January Books

The grad school life has been extremely crazy lately. I am very behind on my blogging schedule right now and am hoping to get on track soon. However, the work right now is not going to really let up for a while. I do want to share what I read in the month of January. It was a pretty great month for ready, especially with being so busy!

Turtles All the Way Down (3.5/5 stars): So I am not really sure why I didn’t love this one. I am a huge John Green fan but had a really hard time getting through this one and I found it to be a little confusing and unexpected, in not the best way. I really don’t like to hate on books and I still overall liked it but just didn’t love. In short it is about a girl who really struggles a lot with some mental things. She also becomes involved in a mystery of a missing billionaire. I feel like this is kind of a terrible summary but it is basically about this girl’s inner struggles with some side stories about relationships with people and this crazy mystery.

Howl’s Moving Castle (4.5/5 stars): I had no idea this was a book until I was sent it for a Life’s Library book club read. I was so excited and it did not let me down. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is about a girl who works in her family’s hat shop. One day a witch walks in and puts a spell on her that causes her to appear as an old lady. She leaves town and comes across Howl’s moving castle. The story revolves around her time in the castle and her relationships with the inhabitants. It sounds kind of strange and crazy but it is such a beautiful story!

The Silent Patient (5/5 stars): Definitely my favorite read from the month of January. I just loved it. It is kind of a thriller/mystery about a psychotherapist who moves to an institution in hopes of getting one specific patient to talk. This patient, Alicia, has not spoken a word since she killed her husband years before. There was a lot of hype about this book and I wasn’t totally drawn in at first. Someone recommend I read it so I gave it a try and absolutely loved it. I didn’t expect it and thought it was very well-written.

The Only Plane in the Sky (5/5 stars): I guess this was just a great month for reading because this was also a five star read. It is an oral history of 9/11. I highly recommend listening to it via audiobook because it is read by a whole cast and I think it just adds to it since a lot of the book is people talking about their experiences. I cried a ton and just was overwhelmed with feelings. It is very well written and will resonate with anyone who had an experience with the event. I don’t even really have words for how this made me feel. Truly heartbreaking and moving! I will say that it is very heavy so be prepared mentally and emotionally.

Have a great rest of the week!

Erin

Book Recommendations: Review Week Edition

Last week (January 19th-25th) I participated in #reviewweek which is something Phoebe from readandwright.com organized/started. Basically she shared a book every day for that week that fit a different theme/category. So on Instagram I participated in  five out of the seven days. I decided to do a whole round-up of those books on my blog and add my picks for the categories I did not share. Before I get into my reviews I am going to go over the categories.

Sunday: A new release or hyped up book

Monday: A book from 2019 you didn’t review but loved

Tuesday: Anything YA

Wednesday: An honest review of a book that was just “meh” for you

Thursday: An audiobook

Friday: A @bookofthemonth or book that was recommended by a friend

Saturday: A book that you have a personal connection/attachment to

Sunday: So I did start my Instagram reviews on Sunday and shared my pick for a hyped up and new book, American Royals. I talked about this book quite a bit last fall because I loved it so much. I really like Katherine McGee and I think she did a wonderful job with this novel. I chose it for this category because as I looked back through the books I read in 2019 it kept coming back to me and it is a relatively new release. I also felt like in September/October it was very hyped up on Instagram. I am going to include three key reasons why I loved this book. The first is that the characters are interesting and they are royals which is always fun. I just feel like the three royal siblings are all very different and it is so fun to follow their stories. Second is just the whole take on US history. Katherine McGee creates an alternate future where instead of George Washington becoming president he becomes the king and the Washingtons continue to reign. My third reason is definitely the romance. I am very hit or miss when it comes to love stories. I am not sure why but I think there is a fine line between interesting/fun and way to cheesy. The love stories in this are very well done and I think they characters play a large part in that. All in all I highly recommend this book especially if you like books about royals!

Monday: My Monday pick was Verity by Colleen Hoover. I did actually talk about this book in an Instagram story because I was totally shook by the end, but I chose if for this category because I read it before I started rounding up my books each month so I have not really talked about it in depth. I really don’t want to give anything away because it is an amazing thriller with very unexpected twists. In short is about this woman who is hired to finish writing these books that another woman was writing. The original author basically can’t finish writing a series so her husband hires someone else. It is wild. I mean again I don’t want to say much but there are some crazy twists and turns. If you are a thriller person this is an absolute must read.

Tuesday: As you may know I am a big YA fan. This was a hard category since I have read so many great ones. In the end I feel like my final pick was a no brainer only since it is a book that changed my thinking and really opened my eyes. It is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It is one of the only books that I immediately thought should be read by everyone. I do mean everyone (like it should be required reading in all schools). It is about a black girl who struggles with living in her mostly black neighborhood while going to school at a wealthy, mostly white, prep school. She witnesses the shooting of her friend that really changes her whole world and impact both entire communities in very different ways. I think this is such an important read that brings to life some events that have really happened in the United States. Of any book on this list, this is the one I would most recommend.

Wednesday: While I have read quite a few books that I did not like I don’t usually review those books in depth because I don’t really like being negative about books. I know that authors put a lot of time and effort into their writing and often I feel like the reason I don’t like a book is subjective. Because of that I did not include one for this category last week but I do have one that I will share now. For this I ended up deciding on The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory. It is about a princess who is left by her fiancé and ends up meeting his brother a little while later in a bar. She finds out from him that there is a big mystery and no one actually knows where her ex-fiancé went. So the two of them go on a mission to figure out what happened. There are a couple of reasons I ended up feeling ‘meh’ about it. The first is that I think I just had such high expectations and was really into books about royals when I read it. I hyped it up for myself and it kind of ended up being a too scattered for my liking. I just felt like there was a lot of unnecessary action that did not add to either the mystery or the romance. So it is definitely my personal opinion but it was not a favorite for me and I expected a lot more (probably unfairly on my part).

Thursday: I read a ton of audiobooks last year so this was also a very hard category. There are so many great ones out there. I ended up choosing Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I think I chose it since I read it very recently (at the end of December) and loved it so much. I would say that it was in my top five of all the books I read in 2019. For some reason I really loved it as an audiobook and felt like the narrator did an incredible job. In short it is about this girl named Kaya who is pretty much abandoned by her family at a young age. The overall story is about her relationship with the natural world and with other people who come into her life. There is also a lot of emphasis on how other people see her. She struggles a lot with understanding the world and with relationships. It is such a beautiful book! There are a couple of reasons that I felt it was so powerful. First I thought Delia Owens brings nature and science into the book and a beautiful way and that is something that I really related to. Also Kaya is a very complex and interesting character. I don’t think I have ever read a character quite like her and that was very refreshing. Finally, it made me think a lot about relationships with people in general and how we (as humans) perceive each other. This is also one that I would recommend to everyone! I will say though that as far as story line goes if you like fast past action this might be hard to get through. I will give a bonus entry for this category since I thin Daisy Jones and the Six is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard!

Friday: This was the last day I participated in on Instagram. The hard part about this one is that I do have quite a few Book of the Month books that I have not read yet. I ended up choosing Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore which I have talked about before and did review in a monthly post. I chose it for this because it was a beautiful romance that has an interesting backdrop and it was one of my favorites last year. The story centers around Annabelle who is a young women trying to find her way in late 1800’s England. As she becomes involved in the suffrage movement she is charged with targeting influential men. He meets Sebastian and they have a very interesting connection and relationship. I really liked Annabelle as a character because she is an incredible, strong female lead that drives a great story. I also really enjoyed that the history of women’s rights at the time is woven in and is so interesting. The love story side of it was also very well done so that was a big bonus!

Saturday: So I struggled a lot with this category. It made me realize that I should read some more books that relate to my life and my beliefs more. Maybe that is hard to do but I had a hard time finding one that I truly feel I have a personal connection to. I decided to choose Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. My reason is that it is a book that blew me away and that I have never forgotten. It has shaped how I see the world in so many ways. It is such a hard one to explain. Basically the world is explained by a gorilla in the most fascinating way. I could talk about this for hours so let me know if you want a more detailed review. I highly recommend giving it a read! It totally changed my world view and I feel like I need to reread it now.

Thanks for reading and I would really love to hear what your favorites are for those categories!

Erin

December Books

December was a slow but good month for reading. I always think vacation is going to be a great time for reading but I end up handing out with family and friends and not reading as much.

Where the Crawdads Sing (5/5 Stars): One of my last reads of the year ended up being one of the best. I just can’t even explain how moving this novel is. It seemed really hyped up to me and for some reason I never was really excited to read it but I ended up getting it as an audiobook for our car ride to Savannah. I was totally hooked from the beginning. I am not sure why but the story of this girl who is abandoned by her family and her relationship is just so interesting and wonderfully written. She just has this relationship with the marsh she lives in that is beautiful. There is also a story that has to do with Kaya’s relationship with people after being abandoned by her family.

Red, White and Royal Blue (4/5 stars): I have so many thoughts about this one. It is the story of the first son of the United States and the royal prince of England. They have a very interesting relationship that weaves together politics, romance, acceptance and family. I thought it would be a fluffy romance, which it kind of is, but there are some aspect of it that made me think and that made me so sad and happy. It is basically an alternate reality post Obama and brings in the press and the public and how all perceive public figures (and what is expected of them).

The Nickel Boys (4.5/5 stars): This is a great read but also quite heartbreaking. The only reason I am not giving this one 5 stars is that because I listened to it on audiobook I feel like I did not pay 100% attention all the time and I think I missed some things. I know that is on me and not the book but I just can’t give it five starts when I feel like some things were missing. One of my goals is to reread it in 2020.

What are some great books you have read lately?

Erin

Favorite Books of 2019

Another year of reading has come and gone! I was just barely able to make my goal of 52 books this year. See my Goodreads for the complete list. Just like last year I wanted to post my favorites from the year. I would say it was overall a pretty good year of reading!

Where the Crawdads Sing: One of my last reads of the year ended up being quite possibly my favorite. It just really moved me and I did not expect that at all. I won’t say too much but in short it is the story of a girl who is abandoned by her family at a very young age. She lives in a marsh that becomes central to both her being and the story. I really loved it despite how sad it was.

Three Women: A fantastic non-fiction book about three women in different parts of the country. I have raved about this book a lot this year because it is just such an interesting read that adds to the me too movement and paints a heart-wrenching story of each woman’s sexual life.

Caraval: So this does include the second and third books for me. They were all just very interesting and well done. I think the characters (both main and secondary) were really what made it so great. I highly recommend all of them! I listened to the whole series on audiobook and really enjoyed it.

There There: This novel gives an interesting take on the lives of different native american peoples an their experiences. It makes this list because I think it is very important for us all to be aware of these points of view (modern day native peoples and their lives in relation to the rest of the world and to each other).

The Hate U Give: Another book that should be a must read for everyone in this country. It is from the point of view of a black girl growing up with police violence and racial discrimination in present day. It is just such an important book for today’s world!

Bringing Down the Duke: This one is a historical romance set in England in the 1800’s. I enjoyed both the story/romance but also the background setting that shed light on women’s rights, especially their right to vote.

Big Magic: Another nonfiction book although this one focuses on creativity and how it manifests. I was very inspired when I read this so had to include it in my list of favorites. I also just think Elizabeth Gilbert’s story is interesting and she shares some of it.

Scythe: Another new favorite YA series! Scythe actually topped Caraval for me. I thought the world and plot were both so interested and I was very easily drawn in. In short it is about a future in which humans are able to heal all ailments and in order to keep population levels in check ‘scythes’ exist and are allowed to basically kill people. I won’t say more since I don’t want to ruin anything!

American Royals: I ended up reading three books about royals this year and I started a fourth. I had to include on of those on this list. My favorite was definitely American Royals by Katherine McGee (although Red, White and Royal Blue is a close second). This on is about the lives of the royal children of the United States. George Washington became king instead of president.

The Summer Book: This last book did not actually get five stars for me but I did include it since the relationship in this book is so moving. It follows a young girl and her grandmother and their adventures on a remote Finnish island.

As a sort of bonus favorite The Nickel Boys is also an amazing read!

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I would really love to hear your favorites from 2019. My goal for 2020 is sixty books so I will need lots of recommendations!

Erin

November Books

I am finally getting my November books post up. My to read list was of course much longer and I, again, only ended up reading three this month (I actually finished How Could She in the beginning of December).

The Summer Book (4.5/5 stars): This was the most recent Life’s Library read. It is by Tove Jansson who did the Moomins comics. It is an amazing read. It is about this young girl and her grandmother and their adventures on a tiny island in Finland. The relationship between these two characters is fascinating. I just was completely drawn into their banter, interactions and conversation. The only reason I did not give it five stars is that there is not really a plot, although that is kind of the point. I highly recommend this book though, it is very short, easy to read and such an interesting take on life.

Finale (4.5/5 stars): As you may know I absolutely love the Caraval series. This is the final installment and it did not disappoint. I really can’t recommend this series enough. The characters are interesting and the way magic is woven into the world and the story is beautiful. I am not really going to recap the plot since I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone but it definitely ties everything together! I talked a little more about the first book in my Best Recent YA Reads post.

How Could She (3/5 stars): Okay I have so many thoughts on this book. In short it is about the lives of and relationships between three women living in New York City. The women’s struggles and personalities really fascinated me. Lauren Mechlin brought the characters to life through interesting personalities and relatable flaws. I really  pushed through because I became attached to the characters and their relationships with each other. Overall I did not rate it that highly since I did not feel like there was a real plot. I read this one because Bad on Paper Podcast chose it as one of their bookclub picks and when I listened to their episode on it they mentioned that as people who lived in NYC in their 20’s/30’s it was very interesting and relatable on a different level. I am guessing that if I had this background I might have liked this book more. So I am torn on whether or not to recommend this. I would say that if you like books with a plot and don’t care as much about the characters themselves this is probably not the book for you. If you either really like books with well developed characters or lived in NYC for a while this might be a good read for you.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Erin

October Books

This post is definitely a week late and I am so sorry about that. Honduras ended up being a little too busy to keep up with my posts. I also really have not been keeping up with my reading lately. Usually I listen to way more audiobooks so I am able to get more in during each month but for some reason I haven’t been listening to any lately. I only have three books to share from October!

The Royal Runaway (3/5 stars): I am a sucker for any book that revolves around royals so this one drew me in. Overall it was a fun story but for some reason it fell a little flat for me. I really don’t know why as I was really into it the whole time but I guess I wasn’t sure how I liked the ending. If you like books about royal romances I definitely still recommend it.

Upstairs at the White House (4/5 starts): This is the account of J.B. West who was the chief usher of the white house for decades. He went through many administrations and worked very closely with many first ladies. I found it so interesting and I learned a lot. Each lady was so different and had their own priorities as a first lady and as a person. This was the first book I finished on my kindle in a while and I did think it was a good one to read as an ebook. It is so fascinating!

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (4/5 stars): This is such a unique and interesting murder mystery. I gave it 4 stars as opposed to 5 because it took me at least 100 pages to get into and I still am not sure how I feel about the ending but overall I do highly recommend it. I have never read a murder mystery quite like it and I love mysteries. I don’t want to give to much away but this man has eight days to solve a murder and each day he wakes up as someone else.

Let me know what you have been reading recently!

Erin

To-Read List No. 2

Happy Wednesday! Its time for some books. I am enthralled in The Royal Runaway right now. It is has totally sucked me in and I will be sharing all my thoughts next Wednesday when I round up October’s reads. For today I am going to be sharing some books on my to read list right now. In general my to-read list is very very long and continuously growing but there are some that top my list right now. I did a post like this back in July and actually really liked writing it since it made me take a closer look at my Goodreads and my bookshelves. I also think it is fun to hear what books other people have been intrigued by lately.

I will go ahead and start off with the two non-fiction books I am dying to read. The first is The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte. Despite being a scientist I was kind of surprised to be so interested in this one. This follows the evolution of the dinosaurs (yep talk about nerdy). I have heard good things about it and since I am really hoping to read a couple of science books per year I think it would be a good read. The other non-fiction book at the top of my list right now is Quiet by Susan Cain. I actually started it over a year ago and for some reason did not really get into it. Lately I have been thinking a lot about how people interact with each other and I think this would be something I should read. I have several friends who are very introverted and I think it always helps relationships to understand where other people are coming from.

On to fiction. The first is My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. So far I have only heard good things about this one and it has been on my shelf for a few months now so putting it at the top of my list. It is the first of four books of two girls growing up in Italy. Next is The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. It is the current Life’s Library book and since they just announced the next one I am really needing to start this one! I probably know the least about this one, only that it is about a young girl and her grandmother. Lastly is Finale by Stephanie Garber. My friend and I are trying to read together since we have similar taste and this is suppose to be our October book. Yep I am behind on the reading for sure but am going to try to read it on the plane on Friday. It is the third installment in the Caraval series (which I have raved about before).

I would love to hear of any books that you are dying to read!

Erin

Non-Fiction Favorites

Happy Reading Wednesday!

While I usually read more fiction than non-fiction, I do try to read at least one non-fiction book per month. Some of my favorite books have definitely been non-fiction! I am going to share my current five favorites. At some point I will do a non-fiction round up by subject but for now here are the ones that have really stuck with me:

The Sixth Extinction: Yes I am starting off with some incredible science writing. This is by far my favorite non-fiction book and has continued to be ever since I read it. Elizabeth Kolbert addresses the sixth major extinction that humans are causing through the lens of different environmental issues. I first read this as a freshman in college and it was one of the reasons I became a biologist.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: This is a brilliant book about the woman whose cells have been widely used in medicine. It is such an interesting read and an important one considering the impact this woman has had on science.

Educated: I talked about this one in my Favorite Books of 2018 post. But it is one of my favorites because it tells the story of a Tara Westover and her journey from a reclusive family in Idaho to a graduate student at Cambridge. I found it fascinating and highly recommend it (especially as an audiobook!).

Three Women: I have raved about this book for a while. It is just so different as far as non-fiction goes. It kind of reads like fiction which makes it easier to read but it is about the lives of three women their experiences with sexuality. It sounds a little strange but it is truly amazing and made me think! It was also included in my August Books.

Unbroken: This is the story of a man who faced some crazy struggles throughout World War II. During WWII his plane goes down in the pacific ocean and he goes through some serious mental and physical struggles as he floats on a raft for an insane amount of time. For some reason this story has stuck with me for a long time. I read it back in 2011 and still think about it. The perseverance and mental strength exhibited are incredibly inspiring.

Honorable mentions: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Reason for Hope, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Under the Banner of Heaven, Man’s Search for Meaning

Let me know what your favorite non-fiction books are!

Erin

 

Finding the Time to Read

While I love to read finding the time to do so can be a real challenge. In college I really only read during breaks because I was reading so much for classes that I never had the time. It was also just a busy time in general with endless homework and socializing (don’t get me wrong I absolutely loved college). Since graduating I have made a big effort to get back into reading and wanted to share some of the ways that I allot time for reading.

I am definitely a believer that if you really want to do something you can make the time for it. There are definitely ways to bring reading into your day despite a very busy schedule. I am in graduate school and it is honestly if anything even more crazy than undergrad. There is still lots of reading involved and I always could be doing something else. Here are some ways I try to make reading a daily habit:

  1. Getting an hour in before bed and/or just after waking up. This has been the easiest way for me to get some reading in every day. Just by waking up an hour earlier or choosing to read instead of watch TV before by has really helped.
  2. Spending the occasional weekend half day. I say occasional because I know that it is not practical for many people to have even half a day every weekend to dedicate to reading. I usually do this when I really just need some time for myself. It also usually happens when I am reading a book that I just can’t put down. Giving this kind of time does allow me to actually finish multiple books.
  3. Audiobooks. If you really don’t have time this is probably the best option. Audiobooks are a great way to kind of multitask. I usually have an audiobook going for transportation and even sometimes at work. I can usually listen to an easy novel and follow the plot while still doing basic things.
  4. Choosing the right book. This is a really hard one to articulate but I am way more likely to finish a book quickly if I am really excited about it. For me this means mixing genres and reading books that I just can’t put down.
  5. Rereading your favorites. I find that rereading Harry Potter is so therapeutic and is often easy because I don’t need to be fully present (although I love it so often end up fully immersed). This is a good strategy if you have not been inspired to read recently and need something familiar (and that you know you will love).

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Have a great Friday!

Erin

Favorites to Read as Audiobooks

Choosing to listen to a book via audio has definitely change my reading experience and my opinion of it drastically. Personally when I listen to a book I feel like it is easy for me to miss a lot so the person reading it really needs to be engaging and read true to the story.

Daisy Jones and the Six: This is hands down my favorite audiobook ever. Each character’s part is read by someone different and for me that really brought the characters to life. It is a whole different experience that is so worth it. I don’t often feel like I would listen to an audiobook again but I would for sure listen to this one many times.

Leaving Time: This Jodi Picoult novel was such a beautiful story. This is one of relatively few audiobooks that I really felt there for the whole time. I didn’t think I missed anything. I am pretty sure this had to do with the narrator. She just told it well and with emotion which really helps when listening to an audiobook.

The Caraval Series: So far I have finished the first two book as audiobooks from Audible and the library. I am about to start the second one on Libro.fm and I can’t wait. I think the reason I like these as audiobooks is that the narrator just has a great voice for this particular story and these characters. I feel like she really embodies how Tella and Scarlet feel. I have talked about this series in past book posts so I won’t go into the plot too much but I do recommend it as an audiobook!

Talking as Fast as I Can: Lauren Graham narrates her own book and of course it is amazing. She is hilarious and definitely does not disappoint in her autobiography. I do think actors reading their own books are so entertaining and really bring out all the feelings and stories.

Big Magic: Again, books narrated by their authors tend to be much better. Often this occurs in non-fiction but if you find fiction narrated by the author it is usually pretty good since they know exactly how things should sound and feel. Big Magic is such an inspiration and Elizabeth Gilbert does a great job articulating her story and how creativity has played a role in her life.

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I wanted to end this post by talking a bit about where I get audiobooks. There are several great options. First I recommend making an Overdrive account with your local library. You just download the app and can borrow up to five or six audiobooks. This is a great way to borrow for free however I often have to wait for books I want to download. It also really does not work for extra popular books (it is always worth checking though). There is also Hoopla which is another library app that lets you borrow books. I can only download one at a time and only one a month.

The second audiobook option is buying them. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is through a subscription service. I started out with Audible a couple years ago. It is run by Amazon and a cheapish (14.95 per month for one credit which gets you one book per month) way to get just about any book. You do get some other things from that membership like two of their Audible originals. The way I am currently purchasing audiobooks is through the app libro.fm. This app allows you to support either independent bookstores in general or a specific one of your choosing. It works very similarly to Audible in that you pay 14.99 per month and get a credit for a book. It also has additional discounts for other books you purchase. I really like supporting independent bookstores so I switched in order to do that better.

Let me know if you have an good audiobooks that you have listened to lately!

Erin