What I Read October 2019

October was NOT a great month for reading. I only finished nine books (my fewest of any month yet this year), and two of those were short audiobooks and one was a cookbook. Besides the cookbook – which was amazing – all of the books were only 3, 3.5, or 4 stars. Solidly “good, nice books.” None of them were books that will be particularly memorable or something I’m interested in rereading in the future. Not that being re-readable is necessary for a book to be GREAT – but I’m in a place in my life right now where I really just want to escape and be entertained and excited to jump back into the story every chance I get. I haven’t had many books like that all year. Which is eternally frustrating! I’m disappointed that in my birthday month, when I wanted to make reading one of my highest priorities, I had such a hard time getting excited about any of these. But – here goes.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Rating: 4 stars

Jane Eyre is a book I really wanted to read this month as I delved into my seasonal reading pile. I’ve never been a fan of classics, but had a distinct feeling that this might have been the only one I actually enjoyed reading in school. I found the most beautiful copy of it when I was out shopping day and couldn’t resist (see photo!). But then my library audiobook of it just happened to come in on October 1st and since I was up super early working I decided to go ahead and listen to it instead. It’s only about two and a half hours long! I still can’t figure out how that’s possible when the book is so thick and the internet says it should take approximately 12 hours to read. At any rate! The narration of this was perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed it – that coming from someone who can never, ever pay attention to fiction on audio. Though to be fair – short works for small attention spans! I listened to the entire book in a single morning and really did fall in love with the story. I found it a bit unbelievable how quickly Jane and Rochester fall in love, but he seemed like a much more likeable character than when I read this in college (at the time the 20 year age difference was probably really appalling!). If you’re looking for a short classic audio to pick up, this would really be a good one.

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
Rating: 4 stars

Amy Harmon’s Making Faces is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I also recently read her book What the Wind Knows and loved it. She writes beautiful sweeping stories that really draw you in and make you feel so deeply for the characters. When I heard she was releasing this book, however, centering around Norse mythology, I was really hesitant to pick it up. It did not sound at all interesting to me. But after seeing all the floods of five star reviews I gave it a shot. And like always – a beautifully written story. But I also felt like the plot ebbed and flowed a bit more than it should have. I was so interested and suddenly I didn’t really know or care about what was going on. Near the end of the book when the action really gets intense, I honestly had no clue what was happening. I loved the characters, though, and they really make the story sing. I liked the book a lot, but it also took me FOREVER to read, which is a pretty indicator that it can never be a five star book for me.

Baking Me Crazy by Karla Sorensen
Rating: 4 stars

There has been a lot of hype for Penny Reid fans about this series of Smartypants Romance books where other authors wrote stories about other characters in the Green Valley/Winston Brothers world. This was the first to release in the next two months and I hope to read all of them, soon after release date to keep up with all the online discussions. I was excited about this one because it’s supposed to be about the bakery and a baker. Though if you’re looking for a book where baking is featured highly, this is not it. Joss is a paraplegic who gets a job in the Donner Bakery. Her best friend Levi has been secretly in love with her for the last five years since the day he met her and she told him she was only ready to have a friend. This friends to lovers romance is sweet and tender and I enjoyed it. But I also found myself mildly bored by it in parts. Though that’s probably more my own fault than the book’s as I seem to be having an extremely hard time getting through them this month! Overall, it was a strong start to this unique series of books and I’m excited to check out more of them as they are released.

The Whisper Man by Alex North
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the first “creepy” seasonal book I finally made myself pick up this month. I was a little apprehensive about reading it because I don’t like horror and I don’t like books about terrible things happening to kids. But it had a lot of great reviews so I read it anyway. And…it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was almost relieved that the creepy/horror factor was honestly so minimal, I don’t know why so many people were making such a fuss about it. It really wasn’t even much of a thriller. More of a high stakes yet mild mystery novel. Overall, the book is much more about the complexity of relationships between fathers and sons. I enjoyed that part too – especially because I felt like I could relate to the main character, Tom, and how disconnected he sometimes felt from his six year old son, Jake. Overall, it was a good story. I just couldn’t muster up a ton of excitement over it. Again, like every book this month, it took me SO long to finish.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Lefanu
Rating: 4 stars

Okay, this is cheating a little bit, because I listened to a theatrical audio retelling of this book rather than listening to the actual text – though a friend said they were very similar. I was hoping to add another scary title to my October book list, and this was about two hours long – perfect for a morning at my sewing machine. And I liked it! I guess I’ve never read any class vampire fiction before now, but I was amazed at how may similarities this novella had to the tv show Vampire Diaries. For that reason alone I was kind of tickled by the entire story. I also enjoyed listening to it as Rose Leslie and David Tennant were the two main actors in the audio version. Who wouldn’t want to listen to them?! I guess I don’t have much else to say about it, other than that I enjoyed it. It wasn’t scary, but I can see how it might have been if read in the era it was written.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Rating: 3.5 stars

I wasn’t very great about recording my books and reviews immediately after finishing a book this month. The completion of this one almost escaped my attention entirely. I remember enjoying it, but it was apparently also quite forgettable. I’m always up for a book about people who love books and that aspect of this story was fun. But I had a hard time distinguishing what the book was really supposed to be about when there seemed to be so many main focuses. I LOVED the storyline of her new eccentric family members. And I was disappointed that a love interest was thrown in, but had very little to do with the story as a whole. Overall, it was a good book. Just definitely not a favorite.

Weight Expectations by M.E. Carter
Rating: 3 stars

Here’s another book written in Penny Reid’s fictional world, by a different author. This book overlapped with Penny’s Knitting in the City series – of which I’ve only read one book and didn’t particularly care for. But there were a lot of great early reviews for this one, so I was excited about reading it. Unfortunately, it really kind of fell flat. The entire book is about a man who is the epitome of health and obsessed with keeping himself in great shape so he can enjoy mindless one night stands with total bimbos. Until he meets Rian, an overweight woman whose doctor just told her she better get healthy if she wants to stay alive. This came at about the exact same time my doctor basically told me the same thing, so at the beginning of the book I really enjoyed Rian’s journey of starting to work out and finding new ways to eat healthier. But then it just took over everything and I got so tired of reading the same redundant plotlines again and again. I probably should have DNF’d the book, but I feel oddly loyal to this series of Smartypants Romances and think I need to read and finish them all. It definitely wasn’t a favorite, though.

Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars

Earlier this year Christina Lauren released the book The Unhoneymooners and it was immediately one of my all time favorite swoony books. Snappy dialog, intense chemistry, and a lot of laughs. I was really hoping this book would be in a similar vein – and it’s not. So if you’re looking for pure fun, you won’t find it here. But you will find a sweet and forgiving love story between two flawed and hurt characters. They meet while they are young for a very brief but intense connection on a London vacation. Then one turns against the other and they don’t see each other for another 14 years when life brings them back together. I wasn’t enthralled by this book, but I had to remind myself that not every romance needs to also be a romantic comedy. With that in mind, it was a solid 4 star story.

Half Baked Harvest Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard
Rating: 5* stars

Half Baked Harvest is my all time favorite food blog. You are guaranteed to find the most amazing, creative, flavor bomb filled recipes – and incredible photographs to go with them. I make recipes I’ve taken from that blog more than any other – they’re fantastic. A year or two ago, Tieghan released her first cookbook and I of course immediately bought it. I went through it – and then it went on the shelf. I’m not sure I’ve ever made a single recipe from it. She makes a ton of great food, but a lot of it is fairly complicated with a ton of ingredients – it’s kind of intimidating when you just need a quick meal for your family. I was a little more apprehensive about her second cookbook, but bought it as well. And I’m so glad I did! This cookbook is incredible. I bookmarked almost every single recipe. Everything looks delicious and still maybe a bit more complicated than most “simple” cookbooks, I think it’ll be worth my time and effort. I’m almost a little overwhelmed at how many things look tasty that I don’t know where to begin in checking them off. My only complaint is that she uses her favorite ingredients in a lot of recipes. If it’s a flavor you don’t like or an ingredient you don’t have access to, it’s a bit of a turnoff. For example, she uses a lot of basil and pesto – flavors I can’t stand. She also uses a lot of burrata cheese – something I have only ever seen at Trader Joe’s (an hour away in the most inconvenient of locations) – and I go to a lot of different grocery stores! Every time she uses burrata in one of her blog recipes I wonder how SHE has access to it in her rural mountain area! But I’m sure there are plenty of substitutions you could make to create the perfect meal for your family. I’m extremely excited about working my way through this cookbook and finding some new favorites!

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.

What I Read December 2018

Well, the month (and year!) are not over yet and I hate writing these end of month posts until the actual end of the month, even though it causes a backlog of how many posts I want to write. But I just finished my 125th book of the year, so I think I’m going to call it! If I happen to finish any more books in the next two days, they’ll have to roll over into January.

That being said, December was a fantastic reading month! I read NINETEEN books this month!! I’m sure that must be a personal record. Granted, some of them were really short, one was a graphic novel, and two were on audio. But I wanted to make reading a top priority this month and I really followed through. The books I read this month were even so good that I had quite a few 4.5, 5, and 5* (my extra special rating for best of the best) star books! Here they are!

The Christmas Star by Donna VanLiere
Rating: 4 stars

It’s been quite awhile, but I enjoyed going back into this sweet and touching Christmas series. I didn’t have a ton of recollection of the previous books – it’s not necessary, but still nice to have a working knowledge of some of the side characters. But I enjoyed this story of Gabe the custodian, Amy the insurance worker, and the little foster girl Maddie who brought them together. It’s definitely a short and oversimplified story, but a nice fast paced and uplifting read during the Christmas season.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Rating: 5* stars

I never, ever would have found this book on my own – or picked it up if I had seen it. But in my facebook book club group so many people started recommending it and I was intrigued. It’s a collection of real life letters between Helene, an American script writer in the 1950’s and Frank, an English bookseller. The letters span about 20 years and were shockingly delightful in their celebration of the written word. I read the entire book in about an hour and I LOVED it. I laughed out loud and I cried at the end. It was awesome and the perfect book for anyone who just plain loves books!

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson
Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this sweet story about a single mom and her 12 year old son who inherit a beach cottage in Maine and visit it around Christmastime to fix it up to get ready to sell. The cottage sounded so lovely, it really made me want to start repainting and changing things up in my own house (if only those things were as easy as the book made it sound!). I did find it a bit unbelievable how eager and helpful Jackson, a 12 year old boy, could be. But it was sweet to see the story of dreams coming true and building a new life that is better for everyone. I just wish the ending hadn’t been so abrupt and unbelievably perfect.

Coming Home to Maple Cottage by Holly Martin
Rating: 3 stars

So my rating does not reflect this, but I made the mistake of assuming this was going to be a Christmasy read because of the snow on the cover and because so many other of Martin’s books take place at Christmastime. But in reality most of this book happens around Halloween and only the epilogue is at Christmas. Just so you know!! I saved it to read in December and was a little disappointed. Anyway, it was a sweet little romance between two very likeable characters and an adorable five year old boy who brings them together. But you have to deal with a lot of frustrating hardship trying to pull them apart just too many times. I read it relatively quickly and enjoyed it, just nothing super special about it.

Verity by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

Colleen Hoover never lets me down! Despite straying from her usual genre, this psychological thriller was amazing and unputdownable. I’m so glad I started it on a weekend so I could read it all in a day. So good! But also very twisted and dark. If you have trigger warnings with things happening to children, this might be a book to avoid. But the storyline as a whole was so great. And not without her usual amazingly written romance woven throughout the pages! I loved both Jeremy and Lowen so very much. I don’t want to say too much about the plot so I don’t give anything away – but read this book if you like fast paced thrillers. It was SO GOOD.

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock
Rating: 2.5 stars

I was pretty disappointed in this Christmas book. Terri Blackstock has proven to be a pretty great author to me over the many years I’ve been reading her, but this particular story felt like it had such an agenda toward all kinds of random little things and it drove me nuts. The first half of the book was so repetitive and boring. There’s a tiny bit of way too fast to be believable romance. I think the second half was slightly redeeming in its message about putting family and personal connection first. Overall, a pretty fast read, but just not that enjoyable.

Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford
Rating: 5* stars

I’ve been slowly working my way through this book for over a year now. Not because it necessarily takes a long time to read, but because I wanted to savor each nugget of wisdom and inspiration. This book is kind of set up like a devotional with 1-2 pages devoted to each topic for the day. I really loved every page and got so much out of it. This would be an amazing book or gift for any mother, especially mothers of littles. I highly, highly recommend it.

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Rating: 4 stars

I made the mistake of assuming this would be a very light and fluffy Christmas read. I was definitely unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster I’d go through with the main characters over a span of nine years. To be fair, I really wasn’t that interested in it the first one hundred pages. But I read through the rest of it over the course of a day as it got a lot more interesting. The premise of the book was pretty frustrating. You can take a good guess on what will happen, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch happen. But overall, I really rather liked it! The characters and their friendships and love for each other even in the worst of times was so strong and endearing. A great Christmastime read.

No Exit by Taylor Adams
Rating: 4.5 stars

Wow, what a crazy book. You will get about a quarter into it and start wondering what in the world could possibly happen for the rest of this book with five strangers trapped in a rest stop overnight during a blizzard? Well, A LOT. Granted it happened on a day I didn’t have anything else going on, but I read this book practically nonstop for an entire day to its end. It was fast paced and stressful and quite a ride. I definitely recommend if you’re into this genre.

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
Rating: 4.5 stars

It took me a bit longer than 84, Charing Cross Road to get into it (I missed the letters!), but this little book was every bit as endearing and sweet as the first. Helene’s writing brings so much nostalgia for a time and place that feels magical. A world where people just want to know each other and love books and simply want to experience every bit of life together. This book is basically journal entries of Helene’s trip she finally takes to England. Still so much fun and emotion packed into every entry. I think I would have gotten more out of it if I knew all of the landmarks she visited and there were definitely an overabundance of characters that were hard to keep track of. But it did remind me of my own two trips to Europe and while I wasn’t in England I could easily imagine all the old world charm. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to getting my hands on the third!

The Noel Stranger by Richard Paul Evans
Rating: 2.5 stars

Richard Paul Evans rarely disappoints me and I always look forward to reading his annual newly released Christmas story. But this one just did not cut it for me. While there was nothing wrong with it, per se, I was just bored by it. I get so annoyed by characters (and people!) who are purposely vague when being open and honest would eliminate so much confusion and strife. I get that without that element there wouldn’t be anything to this story. But it annoyed me. And I just couldn’t find much interest in either character.

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung
Rating: 5 stars

I happened to see this book listed on a graphic novel recommendation list and promptly requested it from the library because it looked so fitting. And it was! It’s the PERFECT creative rendering of what it’s like to be an introvert. I’m not entirely sure that all introverts could relate to everything Tung drew and wrote about because it obviously has a lot to do with the rest of her personality type as well. But honestly, basically every page just totally hit it on the head for ME. It’s always nice to see a book like this that validates my own feelings and personality traits, especially with how I could relate to feeling down on myself for being the way that I am. It’s better to learn more about yourself so you can accept the way you are and see the benefits to being a person like that out in the world. I’m never quite sure how to give star ratings to graphic novels, but I’m going with a solid 5 for this one because it was perfect for me. And on the plus side – it only took about half an hour to read and counts as another full book for my end of the year attempts to pile on as many books as possible! 🙂

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
Rating: 3 stars

This is a short and sweet little story about a dying man who was an absent father that provided his son with all the material goods and comfort he’d need, but none of his time or presence. As he’s facing death he has the opportunity to do something that will save the life of a little girl and has a huge decision to make. I did feel that this was perhaps a bit more abstract that I was looking for – or I was just really, really tired when I read it at the end of a long and stressful day. But it’s valuable in its lesson about what really matters in life and nice for a short read if you have it lying around.

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (audiobook)
Rating: 3 stars

If you’re in the market for a unique and short (about 3.5 hours) audiobook, this one fits the bill. I was looking for something to listen to besides podcasts for a few days and this was a new release on my Libby app. I had the book earmarked to read at some point, but knew it was unlikely I’d ever have time for it. Anyway, the book is a memoir about the harsh life of a Native American woman (though she only refers to herself as “Indian.”). I have to admit that audiobooks are really hard for me to concentrate on and I never feel like I got as much out of it as if I would have just read it. This memoir is heavy. And it was very disjointed. Disjointed in a way that somehow works, but it was also hard to really feel quite everything she had to say. I also did not find Mailhot to be a very likeable person at all and I had a hard time finding much sympathy for her. Anyway, I don’t regret listening, but still wish I had gone ahead and read it with my eyeballs instead.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (audiobook)
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really fun little romp of an audiobook (less than an hour!). This book has been on my radar for awhile as something to possibly get for Caden. I saw someone recommend the audiobook online, so I went ahead and checked it out. It’s read by Gaiman with a really great production value. While I can’t say it was terribly exciting for an adult, I think a middle grade reader or child would really enjoy it. Perhaps as a family listen on a long car ride. I did end up buying the book for Caden and it has a lot of great illustrations, so either method would work well with the right age group.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Rating: 5* stars

This is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read! I probably never would have even considered it since horror is a genre I adamantly avoid, but I saw the trailer for the Netflix adaptation and it looked so good I wanted to read the book first. A small group of survivors band together in a house against unknown creatures that upon sight cause people to go mad, murdering anyone within reach and then killing themselves. While I do wish there was a little more information given about the creatures and they weren’t such a vague unknown throughout the entire book, I was still held in rapt attention through every page. I loved how it went back and forth between the present journey and the events leading up to that desperate day. This was quite the page turner and did not disappoint!

Blind Kiss by Renee Carlino
Rating: 3 stars

This book annoyed me so much. I don’t like stories about missed opportunities and longing for a different life when you could take control of your circumstances and make the changes that would bring you your happiness. Stop being a dormat and letting other people make choices for you. That’s really all this book is. One long lament to the wrong choices that were made and a life filled with the resulting unhappiness. Too much angst and strife to get to that happy ending so much further down the line.

My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak
Rating: 3 stars

I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book. Jackie is a 16 year old who just lost her entire family in a car accident. She is sent to live with her mom’s friend and their 12 kids – 11 of which are boys – 6 of which are in the high school with her. The family itself is just a bit ridiculous and unbelievable. But I found most of the characters to be endearing and I did like her actual “life with the Walter boys.” I just had problems with the total lack of parental involvement that surely would happen if the situation were real. Jackie also finds herself constantly trying to figure out which of two of the boys she truly had feelings for. The one we’re supposed to be rooting for is such an egotistical jerk and I just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for him. But then the second one starts coming across as so immature and pathetic that you don’t want her to pick him either. I think I would have liked the book more if it had nothing to do with falling in love with one of the boys and was truly just her new life in that family.

Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 5* stars

I bought this book on a whim because Colleen Hoover (my favorite) is constantly talking about her author best friend Tarryn Fisher and other than their combined series, I haven’t read anything by her. And I’m so glad I did because this book was good. I read it in a day because I was so drawn into the story. Senna, an emotionally complicated and distanced writer is raped in the woods and found by Isaac, an oncologic surgeon. Drawn to help her, he shows up at her door every single night to help her feel safe, despite how she gives him nothing of herself in return. Years later they are both drugged and kidnapped and wake up in a deserted locked cabin in the wilds of Alaska. I was pretty apprehensive about reading this book because the original cover (not the one above) made it seem like the book would be some kind of weird and kinky romance about a woman and her kidnapper. It’s not. At all. It’s about learning to trust and learning to love and opening yourself up to the unexpected. Overall, I found this book incredibly sobering, but I also could not put it down. I highly recommend it.

Audiobook Review: As You Wish by Cary Elwes

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

As You Wish by Cary Elwes (audiobook version)
Rating: 4 stars

If you loved the movie The Princess Bride, you will surely enjoy this book. In As You Wish, Cary Elwes reflects on the preparation, filming, and production of the movie. He tells stories about how he was cast in the role of Wesley, how other cast members were chosen and why they were all so perfect for their parts. He provides plenty of nostalgia about the book the movie is based off of and how much all the cast and crew loved it. Everything about the movie is seen with such love and admiration, which made it feel extra special. I’ve never given a lot of thought to what all goes into making and producing a legendary movie, and it was interesting to learn about all the behind the scenes information.

One of the best parts about this audiobook version is that much of the cast has their own speaking parts. They’ve obviously contributed to the book itself and come on to read their own parts. Not everyone was available, but enough to make it an enjoyable experience. Elwes writes about the epic sword battles and how long it took to prepare them. He shares about how many times he and Robin Wright redid the final kiss of the movie simply because they didn’t want it all to be over. You also learn about how complicated everything in the fire pit was – including parts about the giant rats that I feared so greatly as a child! There was also quite a bit about Andre the Giant and how he fit into everything.

Overall, I think if you liked the movie and have seen it multiple times, you’d truly enjoy this book. Particularly the audiobook version as it brings the characters back to life. It’s interesting, fast paced, and will provide you with insight and trivia you can point out to other people the next time you see the movie (like I did)!