What I Read June 2018

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

Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West
Rating: 4 stars

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

Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin
Rating: 5 stars

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

Legendary by Stephanie Garber
Rating: 3 stars

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

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

The Dry by Jane Harper
Rating: 2.5 stars

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

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

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

Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas
Rating: 4 stars

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

Elites of Eden by Joey Graceffa
Rating: 4 stars

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

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

Happy reading!

What I Read May 2018

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

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Rating: 4 stars

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

Grin & Beard It by Penny Reid
Rating: 3 stars

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

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Rating: 5* stars

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

Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

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

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

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

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

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

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
Rating: 2.5 stars

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

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

What I Read April 2018

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

Good Luck Charm by Kellie McAllen
Rating: 3 stars

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

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Rating: 2 stars

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

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

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

Educated by Tara Westover
Rating: 4 stars

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

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

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

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid
Rating: 4 stars

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

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Rating: 5 stars

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

What I Read February and March 2018

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

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

Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre

Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre
Rating: 2.5 stars

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

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

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

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

The Voice Inside by Brian Freema

The Voice Inside by Brian Freeman
Rating: 3 stars

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

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Rating: 5* stars

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

How Not to Fall by Emily Foster

How Not to Fall by Emily Foster
Rating: 2 stars

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

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Rating: 3.5

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

Killman Creek by Rachel Caine

Killman Creek by Rachel Caine
Rating: 3 stars

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

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
Rating: 4 stars

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

26 Kisses by Anna Michels

26 Kisses by Anna Michels
Rating: 2.5 stars

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

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Rating: 4 stars

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

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Rating: 4 stars

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

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

Help and Hope While You're Healing by Christine Carter

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

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

My Fake Valentine by Kellie McAllen

My Fake Valentine by Kellie McAllen
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Still Me by Jojo Moyes
Rating: 4.5 stars

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

From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata

From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
Rating: 4.5 stars

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

Always by Sarah Jio

Always by Sarah Jio
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

Look For Me by Lisa Gardner

Look for Me by Lisa Gardner
Rating: 4 stars

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

Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata

Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata
Rating: 4.5 stars

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

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Rating: 2.5 stars

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

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

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

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

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

What I Read: January 2018

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

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Roomies by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5 stars

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

Left Drowning by Jessica Park

Left Drowning by Jessica Park
Rating: 4 stars

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

The Wife Between Us

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

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

Queen of the Tearling

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

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

The Royal We

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

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

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily

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

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

The Heart's Invisible Furies

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

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

Book Review: Roomies by Christina Lauren

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Roomies by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5 stars

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

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

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

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

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Books of 2017

I’ve been more than a little obsessed with reading every top books of the year list I’ve been able to find online these last few weeks. Sometimes I think I might like reading about and finding amazing sounding books more than I like actually reading. You can never be disappointed in a book if you’re only hearing about how great it is! But don’t worry – reading will NEVER not be a part of my daily life. 🙂 It’s just terribly exciting to know how many amazing books are out there waiting for me to discover!

This year’s list of favorites is another eclectic mix of genres and writing styles. YA continues to be at the top of my list because I often find it delightful and tingly, without all of the hardship and realism that comes with adulting. I’m also discovering how much I enjoy memoirs. Basically, I fall in love with any book that completely manipulates my emotions to the extreme. I love books that make me cry and books that make me laugh out loud. I crave books that I can’t put down and yet want to read as slowly as possible to savor every delicious word. I don’t read a ton of literary fiction, so my top book list looks a lot different than most of the more official lists out there. But I’m confident that just about any one of these books would be loved and adored by most. So check them out!

180 Seconds by Jessica Park

180 Seconds by Jessica Park

This list isn’t in any particular order, but I will say that this was my all time favorite of the year. Perhaps favorite of all time? It made me cry over and over again. For beautiful and tender and joyous reasons! It’s the kind of book that will restore your faith in mankind because it is just so GOOD. Read it.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

This is an extremely powerful memoir that you’ll have a hard time believing is actually true. It reads like a novel and is completely fascinating. You’ll follow the childhood of Ruth and her family as they struggle heavily in a Mormon polygamist colony in Mexico. It’s heartbreaking yet uplifting. It’s an amazing book that I will never forget.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

This book almost wrecked me. It followed my favorite trope of characters writing letters to each other while not knowing who the other person is in real life. But it’s deep. And so heavy. Which maybe doesn’t appeal to a lot of people! It’s probably not what I’d want to hear in a recommendation. But it’s also beautiful and lovely. You can read my whole review on it here.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

So give me any book where the main characters fall for each other both through anonymous letter/email writing and in person and I’m probably going to adore it. I liked this one because Bailey was actively trying to slueth out her mystery man, going so far as to move across country to where he lived, without telling him. It was a lighter read, but had great character development that left me truly rooting for the best of each person.

The Secret Wife by Gill Paul

The Secret Wife by Gill Paul

Historical fiction is not my favorite. Fiction is that spans multiple generations is also something I actively avoid when picking out a book. But this one? It has both and was incredibly captivating. It’s a story about the Romanov family during the war and a young soldier named Dmitri who was immensely in love with the daughter Tatiana. You follow Dmitri, as well as his great-granddaughter who is trying to piece together his secrets with very few clues to go on. It was a great read.

Salt to the Sea by Ruth Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruth Sepetys

Last year Sepetys’ book Between Shades of Gray was also one of my top reads. Both explore things that happened during WWII that I was completely unaware of and never heard about in a single history lesson. This is about a ragtag group of people who walk across Germany trying to catch their freedom on a boat across the Baltic Sea. It’s harrowing and heavy, but will stay with you for a long time.

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

I don’t read many mysteries, but when I do they always surprise me. This was a really great one about a woman who is known for finding missing children. Chapters alternate between her and the eight year old girl she is looking for, who has been lost for three years. It’s surprisingly imaginative and hopeful despite the dreary circumstances that bring them together. Truly a fantastic book. Read my full review here.

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover for the win! Again! Her books are all my favorites. This one strayed from her typical romance a bit and revolved more around a dysfunctional hodgepodge mix of a family. The characters were highly flawed, but incredibly relatable. Her books always give me all the feels and this was one of the best. Full review here.

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

The theme of this book is about how much stock you put into your own physical beauty (or lack of) and how it shapes you as an individual. It’s a beautiful story about friendship, love, and loss. The characters were all amazing. If you can get past the third person point of view which was a little odd, this book is amazing.

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

This is my third time writing about this in the last week or two, but it was truly one of my favorites of the year. It was just so incredibly delightful! It was also exciting that I never would have found it if I weren’t wandering around Barnes and Noble one night. My window shopping trips through bookstores can sometimes result in a treasure! I mean, this isn’t the great American novel by any means. But it was a really fun and laughter filled Christmas book that I look forward to reading again next year!

And that’s my list! I guess I actually kept it to my top ten! What have been your favorites this year??

What I Read: November and December 2017

Well, my plans to write individual book reviews immediately following every book I finished ended up getting the best of me. In theory I’d still like to do it, but it’s maybe something I don’t quite have the time for right now. I don’t want to stop with my monthly posts, though! I love reading, I love hearing about what other people are reading, and I want to share what books have mattered most to me. With my sewing craziness at the end of November and early December I didn’t have any time to write out my November book post. So this is going to be a long one!

I did end up reading quite a few great books in the last two months. I also probably stopped reading more books than I have in the rest of my life put together. I want to be able to set aside books that aren’t keeping my attention because I KNOW there is definitely something better out there. But it’s so hard to let go! FOMO is real. I’m still tentatively thinking I might go back to a few of these, but we’ll see. My To Be Read pile is gigantic and growing every day.

Finding Fraser by KC Dyer

Finding Fraser by KC Dyer
Rating: 3 stars

I happened upon this book by accident at Half Priced Books one day. I thought it looked hilarious and picked it up as a gift for my Outlander loving mother-in-law for Christmas. But I really like to read books before I gift them, so I can give a solid recommendation (hopefully). Finding Fraser is the story of Emma, who decides to quit her job and journey through Scotland on a mission to find her own real life Jamie Fraser. She blogs throughout the journey, gaining and losing followers and support. I loved reading about all her adventures in Scotland. But I lost a lot of respect for her when she found a man who was so obviously wrong for her and treated her like crap. I have a hard time loving a book when a character is just so DUMB! I also got a little irritated with Emma talking about how she was such a good writer when her blog posts were never detailed and usually only a couple of sentences long. That does not make a writer great! In my opinion. 🙂 But overall, it was a light and funny read and would probably be appreciated by anyone dreaming of their own Jamie Fraser!

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this book about a chef/owner of her own restaurant and an acclaimed and often hated food critic, both of whom keep their identities secret and develop a friendship that deepens over time. I love that it was set in Milwaukee and a lot of the places they visited and talked about were familiar to me. But maybe I’m way too judgemental of characters, but it really bothered me how Lou was always talking about what she’d wish her restaurant could be, but she didn’t do ANYTHING to actually create that dream. If you’re not going to take the risks then don’t complain about it not working out. Maybe? It’s definitely inspiring as you follow Lou’s journey about discovering who she is and what she truly wants out of life.

Full review here.

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre
Rating: 5 stars

This is an incredibly sad yet devastatingly beautiful story about a woman who killed her husband, lost her daughter, and has given up all hope in connecting with anyone ever again. She’s a world famous romance author, but also a total recluse, at only 32 years old. She is suddenly diagnosed with brain cancer and giving three months to live. Before she dies she wants the truth of what happened to her little family to be out there for the world to see. Swiftly losing her own ability to make a book happen so quickly, she is forced to beg her writing nemesis to come on as her ghost writer. The respect and finally friendship that develops between characters is so tender and inspirational. It’s not an easy read as it’s shrouded in grief and sadness. But it was a wonderfully written book.

Full review here. 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (audiobook version)
Rating: 4.5 stars

I rated this book highly because I think it’s important, not because I necessarily enjoyed reading it. (Listening, in this case.) It’s a tough book. It will force you to think about black neighborhoods, gangs, police brutality, and undeserved death. Things I don’t particularly enjoy in my reading life because that’s not an escape. That’s reality. And it sucks, for a lot of people. It’s a fascinating book as you listen to Starr struggling between her thug life neighborhood where she lives and the mostly white private school with white boyfriend and white friends in another city. Starr witnesses the death of one of her best friends and spends the entire book learning to fight for his justice and what is right. I think this is a powerful book for anyone to read, but I particularly enjoyed the audio version because it had such a strong voice.

Full review here.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
Rating: 5 stars

I think being stranded on a deserted island is pretty much a great premise for any book, even if it’s been done many, many times before. This one felt a little different with only two survivors of a plane crash and people that absolutely hated each other for a very, long time. But they slowly start to depend on each other, and try to make the other one smile, and build a beautiful and engaging relationship with each other. Without all the distractions. Just the two of them, their words, and nothing else on their tiny little island. Despite their circumstances they find a level of happiness that is rarely achieved. I loved this book. It was definitely a slow start, but better and better as it went on.

Full review here.

I'd Rather Be Reading by Guinevere De La Mare

I’d Rather Be Reading by Guinevere de la Mare
Rating: 2 stars

I don’t have a lot to say about this book, other than don’t waste your time. It had so much potential of being a beautiful coffee table book filled with book art, library and bookstore photographs, etc. Instead it’s a tiny little book with “essays” that were mostly pretentious and highly biased to classic literary works of fiction being the only books worth reading. That really rubbed me the wrong way! This book was a huge disappointment.

Full review here. 

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karine Yan Glaser
Rating: 4.5 stars

I find myself highly intrigued by middle grade books lately. I think it’s the cover art. Who are these people doing cover art for middle grade books and why aren’t they also working on adult or YA books?! Every book is so beautiful! Anyway, I’ve already written about this book twice on my blog. It’s wonderful. And not just for kids. I think any adult would thoroughly enjoy it too. It’s about a family with five children that are fighting to save their home at Christmastime. It’s sweet and endearing and a wonderfully uplifting book.

Full review here.

Copycat by Alex Lake

Copycat by Alex Lake
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is an intriguing thriller about a woman who is one day told there’s a copycat account for her on facebook. This quickly spirals into full out stalking which leads you to wonder if you’re dealing with something that’s actually happening or the narrator is indeed unreliable. It was a satisfying book, but not entirely memorable. Fast paced and interesting, but I was not particularly happy with how things ended. I’ll be curious to see if there’s a sequel.

Full review here.

Merry and Bright

Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
Rating: 3.5 stars

Merry is an overworked temp who is barely getting by with the high demands of her job, a difficult boss, and a family that depends on her for so many things. Jay is that demanding and difficult boss who has a very lonely  and isolated personal life. They are both talked into joining a dating site where they become interested in each other – without knowing who they are in real life. It’s a sweet holiday romance. Not too deep, but nice and light for Christmastime.

A Winter Dream by Richard Paul Evans

A Winter Dream by Richard Paul Evans
Rating: 4 stars

This is a modern day retelling of Joseph and his many brothers that were jealous and hated him and sold him away. It was definitely interesting and held my attention to the end. I’m starting to realize that so many of Richard Paul Evans’ characters have a lot of similar characteristics. They are all such upstanding and likeable men. Which is why his books are so wonderful reading. This one wasn’t particularly Christmassy, but I enjoyed reading it during the season.

What Light by Jay Asher

What Light by Jay Asher
Rating: 3.5 stars

Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm in Oregon and every year they spend the month of December selling their trees at a town in California. This year Sierra meets a boy, Caleb, who seems troubled and distant, but continues to come back day after day buying trees for other people. They form a friendship that develops into more. This book is darker than I expected it to be. But I guess you can expect that from Jay Asher? But it was also full of sweet gestures. The annoying characters in the book – Sierra’s parents. They fell in love working at this very Christmas tree lot, but do everything in their power to stop it from happening to Sierra.

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff
Rating: 5 stars

I loved this book! Timing probably had a lot to do with it. I kept starting books that felt so slow and cliched and fluffy. I was also stressed to the limit personally and was desperately craving a book to drag me out of it. This was the cure! This delightful YA Christmas novel is about a Secret Santa exchange between a group of students working on their school newspaper. The characters cheat and conspire with each other, trying to make their crushes each fall in love with them. I thought JD was an absolute delight and he was a huge part of the book. Character interaction makes books so much more exciting! This is going down as one of my favorite books of the year simply because it brought me so much joy!

Full review here.

Kiss Me in New York by Catherine Rider

Kiss Me in New York by Catherine Rider
Rating: 3.5 stars

Charlotte is at the airport waiting to head back to England after a semester abroad in New York and a breakup with a boy she thought she loved. Anthony is at the airport about to pick up his girlfriend from college, only to find out that she’s cheating on him. With a bunch of snow cancellations, Charlotte and Anthony end up spending the entire night together, wandering around New York and going on a myriad of adventures. And it all takes place on Christmas Eve. Overall, this book felt fairly unbelievable, but was still entertaining. It’s hard to get behind a romance that happens in such a short time – and so immediately after breaking up with other people. But they have a very realistic future ahead of them, so their happily ever after felt inevitable.

We'll Always Have Christmas by Jenny Hale

We’ll Always Have Christmas by Jenny Hale
Rating: 4 stars

Noelle is a single mother who desperately wants to save her family’s bakery that is about to close because Alexander Harrington jacked their rent up so high. She takes a position as a caretaker for Alex’s ailing grandfather. They all begin a journey to acceptance and forgiveness over things that have happened in the past. One thing that surprised me is that Alex was in no way a mean man. He’s set up like that at the start, but he is sweet and supportive and wants to help Noelle achieve her dreams. The entire story is a bit too much like a fairy tale, since Alex is a billionaire and can and does shower them with a ridiculous amount of gifts and splendor. But it’s fun and festive! I felt like there was way too much going on in this book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans

The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans
Rating: 5 stars

Tried and true author, he’s always a favorite! His newest Christmas release was about a man – an author of romance novels – who was trying to come to terms with his past after the passing of his estranged mother. As he’s cleaning out her hoarder house, he meets Rachel, who is trying to figure out the mysteries in her own past. This is a fast paced and intriguing read about learning how to feel worthy of love, no matter what your past circumstances.

Dot Journaling by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Dot Journaling by Rachel Wilkerson Miller
Rating: 5 stars

If you’ve ever been intrigued by the idea of a bullet journal, but were quickly overwhelmed by all the information available online, this is an awesome comprehensive guide that will simplify the bare bones of getting started and give you ideas for how to really make it a daily and worthwhile part of your life. I’ve tried bullet journaling in the past and gave it up because it made me feel inadequate in comparison to how many beautiful pictures I’ve seen online. But I really do love planning, organizing, and writing things down to remember in the future. I’ve been mulling the idea of starting another bullet journal in the new year and this was just the book to help me. It was so exciting reading such short chapters of inspiring reasons why dot journaling can not only be a place to write your to do lists, but also a memorable keepsake of all aspects of your life. I read through the book in a day and immediately got started setting up my next journal.

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Making Faces by Amy Harmon
Rating: 5 stars

Fern is a late bloomer with unruly red curls, freckles, braces until she was 18, and thick glasses. Bailey is her cousin and best friend who has a degenerative muscle disease and is well acquainted with the idea of his own death. Ambrose is the gorgeous muscular small town wrestling hero who convinces all of his friends to join the Army with him and comes back home alone and disfigured. These three characters are constantly interacting and growing and facing loss and heartache mixed with love and hope. The third person point of view really threw me at the beginning of the book. I wasn’t sure that I’d like it until about a third of the way in when it suddenly became a beautiful and engaging story. There is so much heartache and apprehensive and grief tied into this book, but it comes together with so much love and faith in each other. Be prepared, the final part of the book will wreck you. But it’s so worth it. I read this in a day and completely fell in love with it and all of the flawed yet ultimately beautiful characters.

Book Review: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff
Rating: 5 stars

I’ve fallen behind on my book reviews. 🙁 I’ve fallen behind on all of my blog posts the last few weeks. Sewing deadlines have taken over my life. I finally finished those and now I’m on to wrapping and baking and getting everything ready for Christmas. So I’m making the decision to skip writing in depth reviews on the last few books I’ve read. But I wanted to start back up again with this book I finished today because I loved it! And if you’re looking for a lighthearted and sweet holiday read, this would be perfect.

Charlie (Charlotte) is co-editor of the high school newspaper and an overachieving perfectionist to a tee. She has zero tolerance for people breaking the rules or being late for anything. She develops a crush on the school’s most popular star student and athlete, Teo. She decides to rig the paper’s Secret Santa exchange so she can get Teo gifts that prove how perfect they are for each other. The only problem is that Charlie has no idea what Teo likes. So she solicits help from Teo’s cousin J.D. – also known as the most annoying person in the world. J.D. has been a constant headache to her as the paper’s photographer and is late to every meeting, driving her insane. But for the sake of Christmas, Charlie and J.D. are forced to spend a lot of time together coming up with the perfect combination of gifts that will win Teo’s heart. A friendship eventually emerges and Charlie’s heart begins to turn.

This book is pretty much a perfect YA romance for me. If you love YA as much as I do, you’ll like this book – guaranteed. It was lighthearted and funny and J.D. was an absolute delight! Charlie definitely had her faults, but they were things I could relate to. I also loved the genuine friendship she sheared with her best friend throughout the story. I feel like so many holiday books revolve around someone being grumpy and anti-Christmas. This was a refreshing twist with everyone excited and full of Christmas spirit. I also loved that so much of the book was about finding the perfect gifts for the Secret Santa exchanges. I adore gift giving and it was fun to read about people who found as much joy in it as I do.

Overall, I loved this book. It was one of my favorites of the year! I think it’ll definitely be a re-read every December. One of my favorite parts about the book was the almost constant interaction between Charlie and J.D. That made the whole story a lot more entertaining and fast paced. It was such a sweet book that will bring anyone a smile this Christmas!