in order to follow up with Jessica, giving her plenty of moral dilemmas and situations while observing how she reacts to them. I was definitely intrigued by the book, but found it a bit disappointing by the end. I kept expecting some major twists and they never happened. Though I also saw a review beforehand that talked about the final twist you’ll never see coming. If there was a final twist I was too dumb to see what it was!! I still enjoyed the book, but I liked their previous book a lot more.
Romeo & What’s Her Name by Shani Petroff
Rating: 4 stars
This was a lighthearted and sweet little YA romance about a girl who tries to win the heart of her long time crush by performing a scene from Romeo and Juliet with him – and flubs it horribly. After the first few chapters I wasn’t sure this was really for me – it felt a bit too juvenile with sqealing girls and clandestine spying on the boys they liked. Though in reality that’s probably closer to how teenagers actually act compared to how most YA books portray them. But I stuck with it because I desperately needed a lighter read and it got SO FUNNY. I was laughing hysterically from some of the scenes. I adored Emily, the main character, and her ability to always laugh at herself and her craziness instead of letting it get her too down. Overall, a fast and really fun read.
99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
Rating: 4 stars
I had really, really, probably unobtainably high expectations for this book after LOVING Thorne’s first book, The Hating Game, and declaring it my favorite book of last year. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite live up to my hopes and dreams. I DID like it. Quite a bit, actually. The main character, Darcy, was so much fun. She seemed to have zero filter and masked all of her deepest feelings for her best and oldest friend Tom by just saying them the second they’d flit through her mind. What bothered me most is that both main characters couldn’t seem to make up their minds on what they wanted. The same with Darcy’s twin, Jamie. Everyone had such conflicting thoughts and words and actions. I get that life is messy and not everything is always straightforward. But it felt so all over the place at times that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. Obviously these are different characters and if they had the exact same character traits that made me love The Hating Game so much, it wouldn’t be a new book. But I was expecting that amazingly snappy dialog and chemistry and it fell a little bit flat. I still enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite a favorite.
The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin
Rating: 5* stars
This is one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. It’s also one of the only nonfiction books I’ve actually finished AND read in a timely manner! I love the entire message of this book so much. It’s about stepping outside your comfort and security and loving the people around you. She makes it so clear that it’s not about trying to convert people to your faith or trying to get them to come to your church. It’s about BEING THERE for them. Showing up time and time again. Loving them. Getting dirty and helping them. Being a friend. Being a confidant. Helping to mother their children. It’s about truly stepping out of your house and loving your neighbors. Your actual neighbors. It was quite the inspirational message. I had a hard time hearing some of it as a pretty intense introvert. But I’m trying to be open to being more like Shannan in my own life. Imagine how rich the world would be if we all could love like her? This is a fantastic book that I highly, highly recommend.
The One by John Marrs
Rating: DID NOT FINISH (DNF)
Okay, I know this is going to mess with my statistics a bit, but in my more comprehensive reading log I’m trying out this year, we are supposed to include our DNF’s (did not finish). I keep hearing how if you want to have the best reading life, you really need to be okay with putting down books that aren’t right for you. Or aren’t right for you at this moment. I got 130 pages into this book and I was just so bored by it. It alternates between five main characters with 2-3 pages per chapter. Every chapter ends with a mini cliffhanger, but you don’t see what happens next until you cycle through all the other characters. This kind of thing really annoys me because I can’t concentrate on the next mini cliffhanger when I’m still wondering about the last. The only thing that interested me were the chapters about the serial killer, but he also got way too descriptive about his method of killing and how long he waited before revealing the bodies – it just wasn’t something I needed to know about in the midst of everything going on in my personal life this month. Anyway, I might enjoy reading this at another time, but I doubt I’ll pick it back up. It just felt too one dimensional with characters I didn’t care about and couldn’t see finding a happy ending.
Bibliophile by Jane Mount
Rating: 5 stars
I feel a bit weird giving this one a rating because I didn’t really read it word for word. Mostly because I looked through this book in one sitting and it was A LOT of information. This is basically an enormous collection of books organized by genre, info about bookstores, and a crazy fount of information about all bookish related things. All of it made so much more fun and interesting with illustrations galore. My favorite part of the book was seeing all the ideal bookshelf drawings for each genre. I also really loved the couple of books she showed with all their versions and covers. With my graphic design background (and intense interest), I really loved those aspects of the book best. I did skim through the things that didn’t interest me and marked the pages I plan on going back to read more deeply. This book is sure to increase your TBR piles tenfold! It’s an amazing collection that must have taken so much time and research to put together. I’m going to love having this on my shelf to go reach for again and again!
Bright Side by Kim Holden
Rating: 4.5 stars
I went into this book mistakenly thinking it was going to be a delightful romance. Something to lift some of the gloom that January brought. Small spoiler alert – this book is about dying. And living the time you have left to the absolute fullest with no regrets. I was not prepared for this book to basically ruin me by the end. It really wasn’t what I needed this month. But I don’t regret reading it either. Kate was such an amazing person. Her ability to focus on other people, always find the bright side of them, and LOVE so deeply was incredible. Especially after her rough childhood and dealing with so much of her own loss. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was how long it took to reveal certain things, which is why I’m kind of spoiling it a little bit. Just so you know what you’re getting into, if you don’t want to be blindsided by a book about death when you’re dealing with your own family death at the same time. But ultimately, it was a very uplifting book.
The Happy Cookbook by Steve and Kathy Doocy
Rating: 3.5 stars
I picked up this cookbook because it looked cute and HAPPY (good branding lol). I’m not sure who Steve Doocy is, though I think I probably should? I’m not sure, I haven’t had real tv in over ten years, so I’ve never watched a single Fox tv type of show. At any rate, I still really enjoyed reading the cookbook. Every chapter has a large introduction filled with stories related to that section of food. Then every single recipe has a full story of where the recipe came from and what it means to their family. I love this approach to cookbook – explaining how tried and true each of the recipes are. They’re not recipes they created simply for the sake of filling a cookbook. Reading their stories made me think about my own tried and true recipes that have been passed down to me and ones that I’ve loved so much I feel like I’ve made a thousand times. There aren’t that many that have stood the test of time, so it impresses me how many the Doocy’s have in their repertoire! So far I’ve only made the pimento cheese recipe and it was incredible. I never told the rest of my family I made it – just ate it myself every day for breakfast and lunch until it was gone. I really liked all the family photos that were also included throughout the book, especially when they were of the family eating the exact recipe. I’d say overall maybe 30% of the recipes were ones I’d be interested in making myself, which makes it iffy on whether I’ll keep it forever on my limited space cookbook shelf. But so far I’ve been very intrigued and would definitely recommend checking it out.
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
Rating: 3 stars
Okay, so if you don’t know – Christina Lauren is actually a team of two writers. I’ve read many of their books and really liked most of them. I’m not sure exactly how they split up the writing, but this is the first book I read where it really felt like the characters were being given mixed traits depending on if the chapters were taking place in the past or the present. It bothered me. So much of this book is about the main character who shuts down emotionally and runs from any sort of deep emotional connections. It’s probably more a personal pet peeve than anything wrong with the book, but I just can’t stand people who are always shutting down and refusing to talk. It ticks me off. Which made me not like this book very much. Elliot seemed like such a great character at times, but his flaws – especially in the past – seemed kind of irredeemable to me. Anyway, the book was fine, I just didn’t like it nearly as much as their other books.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Rating: 4 stars
This book has been at the top of my TBR pile for awhile. I really wanted to read it in December before I gave it as a gift, but I ran out of time. I finally got around to it and it did not disappoint. It’s the story of a poor girl in the marshlands of North Carolina whose family walks out of her life, one by one. By age 10 she is completely on her own and somehow manages to survive. The story follows along with her life and alternates with a murder that takes places in the present (1969). To be fair, I thought about the first quarter of the book was really slow and not that interesting. The writing is beautiful and the marshlands of North Carolina were given such a fantastic sense of place and wonder. I just thought the book became a lot more interesting once Kya was a teenager and started forming relationships with a select few boys her age. The book felt a lot longer than it actually was with all the sweeping descriptions and slow moving plot. But the writing was gorgeous and I’m glad I finally made the time to read it.
Maybe Now by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 4.5 stars
Somehow yet another Colleen Hoover novel escaped my attention! I only started obsessively keeping up with new releases and my favorite authors in the last two years, so I missed out on this one! It’s the second (but technically the third?) book in the Maybe Someday series. (I also just realized I missed another book too that I’m going to have to read STAT.) Colleen has always been pretty unconventional about her publishing methods, so you never know when a book might pop up. Though I just noticed this was only released TWO MONTHS AGO. So I don’t know how in the world I missed it. Anyway, I think after such a long gap between the first book (four years), I probably should have re-read it, though a lot of the story easily came back to me because her books are so memorable. It was great revisiting all the wonderful characters and seeing how their relationships continued to grow. While it’s definitely missing that intense excitement of a central new romance, it was equally as fun watching a young romance grow deeper. At the book signing I went to last year, Colleen said that Sydney was her favorite character to date. After reading this book I have to say that she really is amazing. There’s nothing not to like about her. Anyway, definitely read Maybe Someday before you read this one. You’ll love them both!
Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff
Rating: 4 stars
I cannot tell you how much these three companion books by Helene Hanff have meant to me (84, Charing Cross Road, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, and Q’s Legacy). They’re the ugliest covered old books with terrible titles, but they have my whole heart as being some of the most endearing and funny books I have ever read. Helene Hanff is an absolute treasure. She writes with such subtle yet incredible humor that had me laughing out loud throughout the entire book(s). This third installment was kind of a mixed memoir of Helene’s life with a heavy middle section of journal entries during her second trip to London. I found that section to be less intriguing, but I adored the chapters before and after. These books brought me such joy and if you love books about the love of books, I HIGHLY recommend reading these. But definitely start 84, as it’s the best!
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I listened to about half of this book on audio. For awhile I thought it was fun and light and I enjoyed it because I like Amy Poehler. But the further I got into the book the more it seemed like she was writing just to fill space, not to actually SAY anything. I feel like if you’re going to write a memoir, you really need to be vulnerable, otherwise what’s the point? This felt so surface level that at about the five or six hour mark I just didn’t care anymore.
Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 5 stars
Be forewarned that I’m going to be reading a lot of romance in the coming months as I start to work through Book Bonanza authors, who are almost all romance writers. I have mixed feelings about the romance genre. I don’t want to be the kind of person that dismisses a genre as being beneath me. I’m totally fine with romance if it feels genuine and authentic and not just smut for the sake of smut. That being said, this was a really great example of a true love story between two flawed and hurting characters. Archer is a man who lost his family and his voice as a child and has lived a completely secluded life with no other human connection. Bree is a woman who decided to flee her life after her father was brutally murdered in front of her. They find each other and slowly grow closer through simple measures of trust. With the exception of a few cliff hangers that felt very out of place (including one that almost made me throw my kindle across the room and abandon the book), this was a beautiful journey of a love between two people.