What I Read August 2019

August was a big month for reading! I always figure that in September I need to focus most of my time getting back to work and routine, so August is like a last ditch excuse to read as often as I want. I set a goal of 15 books, thinking I’d have so much time to read while I was in Texas that it wouldn’t be a problem. It didn’t work out that way, though, and I read more than half of them in just the last 10 days or so. I ended up just meeting that goal by throwing in a handful of middle grade graphic novels. Which was kind of cool because Caden read them all immediately after me. He usually flat out refuses to read any book I recommend to him, so I’ve stopped doing it. I guess those biases don’t apply when it’s a graphic novel. Anyway, I actually ended up with 16 books, though I technically finished the last one at 2am today (September 1st), after being up with Shepard massaging his cramping foot in the middle of the night. But that last book ended up being my favorite, and it officially is released this week, so I wanted to get it on my August list so you can pick it up sooner rather than later! Overall, it was a pretty diverse genre month, though maybe a little heavy on the romance/love story side. About half of the books were middle of the road and half of them were really great.

Savaged by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 5 stars

I really enjoyed this part mystery/thriller and part romance. Trail guide Harper is asked to help with an investigation involving two murders and a “wild man” who is a potential suspect. Lucas has been living in the mountains for 15 years with only minimal contact from one of the murder victims. Harper, Lucas, and the supporting characters were so well written. The story was so sad, yet hopeful. It was unique and interesting and kept me reading at every available chance.

How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway
Rating: 3 stars

If you’re experienced with the world of internet dating and are burned out by too many jerks and want some sort of fictional justice, this book is for you. If you have zero experience with internet dating and don’t really care about it at all (like me), you’re probably not going to find this book particularly exciting or interesting. I enjoyed the main character and her strong group of female friends. I was so uninterested in all the online dating stuff. And that’s the whole book. This is a book I probably should have just set aside because I found almost no enjoyment from it, but it’s not because the book was bad, it just didn’t interest me.

Maybe This Time by Kasie West
Rating: 3.5 stars

I’m always excited to see a new Kasie West book come out (I LOVED P.S. I Like You) because they’re guaranteed to be a solid yet tame YA romance. They’re sweet, they’re fun, they’re not overly complicated. This was about Sophie, an assistant florist with lofty dreams to escape her small Alabama hometown to become a New York fashion designer, and Andrew, son of a famous chef who is in town for a year to help Sophie’s best friend’s father’s catering business. I enjoyed the book, but found it frustrating that even though they all lived in this small and boring little town, the three teenagers only saw each other every month to couple of months when they came together for a big event that required both catering and floral arrangements. I wish there had been a lot more interaction and development over the rest of the year, though I also obviously understand why it was formatted that way. I liked the book a lot more as it progressed, particularly in the final few events. This wasn’t a favorite, but it was enjoyable.

A Five Minute Life by Emma Scott
Rating: 5* stars

Wow, what an emotional rollercoaster. I’m warning you now, this book will take you on a ride. But it was so beautiful. Thea was in a car accident that gave her a type of brain damage that only allows her to be awake and have memory in five minute spans before she resets and starts over again. Jim is a loner with a stutter who becomes an orderly at the sanitarium where Thea lives and becomes captivated by her. Everything about this book focuses on love and living life to the fullest and never giving up on those closest to you. It was such a fantastic read. My only regret is the cover that makes this book feel like it’s going to be so much less than it is.

The Prenup by Lauren Layne
Rating: 4 stars

This was a fast and fun light hearted book about two people who marry to get their inheritance and green card, respectively – and then don’t see each other for the next 10 years until one of them wants to get a divorce. Before the divorce can happen they realize there’s a clause in their prenup that requires them to live together for three months first. I did find the whole thing to be a bit ridiculous – why be so worried about immigration coming after them in the final three months of their marriage, but not in the entire ten years beforehand? It also took me a long time to start to like the main character, Colin. There’s a difference between attractive brooding and a character that says and does so little that he’s downright boring. I’ll also admit that I thought this was going to be a pretty sexy romance that I felt like reading while I was at this mostly romance author book convention. In the end, it is VERY PG. Which is totally fine! I love YA like that. This book just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I still enjoyed it as a fun palette cleanser.

44 Chapters About 4 Men by BB Easton
Rating: 3 stars

I’m not sure what to make of this book. So. It’s a mostly true memoir of BB Easton’s three ex-boyfriends and her husband. I saw her on a panel at Book Bonanza and was intrigued by the concept and picked it up to read right away. The premise of the book is that she’s bored with her married sex life and decides to start writing down the memories she has of her past boyfriends in an online journal which she then leaves out for her husband to find. It’s a psychological experiment to see how he’ll react – either get incredibly angry, or up his game. Honestly, knowing that most of what she wrote about is true made me fairly uncomfortable! I can’t imagine being so explicit about my past and assuming my husband would be turned on and eager to impress in the same ways. It’s kind of bizarre to me. And kind of mean? I read the book very quickly and was definitely most interested in her actual happy ending with Ken – not the three boys she left behind. But as a whole…it was just hard for me to really accept simply because it was true. BB also wrote four full length books about each of them and I’m definitely curious to read the one about Ken. But I have zero interest in the rest. It’s kind of a weird thing to write a memoir about.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Rating: 5 stars

This was the perfect suspenseful thriller I needed to break up the string of romance books I read this month. It was quite the page turner! A well written story that was interesting, creepy without being terrifying, and still full of heart. This has definitely been my favorite Riley Sager book thus far. Highly recommend!

Finale by Stephanie Garber
Rating: 3.5 stars

Let me begin by saying that I’m really not a fan of fantasy or anything magical when it comes to books. It’s okay in small doses, but it’s never my first, second, or third choice when it comes to picking up a book. But I was looking for something different and figured it was time to finish up this series. And I liked it. But I also found myself reading it as fast as possible to just get it over with. The magic and extremely colorful details were so distracting to me. It’s unique in a story, for sure. But it was hard for me to stay focused when things were always changing and I was never sure what was real and what wasn’t. I also kept mixing up the magical abilities of this series with ACOTAR – a reason I don’t like to read fantasy series – so many details to keep straight! There were also just SO MANY MIND GAMES. The action was fast paced and the characters were all over the place. I think it was a fitting end to the series, but I’m also glad to be done with it.

Love Online by Penelope Ward
Rating: 3 stars

Okay, I have to admit I was pretty judgy about this book in the beginning. A lonely, but also super rich and hot guy, finds himself looking for porn one night and comes across an intriguing and beautiful cam girl. He immediately becomes attached to her and uses his money to buy more and more of her time every night for private chats – where all they do is talk to each other. The reason I read this book in the first place is that I got it in a grab bag from Book Bonanza and it’s called “Love Online” which led me to believe it would be more of an email/chat kind of romance and not of the video variety. Anyway, this isn’t a literary masterpiece by any means. But I actually did enjoy it and liked the way it concluded so perfectly. Realistic? Probably not. A little creepy if it were real life? Of course. But it was a nice little escape that I read very quickly.

El Deafo by CeCe Bell
Rating: 4 stars

This is the first of many books I picked up to power through at the end of August, trying to meet my personal goal of 15 books for this month. This seemed to be the most popular and well loved of the books I found at the library, so it was my first choice. And I liked it! It’s clear from the start that it’s a memoir of when the author had meningitis as a child and became deaf. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it never even occurred to me that people had varying levels of deafness. Something I found most interesting, but also still can’t really grasp, is that with her hearing aids Cece could HEAR, but she still couldn’t really UNDERSTAND people without also reading their lips. Overall, the book was definitely interesting to me, but also fairly repetitive. This is written as a children’s book, but I’m not sure it’s something either of my kids would be interested in enough to follow through on. But overall, a really nice graphic memoir on a subject that everyone should know more about.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really fun graphic novel about a 12 year old girl who finds herself when she joins a roller derby summer camp. Again, this was a subject matter that I knew very little about and it was interesting to learn more. I think it would be a great book for all kids to read as it teaches awesome lessons about friendship and perseverance even when things are hard.

Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen
Rating: 4.5 stars

I really liked this fast and very simple, but poignant look at what it’s like to bottle up your feelings and how harmful it can be in the long run if you do. The illustrations are beautiful and done in a limited color palette that made the whole book full of autumnal glory. The words are very limited – I do wish there had been more conversation instead of so many “…” bubbles. But it was sweet and a little sad and perfect for a short read.

Introverted Mom by Jamie C. Martin
Rating: 3.5 stars

I picked this up at the beginning of the summer, sure it would help me survive. Unfortunately it took me until the end of the summer to finish. On one hand – I actually finished it – something that doesn’t happen very often with the tons of amazing looking nonfiction books I buy but never get around to reading, or at least finishing. On the other hand – it wasn’t exactly enthralling. I liked it for sure. Some of the chapters really hit home as I consider myself on the extreme side of introversion. But there were also a few chapters, particularly those about living in the midst of needy toddlers and babies, that I just skimmed through and didn’t find that relevant to where I am in my life right now. Overall, I think this is a good resource if you’re introverted and a young mom. It gives you permission to be yourself and tells you that you are more than enough just the way you are. Sometimes I’m surprised by how many people are supposedly extroverted in the world, because I’d guess 90% of the people I know are introverted. None of this stuff is shocking because nobody is ever challenging me to be different. But if you ARE surrounded by extroverts, this might be the perfect life affirming book you need.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
Rating: 4 stars

This is the kind of book you need to read in its entirety before you realize just how good it is. A story of three women over the course of about 60 years. Edith who takes great pride in her famous pie baking skills, but also wants zero recognition for it. Her sister Helen whose only goal in life is to make great beer to the point where she becomes estranged from everyone who loves her after convincing her dying father to leave his entire inheritance to her. And Diana, Edith’s granddaughter who also finds herself passionate about beer making after a series of unfortunate events in her youth. Honestly, this book did not sound all that interesting to me. I’m not particularly fond of books without any sort of romantic storyline. This is also very, very much about beer. I don’t like beer at all and know nothing about it (though I know a lot more now!). But I do live in Wisconsin and I’ve lived in Minnesota, and this book just has a general midwestern coziness about it that made me keep picking it up again and again. I really enjoyed the main theme of finding your passion in life and living for it, but never forgetting to love and support the ones who have loved and supported you. It really was a great book.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Rating: 4.5 stars

First of all, do yourself a favor and read this wonderful graphic novel in OCTOBER. That’s really the only time to read it and get maximum enjoyment. I was trying to figure out which of my graphic novels to end with this month and all of them except this brand new one looked too depressing. Rainbow Rowell is always a delight and I was happy to read another winner. I really enjoyed this sweet and nostalgic graphic tale about two teenagers working their last night at at a beloved pumpkin patch. It was cute and fun and just gave me all the warm feelings. Read it! In October. 🙂

Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Rating: 5* stars

This was the perfect end of summer read. I adored it! A 25 year old recently dumped woman moves in with her sister and niece to help out for a few months and finds herself roped into joining a summer long Renaissance Faire. She’s immediately thrown off by the rigid and cranky English teacher in charge who seems to feed into all her insecurities. Until Faire starts and he slips into his flirtatious pirate persona and treats her like his beloved. I will say that the first few chapters felt pretty slow to me. But trust me, keep going. This book was the perfect love story between characters who are flawed and struggling, but find what they need in each other. It was so sweet with plenty of swoon worthy moments. I loved it!

Book Bonanza

We’re already halfway through August and I have so much to catch you guys up on! But I’ll start with my most recent excitement – a trip to Book Bonanza in Grapevine, Texas!

Book Bonanza is an event that started last year, created by my favorite author Colleen Hoover, her sisters, and her team at The Bookworm Box – a bookstore and subscription service that Colleen also founded and uses as a tool to donate thousands upon thousands of dollars to charity. I wasn’t aware of Book Bonanza until it was actually happening last year and I was SO jealous. I definitely jumped at the chance to go this year – buying my ticket last September and preparing for it in the following eleven months! If you read my monthly book recaps you’ll notice I’ve been VERY heavy on Book Bonanza authors the last few months, trying to make sure I fit in as many of the most highly recommended books that I could before I had a chance to meet those authors in person.

The event this year (and all future years) was held at the huge Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. There were around 150 attending authors and close to 2000 attendees. It was a massive event, but SO well organized and thoroughly planned out. There were multiple facebook groups (attendees and those planning to go solo) with plenty of opportunity to meet people ahead of time, talk books, and really get hyped up about everything. This was my first time in Texas, so I decided to really take advantage of the trip and added on a few days in Dallas afterward to do some exploring. After eleven months of planning and paying attention to everyone’s insane game plans for getting author signatures and all the other prepwork that went into this event, I was actually feeling pretty apprehensive about the trip by the time I left. But all in all, I think it turned out pretty great!

I was able to take an uber to the hotel from the airport with a fellow solo attendee to cut back on costs (one time lol) and was really excited to able to check into my hotel a few hours early. After a little bit of exploration I decided to eat at their Riverwalk Cantina. It was a Mexican restaurant that was entirely enclosed, but also had a river running through it, giving you the appearance and feel of sitting outdoors at an adorable little cafe. Their chips were so tasty! The brisket tacos were good.

Book Bonanza didn’t officially begin until Friday morning, but we were able to check in and pick up our swag bags on Thursday afternoon. They also had a smaller version of their bookstore completely set up, where basically everyone immediately ran to after checking in! That began my weekend of standing in lines. SO MANY LINES. The cool thing is that everyone was just so happy and excited to be there, that the atmosphere was fun and friendly. I didn’t really make any new friends – I also didn’t even try – but it was great to have that camaraderie and be surrounded by so many book loving kindred spirits.

I realized pretty quickly I really should have brought more snacks! There were technically nine different dining options inside the hotel, but I only ever walked by three of them – two very expensive sit down restaurants and more of a convenience store type place. I wasn’t hungry enough for a full meal, but also didn’t want to skip eating all together, so I picked up a turkey sandwich (that was gross) and an enormous peanut butter Texas sized cookie. My original intention for the night was to head out into Grapevine and explore a little. But I knew I was too tired for that, so I thought I’d just read in my room and rest up for Friday. But there was just so much excitement going on in the halls, that I kept going back out to just walk around and soak it all up. And check out the bookstore a few more times!

Friday morning kicked off with a welcome panel of authors that have had their books made into movies or tv shows – Colleen Hoover (Confess), Caroline Kepnes (You), Anna Todd (After), and E. L. James (50 Shades). After that everyone split up and chose between six different options of author panels each hour for the next three hours. The first one I went to was called “ROMCOM,” which was pretty funny. The only author I had read from that group was Avery Flynn. Next I went to “Giving Us the Giggles,” which was hysterical. I hadn’t read any of those authors – but I plan to! I finished with “Redeeming the Bad Guy,” which turned out to be a much more serious discussion than I was expecting. I really enjoyed the panels – and doing something other than looking for author signatures. My only regret was that I should have chosen to go to panels with authors I already knew, rather than choosing by topic alone. I might have had more fun with it. Though I did really enjoy seeing how many of the authors seem to be genuine real life friends with each other. I guess it never even crossed my mind that writers seek out other writers and form some great friendships!

After the panels was a two hour block for lunch – which most people took to stand in line for the first signing block at 2:00. I got in line for lunch, which turned out to be a sandwich that looked a whole lot like the one I bought the night before. So I took it to my room to eat later (which I never did) and chose instead to go back to the Cantina for their lunch buffet. Allllll the chips I could eat. Actually, very few people were in the restaurant and I felt like the waiters were all staring at me, so it was kind of a very uncomfortable meal. But it was delicious!

The line was already so ridiculously long by lunch time (many people also skipped the panels to get an earlier place in line), that I gave myself a little break and didn’t join the line until 2:45 – when I expected everyone would be in the room by then. Nope! The line snaked through the entire convention center and the entire indoor river area. It was insane. I was least interested in getting author signatures – when I went to my first book signing last summer (Colleen Hoover’s), I felt so awkward and stupid, it was an experience I never really wanted to repeat. And then I came to Book Bonanza, where this was like the whole point. I honestly would have probably skipped it entirely, but I had a few books preordered from authors and the only way to get them would be to face the crowds! The more popular authors went by a wristband system, so you got a numbered wristband and then waited for your number to be up – ensuring only about 15 people would be standing in a line at a time. Of course the two authors I whittled my list down to – because of the preorders – had long waits. I ended up walking back and forth to my room multiple times during the block.

I was about ready to give up, when in the final ten minutes the volunteer for Penny Reid let me stand in her line, even though my number wasn’t anywhere close to being called. I love Penny’s Winston Brothers series, and two of her newest books in the Dear Professor series. I was really excited to get to meet her in person – and get my photo with Cletus, one of my all time favorite book characters!

Penny told me that she loved my braids and my earrings, which is why she wrote about watching me creepily. Anyway, most of the attendees were there just to get those author signatures. Everyone had carts full of books. I only ended up bringing three books from home – and then didn’t even attempt to get them signed. I can understand the excitement of seeing authors you adore, but it was hard to muster up enthusiasm (for me) to talk to people I haven’t read before. While I was waiting I did get a few authors to sign a Book Beau I had bought (it’s a padded book case), but every single one of them asked me what my favorite of their books was and I had to hem and haw and finally admit I hadn’t read them. AWKWARD. I was more than happy to skip the signing blocks on Saturday. It’s just not my thing.

Right after the signing, there was an event called Rocking at Book Bonanza, which was basically another signing with only 26 of the authors in a different location. We were all given a free autograph book for that one, so I stood in line for the book and promptly went back to my room! The evening ended with a Q&A session between Colleen, Anna Todd and actor Hero Fiennes Tiffin and a showing of their movie After. It was a late night! But I was excited to see the movie since it only lasted about a week in the theater here. Everything that made me so incredibly angry about that book did not come through in the movie, so I’m definitely interested in continuing the series to figure out why it’s such a phenomenon!

So, I kind of played hooky from Book Bonanza for most of Saturday. The only thing on the schedule was a four hour signing block, another bagged lunch which I assume would be the same turkey sandwich, and then another four hour signing block. I had no interest in any more signing attempts, so I had a somewhat lazy morning and then took the first available shuttle bus into downtown Grapevine to do a little shopping. It was already SO HOT by then. I’m trying not to be annoying about this because obviously it was Texas and it’s August and it’s just going to be hot. I knew that. Clearly. But it didn’t take away from how hot it actually did feel. I’ve never felt so disgusting and sweaty and suffocatingly hot in my life, every day that I ventured outside. It was awful.

I walked through Grapevine’s indoor farmers market and their small outdoor one. It was fun to see all the stuff, but also depressing because I would have loved to have bought some salsas and hot sauces, but I just didn’t trust the airline’s ability to not break a glass container in my suitcase. I went into a couple of stores and bought a few spices at a spice market. I finally had a very late breakfast of this amazingly delicious sugar donut – fresh from the fryer – and a mocha at a coffee shop (that was not good). I only lasted two hours before I was more than ready to hop back on the shuttle and go back to the hotel.

I took a little break back in my room and then spent some time walking back and forth to get boxes from BB’s shipping station, pack up all my books and swag, and go back to ship it all out. I forgot to take a photo of all my stuff before I packed it up, and I don’t have it yet at home, so I’ll have to add that on later! I ended up with quite a stack of new books – most of which were free. I even ended up leaving eight free books behind because I was pretty sure I’d never read them, so why pay to send them home? I still had a lot of time before the evening festivities, so I took an uber to a Mexican restaurant I had researched. It was good. I picked that one because it was across the street from an enormous mall – making the price of my uber ride a little more worth it. I walked the whole mall, but nothing was unique or special about it. Kind of a waste of an afternoon, honestly. At least I got some good food out of it.

At 6:00 there was a cocktail party put on by Passionflix. I stopped by to see what it was and got a small plate of cheese and crackers. I wasn’t really in the mood to try and mingle with strangers – most of which had buddied and grouped up after standing in so many lines together. I went to my room again and finished the night at the closing ceremonies and karaoke night. This was a charity event, and in the end it raised $80K which was split between multiple causes. Once the ceremony was over, the authors did karaoke and eventually anyone could participate. I stayed about another hour until I figured that was enough!

Anyway, I really had a great time on Friday, but for obvious reasons felt pretty disconnected on Saturday. I’m definitely glad I got to experience it and be at such a fun event, but I’m also not sure it’s something I’d do again. Next year they’re changing the scheduling up a bit and having it over three days, which does sound intriguing. But two years in a row would be a lot. This was an expensive trip! The hotel alone – yikes! (But worth EVERY PENNY to have a room to myself to relax in!) Book Bonanza has opened my eyes to the possibility of seeking out OTHER book conferences and events, though. My original uber friend was telling me about a few that she’s been to where it’s almost all panels and speaking. I think that might be more my thing! I’ll have to look into those possibilities in the coming years. 🙂

On Sunday morning I packed up and ubered to my next hotel in downtown Dallas. I planned to store my bag and go exploring, but I was actually able to check in already at 10:30! My first stop was a walk to the Dallas Farmers Market. They have a permanent indoor building which is all smaller restaurants – one of my all time favorite things to seek out in larger cities. And because it was the weekend they also had an outdoor market set up, also with many actual meal food booths. Very little produce! And a crazy number of stands that just sold infused waters and juices and teas. Texans at least know the importance of staying hydrated in that heat!

I got a mango juice outside that was divine and after three walks around the building landed on jerk chicken sliders from a Caribbean restaurant inside. That was by far the best meal I ate on the trip. It was so spicy and SO delicious. I picked up some macaroons to eat later, though I’ve realized for the second them they really just don’t appeal to me.

I went back to my hotel afterward and picked up a fresh watermelon infused iced tea from the attached coffee shop. It was really tasty! Then I finally took a nap – the only nap I took the entire trip! I somehow thought this vacation was going to get me so rested up. No such luck! I honestly felt so icky and crappy the entire trip. I know I’m showing you a lot of good food pics, but most of my meals I only ate about half of. I’m not sure if it was simply the heat or I was actually sick, but physically it was a really rough trip.

In the evening I went for a walk about six blocks around my hotel and saw the JKF Memorial and some other downtown sites.

I was stuck again with not feeling great, not being particularly hungry, but not wanting to just skip another meal since I was already only eating like one meal a day, so I stopped at this wing place I had researched ahead of time. I only ate a few bites – really should have just skipped it.

Monday was my last full day and I was bound and determined to try and suck up my heat wimpiness and make the most of it. For breakfast I had a cold brew at the hotel.

I took a walk to the famous cattle drive sculptures. That was cool to see!

Next I took an uber to the Bishop Arts District of Dallas. I was under the impression this was going to be a long street filled with unique shopping opportunities, but in actuality it was just a single block with a handful of stores that weren’t set to open for another one to two hours later than when I got there. There was no way I was going to just sit outside that whole time, and I didn’t want to wander too far, so I stopped at the first restaurant I happened upon. I thought I was going into just a coffee shop, not a sit down place, but figured I might as well stay once I was there. I had banana bread french toast with fruit.

The shops ended up being a disappointment. There was one local artist place that I waited an extra hour for it to open and bought a couple of 4×6 prints. The main reason I wanted to go to that side of town in the first place – for a unique bookstore and a grilled cheese restaurant – were rendered pointless since I had just eaten something else (and was feeling really sick) and the bookstore didn’t open another two hours. So I picked another random place online and ubered to an antique store, also assuming there would be other places nearby to check out. Nope! That one was on the side of a highway! I was totally over exploring in the 112 degree heat at that point and went back to the hotel.

One of the first restaurants I had researched was called Wild Salsa. I was so excited when I realized it was only a block from my hotel. I realllly wasn’t feeling up to it, but it was my last chance to eat there, so I headed over on Monday night for dinner. I have to say I’ve had way better Mexican food in Madison for a whole lot less money. I just went back to the hotel for the rest of the night. Though I should point out that my Dallas hotel had a giant bathtub and I had brought a bunch of pampering things, so I was plenty happy to have the time to just chill out and relax. It’s just hard to shake the feeling of not doing enough, when I’m on a vacation to see a place I’d never been to before.

I had zero ambitions about doing anything else on Tuesday morning, so I went to the airport three hours early and just walked and walked and walked. I picked up this honey butter chicken on a jalapeno biscuit from Whataburger and it was the second best thing I had to eat on the trip – shocking!

The rest of my day was very long, but mostly uneventful. It was one of the worst plane rides I’ve ever been on – I honestly was on the brink of a panic attack because it was so flippin hot and I felt like I was suffocating. The airplane couldn’t counteract the heat from however long it was sitting in Dallas. That combined with the turbulence made for a pretty miserable flight. But I rewarded myself with a stop at Home Goods and Marshall’s before coming home to my family! They were all very excited to see me. I missed them too.

And that was my trip! I’m really glad I went and I did genuinely have a good time. But I really have no desire to ever go to Texas again, especially not in summer. It also reminded me how much more joy I find in vacations with outdoor spaces to breathe and appreciate beauty. Big cities are SO not for me. It was a great break from reality, though, and is really going to help launch me through these final weeks of summer. Solo vacations are the best!

What I Read July 2019

It was a pretty good reading month! One delicious cookbook, one amazing nonfiction book that I think all women should be required to read, one beautiful book of poetry, three five star fiction picks, and a few good to okay reads. It was a nice variety! I’m excited to share them with you tonight.

Before I jump in, though, I just wanted to clarify my rating system again. I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last few months and have decided to become a lot more forgiving in what I’ll rate a book. It’s really become clear to me how much ratings and positive reviews affect the success of a book and I don’t want to be part of a negative group of people that brings a book down unless I genuinely hated it. As a small business owner who depends on high ratings to draw in more customers, I would be devastated if the people who bought my dolls left me anything less than a 5 star review when I put so much of my time, heart, and soul into my creations. The same is true for authors – or at least the majority of them. So I want to be a little more willing to look past parts of a storyline that maybe just didn’t agree with me and give a book a rating I think it probably deserves. As always, I reserve the special 5* rating for the books I absolutely adore because they touched my heart, made me laugh, made me cry, and I’d definitely read them again. If I really loved a book I’ll give it a 5. If I liked a book and didn’t find anything significantly wrong with it I’ll give it a 4. If I thought a book was just okay, but I didn’t have a problem finishing it, I’ll give it a 3. If I hated a book, but still finished it, I’ll give it a 2. And that’s really as low as I’ll go. I feel like some people (I pay a lot of attention to reviews, particularly those of people I follow on goodreads and on podcasts and facebook) take pride in how harshly they judge the books they read. And I don’t want to be that kind of person. Authors are real people and they deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the very hard work that goes into not only writing, but publishing their written words.

Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook by Perre Coleman Magness
Rating: 5* stars

This may very well be my favorite specialty cookbook of all time. I was absolutely tickled to randomly come across it at Half Priced Books. A whole cookbook about pimento cheese?! Incredible! I LOVE pimento cheese. Growing up in Wisconsin, it’s definitely not a thing around here. I’d never even heard of it until I tried The Pioneer Woman’s recipe on peppers (it’s delish) just a couple of years ago. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. I also recently tried the recipe from The Happy Cookbook and loved it with all the spicy extras. But this cookbook! I marked down almost every single recipe as being something I wanted to try. Just the number of variations alone is exciting. But all the additional ways you can use the cheese really sounded great. I immediately gathered a bunch of smoked cheeses I had open in the fridge to create the Smoky Bacon Pimento Cheese – and proceeded to scarf down a ton of it on fresh farmers market bread. Another huge draw is that I believe every single recipe had a beautiful accompanying photo – the best part of any cookbook. Honestly, I am so very excited to use this cookbook again and again. Highly recommend if you love pimento (or any) cheese as much as me!

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
Rating: 4 stars

Amy Harmon is another Book Bonanza author, so her books have been on my radar a lot in the last year. Even though her book Making Faces is one of the best books I’ve ever read, I kept dismissing this newest release because it’s historical fiction – a genre I tend to avoid unless a book is getting a massive amount of buzz. I finally got around to reading the description and realized it was set in Ireland, my favorite place in the world, and decided to give it a shot. Overall – a beautiful and well written story with a tiny bit of fantasy around unexplained time travel. Where the book lost me, however, was how in depth it got about the political climate in Ireland around 1921. I can’t stand reading about politics. Apparently even in my beloved Ireland. It’s definitely essential to the story, but just wasn’t for me. It took me a pretty long time to finish this, but I loved the sweeping saga of love and family and staying connected throughout time.

Loving Mr. Daniels by Brittainy C. Cherry
Rating: 3 stars

I was on a roll with teacher/student romances last month – and this is another Book Bonanza author – so I picked it up. The difference with this book compared to the ones I read last month is that this was a romance between a high school teacher and high school student. Most definitely off limits – not just frowned upon. I had very mixed feelings on it. Ashlyn is a 19 year old senior whose twin sister just died and she’s sent to live with her estranged father and his new family. On the train to her new life she meets Daniel and they have an instant connection. Until they realize he’s her teacher. I really struggled with finding things to like about Ashlyn. Yes, she was grieving and grief makes you act in unpredictable and perhaps childish ways. But she was so snotty! And Daniel. Yes, he seemed like an adorable hero with plenty of his own grief – way more than anybody should have to live with at that young of an age. But I couldn’t get past how little he tried to protect both Ashlyn and himself with their forbidden romance. Basically the only thing I liked about this book was the new family. I loved them. So overall – not that great of a book.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
Rating: 3.5 stars

More mixed emotions on this one. I read it very quickly, but I had some serious issues trying see Elouise as anything more than a crazy annoying child that is obsessed with making the world bend to her wishes. But the story was packed with summer nostalgia of working a high school job in a small town. I did find it a bit unbelievable that so many of the high schoolers in such a tiny town were so fluid in their gender identification. MAYBE that’s how things are now – but I kind of doubt it. It just made everything a bit too convenient. At any rate, as annoying as Lou was, I really adored how everything came together in the end.

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Rating: 5 stars

If you’re looking for a truly realistic love story between two amazingly written characters, this is it. I loved Josh and Kristen so much. They meet through their best friends, Kristen hires Josh to help her out with some carpentry for her business, and they become the greatest of friends. They both long for something deeper, but know it can never happen – Josh wants kids and Kristen’s about to get a hysterectomy. I admit I was a little bit surprised at just how much Kristen’s periods and bleeding issues featured in the book, but I appreciated how true to life that actually was. Not some steamy romance where everyday things like that just somehow don’t exist. I was definitely frustrated that the entire thing keeping them apart could have been figured out if Kristen had just STOPPED KEEPING HER SECRET. It’s infuriating sometimes when a single sentence could clear up everything. But then you probably wouldn’t have a book. Anyway, this story is shockingly emotional, but I loved it so much.

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this nuanced look into the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. This is the first book I’ve read by Sally Hepworth and it was so well done. The subtleties of the family dynamic and relationships felt so realistic. The book itself goes back and forth in time from the perspective of both Diana and Lucy. I believe this book is marketed as a psychological thriller, but you won’t be getting any insane twists and turns. It’s just interesting enough to keep you reading. I really enjoyed it.

Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
Rating: 4.5 stars

As you might know, I really struggle with nonfiction books. I WANT to read them. I can’t stop finding and buying more that sound life changingly incredible. But if they’re not abundantly interesting, relatable, and easy to read – I barely ever get past the first chapter or two. This started as one of those books, but I kept hearing so much buzz that I didn’t want to give up on it. And I’m so glad I didn’t! This felt like the kind of reading every woman alive should be given. It discussed stress and adequate rest, and well, burnout, better than anything I have ever read before. There were so many visualizations in the book that helped me understand things that have only ever been vague concepts before. BUT, there is also a lot of science in this book. That’s the point – using science to prove these concepts. And I don’t like reading about sciency things. Fortunately, there was enough other stuff to keep me intrigued. And while it did take me two months to finish, I’m so very glad I did.

The Summer of Chasing Dreams by Holly Martin
Rating: 5* stars

This was the perfect happily ever after book to read on a stormy summer day with nothing else to do. I loved it so much! Cover designer Eva is bequeathed a large sum of money after her mother’s death and she decides to use it to take a round the world trip, checking things off a list of her mom’s dreams. She books everything through a company that will provide an escort to keep her safe and on task during her travels. By a twist of fate she ends up traveling with Danish hunk, Thor, who she feels an immediate spark with. And together they travel the world. I wasn’t expecting so much exciting adventure in the pages of this book. It was such a joy to read. I’ve loved all of Holly Martin’s books and this one was especially sweet with such wonderfully endearing characters! It was a perfect summer romance.

A Love Letter from the Girls Who Feel Everything by Brittainy C. Cherry and Kandi Steiner
Rating: 4 stars

Brittainy Cherry has been on my radar as another Book Bonanza author (they’ve really taken over my reading life the last few months!) and author of Loving Mr. Daniels which I read earlier this month. I was intrigued by this slim book of poetry – different from both author’s romance novels. I read it in a single very short sitting and probably would have benefited from picking it up time to time for a more impactful reading experience. But I’m antsy to up my book totals for this month and was happy to read it all at once! Anyway, I still struggle with much like Rupi Kaur’s poetry, a single sentence can be given a few line breaks and then it becomes a worthwhile publishable poem. I read poetry VERY rarely, and if it makes an impact that’s all that should count, right? But sometimes it just feels a little too easy. At any rate, I really enjoyed these poems. I couldn’t relate to many of them because they were very obviously about past relationships and men who have hurt them. But the universal feeling of betrayal and rejection is widespread and I could definitely appreciate the emotion behind them. If you do like Rupi Kaur’s poetry, I think these would be a great book to pick up with a similar writing style!

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
Rating: 2 stars

I did not like this book. Let me save you the trouble of picking it up and tell you that the entire book is about fighting the logistics of dating a super famous British boy bander. With a lot of struggle thrown in because the heroine is twice his age and mom of a tween girl who idolizes the band members. I kept reading because I somehow expected something to change and the book wouldn’t literally be a same reiteration of the same idea paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter. I was actually about to DNF around 40% when something intriguing happened, but it was barely ever brought up again. I did not like Solene. She felt entitled and lived a life of luxury to begin with that was so far from most people’s reality. I liked Hayes, but I didn’t feel like he was genuinely given that much personality. I wish I hadn’t wasted five days of my reading time finishing this book.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Rating: 5 stars

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I would like this book. I don’t particularly like reading about teenage moms because the assumption is that they really don’t have their lives together and the whole book will revolve around that particular struggle. I picked it up anyway because it’s about food and a love of cooking and that line of story will always pull me in. And honestly, I loved this book. It was genuinely inspirational how together and positive the character Emoni was. I fell in love with her unconventional little family and her supportive friends. Her take on motherhood and being there for her daughter while still finishing high school, working, and participating in a rigorous culinary arts course kind of put me to shame! It was a beautiful book and I’m so glad I picked it up.

What I Read June 2019

My goal for June was to only read books that delighted me. I wanted stories that would bring me joy and laughter, without having to think too hard. Interestingly, I ended up reading about a lot of mental health struggles. But for the most part, I really enjoyed most of the books I picked up.

Kissing Tolstoy by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was a delicious rom com of a book that I read in a single evening. College student Anna finally gets into a Russian Lit class she’s been dying to take for the last two years, only to find out her hot professor is actually the mysterious man she ran away from in a restaurant months earlier. Luca, the professor, is enamored with Anna but determined to ignore and push her away as both a student and a woman. From what I can understand, this book was written in weekly installments for fans through Penny Reid’s newsletter. With that in mind, I think it could have used a bit more editing and some clarification behind the handful of Luca chapters and what kinds of things he was going through. But the Anna chapters – most of the book – were an absolute delight! The story was funny and smart and the perfect tingly escape from reality. Loved it!

The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad by Cookie O’Gorman
Rating: 5* stars

This is another delightful book that I read in a single day. I’m so bummed it’s only on kindle because I really want the paperback to add to my shelf of books I’ll re-read again and again. Honestly, this book was definitely predictable, but it was also so much fun. 17 year old Sadie is known for being the ultimate good girl. At the retirement home where she likes to hang out, she made a Carpe Diem list of things she’d like to do to be more of a bad girl. Her best friend and life long secret crush finds the list and together they enroll the help of his twin brother – her arch nemesis and well known bad boy – to coach her on breaking rules and branching out a little. While the title of this book is quite literal in terms of the story, I really wish it had a sweeter name instead of implying Sadie is really going to be a “bad girl.” This is a totally PG rated YA romance that made me swoon.

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Rating: DNF

I really wanted to love this book. I made it 45% in and I just couldn’t read a page more. There was nothing wrong with it, per se. I just wasn’t connecting with it. Something about the very quirky characters, yet told in third person point of view, made it feel oddly impersonal. The internet tells me third person POV is the most common in all storytelling, but I don’t think that’s true in like 90% of the books I read. It felt very off to me. Anyway, I might consider picking it up again in the future, but I’m determined to only read books this month that absolutely delight me and as adorable as the two main characters seemed, it just was not hitting the spot.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Rating: 3.5 stars

I was so excited about the premise of this book – you know how much I love a good epistolary novel. While I definitely enjoyed it overall, it took me a really long time to get into. There was a lot of build up for what turned into a very slow and gentle romance. And there’s nothing wrong with that! It just wasn’t what I was expecting, or necessarily wanting in this month of only reading delightful things. As a whole, it’s still pretty weird to think that any man and woman would agree to a living arrangement where they share a bed and flat, but only for their half of the day. But the supporting characters are all skeptical enough about the arrangement, that you end up being okay with it. I really liked Tiffy and Leon and how they were both so genuinely kind and supportive of each other.

Pen & Ink: Tattoos & The Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald
Rating: 4 stars

I randomly saw this book somewhere online and was highly intrigued so I immediately got it from the library. It’s a look at some of the interesting tattoos people have gotten and a brief story behind them. I love the glimpses into the lives of strangers and what made them decide to get sometimes completely random and sometimes filled with meaning permanent inking on their body. The foreword explains why they decided to do the tattoo drawings in ink (art is art), but I think this book could have been SO much more compelling with photographs. Then again, I LOVE photography as my favorite artistic medium, so maybe I’m just bias. The drawings of the tattoos kind of left a lot to be desired, but the brief stories – written by the people with the tattoos – were incredibly interesting. It was a fun book to just sit down and read in an hour as something totally different from the types of things I usually read.

Eleanor & Grey by Brittainy C. Cherry
Rating: 5 stars

This was a beautiful story about finding hope and love in the midst of grief and sorrow. Trigger warnings for sure with loss of a parent and loss of a spouse. The first thirty or so percent of the book is the sweet and budding friendship between high schoolers Eleanor and Greyson as Ellie is about to lose her mother to cancer. The story picks up again sixteen years later when she is hired as a nanny to Grey’s two daughters after the loss of his wife. I guess, presumptuously, I assumed this book was mostly going to be a steamy romance. It was recommended highly in my Book Bonanza group which is almost all romance authors. I grabbed the book and started reading without even knowing the synopsis. A steamy romance book this was not! Which was fine. It was beautiful and paced in a way that made sense and gave the characters a chance to truly discover their feelings for each other. I really enjoyed it.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Rating: 3 stars

I have many mixed thoughts on this book. It was slow. It took me forever to read. I almost DNF’d it multiple times. The writing style was somewhat detached and skipped over so many details of the characters’ lives that I felt like I was missing out on so much. But the writing itself was beautiful and poignant. There was a chunk of the book that I really loved. And then it got dark. Ultimately, (sort of a spoiler) despite what was written on the very last page, the message I took from this book is that if you have a family history of mental illness, you are doomed and any offspring you create are also doomed to a life of hardship and pain. The second half of this book was so depressing. I wanted to finish it and I’m glad I did, but it never reached that uplifting turn I was so sure would come. This book really didn’t fit in with my June theme of books that delight me, but I also don’t think it’s one I’ll forget anytime soon.

Parental Guidance by Avery Flynn
Rating: 3 stars

Hockey player Caleb has a bit of a PR nightmare on his hands and is forced by his coach and the team’s publicist to join a dating app where his mom will pick his match. Zara is a miniatures artist who spends every waking minute working. Her best friend convinces her to join the app because it’ll help out her dad with his new dream of becoming an actor while also improving her sex life. Overall, I thought the premise of this book could have used a lot of work. It was so obviously just a half hearted attempt at something original, but the consistency with everything related to the the app/company, the improving of image, the parental involvement, etc. was really weak. That being said, it was still a cute and fun book with very likeable main characters.

Kissing Galileo by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

After reading Kissing Tolstoy earlier this month, I was very excited to learn that Penny Reid was right about to release her next weekly newsletter installment written book. I really enjoy the falling for your teacher trope, though it’s not forbidden in this series – I have no idea if that’s true in real colleges or not. At any rate, this was another fun and genuinely enjoyable book that I wanted to drop everything for to keep reading. I loved Emily’s character, I liked Victor. I liked the additional storyline surrounding Victor’s huge weight loss and body image frustrations. I do think there’s an obvious downside to releasing a book chapter by chapter – there are things brought up early in the book that are never referenced again, which is a little irritating to me. If it had been released as a book only it might have flowed a little better. But other than that, I really liked this one.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett (re-read)
Rating: 5* stars

Re-reading a favorite book is like a sweet visit with an old friend. I’m so glad I decided that re-reading books was definitely worth my time this year. I was really craving an escape that was guaranteed to give me all the feels. This one takes place during the summer and felt like the perfect fit for this month. And I loved it every bit as much as I did the first time around. I think Porter might be one of my favorite book boys ever. At least in YA. He is kind and sweet and funny and so very attentive, remembering everything about Bailey and using the knowledge to demonstrate how much he likes her. As always, I adore a book that begins in an anonymous online/written friendship, though it plays a pretty small role in this story. This book makes me so happy and I highly recommend it if YA is your genre.

The Peach Truck Cookbook by Jessica and Stephen Rose
Rating: 4 stars

I pre-ordered this cookbook the minute I heard the owners of Tree Ripe Fruit were releasing it. It conveniently coincided with being delivered two days before the peach truck made its stop in Columbus. I read through it right away and was interested to hear the story behind the truck and see how passionately the owners feel about peaches and connecting people with fresh, ripe fruit. There were a large variety of recipes, but I honestly felt a little too overwhelmed to actually make any of them. Not that they were hard or anything. I just wanted to stick with all the usual things I do with my 25 pound box. I’m not really sure how often I’ll reach for this cookbook – probably only once every summer before the truck comes. But it was nicely written with a lot of great photographs and ideas.

The Other Side by Kim Holden
Rating: 2.5 stars

It was really hard to decide a rating for this book. Honestly, it is SO depressing. It’s about depression and the point of the book is to bring more awareness to what it’s like to be depressed and suicidal. With that in mind, it certainly achieved its purpose. But it was a tough read. It was definitely tied up nicely in the end, which I wasn’t so sure was going to happen. But it was a slog to get there. I was so angry at all the characters and the decisions they made to not let simple truths be told – things that could have helped Toby SO MUCH if he just knew. There’s nothing wrong with the writing, I just did not like this book very much.

Beauty and the Professor by Skye Warren
Rating: DNF

I really hesitate to add this DNF book to my monthly recap. I made it about 40% in and just couldn’t take it anymore. I was drawn to this book because it had great reviews and because the author is going to be at Book Bonanza and I’m madly trying to read as many authors as I can before I go. I was intrigued by this one because I love Beauty and the Beast retellings and the next day it happened to be free on amazon, so why not? But first of all – this is straight up erotica. Which is fine, sometimes I might be in the mood for that. But most of the time I want a whole lot more emotional connection and substantial plot building before you jump right into things on the first page. It was pretty ridiculous. After reading a lot of fluffier books this month, I was ready to set it down and move on.

What I Read May 2019

This was a rough month for reading! I was so incredibly busy and had such a hard time getting in the right headspace to relax enough to get into a story. Kind of a first for me over such a long period of time. I did not like it! I only ended up reading ten books, and three of those are cookbooks so I feel like they barely count (though I DO read them cover to cover). I also read one great nonfiction and then what is probably a record breaking low of only six fictional titles this month. Though my numbers were down, the books themselves were almost all fantastic. I can’t wait to tell you about them!

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
Rating: 3 stars

This was a slow “thriller” about Hen, a woman who is fairly certain her next door neighbor Matthew is a murderer. The problem is that Hen is bipolar and has a history of being manic and accusing people of violence that was not real, so she’s not taken seriously by the police, even when she witnesses something first hand. I wrote this little review about a week and a half after I read it, and it took me quite awhile to jog my memory on what happened. Never a great sign for a book. I liked it while it was reading, but it was also somewhat predictable (if you read a lot of psychological thrillers) and ultimately, forgettable.

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
Rating: 4 stars

I thought this was a fairly straight forward and sweet YA love story. Hugo, a British sextuplet who just broke up with his girlfriend decides to go ahead with the train trip across America she had planned for them. The only problem? He needs to find someone with the same name to claim the tickets and travel with him. He ends up with Mae, an aspiring filmmaker who is on her way from New York to start college at USC. I think a big part of why I found this book so enjoyable was because of the unique and fun supporting characters. Hugo’s amazing set of siblings and parents and Mae’s two dads and spunky grandma. Even though none of them were on the train and in the picture for most of the book, their presence was still felt and really rounded out the characters. I liked this book a lot!

Marshmallow Madness by Shauna Sever
Rating: 3 stars

I picked up this book because I wanted a comprehensive guide (rather than searching pinterest) on making marshmallows. Last year I found a company that makes the most amazing marshmallows, but they cost a fortune and shipping is ridiculous, so like all foodie things it seemed time to take matters into my own hands and just learn how to do it for myself! I liked this one because the cover is colorful and fun and a glance at the original vanilla marshmallow recipe looked easy to do. And it was! I think if you’re interested in learning to make marshmallows and could see yourself doing it often for gifts or whatever, this would be a great guide. It’s straightforward and easy to follow. My only complaint is that there really aren’t that many recipes. There are many tips and hints for things you could change to enhance a recipe, however. I mean, it’s hard to really flush out a cookbook centered around one single thing. The recipes included looked delicious and I loved all the fun photographs. So far I’ve still only made the vanilla marshmallows, but I’m looking forward to figuring out how to recreate my favorite salted caramel version from what I learned in the cookbook.

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Rating: 4.5 stars

I had a really hard time deciding what to rate this book. I felt a lot of it was somewhat mediocre as you follow the lives of Annika and Jonathan, jumping back and forth between when the met in college and when they reconnected ten years later. I was definitely interested enough to keep reading, but nothing was really gripping my attention until at least halfway through when you start to notice how much Annika, who is on the autism spectrum but doesn’t want people to realize it, is growing. The last about twenty percent of the book took such a turn that I was literally sobbing through the entire thing. I have never rooted so strongly for a character in her own personal journey. I went pretty lackadaisical to deeply emotional about everything. By the end, I have to say that I highly recommend this. And stick with it. It was so worth it.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5* stars

I loved this book! The enemies to lovers trope is one of my all time favorites in a romance, and this book did it justice! It reminded me a lot of The Hating Game, one of my all time favorites. There is so much snappy dialog, hilarious circumstances, and total delight immersed in all of the character interactions. Unlucky Olive and grumpy Ethan find themselves taking their siblings’ honeymoon package when they’re the only two people at the entire wedding who don’t come down with an immediate case of violent food poisoning. They hate each other, but after being forced to spend time together they realize how wrong they’ve judged the other. The first half of the book had me laughing out loud almost nonstop. I didn’t want to put it down. The second half got a bit more serious, but I loved it just as much. This book is definitely finding a place on my very limited shelf of books I want to re-read in the future. It was great!

The Big Bottom Biscuit by Michael Volpatt
Rating: 4.5 stars

I’ve been finding myself very drawn to specialty cookbooks lately. Can you tell?? This was another new cookbook I happened to see before it was released and thought it was definitely worth the $12 to check it out. And now that I have it in my hands I think it was definitely worth it. The original biscuit recipe was fabulous – and easy! And there are tons of variations, toppings, and recipes for related things they make at their restaurant. There’s even a chapter on how to use leftover dried out biscuits. While it was a comprehensive guide, I’d say about half the things listed did not align with my personal taste buds. Not the cookbook’s fault obviously, it’s just not the kind of book that I marked everything down as wanting to try. But there were still enough I’m definitely going to keep this cookbook around. I also found it a little odd that most of the biscuit recipes only make 6 or 9 biscuits (clearly not enough for my small family of four that would definitely want at least two each!), but the recipes for spreads and compound butters were enormous. I’ll have to wait until I actually make a few things to see if they even out a bit, but just from reading the ingredient lists, they seem very disproportionate. I took it down half a star because the writing itself was not particularly passionate, the way most cookbooks made by restaurant owners are. While the recipes looked great, the descriptions and stories just didn’t feel overly personal or interesting to me. But if you like biscuits and happened to be looking for random things to add to your meals, this would be a great book!

Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum
Rating: 4 stars

To be honest, reading a YA love story centered around 9/11 did not sound that interesting to me. But Julie Buxbaum wrote one of my all time favorite books (Tell Me Three Things), so I was definitely willing to give it a shot. This is the story of Abbi, who was the focus of a famous 9/11 photograph as a baby holding a balloon on her first birthday as she’s being carried away from the towers. Now 16, she meets Noah, who had his own related 9/11 tragedy. To me their relationship was pretty boring at the beginning. It felt more juvenile than the type of YA I get the most enjoyment out of. But it really pulled through later on and had me in tears quite often. Even though I was around for 9/11 and will never forget about it, I honestly haven’t read much about people who were there and still live in New York and have to process their loses again and again. It was worth finishing and gave me a lot to think about.

Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook by Tyler Malek
Rating: 4.5 stars

Now this is a cookbook written by someone who is consumed with passion for his craft! These are the specialized restaurant founded cookbooks that I adore adding to my collection. I first found out about this new release from a Tasty video I saw on facebook of the author showing off a recipe for Salted, Malted Cookie Dough Ice Cream that looked incredible. Instead of pinning the recipe, I preordered the book. I was quite disappointed to find out that the recipe isn’t actually in the cookbook! So I had to go back and find it and pin it anyway. (By the way – I made that particular recipe earlier this week and it is AMAZING.) But still – the cookbook is filled with innovative, unique, and fabulous looking ice cream recipes. In theory, the ice cream itself looks very easy to make, but it also has many different mix-ins you should/could make before you can throw them into the ice cream. I love all those included recipes, but it also makes it a lot less likely I’ll ever follow through on actually making many of them. They look like a lot of work! With a lot of forethought – which isn’t really my style when it comes to whipping up a dessert. I’d say I marked about 1/3 of the recipes as ones I wanted to try, which normally would make me feel iffy about the book as a whole. But the recipes looked so amazing I can see myself loving them and making them again and again. A lot of the flavors are just totally crazy and I’d probably never spend the time to risk something I’m fairly certain my family wouldn’t touch. It really just made me wish a Salt & Straw store was in this part of the country so I could take the easy way out and just buy some! Anyway, I’m taking off half a star for those reasons, but the cookbook itself is gorgeous and interesting and made me very excited about making my own ice cream in the very near future!

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Rating: 5*

This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started it – did I really want to read a memoir about therapy? Do I really need a nonfiction book about other people’s problems? Did I need to hear all about the merits of therapy when I’ve had such an unimpressive journey with my own bouts of therapy? It turns out that I did. Gottlieb’s writing style as she jumps back and forth between her patients and her sessions with her own therapist made the book both fascinating and useful. As nonfiction it still took me a little longer to get through than fiction would, but it certainly held my attention in ways that nonfiction almost never does. I finished this book feeling like I had a better grasp on how to live my own life and its search for meaning, rather than happiness. I would highly, highly recommend this book.

The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker
Rating: 4 stars

I almost gave up on this book. It’s the perfect example of why I’m so hesitant to DNF books too early – they really do have the potential to get so much better! Honestly, I was wavering about the first 30% of the book. The main character, Calla, was so entitled and materialistic, I had no desire to get to know her. But then it got good. Really good. I am in love with the male lead, Jonah. The rest of the Alaska characters are so sweet and supporting. The ending is bittersweet, but you’ll know that from the get go. It had me crying my eyes out at 3am last night when I finished it. If you can stick with it for that first chunk, it’s really worth reading.

What I Read April 2019

This was a pretty boring reading month. I did read one amazing YA fantasy book (which I typically avoid at all cost!), a pretty great nonfiction book on sex in long term relationships, and found an incredible newly released cookbook. But everything else? So middle of the road and bland. But, here goes.

F*ck Love by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 2.5

I was really disappointed by this book. This is now my third Tarryn Fisher book and just like the second one I read, this one fell so far from my high expectations after reading Mud Vein late last year. I just realized she wrote Mud Vein BEFORE this one, so I can’t even blame it on a significantly evolved writing style. Anyway. This started out with such a great twist – a fantastical element that gets you excited about the rest of the story. Unfortunately, while it’s referenced, this is never actually explained for the rest of the entire book. It could have been SO GOOD if she had used this and actually wrote a fantasy book. I was really let down by that. There was also a very bizarre character twist thrown in at the end that I just could not understand. I wanted to like this book, I even read it pretty quickly. It just did not hit the spot.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Rating: 4 stars

I picked this book up on the glowing recommendation of Kaytee Cobb on the Currently Reading Podcast. It sounded intriguing, even though I generally shy away from historical fiction because it’s just not my thing. I mean, I’ve read plenty of it, but it’s not something that usually draws me in. But I gave it a shot and found this to be a very pleasant book! It was almost alarming how calm the characters were about the constant bombing around London while they continued to live their lives and go about their duties. Emmy was a very likeable character – it reminded me so much of Helene from 84, Charing Cross Road. I do feet there was some missing element that could have really brought this story up to a 5. But it was a mostly fun read celebrating a great friendship and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Rating: 5* stars

If you’re looking for a unique re-telling of Beauty and the Beast by a fantastic author – this is the book for you. I was enthralled by it. At first I found myself wanting to savor it because I knew it was going to be so good. Then I found myself reading way too late into the night, desperate to know the ending. Our heroine, Harper, is kidnapped from the modern world and brought into a parallel universe enchanted castle by Grey, Prince Rhen’s guardsman, and only remaining person at his side. She fights her kidnappers at every turn until circumstances change and she begins to learn about their world. She puts aside her own worries to help Rhen and his kingdom. Overall, I truly loved this book. I loved that the characters were together and interacting in almost every chapter. I was surprised at how much actually happened beyond their forced attempt to fall in love to break the curse. I was honestly more intrigued by Grey than Rhen, however, and the epilogue left me very excited about the second book coming in early 2020 (I already preordered it!). I can’t wait! I was really hoping this would be a stand alone book so I wouldn’t have to wait, though. But I think it’ll be worth it! As someone who very rarely reads fantasy, I think this book was well worth my time!

Oliver Loving by Stefan Merrill Block
Rating: DNF

This is a story about a family that falls to pieces after the older son is severely injured in a school shooting and spends the next ten years in a coma. I was intrigued by the premise, but the book started out SO slow. The writing was very “literary.” Basically – wordy. Not the type of book I usually enjoy reading, as I get the most enjoyment from snappy dialog and character interaction. The chapters alternate between different members of the family, so some of them are a lot more interesting than others. I put the book aside to read a couple of others and then when I still didn’t really want to pick this up I decided it’s not the book for me.

The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron
Rating: 3 stars

Okay, so I really hesitate to say anything negative about a person’s memoir – a life story filled with terrible things no child should ever have to go through. But this book fell a little flat for me. It was hard not to compare it to The Sound of Gravel, which is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. The authors are cousins and put out books around the same time, though they didn’t know each other before that. Between the two of them, this book just felt SO factual. It was just a straight forward retelling overview of the most striking moments of her life, but without any of the real emotional depth or storytelling behind it. If that makes sense. I was definitely interested and read the whole thing in two days, but it bothered me during the entire reading. It felt like a therapeutic retelling of one’s life. I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn
Rating: 3 stars

So there’s a pretty big chance that I’m just really burned out on books about musicians on tour. I’ve read my fill of them in the last two months. Of all of them I’ve read recently, this has been the least interesting. It also really skimmed over the tour life, but still held all of the usual stereotypes – getting drunk and using women. This particular story is about two 18 year old country music stars with tragic family histories that find a way to come together after a summer on tour. Overall…it was okay. Not memorable. I was so desperate to finish it up that I just skimmed through the last few chapters and didn’t even read the epilogue. It’s pretty rare for me to be that desperate to be done with a book.

The Party by Lisa Hall
Rating: 3.5 stars

I thought this book had a pretty strong beginning. A woman wakes up in a strange room without half of her clothing and feels like she has the worst hangover of her life with no recollection of the night before. She realizes she’s at a neighbor’s house after a wild New Year’s Eve party and she’s pretty sure she was raped. The rest of the book is her struggling to get her memory back while she does her own investigating of everyone that could have been involved after the police deem the case unsolvable without any sufficient evidence. The main reason I enjoyed this book is that it was fast and easy and kept my attention during a week that very little else was. But near the end I was so sick of her repeatedly trying to figure out who her attacker was with still no memory of the incident. I also didn’t particularly like any of the characters. So if you’re looking for a fast thriller, this is a good pick.

After by Anna Todd
Rating: 2 stars

I hated this book and I LOATHED these characters. I picked it up without knowing anything about it – I just knew the movie version came out and it seemed intriguing, so I wanted to quickly read the book before I went to the theater. (It ended up only being in the theater for two weeks so I missed out.) Then I started reading and could not stand the characters. Let’s talk about a boy who gives off every single red flag that could possibly exist for being bad relationship material. Throw in a girl who thinks it’s fine to overlook those flags, cheat on her boyfriend, ignore her mom, give up her friends, all for the sake of winning over red flag boy. Seriously, this book was the worst. I finished it basically so I could write this review. I also had hopes that they might redeem themselves by the end. I didn’t realize until it was abruptly finished that there are FOUR MORE BOOKS. And sadly, I kind of want to read them. Hate read them? I mean, I was invested enough to spend an entire week of my reading time getting through this book. But I hated every single character SO MUCH. So unless you want to see horrible people make terrible decisions again and again and again, I would advise staying away from this series!

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Rating: 3 stars

April is really shaping up to be the month of mediocre reads. Slow books that seem to take me three times as long as it normally does to get through them. In part because I’ve been so busy and distracted and in part because the books just aren’t drawing me in. This is another middle of the road story for me. There was nothing wrong with it, I just wasn’t that interested in it. Two teenage amature sleuths get together to solve a mystery at the hotel where they work. It sounded like the perfect kind of YA that I love, but I just never got into it. The characters behaved how real life teenagers probably would – which was honestly kind of boring. I just wanted a lot more personality from Birdie to amp up everything. Overall, it was fine, just not the best.

Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship by Stephen Snyder
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was a compulsively readable book about sex in long term relationships. I’ve started reading a handful of similar books over the years and lost interest so quickly because they were too scientific, too technical, and too boring. This was interesting and relatable from the first to last page. I enjoyed the deep perspective of a 30 plus year sex therapist and how he’s worked with couples over the years. Even though it’s technically about sex in relationships, the emphasis of every chapter was much more about the relationship itself and what could inherently be causing hang ups between the couples. I only knock it down half a star because the majority of the book only followed about three couples and their specific issues. I wish it had provided more examples of differing relationships or struggles, even though it might have gotten hard to keep track of. Overall, I’d highly recommend this for any married or long time couple.

Tex Mex by Ford Fry
Rating: 5* stars

This was perhaps the most exciting cookbook I have ever purchased because it was filled with all the foods I actually want to eat every single day of my life. There were tons of gorgeous photos accompanied by a colorful and fun design. There is a lot of background information about tex mex food, but it’s interesting and succinct enough that you won’t lose interest. I bought this cookbook completely on a whim when I saw it listed as a new release and I’m SO glad I did. With the exception of the seafood and alcoholic beverage chapters, I marked almost every single recipe as something I want to try. I loved that all of the recipes looked flavorful and delicious without any hard to find ingredients or techniques. I’m so excited to dig in and start trying out these recipes. I think this will prove to be an essential cookbook in my collection that I will turn to often!

The Roommate Agreement by Emma Hart
Rating: 3.5 stars

If you’re looking for a light, fast, sweet romance, this was a good one. Two long time best friends end up living together and despite their very different living styles, end up feeling more for each other than friendship. I liked the characters and that they were pretty kind to each other, despite the constant sarcasm and quips. I didn’t feel extremely invested in their lives and felt that some things were a bit repetitive (how many times can you talk about Shelby’s introversion and say the words “best friends?”). But that didn’t stop me from reading the book in a day and a half. Overall, it was enjoyable and a nice palette cleanser.

What I Read March 2019

March was a pretty off reading month for me. I started and stopped SO many books. I didn’t mark them as DNF because I know I need to give them more than 2% before making a judgement, but I they just didn’t feel right for me at this time. It’s so frustrating when I can’t find a book that I immediately connect with. I have over 400 unread books on my kindle and about 150 unread physical books on my shelf. I really have no excuse. But I’m always so distracted by the freshly released books that are getting so much buzz and get caught up on what I’m missing instead of what’s right in front of me – often the books that I was wildly excited about reading only a few months before. At any rate, I finally got out of my slump about ten days ago and finally found some great books that held my attention and made me want to forget about everything else and just read.

Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover
Rating: DNF – as a re-read, but previously 5 stars

It pains me to admit that I did not finish a Colleen Hoover novel. To be fair, though, this was a re-read and when I first read it in 2013 I gave it 5 stars. After reading Slammed again last month and still loving it SO MUCH I wanted to immediately continue Will and Lake’s story. Unfortunately, the first half of this book is just so depressing. I didn’t like the change of perspective. I liked Will so much more from Lake’s perspective instead of his own. Not that I didn’t like him in this, he just felt so different to me and it was bothering me. A lot. It’s been six years since I originally read it, but I assume things turn around and it gets really good. I just could not deal with it right now.

Get Lucky by Lila Monroe
Rating: 2.5 stars

This was free on amazon with a lot of good reviews, so I decided to give it a shot. Romance writer Julia and divorce lawyer Nate wake up in a Vegas hotel together with no recollection of the last twelve hours. Over the course of the book they spend the day trying to retrace their steps and figure out what they did in those alcohol laden hours. This book was okay. Just SO much sex. With really no emotional connection, which is a big pet peeve of mine. But – that’s the genre, sometimes. It was light and amusing, it just didn’t hold a ton of depth and was very unbelievable.

The Crooked Street by Brian Freeman
Rating: 3 stars

This is the third book in a series that has held my interest, but hasn’t wowed me. After the cliffhanger in the second book, I expected a lot more from this one and I just did not get it. Honestly, the whole thing kind of bored me. I like Frost Easton’s character, but he seems to be lacking in emotional depth which is frustrating. The storyline was vaguely intriguing, but not amazing. I assumed this was the last book and would tie everything up, but it ended up with another – much more fascinating – cliffhanger. I’m not giving up on the series, but I really hope the next one is so much better.

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
Rating: 3.5 stars

I appreciated this book as a very eye opening look at what it’s like to have cystic fibrosis – which according to the foreword and acknowledgements, was the point of writing it. It was written as a screenplay first, and I honestly think maybe they should have stuck with that instead of making it a novel. I liked the story, but it also felt kind of canned and easy. The characters didn’t have a ton of development. I still thoroughly enjoyed the book, it just didn’t wow me. It DID leave me feeling pretty horrified by cystic fibrosis. I’m looking forward to watching the movie made immediately following the book.

Rebels of Eden by Joey Graceffa
Rating: 3 stars

This was the final book in a dystopian trilogy that I enjoyed, but didn’t love. The hardest part about both the second and third book was trying to figure out what the heck is going on. This was slightly less confusing than the second, but it still took me a really long time to remember where I was in the story. Overall, this book really went up and down and up and down for me. Parts were really great. Parts were so incredibly boring. No spoilers, but for the record, I really disliked the ending.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: 5* stars

There has been so much hype about this book for at least six months pre-release. Once it was out, my book circles were really buzzing about it. Which immediately made me hesitate to pick it up. I almost never like the books that are so beloved by many. The synopsis didn’t even sound very interesting me. An oral history about the rise and fall of a fictitious band in the 70’s? Who cares? But I decided to read it anyway and oh my goodness, I LOVED it. I was completely engrossed in the story and was constantly lamenting the fact that this was not actually a real band and I could not go listen to their songs that made them famous. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an oral history type of book that wasn’t revolved around a mystery, so it did take me awhile to get past the anticipation of what we needed to solve. And even though it was indeed fiction, it absolutely did not feel like it, so it was kind of hard for me to want to read what my brain kept telling me was nonfiction. But after about a quarter of the way in – I was sold. Taylor Jenkins Reid is such an incredibly insightful author that will tug at your heart. She’s never afraid to write about love – the kind that isn’t the norm, or isn’t necessarily “right.” This book, though. I really, really loved it.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
Rating: 5* stars

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a non-celebrity/non-foodie person/non-dying person memoir. But this book was also getting a ton of buzz in the last few months, it was featured in the Happier Podcast’s first ever book club, and that cover?! It’s gorgeous in its simplicity. I just had to read it. And I wasn’t disappointed. My only regret is that I haven’t read any of Dani Shapiro’s other books first. I think it would have been a more enriching experience to have a bigger sense of background on her, other than that she’s a famous writer and writing teacher. Each of her memoirs center around a particular part of her life and this one takes place right after she gets results to a DNA test and finds out that her beloved father is not in fact her father. She wrote the book as she was going through and processing everything. The whole thing came across as more of a page turning mystery that I didn’t want to put down. I appreciated how tortured she was about her identity as she tried to piece together what might have happened without having any parents left to ask about it. I loved the conclusions she came to in the end. Anyway, the entire thing was fascinating and I am definitely planning on picking up the rest of her books in the near future.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
Rating: 3.5 stars

Ellery and Ezra are sent back to live with a grandmother they barely know in a town ridden by tragedy when their mother is sent to mandatory rehab. They quickly become immersed in their own town mystery as Ellery is targeted as a future victim and a girl they know goes missing. Overall, I did enjoy this YA thriller, but I thought it was a bit confusing and hard to grasp all the characters in the first half of the book. So many different crimes that took place at so many different times – it was a lot to keep track of. It also took me as long time to really connect with Ellery and Ezra was a pretty underdeveloped character after the first part of the book. Overall, I liked it, it just wasn’t riveting.

Drive by Kate Stewart
Rating: 5 stars

I have very complicated feelings about this book. I went into it not knowing anything. I picked it up because Kate Stewart is one of the Book Bonanza authors I’ll be seeing in August and this particular book was very highly recommended by the fans. And it was really good! I just wasn’t prepared for it to be a love triangle. I’m not such a fan of the triangle trope. Someone will ALWAYS get hurt and I just want a happy ending when it comes to my romances. Anyway – this is the story of Stella, a 20 year old with big dreams to become an amazing music journalist. She falls hard and fast for a drummer and gets her heart broken. You follow on her journey of getting her life put together the way she knows she needs in order for her to be fully healthy and whole. Overall, I really liked watching Stella’s emotional maturity progress. She had a lot of hard choices to make. And even though I’m still feeling a little mixed at how it ended – it was worth it. Though I do have to say that if I had a been reading a real book instead of on kindle, I totally would have skipped to the final pages to end my suspense. 🙂

Gus by Kim Holden
Rating: 4 stars

I was hesitant to read this book because the first book in the series, Bright Side, basically emotionally wrecked me. Plus death was very personal and hard at the beginning of this year and I couldn’t handle another book steeped in grief. But the mood struck this month, so I picked it up and was surprised to find very little sadness in its pages. The beginning is rough, for sure. But Gus is such a positive and genuinely kind character that it’s pretty easy to rally for him enjoy watching him get his life back together. I liked Scout’s character too, though she’s a bit underdeveloped. I enjoyed this book, though it has one of my absolute biggest pet peeves – swearing on every single page. Basically every line of dialog has a swear word in it. WHY? The only people I’ve ever heard talk like that in real life are middle or high schoolers that think it sounds cool. It seriously drives me nuts to read books that feel the need to put in the f word a thousand times into its pages. But besides that – this was actually a very uplifting and pleasant book.

Book Love by Debbie Tung
Rating: 5 stars

I adored this book for what it is – a beautiful ode to the love of books. It’s kind of a graphic memoir of the author’s complete devotion to all things reading and book related. I read her Introvert book late last year and felt the same sort of connection to it as this one. I can relate to every single thing she writes and draws about. I think most hardcore readers would feel the same. It’s definitely a fast read – I just sat down this morning and read it in maybe 20-30 minutes. It would make a really sweet little gift to the avid book lover in your life. I definitely plan on picking it up from time to time, maybe when I’m in a reading rut and need a reminder of how much I love books too.

That’s it for March! Have you read anything great this month?!

What I Read February 2019

February was a really off reading month for me. I was either super busy or super distracted. While I did have two fabulous re-reads, the rest of the fiction I read was pretty meh. I’ve had almost no interest in nonfiction, which is a bit disappointing after how excited I was about nonfiction in January. I know not every month can be amazing, but I was still a bit bummed out and uninterested the entire month.

The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops
Rating: 5 stars

I bought this cookbook on a craving fueled whim after Christmas and it didn’t disappoint! There isn’t a lot to read in it besides a quick intro to each recipe, so it does feel a bit more like cheating to add this to my book list for the month. But, I loved it! If you like to eat raw cookie dough, this book will amaze you. There is a short introductory chapter on heat treating your flour and ways you can use the cookie dough and how to store it, etc. And it’s followed by so many amazing looking doughs! Almost every recipe has a photo of a beautiful scoop of cookie dough that even if the flavor doesn’t sound great, you’re still going to want to eat it after looking at the picture. I tried out the basic chocolate chip recipe right away and it was great! This is going to be a dangerous cookbook to have around because I want to try almost every single recipe. So if you’re into quick and fun deserts and don’t mind keeping such a specialized topic cookbook around, I highly recommend this one!


What if it’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Rating: 2.5 stars

This is a book I probably should have abandoned. I kept holding out hope that it was going to get better and it never really did. The story is about two teenage boys who feel like the universe brought them together and they should be guaranteed some sort of epic love story. Ben is fresh out of a relationship and is jaded to the possibility of a new love right away. Arthur is only in NYC for a summer internship, but is hopeful and goofy and wears his heart on his sleeve. The only reason I stuck with this to the end is that I found Arthur to be such an endearing character. Ben, though? I didn’t like him at all. There was so much back story and friendship and ex-boyfriend related angst that it took away from what could have been a really sweet romance. I mean, not all romance books need to be sweet. But I felt like this really should have been. It was just okay.

Tell Me Three Things (re-read!) by Julie Buxbaum
Rating: 5* stars

I have a shelf of books reserved for my absolute favorites that I know I’d read again. The problem – I never re-read them because there are always so many new books I want to read and never enough time. This month I was really craving the familiarity of a story that would bring me all the happy feelings – guaranteed. I loved this book on its re-read even more than the first time around. Knowing the ending actually added so much sweetness to the story. It’s about two people who anonymously form a friendship that carries them both through some emotionally tough times. I really love this book!

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Rating: 5 stars

I always get excited about a new book by Kasie West. She’s one of my favorite YA authors because I feel like every book she writes has a solid, sweet, dependable romance. This book was about an aspiring young actress on the set of her first movie with a Hollywood heart throb. Lacey is confident and outspoken and friendly. The only thing she hates – doing her independent study homework. Her dad hires her a tutor who of course proves to be a wonderful love interest – the first real crush Lacey has ever had. I really enjoyed this story as the characters banded together to solve a small mystery, while Lacey and Donovan got to know each other. If you love YA books and are satisfied with a well earned kiss, this is a great one.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (audio)
Rating: 4 stars

I listened to this on audio while we were driving home from Nebraska on terrible road conditions after a snowstorm. Because I had very little to distract me, this is an audiobook I finally feel like I fully paid attention to. It was also a very easy and entertaining book to listen to. I’ve always liked Anna Kendrick and it was fascinating to learn so much more about her, especially all the theater acting she did in New York as a child. She really came across as a regular, every day person. She continued to point out how normal her life really is. I felt like it was a fairly vulnerable and honest celebrity memoir that she wasn’t writing just for the sake of making some extra money. Overall, a nice listen!

The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 3 stars

This book had so little effect on me that I almost forgot to add it to my reading log, less than a day after I finished it. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed. I read Fischer’s Mud Vein in December and it was one of my favorite books of the year. I think The Opportunist was her first book, though, and it shows. There were a lot of errors, the formatting was bizarre (probably not her fault!), and the plot was sometimes hard to follow. The characters were not very likeable and the timeline was confusing. I didn’t hate the book – I still finished it. But I will surely forget about it entirely within a few weeks. (a few weeks later writing this – I have forgotten completely)

Match Me if You Can by Tiana Smith
Rating: 2 stars

This book is the epitome of angsty teenage love triangle and the perfect example of why a lot of people really hate to read YA. Me? I LOVE YA. But it was a serious challenge forcing myself to finish this. The only reason I did was because for some unknown reason, I preordered it last year and now own a hard copy that arrived in the mail. I’ve never read the author before, so it must have either been an accident, or I bought it because the cover was beautiful. Which it is! But the story? Ugh. So, this is about Mia, the boy Vince who she’s been crushing on, and the boy Logan who is constantly flirting with her, but she doesn’t perceive as being serious. What bothered me so much from the get go is that you get almost no back story about the characters, they just immediately dive into their relationships. The characters get into fights about not showing enough love when they’ve been together for literally half a date. The entire book only takes place in about two weeks’ time. It’s so ridiculous. And ALLLLLLLLL Mia talks about is the pros and cons of Vince and Logan. It’s so obvious who is the better choice in every single situation. I usually don’t mind predictability in a romance novel – especially in the YA genre because I purposely look to it for sweet and simple love. But this was tough. Anyway, I really hate to write such harsh reviews and it probably would have been better to just put it aside. But – there you go.

Girl Boner by August McLaughlin
Rating: 4.5 stars

I saw this book being promoted on an instagram account I follow and was curious enough to immediately order it. Maybe not necessarily the type of nonfiction I’m used to reading, but I was highly intrigued! The author has written an extremely comprehensive guide to sexual empowerment in women, or people who identify as female. I read the entire book in four days, which is basically unheard of for me and nonfiction! While I can’t say I agree with every single “empowering” topic she covered, it was truly interesting and worth the investment of the book. I wish it’s a book I had read fifteen years ago instead of now. The book covers so much about self love and how to find a positive body image, mental health stumbling blocks, explanations of all gender related things, chapters on abuse and spirituality, and so much more. I would highly recommend this book for all women to read, but I think it would be incredibly useful for late teens and early 20’s.

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
Rating: 3 stars

The only Penny Reid I’ve read in the past is her Winston Brothers series, which I love. I’ve heard so many things about this Knitting in the City series and finally picked up this one, her very first novel. Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed by it. I’m not sure if it was self published, but I feel like the book could have used some serious editing. It was SO wordy. One of my pet peeves is dialog that could and should be snappy, but is ruined by huge paragraphs of descriptions in between every line. This book was full of it. I think it had the potential to be really great, but I just could not connect with the characters. I’m not really interested in picking up the rest of the series.

Freefall by Jessica Barry
Rating: 2.5 stars

I picked up this book somewhat blindly, hoping for a thriller to pull me out of the fictional reading rut I’ve been in this month. It starts off with a plane crash, so I was expecting some sort of intense survival story. That didn’t happen. Alternating chapters between Allison and her estranged mother Maggie, the mystery very, very slowly unfolds. And I was SO bored. Basically, absolutely nothing happens for 60% of the book. And then it finally got interesting. But really not enough to redeem it. I kept wanting to put it down, but I pushed through. I’m not sure it was worth it.

Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
Rating: 5 stars

When it comes to romance discussions in some of my online book groups, this is a title that has come up multiple times as being a great one. I finally picked it up and it didn’t disappoint. Nicolas and Livvy were teenage best friends and lovers ripped apart by a family tragedy. Every year, on Livvy’s birthday, they get together for a single night of passion and part ways for another year without contact. After ten years they find themselves living in the same city again and can’t seem to stay away from each other. I really liked this book because it had a great emotional context with a lot of back story and complicated relationships. The sex scenes were pretty steamy and didn’t feel like graphic fluff. Overall, I really liked this and definitely plan on reading the next two books in the series.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Rating: 4 stars

Alicia is a famous painter who killed her husband and then spent seven years in total silence. Theo is a therapist determined to get to the bottom of her silence and discover what truly happened on the night of the murder. This book is a mix of journal entries from Alicia’s past and and what life is like on the psych ward where Alicia presides, from Theo’s perspective. I was definitely intrigued by the storyline enough to read most of this book in a single day. It was more a curiosity than a true thrill ride, but I enjoyed it.

Slammed (re-read!) by Collen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

It has officially been solidified in my mind that re-reading a favorite book is about the best thing in the world. I was having a pretty tough week and wanted to finish the month up with a guaranteed reading win (plus one of my goals for February was to re-read two books, so I was down to the wire on getting in my second one!). This is actually the third time I’ve read Slammed and I still adored every single page. It’s Colleen Hoover’s first book, but still packs such an incredible emotional punch. The characters are real and flawed and feel so much! I love it. I completely love this book.

What I Read January 2019

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
Rating: DNF

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.

My Favorite Books of 2018

It’s time to share my favorite books of the year! While I do write about the books I read at the end of every month, I find it a lot of fun to create a final list of the best of the best to share at the end of the year. Last year I think I only shared my absolute favorite 5* books, but this year I’d like to share my 5’s as well.

This is how I usually rate the books I read:

1 – I’m not sure I’ve ever actually rated a book a 1 because if I like it enough to finish it I feel like it at least deserves a 2. So if I rated my pile of “Did Not Finish” books, they would have 1’s. But I don’t want to rate them because that would skew the data on books I actually read!
2 – I managed to finish it, but I did not like it. I’d say it’s pretty rare for me to give a 2 as well, but I will often give a rating of 2.5 if I really didn’t like it.
3 – It was okay. I enjoyed reading it, but I will have probably already forgotten what the book was about by the time I write about it at the end of the month.
4 – I really liked the book. There might have been one or two issues that bothered me enough to give it a higher rating, but overall I found very few things to dislike.
5 – I loved the book! It made me feel things intensely. It was unputdownable. It made me laugh out loud and/or it made me cry. It felt like something very important and vital to my being. It brought me tremendous joy.
5* – This extra special rating is reserved for books that I love so much I want to share them with everybody. They’re the books I’ll actually talk about to people, even if they don’t seem to share the same interest in reading as me. They’re also usually the books that I love so much I would probably re-read them at some point and want to own a great copy for my own shelves. They also might have a swoon-worthy character in them that I ADORE. 🙂

Looking back on my list for 2018, I think I’ve either been reading a lot better books or I’ve become much more liberal with my ratings! 19% of the books I read were given a 5 or 5* rating. That’s quite an upgrade from the 10 I deemed best and wanted to share in 2017! Considering five of my eleven 5* books were in December, I think I might have been feeling a bit generous. Some of them don’t exactly follow my criteria – I wouldn’t read them again (the thrillers). But I loved every page and know I’ll never forget their stories!

The Best of the Best 5* Books (maybe, a little bit, in order)

1 – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I loved this delightful workplace romantic comedy SO MUCH. I laughed through the entire book and adored the characters and seriously, it just made me swoon. It is one of my favorite books of all time because it’s just so FUN. It made me so happy.

2 – Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford

I loved reading through this book one short essay a day. With a few months off here and there, it took me over a year to read through it, but I was never tempted to totally set it aside like most (or all) devotional books I start. I thought this book was so beneficial for guiding my soul to focus on love and only love, especially where my children are concerned. Her words really made me consider the choices I make and the things I prioritize. I loved it and fully intend on reading through it again.

3 – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows

I have a serious weakness for books that center around letters/emails/notes being exchanged. Though this book is entirely written in letters, it still has such an amazing sense of plot and characters because there are so many different voices. I found the entire book to be an absolute delight. I also thoroughly enjoyed it on audio and in its Netflix adaptation!

4 – Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Okay, when I first read this book I was blown away. It’s one of the only nonfiction books that I tore through because it felt so vitally important to my outlook on life. In the six months since then, as Rachel Hollis has become mega popular and there have been a lot of negative things written about her and her book/message, I’ve been wavering a bit on how much I maybe actually should have enjoyed this book. Greg pointed out to me that this is on some list for top five top worst books of the year because she writes so much about her white privilege. And yeah, that’s a valid point. She also has a message about loving your body and yourself, while at the same time basically fat shaming you if you’re not at your ideal weight. But still, after taking some of those things into consideration, I do believe that Rachel Hollis genuinely has a great message out there to empower women to take charge of their own lives and DO SOMETHING. This is an idea that I also feel very strongly about and it helped to read a book that pushes that idea so strongly. So! If you need some encouragement to make changes in your own life, this will be a great read.

5 – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I see that I gave this first book in the series a 5* and the second book a 5, though in hindsight I feel like I maybe liked the second book a tad bit more. Either way – this series is fantastic. I try to steer clear of reading a lot of fantasy series because there are always so many random things to keep track of about their world and I seriously just don’t care. I’m all about the characters. And this series has some AMAZING drool-worthy characters. 🙂

6 – 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Another book written entirely in letters, though this one is the real deal telling the actual friendship between an American book lover and an English book seller. I really just adored this book because it celebrates books and the passion for reading. Helene’s letters were incredibly delightful and I found the whole book to be an absolute joy.

7 – Verity by Colleen Hoover

I can’t have a top list without Colleen Hoover! She continues to amaze me. Verity is even completely out of her typical genre. It’s a psychological thriller that will mess you up. For real. It was really, really great, though. I can’t talk too much about the plot because it might give things away. I loved this book, though.

8 – Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Surprisingly, this is the only YA-ish book to make my top list this year. It’s about a college girl with boyish features who decides to dress up as a boy in order to join a male a capella group. While you think this story will be pretty straightforward, it takes a lot of interesting turns and spends a lot of time examining gender roles in today’s society. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

9 – Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher

This is the last book I read and I couldn’t put it down. The two main characters who have an awkward and unusual past, are kidnapped and trapped together in a small cabin in Alaska with nowhere to go. The expectation is that they’ll fall into some sort of desperate romance as they work together to survive, but the story is so much more complex than that. Their dynamic is complicated and sobering, but ultimately ends in hope.

10 – Bird Box by Josh Malerman

I think I rated this book so highly because it was so far outside the box (ha!) in the type of books I usually read. The creepy factor was through the room and I think it’s such a crazy story that I’ll never forget it. It was scary, but not in a way that makes me scared to walk around my house in the dark (the reason I don’t usually read horror). The resilience of the characters really amazed me as well.

11 – Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

I read this book while I was recovering from my broken ankle and it provided me with so many unique and interesting things to think about as I read letters that people write into Cheryl as “Dear Sugar” and her insightful responses to them. It’s the only thing I’ve ever read by her, and I found it so full of wisdom and wit. The depth of both the letters and her responses were just the distractions I needed from my own pain while I read.

The Other 5 Star Books from 2018

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Beard Science by Penny Reid

Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly

A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness by Ton Mak

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

And that’s it for 2018! I’m going to be using a much more elaborate bookkeeping system next year so I can give all the stats on how much fiction vs nonfiction I read, memoir vs graphic novel, books by women vs books by men, average page number, etc. I’m really excited about this! I think I might try and go back to being a very harsh critic when it comes to rating my books as well. We’ll see on that. 🙂

I’d love to hear YOUR favorite books of the year!