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 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 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 September 2019

Whew, I am really dragging my feet on finishing up my September blog posts! I don’t always feel that inspired to write about the tv shows and movies (so redundant most of the time), but I love writing about books! I finally have a chunk of time and no excuses, so it’s time to get this done!

I read 13 books in September. In August, my goal was to read 15 books which was supposed to make me prioritize reading at every opportunity, but really just sent me trying to find the shortest and fastest way to accomplish that goal. Number goals for something so important to me – not a good idea! Well, except for my Goodreads yearly challenge of 100 books which I’m definitely always going to meet, so it doesn’t stress me out. Anyway, in September I just wanted to pick the books that called to me and enjoy them. So it’s kind of surprising I still finished so many, but two were on audio (!), one was a cookbook, one was a super short graphic novel, and one was a re-read. All of which were pretty speedy. Most of the books were pretty middle of the road this month, but a few stood out as being more than worth your time.

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy (audiobook)
Rating: 4.5 stars

I spent so much time deliberating on what my 100th book of the year should be and then I spontaneously picked up this audiobook and listened to it in a day, beating out the fiction book I so carefully picked out for the occasion. It was so worth it, though! I really, really loved this book. As someone who almost never listens to audiobooks because I have such a hard time paying attention (why are podcasts so much easier?!), I had no problems staying intensely focused on this book. It helps that it’s less than 3 hours long! I’ve had the physical copy of this book on my shelf for YEARS and probably never would have gotten around to actually reading it, so I’m really glad I chose to get it on audio (one of the very few interesting “available now” options from the library). Brian Tracy laid this book out so simply and straight to the point, making it both personable, relatable, and interesting. My only problem with the book is that it’s very much geared toward people with typical white collar office jobs – and it’s not marketed that way. I had to spend a lot of time trying to translate everything he said into how it could apply to me in my personal life and my work from home running an entire business by myself life. It’s also always a sore point to me when someone says the answer to some of your problems is to delegate, delegate, delegate. They never takes into consideration that other people could be delegating to you, and what do you do then?? Delegation just isn’t an option either when you run everything on your own. At any rate, I found all the principles in this book invaluable. I was actually quite pleased to know that so many of the ideas are actually instinctual to me, I just don’t often follow them. I’m excited to put what I’ve learned into practice and see how much it will change my life!

God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie Debartolo
Rating: 3 stars

I had such high expectations for this book. It was featured at Book Bonanza with some raving endorsements from Colleen Hoover, so it’s the only book I outright bought when I was there. And…I didn’t really like it. It’s hard to read a book that you know from page one it will not have a happy ending. Where is the joy in that? I also thought the main character’s instant connection and silly obsessions with each other was kind of sickening. I mean, it was just so ooey gooey and unrealistic to me. I can’t stand most of the weird quirks people have. The writing is great and I obviously enjoyed it enough to see it through. But it was not what I was hoping for.

To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
Rating: 5* stars

This is the first middle grade book I’ve read in my adult life (granted, there haven’t been many) that I absolutely adored. You all know I’m a total sucker for epistolary novels – books made up entirely of letters and emails. That, and a handful of great reviews, are the reason I picked this up at a recent Barnes and Noble sale (gotta love those special editions). It’s the story of two 12 year old girls who find out that their gay dads are long distance dating each other and they come up with a plan to break them up. The more they write, however, the more curious they become about the other and reluctantly start forming a friendship. Their letters to each other reminded me so much of my own longest standing friendship, that is almost entirely conducted through emails at this point in our lives. The whole thing just made me so happy. I was emotionally invested in ways that surprised me. I was crying near the end. It was just such a beautiful book about friendship and family. I suggested it to Caden as soon as I was done and he actually really loved it too. It’s not the typical book he’d pick up on his own, so I was impressed he couldn’t seem to put it down. Highly, highly recommend!

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke
Rating: 3.5 stars

In this book a girl who got kicked out of her senior year of high school (for attempting suicide) decides to take classes at the local community college to get her diploma. In order to have a place to live, and to give herself a true fresh start, she applies and gets in a local reality tv show competition where she lives in a house with a group of people and the last one in the house at the end wins a small scholarship and a car. This book was somewhat unique because the entire thing is told through Jane’s journal entries. But she still plays out conversations that she has with everyone, so it doesn’t feel exactly like a journal. But you also feel distanced from everything that is actually happening, and that bothered me a bit. I was definitely intrigued enough to want to read as often as possible, but at the same time – it wasn’t really the most exciting of books. I wish I could have felt a deeper connection to all the other characters. I did enjoy it, it just won’t be very memorable in the long run. (Case in point, writing this a few weeks after reading it, I had NO recollection what it was about until I re-read my summary (which I write immediately after I finish books and save up for this end of the month post, in case you were wondering!))

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Rating: 4 stars

This is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale – which really meant nothing to me because I’ve never even heard of that tale before. Twelve daughters are seemingly cursed as one by one they die under mysterious circumstances. The eight remaining sisters decide to put aside their mourning clothes after years of wearing black and being forced to stay inside their castle in order to go to magical balls every night, dancing through shoes and shoes. The story is told from sixth daughter, Annaleigh’s view. Overall, I thought this was a really interesting and well written book. There were a few minor things that bothered me – for example, we never learned half of the sisters’ ages, including Annaleigh’s. It seemed like details worth mentioning. I’m also not accustomed to reading fairy tales and was confused as to what sort of time period this took place in and wondered why there were ghosts, magic, gods, etc. It felt like an odd mix of fantasy elements that didn’t exactly go together. Things did get a little crazy and hard to follow at the end, but I really liked Annaleigh and the friendship bond between the sisters, which is what compelled me to stay up late every night trying to fit in one more chapter. It was a good book!

Antoni in the Kitchen by Antoni Porowski
Rating: 4 stars

I’m a little obsessed with Queer Eye right now and jumped at the chance to buy Antoni’s new cookbook. And overall, I liked it! I enjoyed learning a little bit more about Antoni’s life, as he’s notoriously known as the most private of the group. I did find it a little amusing that there just might be more photos of Antoni walking or shopping or just standing and staring at things than there are of the food. Though most of the recipes do have a photo as well, which I always appreciate. For MY tastes, this isn’t the type of cookbook I’d generally keep around. A lot of Polish flavors, a lot of pastas, a lot of seafood. I only bookmarked a couple of main dishes I could actually see myself making at some point. But the appetizers and sides really appealed to me. This is definitely a HEALTHY cookbook. And to be honest, I don’t often refer to those types of cookbooks when I’m searching for dinner ideas. But all of Antoni’s recipes were simple, intriguing, and looked tasty enough that I’d be willing to give them a shot. I still don’t see myself using the cookbook all the time, but I’m excited to experiment with many of the vegetable ideas – I’m sure anything than our typical throw bags of raw carrots and peppers on the table every night would be an improvement!

Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Rating: 3 stars

It took me forever to finish this book. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book – it just was not what I was expecting or hoping for. One of the things that kept distracting me probably more than it should have was wondering why certain words were spelled differently and why the formatting was always switching up. It didn’t MAKE SENSE to me, and it kept catching me off guard and upset the flow of the story. This YA “love story” is very, very much about what it means to be Korean-American with parents who only want you to associate with other Koreans. It made me sad to see what a limited relationship the kids could have with the parents who barely spoke any English. Why did the parents not teach Korean to their children? I guess what I’m saying with this review is that there were so many things that kept distracting me that I never really felt invested in the actual story. It was okay. But I regret buying it ahead of time with the expectation it was going to be amazing. I’m just a sucker for unique books (blue edging) and pretty covers.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (re-read)
Rating: 4.5 stars

I first read this book in 2013 and also gave it a 4.5 star rating. It’s been so long that I really didn’t remember the story at all. I found a special edition of it at Half Priced Books earlier this year and picked it up with the intention of re-reading it before I planned on re-reading Carry On before the release of Wayward Son this month. And I’m really glad I did! What struck me most about this re-read is how similar in personality Cath and I are. With the exception of writing fanfiction, we’re almost identical, especially with how I was as a freshman in college. It was a bit unnerving! I liked watching her grow over her first year and enjoyed all the supporting characters. Levi is just so loveable! Except for that one scene – you know what I’m talking about. That one part of the story is basically the reason this book is knocked half a star down. It felt inauthentic to his character and was never really explained or justified, which bothered me. I do kind of wish there was LESS fanfiction in this book because it had the opposite effect I was hoping for and now I’m less excited about re-reading Carry¬†On because I already feel like I got my fill of Simon and Baz in Fangirl. But overall, a really great book. Rainbow Rowell is so fantastic at writing characters!

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
Rating: 4 stars

This book was really getting a lot of buzz recently in my facebook book club as a wonderful book to read in fall. Because I’ve recently fallen in love with similar books, I bought the duel volume and gave it a shot. I will definitely admit that reading a book written in 1907 was initially really hard for me. Contemporary books are my wheelhouse. But once I got into the rhythm of things, I really enjoyed this short book revolving around the love of books, adventure, and finding joy in your life no matter what age you are. It did take me three days to read a 152 page book, which felt a little ridiculous. But it was sweet and amusing and can definitely see myself picking it up for a re-read in falls to come.

Big Sexy Love by Kirsty Greenwood
Rating: 4 stars

Need a laugh out loud feel good break from the more serious books you’ve been reading? This is your remedy. While I didn’t ADORE it, this was still very funny, sweet, and a little sad. And contrary to what the title makes you believe, it’s really not about romantic love. The main character’s naivety was a little over the top and ridiculous at times, but it made for some crazy storyline. I enjoyed this book a lot.

The¬†Worrier’s¬†Guide¬†to¬†Life by Gemma Correll
Rating: 3 stars

This was one of a handful of graphic novels recommended on a book list of being great for adults. I ended up requesting all of them from the library and then once again lost interest in actually looking at the graphic novels. But I had a brief break between books and picked up this one – the shortest of the pile. It was a FAST read. Maybe 20 minutes? It was amusing. I think the illustrations would have been funnier seen on their own instead of in a compilation. It wasn’t an actual story, but individual full page drawings of different things people worry about. I wasn’t exactly in the greatest headspace when I read this, so I found it to be a little bit more depressing that it was intended to be. But I laughed as well.

Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness (audiobook)
Rating: 5 stars

I’m going to insist that you listen to this particular book on audio. I can’t imagine possibly getting such an authentic experience without listening to Jonathan read his own words. What a life story! It’s another example of how you can see a certain side of someone, but honestly have NO CLUE what they’ve been through in their life. I loved getting this deeper look into Jonathan’s past and all the pain and trauma he has overcome to be the person he is today. I also just had to laugh so many times – he has SUCH personality. The book itself was about six hours on audio and I listened to it over the course of three days. I was interested and captive throughout the whole thing. I highly recommend reading his story. The only downside is that he writes very little about Queer Eye. But I can understand the decision since it’s still something he’s currently involved with. I would love to get a more in depth behind the scenes look of their group dynamic at some point, though!

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Rating: 5 stars

Historical fiction is NOT my genre. I was hesitant to get this as my most recent BOTM pick, but it sounded the most intriguing and I’ll usually choose the book that sounds the most romantic out of the limited five choices each month (because those are the books I’m most likely to want to keep around and re-read at some point). And shockingly, this was filled with fun and laughter and sassy comebacks and steamy encounters. It was NOT the prim and proper, dry tale of stuffy relationships that I think of when historical fiction comes to mind. I loved that so much of this book focused on the character interactions instead of the plot (women’s suffrage in the late 19th century England). I love character interaction. Anyway, I plowed through this in two days and would definitely recommend it.

What I Read August 2019

August was a big month for reading! I always figure that in September I need to focus most of my time getting back to work and routine, so August is like a last ditch excuse to read as often as I want. I set a goal of 15 books, thinking I’d have so much time to read while I was in Texas that it wouldn’t be a problem. It didn’t work out that way, though, and I read more than half of them in just the last 10 days or so. I ended up just meeting that goal by throwing in a handful of middle grade graphic novels. Which was kind of cool because Caden read them all immediately after me. He usually flat out refuses to read any book I recommend to him, so I’ve stopped doing it. I guess those biases don’t apply when it’s a graphic novel. Anyway, I actually ended up with 16 books, though I technically finished the last one at 2am today (September 1st), after being up with Shepard massaging his cramping foot in the middle of the night. But that last book ended up being my favorite, and it officially is released this week, so I wanted to get it on my August list so you can pick it up sooner rather than later! Overall, it was a pretty diverse genre month, though maybe a little heavy on the romance/love story side. About half of the books were middle of the road and half of them were really great.

Savaged by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 5 stars

I really enjoyed this part mystery/thriller and part romance. Trail guide Harper is asked to help with an investigation involving two murders and a “wild man” who is a potential suspect. Lucas has been living in the mountains for 15 years with only minimal contact from one of the murder victims. Harper, Lucas, and the supporting characters were so well written. The story was so sad, yet hopeful. It was unique and interesting and kept me reading at every available chance.

How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway
Rating: 3 stars

If you’re experienced with the world of internet dating and are burned out by too many jerks and want some sort of fictional justice, this book is for you. If you have zero experience with internet dating and don’t really care about it at all (like me), you’re probably not going to find this book particularly exciting or interesting. I enjoyed the main character and her strong group of female friends. I was so uninterested in all the online dating stuff. And that’s the whole book. This is a book I probably should have just set aside because I found almost no enjoyment from it, but it’s not because the book was bad, it just didn’t interest me.

Maybe This Time by Kasie West
Rating: 3.5 stars

I’m always excited to see a new Kasie West book come out (I LOVED P.S. I Like You) because they’re guaranteed to be a solid yet tame YA romance. They’re sweet, they’re fun, they’re not overly complicated. This was about Sophie, an assistant florist with lofty dreams to escape her small Alabama hometown to become a New York fashion designer, and Andrew, son of a famous chef who is in town for a year to help Sophie’s best friend’s father’s catering business. I enjoyed the book, but found it frustrating that even though they all lived in this small and boring little town, the three teenagers only saw each other every month to couple of months when they came together for a big event that required both catering and floral arrangements. I wish there had been a lot more interaction and development over the rest of the year, though I also obviously understand why it was formatted that way. I liked the book a lot more as it progressed, particularly in the final few events. This wasn’t a favorite, but it was enjoyable.

A Five Minute Life by Emma Scott
Rating: 5* stars

Wow, what an emotional rollercoaster. I’m warning you now, this book will take you on a ride. But it was so beautiful. Thea was in a car accident that gave her a type of brain damage that only allows her to be awake and have memory in five minute spans before she resets and starts over again. Jim is a loner with a stutter who becomes an orderly at the sanitarium where Thea lives and becomes captivated by her. Everything about this book focuses on love and living life to the fullest and never giving up on those closest to you. It was such a fantastic read. My only regret is the cover that makes this book feel like it’s going to be so much less than it is.

The Prenup by Lauren Layne
Rating: 4 stars

This was a fast and fun light hearted book about two people who marry to get their inheritance and green card, respectively – and then don’t see each other for the next 10 years until one of them wants to get a divorce. Before the divorce can happen they realize there’s a clause in their prenup that requires them to live together for three months first. I did find the whole thing to be a bit ridiculous – why be so worried about immigration coming after them in the final three months of their marriage, but not in the entire ten years beforehand? It also took me a long time to start to like the main character, Colin. There’s a difference between attractive brooding and a character that says and does so little that he’s downright boring. I’ll also admit that I thought this was going to be a pretty sexy romance that I felt like reading while I was at this mostly romance author book convention. In the end, it is VERY PG. Which is totally fine! I love YA like that. This book just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I still enjoyed it as a fun palette cleanser.

44 Chapters About 4 Men by BB Easton
Rating: 3 stars

I’m not sure what to make of this book. So. It’s a mostly true memoir of BB Easton’s three ex-boyfriends and her husband. I saw her on a panel at Book Bonanza and was intrigued by the concept and picked it up to read right away. The premise of the book is that she’s bored with her married sex life and decides to start writing down the memories she has of her past boyfriends in an online journal which she then leaves out for her husband to find. It’s a psychological experiment to see how he’ll react – either get incredibly angry, or up his game. Honestly, knowing that most of what she wrote about is true made me fairly uncomfortable! I can’t imagine being so explicit about my past and assuming my husband would be turned on and eager to impress in the same ways. It’s kind of bizarre to me. And kind of mean? I read the book very quickly and was definitely most interested in her actual happy ending with Ken – not the three boys she left behind. But as a whole…it was just hard for me to really accept simply because it was true. BB also wrote four full length books about each of them and I’m definitely curious to read the one about Ken. But I have zero interest in the rest. It’s kind of a weird thing to write a memoir about.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Rating: 5 stars

This was the perfect suspenseful thriller I needed to break up the string of romance books I read this month. It was quite the page turner! A well written story that was interesting, creepy without being terrifying, and still full of heart. This has definitely been my favorite Riley Sager book thus far. Highly recommend!

Finale by Stephanie Garber
Rating: 3.5 stars

Let me begin by saying that I’m really not a fan of fantasy or anything magical when it comes to books. It’s okay in small doses, but it’s never my first, second, or third choice when it comes to picking up a book. But I was looking for something different and figured it was time to finish up this series. And I liked it. But I also found myself reading it as fast as possible to just get it over with. The magic and extremely colorful details were so distracting to me. It’s unique in a story, for sure. But it was hard for me to stay focused when things were always changing and I was never sure what was real and what wasn’t. I also kept mixing up the magical abilities of this series with ACOTAR – a reason I don’t like to read fantasy series – so many details to keep straight! There were also just SO MANY MIND GAMES. The action was fast paced and the characters were all over the place. I think it was a fitting end to the series, but I’m also glad to be done with it.

Love Online by Penelope Ward
Rating: 3 stars

Okay, I have to admit I was pretty judgy about this book in the beginning. A lonely, but also super rich and hot guy, finds himself looking for porn one night and comes across an intriguing and beautiful cam girl. He immediately becomes attached to her and uses his money to buy more and more of her time every night for private chats – where all they do is talk to each other. The reason I read this book in the first place is that I got it in a grab bag from Book Bonanza and it’s called “Love Online” which led me to believe it would be more of an email/chat kind of romance and not of the video variety. Anyway, this isn’t a literary masterpiece by any means. But I actually did enjoy it and liked the way it concluded so perfectly. Realistic? Probably not. A little creepy if it were real life? Of course. But it was a nice little escape that I read very quickly.

El Deafo by CeCe Bell
Rating: 4 stars

This is the first of many books I picked up to power through at the end of August, trying to meet my personal goal of 15 books for this month. This seemed to be the most popular and well loved of the books I found at the library, so it was my first choice. And I liked it! It’s clear from the start that it’s a memoir of when the author had meningitis as a child and became deaf. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it never even occurred to me that people had varying levels of deafness. Something I found most interesting, but also still can’t really grasp, is that with her hearing aids Cece could HEAR, but she still couldn’t really UNDERSTAND people without also reading their lips. Overall, the book was definitely interesting to me, but also fairly repetitive. This is written as a children’s book, but I’m not sure it’s something either of my kids would be interested in enough to follow through on. But overall, a really nice graphic memoir on a subject that everyone should know more about.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really fun graphic novel about a 12 year old girl who finds herself when she joins a roller derby summer camp. Again, this was a subject matter that I knew very little about and it was interesting to learn more. I think it would be a great book for all kids to read as it teaches awesome lessons about friendship and perseverance even when things are hard.

Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen
Rating: 4.5 stars

I really liked this fast and very simple, but poignant look at what it’s like to bottle up your feelings and how harmful it can be in the long run if you do. The illustrations are beautiful and done in a limited color palette that made the whole book full of autumnal glory. The words are very limited – I do wish there had been more conversation instead of so many “…” bubbles. But it was sweet and a little sad and perfect for a short read.

Introverted Mom by Jamie C. Martin
Rating: 3.5 stars

I picked this up at the beginning of the summer, sure it would help me survive. Unfortunately it took me until the end of the summer to finish. On one hand – I actually finished it – something that doesn’t happen very often with the tons of amazing looking nonfiction books I buy but never get around to reading, or at least finishing. On the other hand – it wasn’t exactly enthralling. I liked it for sure. Some of the chapters really hit home as I consider myself on the extreme side of introversion. But there were also a few chapters, particularly those about living in the midst of needy toddlers and babies, that I just skimmed through and didn’t find that relevant to where I am in my life right now. Overall, I think this is a good resource if you’re introverted and a young mom. It gives you permission to be yourself and tells you that you are more than enough just the way you are. Sometimes I’m surprised by how many people are supposedly extroverted in the world, because I’d guess 90% of the people I know are introverted. None of this stuff is shocking because nobody is ever challenging me to be different. But if you ARE surrounded by extroverts, this might be the perfect life affirming book you need.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
Rating: 4 stars

This is the kind of book you need to read in its entirety before you realize just how good it is. A story of three women over the course of about 60 years. Edith who takes great pride in her famous pie baking skills, but also wants zero recognition for it. Her sister Helen whose only goal in life is to make great beer to the point where she becomes estranged from everyone who loves her after convincing her dying father to leave his entire inheritance to her. And Diana, Edith’s granddaughter who also finds herself passionate about beer making after a series of unfortunate events in her youth. Honestly, this book did not sound all that interesting to me. I’m not particularly fond of books without any sort of romantic storyline. This is also very, very much about beer. I don’t like beer at all and know nothing about it (though I know a lot more now!). But I do live in Wisconsin and I’ve lived in Minnesota, and this book just has a general midwestern coziness about it that made me keep picking it up again and again. I really enjoyed the main theme of finding your passion in life and living for it, but never forgetting to love and support the ones who have loved and supported you. It really was a great book.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Rating: 4.5 stars

First of all, do yourself a favor and read this wonderful graphic novel in OCTOBER. That’s really the only time to read it and get maximum enjoyment. I was trying to figure out which of my graphic novels to end with this month and all of them except this brand new one looked too depressing. Rainbow Rowell is always a delight and I was happy to read another winner. I really enjoyed this sweet and nostalgic graphic tale about two teenagers working their last night at at a beloved pumpkin patch. It was cute and fun and just gave me all the warm feelings. Read it! In October. ūüôā

Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Rating: 5* stars

This was the perfect end of summer read. I adored it! A 25 year old recently dumped woman moves in with her sister and niece to help out for a few months and finds herself roped into joining a summer long Renaissance Faire. She’s immediately thrown off by the rigid and cranky English teacher in charge who seems to feed into all her insecurities. Until Faire starts and he slips into his flirtatious pirate persona and treats her like his beloved. I will say that the first few chapters felt pretty slow to me. But trust me, keep going. This book was the perfect love story between characters who are flawed and struggling, but find what they need in each other. It was so sweet with plenty of swoon worthy moments. I loved it!

What I Read December 2018

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

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

The Christmas Star by Donna VanLiere
Rating: 4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verity by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

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

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock
Rating: 2.5 stars

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

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

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

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Rating: 4 stars

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

No Exit by Taylor Adams
Rating: 4.5 stars

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

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

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

The Noel Stranger by Richard Paul Evans
Rating: 2.5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Rating: 5* stars

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

Blind Kiss by Renee Carlino
Rating: 3 stars

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

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

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

Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 5* stars

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

What I Read September 2018

September turned out to be kind of a mediocre month for reading. Only one five star hit and the rest were middle of the road. Here are the reviews!

The Wondering Years by Knox McCoy
Rating: 4.5 stars

I was greatly privileged to have been given the opportunity to be part of this book’s launch team and had a chance to read it two months before it’s release date. I was interested in reading it from the day it was announced because I’m OBSESSED with Knox’s podcast, The Popcast. I jumped at the chance to pre-order the book and was thrilled to be accepted on the launch team. Anyway – the book was fantastic! I think I might have laughed out loud at this book more than any other I have ever read. Knox has an innate talent at relating pop culture references to everyday faith and life. Each chapter has a unique look at different pop culture ideals and how they connected to his own life and helped shape his faith. What struck me most about this book was simply how much I could relate to it! I’m knocking it down half a star rating because I think if you are not in your 30’s, or you didn’t pay any attention to pop culture in the last 30 years, you probably won’t get as much out of this book. There were quite a few sports references that went over my head because I care nothing about sports, though the names of many were at least recognizable to me. But the tv and movie references? SO on point. And absolutely hilarious. Knox’s church experience was also so similar to my own growing up that it made for a supremely entertaining book and I would recommend it to anyone!

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 5 stars

(Contains spoilers if you haven’t read the first book!) Feyre has defeated Amarantha and been given new life by all seven High Lords, remaking her body into that of a High Fae. She is taken back to the Spring Court with Tamlin, whose freedom she fought valiantly for. She struggles deeply with what she had to do to gain his freedom and becomes increasingly depressed and distraught with this new immortal life. Desperate to keep her safe at all cost, Tamlin basically keeps her locked in the house and refuses to help her learn her new gifts, insisting all she needs is his protection. Feyre begins to waste away and Tamlin is so obsessed with keeping her protected that he doesn’t SEE her anymore. On the day of their wedding, Feyre desperately cries out internally for someone to do something and stop this from happening. And surprise, surprise, SOMEONE just happens to show up. I had a hard time reconciling with this new turn of events, even though it was fairly obvious by the end of the first book that Rhysand was going to play a much more important role in Feyre’s life. I wanted to remember all the good in Tamlin and all the bad in Rhys. But as the story goes on and Feyre realizes how much more she can be, how much bigger of a role she can play in saving their people, it gets SO GOOD. And the epic romance that verrrry slowly burns through the book? Wow, just wow! I honestly don’t care much about all the battles and political stuff, which is why I rarely read fantasy like this. But the characterization is so fabulous I was melting by the end. I loved this book just about as much as the first.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 4 stars

(Spoilers) It¬†took me a really, really long time to get through this book. As much as I ADORED the first two books in the series, I felt like there was something left to be desired now that Rhysand and Feyre are together and most of the new love sexual tension has been dissolved. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a pretty sexy book – in between all the war talk and war planning and war fighting. This book is really mostly just about the war and getting all the high lords and their courts to gather and cooperate to try and defeat the horrible Hybern. I continued to love this entire cast of characters and was particularly happy to see how Tamlin played into the final chapters. I never would have given up on this book, but I think I did hit my fill of this series overall for awhile. Maas is such an incredible author to have woven this extensive and unique series together, though. One of my favorites!

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Rating: 3.5 stars

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started this long and incredibly detailed graphic memoir. I was under the impression that it was a great love story, but was surprised to realize how much of it was really about the author questioning and ultimately denying his faith after growing up in an extreme Christian household. I appreciate how well done it was, but found the entire book to just be very sad with little redemptive qualities. It was memoir, so I know it couldn’t exactly be changed. But I wish there had been more of a conclusion between Craig and his brother and Craig and Raina and her family. It is a remarkable book, but maybe not exactly for me.

I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Rating: 4 stars

This is a fun little book that shines a light on all the joys of being a reader. It’s filled with essays on book love, reading problems, and funny book related stories. I enjoyed the book because I could relate to so many of Anne’s feelings on the reading life. There’s nothing particularly deep about the book, and there were a couple of chapters that were so specific to particular books she had read that I just wasn’t interested in, that led me to skim through. But most of the chapters were sweet, happy, and made me nostalgic for all of my own reading and book related memories.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really sweet and simple palette cleanser type of a book. Likeable characters that treat each other with kindness and respect. A pretty straight forward love story without a ton of obstacles to weigh it down. Fast paced with lots of laughter. I liked it a lot. (And I obviously don’t have a ton to say about it!)

Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: 3.5 stars

This very short story popped up as being free for Prime members one day. Between books I decided to read it that night. It was an interesting little story that takes place entirely between the spouses of a man and woman who had an affair with each other. The woman finds the letters her husband was writing to the woman he was having an affair with and she decides to write letters to the woman’s husband so he knows what is going on. They have a unique six months or so of writing to each other while they work out their feelings and decide what to do with the affair taking place, without their spouses knowing they know about it. It sounds very convoluted to describe it! Anyway, as a short story, which I tend to never read because they don’t give me a enough satisfaction, I really liked it. But I also wonder what the point of publishing this was, other than as a quick money maker for the author. That’s what leaves me a bit confused and knocking off a star and a half. I would have loved to have read this as a full novel.

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
Rating: 3 stars

I was looking for books for Caden’s birthday and happened upon this one by Sharon Creech, author of my favorite childhood book, Walk Two Moons.¬†I basically had to buy it because it’s about a donkey. Actually, a MINI donkey. (My favorite animal!) It’s a very sweet and fast paced story about a boy who offers to take care of a very sickly newborn donkey whose mother couldn’t take care of it. It was pretty simplistic for an adult reader, but it was sweet. I liked it.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Rating: 3 stars

I have to start by saying that I really dislike books that bring up some sort of secret the narrator has and constantly makes references to, but takes forever to let the reader in on. That was this book. You don’t find out the big bad secret until 80% into the book. 80%! I thought the book was okay besides that. I enjoyed the fact that they were traveling through Ireland because I’m all about Ireland. I liked the character of Rowan. But the annoying fighting between Addie and Ian that never let up over the secret were not so enjoyable to read about. The whole thing was just okay.

Purple Orchids by Samantha Christy
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the story of Gavin and Baylor and their intense yet brief college romance that was torn apart by a pretty spectacularly stupid misunderstanding, to be reunited eight years later and have to deal with the repercussions of that distance. For the most part, I liked the book. I felt like the author added a few too many crazy elements near the end that were attempting to make the story bigger than it should have been. I also really didn’t like how many times the words “my dick” were referenced. Probably hundreds of times. Men can feel with their minds too, maybe?? Anyway, I did enjoy the characters and the story, but this also wasn’t one of my favorites. I’m not sure I’ll get around to reading the other books in the series.

That’s it for September! I’m hoping to read some more creepy/mystery/thriller type seasonal books in October, so hit me up if you have any great recommendations!

Book Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

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

The Vanderbeekers, are a mixed race family with five children living in a brownstone in New York City. The siblings consist of 12 year old twins Isa and Jessie, 9 year old Oliver, 6 year old Hyacinth, and 4 year old Laney. They also have a pet dog, cat, and bunny. They rent their apartment¬†from¬†their grumpy and mean third floor landlord Mr. Biederman. They also have an elderly couple as second floor neighbors who are basically part of their family. In an unexplained act of cruelty,¬†“The Biederman” tells the Vanderbeeker family that he will not allow them to renew their lease, giving them less than two weeks at the end of December to find somewhere else to live. As the only home they’ve ever known and as much a part of their identity as their family members, the siblings ban together to come up with a variety of plans to try and change Mr. Biederman’s mind to let them stay in their apartment.

This is another middle grade book that I chose to read because of the cover. I love the cover! I was also hoping I’d read it, fall in love with it, and share it with Caden. I did love it, but I’m not sure it’s the type of book Caden would enjoy (not enough adventure). But I’d highly recommend it for any young to middle grade readers who enjoy heartwarming and family focused reads. The book is definitely entertaining enough for an adult. It takes place around Christmas, though is not necessarily Christmas driven. It’s more about their family, the community that supports them, and the love they want to extend to the people in their lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was endearing and sweet. Each sibling had very clearly defined personalities and roles they took in the family. They got into regular sibling arguments, but also continued to act as teammates with the ultimate goal of saving their brownstone. They focus on acts of kindness and manage to maintain an optimistic attitude about their change in circumstances. It’s a wonderfully positive and charming story. Pick it up for yourself, or the young reader in your life!

Book Review: Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
Rating: 3 stars

Orphan Island is a mysterious place where nine orphans of ascending age live their lives. Each year a new young orphan arrives (described like a 2 year old at first, but probably 4-5) on a green boat and the eldest of the bunch (an exact age is never given, but I’m guessing around 14 or 15) is taken away. Each child is assigned tasks to help out with their living situation on the island and life is pretty good. There’s always unanswered questions at the back of their minds, especially when a new Charge arrives and is missing their mama. But for the most part the kids are content. The island is a bit magical and protects the children from harm, as long as they follow the main rule – only nine orphans on the island at a time.

This book takes place at the arrival of Ess, the departure of Deen, and the transition of Jinny becoming the newest Elder. A bit more frustrated with the unknown, she begins to challenge a few of the rules and when another charge, Loo, arrives a year later, she decides to stay. This upsets the balance of the island and bad things start to happen.

Overall, this book had the potential to really be unique. And I adore the cover. I was hoping I’d love the book so much I could justify buying it for its beauty! But I found myself to be quite frustrated with all the unanswered questions. It¬†is¬†a middle grade read, so if I were perhaps a younger reader I wouldn’t be so desperate to know exactly what circumstances are behind the island! There is reference to Abigail, one of the original “orphans” who left behind a letter she had written to her mother. There is also the occasional observation how a set of children are extremely similar in looks and a different set of children share their looks as well. I finished the book really wishing there was more. If you don’t mind unanswered questions, it’s definitely worth a read. If that bothers you as much as me – skip this one!