What I Read August 2020

I’m so excited to write this post today because August was FINALLY a really great reading month for me! I read 14 books, and 12 of them I rated 4 stars or higher. I love that kind of data! I don’t think I even DNF’d more than one or two books this month either. I just finally picked out some good ones. Anyway, check them out!

Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
Rating: 4 stars

Avery was an elite gymnast when an injury ended her career just before the Olympics. Over the next seven years she struggles to make a new life for herself after years of being emotionally abused by her coach. After breaking up with her boyfriend she decides to move back home and take a coaching job with another former gymnast, Ryan, who she of course had a big crush on as a teen. Ryan and Avery work together coaching Hallie, trying to get her to the Olympics as well. I wish going into this book I knew literally anything about gymnastics. I don’t, and I don’t particularly care, so the long descriptions of moves and routines were lost on me. I enjoyed how Avery took a much different approach to coaching than what she grew up with and how well the three of them worked together to coordinate her new routines. But I found Ryan to honestly be pretty boring. He was nice, but he didn’t stand out as being a very good leading man. Overall, it was an enjoyable book, it just could have been better.

My (Mostly) Secret Baby by Penelope Bloom
Rating: 3 stars

Damon and Chelsea meet on the street and have a fiery chemistry that leads them to sleeping together just minutes later in the first empty room they find. They walk away and don’t see each other for another five years when Chelsea goes to Damon’s company for a job as her last resort. The secret? She had his baby and never told him. This book was interesting enough to keep me reading, but still a pretty stereotypical boss/subordinate romance, which feels pretty boring to me at this point. The five years of denying Damon his rights as a parent for really no good reason was a bit unbelievable and brushed past rather quickly, but sometimes it’s nicer to just have a light hearted book without any of the heavy stuff weighing it down.

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile (counting this book twice because I both read it and listened to the audio this month!)
Rating: 5* stars

This is the most life changing book I’ve ever read. I don’t know why I put it off for so long! I’ve been deeply interested in the enneagram from the very first time I heard about it on a couple of podcasts many years ago. I took a bunch of assessments and followed a bunch of instagram accounts, but mostly focused on my own number. I finally decided it would be worth my while to learn more about all the numbers and see how they might connect to the people in my life. And honestly, this book just blew my mind. Not every person is a picture perfect example of their number. But SOME people are. And some of those people are part of my life and it was quite a revelation finally being able to understand how they tick. I simultaneously read a physical copy of this book while also listening to it on audio so I could get through all the chapters more quickly. The audio was great, but a physical copy is a must so you can highlight and refer back to each number and their traits. It starts to get a bit confusing if you’re going through them as quickly as I was. I wish I had read this book sooner, it might have helped me understand and relate to the people in my life a little better. But the obsession is truly peaked now and I’m anxious to find out even more. But pick this up first for a great introduction to the enneagram and how each type is determined. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Always Only You by Chloe Liese
Rating: 4.5 stars

I really enjoyed this second book in the Bergman Brothers series. It’s a story about Frankie, an autistic woman who also suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. She’s the social media manager for a hockey team in which Ren Bergman is a player. Ren is a happy, playful, and modest guy who has always caught Frankie’s attention, but she’s sworn off relationships after disasters in the past when her partners got sick of dealing with her challenges. I’m fairly certain I’ve read books about autistic characters before, but this one especially intrigued because it definitely clued me in to how they are truly just regular people. The author herself mentions at the end how she is also autistic, which is how she felt qualified to write this story. I’m always up for reading a romance book, but it makes me SO much happier when they have a lot of depth and growth as part of the main plot. This book covered all the bases and I really enjoyed it, particularly later on in the book when it started to pick up pace.

All Things Reconsidered by Knox McCoy
Rating: 4 stars

As an enormous fan of all things related to The Popcast podcast, I will always be a supporter of Knox’s writing. He has such a wonderfully self deprecating and conversational writing style that is extremely personal, funny, and easy to connect with. He writes the way that he speaks which makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable to me. I also enjoy that Knox had a very similar upbringing to me, so it’s always interesting to hear stories of growing up in the church and youth group and an evangelical family because I can relate so well to them. A lot of this book is about those topics and how he’s grown to reconsider a lot of the black and white ideas he was presented with as a child. But there are other chapters thrown in that have nothing to do with his faith, but are absolutely hilarious. It’s definitely worth a read. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it did take me two months to read because many of the topics while presented in a light and easy to understand way were still indeed heavy topics. It wasn’t the subject matter I was always that excited to pick up when I had a few spare minutes to read. But I’m glad I continued on because it was a really great book!

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
Rating: 4 stars

Rachel is a true crime podcaster visiting a city for a couple of weeks to cover the current trial of a rape victim. On her way there she receives a mysterious letter about another crime that happened 25 years earlier – a drowning under mysterious circumstances.While Rachel is researching and interviewing about the rape case she can’t stop thinking about the drowning that she keeps getting letters about. She simultaneously starts looking into both cases and the connections are intriguing. This is definitely not a light read. The subject matter is heavy with rape, sexual assault, and violence. I did have a hard time keeping the two cases separate in my mind for the first half of the book. But it held my attention through the end. I kept expecting some sort of crazy twist, but this is just a thriller, not a psychological thriller which is apparently the only type of thriller I’m used to reading! I also thought this book was unique because it didn’t have ANY romantic components. I can’t remember the last time I read a fiction book without that being at least a small part of the story. And surprisingly, I didn’t miss it. I thought Rachel was a fantastic journalist and really loved the way she treated everyone as she researched the cases.

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Rating: 5* stars

Rowan and Neil are neck and neck in the race for valedictorian after four years of academically besting each other again and again. Their rivalry is notorious and is known for going to extreme lengths to prove they are the best. It’s the last day of school and the two of them end up spending the majority of the day together during the traditional senior scavenger hunt around Seattle. As you probably know by now, I’m a huge fan of enemies to lovers romance and I’m obsessed with YA love stories. This book was PERFECTION. It had absolutely everything I wanted in a book. It’s the first book in ages that I was willing to give up sleep for because I couldn’t put it down. Then four hours later I woke up to read some more. (I gave up my bike ride too.) It had depth, it had wonderful character development and interactions, and it had such a delicious slow burn tension. I adored this book and definitely plan on reading it again!

What You Wish For by Katherine Center
Rating: 5 stars

I read most of this book sitting in my car at a cemetery because I desperately needed to get away from my house and couldn’t think of anywhere else to go. Needless to say, I wasn’t in a great place emotionally when I read this and I had some big reactions to the story. In the beginning there were parts that I hated it. By the end I was completely in love. This book started out light and finished being everything I needed it to be. A perfect reminder that there are always going to be good days and bad days, joyful moments and devastating ones. It’s up to you to choose to see the good and revel in the joy because that is what makes life worth living. This was a message I desperately needed and I’m so glad I picked this book up. I suppose I should actually tell you a little bit about the storyline… Sam is a epileptic school librarian who works at one of the most creative and unique elementary schools in Galveston, Texas. Duncan is a teacher that she had an extreme crush on at her last school, but was too reserved to act on it. She finds out Duncan is coming to be principal at her current school and is so thrilled yet terrified to have him in her life again because she knows the crush will come back. But then he arrives and it’s like his entire personality has been replaced. He is no longer the fun, adorable, exuberant person she once fell in love with. Duncan, when he arrives, is what I reacted most strongly to because it felt like one more blow to my day that I couldn’t handle. But it was worth it to charge on. Such a good book.

Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 4.5 stars

Colleen Hoover is (obviously) my favorite author, so I was of course really looking forward to this book even though she didn’t give us any kind of description on what to expect. Turns out it was a YA novel about two “damaged” people who were well versed in keeping their secrets close and never getting emotionally tied down to anyone. Until they of course get close to each other. I liked this book a lot, but I have pretty high standards for Colleen Hoover and this one fell a little bit flat to me. The romance seemed a little too immediate and the fact that the whole relationship is based on NOT telling each other things…that annoys me. I want characters to open up and connect in ways people rarely seem to in real life. But still, I really liked it!

Runaway Road by Devney Perry
Rating: 3 stars

Londyn is running away from her life for the third time after a nasty divorce. She’s taking her refinished Cadillac back to California to give it to the boy she lived in it with as a runaway teen. But her car breaks down along the way and she finds herself in an idyllic town with an irresistible mechanic. I enjoyed this book for what it was – a sweet escape into a guaranteed love story. It was definitely predictable without much tension in the plot, but I needed that this week. Overall a perfectly fine read.

Wild Highway by Devney Perry
Rating: 4 stars

This second book in the series picks up with Londyn’s childhood runaway friend Gemma selling her cosmetic company for twelve million dollars and taking the Cadillac on the second leg of the journey, stopping in Montana to make amends with her friend Katherine. But going back to Montana, where she briefly lived after leaving California, brings back a lot of old memories and she decides to stay awhile, much to her teenage crush Easton’s dismay. I really enjoyed this installment of the series and spending time on a Montana ranch and lodge. Gemma and Easton both felt much more complex and I enjoyed getting into their heads. So far my only beef with this series is the extreme abundance of wealth (as adults) that can clearly make their lives a lot easier. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series to see where the Cadillac heads next.

Quarter Miles by Devney Perry
Rating: 4 stars

Of the three books completed so far in this series, this has definitely been my favorite because it was the most swoon-worthy. Katherine is on her way to drop the Cadillac off with Aria in Oregon to try and clear her head and get over her secret crush on her best friend and roommate Cash. But Cash finagles his way onto the trip and they both realize just how deeply they feel about each other. I really liked this one – at first – because Cash was so much more easy going and lighthearted than his brother Easton in the previous book. But about halfway through it felt like he had a total personality change and turned just as broody and angry as Easton, maybe even more so. That’s what turned this from a 5 star into a 4 star rating to me. But other than that, I really enjoyed this one! Now to wait for the final two books in the series!

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Rating: 5* stars

Quiet and sullen teenagers that have rich inner lives as famous anonymous identities on the internet who happen to find each other both online and in real life? Sign me up! I adored this book. Eliza has created an amazing webcomic over the last several years and has millions of followers. But in real life she is very private, quiet, and friendless. Until she meets the new kid Wallace who is also very quiet, but is a fan of her comic and one of the major contributors to her fan forum. Paralyzed with fear of losing her anonymity, she chooses not to tell him who she is in return. The two of them slowly figure out how to be friends and maybe a little bit more over time. This book turned out to be a lot more serious than I was expecting with a lot of deeper issues popping up near the end. I was also a little perturbed at how much more I identified with Eliza’s parents and their frustration with how obsessed she was with her internet life and angry or quiet around them (too many parallels to my own life right now!). But I thought it ultimately had a really great message about finding your worth in the right ways and not getting too caught up in what people think you owe them. I honestly wasn’t all that interested in the comic itself and all the fan fiction related ties to this book, but it didn’t stop me from loving the story.

What I Read July 2020

Whew, I’m behind! July was a terrible reading month for me, which is why I’ve been dragging my feet about writing this review post. I was so distracted by everyday life and just could not seem to get into any of the books I tried. It was a struggle. I only read nine books and the first half of them were not that great! But I did find a couple of fantastic ones, so check them out!

The Twin by Natasha Preston
Rating: 2.5 stars

Ivy and Iris are 16 year old twins who went to live with separate parents after their divorce six years prior. When their mom dies in a running accident Iris comes to live with Ivy and their dad and is acting shady and mysterious, refusing to discuss their mom or her old life, determined to jump right in with all of Ivy’s friends. Ivy is determined to figure out what’s going on with her. I’m going to start out by saying – do not read this book. It’s not worth it and the bizarre cliffhanger ending (with no sequel) will infuriate you. The entire story seemed to just be a lot of talking in circles about Iris’ “off” behavior and not a whole lot actually happening. I stuck with it because I assumed Ivy would have redemption by the end of the book and (spoiler) she does not. It pissed me off, to be honest! I do NOT recommend.

Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
Rating: 2 stars

Technically this book was a DNF for me, but I didn’t give it up until 75% in so I’m counting it in my totals. So it’s a book about an anxious and uptight guy, Jordan, who is trying to hold together a romance book club that is quickly losing its members. He meets Rex in the bookstore and is immediately turned off by some of his comments and challenges him to read the books for himself before he makes judgements. Rex joins the book club and the two men are instantly attracted to each other. This book…ugh. It has so many plot holes. What I really couldn’t stand was how it kept jumping back and forth between points of view from paragraph to paragraph with no rhyme or reason. It was SO poorly edited, if edited by a professional at all. I couldn’t take it anymore. The plot sounded so promising, but the lack of polishing was just too much for me.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Rating: 3 stars

I’ve been in such a reading rut that I decided the best thing to do would be to pick something in a different genre than what I’m typically drawn to. Historical fiction has never been my sweet spot, but I’ve really liked all the Jojo Moyes books I’ve read and this one came so highly rated (though also with a lot of controversy), so I dove in. And honestly, I was pretty disappointed in the whole thing. Alice meets Bennett and his father and moves from England to Kentucky to marry him, but soon discovers she doesn’t really fit in and doesn’t love the life of leisure that is expected of her. An opportunity arises to join a group of packhorse librarians, riding books out to all the rural houses in the area. The book is about Alice and the other librarians and how much resistance they meet with what they do. All in all, I thought it was just so boring. I didn’t get enough depth in Alice and was frustrated by how prudish and closed off she seemed for the majority of the book. I wanted her to actually feel things instead of just shutting down. I kept expecting the book to take a turn and really grip me, but it never did. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time powering through it.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Rating: 4 stars

Luc is the son of a washed up celebrity who abandoned him when he was a toddler. They haven’t seen each other since, but it doesn’t stop the press from following Luc around and continuing to destroy his reputation. About to lose the only job he was able to secure he begs a well respected acquaintance, Oliver, to be his fake boyfriend for a couple of months to help gain back the respect of his lost donors. Oliver is also in need of a companion for a large family event so he agrees to the arrangement and they begin to spend time together so secure their cover, even though almost all of their friends know the truth. I enjoyed this book. Luc grew a lot during his fake relationship with Oliver and Oliver was such a stand up worthy guy it was hard not to love him. It still took me forever to read – I just cannot concentrate on books anymore. But I liked this one a lot.

Engagement and Espionage by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is the first book in a spinoff of the Winston Brothers series. It really needs to be read after Beard Science, the third book in that series, to get all of the great character development and back story. I think the main reason I enjoyed this book so much was the nostalgia factor of going back to the Winston brothers’ world and spending more time with Cletus, my favorite brother. The premise of the book was trying to solve a mystery surrounding all of the unique local suppliers to the Donnor Bakery. Cletus of course gets involved and he and Jenn concoct a plan to get to the bottom of what’s going on around town. It was fun and cute and just made me happy to revisit everybody. I still haven’t even finished the all Winston Brothers books, so I’ll have to move back on to them soon!

Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the reimagined retelling of what happens to the real Jo March in the year between writing the first and second half of her beloved book, Little Women. I mostly chose this book because the cover is so beautiful. And I was curious to see what the authors would do with this story. I’m not a hardcore Little Women fan, but I imagine those that are might not be thrilled by this book. It pokes fun at a few things in the original story and of course takes some creative liberty in what happens with the characters in their “real” lives. To be honest, most of this book was maddening. Jo is so stubborn and frustrating and refuses to just let herself love and be loved. SO much of the story is just Jo bemoaning how difficult it is to write a proper sequel. It was quite stressful to feel that nonstop writer’s block with her! I enjoyed how it ended, but wish a little more romance had been interspersed throughout the rest of the book because I was rather fed up with it all.

The Player Next Door by K. A. Tucker
Rating: 3.5 stars

Scarlett moves back to town she grew up in twelve years after she left, and finds herself living next door to the boy she was once in love with, but hurt her deeply. He’s hoping to reconnect in friendship, but her heart is guarded against letting him in again, even though she can’t stop thinking about him. This is clearly a very predictable story, but it was still sweet and I enjoyed it.

Hate Thy Neighbor by S.M. Soto
Rating: 5 stars

This is the first book I read all month that I didn’t want to put down. Enemies to lovers romance novels are usually a win for me, it’s one of my favorite tropes. This was just released and sounded intriguing, so I snapped it up. It didn’t disappoint! Olivia moves to a new city and immediately makes an enemy with her surly yet gorgeous neighbor Roman. With no explanation behind it, Roman immediately hates Olivia and does everything possible to thwart her attempts at friendship. This is my one and only complaint about the book. Roman said a lot of pretty cruel things to Olivia in the first half of the book and it’s hard for me to forgive a leading man for being such a genuine jerk. Rude? Fine. But downright cruel? It’s not a turn on. Anyway, both characters seemed to have a lot of depth and I thoroughly enjoyed how the story progressed!

Heartstopper Vol. 2 by Alice Oseman
Rating: 5* stars

It’s been a nine months since I read the first Heartstopper and was so upset to realize it wasn’t a single volume! It took quite awhile for my library to get the second one for me, but it was worth the wait. Coming back to this sweet budding romance between gay Charlie and sexually confused Nick was such a treat. It’s a very fast read with few words, but incredibly emotional comic drawings! It continues to amaze me how much feeling can be shown in the graphics. I adored this graphic novel and can’t wait to read the third!

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.

What I Read December 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instant Loss Cookbook by Brittany Williams
Rating: 4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

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

Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
Rating: 4 stars

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

Instant Loss by Brittany Williams
Rating: 4 stars

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

Dwelling by Melissa Michaels
Rating: 4 stars

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

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

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

Christmas Cliche by Tara Sivec
Rating: 3 stars

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

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

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

Beautiful Boards by Maegan Brown
Rating: 4 stars

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

The Gift of Happiness by Holly Martin
Rating: 4 stars

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

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 5 stars

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

The Forest Feast Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
Rating: 4 stars

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

What I Read October 2019

October was NOT a great month for reading. I only finished nine books (my fewest of any month yet this year), and two of those were short audiobooks and one was a cookbook. Besides the cookbook – which was amazing – all of the books were only 3, 3.5, or 4 stars. Solidly “good, nice books.” None of them were books that will be particularly memorable or something I’m interested in rereading in the future. Not that being re-readable is necessary for a book to be GREAT – but I’m in a place in my life right now where I really just want to escape and be entertained and excited to jump back into the story every chance I get. I haven’t had many books like that all year. Which is eternally frustrating! I’m disappointed that in my birthday month, when I wanted to make reading one of my highest priorities, I had such a hard time getting excited about any of these. But – here goes.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Rating: 4 stars

Jane Eyre is a book I really wanted to read this month as I delved into my seasonal reading pile. I’ve never been a fan of classics, but had a distinct feeling that this might have been the only one I actually enjoyed reading in school. I found the most beautiful copy of it when I was out shopping day and couldn’t resist (see photo!). But then my library audiobook of it just happened to come in on October 1st and since I was up super early working I decided to go ahead and listen to it instead. It’s only about two and a half hours long! I still can’t figure out how that’s possible when the book is so thick and the internet says it should take approximately 12 hours to read. At any rate! The narration of this was perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed it – that coming from someone who can never, ever pay attention to fiction on audio. Though to be fair – short works for small attention spans! I listened to the entire book in a single morning and really did fall in love with the story. I found it a bit unbelievable how quickly Jane and Rochester fall in love, but he seemed like a much more likeable character than when I read this in college (at the time the 20 year age difference was probably really appalling!). If you’re looking for a short classic audio to pick up, this would really be a good one.

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
Rating: 4 stars

Amy Harmon’s Making Faces is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I also recently read her book What the Wind Knows and loved it. She writes beautiful sweeping stories that really draw you in and make you feel so deeply for the characters. When I heard she was releasing this book, however, centering around Norse mythology, I was really hesitant to pick it up. It did not sound at all interesting to me. But after seeing all the floods of five star reviews I gave it a shot. And like always – a beautifully written story. But I also felt like the plot ebbed and flowed a bit more than it should have. I was so interested and suddenly I didn’t really know or care about what was going on. Near the end of the book when the action really gets intense, I honestly had no clue what was happening. I loved the characters, though, and they really make the story sing. I liked the book a lot, but it also took me FOREVER to read, which is a pretty indicator that it can never be a five star book for me.

Baking Me Crazy by Karla Sorensen
Rating: 4 stars

There has been a lot of hype for Penny Reid fans about this series of Smartypants Romance books where other authors wrote stories about other characters in the Green Valley/Winston Brothers world. This was the first to release in the next two months and I hope to read all of them, soon after release date to keep up with all the online discussions. I was excited about this one because it’s supposed to be about the bakery and a baker. Though if you’re looking for a book where baking is featured highly, this is not it. Joss is a paraplegic who gets a job in the Donner Bakery. Her best friend Levi has been secretly in love with her for the last five years since the day he met her and she told him she was only ready to have a friend. This friends to lovers romance is sweet and tender and I enjoyed it. But I also found myself mildly bored by it in parts. Though that’s probably more my own fault than the book’s as I seem to be having an extremely hard time getting through them this month! Overall, it was a strong start to this unique series of books and I’m excited to check out more of them as they are released.

The Whisper Man by Alex North
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the first “creepy” seasonal book I finally made myself pick up this month. I was a little apprehensive about reading it because I don’t like horror and I don’t like books about terrible things happening to kids. But it had a lot of great reviews so I read it anyway. And…it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was almost relieved that the creepy/horror factor was honestly so minimal, I don’t know why so many people were making such a fuss about it. It really wasn’t even much of a thriller. More of a high stakes yet mild mystery novel. Overall, the book is much more about the complexity of relationships between fathers and sons. I enjoyed that part too – especially because I felt like I could relate to the main character, Tom, and how disconnected he sometimes felt from his six year old son, Jake. Overall, it was a good story. I just couldn’t muster up a ton of excitement over it. Again, like every book this month, it took me SO long to finish.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Lefanu
Rating: 4 stars

Okay, this is cheating a little bit, because I listened to a theatrical audio retelling of this book rather than listening to the actual text – though a friend said they were very similar. I was hoping to add another scary title to my October book list, and this was about two hours long – perfect for a morning at my sewing machine. And I liked it! I guess I’ve never read any class vampire fiction before now, but I was amazed at how may similarities this novella had to the tv show Vampire Diaries. For that reason alone I was kind of tickled by the entire story. I also enjoyed listening to it as Rose Leslie and David Tennant were the two main actors in the audio version. Who wouldn’t want to listen to them?! I guess I don’t have much else to say about it, other than that I enjoyed it. It wasn’t scary, but I can see how it might have been if read in the era it was written.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Rating: 3.5 stars

I wasn’t very great about recording my books and reviews immediately after finishing a book this month. The completion of this one almost escaped my attention entirely. I remember enjoying it, but it was apparently also quite forgettable. I’m always up for a book about people who love books and that aspect of this story was fun. But I had a hard time distinguishing what the book was really supposed to be about when there seemed to be so many main focuses. I LOVED the storyline of her new eccentric family members. And I was disappointed that a love interest was thrown in, but had very little to do with the story as a whole. Overall, it was a good book. Just definitely not a favorite.

Weight Expectations by M.E. Carter
Rating: 3 stars

Here’s another book written in Penny Reid’s fictional world, by a different author. This book overlapped with Penny’s Knitting in the City series – of which I’ve only read one book and didn’t particularly care for. But there were a lot of great early reviews for this one, so I was excited about reading it. Unfortunately, it really kind of fell flat. The entire book is about a man who is the epitome of health and obsessed with keeping himself in great shape so he can enjoy mindless one night stands with total bimbos. Until he meets Rian, an overweight woman whose doctor just told her she better get healthy if she wants to stay alive. This came at about the exact same time my doctor basically told me the same thing, so at the beginning of the book I really enjoyed Rian’s journey of starting to work out and finding new ways to eat healthier. But then it just took over everything and I got so tired of reading the same redundant plotlines again and again. I probably should have DNF’d the book, but I feel oddly loyal to this series of Smartypants Romances and think I need to read and finish them all. It definitely wasn’t a favorite, though.

Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars

Earlier this year Christina Lauren released the book The Unhoneymooners and it was immediately one of my all time favorite swoony books. Snappy dialog, intense chemistry, and a lot of laughs. I was really hoping this book would be in a similar vein – and it’s not. So if you’re looking for pure fun, you won’t find it here. But you will find a sweet and forgiving love story between two flawed and hurt characters. They meet while they are young for a very brief but intense connection on a London vacation. Then one turns against the other and they don’t see each other for another 14 years when life brings them back together. I wasn’t enthralled by this book, but I had to remind myself that not every romance needs to also be a romantic comedy. With that in mind, it was a solid 4 star story.

Half Baked Harvest Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard
Rating: 5* stars

Half Baked Harvest is my all time favorite food blog. You are guaranteed to find the most amazing, creative, flavor bomb filled recipes – and incredible photographs to go with them. I make recipes I’ve taken from that blog more than any other – they’re fantastic. A year or two ago, Tieghan released her first cookbook and I of course immediately bought it. I went through it – and then it went on the shelf. I’m not sure I’ve ever made a single recipe from it. She makes a ton of great food, but a lot of it is fairly complicated with a ton of ingredients – it’s kind of intimidating when you just need a quick meal for your family. I was a little more apprehensive about her second cookbook, but bought it as well. And I’m so glad I did! This cookbook is incredible. I bookmarked almost every single recipe. Everything looks delicious and still maybe a bit more complicated than most “simple” cookbooks, I think it’ll be worth my time and effort. I’m almost a little overwhelmed at how many things look tasty that I don’t know where to begin in checking them off. My only complaint is that she uses her favorite ingredients in a lot of recipes. If it’s a flavor you don’t like or an ingredient you don’t have access to, it’s a bit of a turnoff. For example, she uses a lot of basil and pesto – flavors I can’t stand. She also uses a lot of burrata cheese – something I have only ever seen at Trader Joe’s (an hour away in the most inconvenient of locations) – and I go to a lot of different grocery stores! Every time she uses burrata in one of her blog recipes I wonder how SHE has access to it in her rural mountain area! But I’m sure there are plenty of substitutions you could make to create the perfect meal for your family. I’m extremely excited about working my way through this cookbook and finding some new favorites!

What I Read 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 July 2019

It was a pretty good reading month! One delicious cookbook, one amazing nonfiction book that I think all women should be required to read, one beautiful book of poetry, three five star fiction picks, and a few good to okay reads. It was a nice variety! I’m excited to share them with you tonight.

Before I jump in, though, I just wanted to clarify my rating system again. I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last few months and have decided to become a lot more forgiving in what I’ll rate a book. It’s really become clear to me how much ratings and positive reviews affect the success of a book and I don’t want to be part of a negative group of people that brings a book down unless I genuinely hated it. As a small business owner who depends on high ratings to draw in more customers, I would be devastated if the people who bought my dolls left me anything less than a 5 star review when I put so much of my time, heart, and soul into my creations. The same is true for authors – or at least the majority of them. So I want to be a little more willing to look past parts of a storyline that maybe just didn’t agree with me and give a book a rating I think it probably deserves. As always, I reserve the special 5* rating for the books I absolutely adore because they touched my heart, made me laugh, made me cry, and I’d definitely read them again. If I really loved a book I’ll give it a 5. If I liked a book and didn’t find anything significantly wrong with it I’ll give it a 4. If I thought a book was just okay, but I didn’t have a problem finishing it, I’ll give it a 3. If I hated a book, but still finished it, I’ll give it a 2. And that’s really as low as I’ll go. I feel like some people (I pay a lot of attention to reviews, particularly those of people I follow on goodreads and on podcasts and facebook) take pride in how harshly they judge the books they read. And I don’t want to be that kind of person. Authors are real people and they deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the very hard work that goes into not only writing, but publishing their written words.

Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook by Perre Coleman Magness
Rating: 5* stars

This may very well be my favorite specialty cookbook of all time. I was absolutely tickled to randomly come across it at Half Priced Books. A whole cookbook about pimento cheese?! Incredible! I LOVE pimento cheese. Growing up in Wisconsin, it’s definitely not a thing around here. I’d never even heard of it until I tried The Pioneer Woman’s recipe on peppers (it’s delish) just a couple of years ago. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. I also recently tried the recipe from The Happy Cookbook and loved it with all the spicy extras. But this cookbook! I marked down almost every single recipe as being something I wanted to try. Just the number of variations alone is exciting. But all the additional ways you can use the cheese really sounded great. I immediately gathered a bunch of smoked cheeses I had open in the fridge to create the Smoky Bacon Pimento Cheese – and proceeded to scarf down a ton of it on fresh farmers market bread. Another huge draw is that I believe every single recipe had a beautiful accompanying photo – the best part of any cookbook. Honestly, I am so very excited to use this cookbook again and again. Highly recommend if you love pimento (or any) cheese as much as me!

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
Rating: 4 stars

Amy Harmon is another Book Bonanza author, so her books have been on my radar a lot in the last year. Even though her book Making Faces is one of the best books I’ve ever read, I kept dismissing this newest release because it’s historical fiction – a genre I tend to avoid unless a book is getting a massive amount of buzz. I finally got around to reading the description and realized it was set in Ireland, my favorite place in the world, and decided to give it a shot. Overall – a beautiful and well written story with a tiny bit of fantasy around unexplained time travel. Where the book lost me, however, was how in depth it got about the political climate in Ireland around 1921. I can’t stand reading about politics. Apparently even in my beloved Ireland. It’s definitely essential to the story, but just wasn’t for me. It took me a pretty long time to finish this, but I loved the sweeping saga of love and family and staying connected throughout time.

Loving Mr. Daniels by Brittainy C. Cherry
Rating: 3 stars

I was on a roll with teacher/student romances last month – and this is another Book Bonanza author – so I picked it up. The difference with this book compared to the ones I read last month is that this was a romance between a high school teacher and high school student. Most definitely off limits – not just frowned upon. I had very mixed feelings on it. Ashlyn is a 19 year old senior whose twin sister just died and she’s sent to live with her estranged father and his new family. On the train to her new life she meets Daniel and they have an instant connection. Until they realize he’s her teacher. I really struggled with finding things to like about Ashlyn. Yes, she was grieving and grief makes you act in unpredictable and perhaps childish ways. But she was so snotty! And Daniel. Yes, he seemed like an adorable hero with plenty of his own grief – way more than anybody should have to live with at that young of an age. But I couldn’t get past how little he tried to protect both Ashlyn and himself with their forbidden romance. Basically the only thing I liked about this book was the new family. I loved them. So overall – not that great of a book.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
Rating: 3.5 stars

More mixed emotions on this one. I read it very quickly, but I had some serious issues trying see Elouise as anything more than a crazy annoying child that is obsessed with making the world bend to her wishes. But the story was packed with summer nostalgia of working a high school job in a small town. I did find it a bit unbelievable that so many of the high schoolers in such a tiny town were so fluid in their gender identification. MAYBE that’s how things are now – but I kind of doubt it. It just made everything a bit too convenient. At any rate, as annoying as Lou was, I really adored how everything came together in the end.

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Rating: 5 stars

If you’re looking for a truly realistic love story between two amazingly written characters, this is it. I loved Josh and Kristen so much. They meet through their best friends, Kristen hires Josh to help her out with some carpentry for her business, and they become the greatest of friends. They both long for something deeper, but know it can never happen – Josh wants kids and Kristen’s about to get a hysterectomy. I admit I was a little bit surprised at just how much Kristen’s periods and bleeding issues featured in the book, but I appreciated how true to life that actually was. Not some steamy romance where everyday things like that just somehow don’t exist. I was definitely frustrated that the entire thing keeping them apart could have been figured out if Kristen had just STOPPED KEEPING HER SECRET. It’s infuriating sometimes when a single sentence could clear up everything. But then you probably wouldn’t have a book. Anyway, this story is shockingly emotional, but I loved it so much.

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this nuanced look into the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. This is the first book I’ve read by Sally Hepworth and it was so well done. The subtleties of the family dynamic and relationships felt so realistic. The book itself goes back and forth in time from the perspective of both Diana and Lucy. I believe this book is marketed as a psychological thriller, but you won’t be getting any insane twists and turns. It’s just interesting enough to keep you reading. I really enjoyed it.

Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
Rating: 4.5 stars

As you might know, I really struggle with nonfiction books. I WANT to read them. I can’t stop finding and buying more that sound life changingly incredible. But if they’re not abundantly interesting, relatable, and easy to read – I barely ever get past the first chapter or two. This started as one of those books, but I kept hearing so much buzz that I didn’t want to give up on it. And I’m so glad I didn’t! This felt like the kind of reading every woman alive should be given. It discussed stress and adequate rest, and well, burnout, better than anything I have ever read before. There were so many visualizations in the book that helped me understand things that have only ever been vague concepts before. BUT, there is also a lot of science in this book. That’s the point – using science to prove these concepts. And I don’t like reading about sciency things. Fortunately, there was enough other stuff to keep me intrigued. And while it did take me two months to finish, I’m so very glad I did.

The Summer of Chasing Dreams by Holly Martin
Rating: 5* stars

This was the perfect happily ever after book to read on a stormy summer day with nothing else to do. I loved it so much! Cover designer Eva is bequeathed a large sum of money after her mother’s death and she decides to use it to take a round the world trip, checking things off a list of her mom’s dreams. She books everything through a company that will provide an escort to keep her safe and on task during her travels. By a twist of fate she ends up traveling with Danish hunk, Thor, who she feels an immediate spark with. And together they travel the world. I wasn’t expecting so much exciting adventure in the pages of this book. It was such a joy to read. I’ve loved all of Holly Martin’s books and this one was especially sweet with such wonderfully endearing characters! It was a perfect summer romance.

A Love Letter from the Girls Who Feel Everything by Brittainy C. Cherry and Kandi Steiner
Rating: 4 stars

Brittainy Cherry has been on my radar as another Book Bonanza author (they’ve really taken over my reading life the last few months!) and author of Loving Mr. Daniels which I read earlier this month. I was intrigued by this slim book of poetry – different from both author’s romance novels. I read it in a single very short sitting and probably would have benefited from picking it up time to time for a more impactful reading experience. But I’m antsy to up my book totals for this month and was happy to read it all at once! Anyway, I still struggle with much like Rupi Kaur’s poetry, a single sentence can be given a few line breaks and then it becomes a worthwhile publishable poem. I read poetry VERY rarely, and if it makes an impact that’s all that should count, right? But sometimes it just feels a little too easy. At any rate, I really enjoyed these poems. I couldn’t relate to many of them because they were very obviously about past relationships and men who have hurt them. But the universal feeling of betrayal and rejection is widespread and I could definitely appreciate the emotion behind them. If you do like Rupi Kaur’s poetry, I think these would be a great book to pick up with a similar writing style!

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
Rating: 2 stars

I did not like this book. Let me save you the trouble of picking it up and tell you that the entire book is about fighting the logistics of dating a super famous British boy bander. With a lot of struggle thrown in because the heroine is twice his age and mom of a tween girl who idolizes the band members. I kept reading because I somehow expected something to change and the book wouldn’t literally be a same reiteration of the same idea paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter. I was actually about to DNF around 40% when something intriguing happened, but it was barely ever brought up again. I did not like Solene. She felt entitled and lived a life of luxury to begin with that was so far from most people’s reality. I liked Hayes, but I didn’t feel like he was genuinely given that much personality. I wish I hadn’t wasted five days of my reading time finishing this book.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Rating: 5 stars

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I would like this book. I don’t particularly like reading about teenage moms because the assumption is that they really don’t have their lives together and the whole book will revolve around that particular struggle. I picked it up anyway because it’s about food and a love of cooking and that line of story will always pull me in. And honestly, I loved this book. It was genuinely inspirational how together and positive the character Emoni was. I fell in love with her unconventional little family and her supportive friends. Her take on motherhood and being there for her daughter while still finishing high school, working, and participating in a rigorous culinary arts course kind of put me to shame! It was a beautiful book and I’m so glad I picked it up.

What I Read March 2019

March was a pretty off reading month for me. I started and stopped SO many books. I didn’t mark them as DNF because I know I need to give them more than 2% before making a judgement, but I they just didn’t feel right for me at this time. It’s so frustrating when I can’t find a book that I immediately connect with. I have over 400 unread books on my kindle and about 150 unread physical books on my shelf. I really have no excuse. But I’m always so distracted by the freshly released books that are getting so much buzz and get caught up on what I’m missing instead of what’s right in front of me – often the books that I was wildly excited about reading only a few months before. At any rate, I finally got out of my slump about ten days ago and finally found some great books that held my attention and made me want to forget about everything else and just read.

Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover
Rating: DNF – as a re-read, but previously 5 stars

It pains me to admit that I did not finish a Colleen Hoover novel. To be fair, though, this was a re-read and when I first read it in 2013 I gave it 5 stars. After reading Slammed again last month and still loving it SO MUCH I wanted to immediately continue Will and Lake’s story. Unfortunately, the first half of this book is just so depressing. I didn’t like the change of perspective. I liked Will so much more from Lake’s perspective instead of his own. Not that I didn’t like him in this, he just felt so different to me and it was bothering me. A lot. It’s been six years since I originally read it, but I assume things turn around and it gets really good. I just could not deal with it right now.

Get Lucky by Lila Monroe
Rating: 2.5 stars

This was free on amazon with a lot of good reviews, so I decided to give it a shot. Romance writer Julia and divorce lawyer Nate wake up in a Vegas hotel together with no recollection of the last twelve hours. Over the course of the book they spend the day trying to retrace their steps and figure out what they did in those alcohol laden hours. This book was okay. Just SO much sex. With really no emotional connection, which is a big pet peeve of mine. But – that’s the genre, sometimes. It was light and amusing, it just didn’t hold a ton of depth and was very unbelievable.

The Crooked Street by Brian Freeman
Rating: 3 stars

This is the third book in a series that has held my interest, but hasn’t wowed me. After the cliffhanger in the second book, I expected a lot more from this one and I just did not get it. Honestly, the whole thing kind of bored me. I like Frost Easton’s character, but he seems to be lacking in emotional depth which is frustrating. The storyline was vaguely intriguing, but not amazing. I assumed this was the last book and would tie everything up, but it ended up with another – much more fascinating – cliffhanger. I’m not giving up on the series, but I really hope the next one is so much better.

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
Rating: 3.5 stars

I appreciated this book as a very eye opening look at what it’s like to have cystic fibrosis – which according to the foreword and acknowledgements, was the point of writing it. It was written as a screenplay first, and I honestly think maybe they should have stuck with that instead of making it a novel. I liked the story, but it also felt kind of canned and easy. The characters didn’t have a ton of development. I still thoroughly enjoyed the book, it just didn’t wow me. It DID leave me feeling pretty horrified by cystic fibrosis. I’m looking forward to watching the movie made immediately following the book.

Rebels of Eden by Joey Graceffa
Rating: 3 stars

This was the final book in a dystopian trilogy that I enjoyed, but didn’t love. The hardest part about both the second and third book was trying to figure out what the heck is going on. This was slightly less confusing than the second, but it still took me a really long time to remember where I was in the story. Overall, this book really went up and down and up and down for me. Parts were really great. Parts were so incredibly boring. No spoilers, but for the record, I really disliked the ending.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: 5* stars

There has been so much hype about this book for at least six months pre-release. Once it was out, my book circles were really buzzing about it. Which immediately made me hesitate to pick it up. I almost never like the books that are so beloved by many. The synopsis didn’t even sound very interesting me. An oral history about the rise and fall of a fictitious band in the 70’s? Who cares? But I decided to read it anyway and oh my goodness, I LOVED it. I was completely engrossed in the story and was constantly lamenting the fact that this was not actually a real band and I could not go listen to their songs that made them famous. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an oral history type of book that wasn’t revolved around a mystery, so it did take me awhile to get past the anticipation of what we needed to solve. And even though it was indeed fiction, it absolutely did not feel like it, so it was kind of hard for me to want to read what my brain kept telling me was nonfiction. But after about a quarter of the way in – I was sold. Taylor Jenkins Reid is such an incredibly insightful author that will tug at your heart. She’s never afraid to write about love – the kind that isn’t the norm, or isn’t necessarily “right.” This book, though. I really, really loved it.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
Rating: 5* stars

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a non-celebrity/non-foodie person/non-dying person memoir. But this book was also getting a ton of buzz in the last few months, it was featured in the Happier Podcast’s first ever book club, and that cover?! It’s gorgeous in its simplicity. I just had to read it. And I wasn’t disappointed. My only regret is that I haven’t read any of Dani Shapiro’s other books first. I think it would have been a more enriching experience to have a bigger sense of background on her, other than that she’s a famous writer and writing teacher. Each of her memoirs center around a particular part of her life and this one takes place right after she gets results to a DNA test and finds out that her beloved father is not in fact her father. She wrote the book as she was going through and processing everything. The whole thing came across as more of a page turning mystery that I didn’t want to put down. I appreciated how tortured she was about her identity as she tried to piece together what might have happened without having any parents left to ask about it. I loved the conclusions she came to in the end. Anyway, the entire thing was fascinating and I am definitely planning on picking up the rest of her books in the near future.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
Rating: 3.5 stars

Ellery and Ezra are sent back to live with a grandmother they barely know in a town ridden by tragedy when their mother is sent to mandatory rehab. They quickly become immersed in their own town mystery as Ellery is targeted as a future victim and a girl they know goes missing. Overall, I did enjoy this YA thriller, but I thought it was a bit confusing and hard to grasp all the characters in the first half of the book. So many different crimes that took place at so many different times – it was a lot to keep track of. It also took me as long time to really connect with Ellery and Ezra was a pretty underdeveloped character after the first part of the book. Overall, I liked it, it just wasn’t riveting.

Drive by Kate Stewart
Rating: 5 stars

I have very complicated feelings about this book. I went into it not knowing anything. I picked it up because Kate Stewart is one of the Book Bonanza authors I’ll be seeing in August and this particular book was very highly recommended by the fans. And it was really good! I just wasn’t prepared for it to be a love triangle. I’m not such a fan of the triangle trope. Someone will ALWAYS get hurt and I just want a happy ending when it comes to my romances. Anyway – this is the story of Stella, a 20 year old with big dreams to become an amazing music journalist. She falls hard and fast for a drummer and gets her heart broken. You follow on her journey of getting her life put together the way she knows she needs in order for her to be fully healthy and whole. Overall, I really liked watching Stella’s emotional maturity progress. She had a lot of hard choices to make. And even though I’m still feeling a little mixed at how it ended – it was worth it. Though I do have to say that if I had a been reading a real book instead of on kindle, I totally would have skipped to the final pages to end my suspense. ūüôā

Gus by Kim Holden
Rating: 4 stars

I was hesitant to read this book because the first book in the series, Bright Side, basically emotionally wrecked me. Plus death was very personal and hard at the beginning of this year and I couldn’t handle another book steeped in grief. But the mood struck this month, so I picked it up and was surprised to find very little sadness in its pages. The beginning is rough, for sure. But Gus is such a positive and genuinely kind character that it’s pretty easy to rally for him enjoy watching him get his life back together. I liked Scout’s character too, though she’s a bit underdeveloped. I enjoyed this book, though it has one of my absolute biggest pet peeves – swearing on every single page. Basically every line of dialog has a swear word in it. WHY? The only people I’ve ever heard talk like that in real life are middle or high schoolers that think it sounds cool. It seriously drives me nuts to read books that feel the need to put in the f word a thousand times into its pages. But besides that – this was actually a very uplifting and pleasant book.

Book Love by Debbie Tung
Rating: 5 stars

I adored this book for what it is – a beautiful ode to the love of books. It’s kind of a graphic memoir of the author’s complete devotion to all things reading and book related. I read her Introvert book late last year and felt the same sort of connection to it as this one. I can relate to every single thing she writes and draws about. I think most hardcore readers would feel the same. It’s definitely a fast read – I just sat down this morning and read it in maybe 20-30 minutes. It would make a really sweet little gift to the avid book lover in your life. I definitely plan on picking it up from time to time, maybe when I’m in a reading rut and need a reminder of how much I love books too.

That’s it for March! Have you read anything great this month?!

What I Read February 2019

February was a really off reading month for me. I was either super busy or super distracted. While I did have two fabulous re-reads, the rest of the fiction I read was pretty meh. I’ve had almost no interest in nonfiction, which is a bit disappointing after how excited I was about nonfiction in January. I know not every month can be amazing, but I was still a bit bummed out and uninterested the entire month.

The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops
Rating: 5 stars

I bought this cookbook on a craving fueled whim after Christmas and it didn’t disappoint! There isn’t a lot to read in it besides a quick intro to each recipe, so it does feel a bit more like cheating to add this to my book list for the month. But, I loved it! If you like to eat raw cookie dough, this book will amaze you. There is a short introductory chapter on heat treating your flour and ways you can use the cookie dough and how to store it, etc. And it’s followed by so many amazing looking doughs! Almost every recipe has a photo of a beautiful scoop of cookie dough that even if the flavor doesn’t sound great, you’re still going to want to eat it after looking at the picture. I tried out the basic chocolate chip recipe right away and it was great! This is going to be a dangerous cookbook to have around because I want to try almost every single recipe. So if you’re into quick and fun deserts and don’t mind keeping such a specialized topic cookbook around, I highly recommend this one!


What¬†if¬†it’s¬†Us?¬†by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Rating: 2.5 stars

This is a book I probably should have abandoned. I kept holding out hope that it was going to get better and it never really did. The story is about two teenage boys who feel like the universe brought them together and they should be guaranteed some sort of epic love story. Ben is fresh out of a relationship and is jaded to the possibility of a new love right away. Arthur is only in NYC for a summer internship, but is hopeful and goofy and wears his heart on his sleeve. The only reason I stuck with this to the end is that I found Arthur to be such an endearing character. Ben, though? I didn’t like him at all. There was so much back story and friendship and ex-boyfriend related angst that it took away from what could have been a really sweet romance. I mean, not all romance books need to be sweet. But I felt like this really should have been. It was just okay.

Tell Me Three Things (re-read!) by Julie Buxbaum
Rating: 5* stars

I have a shelf of books reserved for my absolute favorites that I know I’d read again. The problem – I never re-read them because there are always so many new books I want to read and never enough time. This month I was really craving the familiarity of a story that would bring me all the happy feelings – guaranteed. I loved this book on its re-read even more than the first time around. Knowing the ending actually added so much sweetness to the story. It’s about two people who anonymously form a friendship that carries them both through some emotionally tough times. I really love this book!

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Rating: 5 stars

I always get excited about a new book by Kasie West. She’s one of my favorite YA authors because I feel like every book she writes has a solid, sweet, dependable romance. This book was about an aspiring young actress on the set of her first movie with a Hollywood heart throb. Lacey is confident and outspoken and friendly. The only thing she hates – doing her independent study homework. Her dad hires her a tutor who of course proves to be a wonderful love interest – the first real crush Lacey has ever had. I really enjoyed this story as the characters banded together to solve a small mystery, while Lacey and Donovan got to know each other. If you love YA books and are satisfied with a well earned kiss, this is a great one.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (audio)
Rating: 4 stars

I listened to this on audio while we were driving home from Nebraska on terrible road conditions after a snowstorm. Because I had very little to distract me, this is an audiobook I finally feel like I fully paid attention to. It was also a very easy and entertaining book to listen to. I’ve always liked Anna Kendrick and it was fascinating to learn so much more about her, especially all the theater acting she did in New York as a child. She really came across as a regular, every day person. She continued to point out how normal her life really is. I felt like it was a fairly vulnerable and honest celebrity memoir that she wasn’t writing just for the sake of making some extra money. Overall, a nice listen!

The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 3 stars

This book had so little effect on me that I almost forgot to add it to my reading log, less than a day after I finished it. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed. I read Fischer’s Mud Vein in December and it was one of my favorite books of the year. I think The Opportunist was her first book, though, and it shows. There were a lot of errors, the formatting was bizarre (probably not her fault!), and the plot was sometimes hard to follow. The characters were not very likeable and the timeline was confusing. I didn’t hate the book – I still finished it. But I will surely forget about it entirely within a few weeks. (a few weeks later writing this – I have forgotten completely)

Match Me if You Can by Tiana Smith
Rating: 2 stars

This book is the epitome of angsty teenage love triangle and the perfect example of why a lot of people really hate to read YA. Me? I LOVE YA. But it was a serious challenge forcing myself to finish this. The only reason I did was because for some unknown reason, I preordered it last year and now own a hard copy that arrived in the mail. I’ve never read the author before, so it must have either been an accident, or I bought it because the cover was beautiful. Which it is! But the story? Ugh. So, this is about Mia, the boy Vince who she’s been crushing on, and the boy Logan who is constantly flirting with her, but she doesn’t perceive as being serious. What bothered me so much from the get go is that you get almost no back story about the characters, they just immediately dive into their relationships. The characters get into fights about not showing enough love when they’ve been together for literally half a date. The entire book only takes place in about two weeks’ time. It’s so ridiculous. And ALLLLLLLLL Mia talks about is the pros and cons of Vince and Logan. It’s so obvious who is the better choice in every single situation. I usually don’t mind predictability in a romance novel – especially in the YA genre because I purposely look to it for sweet and simple love. But this was tough. Anyway, I really hate to write such harsh reviews and it probably would have been better to just put it aside. But – there you go.

Girl Boner by August McLaughlin
Rating: 4.5 stars

I saw this book being promoted on an instagram account I follow and was curious enough to immediately order it. Maybe not necessarily the type of nonfiction I’m used to reading, but I was highly intrigued! The author has written an extremely comprehensive guide to sexual empowerment in women, or people who identify as female. I read the entire book in four days, which is basically unheard of for me and nonfiction! While I can’t say I agree with every single “empowering” topic she covered, it was truly interesting and worth the investment of the book. I wish it’s a book I had read fifteen years ago instead of now. The book covers so much about self love and how to find a positive body image, mental health stumbling blocks, explanations of all gender related things, chapters on abuse and spirituality, and so much more. I would highly recommend this book for all women to read, but I think it would be incredibly useful for late teens and early 20’s.

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
Rating: 3 stars

The only Penny Reid I’ve read in the past is her Winston Brothers series, which I love. I’ve heard so many things about this Knitting in the City series and finally picked up this one, her very first novel. Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed by it. I’m not sure if it was self published, but I feel like the book could have used some serious editing. It was SO wordy. One of my pet peeves is dialog that could and should be snappy, but is ruined by huge paragraphs of descriptions in between every line. This book was full of it. I think it had the potential to be really great, but I just could not connect with the characters. I’m not really interested in picking up the rest of the series.

Freefall by Jessica Barry
Rating: 2.5 stars

I picked up this book somewhat blindly, hoping for a thriller to pull me out of the fictional reading rut I’ve been in this month. It starts off with a plane crash, so I was expecting some sort of intense survival story. That didn’t happen. Alternating chapters between Allison and her estranged mother Maggie, the mystery very, very slowly unfolds. And I was SO bored. Basically, absolutely nothing happens for 60% of the book. And then it finally got interesting. But really not enough to redeem it. I kept wanting to put it down, but I pushed through. I’m not sure it was worth it.

Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
Rating: 5 stars

When it comes to romance discussions in some of my online book groups, this is a title that has come up multiple times as being a great one. I finally picked it up and it didn’t disappoint. Nicolas and Livvy were teenage best friends and lovers ripped apart by a family tragedy. Every year, on Livvy’s birthday, they get together for a single night of passion and part ways for another year without contact. After ten years they find themselves living in the same city again and can’t seem to stay away from each other. I really liked this book because it had a great emotional context with a lot of back story and complicated relationships. The sex scenes were pretty steamy and didn’t feel like graphic fluff. Overall, I really liked this and definitely plan on reading the next two books in the series.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Rating: 4 stars

Alicia is a famous painter who killed her husband and then spent seven years in total silence. Theo is a therapist determined to get to the bottom of her silence and discover what truly happened on the night of the murder. This book is a mix of journal entries from Alicia’s past and and what life is like on the psych ward where Alicia presides, from Theo’s perspective. I was definitely intrigued by the storyline enough to read most of this book in a single day. It was more a curiosity than a true thrill ride, but I enjoyed it.

Slammed (re-read!) by Collen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

It has officially been solidified in my mind that re-reading a favorite book is about the best thing in the world. I was having a pretty tough week and wanted to finish the month up with a guaranteed reading win (plus one of my goals for February was to re-read two books, so I was down to the wire on getting in my second one!). This is actually the third time I’ve read Slammed and I still adored every single page. It’s Colleen Hoover’s first book, but still packs such an incredible emotional punch. The characters are real and flawed and feel so much! I love it. I completely love this book.

What I Read November 2018

November was a pretty off reading month. I only read eight books. And technically I finished the last one today (December 1st), but I’m going to count it for November anyway. It was another month of starting and stopping so many books. I almost never do that, but it’s been happening so often this fall. I’ve been in such a slump and I hate it. Of the books I did finish, though, there were some very clear winners and a couple of total letdowns.

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Rating: 4 stars

I had a Barnes and Noble gift card burning a hole in my pocket the week that this book came out. I love Nick Offerman and figured I’d give it a shot. I think celebrity couples – particularly the ones that seem to have great relationships – are so fascinating, which I’m sure many, many people would agree with! Having the opportunity to get a deeper dive into their marriage was a pretty good reason to read this book. And overall – I liked it. My main issue is that the majority of the book was just a back and forth dialog that was clearly just written directly from a real conversation they had. I think listening to this on audio would have been a more enriching experience, but the hard copy book includes so many silly photographs that you don’t want to miss out on that either. The ideal solution would be to read and listen at the same time. I liked that in certain chapters they were brutally honest and really come across as an authentic couple with ups and downs that just wants to make it work together forever. But there are also chapters where Megan especially seems to just gloss over so many things, that it then feels inauthentic and annoying to me. But overall a fun and fast read.

Something New by Lucy Knisley
Rating: 4.5 stars

I just happened to read about this graphic novel somewhere the same week I found out my sister-in-law was about to get engaged. I immediately ordered it as an engagement gift, but wanted to read it first to make sure it was really as good as promised. And I really enjoyed it! I’m new to the graphic novel world, but I’d say this is a pretty great one. It’s autobiographical to Lucy’s own marriage and relationship history with her husband. She retells their entire history and then gets into everything that happened in the year of their wedding planning. I really liked how she showed how important the wedding was just to THEM and making it their own and in a smaller budget was super important and doable. I definitely agree that this will make a great gift to any newly engaged couple!

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
Rating: 2.5 stars

This was an interesting “novel.” I’m always on the lookout for books with unique formats and I love photography, so I was really curious about this book when I read about it somewhere online. I got it from the library and read it in about half an hour. There are almost no words to this story, just a variety of photographs and photos of memorabilia and a few newspaper articles. While I was intrigued by the visual telling of a story, I was also a bit confused about what actually happened. I need a bit more clarity in my reading. The concept was unique, but not enough depth for me.

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
Rating: 2 stars

This was my 100th book of the year and quite a disappointment. It’s another example of a very popular book that I really did not enjoy at all. It’s supposed to be a psychological thriller, but I didn’t find anything about it captivating or keeping me turning the page. The characters seemed ridiculous and unbelievable and I couldn’t stand it any time they had dialog. Overall, this book was just not for me.

Pines by Blake Crouch
Rating: 3 stars

I have heard so many great things about the Wayward Pines series that my expectations were set too high. Granted this was just the first of the trilogy, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it. The main character was just constantly being thrown into life threatening situations and had to keep running for his life, while also being super confused. I thought the book felt a little disjointed and I still can’t understand the whole suspending life thing. I’m sure I’ll eventually pick up the second book, but I’m not in any hurry.

Never Never: The Complete Series by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 4 stars

It took me a really long time to figure out that I hadn’t read this series. I’ve read everything by Colleen Hoover, but couldn’t understand why I hadn’t read this when it came out years ago. I was searching my book database and couldn’t find it, so I finally picked it up. And, I’ve read it. But I realized by book two that I had only read book one – now it’s sold as a completely trilogy in a single book. Anyway! While this collaboration wasn’t quite as good to me as Hoover’s other books, I enjoyed it, for the most part. I didn’t like Charlie’s character much and I found it stressful how the characters just kept losing their memory every 48 hours and AGAIN and AGAIN we had to go over them re-learning everything. I liked Silas, though, and enjoyed the ending.

This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel
Rating: 5 stars

I really loved this book. But it took me an extremely long time to finish. It’s about a family with five boys and the youngest is transgender. The book jumps around a lot, but mostly focuses on when Claude/Poppy first decides he wants to become a girl at age 5 and when things start getting a lot more complicated when she is 10 and the secret is out. All the characters in this book were so endearing and wonderful. I loved reading about their family life and the focus of the book gave me a lot to think about. Which is probably why it took me so long to get through. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this, though, after all the buzz about it last year. I think it’s one of those books that everybody should read to enhance your perspective on issues like these that are happening everywhere, but so rarely talked about. Also, I really love this new paperback cover above. I think there was something about the peeled orange on the original cover that really turned me off from ever wanting to pick it up. Covers sometimes DO matter!

The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise
Rating: 4 stars

In recent years I’ve become really obsessed with book research. I LOVE going to actual bookstores and looking through books, but find it nearly impossible to actually purchase a book without doing some research and reading reviews. Sometime in the last few years I decided to stop trusting the blurb on the back and my initial reaction to it. And I think it’s kind of been my downfall. I’ve been looking back on the books I’ve read this year, searching for gift ideas and thinking about my end of the year best book post I’ll be writing later this month. And honestly, it just hasn’t been that good of a reading year. Fiction especially has disappointed me time and time again. And I think it’s because I’m putting way too much stock in what other people have to say about a book instead of simply trusting if I’ll like it or not. Anyway, all that to say, I found myself at the library this week picking up a few reserved Christmas books I wasn’t able to get on my kindle. I rarely look for books at our library because it’s teeny tiny and I feel like people are always watching me, or I’m in the way because my favorite YA section is crammed up against all the tables where everyone sits. I don’t feel comfortable browsing there, so I just don’t. But since I was there – we were all there, actually – I took a stroll through the YA section and this one jumped out at me. And I really liked it! Sure it’s not going to be for everyone, but I love YA, I love sweet romances and first loves that end in a very well timed perfect kiss. The premise of this one got a bit crazy for awhile, but I thoroughly enjoyed the main group of characters and the friendships that stuck through thick and thin. I definitely recommend it.

And that’s it for November. I’m really looking forward to a lot of sweet, light, romantic holiday reads in December. Though I’m also planning to stick in a few more serious reads I picked up as gifts for people, but feel weird about giving unless I can personally vouch for them! AND big news – Colleen Hoover has a new book coming out on December 18th!!! This was a surprise after seeing her in August when she said she hadn’t had time to write all year because of the first Book Bonanza. Anyway, I’m hoping to make reading in general a much bigger priority this month!