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!