What I Read November 2020

Ooh boy, this is my third monthly book post in a row. I haven’t been around here much. November has been a weird month, I’ve been very heavily focused on work and don’t have much mental space left for writing or doing much of anything else. There are also so many distractions. It’s interfered a lot with my reading life this month as well. I was back to not picking up very great books and not getting all that into any of them. You can also see that I’m pretty heavily focused on light reads only right now. I don’t want the heavy stuff. Life is heavy enough! Especially going into these dreary, dark, cold days of winter. Anyway, here they are – and be sure to check out the last one on the list – it was really great and a perfect read for December.

The Coffee Recipe Book by Daniel Lancaster
Rating: 4 stars

This was my election day reading material. I picked it up over the summer, but never got around to reading it. I wish I had as there are so many cold summery drink recipes to choose from! I’m very weird about only wanting to drink seasonally flavored drinks in the correct season, so I have a lot to look forward to next summer! Overall, this was a very simplified yet cute book. I learned a few things about the different brewing methods, despite having tried all of them already on my own coffee journey. It was fun to get a little primer from an expert, though. There aren’t any photos in this book, but the illustrations were really nice. I marked quite a few recipes I’m looking forward to try, which is really the main reason I wanted this book in the first place. Most of the recipes require using some form of espresso, but I’ve found a moka pot to be an extremely fool proof and cheap way to make it if you don’t have other options. I got a Nespresso a few months ago, but never use the espresso pods – now I have a reason to!

Empire High Untouchables by Ivy Smoak
Rating: 3 stars

I have very mixed feelings about this book. It’s about a 16 year old girl, Brooklyn, who loses her mother and goes to live with an uncle she barely knows. She is able to attend the most elite private NYC high school because he is a janitor there. Brooklyn immediately develops a crush on Matt, one of “the Untouchables.” But she also falls for the school’s drug dealer, Felix. Matt is a dream – in private, but completely ignores her at school. Felix never acts ashamed of her, but he’s, well, a drug dealer. The story follows Brooklyn as she struggles to go back and forth between each boy, really just desperate for some sort of love after losing her mom. This book drove me CRAZY because Brooklyn was being so stupid about each guy! But I was also really into the story and thoroughly enjoyed it. So if you can get over how ridiculous she is being and all the red flags both boys send out, it’s a fun thing to read.

Empire High Elite by Ivy Smoak
Rating: 4 stars

The first book finished with a crazy cliffhanger. I was so happy that the second book was immediately available because I jumped right in. And head’s up, the second book has an even crazier cliffhanger. Anyway, in this book Brooklyn goes to live with her father, a man she never knew about and is quite the NYC elite, and also possibly a mobster. She’s assigned a bodyguard who is required to watch her 24/7. He also just happens to be super cute and only a couple of years older than her. And guess what? Shock of all shocks, Brooklyn also falls for him. While still having feelings for Matt and Felix. At one point in the book there is also a fourth boy and in about a one day span she either kisses, says she loves, or (JUST) sleeps with all four of them. It’s kind of insane! There is VERY CLEARLY only one guy that is good for her, but Brooklyn is kind of stupid. (lol) Okay, she’s just a grieving and lost teenager whose entire life has been upended twice in a very short amount of time. I liked this book better than the first.

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens
Rating: 3 stars

I chose this as my November BOTM because it was classified as a romance (the genre I tend to always pick because I’m most likely to want to keep it on my shelf to read again someday) and I loved the cover (always a big draw for me). Unfortunately, it reminded me so much of One Day in December – also a BOTM romance that ultimately disappointed me. I don’t want to read a “romance” where the main characters are going through their whole lives constantly missing each other. What is the appeal in that? Why would that kind of book bring anybody any joy? It’s seriously depressing! Honestly, this book was pretty boring. It took me a whole week to read. I only powered through because I paid for it. But I didn’t particularly like any of it.

Empire High Betrayal by Ivy Smoak
Rating: 3 stars

The third book in this series ended up coming out only days after I finished the second, so I was able to jump back into this weirdly compulsively readable series that I also could not stand. I also didn’t know how to rate these books because I didn’t want to put them down, but they also made me really angry. I truly thought this crazy world where a 16 year old grieving girl draws the intense attention of every guy around her would result in some sort of ultimate lesson to choose the RIGHT guy. The only one who didn’t send her constant red flags for unhealthy relationship ahead. Spoiler – she didn’t choose him. This book was even crazier than the second one. To the point of almost absurdity. And the ending – I was not prepared. I’m not sure I can genuinely recommend these books, at least as an adult reader, because I think they’ll drive you as crazy as they drove me. But if you want an escape, these might be the right choice anyway.

See Me After Class by Meghan Quinn
Rating: 4 stars

Greer is a first year English teacher at a high school in a new town. She immediately rubs Arlo, head of the English department, the wrong way with her unconventional teaching methods. But of course they also have undeniable chemistry. I actually really enjoyed this book because most of the characters were so quirky and fun. I liked reading about a group of teachers who formed a really fantastic friend group with each other. This is the first Meghan Quinn book I’ve read, but I assume that she has books featuring some of the supporting characters because they were all so fleshed out. This is a bit more open door romance than many of the books I read – I’ll actually classify it as a romance in my big spreadsheet for the year. But it had a lot of depth as well. I’ll certainly be reading more Meghan Quinn in the future!

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett
Rating: 3 stars

Jenn Bennett is an author who wrote a book I loved (Alex, Approximately), so I keep pre-ordering her newest books with the expectation that they’ll hit me in the same emotional way. And so far they’ve all been a disappointment. There is nothing inherently bad or wrong with this book, I just had a really hard time connecting with it. There were a couple individual moments that I absolutely adored, but overall I just could not get that into it. Josie is a teenager whose mom moves her around the east coast every couple of months – until the end of her junior year when they decide to move back to their hometown to take over the family bookstore for a awhile. Josie is able to reunite with her childhood best friend Lucky, but he’s changed – a lot. Through a series of events they finally start talking again and eventually get close. This book was FINE, I just wish it had a bit more going on to really draw me in.

His Beauty by Jack Harbon
Rating: 2.5 stars

Okay, so I really needed a fast palette cleanser after taking what felt like forever to get through my previous book and a lot of stuff going on in real life. So I heard about this new retelling of Beauty and Beast and grabbed it on kindle unlimited. It’s a pretty straight retelling, just without the hope for a curse to be undone and no magical objects that were once people. But Beast is indeed a Beast and they do have sexy times. Which was honestly just so funny and disturbing to me that I didn’t find it sexy at all. It was a fast read, it was entirely predictable, it was surprisingly gory near the end. I don’t really have much of an opinion on it other than that!

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5 stars

This book came out in early October, but I held off on reading it until the holiday season – the day before Thanksgiving (lol). I’m glad I waited. It wasn’t SUPER Christmassy, but it does take place the week before and on Christmas, so it was nice to read going into December. I really enjoyed this one! It was heartwarming and sweet. I was honestly a bit apprehensive because I never am that interested in reading or watching something that is stuck in a time loop. It feels so repetitive. But they did a good job with it here. Maisie does go back in time and repeats a few days over again – but it only happens three times (sorry, that was a spoiler, but maybe it’ll help you be more intrigued if you knew that). The book takes place at a cabin where four families meet and spend Christmas together every single year. It was really sweet how they formed their own large family group and have such close relationships and longstanding traditions despite not spending a lot of time together throughout the year. Maisie is in love with her fellow “kid” (who is now 30), Andrew, and has been for most of her life. When she keeps getting sent back into the past for a redo of Christmas week she finally learns to step out of her comfort zone and become the person she was meant to be. I think this was a really great escape read for this year of all years. I definitely enjoyed it.

What I Read October 2020

November 1st – I’m right on time this month! I was actually going to write this BEFORE the end of the month, but I had one last book to squeeze in last night. October turned out to be a pretty good reading month. After a pretty rough couple of months I finally got my groove back and reading once again became my favorite delight. I have a couple of great recommendations this time around!

Real Fake Love by Pippa Grant
Rating: 3.5 stars

Henri is fresh out of luck at her fifth unsuccessful wedding when she meets Luca, professional baseball player who has sworn off love. She concocts a plan to convince him to teach her how to not fall in love so she won’t have to go through the pain and embarrassment of another failed wedding. This book started out pretty wildly. I honestly couldn’t even get a grip on what was going on because every character was so off their rocker. I’ve never read a Pippa Grant book before, and this is listed as a standalone book, but felt VERY clearly like a book further along on a series and it would have helped to have known about some of the characters before diving into this. It was entertaining, laugh out loud funny at some points, but also utterly ridiculous. Everything did settle down as the book went on and I enjoyed it, I just really dislike reading books where I always feel like I’m missing something.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was a fresh and unique book – at least compared to most of the books I’ve been reading the last seven months! Seventeen year old Avery is living in her car after her sister’s abusive boyfriend moves back in when she finds out she has inherited a massive fortune from a man she’s never met. The only condition for keeping the inheritance is that she must live in the manor with the rest of his family for a year. That family includes four grandsons, all around the same age as Avery. The reading of the will leaves the grandsons and Avery with letters from the grandfather, each with clues to help solve a riddle – the reason why he chose to leave his fortune to Avery. This book is a series of puzzles to be solved while Avery tries to figure out which brothers to trust and which will turn on her for their own gain. I really loved the storyline because it felt so unique and intriguing. My only complaint is that it all got a bit repetitive at times and I wanted more from the Hawthorne brothers. I would have liked to have dug a little deeper into them so I felt more connected. But other than that, I truly enjoyed this book and am really excited to see that it will have a sequel!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Rating: 3.5 stars

I was really intrigued by synopsis of this book and all the initial rave reviews I saw for it. Addie LaRue makes a deal with the devil to gain a little freedom from her small and predictable life and ends up becoming immortal. The catch being that nobody can remember her after they leave her sight, so she has all the freedom in the world but no ability to make long standing connections. Until around three hundred years later when somebody remembers her. This is the most literary book I’ve read in quite awhile. It started as a great change of pace, but I really lost my enthusiasm for the book about halfway through. It was very long and honestly, not a whole lot happens. Chapters switch back and forth from the present time and different parts of Addie’s life, mostly within the first few years after she gained her immortality. Later in the book I kept really wishing we’d just stick in the present since that’s really all I cared about. I’m pretty surprised by how many people continue to rave about this book being the best they’ve read all year. It just didn’t hit me with that same intensity. My favorite part of any book is character interaction and there isn’t a lot of interaction with a woman who spends over 300 years damned to loneliness. Anyway, it was a very well written book and a long and strung out story, if you’re into that kind of thing. I didn’t dislike it, I was just frustrated with how slow it seemed and how long it took me to finish it.

The Bribe by Willa Nash
Rating: 4.5 stars

Okay, let’s start by saying just how much I hate books with half naked ripped men on the cover when the story itself is not super sexual. It annoys me because it feels like it cheapens a story that was so much more than a gratuitous romance novel. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything wrong with romance – I read quite a few, especially this year when it’s the easiest type of book to concentrate on. This book was a lot more than that, though. Country singer Lucy is on the run after a scary stalker situation in Nashville when she meets Sheriff Duke Evans who wants to know why she gave him a fake name and what she’s really doing in town. I really enjoyed this book. Duke and Lucy were both so NICE. It was really wonderful reading about such pleasant people. There was also a bit of mystery and suspense which made the book that much more readable. I read it very quickly and was so excited to keep picking it up.

The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi
Rating: 5 stars

Kendra Adachi is one of my favorite internet people. I don’t actually listen to her podcast The Lazy Genius very often, but I AM a patreon member of it so I have access to the exclusive Lazy Sisters podcast she does with her sister Hannah. It’s one of my favorite things to listen to every month. Anyway, I preordered Kendra’s book the second she announced it like last year and was really looking forward to reading it. It did take me quite awhile to get through it because I need a lot of time to process new ways to organize my life, but I really, really liked it. She makes great suggestions and strongly encourages you to only focus on what matters TO YOU. Don’t get bogged down with that you think you’re supposed to do, or what everyone else is doing. Stay in your own lane and make your schedule and your space and your choices be what is important to you. She gives plenty of practical tips throughout the book, but also just a lot of food for thought. I highly recommend this book!

Happily Letter After by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
Rating: 4.5 stars

Sadie is a newspaper columnist who also takes over fulfilling letters to Santa around the holidays. In early summer she receives a random Santa letter from a sweet 10 year old girl who only wants to bring some happiness to her widowed father. Sadie decides to fulfill her simplest wish and ends up very intrigued by Birdie and her dad. And what follows is a heartfelt and just a tiny bit cheesy love story between them all. I enjoyed this book because it was so heartwarming and sweet. It does also have a bit of a Christmas feel, so it would be a great book to read in December. Parts of this story were definitely a little far fetched, but it did make for a fun read. My only complaint is that 10 year old Birdie really read as like a six year old. I was having a hard time seeing her as the age she was supposed to be, which was very distracting.

The Honeysuckle Cookbook by Dzung Lewis
Rating: 3.5 stars

It’s been awhile since I’ve been intrigued by a newly released cookbook so I picked this one up for fresh inspiration. Dzung Lewis is – from what I can gather from her cookbook – a widely known youtube cook, though I have never heard of her or seen a single video. Perhaps if I had I would have enjoyed this cookbook a little more. It was fine, I enjoyed that each recipe had a story behind it. But only about half of the recipes had photos, which is always a disappointment. I’m guessing I marked maybe 25% of the recipes as something I’d be interested in making, but none of them really blew me away. Normally this would be grounds for not keeping the cookbook at all, but I think I’ll try a few of the recipes out before making my final decision.

The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle
Rating: 5 stars

I could not put this book down. It’s the first book in months that I was so intrigued by that I literally spent most of my day sitting my chair reading it. I guess it’s also the first psychological thriller I’ve read in quite some time, so the difference in my normal pandemic reading genre might be partially why I was so intrigued. But I thought it was fantastic. Twins set out on a voyage across the Indian Sea and only one of them survives. She is mistaken as the dead twin, the more favored twin, when she finally lands on shore and decides to play along in both her grief and her desperation to win her father’s inheritance by producing the first grandchild before her five remaining siblings. I really thought this whole story was so twisty and unique. I made the mistake of just looking at the amazon reviews and it seems half of the people loved it, half of the people hated it and were bored to tears. I certainly didn’t find this boring! Anyway, I highly recommend it for a fun and intriguing read!

Love to Hate You by Jo Watson
Rating: 5* stars

I think I’ve finally got my reading groove back! I LOVED this book. It begins with a very steamy scene between strangers – something that usually turns me off in a book. But it was already so intriguing and funny within the first chapter that I had to see what happened next. And then proceeded to read and read and read. I laughed out loud so many times while reading this. I fell completely in love with Ben. It does turn out to be an office romance type of book – but with a boss who is actually kind and wonderful, not a closed off jerk. There were certainly a few more serious underlying complications between their love story, but most of the book was just so cheerful and fun. I will definitely be picking up a copy for my shelves to re-read again and again in the future.

Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert
Rating: 3.5 stars

Conrad and Alden are rivals in a huge card game phenomenon. They play each other often for Gamer Grandpa’s youtube channel and end up with promotional tickets to a huge convention in Vegas. For separate reasons they decide to drive across the country rather than fly and after a series of events it ends up just being the two of them on the trip. As expected, they begin to get to know each other a little better and their rivalry turns into something much sweeter. Overall, this was a very predictable, yet cute book. Basically the two characters just talk and talk and figure out their own feelings. Which I’m fine with – I love character interaction above all else in a story. I didn’t really care about any of the card game stuff, but it didn’t interfere enough in the story to bother me.

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 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.

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

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

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

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

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

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

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

Cozy Christmas Reads: Heartwarming Books for the Christmas Season

cozy christmas

Every year around Thanksgiving I¬†start to feel the deep seated need to be cozy –¬†snuggling in with candles,¬†decorative tree lights, piles of blankets, and books that are¬†delightfully filled with Christmas cheer.¬† I try to hold off on holiday books until two weeks before Christmas, but often give in sooner. December is such a magical month, why not¬†add to the magic by filling your mind with books that will only enhance your Christmas spirit? It’s one of my favorite parts of the season!

I’ve come up with a rather extensive list of suggestions for your own cozy Christmas reads! I’ll start with books I’ve read and loved in the past and then share what I’m planning to read this year.

Tried and True Christmas Authors

Richard Paul Evans

Truly one of the best authors I’ve ever read. His books will make you cry, laugh, and remember for years to come. (His¬†The Walk series is incredible!)¬†Richard Paul Evans’ Christmas books are especially meaningful and I highly anticipate reading a new one each year. There are so many to choose from, but here are a few of my favorites.

Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans

Lost December by Richard Paul Evans

  • Lost December – A modern day retelling of the prodigal son. Beautiful!

The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans

The Christmas Box

  • The Christmas Box – Another three book series. Perhaps the Christmas books he’s most well known for, earning a mention on the cover of all the other books! Looking back at my book spreadsheet for the last seven years, I’m not sure I’ve actually read this one! I’ll have to add it to my list asap.

Holly Martin

Martin has written a handful of delightful books, and her Christmas series are particularly fun. They’re a bit more on the fluffy side, but not so much that they’ll bore you or be too predictable. I highly recommend any of her books!

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

One Hundred Christmas Proposals

Donna VanLiere

The Christmas Shoes

  • The Christmas Shoes¬† –¬†If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, surely you’ve heard this song! While the song definitely gets annoying, the book is so fantastic! This is the first in a seven (though it appears more like five related books) part series called¬†The Christmas Hope¬†series. I’ve read the first four and they’re basically guaranteed to make you cry. Which is a huge bonus in my opinion! I want all the feels in my reading life, but especially around Christmas.

Debbie Macomber

Macomber is an author you’ve surely at least heard of, even if you’ve never read her books. She seemed to turn out at least one Christmas book a year and there are tons of backlog you could read. As an author, a lot of her books are hit or miss to me. But there are a few Christmas books in particular that I really enjoyed.

Twelve Days of Christmas

  • Twelve Days of Christmas¬†– A woman tries to win over her grumpy neighbor with acts of kindness. Uplifting and fun!

Starry Night

Melody Carlson

Carlson was always one of my go tos for a great Christmas novel. I’ve missed some of her newest books, but definitely plan on adding them to my list.

Christmas at Harrington's

The Christmas Pony

Individual Christmas Books that I Loved

Comfort and Joy

Comfort & Joy – Kristin Hannah is an amazing storyteller. This Christmas book blew me away.

Paper Angels

Paper Angels – Beautiful book about a simple act of kindness changing the lives of each other.

Christmas Roses

Christmas Roses – An historical Christmas romance that is sure to win your heart.

A Christmas to Remember

A Christmas to Remember РWith a similar writing style as Holly Martin, any Christmas books by Jenny Hale are sweet and endearing.

The Paper Bag Christmas

The Paper Bag Christmas – An unexpected delight about the true meaning of Christmas spirit found by two boys volunteering their time in a hospital.

Remembering Christmas

Remembering Christmas – Joy is often found in unexpected circumstances.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street¬†– I just read this one and think it’s a delightful story full of heart for¬† people of any age!

What I’m Looking Forward to Reading this December

The Noel Diary

The Noel Diary – St. Nick will be bringing me this book in its physical form because I’m confident I’m going to love and treasure it. From the reviews, it looks essential for jumping into the Christmas season!

Merry and Bright

Merry and Bright – This year’s Macomber novel looks to be one of my favorite tropes. Fall in love on paper and then realize you don’t like the person in real life. It’s at the top of my list!

Last Christmas in Paris

Last Christmas in Paris – Historical fiction is not a genre I usually gravitate toward. But this book in particular looks beautiful and bittersweet – the type of book I generally love. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Glad Tidings

Glad Tidings – Bakers and writers, what more could I want in a story! This looks like another promising Macomber holiday treat.

We'll Always Have Chrsitmas

We’ll Always Have Christmas – Another book about a baker! I read a lot of books about bakers. This one looks especially fun and endearing.

Christmas at Hope Cottage

Christmas at Hope Cottage – This looks like the perfect book to read right around Christmas. Full of cheer and magic!

Thanks for checking out my list! I would love to hear your favorite cozy Christmas reads!