My Favorite Books of 2018

It’s time to share my favorite books of the year! While I do write about the books I read at the end of every month, I find it a lot of fun to create a final list of the best of the best to share at the end of the year. Last year I think I only shared my absolute favorite 5* books, but this year I’d like to share my 5’s as well.

This is how I usually rate the books I read:

1 – I’m not sure I’ve ever actually rated a book a 1 because if I like it enough to finish it I feel like it at least deserves a 2. So if I rated my pile of “Did Not Finish” books, they would have 1’s. But I don’t want to rate them because that would skew the data on books I actually read!
2 – I managed to finish it, but I did not like it. I’d say it’s pretty rare for me to give a 2 as well, but I will often give a rating of 2.5 if I really didn’t like it.
3 – It was okay. I enjoyed reading it, but I will have probably already forgotten what the book was about by the time I write about it at the end of the month.
4 – I really liked the book. There might have been one or two issues that bothered me enough to give it a higher rating, but overall I found very few things to dislike.
5 – I loved the book! It made me feel things intensely. It was unputdownable. It made me laugh out loud and/or it made me cry. It felt like something very important and vital to my being. It brought me tremendous joy.
5* – This extra special rating is reserved for books that I love so much I want to share them with everybody. They’re the books I’ll actually talk about to people, even if they don’t seem to share the same interest in reading as me. They’re also usually the books that I love so much I would probably re-read them at some point and want to own a great copy for my own shelves. They also might have a swoon-worthy character in them that I ADORE. 🙂

Looking back on my list for 2018, I think I’ve either been reading a lot better books or I’ve become much more liberal with my ratings! 19% of the books I read were given a 5 or 5* rating. That’s quite an upgrade from the 10 I deemed best and wanted to share in 2017! Considering five of my eleven 5* books were in December, I think I might have been feeling a bit generous. Some of them don’t exactly follow my criteria – I wouldn’t read them again (the thrillers). But I loved every page and know I’ll never forget their stories!

The Best of the Best 5* Books (maybe, a little bit, in order)

1 – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I loved this delightful workplace romantic comedy SO MUCH. I laughed through the entire book and adored the characters and seriously, it just made me swoon. It is one of my favorite books of all time because it’s just so FUN. It made me so happy.

2 – Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford

I loved reading through this book one short essay a day. With a few months off here and there, it took me over a year to read through it, but I was never tempted to totally set it aside like most (or all) devotional books I start. I thought this book was so beneficial for guiding my soul to focus on love and only love, especially where my children are concerned. Her words really made me consider the choices I make and the things I prioritize. I loved it and fully intend on reading through it again.

3 – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows

I have a serious weakness for books that center around letters/emails/notes being exchanged. Though this book is entirely written in letters, it still has such an amazing sense of plot and characters because there are so many different voices. I found the entire book to be an absolute delight. I also thoroughly enjoyed it on audio and in its Netflix adaptation!

4 – Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Okay, when I first read this book I was blown away. It’s one of the only nonfiction books that I tore through because it felt so vitally important to my outlook on life. In the six months since then, as Rachel Hollis has become mega popular and there have been a lot of negative things written about her and her book/message, I’ve been wavering a bit on how much I maybe actually should have enjoyed this book. Greg pointed out to me that this is on some list for top five top worst books of the year because she writes so much about her white privilege. And yeah, that’s a valid point. She also has a message about loving your body and yourself, while at the same time basically fat shaming you if you’re not at your ideal weight. But still, after taking some of those things into consideration, I do believe that Rachel Hollis genuinely has a great message out there to empower women to take charge of their own lives and DO SOMETHING. This is an idea that I also feel very strongly about and it helped to read a book that pushes that idea so strongly. So! If you need some encouragement to make changes in your own life, this will be a great read.

5 – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I see that I gave this first book in the series a 5* and the second book a 5, though in hindsight I feel like I maybe liked the second book a tad bit more. Either way – this series is fantastic. I try to steer clear of reading a lot of fantasy series because there are always so many random things to keep track of about their world and I seriously just don’t care. I’m all about the characters. And this series has some AMAZING drool-worthy characters. 🙂

6 – 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Another book written entirely in letters, though this one is the real deal telling the actual friendship between an American book lover and an English book seller. I really just adored this book because it celebrates books and the passion for reading. Helene’s letters were incredibly delightful and I found the whole book to be an absolute joy.

7 – Verity by Colleen Hoover

I can’t have a top list without Colleen Hoover! She continues to amaze me. Verity is even completely out of her typical genre. It’s a psychological thriller that will mess you up. For real. It was really, really great, though. I can’t talk too much about the plot because it might give things away. I loved this book, though.

8 – Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Surprisingly, this is the only YA-ish book to make my top list this year. It’s about a college girl with boyish features who decides to dress up as a boy in order to join a male a capella group. While you think this story will be pretty straightforward, it takes a lot of interesting turns and spends a lot of time examining gender roles in today’s society. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

9 – Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher

This is the last book I read and I couldn’t put it down. The two main characters who have an awkward and unusual past, are kidnapped and trapped together in a small cabin in Alaska with nowhere to go. The expectation is that they’ll fall into some sort of desperate romance as they work together to survive, but the story is so much more complex than that. Their dynamic is complicated and sobering, but ultimately ends in hope.

10 – Bird Box by Josh Malerman

I think I rated this book so highly because it was so far outside the box (ha!) in the type of books I usually read. The creepy factor was through the room and I think it’s such a crazy story that I’ll never forget it. It was scary, but not in a way that makes me scared to walk around my house in the dark (the reason I don’t usually read horror). The resilience of the characters really amazed me as well.

11 – Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

I read this book while I was recovering from my broken ankle and it provided me with so many unique and interesting things to think about as I read letters that people write into Cheryl as “Dear Sugar” and her insightful responses to them. It’s the only thing I’ve ever read by her, and I found it so full of wisdom and wit. The depth of both the letters and her responses were just the distractions I needed from my own pain while I read.

The Other 5 Star Books from 2018

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Beard Science by Penny Reid

Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly

A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness by Ton Mak

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

And that’s it for 2018! I’m going to be using a much more elaborate bookkeeping system next year so I can give all the stats on how much fiction vs nonfiction I read, memoir vs graphic novel, books by women vs books by men, average page number, etc. I’m really excited about this! I think I might try and go back to being a very harsh critic when it comes to rating my books as well. We’ll see on that. 🙂

I’d love to hear YOUR favorite books of the year!

What I Read December 2018

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

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

The Christmas Star by Donna VanLiere
Rating: 4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verity by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

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

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock
Rating: 2.5 stars

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

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

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

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Rating: 4 stars

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

No Exit by Taylor Adams
Rating: 4.5 stars

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

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

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

The Noel Stranger by Richard Paul Evans
Rating: 2.5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Rating: 5* stars

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

Blind Kiss by Renee Carlino
Rating: 3 stars

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

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

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

Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 5* stars

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

What I Read 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!

What I Read October 2018

Time for book talk! So this month I fully intended on only reading thrillers, mysteries, and anything else that sounded a little bit spooky and in theme with being close to Halloween. I usually only read Christmasy books in December and often try to read romances in February around Valentine’s Day, so I figured I might as well start picking scary reads in October. However, the way my personal life has shaped up this month, I just couldn’t get into many of those seasonal choices. I started many books. I’m in the middle of many books. Books I was desperately hoping I could finish by today so I could add them to my October list and not have to wait another whole month to write about them because they’re just so fantastic! But, you’ll just have to get what I have. 🙂 It actually ended up being a month of very eclectic book choices, going back and forth between something heavier followed by a couple of much lighter topics. And with the exception of one book that I just wasn’t thrilled by, everything else was rated 4, 4.5, or 5 stars! Check them out!

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll
Rating: 4 stars

Doris is a somewhat quirky and independent teenage girl that doesn’t quite fit in with her smalltown Alabama family. Nell is uprooted from her home in Chicago and is forced to leave her boyfriend when her mom takes a new job in Alabama. Grant is the high school football star who is also an alcoholic that is riddled with pain over his mistakes. Together the three of them find their way to Unclaimed Baggage, a store that is responsible for going through lost luggage and reselling anything worthwhile. As they work together they build a beautiful and endearing friendship that helps hold the trio together through everything they must endure that summer. I really enjoyed the friendship aspect of this book. It touched on racism, religion, feminism, and more, but the heart of the story was in the friendship. It made me greatly jealous for the ease and simplicity yet total loyalty that comes with a teenage friendship. I also enjoyed hearing about the things that were found – I wish there was a bit more on that! Overall, a solid YA novel.

A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness by Ton Mak
Rating: 5 stars

I got this book as a birthday gift from my friend who understands how crazy I (and most people probably!) feel sometimes. It was so cute! I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down for the 10-15 minutes it took to read the entire thing. Each page was just a little note on how to be more mindful accompanied by adorable black and white illustrations of a chubby sloth. I don’t usually pay much attention to gift books like this, but I’m so glad it came to me and I read it right away because it was exactly what I needed. I know I’ll need to read it again many times in the future too!

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Rating: 4.5 stars

I’ve been in the mood to read some darker books this Halloween season and this was what I picked to start me off. Emma was a 13 year old camper at an affluent summer camp when her three older roommates disappeared and were never found. She was haunted by this experience for 15 years until the camp owners decided to reopen and asked her sign on as the art instructor. Reluctantly, she agrees to go to try and find some closure. Secretly, she is on a mission to figure out what really happened that summer so she can get on with her life. Overall, the pace of this book was pretty slow. There isn’t really a whole lot that happens. But it was interesting and I was always eager to jump back into the story. I loved the ending.

Best Served Cold by Emma Hart
Rating: 4 stars

Raelynn and her ex-boyfriend Chase have competing ice cream stores right next to each other in Key West. Raelynn is furious with Chase for stealing all of her ideas and has retaliated by giving him the silent treatment for 2 straight years. At risk of losing her own shop, she decides to shut down for two weeks and do some renovations and come up with fresh ideas. Chase becomes intrigued and enters back into her life, as much as she despises it. I really enjoyed this fast and fun story. I admit that Raelynn was more than a little obnoxious at the beginning, but all of their conversations and fights felt pretty true to what would happen in real life. I loved Chase and how he was such a genuinely good guy, despite making a really stupid mistake. I always enjoy books where the main character has her own bakery/restaurant/shop and this was a really cute take on owning an ice cream parlor. My only complaint is that once again SO MUCH swearing. It’s not necessary! It drives me nuts. It’s a pretty big turn off. But overall, this was a nice book to read after my last one.

You by Caroline Kepnes
Rating: 4 stars

Joe is a stalker, psychopath, murderer. He has his sights set on Beck, a self-centered hypersexual grad student/writer. That’s basically all you need to know! I’m kind of disturbed by how much I liked this book. It’s entirely from Joe’s first person narrative, going over all of his thoughts about Beck and everyone else he interacts with. His control and ability to be both wonderful and terrible, while justifying the most horrific actions, is fascinating. Beck, though. I hated her. I couldn’t believe how much Joe loved her when I could not stand her! Overall, this made for a pretty good October/creepy read.

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly
Rating: 5 stars

I wanted to read this book from the first time I heard about it (green lit on The Popcast). I was, however, under the impression it was all about marriage – the heating and cooling cycle of a lifelong relationship. (Perhaps Jamie didn’t actually read it and SHE is the one who put that idea into my head!) I’m not sure if I was misinformed or I drew that conclusion on my own. So I was surprised to dive into the book and realize very little of it was about marriage – just so you know that going in! But overall, a really fast and unique book. I’ve never heard of a micro-memoir before and really enjoyed the 52 entries that ranged from one sentence to four pages each. Some of the essays were laugh out loud hilarious. Some of them were shocking. Some were sad, some were more informational. I loved the range and thoroughly enjoyed the two evenings I spent reading this book.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 4 stars

This book alternates between 31 year old Andrea who is trying to uncover some crazy mysteries about her mother’s past, and her mother 32 years earlier and what her life was like and ultimately landed her in witness protection. I was a little put off by the first chunk of the book and didn’t like any of the flashback chapters. But it definitely grew on me by the end and I really liked it how it all came together. It was a bit heavy, but a good October read.

Save the Date by Morgan Matson
Rating: 3 stars

Charlie is the youngest of five siblings and has always been enamored by her family. In one of the last weeks of living in their huge house, the Grant family is holding older sister Linnie’s wedding. This entire book takes place on the day before, day of, and day after that wedding. Basically, it’s just an insanely improbable story that felt a lot like slapstick comedy. Every single tiny thing that could go wrong for a wedding will and does. It’s slightly humorous. But it also started to really bug me after awhile. It was just pretty ridiculous. And maybe this is a weird thing to judge a book on, but it seemed like it would just be too easy to write. Give everyone crazy personalities and quirks and just have them interact under high pressure stakes with every possible thing that could go wrong. While I definitely liked the characters and did enjoy how it ended, the whole book just felt kind of meh to me. I needed something light after the last book and this fit the bill. It just wasn’t that amazing.

Perfect Harmony by Emily Albright
Rating: 4.5 stars

Pippa is an amazing 17 year old cellist with very high hopes for her future. All of that is instantly threatened when a competing cellist, Declan, joins her school in the middle of their senior year. She is immediately threatened by him, but determined to remain kind and civilized toward Declan while she starts to get cozy with her long time crush and twin brother’s best friend, Noah. As I’m sure you can imagine, things get sticky between this little love triangle. I definitely could have done without a lot of the stressful teenage angst between everyone and their friends. But overall, I really loved Pippa and Declan was a fantastic swoony character. I also just enjoy reading anything that centers around orchestra! If this book didn’t have all the annoying friendship drama, it would have definitely been a 5 star book for its sweet and touching YA romance.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Rating: 4 stars

I have a love hate relationship with poetry. I really, really want to love it. I adored poetry in high school and then it started feeling too obnoxious. More recently, I started following Rupi Kaur on instagram and have been really drawn to the short poems she posts pretty regularly. I received this book last Christmas and finally made myself pull it off the shelf and start it! I was able to read the entire book in two short sittings because almost all of the poems are less than a page long – most of them a single sentence. Part of me wonders how that really constitutes an entire collection of poetry. And yet – they really pack a punch! I’m really looking forward to reading Kaur’s second book and will definitely be on the lookout for future publications.

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Rating: 4 stars

Maya is a 23 year old speech therapist who works in the same psychiatric care facility where she was a patient at age 16. Lucas is a 19 year old whose father took him to live off the grid ten years earlier after being tangled up in a questionable murder case. Presumed dead, Lucas causes quite the media stir when he’s found raiding a sports supply store which results in the death of one of the owners. Uncooperative, violent, and unresponsive with anyone else, Maya ends up being the one who takes his case, despite not actually being a psychologist. The two of them turn out to be quite the team despite the twists and professional objections that continue to separate them. Overall, I actually really enjoyed this book. The reviews were mixed, which I should never really take into account, but I hate wasting my time on something that doesn’t have a lot of solid recommendation behind it. It was the perfect slightly dark book to finish off my month of attempted spooky reads!

What I Read September 2018

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

The Wondering Years by Knox McCoy
Rating: 4.5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
Rating: 3 stars

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

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Rating: 3 stars

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

Purple Orchids by Samantha Christy
Rating: 3.5 stars

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

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

Book Review: I’d Rather Be Reading by Guinevere De La Mare

I'd Rather Be Reading by Guinevere De La Mare

I’d Rather Be Reading by Guinevere De La Mare
Rating: 2 stars

I had such high hopes for this book when I saw it on amazon. The title obviously catches my eye because I’d pretty much always rather be reading! And the picture on the front seems to guarantee the book will be filled with other wonderful bookish art. It’s also just an assumption that this will be a large coffee table type book. After reading reviews I did come out that it’s quite tiny and compact. But I still requested it in a book exchange I recently took part in, hoping it would exceed my expectations. It didn’t.

First of all, there are almost no “essays” in the book. Just a few very short chapters. I loved the beginning because the author seemed to have the same story as me. I also was a huge bookworm as a child. I loved books like crazy – until my AP English class. Just like her, the pretentious discussions and constant analysis was just so much more than I wanted. I liked reading books for enjoyment. I still only like reading books for enjoyment. Anyway, I thought after that first chapter the rest of the book would follow in the same vein. But in a future essay it was all about focusing only on literary fiction and reading the classics. It was basically pointed out that unless a book is a classic work of fiction, it’s not worth reading. I don’t like hearing that! It really turned me off to the rest of the book.

The photos and artwork were just okay. It was certainly interesting, but I would have enjoyed it so much more if they were bigger! I also would have greatly appreciated the title of the work and the artist on the same page. Instead, the artist’s name is just listed at the back of the book.

Overall, I was gravely disappointed by this book. It had the potential to be amazing. Instead it felt like a very rushed and ridiculously simple way to make money. Anybody could have whipped up a book like that. Throw about 70 pictures together (mostly photographs, not actual bookish art like I had hoped) and ask three people to write a two page essay. There could have been hundreds of prints, at least fifty essays! Anyway, it’s fun to thumb through. It took me about half an hour to read in its entirety. But it’s definitely not worth buying.

Book Review: Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker
Rating: 5 stars

This is a wonderfully delightful series of essays arranged into a book about the messiness of life and the moxie it takes to get through it. Jen Hatmaker is just fantastic. She has such voice! Maybe it’s because I also have been listening to her podcast, For the Love with Jen Hatmaker. I read the book and hear her speak and it’s just on par and hilarious. I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed out loud so often while reading a book. Jen instantly feels like the best friend that totally and completely knows what you’re going through because she’s been there too. She’s one of us! She’s a famous author and speaker, but she’s also out there living the same kind of life as me day in and day out. It’s impossible to read this book and not feel connected to at least the majority of it! It’s fabulous.

I would HIGHLY recommend this book to any and every woman out there. You’ll feel so much less alone. It’ll make you laugh and it’ll probably make you cry. My favorite chapters were those on friendship and parenting. Interspersed are chapters that really have no point other than to just give you the giggles. Jen just delivers chapter after chapter, though, and I loved this book. She’s honest, she’s real, and she’s a hoot. Definitely read this book!

Audiobook Review: As You Wish by Cary Elwes

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

As You Wish by Cary Elwes (audiobook version)
Rating: 4 stars

If you loved the movie The Princess Bride, you will surely enjoy this book. In As You Wish, Cary Elwes reflects on the preparation, filming, and production of the movie. He tells stories about how he was cast in the role of Wesley, how other cast members were chosen and why they were all so perfect for their parts. He provides plenty of nostalgia about the book the movie is based off of and how much all the cast and crew loved it. Everything about the movie is seen with such love and admiration, which made it feel extra special. I’ve never given a lot of thought to what all goes into making and producing a legendary movie, and it was interesting to learn about all the behind the scenes information.

One of the best parts about this audiobook version is that much of the cast has their own speaking parts. They’ve obviously contributed to the book itself and come on to read their own parts. Not everyone was available, but enough to make it an enjoyable experience. Elwes writes about the epic sword battles and how long it took to prepare them. He shares about how many times he and Robin Wright redid the final kiss of the movie simply because they didn’t want it all to be over. You also learn about how complicated everything in the fire pit was – including parts about the giant rats that I feared so greatly as a child! There was also quite a bit about Andre the Giant and how he fit into everything.

Overall, I think if you liked the movie and have seen it multiple times, you’d truly enjoy this book. Particularly the audiobook version as it brings the characters back to life. It’s interesting, fast paced, and will provide you with insight and trivia you can point out to other people the next time you see the movie (like I did)!