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

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

July Books

July was definitely not my best for reading since it has been crazy with research but I still managed to get in a couple of audiobooks and one print book. My favorite was definitely There There by Tommy Orange. Seriously such a great book.

Annihilation (3.5/5 stars): I was very mixed on this one. I really liked the idea as it sort of a dystopian style fiction with an interesting female lead but I was not 100% sold on the main character. Granted this is a series so I am sure more will be revealed in the coming books. I am not sure where to even begin with this plot. It is kind of a crazy, this group of women enter into a barred off zone with the purpose of researching and of figuring out what happened (I am sorry this is such a terrible explanation, I am not sure how to overview without giving anything big away).

In the Unlikely Event (4/5): This Judy Blume novel is about the people involved in a series of unlikely plane crashes and the events that occur over time to the characters. I really enjoyed this one and the characters are amazing. I highly recommend checking it out! I listened to it on audiobook which I actually really liked but I am sure I would have understood the characters even better if I read it via print.

There There (4.5/5): Hands down one of the best books I have read this year. Its about many different people connected in different ways. They all are making there way to the Oakland Pow Wow and their individual lives and stories come to life throughout. It is such a moving book that portrays the modern struggles of native peoples with identity in todays world. I highly enjoyed it!

Where’d You Go Bernadette (3.5/5): I have to be honest about this one. I am a little confused about why it got so much hype and why so many people liked it. It was okay to me but I felt like it kind of went on for a really long time and did not hold my attention despite being a mystery. I thought the voice of the book just did not flow super well. In theory the story of a girl sounds good but it was just not flowing for me. I have to say that I am glad I kept reading because I did enjoy the last eighth of the book (still not sure how worth it it is). For how I felt while reading it, I think three stars is actually pretty generous.

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That is it for July reads! I would love to hear what you have been reading lately!?

Erin

Book Review: The Bookshop on the Corner

Happy Monday!

This book review is going to be a little shorter than the last but I have been reading a lot lately and really wanted to keep you all updated on my favorites. I recently read The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan and loved it. It has actually been on my radar since last year and I finally got the chance to read it. It is the story of book lover named Nina and her journey. Her passion for books is very strong and she can’t imagine doing something that does not bring that love into her life every day. The catch is that she also is not a risk taker and struggles a bit with having confidence in herself.

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When the library Nina works at closes, her whole world is flipped up side down. She has no idea what to do. A crazy idea hits her, to run a bookshop from a van. This story takes you through this whole endeavor and her relationships with the people she meets from taking a giant leap of faith.

Several moments in this story helped me remember how important it is to be good, to help those who might be in a much more difficult situation than my own. This seems pretty vague now but makes much more sense when you read the book. I don’t want to spoil anything and this is one of my favorite parts! Beyond just helping others, I thought a lot about how much we jump to conclusions and see people how we want to see them, not how they really are or how they want to be seen.

It is overall just a great read that is very heartwarming while also being a quick, easy read. I am looking forward to reading some more of Colgan’s books!

Erin

Book Review: The Rules of Magic

Last week I read The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman, while we were at the beach in South Carolina. I knew it would be good since it is the prequel to Practical Magic and it has been highly recommended. What I did not realize was just how much I would love it and how much it would impact me. Because it was so significant, I have decided to devote an entire post to my thoughts on it. I will not spoil the actual story or ending, but rather talk about the themes that I related to and that impacted me.

The story is entirely separate from Practical Magic, but is about the same family and has similar themes. It is the story of Jet and Franny (the aunts from Practical Magic) and their journeys in life. The family has been cursed in love for hundreds of years. Each generation has their own complex experience. In brief summary, three siblings Jet, Franny and Vincent struggle in their relationships with each other, their parents and their significant others, while also coming to terms with their family’s history and origins. There mother does not talk of her family or the secret’s that are held deep within her past, making the journey of discovery all the more difficult.

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Despite the premise of magical roots, the story turned out to be very relatable. Much conflict within their stories are things that we all face throughout life. Finding yourself, family, love, relationships, death and grief.

This story helped me come to terms with so many things in ways I had not thought about. A major theme, especially in the beginning, is connection to family and how ignoring/denying where you come from will never end well. This is shown through the lens of witches denying who they are, in large part to find love and get away from the legendary curse, and the consequences that ensue. It struck a chord with me because I do believe that those who came before us make up a large part of who we are, although we may deny this at times in our lives. Embracing this could bring about great things and cherished relationships. The first part of the book takes place throughout the teenage years of the siblings and I found their experience and feelings to be very similar to my own in that time of life. This drew me in immediately.

The second element of this book that was important to me was that of grief and death. This is a very human subject that can be so difficult to deal with in reality. There are lots of books that involve death but this one brought out the grief process in a way I never experienced. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into detail, but the subject of death and grief are very prevalent and incredibly relatable. The loss of someone we love so dearly can feel like the whole world crashing in. It might feel like we lose a piece of ourself. The loss in this book brought that reality to fruition and really challenged me to think about how the losses in my life have effected me and how I deal with grief.

Loss goes along with the importance of love because death (and the potential for loss) creates a fear when it comes to love. Opening yourself up to love can be incredibly difficult when loss has been a big part of your life. The fear of loss and pain are so much more real when you have people that are so very important to you. The curse of the family in love brings the fear of losing someone into close proximity. Fear of loss is ever present and cannot be ignored or hidden. Through out the story I thought a lot about what it means to love others despite your own potential to experience great hurt.

As you might guess, I highly recommend this book. It is written beautifully and the characters are developed in a truly remarkable way. I would love to hear any thoughts you have had if you have read this book (or otherwise). I am also always looking for book recommendations!

Erin