What I Read June 2020

June was a pretty terrible reading month for me. I didn’t DNF many books, but I probably should have! Everything was just okay. I did finish one really great nonfiction I had been reading for awhile and I had one highly rated thriller, but just three weeks after reading the book I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it before going back to read my review! I realize telling you none of these books were very good certainly doesn’t encourage you to finish reading the post (lol). But…most of these books probably just weren’t for me, or not for me at this time. So keep an open mind! And definitely pick up your own copy of Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire!!!

Flow by Kennedy Ryan
Rating: 2.5 stars

I read this short prequel because I wanted to read the original book, Grip, after it was highly recommended by an author I trust. And honestly, it just did not appeal to me. There was nothing really wrong with it, but I was bored. I read a decent amount of Grip afterward and felt the same way, finally DNFing it. It just wasn’t for me.

Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Rating: 3 stars

In this book super surgeon Sloan needs a nanny asap for her six year old twins. Rafe comes to her at just the right time and they immediately feel a connection. And things progress, naturally. I liked this book because Rafe was such a perfect guy for the role he was needed in. He had literally no flaws. So he was also a bit boring. I thought overall this was a cute story that kept my interest, but there was nothing spectacular about it.

Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker
Rating: 5* stars

Jen Hatmaker is an absolute delight. Her books are poignet yet so hilarious. She tells tons of personal stories to show how human she is and loves to laugh at things that definitely weren’t so funny at the time. I’ve enjoyed all the books of hers that I’ve read before, but this is by far my favorite. It really is a glorious guide on how to fully embrace being who you were meant to be. She talks about the different personalities people have and how it is totally okay to just live quietly in your own lane taking care of the people closest to you. It’s also okay to have huge dreams and want to change the world. We were all created differently but we were all created RIGHT. Each chapter delves into a different part of yourself and how you can learn to freely accept who you are, unapologetically. The whole book was uplifting and inspirational. I loved it!

Where the Blame Lies by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 4.5 stars

Josie is a college student who is abducted in the night and held captive in a warehouse for ten months where she becomes pregnant with and births her captor’s son before she manages to escape. Eight years later she is consulted by the police for information on a copycat case. I really enjoyed this book. It went back and forth between the current timeline and the ten months she was held captive, changing point of view between Josie and the detective on her case, Zach. Josie and Zach of course have a strong connection to each other, but unlike some other books that felt very unbelievable at how quickly you could go from being raped and tortured and then jumping into a sexual relationship, these characters went eight years between events so it felt a lot more believable. I was definitely kept guessing for most of the book and enjoyed the fast pace.

The Girl in the Love Song by Emma Scott
Rating: 4 stars

Thirteen year old Miller shows up one night in Violet’s backyard looking exhausted and in need of a good meal. The two instantly become best friends while fighting back a secret love for each other. Most of this book takes place when they’re seniors in high school and eventually jumps forward a bit at the end. Overall, I liked this novel, but I also felt it got a big bogged down with unnecessary plot points. I also had a hard time believing two teens were so desperately in love with each other when they didn’t spend any time together. I liked watching how their relationship changed over the years, but wish there was just more of the two of them. Emma Scott has a great knack for writing deeply emotional love stories so it’s worth a read.

One to Watch by Katy Stayman-London
Rating: 3 stars

This was a tough read for me. Bea is a plus size woman with a popular fashion writing career. After tweeting about the lack of body diversity on the tv show Main Squeeze (a Bachelor copycat) she is cast as the lead in the next season. The rest of the book is watching Bea compete on national tv for the love and happily ever after with one perfect man. Unfortunately, she is quite possibly even more obsessed with her size and shape than the men she is with. As a plus sized woman, I can totally relate to everything Bea was feeling. But does that make for a good book? Does it help that much of the book is composed of tweets, chats, podcasts, and articles either bashing her as a plus size woman or at least constantly talking about it? Can’t she just be A WOMAN? I understand the whole point of the book was to encourage body positivity, but for me it had the opposite effect. This book did not make me feel better about myself at all. But besides all that, it was interesting to “watch” a whole season play out, very much like it probably does in real life reality shows. I had just as hard a time picking out the right guy for her as I do when I’m watching it on tv!

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Rating: 3.5 stars

I usually steer very clear of ghost and supernatural stories, but I’ve read all of Riley Sager’s other books and decided to give this one a shot. And…it was okay. For something marketed as a thriller, this was incredibly slow. Maggie is a 30 year old woman whose entire life has been overshadowed by a book her father wrote about their twenty days of living in a haunted house when she was five. After her father’s death she finds out that he still owned the house and it now belongs to her. She goes back to the house determined to figure out why they really left after such a short period of time. The book alternates between chapters of her father’s book and her current situation. There were definitely some creepy moments. I didn’t read much of this at night because I’m easily spooked. I was intrigued enough to power through, but this was definitely the book I liked least by this author.

Lucky Caller by Emma Mills
Rating: 2.5 stars

The characters in this book really annoyed me. Honestly, what is the point of writing a book if you’re never going to let the main character have a voice? Nina has feelings for a boy, and it’s obvious there is some sort of past between them that went a bit beyond friendship. But she won’t talk to him. She won’t ever give him any of the thoughts she so desperately wants to say. It happened over and over and over again and it really ticked me off. There was ONE beautiful short little scene and the rest of this book was boring or frustrating. It could have been so much more. Not recommending this one!!

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams
Rating: 2 stars

One day Daniel overhears Nadia (a stranger to him) talking to a coworker in a park and is intrigued by her. Soon after, he realizes she’s on the same train as him – at least on Mondays and sometimes Tuesdays. Not wanting to look like a creep he decides to leave her an ad in the Missed Connections portion of their newspaper and believing that she is that girl she writes him back. Spoilers ahead – this book infuriated me. It was missed opportunity after missed opportunity. They kept just missing each other by a minute or two for almost the entirety of the book. The book itself wasn’t bad, but the romance books I love are the ones where the main characters constantly interact. This does not happen in this book. I was so excited about the premise, but didn’t realize how ridiculously long the wait would be to even have them MEET. Not worth the read, in my opinion.

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins
Rating: 3 stars

After her mom dies and three years of foster care (all of which is extremely glazed over as being unimportant), Edie finds herself living with her wealthy aunt, uncle, and cousins for the last six months before she starts college. Despite her full intention of only focusing on her education, she finds herself equally drawn to her childhood best friend Sebastian – who happens to have a girlfriend, and the charismatic player Henry who she’s convinced is only pursuing her as a personal challenge, not because he actually likes her. Edie’s feelings about each boy are all over the place. And honestly, it was pretty hard to root for either of them. I hate books where one of the characters needs to cheat because their chemistry with the new person is “that much truer.” I also hate books where the main guy is also a womanizer. I didn’t really want Edie with either of them. It took me awhile to get into this book at all because of those hangups, but about halfway through I started enjoying it. I still have a lot of mixed feelings all around, but it was an okay read.

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Rating: 3.5 stars

Megan is an aspiring stage director who finds herself needing an acting credit to be admitted to her prospective college. She ends up being cast as Juliet in a class Romeo and Juliet play starring opposite her ex-boyfriend/best friend’s boyfriend/boy she lost her virginity to. Megan’s a huge flirt and goes through boyfriends left and right with the self made assumption she’s just a stopping ground before they find their better half. Then she meets Owen, someone who challenges that belief and makes her realize she deserves to be more than she’s given herself credit for. To be honest, I really didn’t like the first half of this book. It’s hard to imagine being as confident and flirty and ready to just dive right in physically with any hot boy as Megan is. I liked Owen, but I wanted more of him. Much like the book before this one, I took serious issue with the fact he also had a girlfriend (albeit one he never saw who lived in Italy) for most of the book. The second half got a little deeper into why Megan felt the way she did about herself and I was really invested by the end.

What I Read May 2020

My reading life in May was very much like it was in March. It was so hard to find anything that truly caught my attention. Though unlike in March when I was DNFing left and right after only a couple of pages, I kept trying to stick with the books this time not giving up until I was over half done and just couldn’t take it anymore. It did not make for a great month of reading – so much wasted time! But I definitely found a few winners that I did stick with to the end and am excited to share with you what I chose!

My Favorite Souvenir by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland
Rating: 4 stars

This was a sweet story with a slow burn romance. After being dumped by her fiance, Hazel decides to go on her honeymoon by herself and finds herself stranded in Colorado in a snowstorm with no way back home. She happens across another stranded traveler and they hit it off and decide to travel by car around the country, picking up souvenirs at each stop. It was sweet and fun until the inevitable obstacle was thrown in her path when she arrived back home and had to face her ex-fiance and the truth about her traveling companion. I enjoyed this book, though got a bit irritated with Hazel and how confused she was about which guy to choose when the choice was so obvious. It seemed to drag on quite a bit near the end. But overall, it kept my attention and I liked it a lot.

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Rating: 4.5 stars

This could be read as a standalone book, but I think you’d get a little bit more out of it if you read Abby’s other book, The Friend Zone, first. I really loved The Friend Zone and was excited to get this one in my hands. And believe it or not, I actually liked this one more. Maybe because the dog Tucker is a big character in the book! In this book, Sloan is still grieving the death of her fiance, two years after his motorcycle accident. She comes across a dog who doesn’t appear to have an owner and ends up loving his companionship only to have his owner, Jason, eventually call her back. Jason’s out of the country and they form a great friendship over the phone and when he comes back they figure out a way to share custody of Tucker and things progress from there. The thing about this book (and the other) is that Abby Jimenez isn’t afraid to touch hard topics and really get deep into them. This isn’t a quick fall in love and happily ever after story (despite the title!). You’re going to really get into why the couple will or won’t work. It’s not exactly light, but I still loved it.

The Best Mistake by Cookie O’Gorman
Rating: 3.5 stars

I made the mistake of waiting awhile after reading this to write my review. And…it wasn’t particularly memorable. Mistaken identity leads to a college senior propositioning the wrong brother into helping her have one wild night of fun before her college career is over. This book was fun because it was about a lot of brothers. The first in a series, I believe. I liked the characters, but this didn’t have the same swoon factor that other Cookie O’Gorman books seemed to have, maybe because the premise itself didn’t exactly appeal to me. I liked it enough, but definitely not a favorite.

The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy
Rating: 4.5 stars

Halfway through May this is only the fourth book I managed to finish. I decided to drop yet another book I was halfway through to try out this middle grade I saw highly recommended from a trusted source. And – I really liked it. I guess I have a thing for lonely tween girls who go on quirky journeys across the country! In this one Maybelle is a precocious eleven year old who convinces his neighbor and temporary caretaker to drive her to Nashville for a singing competition where she’ll finally be able to meet her dad. As always, hijinks definitely ensue. I took this down half a star simply because it had a pretty slow beginning. Enjoyable, but nothing really intense to catch your interest. I plan on passing it along to Caden again, but I’m not sure there’s anything that’ll catch his interest in the first third of the story. Anyway, I really liked this book and the ending was fantastic.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Rating: 4 stars

This is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. A group of housewives decide one day to form a book club to discuss their favorite crime novels right around the time a stranger moves into the neighborhood. Over the years a couple of unexplained and mysterious things begin happening, but nobody will believe that Patricia, the main character, is telling the truth about something very disturbing she witnessed the neighbor doing. The group eventually comes up with a plan to involve their husbands but all of their husbands turn against them, and eventually they turn against Patricia. The original book club dissolves as more people come back together with their husbands as participants and everyone pretends life is fine. There are so many parts of this book where almost nothing is happening. You never get that close to the characters, which really bothers me. It occurred to me that this book is written by a man and I read very few novels by men, so maybe that’s why I wasn’t quite getting the depth of character I kept waiting for. But every once in awhile something absolutely insane would happen and then I’d be spurred back into action and didn’t want to put the book down. It was definitely a journey. Overall I really enjoyed the book, I just wish it felt a bit more personal.

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was a sweet and highly predictable book about a woman who is obsessed with classic rom coms and has been waiting her whole life for her own Tom Hanks to show up. But when he does, she refuses to believe that he’s the one. I enjoyed the book, especially all the nostalgia for those movies I loved growing up as well. But the CONSTANT talking about them and her insistence of having her own Tom Hanks moments got to be a bit much. I wish she could have let some of it go and just lived her own story instead of obsessively trying to decide if he could be the one for her. Overall, it was a quick and cute read, I just didn’t love it.

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons
Rating: 5 stars

This was a really beautiful book about a girl who loses her sight (temporarily) and a boy who has lost his legs. Tessa is a poetry blogger and having a really hard time dealing with the loss of her sight. Her grandparents decide to hire Weston to help her with her typing and he begs them not to tell her about his prosthetic legs so she can learn to accept him as a person, rather than immediately with sympathy the way most people do. The story flips between both characters’ points of view and between the present time and three years earlier when Weston lost his legs. I loved this book because it is so full of hope and optimism and learning to see past your imperfections or limitations and realizing that you still have the world at your fingertips. You still have your LIFE. And most importantly, you are still worth love. I loved this book and its message, though I did find it to be slightly unbelievable that a 13 year old boy could be so insightful. I have an 11 year old boy and he would most definitely not lose his legs and then fight with everything in him to still have a normal life. It felt like all the boy characters in the flashback chapters were crazy wise beyond their years. It made for great insight, but not necessarily believability. But besides all that, it was really wonderful.

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter
Rating: 4.5 stars

As usual, I’ve searched out another great YA novel about a hidden/mistaken identity that takes place online while the characters also interact in person. Though in this circumstance the girl, Halle, is completely aware that Nash is HER online Nash from the very beginning. Which makes for a really lengthy book filled with teenage angst. While the constant deliberating on whether or not she should come clean got a bit old, I really enjoyed the rest of the book and the subject matter. Halle and Nash are both YA book bloggers and there is so much celebration for the YA world in this story – my favorite! (Though there is also a lot of criticism for adults that read YA, which was definitely off putting as an adult reader who ADORES YA.) Halle spends so much of the book trying to draw the lines between who she is in real life and the persona she puts on for her massive following. It was interesting to read about since I’ve SLIGHTLY dabbled in those feelings myself when I try to keep this blog’s instagram going (and am failing miserably). Anyway, it was exactly the kind of book I always love and I definitely really enjoyed it!

The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan
Rating: 5* stars

I picked this book up because I follow Hilarie Burton Morgan on instagram and really liked her in One Tree Hill and White Collar. (And I REALLY loved Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Good Wife and was fascinated to learn only recently that they were married with kids!) The book sounded intriguing so I thought I’d give it a shot. And guys, I ADORED it. This is the first time I’ve ever read a memoir and couldn’t put it down. It was such a beautiful look at an imperfect relationship and the love that held them together while they fought for their dreams. It was also a really interesting look at famous actors that have no desire to live the Hollywood lifestyle. I was continually impressed by Hilarie and how hands on she was about creating the life she wanted. It was inspirational and beautiful and made me cry multiple times. My only grievance is that it ended fairly abruptly, before their wedding actually happened – although wedding pictures were shown in the photo section. It was just an odd missing component to their lengthy love story. But overall…I’m highly recommending this one, especially if you like one or both of the actors!

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young
Rating: 3.5 stars

In this book we meet Ava who is flying home from her friend’s funeral and comes across a very rude Scottish man at every turn. Her and Caleb immediately start bickering about everything and she is constantly lamenting how rude he is. I really wanted to love this book because the hate to love trope is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, this also followed the path of people who hate each other immediately jumping into bed together because their undeniable physical only attraction for each other. That annoys me. I like a love – both physical and emotional – that is hard won and deeply earned. I guess I won’t get too into the details, but these characters kept saying what they didn’t want in their significant other and then accepting those things anyway. It frustrated me. I definitely still enjoyed the book enough to keep reading it, but I wish it had fit a bit better with what I was hoping for.

What I Read April 2020

Well, it’s taken me almost another whole month to sit down and write this, but I wanted to share what I read in April! March was a terrible month for reading with everything going on in the world, but I was really able to settle in and pick some great books in April. (Everything got real tough again in May, unfortunately!) I was able to finish fourteen books and most of them were pretty fantastic! Light and good escapes from reality.

Ruthless by Deborah Bladon
Rating: 3 stars

First of all, I’m pretty over the boss and assistant trope in romance. I’m not sure how I keep ending up reading them, other than that I’m mostly picking random Kindle Unlimited choices with high ratings when I want a quick escape and SO MANY of them follow this trope. And while this started in a similar vein, I was actually impressed by how original the story felt comparatively. It’s not something that will stick with me, or even something I remember that well days later when I’m writing this review. But..I liked it.

Moment of Truth by Kasie West
Rating: 5* stars

I fell in love with Kasie West’s sweet YA storytelling in P.S. I Like You. I’ve read all of her books since then, but none of them have made the same impact on me – until this one. I’ll admit I was a bit baffled by the original premise – there is a movie star who has a recurring roll as a teenage spy named Heath Hall. And now there is a “fake Heath Hall” who shows up in random places at random times facing all of his fears. This starts as more of a background storyline to the main character Hadley, who is a focused and independent swimmer obsessed with trying to outshine the shadow of her dead brother. This leads to her desperately trying to sleuth out who Fake Heath Hall is after he messed up one of her last swim competitions. There is quite a bit of conjecture as she waffles between a couple of different suspects. And of course she has some wonderful anonymous messages with Fake Heath while also developing some interesting connections in her real life. It was really very reminiscent of P.S. I Like You, but with a different perspective that felt a lot more emotional. It did take me about halfway through the book before I was really into it and didn’t want to put it down. But the second half? It was fantastic. If you love a great YA love story, this one is a kicker. I loved it.

Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese
Rating: 5 stars

This was a unique romance between a hot-headed college athlete and the silent “lumberjack” she’s paired up with for a school assignment. I picked it up blind on the recommendation of a friend and was blown away by how much I loved it. It started out as light and fun and developed into something much deeper. My only complaint is that it felt a bit too long. There was a lot of conflict to overcome later in the book and it felt a bit bogged down. But overall, this was a truly enjoyable read.

Beach Read by Emily Henry
Rating: 5 stars

A romance writer finds herself doubting the possibility of happily ever after when she finds out a disturbing secret at her father’s funeral. She picks up and moves to his secret house in Michigan and realizes she’s now living next door to her college nemesis, a grumpy writer as well. The two of them make a deal to try and break their writers’ block by writing in the opposite person’s genre while spending two days a week with each other doing research. I really enjoyed this book. It had such a quiet beauty about it. The love story was fantastic, but the characters were so REAL. Which isn’t always great in a novel – you want the leading man (or woman) to be everything you’d want a real person to ideally be. But – they have flaws too and you have to learn to accept them just as you would in real life. I do kind of wish this book had a different title because it felt decidedly NOT like a beach read to me. It was a bit more sullen than I anticipated, but I really adored it.

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
Rating: 5 stars

This book was hilarious, sort of unbelievably over the top, a little bit sad, and all kinds of wonderful. I totally loved it. An engaged couple realizes that they’ve lost all desire to marry each other, but instead of mutually breaking apart, they both contrive all types of insane plans to try and drive the other person away. It’s crazy to think anybody would go to the lengths that they did to “win,” but it was wildly entertaining to read about. I had my doubts in the beginning because it all seemed so unbelievable, but I absolutely love how it all came together in the end!

One Moment Please by Amy Daws
Rating: 4 stars

So I came across Amy Daws at Book Bonanza last summer and thought she was hilarious. I’ve since been regularly following her on instagram stories and even though I don’t know her as a person, I think I have a pretty good grasp on her personality and humor. This is the first book of hers that I read and it was REALLY hard for me to not constantly be thinking of Amy saying all the lines that the characters were. I’m realizing this is the downside of getting to know authors – they’re no longer an anonymous presence behind the words and it’s pretty hard for me to disconnect the two and follow the story. But anyway, besides all of that, I really enjoyed this book! I was doubtful at the beginning, but it really grew on me. Two people, a one night stand, an unexpected pregnancy, and trying to make it work on their own terms.

Magnolia Table: Volume 2 by Joanna Gaines
Rating: 3 stars

I absolutely love Joanna Gaines’ first cookbook. While I haven’t made a ton of recipes out of it, the handful that I have made I’ve made again and again because they were so delicious. I adored that cookbook because she shared all of her favorite recipes and the stories behind them, something that I always think makes a cookbook rise above the ones that are basically just churned out for a profit. I expected this cookbook to be just like the first. And while they look the same, she basically says in the introduction that she used all her recipes in the first book and this was just a culmination of some new ideas she and her staff had. Most of the recipes don’t even have any description. Much like the first book I was really interested in some of the breakfast, snack, and dessert recipes, and had almost no interest in the meals and sides. They seem simple or boring or just not something my family would eat. I did make her french toast recipe and it was incredible, so I have high hopes for the rest, I just found the lack of heart in this one a glaring disappointment.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Rating: 5* stars

I was unprepared for how incredible this book was going to be. I haven’t read anything else by Glennon Doyle (and after reading this one it feels kind of pointless to read the earlier memoirs because her life has changed so much). But it was getting such great reviews that I picked it up for my morning reading time. And honestly, it’s just amazing. So empowering for women everywhere. I didn’t always necessarily agree with Glennon, but I also saw SO much of myself in her. Which isn’t always a good thing (lol). I LOVED the super short essay format, each chapter packing a pretty great punch. It gave me so much to think about and consider, especially in terms of family and what that word can mean. This book was amazing. I highly, highly recommend it to all women everywhere.

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica
Rating: 3 stars

Is it just me or do so many psychological thrillers seem to be almost carbon copies of each other? I picked this on a whim – the first intriguing thriller on my kindle when I wanted something in that genre. And it was…okay. None of the characters were likeable. There were plotlines that didn’t get enough attention. The twists were predictable. It just wasn’t that great. It took me forever to read and I didn’t get much satisfaction from it.

Trejo’s Tacos by Danny Trejo
Rating: 5 stars

Now THIS is my favorite kind of cookbook! Colorful and fun with a lot of gorgeous food photos, personalized reasons why the author/chef chose to put these items in his book, versatility and creative freedom with the recipes, and a lot of just really great sounding food. I loved this one! The bulk of this cookbook are master recipes for each kind of meat and then all the different ways he uses them. I definitely look forward to trying these out once I can get into a grocery store after this pandemic and pick out exactly what I need. There were plenty of other recipes that I’m anxious to try as well. The only part I wasn’t that interested in was the cocktail section at the end, just because I don’t drink or make them. Danny doesn’t drink either, so it seemed an odd chapter to add, but I understand the need for something a little different. Overall, I’m very excited about this one and expect to get a lot of use out of it.

The Wrong Bachelor by Alexandra Moody
Rating: 5 stars

I was so surprised to come across a YA book on kindle unlimited that sounded so promising! I needed an escape so I dropped everything to read this book and then proceeded to spend most of the night reading it. That hasn’t happened in forever! This book definitely hit my reading sweet spot. An adorable and swoony PG young adult romance with great dialog and genuinely likeable characters. I thought the storyline itself was really fun too – a high school Bachelor competition to raise money for charity. I was swept up in the story and didn’t want to put it down.

The Wrong Costar by Alexandra Moody
Rating: 4 stars

While I didn’t find this quite as swoonworthy as the first book in the series, I still really enjoyed it. A famous actor is required to join a real high school and their play to get authentic teenage experience. He’s made out to be a Hollywood bad boy, but is really just like everyone else. It was another great YA read!

The Wrong Prim Date by Alexandra Moody
Rating: 4.5 stars

Okay, of the three books in this series, Ethan in this one is by far my favorite love interest. The quiet nerdy singer? Totally who I would go for in high school (and did lol). I absolutely adored him. But this book also made me want to scream at the characters for being so ridiculously stupid for so long. It was really to the point where it was unbelievable. I know this is a common reason why so many people don’t like YA, but I’m normally okay with it. This one was just starting to annoy me. But Ethan.. He was great. ūüôā

I Hate You More by Alexandra Moody
Rating: 3 stars

I may have just hit my limit of reading YA romances in a row, especially all by the same author, but I was not particularly fond of this one. Two sworn enemies end up living in the same house and have to come to some sort of truce to survive the year. Compared to the other three books by the author I read this month, this one felt very chaotic and unorganized. I didn’t like the characters very much and it was all very surface driven. Physical attributes always above anything else. But it was still a nice little escape and I was intrigued enough to keep reading.

What I Read March 2020

Well, we’re more than halfway through April so I thought maybe I should write about my March books! With all the crazy things happening it was a pretty terrible month for reading. I DNF-d more books last month than I have in my entire life. No apologies. I just needed to find books that could hold my attention and it was pretty hard to do. (Spoiler – I have NOT had this problem in April – my April reads are amazing!) Despite how many books I weeded through, I did read a couple of great ones, though. Check them out below!

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
Rating: 3.5 stars

Alisha Rai is usually a pretty reliable author for a good romance novel. After a couple more DNF’s (there were so many in February), I thought this would be the perfect choice to get me interested in a story again. And – it was okay. It was a lot less steamy than most of her books that I’ve read – which is fine. But all the character backstory was almost a bit boring to me. I didn’t like the main character, Rhiannon, that much, which made it hard to cheer for her. I’ve come across this in other contemporary books too – I have zero experience with dating apps, assume I’ll never need to use them, and therefore really don’t care about reading whole books centered around them. It’s a personal preference, no shade at the book itself. Overall, I enjoyed it and it kept my attention to read in two days over a weekend readathon when I was focused on reading and not much else. But it wasn’t one of my favorites.

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was a really sweet, albeit very predictable, romantic comedy that plays on all the iconic rom com meet cute scenarios. I thought that it was a bit slow at the start, but I really got into it as the book went along. I did have a bit of a gripe about one of the characters, but I don’t want to give any big spoilers, so I’ll keep it to myself. But it’s the reason for knocking it down half a star. Overall, a really cute and laugh out loud funny book.

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West (re-read)
Rating: 5* stars

I’ve definitely been in the mood this year to reread some of my favorite books as a method of self care. I used to think it was crazy to re-read a book when there are always so many new and potentially great books out there. But I’ve really discovered how great it is to pick up something I know is going to be wonderful and bring me all the comforting feelings. This is one of those books. It’s been quite awhile since I read it the first time, but the story really stuck with me. It was fun to pick it up again. I still love the epistolary aspect of anonymous letters being exchanged while the characters are also building a relationship in person. It really brings me so much joy. If you love a sweet YA romance, this is a perfect one to pick up.

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Rating: 3 stars

Lina is a wedding planner who was left at the altar and three years later finds herself working a pitch to land a huge gig as the wedding planner for a large hotel chain. Surprise, surprise, she’s paired up with none other than her ex-fiance and his brother, the ex-best man. Lina chooses Max to be her partner and they are forced to work together to come up with the best pitch so they can both prove their worth and get better jobs. Overall, this book was just okay for me. I thought there was too much filler about the jobs and making a plan that was never even really talked about later on. I liked that Max was just a genuinely nice guy, rather than the stereotypical bad guy. But I was very distracted during this book and it took me a full week to read when it should have only taken a few days.

Play with Me by Alisha Rai
Rating: 3 stars

A short and steamy novella about a couple who reconnects after a very long span apart realizes their chemistry is just as intense as it was when they were teenagers. I chose this book right after all the coronavirus school closures when things started feeling very intense and I desperately needed a distraction in the form of a book that would actually hold my attention. This worked. The book itself wasn’t incredible, but it also has two more books after it that I may or may not ever get around to reading.

Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman
Rating: 3 stars

I was hoping a thriller would be the thing to catch my attention this month after so many dnf’s. And this was…okay. I’m writing this review a few weeks after finishing it (I usually write them immediately) and I can barely remember my thoughts.

Someday Someday by Emma Scott
Rating: 4 stars

This was an unexpectedly complex m/m romance that was a lot more heavy than I wanted this month. Not the book’s fault, just bad timing. The characters in this book are both dealing with issues of rejection by their families for being gay. Their stories are extreme with one of them being sent to a very intense and horrific conversion therapy camp and one being totally kicked out of his family. So much of the book is about the pain they both went through. It was an eye opener to me. But it also made the book just…heavy. Not a lot of fun.

Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies by Tara Schuster
Rating: 5* stars

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It really helped that it found me at the perfect time in my life. SO much of what Tara writes about in this book are things I’ve also talked about in therapy – sometimes the chapters even coinciding with the topic I’d discuss each session. It was such a beautiful companion to really drive home the messages that I truly needed to hear. I savored this book slowly, only reading a chapter every morning so her words could really sink in. I loved every word of it so very much. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

The Cake King by Rosie Chase
Rating: 2 stars

This book really irritated me. It had all the makings of being a great story, but the author rushed through all the potential areas of development. It felt like a book that was written very quickly to hit all the high and low points of a story without doing any of the hard work of filling in all the stuff that would make a reader actually care. I certainly didn’t. I try not to be too harsh in my reviews since writing a book in the first place is a pretty awesome accomplishment. But this one just made me mad because of all the missed potential.

Marked by Jenika Snow
Rating: 2.5 stars

Okay, this popped up as a free novella in one of my facebook groups and I thought the cover was so hilarious that I read it. But then I was annoyed when they used that cover photo and tagline when it really wasn’t part of the story at all. Anyway, for a short erotic story with relatively nice characters, this will do.

The Honey Don’t List by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5 stars

Finally! A book that actually kept my attention and stopped me from checking my phone every few minutes! Christina Lauren really know how to tell good stories. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Though the underlying stress of secondary characters got a bit old, I loved the deepening connection between the main characters, two very competent assistants to a famous HGTV couple. I realized while reading this that I shouldn’t have been spending the last few weeks trying to distract myself with shallow erotic romances. What I really needed was REAL romance between two very likeable and kind characters. It was so much more hopeful and joyous than anything else I’ve read this month.

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
Rating: 5 stars

I finally picked up another middle grade novel from my shelves! I buy these books because the covers are beautiful and the storylines are intriguing, but then I never get around to actually reading them because they feel too childish or boring to me. Not this one! I adored it. Coyote and her dad Rodeo are living in a converted school bus as they travel around the country with no rhyme or reason, trying to escape the pain of remembering the rest of their family that died five years ago. Coyote is a 12 year old who is precocious and smart beyond her years. They’ve both been happy to continue living the way that they have until Coyote’s grandma tells her that a park is about to be bulldozed where she and her mom and sisters once buried a memory box. Coyote’s mission is to get her dad to drive from where they currently are in Florida to where they need to be in Washington in the span of a week – without him realizing that’s the final destination because he’d never go for it. Of course this all turns into quite an adventure with a couple of unique characters joining them along the journey. I loved the book, but was unprepared for how emotionally triggering the end would be. I was literally sobbing through it. If a book can make me do that – it’s well worth reading. I passed it along to Caden and he loved it as well.

What I Read February 2020

February just might have been the worst reading month I’ve ever had. I couldn’t connect with anything I was picking up. I’m not normally one to DNF a book. I always have this niggling hope that SURELY it’s going to get better. This month? I just didn’t have the patience for it. I probably gave up on at least ten books, maybe more. When normally it’s maybe five a year?! And I gave up on them well into the story, wasting days and days of time I could have been reading something better. It was disappointing, to say the least! I only finished ten books and most of them were pretty middle of the road. I adored my reread of The Hating Game and was captivated by the last book I finished, In an Instant, and I had one great nonfiction read with Lost Connections. No cookbooks this month!

Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was a random pick from my kindle when I decided I needed a romance to distract me from my life. And…it was pretty steamy. And somewhat problematic for a variety of reasons. But I was pretty interested in the characters, despite the red flags. And I was VERY annoyed to get to the end and realize there are not one or two, but FOUR more books in this series. I would not have read this at all if I had realized. I want some closure! But I’m not sure I want to read that many more books. So…I am left frustrated and annoyed!

Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
Rating: 4 stars

First of all, I would let to object to whoever titled this book. The title led me to believe this would be more of an erotic novel, but it was actually a very well developed love story about two people who started writing to each other as seven year olds and reconnected 18 years later, after a 10 year silence. Which – believe me – I prefer to read about. I just wasn’t exactly expecting it, so it was a pleasant surprise. I really liked this book and the characters with their flaws and quirks. It was definitely a bit cheesy in parts, but overall it was just really sweet.

The Imaginaries by Emily Winfield Martin
Rating: 4 stars

I’m not sure where I first stumbled across Emily Winfield Martin, but her paintings fascinate me. The muted colors bring such a fantastic imaginary world to life and I can’t get enough of them. When I found out she was releasing a book just of images attached to random phrases that came to her over the years, I immediately preordered it. And it’s beautiful, just like all of her paintings. It’s just not very long. I’m confused when artists decide to make a book like this, before they’re prepared to stuff it full. Emily’s paintings of children are my favorite, but there aren’t many included in this collection – probably because they’re all in her children’s books! Which I’m seriously contemplating buying just so I can page through them whenever I need a few minutes of escape and imagination. Overall a lovely book, I just wish there was more to it.

Lost Connections by Johann Hari
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was a deeply fascinating look at all the reasons why depression is not “something wrong with your brain.” I read it during the last month when I’ve been having a lot of my own depressed feelings and found it to be immensely helpful in understanding my lost connections and what I could do to help myself. It’s written by a journalist who spent years researching the topic while trying to make sense of his own lifelong depression. It definitely comes across as a very long journalistic essay filled to the brim with different scientific studies and evidence to support their claims. I wish that the author had made it a bit more personal, rather than only very briefly commenting on his own struggles here and there. It would have made for a stronger and more relatable book, in my opinion, if he had expressed a bit more vulnerability in his writing. But overall, I thought this was a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone and everyone, depressed or not.

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
Rating: 3 stars

This book was so bizarre. It’s a psychological YA thriller and you definitely get the sense right from the very beginning of an unreliable narrator. You’re never quite positive who is narrating each chapter. There were just so many ridiculous twists and turns that the whole story was crazy. I was intrigued enough to read the whole thing, but I didn’t like it.

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey
Rating: 4 stars

Even though this was a different set of characters, I really wish I had realized it was the second book in a series before picking it up. There wasn’t a ton of overlap, but enough that I wish I had read the other couple’s story first. At any rate, I rather enjoyed this book. It was about a couple who has been together since middle school and whose marriage was feeling very empty – with the exception of their red hot once a week sex life. The couple temporarily separates while they each start working on their own issues to be able to come back together and give the other what they need to feel loved. This book comes in HARD on love language lectures. I’m a big believer in love languages, but also a little prickly about them for personal reasons. It’s a little hard to read a book where all of the couple’s problems can be solved if they just constantly remind themselves of the other’s love language. It felt pretty realistic to me, about two people who truly do love each other, but lost the communication and fun experiences that would keep their relationship alive. It was a good book.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (reread)
Rating: 5* stars

I’ve been saving this up for a reread for a really long time and decided Valentine’s Day would be the perfect day to pull it back out. I loved this book so much the first time and two years later I think I loved it even more. This whole office enemies to lovers romantic comedy is an absolute delight. It’s hilarious, sweet, and so full of heart. It’s so much more about building trust and understanding in the relationship than just jumping into bed together the way most romances go. I deeply adore this book. Josh and Lucy are just the best. I savored every word of this reread and look forward to reading it again and again in the future!

Cosy by Laura Weir
Rating: 2.5 stars

The first few chapters of this book gave me all the wonderful cozy feelings. It reinforced all the ideas I have about making my own spaces comfortable and colorful and exactly the way I want them to be. And then the book turned and became so British-centric that it no longer felt relevant. British brands of blankets to buy (I looked it up – they cost over $1000!), British places to visit, etc. Lots of name brands. Lots of things Americans really have no access too. Not that books need to always be geared toward us, but it felt so over the top that “cosy” can only be achieved if you live in Great Britain. There was also a lot of what I felt like was unnecessary Hygge shaming because it’s so commercialized now. I mean, who cares?! Get cozy and comfortable and happy in whatever way you want! Despite how happy the beginning made me feel, I was very disappointed with the rest and how utterly pretentious it came across.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
Rating: 4 stars

The beginning of this book felt very much like another plane crash book I DNF’d last year. You know from the beginning that only one person – Edward – is going to survive this plane crash. So why is so much time devoted to the other passengers? Why should I care? I felt less irritated with the plane chapters as the book went on, but I was SO much more interested in Edward’s present situation. That being said, I enjoyed this book. Or as much as you can enjoy a book about a 12 year old boy who lost his whole family in a plane crash. It was heartbreaking, but he had such an amazing support system after the crash that you can’t help but love how it all turns out.

In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn
Rating: 5 stars

You will feel the full range of human of emotions in this book. Whew. It’s a doozy. So a group of two families – four adults, five teenagers, a “slow minded” 13 year old, and a college student they pick up on the road, fall off the side of a cliff in their camper. One of the teens, Finn, dies instantly and the book is told from her perspective. She’s in kind of an in between world where she can still see everything that’s going on, but not interact. It’s not really important other than she provides an impartial narration to everything that happens between the rest of the characters as they try to survive and then move on with their lives. I’m going to tell you right off the bat that almost none of these characters are likeable or admirable. Their worst traits come out when it comes to trying to survive while injured in the midst of a blizzard fallen off the cliff in the middle of nowhere. You’ll be shocked by how some of them behave, heartbroken, and then strangely inspired. There are so many complicated twists of agony, yet the book is still so hopeful. It’s about love and moving on and cherishing your memories of those you have lost with joy, rather than pain. It really was a captivating read and I couldn’t put it down.

Here’s to a better reading month in March!

What I Read January 2020

My reading life is off to a great start this year! I read 18 books in January, with a huge mix of genres and ratings. January was my biggest reading month last year too and now I remember why – it’s too miserable to do basically anything else!

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
Rating: 4.5 stars

You probably know by now that my love of epistolary novels is strong. I was especially intrigued by this one, which is a debut novel by a 70 year old author. The entire book is a correspondence between a middle age woman in England and a recently widowed museum curator in Denmark. What begins as a slow and somewhat unexciting exchange of intellectual letters, quietly turns into a beautiful friendship of connection and understanding. It took me a lot longer to read this than I expected and I almost set it aside multiple times in the first half because it wasn’t what I was expecting. But as I continued on, the letters between the two of them brought me to tears multiple times as I reflected on how beautiful a friendship through words alone can be. As all epistolary novels do, I wish this had ended a little differently. But overall, I really enjoyed this beautiful little book.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
Rating: 5* stars

I couldn’t put this book down. When I HAD to put it down for a chunk of the day, it’s all I could think about. It’s hard to explain exactly what this book is about without giving away too much, but the idea is that in a “county” at some unknown point in time, there is a rule that all girls are sent away during their 16th year to get rid of their magic. This is the baseline for the story, but it’s also the least explained part, which did get a little frustrating to me. But I got so lost in Tierney’s journey and everything she was experiencing that I was able to gloss over the things that didn’t make as much sense to me. This book reminded me a lot of The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies. It’s harsh, yet hopeful, devastating, yet beautiful. I’d highly recommend it.

Relish by Lucy Knisley
Rating: 4 stars

I enjoyed this graphic novel all about the love and appreciation of good food. It was fun to read and helped me to look back on my own memorable food experiences over the years. I did sometimes feel like the author/artist had a tiny bit of an agenda as most of book was about her parents in relation to her food experiences, but other than that, it was a good read.

The Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook by Gina Homolka
Rating: 5 stars

I asked for and received an air fryer for Christmas, though I really wasn’t sure what to do with it. Which of course led me back to amazon to order the best looking air fryer cookbook I could find – this one. And I’m SO glad I got it! I’m really excited about this cookbook. It’s relatively small – only 75 recipes – but I want to try almost all of them. And not in the usual “I should try these because they’ll be good for me,” but because THEY LOOK DELICIOUS. I immediately did the tomatillo salsa verde recipe (a weird thing to make for your first time using an air fryer!) and it roasted the vegetables so quickly and so perfectly that I am really excited to try everything else I marked down. As usual, I have no interest in the seafood chapter, but everything else looked fantastic.

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars

Okay, so this book definitely does not follow the format I usually prefer when it comes to romance. It starts hot and heavy between a boss and intern that hate each other. These days, there is all kinds of ick factor that comes with that sort of relationship, but if you can gloss over how wrong it would be in the REAL world, it was easy to fall into the passion of these characters and how intensely they felt for each other. Christina Lauren is one of my favorite sets of authors, but this is the first erotic novel that I’ve read by them. It was definitely steamy, but the character development was still prominent and kept me glued to the story.

Say Yes by Elle Kennedy
Rating: 3 stars

This novella popped up for free in an email and I decided to read it one night when I was once again putting off reading Love Lettering (up next). It was fine. Predictable. A cute little romp.

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
Rating: 3 stars

I wanted to love this novel so badly. A sweet romance that revolves around typography?? It sounded so perfect for me and the reviews were glowing, so I immediately ordered it. Unfortunately, it just was not holding my attention. I read two books in the middle of reading this one. I probably should have DNF’d it, but I bought it and felt responsible for reading it. It was FINE. But, as many reviewers stated, it is also “understated.” And that’s understating it. Overall, I’m just really glad to have finished.

Skinnytaste One & Done by Gina Homolka
Rating: 3 stars

I had such high hopes for this cookbook after loving the Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook I also read through this month. Unfortunately, it just isn’t for me. I should have realized, a cookbook entirely filled with recipes that can be made in just one appliance – the instant pot, skillet, baking sheet, air fryer, etc. That is basically code for meals that are all mixed up together, which is not a type of food that I or my family enjoys most of the time. We like our foods SEPARATE. As a whole, if you like food like that, this is probably a really great cookbook. The photographs are gorgeous and make every recipe look so appealing. But of the 140 recipes, I only marked 24 of them that I’d like to try. One reason is that there were also a TON of seafood recipes, which is a category I’m just never interested in. I do plan on keeping this cookbook around because the ones I marked look great. But it’s definitely never going to be a favorite.

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
Rating: 5 stars

Both of my kids were reading books by Kate DiCamillo at school recently and they both kept talking about the books – which is highly unusual. I commented that I happened to have a book by her on my shelf – another middle grade novel that I only bought because I was IN LOVE with the cover (I have the Barnes and Noble special edition, which is different than pictured above). Once again, why are middle grade cover artists so AMAZING? Anyway, I was a bit surprised (pleasantly) to open the book and see it’s really a younger “middle grade” book, with a large font and big spacing, so I was able to read the whole thing in an hour or two. I loved it, though! Louisiana was such a likeable character. The entire thing was really sweet, despite being heartbreaking at the same time.

Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really great book about mindful parenting practice that I wish I could have read five or ten years ago. The author’s kids are the same age as mine are now, so most of the examples given are for kids more of the toddler and preschool age. You can still use the advice, but it doesn’t feel quite as applicable for older kids. I definitely resonated with so many of the hard parenting examples given and the author made me want to learn how to meditate to become a more mindful parent – and person. The essential message of the book is to focus on connecting and building a relationship with your child and in turn all of your conflicts will be easier to handle. Great advice, but sometimes very, very hard to implement. The book was interesting and relatable and I read it relatively quickly. I almost never make it through parenting books, so that’s saying something!

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

I really wanted to reread this book before reading the second book that was released this month. And I have to say – I loved it just as much the second time! I don’t read a lot of fantasy because it’s easy to get bogged down and confused by all the details, but this series is pretty straightforward. Few characters, a simple directive to break the curse: fall in love. The characters are so likeable, particularly Harper as she really comes into her own in a new land, fighting to save the kingdom when she could have put up a fight at every turn to get back to her family faster. Like all of Brigid Kemmerer’s books, I absolutely loved this.

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Rating: 5 stars

Okay, I feel like there’s not a ton I can say about this book without giving too much away. I really had no idea what to expect, other than seeing one ARC review months ago suggesting that it was definitely not as good as the first. And…I disagree, for what it’s worth, so maybe don’t let reviews sway you either way. This second book does feel decidedly DIFFERENT than the first book because it’s a lot less about the characters and their relationships (the reason I love the first one so much!) and more about duty and responsibility to the characters’ respective kingdoms. Like so many YA fantasy series, this is where it starts to lose me. I hate reading about battles and war. I just want the relationships! But Grey is such a beloved character and I fell harder for Lia Mara than I did Harper, which really helped me love this book as much as the first, even though it gave me SO much emotional anxiety! I thought this was another amazing book by Kemmerer and I can’t wait to read the third, even though it hasn’t even been announced yet.

Ama by Josef Centeno
Rating: 4.5 stars

It’s no secret that Mexican/Tex Mex food is BY FAR my favorite to both make and eat. Even though I already have tons of cookbooks, I’m always on the lookout for more. This one seemed like a sure bet, so when no one bought it from my wish list this past Christmas I immediately ordered it for myself. And it seems great! I haven’t yet made anything from it, but I marked so many of the recipes. I’m actually most intrigued by all the sauces and salsas at the beginning of the book – much more so than a lot of the meals. I took off half a star because not all the recipes had photos, and many of the recipes called for unique ingredients that definitely aren’t readily available in Wisconsin, especially in wintertime! Kumquats, persimmons? I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen any of those EVER in a store, and I go to a lot of grocery stores. And they’re included in multiple recipes, as an example. But I’m still very excited about the cookbook and plan to use it often.

Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein
Rating: 2.5 stars

I didn’t like this book. Eliza, owner of her own small jewelry shop in New York, accidentally posts a photo of herself wearing the shop’s most outrageous engagement ring and her sales start skyrocketing. She decides to turn the small mistake into a huge farce, including planning a full out wedding without actually having a groom. She latches herself on to a guy who would be great for her, pretending her feelings are more than they are until he actually proposes and she convinces him to have a shotgun wedding. And then she tells him the truth and shocker – it all falls apart. Honestly, the only part I liked about this book was hearing about the jewelry. It made me REALLY want some new jewelry (lol). Everything else just continued to make me angrier and angrier.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
Rating: 5 stars

If I got this specific in my ratings, I’d probably really give this a 4.75, but I decided to round up to a 5 since a 5* is MY specific highest potential rating. My reasoning? I almost quit this book so many times in the first 70 pages. I was bored and annoyed with the traumatic but very vague past of the the main character and didn’t find much interest in the story itself – a woman trying to fit in with a group of male firefighters. But around page 70 everything turned and I could not get enough of the book after that. This turned into such a beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness, and ultimately – love above all else. I adored the characters and was so very happy with how everything turned out. It was also a great life lesson kind of book. Overall, if you can power through the beginning, this book is really worth reading.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Rating: 5 stars

This book epitomizes everything I love in a sweet YA romance. Two lovable and realistic teenagers that are faced with plenty of daily problems, but can still find fun and laughter in their relationship with each other. This one was particularly fun because it had a smattering of an anonymous texting friendship as well as a national twitter feud between their family restaurants. There was a lot going on! But I loved the characters so much. It was sweet, very innocent, and absolutely enjoyable.

I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson
Rating: 4 stars

I went into this book blindly, just randomly picking something that looked like it might be a thriller from my plethora of unread books on my kindle. It turned out to be somewhat of a mystery/psychological YA thriller about a teenage girl whose mom died so she moves back to Alaska to live with her dad and new step-mom and step-sister, only to find out that her best friend from childhood is missing. I was definitely pretty lost in the story as it went along, impressed with how dedicated Ruthie was to finding Zahra. But certain things happened – cue the psychological thriller aspect – that I’m not so sure are believable. Overall, it was a solid read that kept my interest.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Rating: 3 stars

I had a really hard time getting into this book, but I can’t explain why. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it, I just felt very disconnected. Which is kind of weird, because I found it to be super interesting that the main character is a woman who suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic pain, something I also deal with and it’s so rarely talked about and would almost never show up in a romance novel! I liked how that fit into the story and the way the characters interacted and accepted each other, flaws and all. I really enjoyed the male lead, Red. But overall, this book was just an okay read for me.

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!