My Favorite Books of 2019

This has been a fantastic year for reading. It’s always been my favorite thing to do, but I think this year I really prioritized it as THE thing to do whenever I had a spare moment of time. I’ve also found extra joy in tracking a lot of new stats using Book Riot’s Reading Log. This may not interest anyone but me, but I’m definitely going to share all that with you in a minute. ūüôā I am SO happy to be a reader and have this chance to share all of my favorites with you each month! The bookish community is my favorite place to hang out online, researching and finding new books to read is almost as much of a hobby as reading itself, and diving into that perfect book is about the best feeling in the entire world. I pour over these end of the year lists each December, adding more books to my TBR list than I’ll ever have time to actually read. And I’m okay with that, as long as I always have options! Reading is simply THE BEST.

(I should mention that other than number of books read, my stats are SLIGHTLY skewed because I didn’t realize the spreadsheet was going to include my DNF’d books and I can’t delete them without messing up the numbering for everything else, so if you’re actually doing the math, there are 158 books included in my stats. I won’t be marking DNF’s on this tracker in 2020!)

THE STATS:

Books Read: 152

This actually surprised me as I have such a hard time FINISHING the nonfiction books I’m obsessed with buying. Though a large chunk of these are cookbooks, which I decided to start including in my reading this year because I DO read them word for word.
This is the year I became dedicated to actually reading a lot of the print books I already own and love to purchase. My Kindle is amazing, but there’s nothing like having an actual book in your hands. As for audio, I didn’t listen to many, but this is still more than ever before!
Full length novels are definitely my favorite! I had a hard time deciding which of my nonfiction were prose vs. essays, so they should probably be lumped in together since I normally just picked one or the other.
My only issue with this tracking system was how limited the genre classification seemed. I wish there had been a “Thriller” and “Cookbook” option. I definitely steer most toward contemporary fiction, though a lot of those could MAYBE have been also classified as “romance,” but I tried to only mark that if it was a full blown sexy town kind of book. I should also note that Book Riot only gives you lists of your stats, I created these pie charts separately for visual appeal. ūüôā
I like normal fiction sized books. I don’t like huge books. Most of the short books were graphic novels and cookbooks.
Some people seem to take pride in how prudely they rate a book and seem happy that the year has come to an end and they’ve only had a handful of 5 star books. I feel like it’s much better to have MOSTLY 4 and 5 star books because it’s proof that you’ve had a great year of reading and you picked wonderful books! I tend to very rarely rate anything less than a 3 if I actually took the time to finish it. And on a separate spreadsheet where I’ve tracked books for the last ten years, I have an addition 5* rating, to indicate the best of the best.
I’m a pretty consistent reader no matter what time of the year it is. Probably always higher in January and December when I’m reading more cookbooks and short Christmas books.

The Books

Okay, okay, enough with the stats, let’s get to the books. I’m going to give you my top 5* fiction – the books that I ADORED, I can remember clearly long after I’ve finished them, they probably made me both laugh and cry, and I’m likely to want to read them again. And because I had so many 5 star fiction books in total, I’ll give you a bonus so they’re not left out! Then I’ll give you my top nonfiction of the year and my top cookbooks. Enjoy!

Top 10 Fiction Books of 2019

  1. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
  2. A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (READ THIS, second book comes out in a few weeks!!)
  3. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover
  4. Well Met by Jen DeLuca
  5. Five Minute Life by Emma Scott
  6. Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt
  7. To Night Owl From Dog Fish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
  8. The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad by Cookie O’Gorman
  9. The Summer of Chasing Dreams by Holly Martin
  10. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Bonus 5 Star Fiction Books of 2019

  1. Eleanor & Grey by Brittainy Cherry
  2. The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
  3. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Aceveda
  4. Savaged by Mia Sheridan
  5. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
  6. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2019

  1. Everybody, Always by Bob Goff (audio!)
  2. Fail Until You Don’t by Bobby Bones (audio!)
  3. Skinny Liver by Kristin Kirkpatrick
  4. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
  5. The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin
  6. Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
  7. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  8. Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness (audio!)
  9. Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith
  10. Book Love by Debbie Tung

Top 5 Cookbooks of 2019

  1. Tex Mex Cookbook by Ford Fry
  2. Half Baked Harvest: Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard
  3. Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook by Perre Coleman Magness
  4. The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops
  5. Salt and Straw by Tyler Malek

What I Read December 2019

I think it’s pretty safe to say I won’t finish any more books this month, so I’ll sneak this post in before I do my best books of the year. December was a good reading month! One of my top goals was to read whatever would bring me joy, and I think I did a pretty good job picking them out. I read 18 total books: 1 nonfiction audio, 1 anthology of short Christmas stories, 1 graphic novel, 1 hard copy nonfiction, 4 cookbooks, and 10 fiction books. The majority of the books were really great! I can’t wait to share them with you. ūüôā

Everybody, Always by Bob Goff (audiobook)
Rating: 5* stars

I received this book in a swap a few months ago, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. Around the same time I requested the audio version from the library and it became available the week before Thanksgiving when I was way too busy to think about listening. Finally getting back to work on December 2nd I realized I only had one day left before it would be snatched away again, so I decided to listen to the entire 5.5 hour book that day. It was worth it. This book was profound in its message of love everybody, love always, and give your love away as if you are made of it. Bob Goff is filled with so many incredible stories because he lives his life loving everyone around him. He’s funny too! I laughed out loud so many times. I cried too. Honestly, it was quite the whirlwind of a single day’s listen! I am absolutely going to dig into my hard copy now too because I need to highlight probably 60% of his words and figure out how to start living my own life that way. I’m not good at loving people. I’m horrible at accepting interruptions and changes to my schedule and plans. I spend most of my life isolated, rarely going out of my way to connect with others. I think that needs to change. Anyway, I think this would be an incredible book for literally anybody to read or listen to. It has the potential to be life changing.

In the Unlikely Event by L.J. Shen
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was one of those odd books I couldn’t make up my mind how to rate. Two young people fall desperately in love within hours of meeting each other, make a promise to marry each other if fate ever brings them together again, and then don’t see each other for eight years. By then Mal hates Rory with a destructive anger and Rory does not know why. On one hand, I was very sucked into the story and anxious to read it at every opportunity. I haven’t read many books like that in awhile. On the other hand, it infuriates me when the entire conflict in a book could be resolved in a twenty second conversation to fix the misunderstanding that tore them apart. I also thought some of Mal’s behavior and words when he was angry with Rory were unforgivable. And on a personal level, I find it really irritating when intriguing and random details are thrown into a story, but serve no purpose. For example – Rory’s half brother that she just found out about, but also just died, and she doesn’t even give it another thought. If I found out I had a half brother, even if he had died, I’d want to know everything there was to know about him. Or the fact that Mal has five brothers and one sister and only the sister is mentioned again in the story – but not even present. Why give him five brothers if they serve no purpose? Why not two? Something more “normal.” Anyway, I did like the book, but I had a hard time accepting Mal as the great hero in the story.

All Wrapped Up for the Holidays by Colleen Hoover (and others)
Rating: 3

This was a surprise Christmas anthology released by a group of authors, including Colleen Hoover. You can only get it through Book Funnel, but it’s free (for a limited time). I’m not really a fan of short stories, they always leave me wanting more. For this particular collection, most of the stories are about characters from the authors’ previous books, so if you haven’t read those books you might not get a lot out of their Christmas story. I wanted to read this because Colleen Hoover’s Finding Perfect was basically an epic epilogue to her Hopeless and All Your Perfect books. And THAT was amazing. I also enjoyed the first short story in the collection. The third had a crazy amount of characters and I gave up on it. The fourth and fifth were pleasant. Overall, totally worth reading Colleen’s story if you’ve read the other two.

Instant Loss Cookbook by Brittany Williams
Rating: 4 stars

I picked up this cookbook a while ago because it sounded very inspiring. Though I was also a little doubtful of anybody who could lose 125 pounds in a year, just by making all her meals from scratch. After reading through the entire cookbook I still have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. It WAS a good cookbook and her story IS inspiring. But she does mention in a couple of different places that she basically only eats vegetables, with a small grain portion just twice a week. That is NOT a diet I can sustain. It makes me wonder about the authenticity of all the recipes and if she actually uses them for her own meals. She doesn’t do dairy either. I’m never giving up cheese, guys. Anyway, most of the recipes are pretty simple (that was her plan – keep food whole and simple) and many of them require the instant pot. I dug mine out after two years of no use and made her salty potatoes right away. It was probably the easiest recipe in the entire cookbook, but it worked! I’m planning to go through the recipes more thoroughly and work my way through them, mostly to gain comfort in using the instant pot more regularly. Sadly, there were not photos with every recipe, but there were still a lot. I’m always a little discouraged to realize how many new ingredients I’m going to need to make most recipes in a cookbook, but I think it’ll be worth it for these. I’m intrigued!

Heidi’s¬†Guide¬†to¬†Four¬†Letter¬†Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt
Rating: 5* stars

This book was so much fun that I read it in a single day! It was the first genuinely funny and sweet book I couldn’t put down in quite awhile. Hoping to gain some confidence in her ability to talk to men, while also helping her own self empowerment, Heidi decides to start a podcast where she reads passages from erotic novels. When she’s not working or doing the podcast, she’s crushing big time on her neighbor Brent and talks about said feelings on every podcast episode. I laughed out loud so hard and for so long multiple times during this book. I really loved it!

Notting Hill in the Snow by Jules Wake
Rating: 4 stars

This was an ultimate cozy Christmas light romance about a single father and his daughter and a woman who warms their hearts. I wasn’t sure in the beginning how much I would like the book – it felt a bit stressful. But it very quickly eased into something so sweet and beautifully holiday driven filled with heartwarming moments. The only reason I knocked it down a star is because I felt Nate could have had a bit more backbone when dealing with the conflict that arose. Overall, though, this book was exactly what I was looking for in this busy Christmas season.

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

With the exception of a few hours in the middle to sleep, I read this book straight through. Colleen Hoover will never disappoint. Even though she’s always switching up genres and you never know what you’re going to get – you can always rely on the fact that it’s going to be a great story. This book is mostly about the relationship between a mother and daughter, but there is plenty of beautiful romance on the side. It was heartbreaking and beautiful and sweet and touching. I loved it. I love them all, but this was really wonderful.

Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really sweet graphic novel that I read in about half an hour. It’s about a new friendship between two teenage boys, one who is gay and one who isn’t really sure who he is yet. It always amazes me how many emotions can be conveyed in just the simplest drawings and so little dialog. It was so sweet. ūüôā I’m just a bit perturbed to realize it ended on a cliffhanger. It took me so many months to get the first one from the library, now I have to wait again.

Instant Loss by Brittany Williams
Rating: 4 stars

Much like her first cookbook, I found this freshly released book to be highly valuable and filled with encouragement, simple recipes, and a lot of hope that I, too, can change my life around. I really resonate with both of Brittany’s cookbooks because she seems to be focusing on all of the same types of diet changes that I’m also working on. She does use “different” ingredients, but as I build my pantry with those alternatives I’m finding more and more freedom in the food I can eat. No, it’s not what I’ve eaten my whole life, but yes, it DOES taste good and it DOES make me feel better. I’m excited to try a huge chunk of the recipes in this book – mostly the breakfasts, snacks, and basics. The only area I found lacking are the actual dinner ideas. They just look so plain and bland to me. I’m thrilled to have more ideas for breakfast and lunches that I will mostly be eating on my own. But I’ll find sources for flavorful and exciting dinners elsewhere.

Dwelling by Melissa Michaels
Rating: 4 stars

This was a fun and encouraging book that I enjoyed reading, but also felt a bit confused by. Honestly, it felt like a whole lot of rambling and filler for what could have been chopped down into a much more concise and focused message. The extra words and ideas weren’t BAD – and it wasn’t a long book to begin with. But it seemed to lack a real structure that was honestly just a tad confusing! I think to get the most out of this book you need to also be a huge journaler and follow all the prompts on almost every page. While I WANT to be that kind of journaler, I just didn’t have the time for it. I’d definitely consider going through it again at some point in my life, really taking the time to delve deeper. Overall, it was a really good book for introverted homebodies that want to get the most out of their lives through cultivating their homes and priorities.

Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is a YA epistolary novel told entirely in texts, so you KNOW I was here for it. But this book gave me so much anxiety!! A self proclaimed weird/awkward teenage girl gets a text from a boy in her class and mistakes him for his cousin who has the exact same name. He doesn’t realize she has them confused until it feels too late into their text only friendship to clear things up. As their friendship progresses through words alone he becomes determined to wriggle his way into her actual life, which only confuses her more because she thinks that the real him is the “bad” Martin and doesn’t know how to reconcile how nice he’s being to her when she comes across who she thinks is “text Martin” and he ignores her entirely. Of course this book is entirely predictable, but it still gave me all the teenage angsty feels and I kind of loved it.

Christmas Cliche by Tara Sivec
Rating: 3 stars

This book is a bit ridiculous – but it’s supposed to be, hence the title. I feel like it was trying too hard to be funny, which is a turn off to me. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it definitely wasn’t a must read Christmas book.

The Boss Who Stole Christmas by Jana Aston
Rating: 3.5 stars

It took me about half of this book to decide I liked it. Granted, these fluffy Christmas books I like to read in December are rarely meant to be deep and well developed. But when the characters are so UNDERdeveloped book after book, it gets old really fast. About halfway through it suddenly became funny and sweet, however, and I liked how much Christmas spirit was infused into the plot. It was a fast and cute read.

Beautiful Boards by Maegan Brown
Rating: 4 stars

If you enjoy putting together cheese plates or throwing together easy weekend meals on boards (like me – kids love it!), this is an awesome book with tons of great ideas. The photos are beautiful and very inspirational for creating boards for every meal, party, and occasion. I did find all the words, however, to be a bit excessive. If you REALLY need to be walked through the steps for exact portioning to buy of every single item on the board, you’ll appreciate the directions. I was really more in it for the photos and ideas. The only thing I found to be a bit frustrating is that SO many additions to the platters were specialty items and treats that you could never just randomly find in a regular grocery store. They looked awesome on the author’s platters, but unless you want to devote an excessive amount of time and money to finding those exact items, you probably won’t be able to make the exact boards in the book. But – it’s still great inspiration to be on the lookout for cool little treats to add if lots of board making is in your future!

The Gift of Happiness by Holly Martin
Rating: 4 stars

So every year I get excited about the prospect of reading lighthearted and happy Christmas books in December and every year I tire of them VERY quickly. They’re cute and sweet and predictable, which never holds my interest the way I expect it to. I purposely saved this one to read right on Christmas because Holly Martin is one of my most reliable authors for this type of book. And it WAS good. The characters were so kind and cute, the setting was festive, the plot was interesting. I just wasn’t in the greatest mindset to enjoy it. But still, a very nice Christmas read.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 5 stars

A book about polygamy, when the wives have never met each other or even know each other names? This was the exact unputdownable book I needed on Christmas day when our commitments were finally over and I could spend the entire day reading. I loved it! It was fast paced, interesting, and really messes with your head. I had some apprehension about starting it based on reviews other people have left, but I ended up really enjoying it.

The Forest Feast Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson
Rating: 3.5 stars

If pressed, I’d give this book 5 stars for being the most visually stunning cookbook I’ve ever seen – the reason I purchased it in the first place. But in terms of recipes I’ll actually use, I’d probably give it a 2.5. Mostly because it’s just not what I need right now. I was hoping picking up a vegetarian cookbook would give me a lot of great ideas. And honestly, everything in the book seemed so similar, so simple, and composed of mostly ingredients I either don’t like or can’t eat. Granted, this IS a Mediterranean cookbook, but there are SO many olives, which I won’t touch. Lots of tomatoes, eggplant, feta. A huge chunk of the book is pasta dishes, a type of food I’ve never liked, even if I could still eat white flours. And I’d say almost every recipe that’s not a salad or a pasta is some type of dish served on slices of baguette. Page after page and after page. I’d LOVE this idea if I could still eat baguettes! Obviously I could find some substitutes, but it wouldn’t be the same. Anyway, I maybe shouldn’t have been so trigger happy to actually purchase this book when I had an idea after paging through it wouldn’t contain the types of food I want to eat. But the artistic appeal was too strong! It’s truly the most gorgeous cookbook filled with a variety of photographs, drawings, and appealing fonts. You should find a copy to at least LOOK at if you can!

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
Rating: 4 stars

I decided to end the year reading something pretty disturbing. This is another book that I had a hard time putting down. Though it might be less because it was enthralling, but more because it was so distressing that I couldn’t wait to finish it. I moved this book way up on my TBR list because the second season of You was just released and I wanted to read the book before I watched the show, even though I’ve heard they’re very different. Anyway, much like You, this is a book about a truly terrible person who you can’t help rooting for. I kind of wonder about the state of mind of the author to get so in the head of this messed up serial killer. A lot of crazy things happened in this second installment, I think I liked it more than the first. But I’m very glad to put it behind me!

What I Read November 2019

November has been a weird reading month for me. I started the month with a bang, finishing a book every day or two. Then one book took me ten entire days to complete and threw everything off. The best books I read this month were nonfiction – which is usually the case, so I wish I could force myself to devote more time to them! I also read one cookbook, one re-read, and a lot of lighter romances.

Beard in Mind by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

It’s taken me a long time to pick up book four in the Winston Brothers series, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the first three. But the final book in the series just came out and there is SO MUCH hype around it, that I really need to catch up! I have to say that I enjoyed this one a lot. I think I’d been putting it off because we were introduced to Shelly in book three and there wasn’t much appealing about her. But I really grew to love her in this and how hard she struggles to overcome her OCD. My affection for Beau grew as well. The weird thing is that this book takes place at the exact same time as book three and even though there aren’t exactly repeat scenes, I did keep questioning if I’d actually read this installment already or not. Overall, I really enjoyed this one.

The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook by Maya Krampf
Rating: 4 stars

I had a hard time deciding what to rate this cookbook. IF you buy this because you’re on the Keto lifestyle, or looking to start it, this seems like a great resource with a lot of viable recipe options. If you’re like me, just hoping to find some great lower carb recipes, it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for. I’m not on the Keto diet, nor do I plan to be, so it was a little surprising and maybe disappointing to realize how many substitutes you need to make so many different recipes. And how so many of the recipes are “easy” but it is all 100% made from scratch, which just isn’t always realistic. I’m not going to make my own mayo that’s only good for a week before I use that mayo to make another recipe in the cookbook. I’m not interested in filling my pantry with multiple sugar substitutes. I don’t want to cut out the fruits and vegetables that are apparently the most carb filled, but also the ones I like the most. If my doctor had told me to go on this diet, I’d be more open to trying things, but she didn’t point me in this direction, so I’m not going to worry about it. All that being said, I did still find about 25 recipes that looked fantastic and I’m definitely excited about trying at least a few of them. It helped me to think of ways to make some of my favorite dishes more low carb and a better fit for my own needs. The whole cookbook was well written, colorful, with a beautiful photograph for every recipe. Even if I might not use it all the time, or even follow all the keto substitutions, I plan on keeping it on my shelves for inspiration.

Finding Cinderella by Colleen Hoover (re-read)
Rating: 3.5 stars

I re-read this novella because Colleen Hoover announced she’s releasing a new novella around Thanksgiving and you need to read this one first. I first read it over five years ago and didn’t have any recollection of it. I just went back and saw that I gave it 5 stars the first time around, but I’m sticking with 3.5 for the re-read. I think the reason for the lower rating is that Daniel did not appeal to me as much this time around. He’s too charismatic, too over the top charming. I don’t trust people like that (lol). Overall, it’s a short and interesting story, but once the plot came back to me I just felt such doom around the whole thing it was hard to enjoy. Colleen also said her upcoming novella will connect Finding Cinderella to All Your Perfects – if you’ve read both the connection seems like it will be very obvious! I like what she’s doing tying things together, but it’s also a little confusing. If she wasn’t my favorite author, I wouldn’t have the energy to try and keep track of everything the way I have. It’s the main reason I don’t often read series of books. Just figuring out what book comes next is too much work!

Atomic Habits by James Clear
Rating: 5 stars

I found this to be an incredibly approachable book about making small daily habit changes that compound and really transform your life. Every chapter was short, interesting, filled with examples, and not loaded with science that makes my brain glaze over. Much like Eat That Frog, which I read in September, I was happily surprised to realize that I’m actually doing many of the habit tricks the author writes about. It’s a great reinforcing message that I’m on the right track and should continue in that direction. While this book isn’t specifically about losing weight or getting healthier, I found that so many of the chapters also applied to those types of habits, which is exactly what I needed as I’m making many changes to my lifestyle right now. It did take me over two months to get through this because I have the hardest time in the world picking up self help books. But – it was worth it. I highly recommend.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Rating: 4 stars

In this book a husband and wife who have grown rapidly apart in their three year marriage are on the brink of divorce. Desperate to save the relationship, but not sure how to do it, a group of Gavin’s guy friends secretly bring him into their bromance book club – a club where they read romance novels to learn how to better their own relationships. I preordered this book IMMEDIATELY after author Avery Flynn was raving about it at Book Bonanza this summer. I was anxiously awaiting it, hoping it would live up to all my expectations. And it was good! But reading a book about a failing marriage brings on a lot of more complex emotions than a fresh new romance between strangers or friends or even enemies. While some of the things that happened in this book were a bit unbelievable, it WAS believable that a marriage could fall apart in the ways that theirs had. My only pet peeve was that their twins couldn’t have been more than two, or just turned three, yet were talking and acting like and going to school as if they were at least 5 or 6. It seemed like a glaring oversight that kept bothering me. But overall, this was a sweet story about a man who made some mistakes, but was willing to do anything possible to win his wife back before it was too late.

No Judgements by Meg Cabot
Rating: 3.5 stars

I really should have learned my lesson by now about listening to fiction on audio. It’s NEVER going to hit me the same way that reading the word on a page will. (I have the opposite learning style when it comes to nonfiction books, however.) I listened to this book while I was driving all over North Carolina in my rental car. So I can definitely say that I was paying attention this time around! But the author’s deeper “male voice” for the main lead, Drew, was such a turn off to me. I think if I had read this in a book without connecting the character to that bizarrely female yet gruffish voice, I would have liked him and the romantic aspect of the story a whole lot more. But these are my issues and really no reflection on the book itself. Anyway, if you want to read about being stuck on a tiny island in Key West during and after a hurricane when most of the islanders have evacuated, this is for you. It never gets too serious – there are a lot of happy endings, which I’m sure is a very glossed over concept compared to the reality of hurricane aftermath. I was surprised by how much of this book is about animals and pets. I liked that everyone was such an animal lover. Overall, it was a pleasant listen while driving around, but I think I probably would have loved if had I read it on paper instead.

Be My Fantasy by Alisha Rai
Rating: 4 stars

Okay, sometimes you just need a good straightforward romance. I read this while I was in North Carolina and my brain was completely overwhelmed by the writing conference I was at. I needed a book that didn’t require a ton of extra thinking. Alisha Rai is a really good writer, though, who can write something steamy that still has meaning and depth with a lot of character development. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not AGAINST romance, it’s just not something I can read all the time – unless it feels justified. This was a nice one.

Stay My Fantasy by Alisha Rai
Rating : 4 stars

I should point out that both of these books were actually novellas. But reading them back to back made it feel like a complete book. The second installment was less about the steam and more about the relationship. I enjoyed it. I read the entire thing while I was at the airport and on a plane.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Rating: 3 stars

I heard so many great things about this book and I’ve loved all the other books the author has written (that I’ve read), so I thought this was going to be a winner. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t that into it. I did enjoy learning more about another aspect of history I knew absolutely nothing about – Sepetys is great about exposing all those untold stories. But this book felt very slow and disjointed to me. The chapters were SO short – normally something I love in a book, but because it jumped around to so many different characters, it felt like I had to step back and refocus every other page. I was much happier with part two of the book (which was only about 1/4 of the book or less), but I felt the actual ending was really lacking the closure I was anticipating. Overall, a well told story, but did not draw me in the way her other books have. As a side note, it took me TEN DAYS to read this book. That’s practically unheard of. If it had been any other author I probably would have dnf-d it.

Stud Muffin by Jiffy Kate
Rating: 3.5 stars

My overall opinion about this book is that it was a nice read. The characters were very nice to each other. The book was enjoyable and sweet, but I also wasn’t highly invested in it. I liked that as the second book about the Donner Bakery this one actually had some baking elements in it. Not many! But it was still a fun little quirk.

Someone to Kiss My Scars by Brooke Skipstone
Rating: 3 stars

Let me start out by saying that this is not a good book to read around the holidays (I read it over Thanksgiving) or if you’ve had any kind of sexual or physical abuse. Trigger warnings galore. The quick synopsis is that a teenage boy who had his memory essentially erased through shock therapy begins seeing other people’s worst memories when he’s in proximity to them. He can’t stop seeing the memory until he writes it down, so he’s spending almost the entire story writing down the awful memories of people he comes in contact with. It’s a downer, you guys. I was intrigued enough to power through and read it quickly, but it was also a little over the top. It kind of felt like an excuse to just describe all kinds of horrific sexual acts done to children. I’m not NOT recommending it, but I think it’s probably something I could have done without.

Skinny Liver by Kristin Kirkpatrick
Rating: 5* stars

This was EXACTLY the book I needed to read this month. After a lot of uncertainty and fear around a liver biopsy I had a couple of weeks ago, I really needed something concrete to read and help me understand what was going on with my body. Doctors will never have enough time to fully tell me all I need to know, so I’m really happy I purchased this book. It was understandable, relatable, encouraging, and filled with useful advice and plans to turn your life around and start taking better care of your liver – before it’s too late. The last part of the book contains a bunch of healthy yet tasty recipes. Overall, I think this book would be incredibly useful for anybody to read. I never knew any of this stuff about my liver! But if you’re having any kind of liver issues – GET IT. Don’t hesitate.

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! ūüôā

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)!