What I Read August 2018

I had a goal this month to read 12 books and I did it! Of course I maybe sort of cheated the system a bit by adding two graphic novels, a full length comic book, and an audiobook to make sure I could fit all 12 in. I felt like I was giving my books a huge amount of time this month, but some of them were really hard to get into and some were really long. But I did it! The majority of the books I read this month were pretty middle of the road, but I do have a couple of great recommendations.

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
Rating: 2 stars

This one really fell flat for me. It’s about Jane, a woman who has the gift of being able to see true love in all its forms. On her 29th birthday she receives a letter from another woman who has the gift and is told that before her 30th birthday she needs to identify and record the six types of true love in the lives of people around her. At first I appreciated the slow buildup and just assumed the book would get a lot more exciting. It didn’t. In fact I found myself incredibly frustrated by Jane. I was not a fan of how many “true love” stories meant tearing apart happy marriages. As if it’s perfectly acceptable and logical to leave the lives you have for a chance at love with someone new. Honestly, the only minor storyline that I actually had huge interest in were from her brother Flynn and the woman he fell in love with only through watching her from his window. Now that’s a story I would have loved to have read! I also felt zero chemistry between Jane and her love interest Cam. Overall, it was a pretty fast read and it wasn’t terrible. I just did not like it.

If I Live by Terri Blackstock
Rating: 4 stars

This was a solid third installment and conclusion to the fast paced If I Run series. Just like in the first two books, Casey is still running for her life, trying to stay alive while also gathering evidence to put away a huge grouping of corrupt cops that killed her father and best friend. Dylan is still slyly trying to help her, while appearing to be working with the force to capture her. Their relationship continues to grow, especially after they find themselves in even more life threatening situations. I really enjoyed this series. It was fast and thrilling with a worthwhile conclusion. Also, I just want to point out how much I appreciate the cover of the book stating which number in the series it is! Why don’t more books do that?? I avoid reading so many series because it’s frustrating and annoying to try and figure out which order to read them in.

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Rating: 5* stars

A delightful, charming, and introspective book about a high school acapella group and a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join it. I expected this to be a very light and fast stereotypical YA book. Girl pretends to be boy, falls for boy in the group, misunderstandings and embarrassment follow. And while it did eventually follow that path, there was a whole lot more going on. Jordan is a tall, broad, first generation Asian-American poor girl, with a deep singing voice. She goes to a private arts boarding school on full scholarship with a theater concentration, but she’s never cast in any parts because of her voice. On a whim she decides to dress as a boy and try out for the prestigious male acapella group on campus and gets in. Being forced to dress and act like a boy makes her realize how much more confident she is in that role. But the more she acts like a boy, the more she realizes she really wants to be a girl. She questions her sexuality and is filled with a lot of confusion. I loved Jordan’s story and I especially love the wonderful cast of supporting characters – her fellow Sharpshooters. While this book does eventually end in a romance, it takes a good long while to figure out which of the boys she’s interested in. This is the first book in a very long time that I stayed up way too late to finish. I highly recommend it!

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Rating: 5 stars

I never read graphic novels. Ever. But I happened to see this at a Barnes and Noble and was curious so I bought it. I took it on vacation with me, hoping for a different reading experience. And I loved it! It’s the story of a hard working dressmaker named Frances whose work is seen at a ball and is secretly commissioned by Prince Sebastian to design him dresses and keep his secret that he loves to wear them. Sebastian and Frances go out in the evenings with Sebastian disguised as Lady Crystallia. Of course, his secret is eventually discovered and he’s filled with shame and embarrassment. Overall, this was a really interesting look at a twist in gender identity with a boy who just loves to wear dresses. Obviously as a graphic novel it wasn’t incredibly deep, but the illustrations were fantastic at displaying all of the emotion required. I ADORED the ending. If you’re at all interested in graphic novels, or just a new and fun (and fast!) reading experience, this would be a terrific book to pick up. But read it in hard copy, not digitally!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Rating: 3 stars

I wanted to like this book so badly. It’s been raved about everywhere! And honestly, I was underwhelmed. It wasn’t a BAD book. It was just very subtle and melancholy with the occasional funny quip, but possibly not so funny when it wasn’t meant to be that way when Eleanor said it. I loved the character of Raymond. And I enjoyed watching how Eleanor sunk further into her unknown depression, yet she perseveres and survives. And it’s worth celebrating. I just read an article that this is part of a new genre called “up lit” where the story is meant to be uplifting and make you feel good. And it did – but not until the last 10% of the book. I understand why it took so long to reach that point, but I just really, really wish it had happened a lot earlier on.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (audiobook)
Rating: 5 stars

I read the book last month and loved it so much. It popped up on my Libby app as finally being available on audio from the library, so I decided to go ahead and listen to it since I was saving up my favorite podcasts for a vacation. The audio was so well done! Each character was voiced by a different person and I loved how well the personalities shined through. I’m still pretty new to the audiobook world and after listening to the same thing I had previously read, I can definitely guarantee I get a much richer experience through real reading. But if audiobooks are your thing, this is a great one! (The netflix adaptation was also really great!)

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate
Rating: 4 stars

It took me awhile to decide how I felt about this book. There are seven main characters and each chapter alternates between their points of view. You vaguely know from the start that there is an illicit affair going on between a teacher and student. But with so many characters, there are also SO many other things going on. It was interesting how each storyline wove together and formed a pretty strong novel, even though it seemed like each character could have had their own full book. I did struggle a bit with the teacher-student love thing, but it was pretty much EXACTLY how the plot of Slammed (Colleen Hoover) was, and that’s one of my all time favorite books. The only thing I didn’t like were how Juniper’s chapters were so choppy and stilted. Overall, it was a nice book.

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Rating: 2 stars

I decided to give graphic novels another shot, this one with illustrations by the same person as The Prince and the Dressmaker, but a different author. I was pretty disappointed. It’s the story of a teenage girl who is recruited into playing an online game for the sake of empowering women in a largely male population. I’m not a gamer, but thought since I’m surrounded by gamers in real life, maybe reading this would give me some sort of connection point with them. But no, it was a weird story. So much going on, I couldn’t really figure out what the point or theme of it was. Just…not for me.

Most of All You by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 4 stars

I started this book thinking it was going to be pretty cliche. Gabriel had a horrendous thing happen to him as a child and as a result he can’t physically get close to people. He goes to a strip club and finds a woman who he hopes will teach him how to get past that barrier. Crystal/Ellie had her own rough childhood and feels worthless yet hardened to all men. But the story got interesting. And I was into it. I had a lot of other stuff going on in my mind while reading this book and it was hard to give it my full attention, but I liked it. I especially liked how Ellie knew she could never be whole if she depended solely on Gabriel. She needed to find worth in herself on her own before she would be free to love and be loved. This is a lovely story of growth born in grief.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
Rating: 3 stars

I had a love hate relationship with this book. First of all, it took me an entire week to read which is pretty ridiculous. Partly because I was just really busy and unable to concentrate all week, and partly because I just could not get into the book. It had a slew of quirky characters which usually makes for a great story. But I just didn’t feel that close to anyone. Their internal struggles felt too far away to grasp. And it bothered me. There were some chapters that I adored and some chapters that I couldn’t stand to read. I didn’t want to abandon it, but I was never really into it. The end, however, was epic.

Runaways by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka
Rating: 3 stars

I’m pretty sure this is the first comic book I’ve ever read. I only picked it up because I love Rainbow Rowell’s books and in the last year she’s only been promoting this Runaways series. I’ve never heard about it before, but assumed since this was a Volume 1 issue, it would be okay to jump into it. Unfortunately, I feel like I was lacking context of past adventures on every single page. Which isn’t the book’s fault, exactly. I just wish it had said somewhere you really should read the older versions in order to fully grasp what’s going on! Overall, though, despite the constant references to things I didn’t understand, it was interesting. And fast. A good way to get a book out of the way. 🙂

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 5* stars

Wow, what a book. So much happens in this book it felt like reading three, even though this is only the first in the trilogy. I love how as a fantasy type book – which I often tend to avoid – it started out very straightforward and easy to connect with. I’m often turned off by books that immediately jump into all the random and specific things that you need to know in order to understand the story. Which honestly, I find very overwhelming and off putting. This was about a human girl, Feyre, as she fights against the odds to keep her and her useless family from starving to death. She ends up breaking a treaty between the humans the the faeries that she did not even know existed and is forced to be the captive of the High Fae Lord, Tamlin. This book is filled with exquisite yet flawed characters, which I really adored. Oftentimes in this type of book the heroine or hero makes all the right choices and is revered for it. This felt more true to life with a lot of anguish, sorrow, and regret in so many of the choices they each made. Maas really toys with your loyalties in which characters you should be rooting for as well. Overall, I absolutely adored it and couldn’t wait to jump into the next book! (Which I’m reading right now and can barely force myself to put down.)

Happy reading!

Book Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Rating: 5* stars

Jordan Sun is a first generation Asian-American girl on full scholarship at a performing arts centered boarding school. She is tall, broad bodied, and has a deep singing voice. Her concentration is in theater, but she never gets any parts because she doesn’t fit in the stereotypical female roles and her voice is too deep for even the ensemble parts. When the most prestigious of the campus male acapella groups sends out an email with word that they need to fill an open spot that just happens to fit her range, she comes up with the crazy idea to dress up as a boy and audition. And of course, she gets in. Which leads to an entire semester of desperately trying to hide her femininity, while also realizing how much more herself she feels when acting like a boy.

I expected this to be a very light-hearted and pretty straight forward YA novel. Girl dresses as boy, falls for another boy in the group, has some sort of embarrassing moment that leads to boy discovering girl is actually girl, and they eventually end up together. And in a way, that is what happens. But Jordan really has a lot of introspective moments as she starts becoming Julian, her male counterpart. She feels more comfortable in her skin, confident in who she truly is. She begins to question her own sexuality through a lot of confusing encounters. It’s interesting and heartfelt and a journey I loved being taken on.

Overall, I really loved this book. Jordan was a great character, but I really fell for all of the supporting roles – the seven other boys in the a capella group. They had such distinct and delightful personalities. And while you can assume that Jordan will eventually fall for one of them, I was really kept guessing on which one it would be because they were all so wonderful. The only thing that really bothered me is that Jordan is a female, in high school, in a boarding school. She is dressed as a boy more than half of her day. And yet nobody ever sees her going in and out of her female dorm room. We’re given an explanation why she never mixes with the guys during the day – she’s in the theater area and they’re in the music or visual arts areas. It was a minor thing, but it did seem a bit unbelievable. But besides that – I loved it! It might not be for everyone, especially if you’re not super into YA. But I highly recommend Noteworthy. It was one of my favorites of the year!

What I Read July 2018

It’s book time! This is my favorite post to write! I have a lot of great recommendations this month and can’t wait to share!

Beard Science by Penny Reid
Rating: 5 stars

I really love this fun Winston Brothers series of books. Of the six brothers, Cletus has been my favorite from the very beginning, so I was looking forward to reading his story. It didn’t disappoint! I loved seeing how his mind worked and the reasons behind all his antics. I also really liked Jennifer the Banana Cake Queen as she was given so much more depth as a main character. I found her parents and her submission to them for 22 years of her life to be slightly unbelievable, but I liked how she learned to stand up for herself and finally come into her own. This has definitely been my favorite book of the series so far.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is a middle grade book I’ve heard so many great things about. It lived up to the praise! This book follows the life of ten year old Ada and her six year old brother Jamie. Ada has a club foot and lives with a mother who hates her and treats her cruelly. During WWII, they join a group of other children being sent to the countryside to avoid the bombings in London. They are forced to live with Susan, someone who did not volunteer or want the kids, but didn’t have the heart to turn them away. Ada realizes how little she knows about the world and is suspicious of everything and filled with anger with little buds of hope. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and how the three of them banded together to form such a strong little family. I was highly anticipating the second book!

The Good House by Ann Leary (audiobook)
Rating: 4 stars

I listened to this on audiobook, at the recommendation of Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy. I have a really hard time paying attention to fiction on audio, but I’ve been on a bit of a podcast slump and decided to give it another go. And guess what? I paid attention every single minute! It was a very well done audiobook with such strong character shining through. The narrator was fantastic and gave such life to a book that I probably never would have picked up otherwise and I’m guessing I might have had a hard time completing if I were reading it. It’s the story of Hildy Good, a realtor in a wealthy New England coastal town. I love the first part of the book when she talks about the houses, the people living in them, and all the insight she’s learned as a realtor. I was less interested when the story turned inward to her alcoholism and the daily convincing she did of herself to keep picking up the wine. Overall, a very well done book that I’d highly recommend listening to. (Hit me up if you have any other amazing fictional audiobooks – it’s nice to have a podcast break every once in awhile!)

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
Rating: 3 stars

I had the hardest time getting into this book. I’m guessing it was partially because I was listening to The Good House on audio at the same time, and the narrators felt too similar in their background history. But once I was devoting all my fiction reading attention on just this book, I still had a hard time getting into it. I couldn’t figure out if it was a mystery, a thriller, or a romance, the way it was marketed to be. I felt like the author jerked me around in ways that I did not like. Suspense is great at the end of the chapter when it can be resolved in the coming few pages. When I have to wait ten more chapters to get an answer on something major, that’s all I can think about and I miss everything in between. Overall, pretty disappointed in this one, though I did like how it came together in the end.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Rating: 4 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel, revisiting Ada, Jamie, Susan and the family they’ve created. I think one of the things I liked most about this book is that Ada is not the easiest character to love – something that is pointed out to her in the book. I so admired Susan for being so patient and always aware of what Ada needed in any challenging or confusing situation. The addition of Ruth, filling the role of older sister was nice. Like always, I really enjoy books about people that form their own families and this was a great one.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Rating: 5* stars

I adored this delightful book told entirely in letter form between an author, Juliet, her dear friends and editors, and the wonderful people of Guernsey. I’m ashamed to admit that I avoided reading it for a long time because I thought the title of the book was too long and ridiculous sounding and held no interest to me. But I saw the trailer for the netflix adaptation coming out soon and was suddenly MUCH more interested in reading the book. It did not disappoint! It’s hard to pull off a well written book without any actual narration or direct character interaction, but this was about the best you could ever expect. All the characters had so much personality! I loved them all and I loved how they loved each other. It made me so nostalgic for a time when people deeply cared about each other and wanted to KNOW each other. Perhaps that’s still true, but we hide behind our busyness and families and responsibilities. Anyway, the book takes place right after WWII and does not gloss over many of the tragedies that took place during the German occupation of Guernsey. But the story as a whole is hopeful and joyous and I loved it all!

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5 stars

I have been long awaiting this book and extra excited about it because I’m going to get it signed by Colleen at an event in Minnesota next week. But much like her last book (Without Merit), it felt very different from the typical romance style that most of her books take. Which isn’t a bad thing. But it’s maybe a tiny bit of a letdown when her romance books are so deliciously fantastic! To be honest, this was kind of a hard one to read. It’s about a couple whose marriage is hanging on by a thread after seven years of infertility. Chapters alternated between their current lives and when they first met and fell in love. At the start of the book I was so much happier reading all the Then chapters. About halfway through I just wanted to know what was happening in the Now! I can’t pretend to understand how devastating infertility must be, but I could definitely relate to the dance of marriage and all the unspoken pushes and pulls that happen after you’ve been together for awhile. I love that Graham and Quinn never gave up on each other and knew that it was never their love that was lost. Like all of Colleen’s books, I was definitely in tears by the end. Just know it’s a long and sad road to reach those final beautiful pages!

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
Rating: 2.5 stars

I had a really hard time getting into this book. It was fine. But it wasn’t particularly appealing or suspenseful or interesting to read. I understood that there must be some sort of big twist coming, but I never felt that deep desire to rush through the book to figure out what it was. I thought Finn was such a frustrating character, keeping literally everything to himself. Ellen was just a vague idea of a character with really no characteristics to make her unique or worth paying attention to. Honestly, it was fairly disappointing after the last BA Paris I read. You won’t miss anything by skipping this one.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Rating: 4 stars

To be honest, this book really didn’t appeal to me when I first heard about it. But it was getting so much hype that I decided to give it a shot. Overall, it was a very well done and intriguing story. But it was also very violent and honestly depressing. I went through spurts of not really being into it to suddenly not being able to put it down. It’s probably unfair to knock it a star for this, but I just don’t like fantasy. So many things to remember in every fantasy series, I’ve honestly just had enough of it. If I had known from the start this is the first of a trilogy, I probably wouldn’t have read it yet. But – I think it was worth the hype, especially if you’re into fantasy books. I definitely care enough to read the other books when they come out, it’s just going to be a long wait!

What I Read June 2018

It’s book time! June was kind of a weird reading month for me. I felt so distracted and had the hardest time really settling into anything. But looking at my list and ratings, it was actually a pretty good book month. I think at the beginning I started and stopped at least five or six books, though. I might go back to them, but if they didn’t catch my attention in the first few pages I just wasn’t interested in sticking it out. I’m not usually so fickle and like to give almost all books the benefit of the doubt. It was just so hard to focus at the start of summer. Anyway, here goes!

Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West
Rating: 4 stars

Kasie West is one of my favorite authors and I like to read them immediately upon release. Like all of her books, this was a sweet and perfectly tame YA romance. Kate is a snarky teen who is roped into co-hosting her class’s podcast. She’s in the class with her best friend Alana and her arch nemesis, Frank. Alana has a crush on Diego and Kate is then roped into helping set Alana and Diego up, quickly realizing she has feelings for Diego as well. There are many cases of mistaken identity, mistaken feelings, and general confusion. I loved how everything worked out in the end, even though it was a fairly muddled way of getting there. Overall, a solid and quick read if you want something light and fun.

Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin
Rating: 5 stars

I savored this beautiful food related memoir. Each chapter was steeped with an aching sadness of a poor little girl who grew up with so little control and so much confusion, despite how much love was given her. I usually only read this a chapter or two at a time, but it stuck with me throughout the night and I couldn’t wait to pick it up again the next afternoon. I loved reading Sasha’s story and was infuriated with the way so many people treated her. I definitely enjoyed the childhood half of the book more, but it was fascinating reading about her adventures in cooking across the globe and making a meal from every single country once she became a mom and started a blog. Quite the challenge that brought her a lot of fame, though that wasn’t what she was seeking out. Overall, the best food memoir I’ve read to date.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber
Rating: 3 stars

I had the hardest time getting into this book. Which is disappointing because I loved Caraval and rated it 5 stars. I expected this one to be even better. I was also under the assumption this was the sequel, not the second in a series. I was not happy to get to the epilogue and realize it definitely needs to continue on. I wanted a happy ending! I also wanted the book to be a whole lot less confusing. Fantasy is not my favorite genre and it just took me so many days to get into. I loved Dante, but wish we had seen more of him. I didn’t feel particularly connected to Tella. I guess I struggle in general with switching narrators in each book of a series. So much investment in the original person only to be switched to someone else. Anyway, I didn’t really find this book “magical” in any way. Caraval feels like a week of horrors and I don’t understand the appeal. But that being said, I’m definitely going to be reading the third book in hopes of having some happy closure!

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the story of a high functioning autistic woman who decides to hire an escort to help her become better at sex. She’s thirty years old and her mom is pressuring her to get on with her life and make some grandchildren, so Stella takes what she feels is the next logical step to figuring out how to find that happiness. It was an interesting premise that I really had a hard time wrapping my head around during the entire length of the book. It just seems kind of gross. And unlikely. At any rate, I really liked both Stella’s and Michael’s characters and their unlikely, yet inevitable romance.

The Dry by Jane Harper
Rating: 2.5 stars

Set in the Australian countryside where drought has ravaged the land for years, a small town is rocked to its core by the cold blooded murder-suicide of one of their own. Childhood friend and police officer, Aaron Falk, comes back to town for the funeral and is convinced to stay by his friend’s parents to try and prove his innocence. Being in the town brings up a different suspicious death of his teenage friend/girlfriend. While trying to solve both murders at once, Falk has run-ins with many of the same people in town who chased him away so many years earlier. While this book is well written, I found it to be incredibly boring. After so much hype surrounding this one, I was sorely disappointed. I don’t know if I just expect too much from my mysteries or I’m just having a really hard time getting into ANY books this month, but this one was not a favorite.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
Rating: 5* stars

This is one of the most uplifting and inspirational nonfiction books I have ready in a really long time. Rachel’s writing style is funny, poignant, and so relevant to the lives of every woman in every circumstance. Each chapter is an essay on lies she once believed and steps she took to overcome them. I love books where you can sit and read a chapter and have something truly worthwhile to mull around in your head until the next time you squeeze in the next chapter. Everything she had to say rang so true in my own life and I absolutely loved it. I highly recommend this book to ALL women. And if you can find one, I think it’d be worth it going to Barnes and Noble to get the special edition with the bonus chapter the way that I did. Great book!

Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas
Rating: 4 stars

This is a forbidden love romance novel between a 19 year old and her lousy boyfriend’s 38 year old father – whom they both live with. The premise is definitely a little icky. But the author makes sure you feel zero loyalty to Cole, the boyfriend/son who Jordan has almost no actual interaction with in the entire book. She meets Pike, the dad, randomly at a midnight show of a movie on her birthday and they feel a connection that cannot be denied, despite all the complications that arise when they realize who each other is. Overall, if you can get past the age difference, it’s a pretty great slow burn love story. Jordan is very mature for her age and is a good match for Pike. Occasionally they play too much into the daddy thing, which is kind of disturbing. The book did feel incredibly long. But if you like slow burn and forbidden romance, this would be a great one to pick up.

Elites of Eden by Joey Graceffa
Rating: 4 stars

This is the second book in the Children of Eden series. I loved the first one – it was a fantastic and unique venture into a dystopian world. The release of the second book snuck by me, so I was very excited when I realized it existed. The problem – I had no idea what was going on. *Spoiler alert* Yarrow, the main character for the first THIRD of the book, is actually Rowan, who has been brainwashed. It was very confusing as she was a super unlikeable character and I really didn’t know what this book had to do with the first one at all. But once she had a breakthrough and realized who she really was, the story got a lot better. I love how Graceffa portrays Eden SO well. You can visualize everything about it in a way that isn’t always there in dystopian novels. This ended on a cliffhanger and I’m really excited to read the final book when it comes out in October!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Rating: 3.5 stars

I really struggled with what to rate this book. Honestly, I was pretty bored the first half of this 450 page book. A family of three that chooses to spend their life in a shack of a cabin without any electricity or running water in rural Alaska is not a very exciting premise to me. If it hadn’t been for so many raving reviews all over my social media, I would have put it down. But I powered on and about halfway through it got so interesting that I stayed up for five hours reading so that I could finish it in time for my June post! This book really does have a lot of heart and makes you question how much you should endure under the name of love. While I struggled to find the motivation to pick this up – it’s really so depressing! – I was definitely crying and quite happy with how it ended. The writing is beautiful, as always by Hannah. But it just didn’t hold my attention the way her books usually do.

Happy reading!

What I Read May 2018

It’s book time! I read a lot this month! Or at least it felt like I was reaching for books a lot more often. And that was on top of it being a crazy busy month and me getting back to work at more regular pace. But reading is one of my top priorities of every day and I will always make time for it! One of my latest habits is having a book I’m really interested in waiting for me in almost every room of my house. Most of the books I’m loving at the moment I haven’t yet finished because I only read a chapter every few days. But they’ll be coming!

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Rating: 4 stars

Richard is a world renowned pianist who is diagnosed with ALS and declines rapidly. Karina is his ex-wife, also a pianist, who hates him for the life he put her through. With no other affordable options, Karina ends up taking care of Richard as his health very quickly deteriorates. This book is basically an extremely in depth look at how it feels to have ALS. And honestly, it was terrifying. I knew very little of the disease before reading this, and now I hope I never, ever have to experience this in any way first hand. It sounds absolutely horrible. The book was very well written in the sense that I wanted to keep reading to know what would happen. But you never got a very personal sense of either character which bothered me. I picked this book up because I had heard it was a great love story. And it is about love – but not romantic love. You should know that before going in! Overall, a devastating book, but I think one really worth reading.

Grin & Beard It by Penny Reid
Rating: 3 stars

This is the second in the Winston Brothers series. While I greatly enjoyed the first book, I wasn’t as interested in this one. Jethro, the oldest Winston brother, has been living the straight and narrow life for five years to try and make up for his teenage rebellion and all the hurt he caused people. Sienna is a movie star shooting in Tennessee for a few months. They fall for each other before Jethro knows who Sienna is. Their story is fairly cliche, and a little bit boring. But I love the cast of characters and look forward to reading the rest of the series. I’m especially excited to read the third book – Cletus’ story. He’s been my favorite brother by far!

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
Rating: 3.5 stars

I chose this as my BOTM subscription pick this month because I was intrigued by the premise – a woman who falls in love with her physical therapist after surviving a plane crash that her fiance was responsible for. I thought it would be fun to read a book about someone recovering from an injury, since I can relate, at least a bit. I have to admit that it took me awhile to really get into the story, but I quite enjoyed it by the end. I love that Margaret was paralyzed and covered in third degree burns, but she almost never let it get her down. She stayed positive and she ended up changing her life for the better. I found the book to be really inspirational. The romance part of the book could have been a lot more involved and interesting (I would definitely not classify this as a “romance novel” as it’s billed), but it was worth it just to watch Margaret’s post plane crash emotional journey.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Rating: 5* stars

This is the first nonfiction book I actually finished in a really long time. I loved it! It is simply a compilation of some of the best of Cheryl Strayed’s letters and answers from her column called Dear Sugar. Every single letter and reply was so interesting! Cheryl had so much wisdom and amazing answers to every question. Her writing style and ability to relate in some way a story from her past to every question posed continued to amaze me. I feel like this is a book that everyone should read. It’ll make you think and question many of your beliefs. It’s really pretty great! My only complaint is that this book has one of the ugliest covers I have ever seen! As someone who really falls for a beautiful cover, it was hard to spend money on this one. But it was a great read, so I will forgive whoever made that terrible cover choice!

Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi
Rating: 3.5 stars

My rating on this book is based mostly on the fact that I had ZERO recollection of the first three books in this series that I read four years ago. I kept expecting something to jog my memory. I even read multiple summaries online, yet went the entire book with nothing. And I gave the first three books all five stars! Anyway, I guess the book was enjoyable, but it felt like it was lacking a lot of context I desperately needed to understand the emotional depth of all the characters. Granted a series isn’t required to give backstory (and it’s often annoying when too much time is spent on it), but it’s been many years since the last installment, so I feel like more should have been given. It was also confusing because a few characters went by multiple names, which of course I didn’t remember either. It felt like kind of a filler novel and I expect the next (and maybe final?) book in the series to be a lot more exciting. This one had quite the cliffhanger which finally left me wanting to read more. If you haven’t read this series at all, I think you’ll greatly enjoy it (at least my past self loved them!). But maybe wait until the fifth book comes out and read them all in a row!

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was another verrrry slow burn romance novel by Mariana Zapata. Obviously this is her writing style, but it drives me a little bit crazy how a quick conversation between two characters can go on FOREVER because there are so many extra thoughts that need to be written out between dialog. It just really bogs down the flow of the story. This book is 672 pages, people. Six HUNDRED and seventy-two. You could cut out half the book and still have a really good story. Anyway, pet peeves aside, especially since I keep reading her books, I enjoyed this one. Vanessa is the personal assistant of the famous football star Aiden Graves. After two years of working for him, she gains the courage to quit and begin her own graphic design business. But Aiden wants her back. They negotiate an agreement where they marry in order for him to stay in America. Their friendship grows over many, many, many pages. I was a bit bored at times. But I think it was worth it in the end. You just need to have a whole lot of patience!

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
Rating: 3.5 stars

I think this is one of the most rated books on amazon. I got it as my kindle first pick whenever it first came out, almost a year ago. I tried to read it multiple times and it just felt too serious for me at each sitting. I eventually decided I really better finish it up, trying to understand the hype and before the movie adaptation comes out. I think what people most like about the book is that it’s based upon the heroism of a real Italian teenager who risked his life to be a Nazi spy. The story was definitely intriguing. Pino’s story was inspirational and harrowing. But the book as a whole was very sad and felt relatively slow to me. It’s also very long. I’m glad I read it, but I did not finish it thinking it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. Kind of how I’ve felt about most of the books I read this month!

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Rating: 5 stars

This is the first book I read in a single day in quite some time and I loved it! I wish I had realized a lot sooner that the book revolves around my favorite thing – the main characters falling for each other through anonymous emails while simultaneously interacting in real life and not knowing who the other is. The main difference being this is about two teenage boys who know they are gay and struggle with when or how to come out. Through their emails they form an amazing bond. There is a bit of conflict, but I really like how overall chill Simon is about everything. He was an extremely likeable character and I was giddy with joy to find out who his mysterious Blue was. It was a fun and sweet YA romance that I think most people would enjoy!

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
Rating: 2.5 stars

I was wildly disappointed in this second Creekwood installment. After just reading and loving Simon, I expected to get a lot of joy out of Leah’s story as well. But I just couldn’t do it. Leah was such an unlikeable character! I didn’t like her as a side character in Simon’s story and I really didn’t like her as the heroine of her own story. I felt like she had no redeeming qualities. She was full of angst and anger and always taking it out and being mean to other people. And yet everyone loves her? I didn’t get it. It took me five times longer to read this book. The story was fine, and I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority with my opinion. I found it a little too odd that Leah just happened to be bi and that she just happened to be madly/angrily in love with another member of their group who eventually maybe likes her back? What are the odds? I guess I should be happy it had a cute ending, but it just felt a little too neat and tidy. Especially for a character I really did not like.

And that’s it for May! Let me know what you’re reading and loving!

What I Read April 2018

April was not the greatest reading month for me. I started working again with all my effort and had a lot less downtime for books. I also had a really hard time finding anything to keep my interest. I’m currently in the middle of at least five or six nonfiction books that I’m not sure I’ll ever finish because they just don’t draw me in the way I always expect them to. Fiction has been disappointing me too. I think I’ve started and stopped four books in April. That’s a ton for me! Nothing really felt right for what I needed emotionally. The frustration will never stop me from reading all together, but it was definitely a lighter month.

Good Luck Charm by Kellie McAllen
Rating: 3 stars

This is the second book in the Holiday High series. I read the first one, My Fake Valentine, last month and gave it 3.5 stars. I enjoyed this book for what it was – a very light, cliche, somewhat quirky YA romance novel. The story revolves around Kerri O’Connor who believes she has the worst luck in the world and needs a good luck charm with her at all times to make things go her way. She meets a boy named Connor who she claims is her perfect good luck charm. Connor’s character is fairly pathetic about the first third of the book, which was a turn off. But they develop a friendship that’s sweet to witness. Nothing earth shattering or wonderful about this book, but the characters were cute.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Rating: 2 stars

For supposedly being one of the year’s most anticipated books, I just could not get into this one. It’s somewhat of a romance between Polly, who is hiding from her abusive past, and Adam, who is a private investigator secretly trying to figure her out. They both keep secrets from each other until the end. I didn’t find either characters to be particularly likeable and thought Adam could have used a lot more depth. The plot was slightly intriguing and it was a very fast read, I just didn’t like it.

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
Rating: 3 stars

This book is described as being very similar to Big Little Lies, which is why I picked it up. The general storyline is certainly similar, but it lacks a lot of the intensity and intrigue that Big Little Lies brought to the table, making it feel like a poor copycat. While I enjoyed and was even envious of the friendships that formed between all the neighborhood women, I found myself pretty bored by the book as a whole. The ending felt fairly cliche without any big surprises. I just couldn’t get into it.

Educated by Tara Westover
Rating: 4 stars

This memoir has been getting so much buzz all over the place that I had to move it to the top of my reading list. It did not disappoint! I find that I really love memoirs from people whose biggest accomplishment is surviving their childhood and thriving as an adult. This book is the story of Tara, the youngest of seven siblings who grew up with survivalists parents in Idaho. It was a captivating look at her family relationships and both the love and challenges that living in that kind of situation brought to her. I liked that Tara kept journals throughout her childhood which could verify many of her memories, especially as her father tried to brainwash his kids with his viewpoints. One thing that did bother me is that certain siblings – including the one closest in age to her that she mentioned in the beginning as spending the most time with – were almost never talked about, as if they didn’t even exist. Same with her only sister. It just seemed odd to me when other siblings got so much content, but maybe that’s just a little pet peeve! The book lost me a bit as Tara became an adult and got educated at higher institutions of learning. She pulled it all together, I just wasn’t as interested in the later years. Overall, a very interesting memoir.

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is an emotional look at a teenage girl who is a heart transplant recipient. The donor happens to be the twin brother of her long time crush. After the transplant, Leah starts to have dreams about being chased through the woods. With his twin sense still in tact, Matt also has dreams about his brother Eric’s last hours alive. Together they set out to prove he did not commit suicide – he was murdered. This book definitely has an overlying layer of sadness that never goes away. Matt not only loses his brother, but it happened only a year after losing his dad. Leah struggles with her right to live at the expense of another. The characters are very well written, however, and I enjoyed the tender love story that developed between them.

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid
Rating: 4 stars

I needed something light after my last few books, and this one fit the bill. I was slightly turned off because the book appeared like it was going to start the way most typical romances do – jumping right into the physical stuff with basically no lead up. But it surprised me and I actually found most of the book to be delightful. This is the first in a long series of six bearded brothers who each have their own women to find. It’s the first book I’ve ready by Reid and I really liked it! It was a well written and fun romantic comedy. I’m going to spread them up, but I’m really excited and interested to learn more about the five remaining Winston brothers.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Rating: 3.5 stars

Last year Bennett’s Alex, Approximately was one of my favorite books of the year, so I had high expectations for this one. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite deliver. This book begins with Zorie and Lennon, two former best friends with an experimental short lived romantic past, who currently hate each other. After a very long and fairly uninteresting lead up, they end up stranded by their friends in the woods together. They spend a few days camping and hiking and surviving a few life or death situations. What bothered me about this book is that they already had most of their firsts together – before the time of the book, and it was just vaguely brought up again and again. I would have loved this book so much more if their falling out had been about something else and just now realized and acted on their deepest feelings for each other. At any rate, I liked how it played out in the end. I just wish there hadn’t been so many boring parts at the beginning.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Rating: 5 stars

One of the most frustrating things to me when reading is when the character’s past is constantly referenced in vague and confusing terms, and I have no idea what happened. I’m impatient when backstory takes an entire book to unfold. If you have similar issues when reading – this book might not be for you. But, I’d say it was worth following through on because this was my one five star rating of the month. It’s the story of Nastya, a teenage girl who is mute by choice after a devastating thing that happened to her. She meets Josh, an emancipated teenager who has lived through the untimely deaths of everyone in his family and refuses to get close to anyone again in case he loses them too. Between them there’s also Drew, Josh’s best friend and the incessant flirt turned best friend to Nastya as well. I loved how beautifully all the friendships in this book played out. The characters are never quite what you expect them to be. They fight their attraction with all their might and continue to push each other away to battle their own fears. It ultimately ends with an amazing display of how family is who you choose and that love trumps over all. This one is definitely worth your time!

What I Read February and March 2018

Book time!! I’ve been putting this post off for way too long. It’s my favorite monthly post to write, but it takes me so long! And my broken ankle does not like me sitting at my computer for more than a couple of minutes. But I’m going to give it my best shot!

Since reading is basically all I’ve been able to do for the last six weeks, I’ve gotten a lot books in. A few great ones, and more than a handful of so/so books. Probably because my pain pilled mind couldn’t handle anything really deep so I read a higher amount of light reads than normal. And light reads rarely get 5 stars! But there were some keepers. Let’s get started!

Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre

Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre
Rating: 2.5 stars

I felt fairly uncomfortable reading this book in the midst of the #MeToo movement. Hollywood hot shot Cole walks in on his wife cheating on him and immediately spirals through a myriad of women, using them for cheap sex. He flies to a new movie location and meets Summer, a woman with a mysterious past and a town that hates her. He is demanding and takes what he wants because he can. I didn’t particularly like either character. I thought all the vague hints about Summer’s past were annoying. I don’t have any respect for men who repeatedly discuss how much marriage means to them when their actions speak so much louder than their words. Overall, this book just did not jive for me. But it was also a more typical romance, which isn’t usually my genre. Apparently many people loved it because it’s now a movie or tv show.

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Rating: 4.5 stars

I thought this was a fabulous psychological thriller filled with twists and turns. Some were fairly predictable, some really through me for a loop. It’s the story of an agoraphobic woman, Anna, who lives her life watching the lives of her neighbors through the window. She witnesses what she thinks is a murder and is put in a position of needing to convince everyone of what she saw, despite being stuck at home and being looked down on by everyone who knows of her. This book was a really interesting study into the mind of someone with agoraphobia. And it held my interest until the end. Highly recommend!

The Voice Inside by Brian Freema

The Voice Inside by Brian Freeman
Rating: 3 stars

This is the second installment in the Frost Easton trilogy. I gave the first book, The Nightbird, 4 stars in January of last year. While I enjoyed this second book, it really didn’t grip me the way that the first did. I like Frost’s character, but I wish he had more depth. I liked seeing the tidy conclusion to his own familial mystery and am very intrigued by the introduction of Tabby, his brother’s girlfriend. I’m guessing she’ll play a dominant role in the final book, which I am greatly anticipating!

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Rating: 5* stars

I LOVE THIS BOOK!!! If you like delightfully funny books that also have a lot of depth, great characterization, and an amazing slow burn romance, this is the book for you. I kind of think it’s the book for everyone. I loved it so, so much. There is so much chemistry between the main characters Josh and Lucy. They work together and hate each other. They play ridiculous mind games with each other all day every day. About 95% of the book is purely them interacting in some way or another, which is about my favorite part of books like this. It was awesome. All of it. The character development was fantastic. It was laugh out loud funny. But I also felt deeply for Lucy’s loneliness and pain. It was a fantastic romance without being fluffy. An absolute swoon worthy read! The extra * rating means it’s one of my favorite books of all time. 🙂

How Not to Fall by Emily Foster

How Not to Fall by Emily Foster
Rating: 2 stars

Before Shepard got sick for half of February followed by me breaking my ankle, I was trying to treat myself by only reading books that would have genuine love stories in them around Valentine’s Day. I asked for recommendations from one of my facebook group which resulted in many votes for both The Hating Game and How Not to Fall. Where I ADORED the first, this one really fell flat. Basically the entire book was sex. And it’s written under a pseudonym by a doctor who writes nonfiction books about sex. Everything in this book felt extremely clinical. The dialog was very awkward and the f word was used in abundance. It wasn’t a horrible book, but it really wasn’t for me. I don’t recommend it, so I’m not even going to bother giving an actual description.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Rating: 3.5

I heard so many great things about this book and was expecting to not be able to put it down. Instead, the story felt so bogged down with alternating chapters in the present time. I wish so much this book was just about five siblings that were kidnapped off their riverboat in 1939. I found that part of the story riveting, but also SO incredibly sad. Especially since it is based off of a true events. So I enjoyed half of the book and was bored like crazy through the other half.

Killman Creek by Rachel Caine

Killman Creek by Rachel Caine
Rating: 3 stars

Another second book in a trilogy that was only mediocre to me. This book continues on with the characters from Stillhouse Lake as they’re still trying to escape their serial killer husband/father. It was a page turner, but I had a hard time liking the book because I didn’t feel any particular fondness for ANY of the characters. It’s a very dark book with some horrific graphic scenes. Very little light or hope is presented by anyone. I’ll definitely still read the final book when it comes out, but wasn’t very enticed by this second installment.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
Rating: 4 stars

I read this book as part of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. I really enjoy reading the books that everyone is talking about, as they’re talking about them. This is marketed as an amazing love story, so I was excited to read it. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed by how it played out. Lucy and Gabe have a whirlwind romance and fall deeply in love in a short span of time. Then Gabe decides he needs to pursue his photojournalism career and leaves her. Lucy makes a life with a new man, Darren, who is all things wonderful. But she spends their entire life together wondering all the “What if?” questions about Gabe. I couldn’t help being immersed with sadness at that kind of life and how unfair it was to all of them, but particularly Darren, the innocent party in the love triangle. I did enjoy the book and it was a very fast read which I always like. But if you go into it expecting a happily ever after, you will be sorely disappointed.

26 Kisses by Anna Michels

26 Kisses by Anna Michels
Rating: 2.5 stars

Veda and her longtime boyfriend Mark break up at the beginning of summer. With the suggestion and encouragement of her best friend, Veda decides the only way to get over him is to kiss 26 boys – one for each letter of the alphabet. I didn’t really like this premise because there were so many boys you weren’t really sure who to root for. It was pointed out by some people that by what Veda was doing she was acting very “slutty.” And I had to agree. Some of her kisses felt very cruel, with no regard to the feelings of all the boys she either led on or surprised with her kisses. Overall, it was a fine and very stereotypical YA novel. Just not one I really enjoyed.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Rating: 4 stars

This is a unique and interesting look into a marriage where the man is wrongly accused of rape and sentenced to 12 years in prison while the woman struggles to keep her life together and thrive. I enjoyed how the book gave the perspectives of many different people and was partially portrayed through letters between Ray and Celestial. I struggled with how abortion was the solution to Celestial’s problems, on more than one occasion. It was hard to like Ray as a character, even though he truly was innocent. Overall, it was a sobering story, but ultimately one of unending love and devotion to a man, even as their situations morphs into something they never expected.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Rating: 4 stars

Alexa and Drew meet in a stuck elevator and impulsively he asks her to be his date to a wedding. Assuming this is just a one time event and liking their inital encounter, she decides to say yes. I truly enjoyed both characters and how this book was fun, light, and an easy read. I was frustrated that both characters were under the assumption this was a limited run sort of fake relationship even though they both wanted more, but never discussed it. When that becomes their biggest obstacle in staying together, it feels a bit ridiculous. But I liked it it overall.

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Rating: 3.5 stars

Sylvie and Dan are in the tenth year of their marriage and have a relationship that runs so smoothly they rarely even need to speak words to fully communicate. They’re always on the same page and rarely disagree. To try and spark a little more romance and excitement into their marriage, Sylvie suggests planning surprises for each other that consistently turn into absolute disasters. The first half of this book is light and humorous and then evolved into a way that makes you truly appreciate your spouse and all the little things that they do for you. Each character had a lot of growth, but it also felt a bit too easy at times. There’s a friendship component between Sylvie and their neighbor Tilda which I always end up enjoying so much more than I expect. I really wanted to love this book because I adore the cover and only buy books for my shelf if they’re 5 stars. But like most Sophie Kinsella books that are hit or miss for me, this was not one of my favorites.

Help and Hope While You're Healing by Christine Carter

Help and Hope While You’re Healing by Christine Carter
Rating: 4 stars

I happened upon this book when I read an article by the author online. I had just broken my ankle and honestly felt pretty filled with despair about my life in the immediate future. This book was exactly what I needed. I strongly urge you to read this or give it to a friend who is going through a long term illness or recovering from an injury or surgery. It’s short and to the point, but it gave me some hope when I really needed it. It focuses on making the most of your time of healing and how to reach for the positives instead of drowning in the negatives. I knocked a star off because it really was pretty short and I wish it had gone more in depth on the topics. But it was a great book to read when I needed it the most.

My Fake Valentine by Kellie McAllen

My Fake Valentine by Kellie McAllen
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was another fast and cute YA romance novel. Mia is the nerdy girl, hiding behind the fame and fortune of her movie star filled family. Austin is the jock who needs to fix his grades to stay on the team and impulsively kisses Mia in the hallway to try and save face after being dumped by his girlfriend. They begin a fake relationship that of course morphs into more. There’s nothing unique about this storyline, but like I said earlier – I really needed light books when my brain couldn’t focus on much more. I enjoyed the characters, though they could have used a lot more development. Everything felt a little too easy and unrealistic at times. But still a sweet and fast read if that’s what you need!

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Still Me by Jojo Moyes
Rating: 4.5 stars

I was very apprehensive about finishing this trilogy about the delightful character of Louisa Clark. I spent the first half of this book wondering what the point of the story was. Each of these three books were vastly different and I really didn’t know what to expect – or what I wanted from it. But about halfway through (which was probably too far in), I started to really fall in love with Louisa again. She began to find herself and grew in leaps and bounds, boldly stepping out into the world as an individual proud of herself and what she wants to make of her life. Despite all the rough patches along the way, I thought this was the absolute perfect conclusion to Lou’s story.

From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata

From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
Rating: 4.5 stars

I was recently recommended Zapata as an author who writes excellently developed slow burn romance novels. This is her most recent one and I decided to start with it because it sounded so good. And it did not disappoint! Jasmine is a figure skater with an unparalleled drive to be perfect, but knows she’d be better if she had a partner. Ivan is her arch nemesis and also in need of a new partner, for one season only. Despite their hatred for each other, they both agree to the single season of partnership. I absolutely loved watching how their hatred developed into a deep and meaningful friendship built on trust that had to be earned. I disliked how wordy the book got at times. It felt like 30 pages were used to describe a conversation that probably only took 30 seconds. You don’t need THAT much insight into every thought process. But I adored each of the characters. I’m taking off half a star because there is a ridiculous amount of swearing in this book. I hate when authors need to add swear words into every paragraph. It’s not necessary. At all. It’s a real turn off for me, but in this case, the plot and characters are worth sticking around for!

Always by Sarah Jio

Always by Sarah Jio
Rating: 3.5 stars

This book has the intriguing premise of re-finding the love of your life ten years after you lost him. Kailey is out for a fancy dinner with her fiance when she finds Cade, the man she once tethered her heart to, as a confused and mute homeless man sitting outside the restaurant. Still feeling devoted to Cade, she goes to great lengths to figure out what happened to him and help him in any way possible to get his life back, often at the expense of her fiance. I admired how devoted she still felt to Caden, but it was frustrating she didn’t deal with her current relationship first. I really enjoyed the book, but was incredibly bothered by some very lackluster details that I felt deserved much more attention than they were given. For example, Kailey and Cade had a fight and he walked out. And disappeared for ten years. And she just accepted that. If she had just called hospitals, the police, investigated SOMEHOW they wouldn’t have lost TEN YEARS of their lives. It felt very unbelievable and clouted my admiration of the story as a whole.

Look For Me by Lisa Gardner

Look for Me by Lisa Gardner
Rating: 4 stars

My biggest pet peeve about this book is that it appears to be marketed as a stand alone novel. But it is in fact the ninth book in the D.D. Warren series – none of which I had read before reading this one. I believe it can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone, but there are definitely plenty of details alluding to things in the past that are not revisited. But overall, this was a fast paced and intriguing murder mystery type of book. It’s covered in layers of sadness because with the exception of a teenage girl, an entire family is unexpectedly murdered in their home. This leads to investigations into the messed up aspects of the foster system and how horribly it can fail some children, which carries a lot of sadness. The characters were interesting, the chapters were short, and it has a neat and tidy conclusion.

Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata

Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata
Rating: 4.5 stars

Another delightful slow burn romance novel by this newly discovered author. Despite only reading two books in between, it took me way too long to realize that this book has several of the same characters as From Lukov with Love, except about eight years earlier in time. It’s fine to read them out of order, but it definitely confused me for a bit. This is the story of Ruby, who is paired through a program meant to help overseas soldiers fight their loneliness through letters and emails. She begins writing to Aaron and about the first 40% of the book is entirely their written words to each other in letters, emails, and eventually chats. People that fall in love through words alone is one of my favorite tropes in a book and this did not disappoint. But Ruby and Aaron were beautifully developed and lovely characters. Despite being another 500 page book, it flew by very quickly and with a lot of enjoyment. I highly recommend this author!

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Rating: 2.5 stars

Okay, so my biggest hold up with this book is that it was written by Krysten Ritter. I know this is very unfair, but I could not shake the image of the main character basically being the same as Jessica Jones. And I kept envisioning the male lead as Jesse Pinkman, her love interest in Breaking Bad. I felt like the character was written with so many Jessica Jones characteristics that it just overshadowed the entire novel for me. But beyond that – it was a fine and pretty easy read. It was a bit creepy and I kept expecting something horrendous to happen, but it never did. I just didn’t much enjoy or care about the story.

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer
Rating: 5 stars

I wanted to end March on a high note and was pretty optimistic this would deliver. The first book in this series, Letters to the Lost was one of my all time favorites of last year. The second book focuses on Rev, the quiet and mysterious boy with a terrible past and Emma, the secret video game programmer who is caught in the middle of her parent’s rough divorce. They find each other by accident and form a friendship in their mutual pain and confusion. This is another beautifully written novel. I loved learning more about Rev and his past and seeing him grow. I loved the introduction of Matthew, a foster brother closer in age who I’m guessing will eventually be adopted if this series continues. I felt like this book focused more on the characters as individuals instead of the relationship with each other, but it was such a touching and sweet story. Not quite as deep as the first, but I loved it nonetheless.

And that’s it! Whew! What have you been reading??

What I Read: January 2018

Yay, time to talk about books! I didn’t read very many books this month, mostly because two of them were super long. And I’m in the middle of about five books at the moment. So hopefully I’ll have many more to report on in February! Of the seven I read this month most were mediocre to relatively enjoyable. Nothing really blew me away. But it was definitely good to get back into regular books after reading mostly holiday themed fluff in the month of December.

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Roomies by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5 stars

This was a truly enjoyable book about a twenty-something girl who has an epic crush on an amazing guitar busker that she watches in the subway station every week. She has an MBA in Creative Writing, but works as a lower level runner at an off Broadway theater for her uncle because she’s too scared to make the leap to follow her writing dreams. In an interesting twist of circumstances she ends up marrying that busker so he can get a Visa and stay in the US to work as a soloist in her uncle’s successful musical. The book is a romance at heart, but it’s also a deeper portrayal of finding one’s identity and truly pursuing your passions so you can live a life of happiness and fulfillment.

Left Drowning by Jessica Park

Left Drowning by Jessica Park
Rating: 4 stars

I was ready to read another by Jessica Park after half a year’s break. Her book 180 Seconds was my favorite book last year and everything else I’ve tried has been a bit of a letdown. This was similar. It’s about a girl in her senior year of college who is suffering some major depression after the unexpected death of her parents. The first few chapters of this book are incredibly bleak. But she meets a guy – two guys actually, who turn out to be brothers. And then their other brother and sister, who all go to the same school as her. And she’s adopted into their unique family and her life instantly turns around. It’s almost like she’s a completely different person. As the book goes on you learn much more about the other family and why they don’t have parents either. It gets darker, again. Basically the book feels like it goes on forever. And there are way too many long and detailed sex scenes. There is so much angst between the characters and all their highs and lows. I enjoyed it overall, but I didn’t love it. There’s a second book which I’ll read at some point, but I wasn’t ready to jump right into it.

The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Rating: 4 stars

This was a unique psychological thriller about a messed up man, the woman he left and the woman he’s about to marry. It was kind of a page turner, but at the same time I felt like I kept waiting for it to get really suspenseful and it never quite hit the mark. I enjoyed the book, but I also felt like Richard, the husband, was such an abstract character. You really don’t know that much about him when you’re only hearing from unreliable narrators.

Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Rating: 3.5 stars

I have so many mixed feelings about YA dystopian type trilogies. I tend to love them, but there are just so many out there that it’s hard to keep them straight. And because of that I tend to avoid them. But this one was gifted to me, so I made it a priority to read this year. I thought it was pretty slow and boring at the beginning, but the characters really grew on me by the end. One thing that kept throwing me off is that it felt like it took place in the middle ages, but then you start getting references to present day pop culture and then you know the book actually takes place in the future. I think the second and third book delve more into the time period and “The Crossing” that happened to make their world more medieval. The storyline of this first book was intriguing, but not super exciting yet. I’ll be reading the second and third book some time in the next few months.

The Royal We

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Rating: 3 stars

I’ve heard so many good things about this 500 page book and really wanted to love it. And I did love it in the beginning! But it got SO muddled and depressing and long in the middle. I actually read half of this in November and decided to pick it back up to finish this month. It did get better, but I think because it felt so realistic and true to life that it was kind of a downer to read! I wish Prince Nick were more of a main character. The whole second half of the book he’s mostly away in the British Navy. Books are always so much more enjoyable when the two people in love are actually interacting with each other!

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is not what I expected it to be. Told from the perspective of Lily, who has ADHD and impulse control issues. She falls in love with Abelard, who is on the spectrum, presumably with Asperger’s. At times the book is a little hard to follow because Lily goes on many little rabbit trails whenever her mind starts to wander. The two characters are perfectly suited for each other and manage to have a unique and unexpected romance that is mostly carried out through texts. I liked it as a whole. I just wish (as usual) there was more actual interaction between the characters.

The Heart's Invisible Furies

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Rating: 4 stars

I’m part of the Book of the Month Club, which is a fun way to get new or early released hardcover books at a relatively cheap price. Last year, this was their book of the year. I heard so many rave reviews about how amazing it was that I gave in and ordered it for my January pick. Basically it’s the full life story of Cyril Avery, a gay man growing up in Ireland from the 1940’s to present day. It’s 600 pages long, but was a really fast read, especially the second half. The first section of the book is about Cyril’s biological mother as she’s kicked out of her family, church, and hometown as an unwed 16 year old pregnant girl. The only part that really bothered me about this book is that you become very attached to HER and HER STORY and then you know almost nothing about her the rest of the book because she gave Cyril up for adoption and the book is about him. I did really enjoy the story. But I do have a hard time with time jumps in any book because I hate what I’m missing out on. But the book was very well written, sad and disappointing at times, but overall a really great book.

Book Review: Roomies by Christina Lauren

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Roomies by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5 stars

Holland is a 23 year old living in New York with an MBA in Creative Writing that she doesn’t know what to do with. While she tries to figure out a direction for her life, she works for her uncle at a broadway theater. She has a major crush on an amazing guitar busker that she goes out of her way to watch and listen to every single time he plays in her closest subway station. Her infatuation is so deep that basically everyone she knows teases her about it. Near the end of his first run of an extremely successful musical, her uncle is suddenly in desperate need of a solo musician. Holland immediately drags him to see the busker and they officially meet Calvin, the Julliard taught Irish musician who has been living in NYC illegally for the past four years. In order to bring him into the show Holland hatches a crazy plan to marry Calvin to help both him and her uncle.

This book is definitely about the unique relationship that buds between Holland and Calvin. But it’s also about how much Holland struggles to find her own identity. She basically lives as a side character to the most important people in her life and finds that she’s pretty lost internally. From a career perspective, I felt that was incredibly relatable to both me and so many people I know. You go to school and have your dreams. And then you realize real life is pretty dang hard and you get lost on the way to making those dreams come true. Holland had so much passion for helping those she loves, but needed to learn how to also love herself.

I really enjoyed this book. I think I expected it to be more of a fluffy romance going into it, but it really had a lot of heart. Holland may have been working a dead end job that she really had no ambition for, but her priorities with putting her family first were honorable and sweet. She definitely had trust issues with Calvin’s intentions, but he was good through and through. They had a lot of ups and downs, but really learned how to communicate and fight to the end for what they both truly wanted. It was a sweet read.

Book Review: Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West
Rating: 4.5 stars

Abby is a 17 year old teenager who is completely in love with her best friend Cooper. She confessed to him a year before and he was so shocked that she played it off as a joke. She didn’t want to lose their friendship and decided to continue on as if the words were never spoken. This summer she finds herself alone with Cooper as their two other best friends are out of the country and unavailable. They spend all their time together and her feelings continue getting stronger. In the meantime, Abby is working at museum and trying to get her paintings into an art show that would guarantee her a spot at a creative winter camp. The man in charge of the show, also her boss, tells her that she doesn’t have enough heart and her paintings are too one dimensional. This forces Abby to write a list of all the things she could do over the summer to grow her heart and produce paintings worthy of the opportunity.

One of the reasons I really enjoyed this book was due to the witty and sarcastic dialog between almost all of the characters. Abby lives with her mom and her grandfather and her dad is fighting in Iraq. Her mom is nearly agoraphobic, but also a loving and supportive member of the family. But her grandpa is hilarious and plays a huge role in her life. The friendship between Abby and Cooper is light and fun, but it’s hard to understand how Cooper can treat her so wonderfully and still not return her feelings, or at least acknowledge them. I liked list they created to grow their hearts and the adventures that took them on. It was a tender hearted yet laugh out loud kind of book that also brought to commiserating tears.

Overall, this is one of Kasie West’s bests. I love all of her books, but this one felt particularly delightful. I highly recommend it.